Get the most of C-U on a student’s budget

By Sarah Soenke

It may be in the middle of East Central Illinois, but Champaign-Urbana has a lot going on. And with the twin cities being popularly termed a “micro-urban community,” the costs for many leisure and entertainment options are micro too, if not entirely free.

So take a break from thinking about your newly acquired student loans and enjoy exploring what Champaign-Urbana has to offer without spending all of your leftover cash.

Get your money’s worth

Now that you’ve started paying tuition, it’s time to start taking advantage of your student status. Several venues and hotspots on campus allow you to pay less than the standard price. Nearly any performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is $10 or less for University students — even for acts like Yo-Yo Ma and the Russian National Ballet — and select shows offer Hot Seats, reserved seats just for University students. The venue hosts several free concerts and activities as well.

The Illini Union, the central hub for all things student-oriented, offers free or discounted activities and events year-round. Stop by the Rec Room for discounted bowling and billiards any day of the week or check out a free show, from improv comedy to hypnotist demonstrations.

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It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you have some free time, but the University libraries offer more than just books and study spaces. Students can check out DVDs, CDs, comic books and video games, as well as a Media Commons’ Gaming Zone.

Feeling creative? The library also rents out an extensive list of loanable technology, including tablets, cameras, microphones and more.

Take advantage of University facilities

Students can easily get to know the ins and outs of academic buildings on campus, but there is plenty more to see. The Krannert Art Museum, Spurlock Museum and the Illini Union Art Gallery all feature student and guest exhibits for students to explore for free. Outside of the fitness rooms in ARC and CRCE, students can take cooking and wellness classes, rock climb, ice skate at the Ice Arena and join an intramural league through Campus Recreation. Then on the first Friday of every month, the University’s Observatory opens its doors to the public to allow visitors to gaze at the stars through the original 12” refracting telescope. 

Explore the outdoors on campus grounds

There are plenty of beautiful parks and outdoor spaces across campus, but there are definitely some highlights to check out. First and foremost, the Quad is not something to overlook. Yes, it’s perfect for an afternoon lounge in between classes, but it also hosts frequent events, like outdoor movie screenings, music performances and club meetings and demonstrations.

A little more removed from Campustown, the Japan House gardens and the Arboretum are located just south of Florida Avenue on Lincoln Avenue for students to enjoy. Spend an afternoon taking in the fresh air and strolling through the 160 acres of the Arboretum while the weather’s still enjoyable.

Japan House, an educational center for international cultures and artists, also offers public tea ceremonies and tours on Thursdays.

Go beyond Campustown

When it comes to shopping on campus, you end up paying for the convenience of location. Make use of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit bus system and venture out to Champaign and Urbana for cheaper selections.

Champaign’s Market Place Mall offers a range of shops of its own while being surrounded by inexpensive department stores such as Walmart, Target, Goodwill and The Salvation Army.

Urbana also has Lincoln Square Mall, which hosts a weekly farmers’ market every Saturday (most commonly known as Market at the Square, but the name changes by season). Spend a weekend afternoon perusing the unique vendors, or walk around Champaign and Urbana’s unique downtown areas for its diverse mix of eclectic shops (though you may have to stick to window shopping).

Sarah is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected].