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).
As for your office, you'll be sharing one with at least 6 other grads. Offices vary widely in size, furnishings, and overall quality. The department is working to ensure that all grad offices are furnished with a computer with network access, but you shouldn't rely on it exclusively (see below for more about computing).
Pick an open desk and make it your own. Don't worry too much about invading your office-mates' space and routine. As an English graduate student, you'll soon get used to people coming and going all the time and to working with lots of distractions.
Mailboxes are located in alcoves on the 2nd floor of the English building, near 208. Mailbox assignments change every year.
There are a number of libraries on campus you can study in, all with varying hours of operation (they changed this year, so check the web for current hours of operation). The undergraduate library has the longest hours but tends to have a more party atmosphere on the upper floor. The lower floor is designated as a quiet zone and is full of study carrels for a little privacy. Across from the undergraduate library, the main library has a couple of areas for a quiet studying in addition to tons of resource material. The Education library (on the first floor of the main library) has a back room with long tables and plugs for laptops that is often empty. Grainger, the engineering library, is located on Springfield. It's new and usually pretty quiet.
As a graduate student, you have access to the Main Stacks to browse for books, but you can also request books to be delivered to your campus mailbox.
Grad students are also able to obtain study carrels, located in the stacks of the main (graduate) library. You can register for one in the circulation office, on the 2nd floor of the main library. Carrels are located in the stacks on floors 5 - 10. The trick is to spend some time walking around the stacks and looking for a carrel that you want, then go to the circulation office and request it.
Your student ID is your library card and your bus pass. During orientation week and the first week or so of classes, a student ID center is set up in the Illini Union. Later in the semester, student IDs can be obtained from their office in the Illini Union Bookstore building (across the street from the English building; go in the northernmost door on Wright St.). The introductory material you receive from the university should have information about the kind of documentation you'll need.
As course registration is done strictly online, it's important get an email account as soon as possible. You will receive an envelope with your Net ID and temporary passwords when you arrive on campus.
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 200D, but at the very least should be good for checking email and making last-minute changes to documents. The small lab in 200D English is strictly for checking email. A graduate/adjunct faculty computer lab and lounge is located in room 23 in the basement. This room contains 10 - 12 PCs, 1 Mac G5 with multimedia software, a printer, and a scanner. A general purpose lab (CITES) is also located in the basement of the English building, but you'll probably have to wait to get a machine and you'll be charged for laser printing.
Self-serve copying is available in the coffee/journals room on the 2nd floor of the English building. 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 copier in the coffee/journals room is a thing of wonder--it collates, staples, duplexes, and probably slices and dices as well--but because it's used so heavily, often breaks down. In a pinch, you can run over to 208 and beg for mercy copying.
A few other random tips
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 $5 co-pay.
Other places where you can use your ID for discounts:
- The Do It Center on Springfield Ave for 15% off of everything in the store, including paint, tools, hardware, lighting, etc.
Most of the local movie theatres have a student discount of one type or another. Check around for details.
Most English grad students choose to find off-campus apartments rather than living in graduate student dorms (Daniels Hall) or university family housing (Orchard Downs). Family housing has a less than stellar reputation, but it is not the worst you could do. For more information on university housing options, contact the university Housing Office. 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) and the Daily Illini (the daily student paper at the university) carry apartment and house listings. The bigger rental companies are reputable, but sometimes more expensive. Former EGSA reps advise you to avoid JSM Management at all costs.
It's easy to find a fairly cheap place to live in the $400-500/mo. range (less if you share a place), but it's harder to find anything really, really nice. There are tons of relatively new, characterless, anonymous buildings and also quite a few older, more interesting, but potentially run-down apartments. Come to town to look for housing as soon as you can. You can sign a lease now for August 1st or 15th, and the good places may be going every day.
If you're pretty sure you'll be sticking around for the long haul and you can somehow scrape together the down payment, you might want to consider buying a condo, co-op, or small house. There are usually many options available for as little as $50,000, but, of course, you get what you pay for. If you'd like to talk to grads who have bought, 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 has excellent tenants' rights laws, while Champaign does not.
- 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 also contains most fraternity and sorority houses.
- 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.
Links to some local rental agencies:
- John Smith Properties
- Heritage Property Management
- Johnson Rentals
- Royse and Brinkmeyer
- Weiner Companies
- Barr Real Estate
- Kobuck Apartments
- Bankier Apartments
- Roland Realty
- The University Group
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). Check there for the direct-deposit form that will allow your paychecks to go directly into your bank account-you might find this invaluable over the winter holiday if you go out of town before getting paid on December 16th!
