Urban studies program should better prepare students for urban life

Robin Humbert

Third term is always a time for students to plan for next year. Participating in an off-campus study program may be included in the plan; which is why I plan to inform students about what to expect when studying off-campus. Being a participant of the Urban Studies Program in Chicago offered by the ACM, I feel qualified to tell of the experience.Cockroaches, 1-2 hour daily commutes and drug dealer neighbors are probably not features advertised in the brochures, yet they are a part of the urban environment. It is not necessarily the program’s fault for suiting students with bug or mouse infested apartments because finding a vermin free apartment in the city of Chicago (or any metropolitan area) may by difficult. Or the commuting time, there will always be traffic in cities, and thankfully the program does allow a few tardies due to transportation mishaps. And lastly the neighborhood, no area is free of crime no matter where you go, it is the individual’s responsibility to use common sense and safety precautions.

The program organizers, I believe, should warn or at least tell students of these inevitable dilemmas. When given suggestions as to what to pack, they did not include Raid, mouse traps, or pepper spray (4 out of the eleven girls in the program area where I was placed had attempted muggings, and that is not including the attempted break-in to the one apartment). They waited until we moved in to tell us to try to stay clean to prevent such intruders, and to travel safely. We were moved in already, we had paid the program fee, we had no other option but to suck it up and deal with it.

My roommates did not mind the occasional cockroach in our bathtub, they were more annoyed with my reaction to the bug. I was disgusted that an institution would supply students with such living conditions.

It is true that the attempted muggings did not happen in the neighborhood, but three of them happened when the students were trying to return to their apartments and had to travel through high crime areas.

As students, we were not properly educated on safety. The instructors told us to use common sense. To my one roommate foreign to the urban scene, common sense meant to leave the windows open to our first floor apartment, overlooking an alley, in the south side of Chicago, with no screens in the windows, when no one was home. Her common sense did not realize that she was putting our belongings, and possible selves, in danger.

Had we been told of these conditions prior, maybe I would not have participated in the program. That is me as an individual speaking. I believe that my roommates still would have continued. But what I mostly believe is that when advertising or sending mailings to the students beforehand, the program should have informed possible participants of these troubles. It will not, I believe, deter students; some students are up for adventure. But some, like myself, are not – and would have liked to be informed.