It’s Legal Here, But I’m Not Allowed To:

Students Move to WWU, What Else Do They Like To Do?

Bellingham is known for a lot of good shit.

Most importantly, it boasts some of the best beer in the US, according to a 2015 survey. It has legal weed and is also the northernmost city in the contiguous US with more than fifty thousand people — two different kinds of high, sure, but they seem to go together nonetheless. The music scene is great, and the Bellingham Festival of Music is recognized globally. It’s home to Western Washington University, of which 16000 students attend annually. Nestled between the waters of Bellingham Bay and the mountains of the Cascades, Bellingham is treasured for its superb location and outdoor opportunity.

For an English project, I was inspired to ask a question regarding the latter two sentences. I know that plenty of students move to Bellingham from elsewhere, and I was curious as to what these newcomers discovered to do around Bellingham — there is a lot to do, after all. What machinations magnetize nooby students and draw them to certain places? Is there a favorite place around town for the Vikings, and how does that differ from the other, longer-settled residents?

So, where do the freshman like to go?

That’s what I wanted to figure out first. To get to the bottom of this, I posted an uber short questionnaire on a WWU Freshman Facebook group.

Two questions: What’s your favorite place, and how did you find it? Easy it seems, and easy it was. I got 24 responses in total, which was good enough for a start.

Two locations tied for the best. Boulevard Park, a stunning park on the waters of Bellingham Bay that boasts a romantic promenade, is a local favorite and received five votes. The other favorite, downtown Bellingham, collectively garnered five votes.

Besides the top two, every other location mentioned only received one vote by this group of freshman. Some other spots include the WWU Rec Center, Fragrance Lake, and Whatcom Falls.

As the second question in the questionnaire implies, I also wanted to find out how people found their favorite places.

Despite living in the internet age, I was a little surprised to discover that no one found their place via the web. The most popular method was word of mouth, either by a friend, teacher, or local, and this method received eleven votes. Some other people found their spot while driving or walking, and some know by being a local themselves.

I turned to the internet as my second source, hoping to find out more about the settled-in residents of Bellingham. I used websites such as bellingham.org and tripadvisor.com. I also used blogs written by Ian Roberts, Jessica Hanon, and WhatcomTalk.

From these websites, locals recommended places such as Artist Point, Lake Padden, and Big Rock Garden Park.

Boulevard continued to place high in the hearts of Bellingham folks, too. WhatcomTalk ranked it fifth, Jessica Hanon second. TripAdvisor, which I enjoyed as a source since it’s a collection of many recommendations, put Boulevard in third.

Yet, Whatcom Falls was ranked first on TripAdvisor. It also found it’s way into high ranks on all other websites I used except bellingham.org. The Falls are indeed cherished by locals.

Tying our two sources together, we can begin to draw a conclusion.

WWU students are attracted to Boulevard Park, as our data shows. As people grow and learn about their city, they shift their favorite from Boulevard to Whatcom Falls. We saw this happen between our two different sources — WWU students being new denizens and the internet users being, overall, the more naturalized citizens.

Why does Boulevard become so popular with freshmen? Well, it is very well deserved — the park is simply breathtaking. If my friend asked me where to hang out, I would probably recommend Boulevard!

You have wide open spaces for frisbee or kite flying, you can walk the boardwalk, you can get coffee, or watch that sweet, sweet sunset.

Ergo, BHam first timers are statistically bound to discover Boulevard Park, probably from a friend, because the park is so easy to love, making it an easy recommendation.

But, as students become citizens, it’s likely that they’ll discover new places to go and see, and eventually, they’ll probably find Whatcom Falls. While the vibe at Whatcom Falls is much different than that at Boulevard, we’ve discovered that people love it maybe a little more!

Phew. That was some stuff, man. Stuff that probably won’t mean much to anyone, but it’s stuff nonetheless.

I wouldn’t be able to have done this work without a solid method, which involved me garnering information from two sources. One was a survey that I posted which aimed to get information from new WWU students. The second was an amalgamation from internet sources which opened the scope to people who have lived in Bellingham a little bit longer than freshmen and transfer students.

And hey, maybe there’s more that can be done with this study.

I would like to see what the same study groups have to say about their favorite place after some time passes, maybe a year or two. What new places would we see picked? What patterns might we see? I guess we won’t know until the time comes.

Until then, why don’t we go check out Boulevard?

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