There are numerous banks on and off campus. Chase and Busey Bank have free checking (some may require you to direct deposit your paychecks). The U of I Employees Credit Union offers free checking and savings with no minimum balance and free ATM machines in the bookstore and Union. The Credit Union has a branch office right in the Union; they also offer online and phone banking service.
Parking on campus is very limited and inconvenient (not to mention heavily policed by both campus and local authorities--they love to take your money). Luckily, Chambana has a great bus system that UI students ride "free" with their student IDs (you actually pay $30/semester for this). If you live far away or off the buslines, you might consider buying a shuttle parking pass from Campus Parking. For $15/semester you can drive to a large lot at the edge of campus and ride a shuttle bus that runs every five minutes to the heart of campus. The bus system goes far and wide, but some busses run more than others. Keep in mind that you're subsidizing the bus system with your student fees, so you might as well make the most of it. Information about the bus service can be found at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District web site.
Driving time to C-U is about two hours from Indianapolis and two-three hours from Chicago. The Amtrak station, with daily service to and from Chicago and points south, is located in downtown Champaign (E. University), in the same building as Greyhound, Megabus, and the C-U MTD. 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 on the weekends. 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.
Chambana also has three large general bookstores. Pages for All Ages, located in Savoy, is an excellent, non-corporate, locally-owned store that has a history of supporting the English department in various ways. Barnes and Noble and Borders are located in north Champaign, near Marketplace Mall; they're, well, you know (corporate, corporate, corporate!).
If you want to exercise your body instead of your brain, the Intramural Physical Education Complex (IMPE) houses several gyms, racquetball/handball/wallyball courts, pools, tracks, weight room, stairmasters, etc. These are accessible with your student ID. You can also buy passes for spouses or partners for a reasonable fee. If you look around the department, you might also find an intramural softball, basketball, or wallyball team. If you'd like to start one, send a message to the grad list to get the ball rolling. Campus Recreation also offers all sorts of classes and other opportunities (hiking and canoe trips, etc.), and another, smaller fitness complex (known as WIMPE) on Springfield Ave.
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. For a nice roller-blading loop, try the big park at the corner of Windsor and Race streets in S. Urbana.
If you have a car and some free time, don't miss Allerton Park, located 30 miles SW of Champaign. It offers gardens, sculptures, and wooded walking trails.
The University YMCA also runs the "Communiversity" each semester, with fitness, dance, and general interest classes available at reasonable cost.
The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (500 S. Goodwin, U) presents drama, dance, symphonies, and operas in several theaters. Local troupes play at the Station Theater (223 N. Broadway, U), and at the Armory Free Theater (in the Armory Building on campus). Several English grad students are involved in local theatre and there's also a department-related group called the New Revels Players, so ask around if you're interested.
Chambana has two multiplexes and several smaller movie houses that play first and second run movies. The New Art Theater (126 W. Church) features foreign, indie, and art films!
If you like live music, Chambana actually has a fairly active scene. U of I's Assembly Hall and Foellinger Auditorium book bigger acts (Phish, Garth Brooks, the Kiss revival tour, Prince, Wilco, Eminem, etc.)-tickets are sold to students on a lottery system.
There are also plenty of smaller venues for punk, folk, etc. The Canopy Club (708 S. Goodwin, U.) and the Highdive (51 E. Main, C.), Cowboy Monkey (6 Taylor St.), and Nargile often host smaller acts. The Courtyard Cafe in the Union also books bands. Mike n' Molly's (105 N. Market, C.) holds a weekly Celtic music session on Sundays.
For dancing, try Chester Sreet Club ("C-Street") on Chester St. in downtown Champaign--good dance music in a GLBT-friendly environment. Cowboy Monkey also hosts an Argentine Tango and Salsa night on Wednesdays.
There are many grocery stores in Chambana, but none close to campus. The closest supermarket to campus would be the County Market located at 4th and Springfield (331 E. Stoughton, C). Schnucks is nice, but expensive-locations in W. Champaign and E. Urbana. County Market and Jerry's IGA are two other chains that vary greatly depending on location; both have locations in Champaign and Urbana. Strawberry Fields (306 W. Springfield, U) and the Common Ground Food Co-Op (Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana) offer 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.
For international foods, there are Mexican, Asian and Indian-specific groceries in town. By far the largest is Am-Ko on Springfield, which carries tons of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian and other far and middle eastern ingredients. you can also order fish there, which is the best you can get in town. Also check out World Harvest (519 University Ave, C), EuroMart (48 E. Springfield, C), Art Mart (127 Lincoln Square, U).
