Guide for New & Prospective Students: Life in Chambana
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 and Transportation
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 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.
Theater and Films
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.
There are many grocery stores in Chambana, but none close to campus. 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 (Jerry's IGA on Kirby Ave. is the closest grocery store to campus). 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).
Take a look at our restaurant guide for some suggestions!
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.).