Pop the University bubble: Go off campus


Photo courtesy of @urcreeper_ Instagram

Local band, New Game+, performs at The Powder Room on March 22. The Powder Room is one of the local house show venues in Urbana for music and art enthusiasts to come together.

By Sydney Wood, buzz Editor

There’s a lot to look forward to as a new student coming to the University. From cheering at Big Ten football games, going to college parties and starting classes, it’s easy to find excitement and new beginnings on campus.

But what’s often overlooked are the off-campus opportunities for students in Champaign-Urbana.

As new students begin preparing to move into their dorms, it’s time for them to start thinking about ways to pop the campus bubble and begin exploring the C-U community.

House shows

Elena Buenrostro and Travis Newgren are recent University alumni. The duo met at a house show and formed their band, Soft and Dumb, in 2019. Since then, they’ve played at numerous house shows in the C-U area, along with a few in Chicago.

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For Buenrostro and Newgren, house shows in Urbana are their favorite places to go within the C-U community. Some local house show venues include Waluigi’s Mansion, The Spice Rack and The Powder Room.

“I came to UIUC thinking that bar culture was all that college has to offer — that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Newgren said. “House shows are a welcoming environment, with music, art galleries, vendor events and more.”

Buenrostro said attending events at house shows is one way for students to get involved in the community. They said the DIY scene is accessible for student musicians and for those just interested in listening to some live music. House shows are also an avenue to meet new people.

“If you feel isolated from Greek life and are searching for more inclusive environments, I highly recommend heading east of Lincoln Avenue to check out DIY shows in Urbana,” Newgren said.

Trying something new

Some students said they enjoy challenging themselves to visit off-campus spots they’ve never been to.

Lydia Reed, sophomore in Engineering, said she and her friends try to visit different Mexican restaurants in C-U and Savoy. Some local Mexican restaurants include Maize MexicanGrill, El Toro and Dos Reales Mexican Restaurant.

“I think going off campus is fun just because you get to do different things than on campus, and it’s less crowded,” Reed said.

Umar Mohd Faiz, sophomore in LAS, challenges himself similarly to Reed and her companions by trying to visit all the local cafes in C-U on the weekends. He said he enjoys drinking good coffee and eating pastries with his friends when he goes off campus.

“After a stressful week, it’s just nice to go out and do something that’s not books and math and just relax and chill with friends,” Faiz said.

Although it may be challenging to find ways to explore off campus, Reed had a few solutions.

“Normally, you can find different ways to get off campus,” Reed said. “I know the buses go off campus, too, which I’ve used. There’s always someone you probably know (who) has a car.”

Faiz agreed, saying incoming students should get out of their comfort zones.

“At first it might seem scary, but you just have to force yourself and find the right circle of friends and just have fun,” Faiz said.

Road trips

Patrick Fang, a 2019 University graduate, said he and his friends used to rent a car and go on road trips together during his time as a student. They visited places like Starved Rock in Oglesby, Ill., as well as different  hiking areas in Tennessee.

Fang said these road trips helped him forge closer friendships with his peers.

“For somebody like myself who was from China, I didn’t really know the immediate area very well,” Fang said. “So it was an opportunity to have new experiences and also really form deeper bonds with the people that were in my friend groups.”

Fang said road trips added color to his college experience, and he advised incoming students to explore places outside of campus.

“Say ‘yes’ to all the opportunities that you have,” Fang said. “I was very much focused on school and the stress of classes, so I really missed out on a lot of the awesome opportunities just to socialize and have fun being a human.”


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