Cafes are, of course, everywhere. Near campus, try Espresso Royale (in Champaign , Urbana , and the Union); the location on Daniel and 6 th Street is a block away from the English Building. Bar Guiliani (on Green in C) and Café Paradiso (on Lincoln in U) offer similar amenities. Off campus, try Cafe Kopi (109 N. Walnut, C), or Aroma (118 N. Neil, C).
C-U has at least one of practically every national chain restaurant, but why settle? Below is the result of a conversation with some real connoisseurs of local cuisine--a list of recommendations for the top spots in town to treat your tastebuds. The only criterion was "good food." Price range included where known. If anyone has any comments on any of these or other suggestions we missed, we'd love to hear them. It's not like any of us have more pressing things to think about right now, right? Papers? Reading? Grading? What? :)
Check out EatCU for deals, menus, and online ordering and delivery options.
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!), Silver Mine Subs, Za's (personal pizzas, sandwiches, salads, pasta), Zorba's (gyros, etc – and everything is half price here on Tuesdays) Pita Pit, Potbelly's, La Bamba (“Burritos as big as your head”), Chipotle and The Noodle Co., as well as Korean, Chinese, Indian, and Thai options.
The Illini Union has a food court in the basement, with choices ranging from Chick-fil-A, Einstein’s Bagel, and Sbarro to fast Mexican, Chinese, and sushi options. Upstairs in the Union is another Espresso Royale, a Jamba Juice, a Delights (frozen yogurt, ice cream, bagels, soup and sandwiches), and a convenience store (Quad Shop) with snacks, magazines, etc.
On the other side of campus (the Urbana side) there are a few other good options. The Red Herring (located in the basement of 1209 W. Oregon St. ) has great vegetarian food, much of it even tasty enough for non-vegetarians. Derald's is a lunch truck that is parked on Matthews Street near the Medical Sciences Building every day (straight across the quad from the English Building) and serves a wide selection of hot sandwiches and has a lively proprietor (plus, it's cheap!). The Bread Company has coffee, great lunch sandwiches and fondue at dinner.
Breakfast and Brunch
- MaryAnne's (downtown Champaign and Neil and Kirby, C)-awesome breakfasts, good prices; big place but sometimes a wait on the weekends. Check out the skillets and the pancakes.
- Original Pancake House (1909 W. Springfield, C)-every kind of pancake you can imagine. Seriously.
- Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut, C)-great brunch, but only on Sundays
- Courier Café (111 N. Race, U)-an English department favorite
- Le Peep (2209 S. Neil, C)-open during the morning and early afternoon. Can get crowded.
General Yummy Places
- Black Dog (201 N. Broadway, U)-some of the best BBQ in town but tends to be crowded. Worth the wait!
- Seven Saints (32 E. Chester, C)-sliders, salads, sandwiches, and cheese curds. Whiskey Wednesdays!
- Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut, C.)-fusion fare to the nth power; they claim Carribbean, Indian, and Latin cuisines, among others, as influences.
- Milo's (300 S. Broadway, U.)-eclectic menu, run by a chef from DC, reservations definitely encouraged; entrance in Lincoln Square might be hard to find; mushroom ravioli is recommended, as are fish, stews, almost anything; getting up there on the price scale, but lunch is much more affordable and just as tasty.
- Silvercreek (402 N. Race, U.)-can't go wrong for a "nice" place with great food and atmosphere ($15-$30/person?). Amazing homemade desserts.
- Courier Cafe (111 N. Race, U.)-also top-notch homestyle and more in a grad-school budget-great veggie burgers.
- Kennedy's (2560 S. Stone Creek Blvd., U.)-food and atmosphere are great, service ok. $20+ /person. Best steak in town?
- Bacaro (113 N. Walnut, C)-pricey wine bar and restaurant; some say it's the best restaurant in town; others say it's overpriced.
- The Bread Company (706 S. Goodwin, U)-really good sandwiches, salads and soups at lunch. At night, they serve fondue, pizzas and hot sandwiches.
- Café Luna (313 E. Green, C)-tapas-style at night, fancy sandwiches on homemade bread during lunch. They serve a great Nicoise salad.
- Pekara, Aroma, and Café Kopi (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.
- Farren's (308 N. Randolph, C), Big Grove (1 E. Main, C), Guido's (2 E. Main, C), Destihl (301 N. Neil, C)--nicer bar food with great burgers (beef and black bean).
