Guide for New & Prospective Students
On behalf of all the English graduate students at the University of Illinois, the EGSA would like to welcome you to our department. Our duties include planning departmental social events, presenting graduate student ideas and concerns to the department administration, and generally keeping communication flowing through the department.
One of our biggest jobs is providing grad students with opportunities to get to know other members of the department. The EGSA hosts a happy hour during orientation, and a pot-luck soon after orientation week. Both events will allow you to acquaint yourself with your fellow grad students and faculty. Happy hours and grad student-hosted parties take place throughout the year.
In addition to social events, the EGSA offers forums covering important academic and professional concerns such as the Special Field exam, the job market, publishing, conferencing, etc. We also provide opportunities for dissertating graduate students to present their work to us. One of the EGSA's main functions is to provide information and resources that will help you get through the program as painlessly as possible. If you have questions, the EGSA is a good place to start.
To that end, we've compiled a handy introduction to life at the University and in "Chambana." Want to know which rental companies to avoid? How the heck you get a key to the copy room? Where on earth you can get decent coffee? We've got you covered.
During orientation, you should go to room 208 to get your office assignment, office key, and mailbox combination. Also ask for a key to the building; there are sometimes grad classes or special meetings on weekends or after hours when the building is locked. Finally, you'll want a key to the copy room, especially if you teach at 8 a.m. and need to make copies before class.
If all available keys have been distributed, you may need to trek out to O&M to have some made for you. The folks in 208 will give you the necessary paperwork. O&M is located on the corner of Kirby/Florida Ave. and Oak St., near the Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium. The 23 shuttle makes the closest stop (across the street, near Lot E-14).
You'll be sharing an office with other grads in the English Building. Offices vary widely in size, furnishings, and overall quality. Some offices have a microwave and mini fridge that you can use to store and heat up your food. Some offices also have one or a couple desktop computers with network access that you can use to check email or make quick changes to documents.
Mailboxes are located in alcoves on the 2nd floor of the English building, near 208. Mailbox assignments change every year. You’ll receive important information regarding teaching assignments and events. You can also have library books delivered to it. Make sure to check your mailbox often!
There are a number of libraries on campus where you can study, all with varying hours of operation. The Undergraduate Library has the longest hours but tends to get a bit loud on the upper floor; the lower floor is designated as a quiet zone and is full of study carrels for a little privacy. The Main Library is home to an impressive Reading Room; the Main Stacks; and a number of smaller libraries like the Social Sciences, Health and Education Library and the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library. The Main Library is also home to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, which has an impressive collection of manuscripts, first editions, broadsides, and other rare treasures. The more contemporary Grainger Engineering Library and ACES Library also have a lot of space for studying.
As a graduate student, you can check out books directly from the Main Stacks and our many smaller libraries, but you can also request books to be delivered to your campus mailbox. If you need a book that isn’t available through campus libraries, you can also request a copy from another Illinois college or university through I-Share.
Grad students can also request long-term research carrels, which are located in the Stacks of the Main Library. To request a carrel, visit the circulation desk on the second floor of the Main Library.
Your student ID (i-card) is your library card and your bus pass. During orientation week and the first week or so of classes, you should pick up your student ID in the Illini Union Bookstore (across the street from the English building). The introductory material you receive from the university should have information about the kind of documentation you'll need. In addition to using your i-card as your library card and bus pass, you can also use your i-card around town for various perks and discounts.
Once you are assigned a University Identification Number (UIN) and have been given an activation code, you will need to claim a NetID and create a password online. Shortly thereafter, you should set up your University email, which you’ll need to register for classes and for important communication (even during the summer before your first year).
Most, but not all, grad student offices have a computer with network access. They're generally a bit slow and may or may not be linked to the department printer in 211, but at the very least should be good for checking email and making last-minute changes to documents. The copy room in 211 English Building also contains three desktop computers, and these are primarily intended for quick tasks, such as checking email or printing documents. A graduate/specialized faculty computer lab and lounge is located in room 23 in the basement. This room contains additional computers and a printer. A general purpose lab (CITES) is also located in the basement of the English Building.
