by Valerie Wong
The University of Illinois flagship is situated in the college towns of Urbana and Champaign, and once you’re there, it’s as if you were starring in a Hollywood college movie like Pitch Perfect or 22 Jump Street. It’s a three-hour drive from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and there are many shuttle buses accommodating the many students arriving.
You can choose to live in an apartment or a university-run dorm, depending on your preferences. There are new dorms being built at Ikenberry (or ‘The Six Pack’ according to Illinis), which are beautiful and equipped with common rooms and an amazing gym nearby. If you live in the dorms, you will need to pay for compulsory meals and your ID becomes a swipe card. The great thing is that you can eat at any dorm within the dining hours, and all dining halls also have special meals every week. Private apartments aren’t difficult to find leasing online, but make sure communication is active for smooth running. These apartments can be found in both towns of Urbana and Champaign, and are usually a bus ride away from campus.
The Quadrangle is gorgeous in all seasons, and you’ll see a frisbee being thrown every so often. Business classes will most likely be held in Wohlers Hall or the Business Instructional Facility (BIF), and if general education classes are taken, it will be held in their respective buildings. All the buildings are in walking distance of campus dorms, but the university is so big, they have buses that run all day, every day, around the campus, making transport absolutely easy. Some recommended sites to enjoy are the Library, Altgeld Hall, Krannert Performing Centre and the Alma Mater statue.
Depending on your major, the business classes are around the same difficulty level at UNSW and classes are also categorised in levels 100 to 400 for difficulty with four courses per semester being a full load.
Business School is a direct exchange with UNSW’s, therefore the classes offered for exchange students are limited. A class list will be given in the orientation pack prior to leaving, so ensure that your major requirements are met before commencing study abroad. Classes for Studies of the Region is open, so make the use of any American history, film studies or social studies or languages.
Green Street is never quiet – all the campus bars are along this strip, along with restaurants and convenient stores. Some of the picks include:
- Brothers Bar and Grill – best night to go is Thursdays
- Joe’s – burgers and club
- Clybournes – Wine Night Tuesdays
- And if you’re feeling brave and bold: The Red Lion on Saturday night
Societies of all sorts are available to students, and O-Day is a great day to find out what’s on offer, and once you join, you’ll be able to participate in some amazing events. If you want to rush fraternities/sororities, research with caution!
There are so many overwhelming opportunities based on your passions and personality. Some of these that I experienced or know about are:
- Sports facilities, including an ice skating rink and BIEN soccer team
- Dance clubs, including salsa nights at the High Dive
- Cultural societies, from all nationalities as well as American subcultures
- Constituent societies for nearly all majors, including business
UNSW/other exchange students will be part of the Business International and Exchange Network, or BIEN, who will be the ones assisting your first few days will a welcome pack and campus tour. This is a great society to meet other exchange students (who would be more keen to travel around the USA with you!) and in the future, become amazing contacts from all parts of the world. Think of them as your UIUC version of CommIntSoc!
Urbana and Champaign, being different towns, have their own downtown areas (DTU/DTC). I would visit the towns for alternative food destinations. My favourite locations are:
- Radio Maria (DTU)
- The Blind Pig (DTU)
- The Flying Machine (DTC)
- Big Grove Tavern (DTC)
I’m sure by now there are many more options – the places are ever evolving.
Try and visit as many states as you can around America, and make sure you know the drill about your visa requirements before visiting any countries outside the USA. Plan before and after your exchange, but you will have the Thanksgiving Break, Winter Break and Spring Break as full length holidays. Some of my favourite destinations include:
- Chicago! The possibilities are endless
- New York! Enough said
- New Orleans! For jazz and liquor
- Arizona for your pick of national parks
Most of your flights will be from O’Hare. Some ways to leave U-C would be through:
- Amtrak if you are going to Downtown Chicago
- Peoria Charter if you are going to O’Hare Airport directly
Remember: delays are a thing in America, so plan well!
My number one tip is to make friends through BIEN and your personal societies. If you live in dorms, your dorm friends also become your friends for life – it’s like having 20 roommates.
If you have city-withdrawal symptoms (or just need to shop), take a weekend trip to Chicago! Chicago is pretty much my second home, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And a great way to enjoy Chicago is to make Chicagoan friends who are more than willing to host you and maybe take you to a Blackhawks game!
If you have coffee withdrawals, I’ll just say that I’m sorry. But Caffe Paradiso has decent cuppas!
What better way to spend your exchange than at UIUC. It has everything to offer, a culture that lives in you after, and all comfort and luxury in a little bubble. Plan well, and see the world while you’re there, and I kid you not – buy a damn good parka, because it will get cold! Take your adventure one red solo cup at a time,and scream out the Alma Mater anthem during the football game and with pride – ‘ILL-INI!’