Champaign-Urbana has a reputation as one of the most vibrant, exciting college towns in the country. After spending a day on campus, it is easy to see why. If you haven’t visited campus yet and you can’t figure out what the fuss is about, this post is for you!
Below, I have broken down my favorite things to do on campus. This is a glimpse into the full, exciting life you’ll get to live as a student at Illinois. I loved writing this post because it reminded me how much I love being an Illini!
Go out to eat on Green Street
You can find almost anything you’re craving on Green Street. From authentic Mexican and Chinese restaurants to Potbelly’s and Noodles and Co., you’re never more than a block away from a restaurant that will suit your needs. Many students view Green Street as the hub of campus social life. Even on a lazy Saturday afternoon, our students are out grabbing lunch with friends and enjoying the sights and sounds of this mini-city.
Get caffeinated at a coffee shop
By my recent count of the locations appearing on Google Maps, there are fourteen different coffee shops on campus. Fourteen. That blows my mind a little. You could grab a drink every day for two weeks and never have to visit the same place twice! The coffee shop chains that have more than one location on campus include Starbucks, Espresso Royale, and Caffé Bene. No matter your price range or aesthetic preferences, you’ll find the perfect place for your caffeine fix.
See a show
If you’re looking for entertainment, you’re in luck. The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has an event scheduled on almost every day of the school year. The facility has five separate performance venues that can support simultaneous productions. Because of this, you could see a ballet, a jazz quartet, a voice recital, and a play within the same week. For Illinois students, tickets are only $10 per show! There are also plenty of student-run music ensembles, dance troupes, and theatre companies that perform on campus throughout the year. Big-name artists come to campus every once in a while, too. Even though Illinois is often best known for its STEM programs, the performing arts scene on campus is just as noteworthy.
Join a registered student organization
According to UofIConnections, the current tally of RSOs at Illinois is 1,008. I recommend checking out this database before coming to Illinois in the fall. You can get a clear picture of the sheer quantity and variety of groups before you even set foot on campus. While browsing, you can sort the organizations by category, including academic, professional, creative, recreational, cultural, and more. If you can’t find an organization that suits you, all you need to do is grab at least four friends and create your own RSO!
Illinois has two huge athletic facilities on campus that students can use for free. The ARC is located near Memorial Stadium, and CRCE is located near the east side of campus. Getting in shape and having fun is simple in these gorgeous, state-of-the-art facilities. Both locations offer classes and personal training for an extra fee. You can also get involved with intramural teams or join an RSO with an athletic focus. Illinois already has everything from Archery Club to Wushu Club. If you put yourself out there and try something new, you will make friends and stay active at the same time.
Cheer on the Illini at a home game
Big Ten sports are a defining aspect of Illinois that draws many students here. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve watched dozens of Illini football and basketball games while sitting between my parents, who are both Illinois grads. There is nothing quite like cheering from the stands and celebrating a win (or even a loss) with your friends. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of student-priced tickets, tailgating in Grange Grove, and singing and chanting along in the student section as the Marching Illini perform our school songs.
One of my favorite days of my fall semester involved a stroll through the Arboretum and a trip to the Japan House’s gardens. It was unseasonably warm for November, and I had a blast spending an extended period of time out in nature. It was the perfect way to recharge after a long week. Another great place for an outdoor adventure is Allerton Park, located about 30 minutes southwest of Champaign. As long as you have a friend with a car, you can escape to the country for a day of walking the trails and admiring the sculptures and gardens on this beautiful, historic piece of land.
Engage in some retail therapy
On campus, there are four clothing boutiques, including Ragstock and Urban Outfitters. There are also at least three stores dedicated to Illini gear. These are great options for style and spirit, but if you are looking for a more traditional shopping experience, all you have to do is hop on the 1N bus (which is free for Illinois students) and get off at Market Place Mall in northern Champaign. The mall and its surrounding area include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Old Navy, Forever 21, and plenty of smaller shops for your retail therapy needs. It’s no downtown Chicago, but it does the job without breaking the bank.
Get away for the weekend
If you’re tired of campus (which can happen every once in a blue moon), you have three big-city options for day trips or weekend getaways. Indianapolis is two hours away. Chicago is two and a half hours away. St. Louis is just under three hours away. Part of the advantage of living in Champaign-Urbana is that you are a reasonable distance from three wonderful cities. I’ve taken trips to Chicago and Indianapolis already, so St. Louis is next on my list!
Wait! I almost forgot about academics!
Illinois offers its students some pretty academic opportunities. It is a university, after all. I suspect that if you want to go to college, you have at least some interest in bettering yourself as a student and a future professional! At Illinois, you’ll get to…
- Attend classes that excite you
- Do research with professors who are experts in their fields
- Find an on-campus job
- Study in dozens of different buildings, cafés, and libraries
- Find an internship in research park
- Attend career fairs and networking events
- Meet with your academic advisor and make plans for the future
Above all, you’ll make an almost unreasonable number of friends. According to Facebook, I’ve made 140 new connections since coming to school. While I don’t have 140 new BFFs, I now see familiar faces every single time I’m out and about on campus. That is pretty astounding on a campus that has 44,000 students. I even think that I’m on the road to building friendship that will last long after we all graduate and start our real adult lives.
If you take the time to check off a few of my campus activity suggestions, you’ll have no problem finding your people. It may not happen right away, but you’ll eventually find sitcom-worthy friendships that will last a lifetime. Besides the whole learning and finding a career path thing, this is what college is all about!
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks about balancing crazy schedules and taking on leadership positions in RSOs. In the meantime, check out my personal blog!