Meet your future at the ‘Gateway to the West’: First in a series

The St. Louis Arch frames the historic Old Courthouse in the heart of the city. | Photo by Katlyn Moncada

By Samantha Adams, Asst. Life Editor

Whether graduation is three years or three months away, most college students are considering life-after-college decisions. A secure job, while important, is not the only factor to a pleasant and fulfilling lifestyle after Union; location plays a crucial role as well.

This semester, we will take a look at a few of the more than 20 mid-sized cities located within 500 miles of Jackson. We will look at what age group each city is geared toward, what they offer culturally, what challenges they face and more.

Northwest of Jackson, St. Louis sits next to the Mississippi River as a “Gateway to the West” and, for many, as a city that promises opportunity.

A big-city environment and job prospects drew Adam Houston, Union alumnus, to St. Louis a couple years after he earned a degree in digital media studies with an art emphasis.

“St. Louis is the largest small town I’ve ever lived in — that, or the smallest big city,” Houston said. “It has all the perks of a large metro area, especially pro sports and live music, but the people are very friendly, and traffic is minimal.”

When compared to Jackson’s population of 65,000 and New York City’s 8 million, St. Louis, home to more than 300,000 people, according to the 2010 census by the U.S. Census Bureau, falls into the mid-sized city category with a well-established community that still has room to expand.

St. Louis ranks as the 10th best city in America for job market and cost of living, according to the fourth annual “Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates” list by and According to the study, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in the St. Louis area is $826.

St. Louis was also named 15th out of the 40 best cities for young professionals, according to a ranking by Forbes a few years earlier. The Forbes list took into consideration the cities in which graduates from top-tier universities found employment and the locations of the most successful businesses in America.

Julia Marshall, junior special education major at Union, grew up approximately 30 minutes outside of St. Louis. She said she will definitely consider moving into the city when she graduates.

“I would like to live in St. Louis as a young adult, because there are a lot of opportunities (in the city). There are great places for families,” she said.

Marshall said her favorite place is the Municipal Opera, an outdoor theater known by locals as “The Muny.”

During the summertime, the Muny shows 10 to 12 professional musicals, often with St. Louis residents making up the chorus, Marshall said. Those who line up early enough can sit in the last 10 rows at the theater for free.

St. Louis offers more free cultural and educational attractions than any of the other Top 20 major metropolitan cities, according to the Convention and Visitors Commission website,

Attractions vary from the St. Louis Zoo, ranked third in the nation by Parents Magazine, to the oldest botanical garden in the United States, to the preserved home of ragtime king Scott Joplin.

Sports fans can count on regular excitement as well. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals won its 11th World Series championship. In addition to baseball, the city claims the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams and the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues.

However, the city is not perfect. The 2011 “City Crime Rate Ranking” report published by QC Press showed St. Louis to be the second most violent metropolitan area in America, behind Detroit.

The report is an interpretation of metropolitan crime data collected and reported annually by the FBI. The report marked the first year in several that St. Louis was not named the most dangerous city in America.

Some areas of the city are safer than others, Houston said. Families tend to live in St. Louis County. Younger residents tend to live near the heart of the culture in the city, he said.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.