Guide for New and Prospective Students

On behalf of all the English graduate students at the University of Illinois, the EGSA would like to welcome you to our department. Our duties include planning departmental social events, presenting graduate student ideas and concerns to the department administration, and generally keeping communication flowing through the department. 

One of our biggest jobs is providing grad students with opportunities to get to know other members of the department. EGSA hosts a variety of low-key social events throughout the academic year. These events, in addition to larger department-wide events like our annual department social event in the fall, are excellent ways to make new friends, network with colleagues and faculty, and become familiar with our department community. 

In addition to social events, the EGSA offers forums covering important academic and professional concerns such as the Special Field exam, the job market, publishing, conferencing, etc. We also provide opportunities for dissertating graduate students to present their work to us. One of the EGSA's main functions is to provide information and resources that will help you get through the program as painlessly as possible. If you have questions, the EGSA is a good place to start. 

To that end, we've compiled a handy introduction to life at the University and in "Chambana." Want to know which rental companies to avoid? How the heck you get a key to the copy room? Where on earth you can get decent coffee? We've got you covered. 

During orientation, you should go to room 208 to get your office assignment, office key, and mailbox combination. Also ask for a key to the building; there are sometimes grad classes or special meetings on weekends or after hours when the building is locked. Finally, you'll want a key to the copy room, especially if you teach at 8 a.m. and need to make copies before class. Make sure you get a key to the grad lounge as well—room 105! 

You'll be sharing an office with other grads in the English Building. Offices vary widely in size, furnishings, and overall quality. Some offices have a microwave and mini fridge that you can use to store and heat up your food. Some offices also have one or a couple desktop computers with network access that you can use to check email or make quick changes to documents. 

Mailboxes are located in alcoves on the 2nd floor of the English building, near 208. Mailbox assignments change every year. You’ll receive important information regarding teaching assignments and events. You can also have library books delivered to it. Make sure to check your mailbox often! 

The grad lounge is a cozy spot in room 105 where you can go to relax, chat with colleagues, and eat your lunch. There is a refrigerator and microwave as well as an electric tea kettle. This is a new space for us, so we are still in the process of making it home; stay tuned for updates on our plans for message boards, a resource library, and more! 

There are a number of libraries on campus where you can study, all with varying hours of operation. The Undergraduate Library has the longest hours but tends to get a bit loud on the upper floor; the lower floor is designated as a quiet zone and is full of study carrels for a little privacy. The Main Library is home to an impressive Reading Room; the Main Stacks; and a number of smaller libraries like the Social Sciences, Health and Education Library and the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library. The Main Library is also home to the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, which has an impressive collection of manuscripts, first editions, broadsides, and other rare treasures. The more contemporary Grainger Engineering Library and ACES Library also have a lot of space for studying. 

As a graduate student, you can check out books directly from the Main Stacks and our many smaller libraries, but you can also request books to be delivered to your campus mailbox. If you need a book that isn’t available through campus libraries, you can request a copy from another Illinois college or university through I-Share. If I-Share yields no results, you can also order books and articles through Inter-Library Loan. 

Grad students can also request long-term research carrels, which are located in the Stacks of the Main Library. To request a carrel, visit the circulation desk on the second floor of the Main Library. 

Your student ID (i-card) is your library card and your bus pass. During orientation week and the first week or so of classes, you should pick up your student ID in the Illini Union Bookstore (across the street from the English building). The introductory material you receive from the university should have information about the kind of documentation you'll need. In addition to using your i-card as your library card and bus pass, you can also use your i-card around town for various perks and discounts.  

Once you are assigned a University Identification Number (UIN) and have been given an activation code, you will need to claim a NetID and create a password online. Shortly thereafter, you should set up your University email, which you’ll need to register for classes and for important communication (even during the summer before your first year). Make sure you set up 2-Factor Authentication as well, which is required for access to most of the platforms you will need (like email, Compass, Moodle, Box, etc.). 

Most, but not all, grad student offices have a computer with network access. They're generally a bit slow and may or may not be linked to the department printer in 211, but at the very least should be good for checking email and making last-minute changes to documents. The copy room in 211 English Building also contains three desktop computers, and these are primarily intended for quick tasks, such as checking email or printing documents. A general purpose computer lab (CITES) is also located in the basement of the English Building. 

