Memorial Day weekend is approaching, and with it comes the start of moving season in Chicago!
Nearly every weekend throughout the late Spring and Summer months one will notice moving trucks lined up throughout the city streets as renters, primarily college/university students, vacate their flats for a new and hopefully better living arrangement. Many of Roosevelt’s graduate students travel far and wide to attend graduate school in Chicago; there are students who have been to Chicago maybe once or a few times on trips, international students who have never step foot in the United States, and local students who grew up in the Chicagoland area and are already well-versed on the many distinct neighborhoods the city offers.
For all non-locals, the process of searching for a place to live can seem like a daunting task, but don’t let your apprehension get the best of you. As long as you plan ahead, do your research, and approach the search with an open mind and positive attitude then you should have no problem finding a great place to live. In fact, you may find the experience to be an enjoyable and exciting adventure. Plus, it’s a great way to explore the city.
Roosevelt’s Graduate Housing Guide was composed by staff and students to give prospective students an idea of what the housing experience is like for most Roosevelt graduate students. Also, Roosevelt’s Office of Residence Life has lots of helpful information for those interested in living on-campus, which is an option for both graduate and undergraduate students, domestic and international.
Additionally, to further assist our new students, we asked five of our current graduate students to compose a brief account detailing their current housing situation and describe how they ended up finding a place to live. Below are their unique and honest stories. We hope this gives you a greater sense of what the graduate experience is like not just academically, but personally, as well!
Charlotte C. – Creative Writing, MA
I’ve lived in my studio apartment at River North Park for two years. The apartment building is in the heart of River North, surrounded by restaurants, bars, and clubs. I was drawn to the location because it was close both to Roosevelt and to many of my friends’ apartments. It’s been a unique experience living in Chicago’s downtown area, being close to the Loop, the river, and a few blocks away from Michigan Ave., but there are a few downfalls as well. The area is expensive, lacks grocery stores, and overflows with high-rises and high-end furniture showrooms. In other words, it severely lacks the relaxed, close-knit, neighborhood vibes of other communities such as Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park, Logan Square, Lincoln Square, or Andersonville. After two years navigating the downtown traffic and tourist hordes, I’ve decided to end my lease this summer and head north to a more affordable area.
I think the biggest mistake that many people make when searching for a place to live is not actively exploring the neighborhoods that they’re interested in living. Google mapping an area, researching statistics online, viewing pictures of apartments through apartment search websites is necessary for people who live out of area, but if you have the option, I highly suggest taking to the streets to search for your apartment, condo, townhome, or house. Exploring the neighborhood where you’d like to live gives you the option to find out if parking is permit-only or free, shows you where the nearest grocery store and pharmacy is located, the kind of restaurants, shops, and business that are in the area, the location of the nearest train station or bus stops, and many other aspects that most likely won’t be apparent through a simple online investigation. With spring finally arriving, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and find your next apartment.
Laura L. – Clinical Psychology (Counseling Practice), MA
I am fortunate enough to live at home with my parents. I live in the western suburbs of Chicago and commute into the city via CTA Blue Line. Living at home has been such a blessing because I don’t have the pressure to work to pay for rent and bills. My living situation has really helped me focus on school and save money. The suburbs are definitely a great option when considering moving to the Chicago area. They’re usually quieter, safer, and more affordable than living within city limits. Plus, from most suburbs, the city is just a quick train ride away, and with your Roosevelt U-PASS (included with your student fees) you get unlimited rides into the city! I never feel like I’m missing out on anything just because I live in the ‘burbs.
Julia M. – Industrial/Organizational Psychology, PhD
I am an Industrial Organizational Psychology graduate student that moved to Chicago a few years ago from (way) out of the area. I have lived in the same place for almost 3 years and am very happy with the living situation, though it is a little different than most. When I decided to move to Chicago, my parents also made the decision to purchase an investment property in the area that I lived. As I work towards my degree, they make small updates to the property in preparation to either rent or sell after I’ve completed my studies. I live in a high rise in the South Loop neighborhood – just south of downtown and very close to Roosevelt. I really like this area because, although located in the Loop, it’s still a little removed from downtown, making it more reasonably priced than the surrounding area. It’s a quick trip to the Loop, Roosevelt, Museum Campus, and other fun attractions like Millennium Park and The Bean. I was also drawn to this area for other conveniences like the several nearby grocery stores. Before moving to the city, I hadn’t considered the potential challenges of grocery shopping without a car, which can get tricky if you have a lot of groceries and a long way to go. When beginning the search for a new living space, I highly recommend checking out where the nearest grocery store or Target is located and making sure you have easy access to one or multiple (either by foot or public transportation). I would also advise in general figuring out the public transportation routes for getting to school, work, etc., and making sure they are reasonably convenient, as you will likely be making this journey at least a few times a week. The only small downside to living in the South Loop (and I don’t think it’s a big one) is that I don’t really live near any of my peers. The majority of my classmates and friends live in neighborhoods farther north, closer to the Lakeview and Buena Park area, so I usually do a little more traveling on the weekends to socialize. This isn’t something that I don’t mind much, but it may be advantageous to reach out to anyone you know in the city or your future classmates and see what neighborhoods they are interested in.
