As a follow-up to our recent blog, Six Funding and Financial Aid Tips For International Students, we asked two Country Ambassadors—Camila Pérez, MPP Class of ‘21, and Nikunj Singh, MPP Class of 21—about the cost of living in Chicago. Here’s what they had to say:        

Camila Pérez, MPP Class of MPP '21

Camila Pérez, MPP Class of '21

Affordability and quality of life were two reasons I chose Harris over pursuing a master’s in New York.

After living most of my adult life in Bogotá, Colombia, where every commute took me more than an hour, a significant percentage of my income was invested in transportation, and I spent a lot on eating out because I did not have time to cook, I decided that while doing my master’s, I wanted a more relaxed lifestyle. And that’s what I have found in Chicago.

When I was doing my financial research to decide which university I should attend, the cost of living was one of the critical factors that tipped the balance towards Harris.

Of course, you have to be smart about what you are paying for here. If you live on the North Side of Chicago, your expenditures could be similar to those if you lived in New York or Los Angeles. But that is precisely the advantage of Harris: it is located in Hyde Park, a neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, which is significantly more affordable. If you decide to live near UChicago, you can save a lot on your cost of living.

These are my top three hints that have reduced my expenses as a grad student at Harris:

  1. Explore your housing options: from studios to shared houses, from suburban styles to modern buildings, you can find prices ranging from $500 to $1500 per room. In Hyde Park, you can easily find an accommodation that fits your budget. Pro tip: find temporary housing for a couple of weeks so you can personally explore the area and nearby housing instead of solely trusting what you find online.
  2. Take advantage of UChicago’s  excellent transportation system. The university has a deal with Chicago’s Transit Authority (CTA), so the 171 and 172 routes are free for students, and there is also a private shuttle fleet that students can use free of charge. cost. These buses will save you tons in commuting expenses and take you everywhere within Hyde Park and the surrounding areas. Pro tip: make sure you live close to either a CTA or shuttle stops.
  3. Utilize all the nearby grocery stores:  Whole Foods, Walmart, Jewel Osco, Walgreens, Hyde Park Produce, Target, and Trader Joe’s are all a short walk or bus ride from campus. Such a proximity offers a whole spectrum of alternatives and facilitates home cooking (which is by far one of the best ways to save money). Pro tip: get one of those grandma shopping trollies so you can easily transport your groceries by walking or using the buses.

Now that I have been here for more than a quarter, I can assure you that all the facilities that come with living in Hyde Park will not only smooth your transition to being a grad student but greatly reduce the cost that comes with it.        

Nikunj Singh, MPP Class of ‘21

Nikunj Singh, MPP Class of '21

When I was accepted to Harris, I knew I wanted to live in a place that was close to campus, a bus/train stop, and a grocery store. I also wanted in-building laundry. As I was living in India when I accepted my admission, I had to rely on social media reviews and the university housing website from which I found a useful list of off-campus housing facilities. This site was particularly helpful in that I was able to see the reasons for a single or double-star rating, which helped me gain a fuller picture of the cost of living.

With my checklist in mind, I found a huge selection of affordable apartments in and around Hyde Park, ranging from $1300-1500 for 2 bed, 1 bath, and $2000-2500 for 2 bed 2 bath. Until I found a roommate, I was focusing on studio apartments ranging from $1000-1100. After I found a roommate, we found a 2 bed, 2 bath for  $1700, which met all the points in both of our checklists.

Hyde Park is a remarkable place: I have a bus stop is right across the street, the university is a 15 minute walk from my apartment, and there is a laundry facility in our basement. Heat is also included in our rent, and all utilities including phone cost under $250. My maximum monthly expenses are just barely $1100.

I have no complaints with my new home. I have a variety of vegetarian options (including Chicago deep dish pizza), Millennium Park is only a 20 minute bus ride away, the people here are very friendly, and best of all? It’s all within budget.

Interested in budgeting for graduate school? Check out our Financial Aid and Funding 101 post!