CHICAGO, U.S.A. Being a student in the city of Chicago means that you will walk past a white-collar young professional and a panhandling, street-performing homeless individual almost immediately after. Changes in socio-economic class, architecture and community demographic can shift dramatically from one block to the next when strolling through the “Windy City.” It is for this very reason it is considered a melting pot of cultures and peoples. Chicago’s diverse residents can offer students a newfound perspective, making it an invaluable experience for any student. Opportunities abound within the city limits, and exploration is a must.

Chances are you will travel by train, at some point during your studies, from Ogilvie Transportation Center to trek into the greater Chicagoland area, also known as the suburbs. Underground in the station, the Chicago French Market (131 N Clinton St) is filled with crepes, cheese, sausages and many other international food luxuries. Give yourself a few extra minutes before getting on the train for a delightful treat.

Being a Chicago resident, even if temporarily, means being engrafted into the pizza dispute, as well as converting to Chicago’s infamous deep dish pizza. You’ll begin debating whether Lou Malnati’s is better than Giordano’s or one of the other local pizzerias. However, there are pizza reproductions only found in the city, such as the “Pizza Pot Pie” available at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company (2121 North Clark Street). It is a hybrid between a pizza and a potpie, hence the name. The cheese, tomato sauce, and mushrooms create a flavorful interior condensed in what looks simply like a potpie after it comes out of the oven. When served, it is flipped upside down and eaten like a pizza: an entirely different entity altogether. The smallest portion is $12.

Schuba’s Tavern (3159 North Southport Avenue) offers a 7-day week line-up for music entertainment. It houses big name bands to up-and-coming artists. It’s particularly a young person’s hot spot, offering genres and entertainment to suit the most comprehensive preferences. Entry costs range according to the night’s entertainment but can be as low as $12. It’s conjoined Harmony Grill offers lunch and dinner usually within $9 to $13. The building is also 100-year old landmark, creating an atmosphere unlike any other in the area.

Messy, loud, and chaotic dorms can be an unpleasant study factor. Thankfully there are great study spots stowed cavernously away in Chicago. The Harold Washington Library (400 South State Street) in the heart of downtown is not only a resourceful center for research, but it has a garden on the 9th floor where you can study. Space is limited, and there aren’t any outlets so make sure to plan accordingly. On warm days, do homework overlooking Lake Michigan on Oak Street Beach or North Ave Beach. When cramming for finals or pulling an all-nighter, Northwestern Hospital (251 East Huron Street) is a quiet, 24-hour study spot with a nearby 24-hour Starbucks too.

Next Door Café (659 West Diversey Parkway) is a community-embraced coffee shop that goes beyond serving tea and coffee. The café offers coaching services, classes varying from yoga to finances and seeks to support community-based needs. Everything is free except for the coffee and tea, ranging from $2 onwards. You can even reserve a meeting room in advance for group study parties. Afterwards take a half-mile walk to Molly’s Cupcakes (2563 North Clark Street) for one of their many exotic treats, available for about $3.

It can be hard to find easy ways to exercise in the city when there aren’t a multitude of large-scale parks or running paths. Staying fit and healthy in college is important, especially if you just ate that cupcake. Embrace your chance to see lions and tigers while running through Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 North Clark Street). The zoo can become crowded mid-day, particularly in warm months, making it best for a morning run. Oz Park (2021 North Burling Street) is not far away either and can offer another dose of greenery. Lakeshore Drive, an 18-mile trial along Lake Michigan, takes runners and cyclists through Navy Pier, Museum Campus, harbors and other attractions along the lakefront. It’s easily accessible but take caution; it is often crowded and fast-moving cyclists will pass speedily by you.

Being a student in this diverse, ever-changing city is an opportunity. Spend time wisely to make your experience in Chicago as growth-filled as possible. It can be a pivotal time in your life to expand your own perceptions about the world around you and transfer that knowledge into your studies.