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Residing in Chicago and Education

Interested in living in Chicago? On the bank of Lake Michigan, the Windy City is the third-largest metropolis in the United States, and being an expat there can be both thrilling and confusing. Our InterNations Guide to Chicago provides you with information on contemporary life, climate, housing, and education.
The Chicago skyline along the coast of Lake Michigan is one of the city's main attractions.

Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois on the bank of Lake Michigan, directly on top of a continental divide that connects the Mississippi River and the watersheds of the Great Lakes. Three rivers flow through the downtown area: the famous Chicago River, the Calumet River, and the Des Plaines River.

Chicago’s nickname, the Windy City, should not be taken too lightly, as winters can be harsh: subzero temperatures, lots of snow, and, of course, windy weather. However, there’s no need to despair. Due to its humid continental climate zone, Chicago has four distinct seasons, one of which is a quite warm and humid summer.

If you have any doubts about whether or not this type of climate is right for you, visit the National Weather Service to check past average highs and lows.

The climate of the US is every bit as diverse as its natural phenomena. Read up on the topic in our Expat Guide to the US.

Housing in Chicago: What You Need to Know

Most expats opt for rental housing as it gives them more flexibility in case their expat assignment comes to an early end. Obviously, your rent will vary depending on the neighborhood you choose to live in. For a brief overview of the city’s different neighborhoods, read our InterNations Guide on moving to Chicago.

The best way to begin your apartment search is to look in the housing sections of the local Chicago papers, such as the Chicago Tribune, the Sun Times, and the Daily Herald. Once you have found an apartment that you are interested in renting, make sure to ask what you should bring when you visit. Some landlords may insist upon seeing your passport and visa, along with the contact information of any previous landlords you may have had.

Many leases in Chicago are for twelve months, and a deposit equal to one or two months’ rent is usually required when you sign the lease. For a one-bedroom apartment near downtown Chicago, for instance, expect your monthly rent to exceed 1,000 USD.

For more information on rental accommodation, please see our detailed article on renting a home in the US.

The Choice Is Yours: Utility Suppliers in Chicago

As in most other countries, tenants are required to pay for their own utilities. Once you have settled on a move-in date with your landlord or the building management, you need to contact the various utility services in order to get electricity, water, and gas hooked up to your apartment. Additionally, depending on your needs, you should make appointments to have amenities such as internet, telephone, and perhaps cable TV installed in your new home.

The primary electricity supplier in Chicago is ComEd. Regarding heating, there are many providers such as Heat Cool Service or TDH Mechanical Inc. To find a company that fits your needs and your budget, it’s a good idea to compare different offers. AT&T and RCN are the most well-known telephone and internet providers, but there are of course many other providers, too. As for television, many Chicagoans go with Comcast. It would, however, still be a good idea to shop around a bit to get the deal that suits you best.

Don't overpay for your utilities during your time as an expat in Chicago! Our guide on US utilities can give you a clearer idea of what to expect in terms of prices for gas, electricity, and water.

Education for Your Children: Schools in Chicago

Since Chicago is the largest city in the entire Midwest, it is no surprise that it also houses some of the finest universities in the country. Northwestern University and the University of Chicago offer both job opportunities for international professors as well as the opportunity to pursue further education.

For those of you moving to the Chicago area with children, rest assured that there are plenty of schools available for them. The Chicago school system is quite good, and if you are not inclined to spend too much on a private school education, sending your kids to a regular public school is always an option. Before deciding on a school, it is a good idea to visit it with your children to see if it’s a good fit.

If you prefer your children to go to an international school, or perhaps one where the institutional language is that of your home country, Chicago is also up to the task. Here are some of the most popular international schools:

  • The Lycée Français de Chicago is well-liked among French expats in Chicago. It offers both primary and secondary courses, along with both the French and the International Baccalaureate.
  • The British School of Chicago, which is part of the Nord Anglia Education school network, is particularly popular among British expats who don’t see themselves living in the United States for too long and prefer their children get a British education.
  • The German International School Chicago, as the name suggests, offers all lessons in German. Opened in 2009, it is a non-profit private school and currently offers preschool and elementary school education.
  • The Odgen International School of Chicago is a public neighborhood (kindergarten to grade eight) and selective admissions (grades nine to twelve) Full-Continuum International Baccalaureate World School. The students across the two campuses are from different ethnic and socio-economic groups and speak 14 languages other than English at home.

Not sure whether to opt for public schools or an international school? Our guides help you make an educated decision.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Friedrich Schloßberg

"At first, I tried to google all information on Chicago. Then I found InterNations and some of its local scouts gave me a personal tour."

Kristina Serou

"It is great to live in the Windy City and to enjoy the American way of life. However, I am also glad to attend InterNations events to meet other expats."

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