My First 48 Hours in Chicago

As you may or may not know, I will be attending the University of Chicago this Fall for their Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS). While classes at UChicago do not begin until mid-September, I felt that it would be a good idea to head out there early to get to know the city. I flew into Chicago the evening of August 2nd, and I moved into the International House at the University of Chicago, where I will be living for the duration of my one-year program.

I had the fortune (and misfortune) of arriving at the end of a heat wave. So while August 3rd was a “cool” 88 degrees, the 2nd had a heat index of 107 when I arrive. This made a Mainer like myself, accustomed to summers in the mid-70s, very uncomfortable. However, I feel like arriving in such extreme heat made the next day (in the high 80s), and today (in the low 80s) feel much more comfortable, where as they may not have been if I hadn’t experienced the heat. So while I would still call Chicago “hot,” I feel like my trial by fire (pun intended) has habituated me to the higher temperatures.

The International House was a good choice in terms of a place to live. It’s cheap, safe, and exposes me to many new and interesting people and cultures. The I-House is designed to be half American/half international students. Unfortunately for me (and I was aware of this before I moved), because I arrived in August, there are not many people in the I-House. Once classes start in September, the I-House will be bustling, but now it’s pretty quiet. Also, most of the people staying here right now are international students who are part of an “english-first” program that sends large groups of student around the country (or just the area, I’m not really sure). What I am sure of however is that they’ve all know each other for a few months, and they’re only here for a few weeks, both of which are factors working against my hope of getting to know people and making new friends. Nonetheless I have meet several very nice people, including some student attending UChicago next year, so I am not without human contact. Either way I was expecting this first month to be spend in relative solitude.

I spent most of yesterday exploring Hyde Park, the neighborhood that UChicago resides in. I found where all the markets are, along with many different stores. Most notable to me was a record store on 53rd Street, Hyde Park Records, that seems to stock only band that I like. About half of the store is vinyls, and their CD collection is mostly indie and underground music, much of it from Chicago bands. The store owner, Jay, and I quickly found that we have a similar taste in music, and I think I will be frequenting Hyde Park Records more often. In my travels I also had to purchase all the supplies I needed. Not only did I spend $140 on food, I also needed to buy several supplies. So overall it was an expensive day, and I probably walk a total of 30 blocks, but it was a very productive day.

Overall Chicago, and the UChicago campus, are awesome. My neighborhood is generally safe, there are plenty of resources in the community, public transportation is excellent, and there are many community events to attend. For example, last night I attended a free salsa dancing class! Over the next few days/weeks, I still need to finish some paperwork to gets my loans finalized, and I want to explore more. I want to go check out Lake Michigan, and I want to go uptown to find some of the hobby stores.

Overall I’ve had a great time so far, and over the next month I’ll have a lot of free time, so you’ll probably hear more from me soon 🙂

PS: If you feel so inclined, I always love receiving mail. Below is my address, feel free to mail me postcards, money, food, lottery tickets, cigarettes, blowup dolls, pipe bombs etc….

Jeff Lees
International House at UChicago
1414 East 59th St. #750
Chicago, IL 60637-2916


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