- Mirabelle (124 W. Main , U)-Crusty artisan breads, cakes and cookies. They have erratic hours so get there early.
- Jackson 's (116 N.1 st )-ribs, ribs and more ribs.
- Basmati (302 S. First, C.)-can be hit or miss, but quite good on the "on" days.
- Bombay Indian Grill (403 E. Green, C.)-cheaper than Basmati; great food.
- Biaggis (2235 S. Neil, C.)-reservations might be necessary; kind of upscale in a sterile kind of way but the food is good.
- Great Impasta (114 W. Church, C.)-servings are smaller but perhaps more stylish than at standbys like Minnecis or Dom's. Good deserts. Caution: attitude!
- Minneci's (401 S. First, C.)-your standard, red-checked tablecloth Italian (atmosphere is not the strong point, but it's not a negative either); great pasta arrabiata (angry pasta -- it's not *that* angry) and homemade mozzarella sticks.
- Papa Del 's (206 E. Green, C.)-really, really good stuffed pizza, but it takes forever.
- Timpones (710 S. Goodwin, U.)-upper med. price, good creme brulee, good appetizers.
- Maize (60 E. Green, C)-probably the most popular Mexican food among grad students. Get tacos. They’re opening a new location in downtown Champaign soon.
- El Charro (55 E. Green, C)-authentic Mexican. It also has Mexican groceries.
- Wedge (415 N. Neil, C)-slightly more fancy vibe with good margaritas and tacos.
- Dos Reales (1407 N. Prospect, C, University, U.)-considered by many to be the best Mexican in town.
- El Matador (2312 W. Springfield , C.)-good, cheap Mexican.
- Margarita's (1717 Philo Rd., U.; 2821 W. Kirby, C.)-food is good, atmosphere is loud and lively; probably a good place for groups; ($7-$10).
- El Toro/El Torero (Various locations)-more quality Mexican.
- Nitaya (134 West Church, C)
- Siam Terrace (212 W. Main, U)-the most authentic Thai flavor in town.
- Hinode (132 West Church, C)
- Miko (407 W. University, U.)
- Kamakura (715 S. Neil, C.)-takes second place to Miko.
- Spoonhouse (616 E. Green, C)-very popular and good, has some fusion stuff like Korean burritos.
- A-ri-rang (607 S. Wright, C)
- Woori Jib (710 S. 6th, C)
- KoFusion (1 Main #104, C)-decent lunch buffet. Dollar sushi at certain times on Sundays and Mondays.
- Sushi Kame (132 W. Church, C)
- Yellowfin (305 Cedar, C)
- Sushi Rock (621 E. Green, C)
- The Red Herring (1209 W. Oregon , U.)
- Y Thai eatery (in the university YMCA on Wright St. across from the English building)
- Zorba's (627 E. Green in C.)-good veggie pitas.
- Basmati and the Fiesta Cafe are also said to be good for veggie food.
- Sea Boat (1114 North Market, C)-fish sandwiches and fried chicken and they deliver!
- Ike's (Monticello-on-the-square, 762-9898)-it's a 20-minute drive away but it has great atmosphere and fresh catfish. Similar to a seaside shack, but in the middle of Illinois .
Pizza (some places around that aren't the usual Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Domino's, etc.)
- Jupiter's (39 E. Main, C)-thin crust pizza with fancy toppings, beer, and pool.
- Monical's (various locations)-an Illinois chain with thin crust pizza.
- Village Inn Pizza (1801 W. Springfield, C).
- Prime Time (355-9100 and 356-9100)-tasty delivery or pick-up.
- Papa Del's (206 E. Green, C)-stuffed crust is the best but it takes a long time.
- The Blind Pig (120 N. Walnut, C)
- The Blind Pig Brewery (120 N. Neil, C)
- Boltini's (211 N. Neil, C)
- Brass Rail ( 15 E. University, C)
- Cowboy Monkey (6 Taylor, C)
- Crane Alley (115 W. Main, U)
- Destihl (301 N. Neil, C)
- Embassy (114 S. Race, U)
- Esquire (106 N. Walnut, C)
- Guido's (2 E. Main, C)
- Iron Post (120 S. Race, U)
- Mike and Molly's (105 N. Market, C)
- Murphy's (604 E. Green, C)-since this bar is in Campustown, this is a good place to go for Happy Hour, not at midnight.
- The Office (214 W. Main, U)
- Quality (110 N. Neil, C)
- Radio Maria (119 N. Walnut, C.)
- Seven Saints (32 E. Chester, C)