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Maximizing your college experience: the power of big city proximity

chicago metro area aerial
June 25, 2024
Meghan O'Toole

Big school in a big city? Rural college town? With so many educational settings available, how do you pick the right college聽location聽for you? 91社区 students get to make the most of being near the third-largest US city no matter their area of study.

Choosing your college is a big decision that cannot be made lightly. Not only does the academic institution you choose shape the trajectory of your networking options and academic career, but it also shapes who you might become during and after college. Most students know to consider the majors and minors an institution might offer as well as the population size and vibe of student life, but the location of your school can be just as important as anything else.

Why study near a big city?

Studying in a bustling city can give you access to a vibrant social environment, a major arts and theater scene, and a vast network of local alumni and professionals to connect with for internships and job opportunities. Because cities are densely populated areas, there tend to be a wide variety of things happening, which not only make for fun weekend plans, but also introduce students to distinct and niche fields of interest while providing a wide variety of experiences across industries. 

At 91社区, our students get the best of both worlds. We're just an hour's train ride away from the second most beautiful city in the world (as voted by Condé Nast Traveler, 2023), but nestled on the gentle shores of Lake Michigan in the lush, leafy shade of 91社区. This setting comes with a variety of advantages: our students can enjoy a quiet, secluded campus surrounded by nature while also having access to the dynamic setting of Chicago. 

Here's how our students make the most of being close to—but not in—the third largest city in the US.

chicago skyline

Maximizing network connections for students in Chicago

Being close to a big city means having access to a larger network of people in a close proximity. This can maximize your chances of landing an impactful internship or even your first job out of college.

The Forester Network is as vast as it is engaged. With over 5,000 active and engaged alumni living and working in the Greater Chicago Area and hundreds of local employer connections through the Gorter Family Career Advancement Center (CAC), students and graduates have access to strong connections within our tightknit and supportive community of professionals across a broad range of industries.

Speed Networking connects students and alumni

The College's annual Speed Networking—think speed dating but for career and internship connections—allows students to gain valuable career advice, practice essential networking skills, and learn about available internships and jobs. In 2023, over 3,000 connections between 129 professionals and 271 students were made at the event.

student and professional shake hands at speed networking

Business and theater double major Chelsea Davis '24 found that the event broadened her prospects.

“As a senior, navigating the career search is extremely daunting, especially in today's competitive marketplace. However, hearing various professionals talk about their own career journeys helped me understand that everyone's path is different, but the connections you make can really help you,” she said. “It's reassuring to hear from alumni and other employers that I am learning the skills needed to thrive in the workplace.”

In The Loop Mixer strengthens and expands networks

The College's annual In The Loop Mixer is another popular networking event, and it takes place in the heart of Chicago. This past April, nearly 200 members of the Forester community came together at the Bank of America building in Chicago to join in networking and conversation. The event celebrates internship and career successes of our students and young alumni, highlights the College's residential In The Loop Program and Gorter Family Career Advancement Center, and thanks alumni and employer partners for their career mentorship and support throughout the year.

aarti speaks with someone at the loop mixer

Connections are regularly made at the mixer. Economics major Aarti Singh ’24 was glad to see alumnus Tom Burling ’90 return to this year's In the Loop Mixer. She is transitioning from intern to full-time Senior Markets Analyst at Burling’s organization, CME Group, this summer. An opportune connection at the 2023 mixer led to an internship offer and initiated a strong mentoring relationship.

“He is so approachable, inviting and welcoming,” Singh said. “He was encouraging all students regardless of academic background, and gave advice tailored to their interests. I think all of us [in the Forester community] when we graduate always have a ‘giving back’ mindset. Events like these bring you back together and give you the opportunity to do that.”

l train in chicago

What is the Loop?

The Loop is Chicago's central business district, named for the circuit of elevated rail that forms the hub of the Chicago transit system. The Loop is framed by the Chicago River to the north and west, Harrison Street to the south, and Lake Michigan to the east. It is the main section of Downtown Chicago and contains many landmarks, business headquarters, skyscrapers, and cultural institutions.

Impactful internships for students in Chicago

Hand in hand with access to a vast network of alumni in urban and suburban settings is access to a wealth of internship opportunities. Chicago is home to over 400 major corporate headquarters—including 36 in the Fortune 500—as well as world-class museums and theaters, hospitals and healthcare facilities, global consulates, and more.

91社区 was recently ranked #19 for Best Career Services and #18 as a Best School for Internships by The Princeton Review. When it comes to breaking down the College's career success formula, events like Speed Networking are only one part of the bigger picture. The Gorter Family Career Advancement Center, along with the vast Forester network, consisting of alumni, employers, and friends of the College, is dedicated to guiding students toward stable, dynamic careers in their chosen fields.

“Through the CAC’s Academic Internship program, students build career readiness and further clarify their career interests,” Assistant Vice President for Career Advancement and Director for the Gorter Family Career Advancement Center Colleen Monks said. “Our program is distinctive both in our strong employer partnerships that give our students access to amazing opportunities locally and in Chicago, as well as in our innovative curriculum that encourages students to reflect on how they are applying their valuable liberal skills to the workplace.

