Wednesday, June 11, 2008
As far as residence halls go, I haven’t been very impressed. Having seen them at UL, Loyola, and LSU, the eight-by-six-foot box you’re required to share for ten months is not a high point of college experiences. Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved dorm life and I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate than Kevin Campbell. Still, as far as dormitories go, I haven’t been very impressed.
If Thomas Beckham Hall is a “dormitory” as they say it is, it is the Four Seasons of college dorms. It is a similar layout to my on-campus apartment at LSU. With free wireless internet and free laundry access, I couldn’t be more comfortable.
TBH is located in University Village, which has seen its fair share of rough times, but has also experienced extensive urban renewal in the last five years or so. A block east of the dorm is the Dan Ryan Expressway. Little Italy is about five blocks west, featuring authentic Italian cuisine, and my new favorite dive, Al’s #1 Italian Beef (thanks Curry, I found it).
A block north is the actual campus of UIC, and on the grounds of the UIC campus sits the birthplace of social work in America, the Jane Addams Hull House. That being said, you can imagine what the neighborhood looked like a century ago. Certainly no baseball field, no Caribou Coffee, no Coldstone Creamery or Barbara’s Bookstore. I was told that the nearby neighborhood was bluntly referred to as Jew Town, home to Jewish immigrants in the 19th century. I don't suppose many of those people would have imagined young twenty-somethings sipping on iced-coffees 100 years later, but sure enough urban renewal turned what otherwise wouldn't be a beautiful location into a safe, young and intern-friendly neighborhood.
For a city notorious for rough areas bordering posh areas, there's no exception to this rule near TBH. The border seems to fall just beyond the sidewalk in front of Express Original Grill, which makes an incredible (and incredibly cheap) Polish sausage.
Surroundings aside, the most comfortable and welcoming aspect of this dorm would have to be the people who live here: students at the top of their game interning in one of America's greatest cities. Whether it's performing plastic surgery or working for the Securities and Exchange Commission, I am humbled to be meeting and hanging out with such amazing people. Take my roommate for example:
Meet Alex Florea. A student at University of Illinois: Champaign, Alex is interning with Merrill Lynch, one of the strongest investment banking firms in the world. Alex, who will graduate at the end of his third year, is a devout sports aficionado with a penchant for soccer. He stays true to his Romanian and Italian roots, taking time out of his day to watch the triumphs and tribulations of these two national teams. Alex returns from work everyday as though he were flattened with a rolling pin, but only for a few minutes before he catches his breath, gathers his thoughts, and prepares to pour his incredible business knowledge back into his work. It's awe-inspiring, and considering his future aspirations, that's only the half of it.
And lucky for me, Alex is just one of the many interns living here with an extensive amount of determination, knowledge and skill. The caliber of people in this residence hall is such that I would be ashamed of myself if I were to lose touch with them.