Self-serve copying is available in the copy room (211 English Building). The copiers in the copy room are a thing of wonder--they collate, staple, duplex, and scan. The folks in 208 will issue you a teaching access code; all copies made with this code will be allocated to your teaching account.
You can also have copies made for free on the copier in 208, but you'll have to submit your material at least 24 hours in advance and they will not work with copyrighted material. Take your material into 208 and fill out the appropriate forms.
The University has a couple of graduate student housing options: Daniels Hall, a graduate student dorm, or Orchard Downs, University family housing. For more information on University housing options, contact the University Housing Office.
Most English grad students choose to find off-campus apartments. If you plan to live off-campus, there are a few things you need to know:
- The campus sits on the dividing line (Wright St.) of Champaign and Urbana, and the English building is actually right on Wright (on the Urbana side of the street).
- Both Champaign and Urbana have plenty of housing near campus, and the excellent bus system (often rated one of the best in the nation for a community of this size) opens the possibility of living farther away from campus with little inconvenience.
- You can get info on apartments and landlords from Housing Information (217-333-1420) or the Tenant Union (217-333-0112), and both the News-Gazette (the local daily newspaper) and the Daily Illini (the daily student paper at the University) carry apartment and house listings.
- Feel free to get in touch with EGSA members or current graduate students for recommendations about housing.
It's fairly easy to find a place to live in the $600-700/mo. range (less if you share a place). There’s a wide range of options, so if possible, come to town to look for housing. Most leases begin in early and mid August.If this is your first year here, make sure to know when orientations take place when getting ready to sign your lease.
If you're pretty sure you'll be sticking around for the long haul, you might consider buying a condo or a house. There are usually many options available. If you'd like to talk to grads who have bought homes, email the EGSA executive committee and they can put you in touch with some people to talk to.
When looking for a dwelling, keep in mind several things:
- Urbana tends to have excellent tenants' rights laws.
- Remember to see how close your prospective apartment is to the nearest busline, grocery store, etc.
- The streets between Lincoln and Neil near campus tend to be inhabited by undergrads. This area, known as Campustown, is also where most fraternity and sorority houses are located.
- Grad students tend to live East of Lincoln in Urbana or West of Neil in Champaign.
- Make sure you ask if the address is in Champaign or Urbana--there are streets that run through both towns and also duplicate street names/numbers.
- Some grad students also choose to live in Savoy, which is a few miles south of campus.
Links to some local rental agencies:
- John Smith Properties
- Royse and Brinkmeyer
- Weiner Companies
- Bankier Apartments
- Roland Realty
- The University Group
- Green Street Realty
Paychecks come on the 16th of each month. Keep in mind that your first paycheck won't arrive until September 16th, and your last check will come on May 16th (if you teach both semesters). Thanks to the hard work of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), University fees are now due after your first payday in September and January. Questions about paychecks can be answered in the main department office (208), and more information about compensation can be found here. Your paycheck will be directly deposited into your bank account.
There are numerous banks on and off campus. In addition to regional and national banks in the Champaign-Urbana area, the U of I Community Credit Union offers free checking and savings with no minimum balance and free ATM machines on and off campus. The Credit Union has a branch office right in the Union.
Parking on campus is very limited and inconvenient (not to mention heavily policed by both campus and local authorities). Luckily, Chambana has a great bus system that U of I students ride "free" (included in our student fees) with their student IDs (i-cards). If you live far away or off the buslines, you might consider buying a shuttle parking pass from Campus Parking. With this pass you can drive to a large lot at the edge of campus and ride a shuttle bus that runs regularly to the heart of campus. The bus system goes far and wide, but some busses run more than others. Information about the bus service can be found at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) website.
