Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reader mail: Thinking about taking a job in the Lehigh Valley

I received this email last week: 

I am considering taking a position at Lehigh University. How do you like living in the valley? What do you love/hate?

I asked for some more details, to which our potential neighbor replied:
My biggest concern is the ease of meeting people since it is a small town. I am from Louisiana, lived in NYC for a few years, then went to grad school at OU. Is it easy to meet young professionals? Are people generally open to the idea of meeting people? I like the outdoors but I also love the city, the arts, and fashion.
Here was my reply:
First, I recommend you check out this web site:

Maybe you already know that I am a part-time graduate student at Lehigh. I have advised undergraduate students there for a number of years, so I know the campus a little better than the other 7 colleges and universities in the region. That said, Lehigh is a large and diverse community. My experience is that many of the staff and students are not "from" the area, and many are friendly with one another, even across departments.

About your question about how easy it is to meet young professionals: It is hard to generalize people in a region as large as ours. There are quite a few MeetUp groups in the area that get together regularly ( on anything from knitting to wine tasting to hiking.

There is something happening here every night and weekend, but I feel sorry for people who move here and lament that it is not more like New York City (disappointed that there is no great public transportation system, no Saks or Nordstrom, only four Thai restaurants vs. 100 Thai restaurants to choose from). One benefit of living here is that there are lots of things to do right here in the Lehigh Valley, and if you can't find what you want, Philadelphia and NYC are about an hour away. Another is that what we have in the way of performing arts, shopping and dining is still quite good, and relatively cheaper and more accessible. Lehigh contributes to that scene, but in no way is this a college town.

I will say that if you make an effort to get involved in the community, for example, to serve on a nonprofit board or event committee related to the arts and fashion you love, you will meet and develop relationships with like-minded people off campus. In Bethlehem alone, there is a great independent film group that puts on a big festival each year (Southside Film Festival), a group spearheading a co-op grocery (Bethlehem Co-Op), tons of fairs and festivals, and an organization that has recently developed a large arts venue near Lehigh with live music - much of it free - and film (ArtsQuest Center at Steelstacks - look it up!). 

All that being said, if you have a chance to visit, and have not yet made up your mind about the job offer, I'd be glad to introduce you to some people I know at Lehigh. Best wishes with your decision!
 Readers - how did I do?


  1. You made it sound great to live here and visit! Good Job! I had friends that would complain about how there is nothing to do here. Not anymore...there is more and more to do everytime you turn around. It's all about how much you want to take advantage of what's around you.

  2. Not bad!

    As a young professional and transplant to the area myself, I'd say making the effort is key. The Lehigh Valley has some nice things to offer for being a smaller region (compared to Philly/NYC), but I found building a social network here really does take time.

    There are a good amount of folks here that grew up in the area and are already have established social circles and a good amount of young families busy doing young family like things.

    Meghan's right about Lehigh and the diversity of staff/students there, though.

  3. As a relatively new resident of the LV, I think this is a fabulous response!!! It's honest, positive, and encouraging.

    Great job!!!

  4. Anonymous4/03/2012

    Start in a big city first. meeting people is hard enough so why would you want to compound the problem by moving and starting your career in a small town. Save your youth and move to a big city and when you feel like slowing down then consider this area.

  5. Thank you so much for your comments, everyone - and I agree, Anonymous, starting in a big city first is exciting. I wouldn't trade the 9 years I lived in DC for anything. But I think a career in higher ed often leads people to surprising locations (amirightLehighpeeps?) that end up being satisfying at any age, because of the nature of college campuses... full of smart, talented people from all over the place.