Chicago is known for skyscrapers, crowded sidewalks and rows upon rows of apartment buildings. To the numerous Loyola students who come from towns or states bursting with nature, green spaces in the city seem limited, making the transition to college even more harrowing.
Lakefront paths, a botanic garden and a nearly mile-long beach may not be perfect substitutes for rolling hills, mountain peaks and vast green spaces. However, Chicago has much more to offer students homesick for nature than many other metropolitan cities, starting with Lake Michigan. For students who come from coastal or lakeside areas, such as first-year nursing major Kristine Coad, the lake provides a much more authentic feeling of home.
Coad, 18, comes from Minnesota, “the Land of 10,000 Lakes.” She said Lake Michigan isn’t exactly like the lakes she’s become accustomed to, but it’s a welcome substitute, and said its presence is enough to make her feel at home.
Seattle native and senior exercise science major Abby Davenport said she misses the Pacific Ocean, but also finds Lake Michigan as a stand-in.
“I love the chill of the winds off the ocean, the sounds of waves,” Davenport, 22, said. “You don’t get that from most lakes.”
Davenport also mentioned similarities between Chicago’s lakefront and the beaches along the Pacific Ocean, in particular how the beaches along Lake Michigan are sandy instead of rocky.
Chicago boasts 26 miles of lakefront with about 25 beaches, all free to the public. Many of the city’s beaches are within close proximity to Loyola, including Hartigan Beach, North Shore Beach and the university’s own Loyola Beach.
Eleanor Friel, a first-year Spanish major and Minneapolis native, spoke of the homey feel Chicago’s lakefront provides for her.
“There’s a creek by my house that I like to walk by which has its own walking and bike path,” Friel, 18, said, mentioning Chicago’s lakefront paths. “I think it’s nice to have that nature in the city and have easy access to going on walks or bike rides.”
While students accustomed to living near bodies of water seem to feel closer to home, those who live just hours away can feel a bit shell-shocked going from the long roads and cornfields of the suburbs to the busy streets and concrete structures of the city.
Ambiya Shaikh, a first-year marketing major from Crystal Lake, Illinois, noted the absence of fields of crops — a familiar sight to many Midwesterners — and said the lighthouse at Loyola Beach invokes a sense of home for her.
“That boardwalk with all the tall grass reminds me of corn,” Shaikh, 18, said. “It’s pretty, so I enjoy it.”
Loyola Park and Loyola Beach provide a sense of comfort for many students. It’s a short walk from the Lake Shore campus and features the Loyola Natural Area, which consists of acres of dunes and a wide grassy area along the lakefront.
Hiba Raza, a senior neuroscience major from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, said she feels most at home in the Chicago Botanic Garden.
“There’s a botanical garden in the suburbs, and it reminds me of that one,” Raza, 22, said.
At the Chicago Botanic Garden, visitors can walk through the 27 gardens which cover 385 acres. Two or more free admission days are available to Illinois residents each month. Otherwise, tickets are $9.95.
Raza noted the happiness both the botanical garden in the suburbs and in Chicago inspire in her. “With all the colors, it reminds me of summertime,” she said.
Chicago’s lakefront may not make up for what the city lacks in forests, rolling fields or vast green spaces. However, the city offers students beaches, parks and public gardens, which provide them with that sense of home.