Stephanie C. Industrial/Organizational Psychology, MA
I decided to begin my career as a graduate student right after I completed my undergraduate degree. I was also from out of state, which complicated things a little more. I made the decision to live off campus because I was ready to finally have my own space and my own apartment. Due to my circumstances, I had a very limited amount of time to find an apartment. I found a small one-bedroom apartment in Edgewater and by small, I mean 380 square feet. My apartment is on the 7th floor of an 8th floor apartment complex and is conveniently located a block and a half away from the Red Line. One thing to be aware of when choosing a place to live is the noise that comes from living so close to the train, as it runs 24-hours a day. One of the most important questions to ask when searching for an apartment is ‘what is included in the rent?’ This question will allow you to more easily compare the pricing from each apartment complex because each one includes different things (i.e. water, heat, electricity, trash, etc.). My biggest suggestion is to allow as much time as possible when searching for an apartment because there are so many options out there. The more time allotted, the more time available for comparing the best deals. There will be no perfect apartment, there will always be something less than desirable in every single one of them. You just have to decide which ‘con’ is the easiest to live with. If you are coming from a suburban or rural life, beware, because city life is much different. I have really grown to like Edgewater, there are so many unique places in the area and it is quick access to the beach/lakefront trail. It is also a short ride on the Red Line to campus (about 30 minutes). I would like to stay in the area in the future.
McKenna O. – Clinical Psychology, PsyD
Moving from Long Island, New York to Chicago was definitely a crazy learning experience! To begin my apartment search, I explored the on-student housing offered by Roosevelt; however, they did try to discourage graduate students from living there (or at least that was my experience). However, through this process I ended up connecting with my current roommate, who is a Masters student in Biology at Roosevelt. She lived about two hours outside of Chicago and was able to scope out places and neighborhoods for us to live. I was very, very lucky to have her! She ended up finding an apartment complex called The Buckingham, which is on Van Buren Street right next to Roosevelt. The Buckingham is geared towards students; you actually have to be a full-time student to live there. It’s great because all of my roommates are students, so there are rarely noisy parties, which is convenient when you’re up late cramming for an exam.
In terms of actually moving I cannot emphasize the importance of being organized. I brought two giant suitcases with me and had the rest of my stuff shipped from Long Island. To start off, bring the necessities only, don’t worry about pictures, decorations, school supplies, etc. Those can easily be shipped and you can always buy school supplies and room decor once you are here. Moving is stressful, but don’t worry, as much as it seems like everything is in disarray it will start to come together into your own, unique living space. Just be patient with the chaos!
If you are going to be living in the downtown area of Chicago I would definitely stress having a doorman for security. With it being my first year in a city, the extra security made me feel much more comfortable knowing there was someone in the lobby 24/7. Some buildings require a code in order to enter the building, which is another great measure of security; however, I find I have more peace of mind knowing there’s an actual person monitoring access into the building. However, you may be comfortable without a doorman and that’s okay too! Just take into consideration the area and how you feel about certain security measures.
While I do love downtown Chicago, the nightlife is much quieter compared to places like Wrigleyville, Lakeview, Rivernorth, Gold Coast, etc. When my friends want to go out to blow off some steam after a rough week, I usually have to travel up to them, which can be quite annoying. So if you’re looking for more of a nightlife scene, I suggest looking into other areas.
Overall, take a deep breath and take your time looking into different places and thinking about what you want out of your living situation. Chicago is a huge city, you will find something! If you rush to find a place, you’re not going to be happy with where you are living. My biggest piece of advice is to do your research and think about what you want in a living space!