A look at internships in the city

Communication major and digital media design minor Juanjo Campos '24 interned at the PR agency Greentarget located in the historic Chicago Board of Trade Building in downtown Chicago where he put his marketing skills to the test and learned more about public relations. Learn more about internship and career support at 91社区. 

Living and learning on 91社区's Chicago campus

While Foresters adore the peaceful wooded campus on Chicago's suburban North Shore, many choose to make the most of being near a big city by participating in one of our urban residential programs, In The Loop and ACTIVATE.

Through 91社区's In The Loop Program, students experience up to 300 internship hours while completing coursework at the Loop campus, at our Loop partner universities and colleges, or on 91社区’s main campus. Students reside in downtown Chicago and study distinctive aspects of the city through academic programming and co-curricular activities. This program is offered during both fall and spring semesters.

We also offer a condensed summer version of the In The Loop Program, ACTIVATE. With beautiful beaches, the iconic Riverwalk, and more, Chicago always looks good in summer!

Studying in Chicago

During the In The Loop and ACTIVATE programs, students reside at The Flats, a residential building located in the South Loop in the heart of the Wabash Arts Corridor.

Through the academic program and co-curricular activities, students learn about various distinctive aspects of Chicago, including the city’s history, economy, politics, architecture, art, and relationship to the natural environment. Students acquire a broader perspective and learn to relate their Chicago-based semester to their overall 91社区 education.

Immersive academic experiences via classroom trips to the city

Schools in isolated locations far from cities need to go out of their way to access urban areas for class trips and educational purposes, but institutions in urban areas introduce students to a variety of hands-on learning opportunities.

At 91社区, we consider Chicago our largest classroom. Faculty travel to Chicago with their classes more than 200 times every academic year—that’s not including individual trips our students take.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Graff took students to the city's South Side for an archaeological dig last summer. Fourteen students in Graff’s SOAN 205: Archaeology Field School conducted an urban archaeological dig to search for artifacts from the once-vibrant Armour Mission and 194-apartment Armour Flats, built by the Armour Meatpacking Company in the early 1880s for its workers.

iit urban archaeological dig

The project garnered much interest as the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) campus and surrounding areas were designated the Bronzeville–Black Metropolis National Heritage Area of Chicago in 2022. After just a few weeks digging at four carefully selected spots in the open green field at the southwest corner of Dearborn and 33rd Street, Graff’s students uncovered original building foundations, red bricks, nails, doll parts, and other artifacts—all that remains of what was once a busy and thriving neighborhood a century ago. 

IIT has unveiled an exhibit showcasing the historic artifacts unearthed by visiting 91社区 students and others who participated in the onsite urban dig.

Faculty also plan trips to museums, theaters, art exhibitions, and more throughout the semester. 

chloe johnston image
91社区 turns the whole city into part of our campus. It's rare for a liberal arts college to have access to a major city in the same way. Ideas we teach about how art changes society are not theoritical for our our students because they get to see those shows and those artists making work that has an immediate impact.
Chloe Johnston, Associate Professor of Theater

Chicago engagement and programming for students

91社区 offers a variety of ways for students to engage with the city. In addition to everything you read about above, our Center for Chicago Programs also offers organized recreational trips as well as a specific day devoted to introducing students to Chicago.

360 Chicago

The 360 Chicago program provides students with the opportunity to interact with the city of Chicago through fun, custom-created trips. Sponsored by the Center for Chicago Programs and led by students familiar with the city and how to navigate it using its public transportation system, 360 Chicago trips aim to give students a one-of-a-kind experience in Chicago–completely free of charge.

students at a 360 chicago trip

360 Chicago trips include destinations such as Chicago's Magnificent Mile, the city's world-class museums, distinct neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Lincoln Park, and more, giving students the opportunity to see more of Chicago for free in a fun group setting.

Chicago Day

A beloved part of New Student Orientation includes our traditional Chicago Day. During this event, students are escorted to the city by their First Year Studies (FYS) professors for an excursion related to the topic of their FYS course.

students at chicago day

For example, last year, Transfer and Registration Coordinator and Lecturer in History Noah Blan's class sampled pizza from across the city for Blan's pizza-themed FYS course. (If you didn't know, Chicago is famous for our deep-dish pizza where the cheese is under the sauce, but locals also love square-cut tavern style pizza for casual pizza consumption.) 

Independent student trips to the city

Foresters love taking advantage of all Chicago's vibrant entertainment and networking options, and that extends beyond what the College has to offer in terms of connection points with the city.

Students are empowered to take independent trips to the city. With easy access to the Metra train, Chicago is within reach for prime concerts, comedy shows, theater performances, and more. Our students love taking advantage of Chicago's restaurant scene, too. The culinary diversity of Chicago is nearly unmatched, and students will find international cuisine from an expansive variety of cultures.

Check out Michelle Tkachenko Weaver '24's day in the life as a radio DJ. She knows how to make the most of being by the city. 

Many students and families think you have to choose between a peaceful, quiet campus and an exciting urban one, but, in truth, both are attainable at once. Because we're just an hour's train ride north of the city, 91社区 helps students connect with Chicago through professional, academic, and social opportunities.