Self-serve copying is available in the copy room (211 English Building). The copiers in the copy room are a thing of wonder--they collate, staple, duplex, and scan. The folks in 208 will issue you a teaching access code; all copies made with this code will be allocated to your teaching account. 

You can also have copies made for free on the copier in 208, but you'll have to submit your material at least 24 hours in advance and they will not work with copyrighted material. Take your material into 208 and fill out the appropriate forms. 

The University has a couple of graduate student housing options: Daniels Hall, a graduate student dorm, and Orchard Downs or Ashton Woods, University family housing. For more information on University housing options, contact the University Housing Office. 

Most English grad students choose to find off-campus apartments. If you plan to live off-campus, there are a few things you need to know: 

The campus sits on the dividing line (Wright St.) of Champaign and Urbana, and the English building is actually right on Wright (on the Urbana side of the street). Both Champaign and Urbana have plenty of housing near campus, and the excellent bus system (often rated one of the best in the nation for a community of this size) opens the possibility of living farther away from campus with little inconvenience. 

You can get info on apartments and landlords from Housing Information or Off-Campus Community Living (formerly known as the Tenant Union, and both the News-Gazette (the local daily newspaper) and the Daily Illini (the daily student paper at the University) carry apartment and house listings. 

Feel free to get in touch with EGSA members or current graduate students for recommendations about housing!  

It's fairly easy to find a place to live in the $700-800/mo. range (less if you share a place). There’s a wide range of options, so if possible, come to town to look for housing. Most leases begin in early and mid August. If this is your first year here, make sure to know when orientations take place when getting ready to sign your lease. When looking for a dwelling, keep in mind several things: Urbana tends to have excellent tenants' rights laws. Remember to see how close your prospective apartment is to the nearest busline, grocery store, etc. 

The streets between Lincoln and Neil near campus tend to be inhabited by undergrads. This area, known as Campustown, is also where most fraternity and sorority houses are located. Grad students tend to live East of Lincoln in Urbana or West of Neil in Champaign. Some grad students also choose to live in Savoy, which is a few miles south of campus. 

Make sure you ask if the address is in Champaign or Urbana--there are streets that run through both towns and also duplicate street names/numbers. 

Be cautious about renting from some of the large property management companies in the area; look for reviews and seek recommendations from other tenants. If you can, try to look for rentals from smaller companies or individual landlords. The undergraduate population is a large portion of the rental market in the area, and some companies’ practices are designed to take advantage of a customer base that is young, financially vulnerable, and new to renting.  

Paychecks come on the 16th of each month. Keep in mind that your first paycheck won't arrive until September 16th, and your last check will come on May 16th (if you teach both semesters). Thanks to the hard work of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), University fees are now due after your first payday in September and January. Questions about paychecks can be answered in the main department office (208). Your paycheck will be directly deposited into your bank account. 

There are numerous banks on and off campus. In addition to regional and national banks in the Champaign-Urbana area, the U of I Community Credit Union offers free checking and savings with no minimum balance and free ATM machines on and off campus. The Credit Union has a branch office right in the Union.  

Parking on campus is very limited and inconvenient (not to mention heavily policed by both campus and local authorities). Luckily, Champaign-Urbana has a great bus system that U of I students ride "free" (included in our student fees) with their student IDs (i-cards). If you live far away or off the buslines, you might consider buying a shuttle parking pass from Campus Parking. With this pass you can drive to a large lot at the edge of campus and ride a shuttle bus that runs regularly to the heart of campus. The bus system goes far and wide, but some busses run more than others. Information about the bus service can be found at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) website. 

Driving time to C-U is about two hours from Indianapolis and two-three hours from Chicago. The Illinois Terminal, located in downtown Champaign (45 E. University Ave.), offers different types of public transportation through Amtrak, Peoria Charter, Greyhound, and the MTD. Shuttle service to the airport in Indianapolis is also provided through at least one local carrier, and several companies provide bus service to the Chicago area. Commuter airline service is located at Willard Airport. 

Let's talk about what's really important! There is one campus bookstores that usually stocks all the course texts: the Illini Union Bookstore(IUB) (located on Wright St. across from the English Building). 