Driving time to C-U is about two hours from Indianapolis and two-three hours from Chicago. The Illinois Terminal, located in downtown Champaign (45 E. University Ave.), offers different types of public transportation through Amtrak, Peoria Charter, Greyhound, and the CUMTD. Shuttle service to the airport in Indianapolis is also provided through at least one local carrier, and several companies provide bus service to the Chicago area. Commuter airline service is located at Willard Airport.
Let's talk about what's really important! There are three large bookstores that stock all the course texts: the Illini Union Bookstore (IUB) (located on Wright St. across from the English Building), T.I.S. (707 S. Sixth St., C.), and Follett's (corner of Green and Wright Streets, C.). At the moment, IUB has the best Lit. Crit./Critical Theory section of the big three. It also has the advantage of being the university store, which means you can deduct everything you buy there from your taxes! IUB also claims to give its proceeds back to the students in the form of cultural programming, while the other two stores send their profits to their corporate headquarters.
In addition to the big three academic bookstores, there are lots of other options around town. Jane Addams (208 N. Neil in downtown C) and Priceless Books (108 W. Main St. in downtown U) are two decent off-campus used and new bookstores. Jane Addams specializes in women's studies and is also particularly good at locating out-of-print materials. Barnes and Noble is located in north Champaign, near Marketplace Mall.
Your health service fee pays for medical care at McKinley Health Center , but a little-known secret is that it also gets you free stuff at the main McKinley building or at the annex in the Illini Union. At either location, present your ID for free aspirin, cold medicine, band aids (ask for the “Cold Pack” or “Wound Pack” or both), condoms, and pregnancy tests. Many prescription drugs, including birth control, are provided with a small or no co-pay.
If you want to exercise your body instead of your brain, your student ID (i-card) also allows you to access campus recreation fitness centers, including the ARC (Activities and Recreation Center) and CRCE (Campus Recreation Center East), which house several gyms, racquetball/handball courts, pools, tracks, weight room, stairmasters, and more. Campus Recreation also offers all sorts of fitness and health and wellness classes, as well as other opportunities (hiking and canoe trips, etc.). You can also buy passes for spouses or partners for a reasonable fee.
Champaign and Urbana both have fantastic park systems, with parks and "parklets" scattered all over the two cities. They also offer fitness and general interest classes; check out the web sites of the Champaign Park District and the Urbana Park District for more information.
The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (500 S. Goodwin, Urbana) presents drama, dance, symphonies, and operas in several theaters. Local troupes play at the Station Theater (223 N. Broadway, Urbana), and at the Armory Free Theater (in the Armory Building on campus). Several English grad students are involved in local theatre, so ask around if you're interested.
Chambana has two multiplexes (Savoy 16 and Carmike 13) as well as the Art Theater (126 W. Church, Champaign), which features foreign, indie, and art films! Most of the local movie theatres have a student discount of one type or another.
If you like live music, Chambana actually has a fairly active scene. U of I's State Farm Center and Foellinger Auditorium book bigger acts (Green Day, Pentatonix, Dierks Bentley, Jason DeRulo, Blue Man Group), and there are many venues for musicals and other performances in town, both on-campus and at off-campus venues like The Virginia Theatre (203 W. Park, Champaign). There are also plenty of smaller music venues in the area: the Canopy Club (708 S. Goodwin, Urbana), The Accord (51 E. Main, Champaign), and Cowboy Monkey (6 Taylor St., Champaign) often host smaller acts. The annual Pygmalion Music Festival and biennial Ellnora Guitar Festival bring great musical performances to campus and the surrounding community. Cowboy Monkey hosts a Salsa night on Wednesdays.
