This is a guest post by Brian Selcik, a student at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he is studying for a BFA in Musical Theatre Dance.
You may be a new student preparing a move to begin studying at one of Chicago’s many universities and institutions. Having gone through the process myself not too long ago, here are some things I’ve learned that will help plan for your first semester in Chi-town.
Parents, Students, Either.. Both? Take A Breath
The city of Chicago is like its own small country of 2.7 million people who enjoy over 40 kilometers (26 miles) of public beaches, lively local theater, plus the 4th busiest airports in America making it very accessible. Many universities in Chicago are located in the Loop right off of Lake Michigan. (This is the Loop.) There are over 7,000 restaurants and sights that bring over 55 million tourists annually and going to school right in the heart of the city allows you to experience it all.
Don’t Make Your Living Environment Your Work Environment
One of the best pieces of advice I have for really anyone going to college is not to make your living environment your work environment. Dorm rooms are designed for you to eat, sleep, and live but don’t mistake a desk for a ideal place to study. It is hard to focus on work in a place where you sleep and relax – the opposite is also true. (Parents, you wouldn’t want to eat dinner in an office, would you?) But in Chicago you’re lucky to have many great places to get school work done. Some of my favorites are Dollop Coffee, Hayden Hall, Harold Washington Library, and even the new experiential lululemon at Lincoln Park.
Explore The Loop
There is virtually no place in Chicago five miles around the Loop that would not have some great locations to explore with friends. Take your U Pass (the unlimited student ride pass for the public transportation) and head on the Red Line in either direction. At most any stop you’re probably going to find yourself in a cool location with coffee shops, restaurants, and so much more to experience.
It’s comfortable to get stuck in the few blocks around your university so taking the time to use your U Pass and explore is something allows you to make the most of your time in Chicago. A few of my favorite stops off the Red Line are Chicago and State, North-Clybourn, Fullerton, and Belmont.
Get Out When It’s Cold
Chicago is known for a lot of things but the cold weather during winter is definitely one of the most infamous. While it can get pretty bad you can still absolutely go out and explore as long as you are prepared. (It’s all about dressing properly!) Ear covers, a long coat, thick socks, a warm scarf, and gloves are all you need to survive the cold. You can stay outdoors and go ice skating at Millennium Park, or you can head indoors and go somewhere like the Chicago Board Game Cafe. The cold is not as bad as people (who usually aren’t from here) make it out to be as long as you are leaving your building prepared for the weather! Layers people, layers.
Go See A Show!
Chicago has one of the best theater districts in the country where you can see some innovative, creative, and inspiring work. You have your bigger companies like The Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, but also your smaller store-front theater like BoHo Theatre and Kokandy Productions. There are always student discounts available (for tickets generally ranging between $10-15) and even some ushering opportunities where you get to see the shows for free. New shows happen year round so there you can go see new work whenever you have a free weekend.
Urbs in Horto
Since studying here I’ve come to realize Chicago is one of the best cities in the world. With its restaurants, history, and theaters, the unique location makes it a special place to live and study. Those of you planning your first semester in Chicago, hopefully these seeds will help you grow quickly in the city in a garden.
Thank you Brian for taking time in between your studies to share your experience and recommendations for new students coming to Chicago! This isn’t Brian’s first guest post on the site so if you’re visiting London see this, want to see Hamilton for cheap read this, and for a Harry Potter trip to Orlando click here. Brian’s also on Instagram @brian_potter7.