Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama. Michael Jordan — all products in some way, shape, or form of Chicago.
Whether you’re sipping a Mocha Bama at a South Side cafe or walking alongside Lake Michigan at any side, Chicago offers a world away from home. But there is a feel to Chicago that makes the downtown seem small, cozy, and ironically homey.
Almost every employee I ran into came from a suburb just outside of town, and the hospitality was welcoming. Contrasting the House of Blues (where I saw Lauren Hill perform live) was an absence of droves of people. Despite being a downtown, Chicago was peaceful, mirroring the people who came to work there — and the colleges nearby.
Situated in South Side, UChicago breathed of intellect. Students were hard at work in every building I visited, and my conversation with my former student felt right. We discussed economics, politics, life. All around us were dozens of other conversations, meaningful in depth and length, as we observed gorgeous rays of light slow drip into the Booth School of Business.
Walking past the Oxford-inspired architecture moments later, I realized just how devoted these students were to learning. The sheer intellectual prowess was literally emanating from each of the buildings on the relatively small sized campus. Yet, its energy made it feel bigger than it was. This was no place for frat boys and parties. This was UChicago.
Students began painting the iconic Rock in the 1940s, first as a prank, then as an accepted avenue of expression. Years later, students developed the tradition of guarding the Rock for 24 hours before painting it in the middle of the night. Almost every night, a different group paints a message or symbols promoting a particular cause or event.
Just north of Chicago is the only Baha’i Temple in the United States, one of eight created in the world. Ten minutes away, however, is an institution that I found close in terms of rarity. Unlike UChicago, Northwestern is larger in size and undergraduate enrollment, but what set it apart was its culture.
Where UChicago breathed intellect, Northwestern breathed balance. Its students shared stories of wild encounters, both academic and social in nature. One of my tour guides had started Northwestern without a clue of what she wanted to study, while the other settled for engineering rather early. Nevertheless, what united their educational experience was exploration, made possible only by the support they spoke of. After 60 minutes of touring the school and asking them questions, it became clear: from the annual charity dancefest to taking quizzes alongside a classmate, Northwestern offers something most schools just don’t. Togetherness.
If you’re looking to get away from California, want a downtown experience that feels homey, and don’t mind trading some cold weather for an infinite supply of Lake Michigan views, then going to school in or near Chicago might be the best decision you’ve ever made.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com to find out more about different colleges around the nation.