There are many grocery stores in Chambana! The closest supermarket to campus is the County Market located at 4th and Springfield (331 E. Stoughton, Champaign). Schnucks has locations in West Champaign, East Urbana, and Savoy. County Market, Meijer, and Aldi are other chains that have locations in Champaign and Urbana. Strawberry Fields and World Harvest (306 W. Springfield, Urbana), the Common Ground Food Co-Op (Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana), and Harvest Market (2029 S. Neil St., Champaign) offer local, organic, and vegetarian foods. Several English grads are members of the Co-Op; ask around for more info. There is also the Market on the Square, the farmer's market in the parking lot of the Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, which runs on the weekends from May through November. Champaign also has a farmer’s market on Tuesdays from 4-7 from May to October located in downtown Champaign (310-330 N. Neil).
For international foods, there are Mexican, Asian and Indian-specific groceries in town. Am-Ko on Springfield is closest to campus and carries tons of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian and other far and Middle Eastern ingredients. Also check out World Harvest (306 W. Springfield, Urbana) and Art Mart (1705 S. Prospect, Champaign).
Cafes are, of course, everywhere. Near campus, try Espresso Royale (in Champaign, Urbana, and the Undergraduate Library); their location on Daniel and 6th Street is a block away from the English Building. Other on-campus cafes include Starbucks (multiple locations), Caffe Paradiso (801 S Lincoln, Urbana), Caffé Bene (multiple locations). Off campus, try Cafe Kopi (109 N. Walnut, Champaign), Aroma (118 N. Neil, Champaign), or Avionics (202 S First St, Champaign).
Options Near the English Building
Campustown (Green, John and Daniel from Wright to 1st) includes standbys such as Subway, Jimmy John's (sandwiches – they also deliver!), Za's (personal pizzas, sandwiches, salads, pasta), Zorba's (gyros, etc.), Pita Pit, Potbelly's, Chipotle, Panera, and Noodles & Co., as well as great local Korean, Chinese, Indian, and Thai options.
The Illini Union has a food court in the basement, with choices ranging from Einstein Brothers Bagels to Sbarro to Wendy’s. Upstairs in the Union is a Starbucks, a Jamba Juice, and a convenience store (Quad Shop) with snacks, magazines, etc.
On the Urbana side of campus there are a few other good options. The Red Herring (1209 W. Oregon, Urbana) has great vegetarian food. The Bread Company has coffee, great lunch sandwiches and fondue at dinner. There are a number of food trucks around campus and town, keep an eye out for them--they tend to be good.
Breakfast and Brunch
- Courier Café (111 N. Race, Urbana)--an English department favorite.
- Le Peep (2209 S. Neil, Champaign)--open during the morning and early afternoon. Can get crowded.
- Merry Ann's (1 E. Main and 1510 S. Neil, Champaign; 701 S Gregory, Urbana)--cheap breakfasts; check out the skillets and the pancakes.
- Original Pancake House (1909 W. Springfield, Champaign)--every kind of pancake you can imagine. Seriously.
- Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut, Champaign)--great brunch, but only on Sundays.
General Yummy Places
- Aroma, Café Kopi, Pekara (On Neil and Walnut, between University and Main, in downtown Champaign)--they're all coffee shops, but they also serve yummy sandwiches, salads, wraps and baked goods.
- Bacaro (113 N. Walnut, Champaign)--pricey wine bar and restaurant.
- Big Grove (1 E. Main, Champaign), Destihl (301 N. Neil, Champaign),
- Farren's (308 N. Randolph, Champaign)--nicer bar food with great burgers (beef and black bean).
- Black Dog (201 N. Broadway, Urbana; 320 N. Chestnut, Champaign)--some of the best BBQ in town but tends to be crowded. Worth the wait!
- The Bread Company (706 S. Goodwin, Urbana)--really good sandwiches, salads and soups at lunch. At night, they serve fondue, pizzas and hot sandwiches.
- Courier Cafe (111 N. Race, Urbana)--also top-notch homestyle to suit a grad-school budget; great veggie burgers. Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut, Champaign)--fusion fare to the nth power; they claim Carribbean and Latin cuisines, among others, as influences.
