Lesser-known places to study, hang out with friends

The Miles C. Hartley garden at the Arboretum is the largest of 5 major gardens. The rest of the Arboretum’s 160 acres contains several open fields and a number of tree-lined paths.

By Susan Szuch

Whether it’s writer’s block, the inability to grasp a concept for class or simply feeling like I’m in a rut, there’s nothing more beneficial for me than getting out of my dorm for a change in environment. Luckily, there are plenty of places on and off campus that provide whatever atmosphere I’m looking for — solitude and tranquility if I need to study, or if I’m meeting with a friend.

In terms of studying, I tend to focus better without people around me. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t places on campus that are calm and quiet. You should exercise precaution — if you’re looking for somewhere very quiet to study, make sure you’re in a designated area, like the second floor of the undergraduate library. Otherwise, on the main floor, people tend to get kind of noisy or even take phone calls while they’re there.

Some of the places on campus that can be most conducive to studying are — surprise — the libraries. The ACES library on the South Quad not only has individual study carrels that provide solitude when needed, but tables beside windows that offer a beautiful view of the South Quad. Contrary to popular belief, the Undergraduate Library is not the only place undergrad students are allowed, so be sure to check out the serenity of the reading room in the Main Library.

In addition to the libraries on campus, the Arboretum on Lincoln Avenue provides a space to enjoy the outdoors while studying. With more than 57 acres, the Arboretum offers a multitude of places to study, meet with friends or simply sit in contemplation. Shady trees and benches line the Romweber & Santogrossi Families Linden Allee, making it a perfect space to sit and read.

Moving off campus, the surrounding Champaign and Urbana areas are full of coffee shops, bakeries and other places that allow students to study or pursue creative explorations. One of the places students can find caffeine and calmness is Aroma Café on Neil Street in downtown Champaign. An open, cheery space with artwork lining the walls, it’s the perfect place to get breakfast or lunch while studying or chatting with a friend.

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For those who are pickier about their caffeine, Flying Machine Coffee on Main Street in Urbana offers a selection of handcrafted coffee in a clean, minimalistic environment. Flying Machine Coffee resides in the same building as Pizza M, making it a perfect place to spend the day and not feel limited to scones or cinnamon rolls. However, students looking exclusively for sweets or baked goods can find solace at Mirabelle Fine Pastries in Urbana or Pekara Bakery and Bistro in Champaign. Both offer a selection of pastries as well as heartier lunch-type fare in a cozy environment.

Another hidden gem is the Independent Media Center in Urbana. The center houses a library with a collection of zines, noncommercial publications that focus on a specific, often obscure, topic. In addition to the library, a 3D printer can also be found in the center, as well as classes to take with friends.

But no matter which of these hidden spots you choose, all of them will give you the tranquil environment you desire.

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