The basics
THE USA: Destination Guides

City guide: Chicago, Illinois

Why should you choose to study in Chicago? Read our guide to America’s “Windy City” that hosts world famous attractions and sights.

chicago skyline

A brief history of Chicago

Located in the centre of the United States on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago has become a vibrant, world-class city. It all started in the 1600s when the Illinois Indians claimed the land they knew as “Chicaugou”, which meant powerful, strong or great. After explorers staked out the land and some settlers began trading, Chicago started expanding. After the development of the railroad and the Illinois/Michigan Canal, Chicago jumped to the frontline in agricultural industries. By the mid 1850s word was spreading about the many opportunities in Chicago and 100,000 immigrants came to the city annually seeking jobs. After the Civil War, Chicago was unstoppable with booming business and populations. Today, Chicago is still a dynamic and culturally diverse city. It is an international centre for business and leisure travel, due in part to the city’s transportation accessibility, a thriving business community, and world-class hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions.



What’s Chicago like?

Chicago is a city full of hustle and bustle located right on Lake Michigan with towering skyscrapers that create an iconic skyline. The beautiful sparkling Navy Pier (pictured below) is located right on the lake, which attracts many tourists every year. Chicago is a city of neighbourhoods. It became this way from the immigrant families grouping together by nationality, most notably a strong Polish community. Chicago is nicknamed the 'Windy City', and while the city is full of big gusts of wind from Lake Michigan, it’s more intimidating element is snow. Chicago has all of the seasons and their extremes: hot summers, cool falls, freezing winters and wet springs.




The Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, The Willis Tower, Cloud Gate, The Magnificent Mile, and the John Hancock building are all popular among visitors. Chicago is also home to some of the best versions of American food favourites. The credit is right in the name: Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza and the 'Chicago Dog' (nothing to do with the animal) are world famous.


Chicagoans also say “pop” instead of “soda”, and call their train “the El”, which stems from the train being elevated. You should take in a baseball game at Wrigley field to see the city's White Sox play, while the 2015 Stanley Cup belongs to Chicago's Blackhawks hockey team. Chicago is also home to 'Second City', the world famous improv comedy troupe, which shares its name with Chicago's popular moniker as the country's great biggest city (behind New York); this is where comedy greats like Jane Lynch, Bill Murray, Steve Carell and Amy Poehler started out and where you can see future comedy legends perform. 


There are over 200 art galleries, including The Art Institute of Chicago holding the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside the Louvre in Paris, and also over 200 theatres, make Chicago a centre of entertainment. Chicagoans are pretty active outdoors with over 26 miles and 16 miles of bike path right on the lake front, that many people run, ride or walk along every day. There’s always time for leisure too; in the warm months people flock to the 15 miles of public beaches or 552 parks to soak up the sun and make the most of it before the cold weather returns.



Where can you study in Chicago?

Over 30 colleges and universities call Chicago home giving any student a wide variety to choose from. For students looking for a smaller or private university, there are plenty of options. University of Chicago, which boasts a beautiful 215 acre campus enrols about 5,400 students. North Park University enrols about 3,000 students and has a strong and interesting Swedish background. Roosevelt University owns America’s second tallest university building, called a vertical campus, and enrols about 4,500 students. Saint Xavier University enrols about 4,000 and is the oldest chartered college in Chicago.


If small schools aren’t your preference, Chicago can cater to that too. DePaul University offers over 300 undergraduate programs to about 24,000 students. University of Illinois at Chicago enrols 25,000 and is the largest university in the Chicago area. Loyola University Chicago is one the largest Jesuit, Catholic universities in America with 16,000 students enrolled. Northeastern Illinois Chicago enrols about 10,000 students and has over 70 clubs and students organizations on campus.



Your Chicago playlist










5 Chicago movies to watch

  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Home Alone
  • Risky Business
  • The Blues Brothers
  • High Fidelity



Start searching for a course in Chicago now, or simply, America!

Study in the USA


'Study in the USA' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the USA into one handy digital book.

Get your eBook

Search for a course

Study level*
About Author

chicago skyline

Alyson Blech recently graduated with degrees in Public Relations and Media Studies, along with minors in Journalism and Art History from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Alyson has lived in Iowa her entire life, but decided to cross the pond to gain internship experience in London, England. In her spare time she obsesses over dogs, pizza and zumba.

Must read

Common cultural misconceptions about the USA

A global business and cultural powerhouse, America is a key international hub for visitors, professionals and students alike. The USA has not only been hugely influential of global pop culture, but continues to significantly impact international trends of economic growth and technological innovation. Unfortunately, the nation is also subject a number of damaging stereotypes. We’ve laid out some of the key, and perhaps most distasteful misconceptions about US


'Where should I study, in America?' [VIDEO]

How do you pick where to study in a country as large and diverse as America? Making this decision while living in a whole other country can be quite difficult. Where do you start? What should you look out for? How can you learn about different areas of the country so you know what to expect? Do you really know what a city is like, based on what you've seen on TV or read in books/online? In the video below, Taro, a former international student in the


‘Why should I study in America’s Mid-West?’ [VIDEO]

Amidst the nation’s big business and what is called the ‘real’ America, studying abroad in the Mid-West gives students a chance to get to know a US they don’t see on television. We spoke to Richard, an admissions officer at Northern State University , about what students can gain by studying abroad in America’s Mid-West. Watch the video below and if you found it useful, don’t forget to LIKE it and have a look at our list of useful links beneath it.