Newly Admitted International Student: Living in Chicago

Living in Chicago

Welcome to Chicago! Chicago is a vibrant city of 2.7 million people, and you will want to explore the distinct qualities and diversity of its 77 neighborhoods. As is the case for most modern, urban US cities, Chicago presents amazing benefits along with new challenges. Joining the SAIC community offers you the opportunity to experience the advantages of city life in the United States with the support of our many resources.

Connect with Residence Life for information about living on campus. This is a great way to get connected to your new community.

Check out the Chicago Neighborhoods Map and learn more about the locations, history, and resources available in Chicago’s neighborhoods.


Chicago’s climate is characterized by four distinct seasons. Chicago’s position on Lake Michigan combined with the flat landscape make Chicago’s weather unpredictable and at times extreme. Summer is often warm and may be humid, with the hottest temperatures occurring in July and August. The coldest days usually occur in January and February when the temperature can drop below 0F (-20C). Snow, ice, and strong winds are common during a Chicago winter. Fall and spring weather can be rainy and changeable but usually includes many sunny and moderate days. You will need appropriate clothes for these four distinct seasons (e.g., coats, boots, hats, gloves, etc.).

Chicago Winter Survival Guide

Clothing: Typical winter clothes should include gloves or mittens, a heavy winter coat, a thick scarf, a hat or earmuffs, thick socks, and snow boots. Layers are important. Temperature varies in Chicago on a day by day basis so the best advice is to check weather each day and be prepared. If you are moving to Chicago from a warm climate, it is advisable to wait until you move to Chicago to buy winter clothing or purchase your winter clothing online rather than in your local stores.

Public Transportation: Public transportation can be slower in the winter months due to snow, ice, or sleet.  When you are taking public transportation, plan accordingly so you can arrive to class on time. You can check the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus and train schedule anytime of the year on the CTA’s website

Biking: If you plan on biking during the winter months, check weather conditions before doing so. It can be very challenging to bike during the winter months in Chicago because of the cold temperatures, as well as ice and snow on the ground, however, there is an active winter biking community here in Chicago. When riding a bicycle in the winter, be careful of icy pavement and slow your pace.

Ice: Be careful of ice! After living in Chicago for a winter, you will hear about something called black ice. It isn’t black, it is transparent, and blends in with asphalt and pavements where it is most commonly found. Almost everyone who has lived in Chicago has a story about falling on the ice. When walking on ice, it is suggested that you walk like a penguin, as humorously illustrated here.


The United States has a long tradition of religious and spiritual tolerance. With so many ethnic groups represented in Chicago, the city boasts a rich diversity of religions and religious expression. Please visit here for a small sampling of the many places of worship in Chicago.

SAIC Campus Prayer/Meditation Room: MacLean Center, 112 S. Michigan Ave., room B-1-04 

The SAIC Campus Prayer/Meditation Room is a nondenominational space intended for all members of the SAIC community to use for quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer.

Get involved SAIC

An excellent way to meet others with your similar interests is to join a student group or organization.


Standard grocery stores near the SAIC campus

Jewel—550 N. State St.

Mariano’s Fresh Market—333 E. Benton Pl.

Trader Joe’s—44 E. Ontario St.

Target (limited grocery selection)—1 S. State St.

Whole Foods Market—30 W. Huron St.


Some grocery stores offer delivery services for a fee.


International Groceries

In addition to standard style grocery stores, Chicago has many grocery stores that stock foods from around the world. Below are just a few of many grocery stores specializing in global cuisine.

Joong Boo Market—Korean/Asian. Well known for their dumplings and food court. 3333 N. Kimball Ave.

J.P. Graziano Grocery Co.—Italian. 901 W. Randolph St.

La Unica Cuban Food Mart—Cuban and Latin American. 1515 W. Devon Ave.

Middle East Bakery & Grocery—Middle Eastern. 1512 W. Foster Ave

Patel Brothers—Indian and South Asian. 2610 W. Devon Ave.

Richwell Market—Chinese. 1835 S. Canal St.

Viet Hoa Plaza—Thai and Southeast Asian. 1051 W. Argyle St.

Additional links for International Students

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)—Chicago’s public transportation system

Wellness Center—Health Services, Counseling Services, and the Disability and Learning Resource Center

Visiting SAIC—Useful information for students and families planning who plan to visit the SAIC campus.

Explore Chicago—Chicago information and event listings for visitors and tourists.

Divvy Bikes—Chicago’s bicycle sharing system.