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Study in West Virginia

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As its nickname the 'Mountain State' may suggest, West Virginia is better known for natural grandeur than any large urban developments.

West Virginia was founded during the American Civil War, when it broke away from Virginia to join the Union. Its landscape is dominated by the Appalachian Mountains, which has led it to being labelled the Mountain State.

The resultant climate means that it is also known for its lush natural beauty. offering mountains, greenery, and aglut of lakes and rivers.

If you’re looking for large sprawling cosmopolitan metropolises, perhaps you might be advised to look elsewhere. The two largest cities in the state – capital Charleston and Huntington – both have populations of around 50,000.

The state’s flagship public university is based in the even smaller Morgantown, which has a population of around 30,000 (though the larger metropolitan area is estimated to have a population around four times that size).

However, if it is a quieter, more peaceful experience you’re after, then these small ex-industrial cities have plenty to offer. Charleston and Huntington, for example, are rich with historical architecture, and have plenty of museums and galleries to keep you entertained.

Both host a number of annual festivals too, ranging from the more traditional country music variety, to the more idiosyncratic ‘Grumble Run’ – a five kilometre ‘run’ complete with breaks for snacks and grumbling!

Student dominated Morgantown is a charming riverside town, which among other accolades has been labelled one of America’s best small places for business by Forbes, and one of a ‘Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by National Trust for Historic Preservation. It temporarily becomes the biggest city in the state when the Mountaineers – the West Virginia University American football team – play.

West Virginia: Fast facts

•    Total population state population is around 1.86 million

•    The only state to lie entirely with the Appalachian region

•    Over three quarters of West Virginia is covered with forest

•    Oldest average population of any state, with two workers for every retiree

•    In 1908 Grafton, West Virginia, was the first state place in the world in which mother’s day was celebrated

•    Famous West Virginians include civil rights leader and author Booker T. Washington (though he was born in Virginia), Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) and actress Jennifer Garner

•    Biggest industries are chemicals, coal mining (around one tenth of nation’s coal comes from West Virginia) and tourism

•    If West Virginia was a country, it would be in the world's top 70 in terms of GDP

Top universities in West Virginia

West Virginia does not, at present, have any universities in the QS World University Rankings.

The public university system, however, offers a number of viable study destinations. The leading state university is West Virginia University, based in Morgantown, towards the north of the state.

The university is noteworthy for having produced a number of winners of several prestigious scholarships, including 24 Rhodes Scholars (an award to study at the University of Oxford in the UK). It is classified as a Research University (High Research Activity) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, with faculty members pulling in US$177.7 million in funding a year.

Other major universities in the state include Marshal University in Huntington, noteworthy for its forensic science graduate program, Fairmount State University, and West Virginia State University. There is a also a wide range of smaller private institutions in the state.

More states for mountain-lovers:

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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