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Impressions of Illinois: A Nevadan/Oregonian's Prespective


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Hey Grad Cafe-ers.  I just visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and am on a plane back to Reno now.  I wanted to put some unbaked thoughts about U Illinois down and share them.  These thoughts are from the perspective of a 23 year-old male who grew up in a liberal outdoorsy town.



I will have a hard time living in Illinois.   No mountains.


The nightlife is stereotypical.  I went out Thursday night to two bars, met a few cool people and also some weird ones.  There are maybe two non-college-fratboy options.


The food is bad.  The beer is good.


People are generally not fashionable.


People are very kind.  I had great conversations with a current Agricultural Economics PhD student, Dr. Ali Toosi, and Dr. Firouz Gahvari.  They care.


According to Dr. Toosi and Dr. Gahvari the main advantage of the Illinois MS Econ program is that it is designed as PhD preparation.  The MS program would last two years with the option of continuing directly into the PhD program.


The facilities are spartan compared to my alma-mater, the University of Portland.  Perhaps this is a difference between public and private college.


There is a significant Chinese-born population.  They do not associate with Americans.  They are isolated.  50% of MS candidates are Chinese-born.


Overall I left with the impression of an excellent program but sub-par living standards.




Whew.  Text me or post on this thread if you want to talk about the University of Illinois and living/studying in small Midwestern towns.



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I grew up in rural Illinois but have lived several years in WA so I can kind of see both sides. 

The lack of mountains is hard but you get used to it.  Then when you go back west you'll fall in love with the landscape all over again.

As far as pretty much everything else you mention, you'll get what you put into it. There are good people, fun stuff to do, and good food available... you just have to find it and you'll have a few years to figure it out.  And for all of the crappy parts of life there, you can bet you won't be alone.  The whole "we're all in this crap together" can be a good community builder. 

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I grew up in the Seattle suburbs before starting my MS in Engineering at Illinois, and I totally understand some of your concerns.


Mountains: Yeah, there are no mountains, and I miss them. But cornfields are their own type of charming; they've been growing on me, but will never replace the majesty of mountains.

Bars: Did you make it out to downtown Champaign? I know the Green Street/campus bars can have fratty vibes, but there's a lot of diversity beyond those!

Facilities: I was surprised by this one; I too went to a smaller, private, religious school and I am constantly amazed at the plethora of resources at my fingertips now!


You mention having grown up in a liberal, outdoorsy town, and that culture IS present at UofI! It tends to be on the Urbana side and may be more present in some departments than others. Despite its shortcomings, I've grown to like the area and I think there's a nice balance between Champaign-Urbana being interesting enough that I don't get bored, but not so exciting that it distracts from my work.

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I'm an east coaster with a similar dilemma. Having an open mind usually works out much better for me than it did when I visited a Midwestern university :( :(

I 'get' that grad school leaves little room for free time, but I think that exacerbates the issue because I won't be in a lab 24-7 and I wont have the time to drive two hours if I want to be in a non-homogenous environment. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet :x

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I've visited U of Illinois and I didn't find all of the things you did, rchien. Specifically, I did find good food and bars that weren't frat-boy bars. As has already been said, downtown Champaign has better options than downtown Urbana. In fact, I think I ate all of my dinners in Champaign and they were all quite good. I also saw some fashionable people but, it's hard to be fashionable when it's cold as crap outside to be perfectly honest. Anyway, a master's is only two years and if it's a good program, I would still consider it because two years really does fly by.

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