In addition to the campus bookstore, there are lots of other options around town. Jane Addams (208 N. Neil in downtown C) and Priceless Books (108 W. Main St. in downtown U) are two decent off-campus used and new bookstores. Jane Addams specializes in women's studies and is also particularly good at locating out-of-print materials. Barnes and Noble is located in north Champaign, near Marketplace Mall. 

Your health service fee pays for medical care at McKinley Health Center, but a little-known secret is that it also gets you free stuff at the main McKinley building or at the annex in the Illini Union. At either location, present your ID for free aspirin, cold medicine, band aids (ask for the “Cold Pack” or “Wound Pack” or both), condoms, and pregnancy tests. Many prescription drugs, including birth control, are provided with a small or no co-pay. 

If you want to exercise your body instead of your brain, your student ID (i-card) also allows you to access campus recreation fitness centers, including the ARC (Activities and Recreation Center) and CRCE (Campus Recreation Center East), which house several gyms, racquetball/handball courts, pools, tracks, weight room, stairmasters, and more. Campus Recreation also offers all sorts of fitness and health and wellness classes, as well as other opportunities (hiking and canoe trips, etc.).  You can also buy passes for spouses or partners for a reasonable fee. 

Champaign and Urbana both have fantastic park systems, with parks and "parklets" scattered all over the two cities. They also offer fitness and general interest classes; check out the web sites of the Champaign Park District and the Urbana Park District for more information. 

The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (500 S. Goodwin, Urbana) presents drama, dance, symphonies, and operas in several theaters. Local troupes play at the Station Theater (223 N. Broadway, Urbana), and at the Armory Free Theater (in the Armory Building on campus). Several English grad students are involved in local theatre, so ask around if you're interested. Champaign-Urbana has two multiplexes (Savoy 16 and AMC Champaign 13) for your blockbuster movie needs. 

If you like live music, Champaign-Urbana has a fairly active scene. U of I's State Farm Center and Foellinger Auditorium book bigger acts (Green Day, Pentatonix, Dierks Bentley, Jason DeRulo, Blue Man Group), and there are many venues for musicals and other performances in town, both on-campus and at off-campus venues like The Virginia Theatre (203 W. Park, Champaign). There are also plenty of smaller music venues in the area: the Canopy Club (708 S. Goodwin, Urbana), The Accord (51 E. Main, Champaign), and Cowboy Monkey (6 Taylor St., Champaign) often host smaller acts. The Iron Post (120 S. Race St., Urbana) is a local jazz staple where you can find live jazz music almost any night of the week, and the Rose Bowl Tavern (106 N. Race St, Urbana) frequently hosts rock, county, bluegrass, and American roots music. Co The annual Pygmalion Music Festival and biennial Ellnora Guitar Festival bring great musical performances to campus and the surrounding community.

There are many grocery stores in Champaign-Urbana! The closest supermarket to campus is the County Market located at 4th and Springfield (331 E. Stoughton, Champaign). Schnucks has locations in West Champaign, East Urbana, and Savoy. County Market, Meijer, and Aldi are other chains that have locations in Champaign and Urbana. The Common Ground Food Co-Op(Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana), and Harvest Market (2029 S. Neil St., Champaign) offer local, organic, and vegetarian foods. Several English grads are members of the Co-Op; ask around for more info. There is also the Market on the Square, the farmer's market in the parking lot of the Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, which runs on the weekends from May through November. Champaign also has a farmer’s market on Tuesdays from 4-7 from May to October located in downtown Champaign (310-330 N. Neil). 

For international foods, there are Mexican, Asian and Indian-specific groceries in town. Am-Ko on Springfield is closest to campus and carries tons of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian and other far and Middle Eastern ingredients. Also check out World Harvest and Strawberry Fields (306 W. Springfield, Urbana) and Art Mart (1705 S. Prospect, Champaign).    

Cafes are, of course, everywhere. Near campus, try Espresso Royale (in Champaign, Urbana and the Undergraduate Library). Some other on-campus cafes include Starbucks (multiple locations), Caffe Paradiso (801 S Lincoln, Urbana), Caffé Bene (multiple locations). Off campus, try Cafe Kopi (109 N. Walnut, Champaign), Aroma (118 N. Neil, Champaign), or Avionics (202 S First St, Champaign)