Home, Home in the ‘Burbs

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If you are planning to join the Columbia graduate journalism program community this upcoming summer– congrats! At this point you may be wondering where you should make your home.

I’d definitely recommend living in the city for a number of reasons, but I feel like I should self-disclose a little here: I live in the suburbs.

There! I said it! I’m not a hip, urban Columbia student. I live somewhere that shuts down after 8 PM, proudly calls itself a village, and whose local art scene features most prominently the work by local grade schoolers. And I’m ok with that.

I live in a near-western suburb about 14 miles away from the epicenter of my Columbia universe, 33 E. Congress Parkway.

Riverside is leafy and lovely, filled with huge houses (including some Frank Lloyd Wright ones) belonging to ridiculously rich people. But there are also a ton of awesomely affordable apartments within easy walking distance to a Metra stop and a grocery store.

I knew when applying to Columbia that I’d want to stay out in the burbs. Prior to applying, I’d just moved out from the South Side to be closer to my boyfriend (soon to be fiancee). We chose Riverside because it was close to public transportation into the city, was cheaper than the more happening neighboring suburb of Oak Park, and was close to the hospital/med school where he studies.

There are times I love being a commuter. I love breathing fresh air and being surrounded by trees when I go for a run– I love looking out my window and seeing the river.

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I love the quiet, small town atmosphere. You don’t feel lost in a sea of people like you can in the city. And though I worried that Riverside would be too old, white, and rich, it’s surprisingly diverse (yay!), though I do miss the rainbow of people in the city.

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I love that I’m still able to take the train in to school, with a commute time comparable to those of my classmates who live in the city.

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But there are definitely downsides to living outside the city. I’m the only one out here in the burbs, so it gets a little lonely. And although it’s easy enough to get to school from Riverside, there are other parts of the city that take ages to access by public transportation, meaning I need a car. The Metra only runs hourly after rush hours, so I sometimes don’t get home until around 11 PM when I have night classes.

Fall’s required course, Reporting and Public Affairs: Local, is purely Chicago-based. Not only did I feel disconnected since I was reporting on policy and events that didn’t directly pertain to me, I had to make many special trips into the city to cover my beat in my old ward on the South Side.

So, though I do love my green little village home, I encourage you to live in the city. You’ll be in good company, it will be more meaningful, and it will save you money and time in the end.