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The Action's in Oakland, PA
When it's time to unwind, students head to Oakland.
A native of Pakistan, Mahjabeen Obaid had never been to Pittsburgh. So when she arrived in the area to attend college, she had no idea what to expect.
Her first glimpse of Oakland, a popular Student Zone, made her realize she was going to fit right in.
"When I drove into Oakland, I saw a huge sign saying, 'Welcome Students' and I saw crowds of students on the sidewalks," said Obaid. "I thought to myself, this is where I want to study."
Students from more than 90 nations converge in Oakland, a bustling neighborhood east of downtown Pittsburgh. Tree-lined college campuses, world-famous masterpieces, cutting-edge companies and tranquil parks can all be found here within a single square mile, yet Oakland manages to retain the convivial atmosphere of a small college town.
Thanks to its huge student population, Oakland boasts a wonderfully offbeat personality. The Carnegie museum complex houses master works by Degas and van Gogh, but many students prefer to crawl around in the pitch-black tunnels of the "excavated Egyptian tomb" hidden in the building. And only an undergrad's discerning palate can fully appreciate a mammoth, steaming bag of "the O's" famous french-fries (they serve 4,280 pounds a day) or a signature Primanti Brothers sandwich (yes, those are french-fries and coleslaw in your corned beef and cheese).
On sunny days, major squirt gun battles are waged on the green around the Cathedral of Learning, the 42-story tower in the center of town that is the tallest academic building in North America. Craig Street is the place to relax, whether this means sipping cappuccinos in open-air cafes, browsing the numerous used bookstores, or perusing the comic book selections at "Phantom of the Attic." When the sun goes down, the students hit Oakland's streets. They pack favorite hangouts like Fuel and Fuddle, where the food is half-price after 11 p.m., and groove to the DJs spinning electronica at Club Laga. Others opt for local theater performances at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, which has been drawing in crowds since 1934, or art house films at the Carnegie Museum of Art cinema or the Melwood Screening Room.
Obaid had a return plane ticket to Pakistan in her pocket when she arrived in Oakland, in case she didn't like the area. She never used it.
"I'm definitely happy with my choice," said Obaid. "I'm here to stay."