What ‘I’m from Chicago’ really means


The Chicago skyline is probably one of the first things both people who are and aren’t from Chicago think of when they hear the city mentioned. However, when someone on campus states they are from Chicago, this may mean a few different things.

By Brendan McGovern, Assistant copy chief

As the state’s flagship college, the University of Illinois holds a large in-state student population. In fact, 78.3% of new students entering the Fall 2018 semester were in-staters, residing from any city located within the state of Illinois.

This being said, the chances of running into an in-state resident on the street is over 3/4ths, with a great majority of these students coming from the Chicagoland area.

With such a great amount of the University’s student population coming from the Chicagoland area, it might be helpful to become acquainted with the different contexts for which you might hear the phrase “I am from Chicago.”

To international and out-of-state students

For people who are not familiar with the city or who only know of Chicago from news and maps, it is often easiest to respond with “Chicago” when the person answering knows their listener is not from the area.

Geographically, the Chicagoland area is comprised of 14 metropolitan counties, each with their own villages, towns and municipal districts, and each with their own large populations.

When people hear someone is from Chicago, they typically think of the likes of Michigan Avenue, Maggie Daley Park or the Bean, but very rarely do out-of-staters consider the surrounding areas that make up Chicago such as Tinley Park, Rosemont or Evanston.

To people not familiar to the area, those identifying as residents of Chicago who are actually from a suburb may paint a very different picture in the mind.

To in-state students from central or southern Illinois

Unlike the previous set of students, in-state students who are not from northern Illinois will hear this common response and might even respond with a follow-up such as “which part,” given their understanding of Chicago’s vast suburbs.

Often people who have visited Chicago are aware of the Metra train lines that connect the surrounding suburbs to the downtown area, which has largely expanded the range at which people define Chicagoland.

For example, the northwest line of Metra, travels from Ogilvie Transportation Center to Harvard, Illinois, each day. This line is 72.3 miles and takes one hour and fifty one minutes to complete. Despite the distance, Harvard, Illinois, is still considered part of the Chicagoland area.

To other people from the Chicagoland area

You may have already ran into someone from your home neighborhood on campus or at least found someone who lives close to you. This is the reality for many students living in the Chicagoland area.

After encountering many students from this region, you are almost guaranteed to develop a list of suburbs populated with Illini.

For example, perhaps you have heard “I’m from Schaumburg” or “I’m from Naperville” several times as these large suburbs send many students to the University each year.

When other in-state students begin a conversation with another in-state student, often they will try to find people or friends in common. This is a great way to grow your circle of friends on campus, which can even lead to carpools later down the line.

Ultimately, a lot goes into the simple statement of “I’m from Chicago.” Hopefully this explanation will allow you to be better equipped with knowledge of the area for the next time this statement is used in casual conversation.

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