The middle of America consists primarily of flat plains, which are generally used for farming. It's known as the "Heartland", and to derisive East and West Coasters as the "Flyover States". Chicago is currently the largest city in the region, followed by Indianapolis, Columbus and Detroit. Interestingly, the Midwest has a higher employment-to-population ratio (the percentage of employed people at least 16 years old) than the other regions of America. This may bode well for post-graduate-school employment. How convenient!
The Midwest is no slouch when it comes to top-tier graduate schools. For example, both Northwestern University and University of Chicago are tied for fifth place in the U.S. News's rankings of business schools, while the University of Michigan comes in at a respectable number 14. University of Chicago also appears in the number five slot of U.S. News's law school rankings, with University of Michigan in seventh place. Northwestern, University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin all appear in the top ten for Master’s in Education programs. And les artistes interested in pursuing an MFA can choose among the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (number three), Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan (number four), or Washington University of St. Louis (number 15).
Even graduate students will be exposed to a key university-based aspect of Midwestern culture: college basketball. Fans are particularly devoted. One Kansas University alum, who wishes to remain anonymous, has friends who return to their alma mater on a yearly basis for basketball games. Whether you're a diehard sports fan or can hardly name your home team, a college basketball game is a great way to get connected with and learn about your new community.
As many of the early Anglo settlers were of German and Scandinavian heritage, Midwestern food draws heavily on these cultures. While in major cities you'll be able to find food of varying ethnicities, typical Midwestern dining involves a lot of casseroles involving some combination of cheese, potatoes, meat, and Cream of Mushroom soup. It's actually very tasty.
Graduate students coming to the Midwest from other regions of the country may be surprised at the friendliness and approachability of its residents. "I came from Boston and I remember walking down the street in Chicago and having people I didn't know say hi to me, and I thought they were making fun of me," recalls Stephen Small, who received his Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University.
Along with the South, the Midwest is considered fairly religious, conservative, and family-oriented. This region also apparently spawns some creativity: one tongue-in-cheek blog devoted to White Midwestern culture explains that they "are fond of decorating just about anything we can lay our eyes on - tying wreaths on cars, bedazzling do-dads on sweaters to make them more festive, and turning tumbleweeds into snowmen."
Sounds fairly cheerful, right?
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