- Seven Saints (32 E. Chester, Champaign)--sliders, salads, sandwiches, and cheese curds. Whiskey Wednesdays!
- Silvercreek (402 N. Race, Urbana)--can't go wrong for a "nice" place with great food and atmosphere ($15-$30/person?). Amazing homemade desserts.
- Cravings (603 S. Wright, Champaign)
- Golden Harbor (505 S. Neil, Champaign)
- Rainbow Garden (multiple locations)
- Bombay Indian Grill (403 E. Green, Champaign)--great food.
- Sitara (114 S. Race, Urbana)
- Himalayan Chimney (134 W Church St, Champaign)
Italian & Pizza
- Biaggi's (2235 S. Neil, Champaign)
- Jupiter's (39 E. Main, Champaign)-thin crust pizza with fancy toppings, beer, and pool.
- Nando Milano (204 N. Neil, Champaign)--delicious, upscale Italian dining.
- Manolo’s (1115 W. Oregon, Urbana)--pizza and empanadas Papa Del 's (206 E. Green, Champaign)--great stuffed pizza, but it takes forever.
- Pizza M (208 W. Main Street, Urbana)
- Timpone's (710 S. Goodwin, Urbana)--upper med. price, good creme brulee, good appetizers.
- Pizzeria Antica (10 E. Chester St, Champaign)
- Dos Reales (1407 N. Prospect, Champaign)
- El Charro (55 E. Green, Champaign)--authentic Mexican. It also has Mexican groceries.
- El Toro (Various locations)--standard, delicious American Mexican fare and formidable margaritas.
- Fiesta Cafe (216 S. 1st, Champaign)
- Huaraches Moroleon (805 Philo, Urbana)--delicious, authentic Mexican food, including breakfast!
- Maize (60 E. Green, Champaign and 100 N. Chestnut Street, Champaign)--probably the most popular Mexican food among grad students. Get tacos. They’re opening a new location in downtown Champaign soon.
- Wedge (415 N. Neil, Champaign)--slightly more fancy vibe with good margaritas and tacos.
Sushi and Japanese
- KoFusion (multiple locations)-decent lunch buffet.
- Sakanaya (403 E. Green, Champaign)
- Sushi Kame (132 W. Church, Champaign)
- Sushi Rock (621 E. Green, Champaign)
- Basil Thai (701 S. Gregory, Urbana)
- Siam Terrace (212 W. Main, Urbana)--the most authentic Thai flavor in town.
- Thara Thai (912 W. Bloomington, Champaign)
Special Diet Options
- GLUTEN FREE: Thara Thai (912 W. Bloomington, Champaign), Manolo’s (1115 W. Oregon, Urbana), Pandamonium Doughnuts (1105 Windsor Rd, Champaign, IL), and Original Pancake House (1909 W. Springfield Ave, Champaign).
- VEGAN: Dancing Dog (126 W. Main Street, Urbana), Red Herring (1209 W. Oregon, Urbana), and most of the places above have vegan options.
- HALAL and KOSHER: Garbanzo (Illini Union), Old Time Meat and Deli Shop (2018 S. Neil Street, Champaign), Jerusalem (601 S Wright St. Champaign), Strawberry Fields (306 W Springfield Ave, Urbana), and Ambar (605 S Wright St, Champaign).
- The Blind Pig (120 N. Walnut, Champaign)
- The Blind Pig Brewery (120 N. Neil, Champaign)
- Cowboy Monkey (6 Taylor, Champaign)
- Crane Alley (115 W. Main, Urbana)
- Esquire (106 N. Walnut, Champaign)
- Iron Post (120 S. Race, Urbana)
- Murphy's (604 E. Green, Champaign)-since this bar is in Campustown, this is a good place to go for Happy Hour, not at midnight.
- Quality (110 N. Neil, Champaign)
Also check out EatCU for deals, menus, and online ordering and delivery options.