So you’ve rolled into Chicago (or you’re about to in the near future). You’re probably wondering, what do I do with all my time? Classes don’t start until mid-September, summer is at its finest (this 70 degree weather is MAGICAL), and you’re starting to explore the city—what’s next? Here’s a list of things that I wish I had done before starting my MAPH year.
10 Things You Really Rather Ought to Do Before Classes Start:
1. Get a CTA card. Unless you’ve devised a teleportation device, you will use transit. Often. Even if you have a bike. Even if you have a car. Parking downtown is a nightmare, and sometimes it just makes more sense to take the train (like if you say want to go to the bar and have more than one drink per hour). Got your card? Now hop on the 6 and head downtown! And don’t forget: the Metra Electric isn’t covered by your card, although it is very fast and sitting on the second floor of a train is always a delight.
2. Get a public library card. There are lots and lots of locations, and if you’re already exploring downtown Chicago, Harold Washington is right there on State Street. There may come a time when you haven’t purchased or borrowed a book for class in time, and the UChicago library will have no copies available, and you will need an alternate source.
3. And then read something for fun. While it might seem fun (I don’t know, does it?) to start reading all the academic books and articles you can get your hands on, you’ll benefit more from starting the year refreshed. Also, if there’s a book you’ve been dying to read, don’t put it off: it shamefully took me the entire 9 months of MAPH to read White Noise because thesis reading took over my life.
4. Swim in Lake Michigan. The water ain’t gettin’ any warmer. If you hit October, and you haven’t gone for a bit of a dip, you probably won’t til next summer, unless you are made of a rather more penguin-like constitution.
5. Meet with Career Advising. While trying to get a jump on academic work might be a fruitless endeavor, meeting with someone to talk about possible career paths, what kind of work you could do during the year, and how to really rev up your resume and cover letter will do nothing but good for you. Seriously, do it.
6. Visit at least 3 other neighborhoods. It’s adventure time! Get out there and explore: you will want to leave Hyde Park during the year, and you won’t want to spend hours hunting for coffee shops and restaurants once winter arrives. Personal suggestions: Filter in Wicker Park, exploring the shops in Andersonville, Revolution Brewing in Logan Square. But there are in fact more than 200 neighborhoods (77 community areas) in Chicago, so there’s really no end to the possible adventures.
7. Go to museums. Once you have your nifty UChicago ID, you’ll be able to get into many museums for free or reduced price. ArtsPass will help you find the freebies. Definitely worth seeing: the Art Institute, the Contemporary Museum of Art, the DuSable (although I’ll confess I still haven’t been–see? you have to do this stuff now!), the Shedd Aquarium, and so many many more.
8. Visit the Hyde Park Art Center. For that matter, visit all the things in the Hyde Park/Woodlawn area. Connect now, while you’ve got lots of time. Previous posts have mentioned the Experimental Station, Powell’s Books and the Robie House, but you could also hit up the Oriental Institute, find parrots (?!) and canaries in the parks, and try to glimpse Obama’s house from behind the barricades.
9. Find a way to follow events and local news. Although I never used it before this year, twitter has served me well in providing a steady stream of Chicago and Hyde Park events. I would never have known that the Court Theater was putting on a free performance of Tartuffe at the South Shore Cultural Center if I hadn’t been (maybe obsessively) checking twitter, and the Parks District posted it. Another way might be the Chicago Reader, which does a Best of Chicago edition rife with luscious suggestions.
10. In the wise words of one of my colleagues: do you, boo. Start taking care of yourself now, while you’ve got time to orient. Establish healthy eating patterns, exercise, relax, journal, meditate, whatever it takes to keep yourself refreshed and happy. I wish I had taken more time before MAPH to set patterns of healthy habits like regularly leaving Hyde Park, planning meals ahead of time, and going for runs. Of course, if you find yourself overwhelmed, either now or later, remember that you can always take advantage of Student Counseling events and services.
AND GET PUMPED! MAPH is pretty darn awesome.