Five months ago I moved from Columbus, Ohio (Go Buckeyes!) to Chicago -- the suburbs, that is. I landed a fantastic job and needed to figure out my living situation. As a 25-year-old Jewish girl, a handful of Chicago friends advised me to live in the city, but I picked the suburbs. I loved the idea of a short commute to work and being surrounded by parks.
I could not be happier with my decision. My greatest concern moving to the suburbs was that I would never meet young Jewish professionals, but that fear did not last long as I have taken advantage of many Jewish opportunities. I am incredibly grateful for my experiences and thought I'd share some tips with other Jewish young adults in the suburbs.
1. Google is your best friend
Not aware of the groups or social opportunities out there, I searched for everything related to Jewish / Young Professionals / Young Adults / 20s / suburb events / programming to learn about the variety of organizations in existence. Then I subscribed to receive email newsletters informing me of any events.
2. Facebook can be a great resource
Once I knew what I was looking for, I also liked Facebook pages, marked my interest in events and searched for people working in programming roles to begin navigating the Jewish young professional world. After a few emails and Facebook messages, I connected with new people, even those that lived near me!
3. Don't be afraid to attend events alone
If an event sounds fun or you want to try something new, DO IT. It could lead you to lifelong relationships or simply be a time-filler, but regardless it will be a good experience.
4. Take initiative
Because of the above tactics, my social calendar began to fill and I was meeting new people from the suburbs and the city. With my newfound suburban connections, I put together a "Young Jews of the Chicago Suburbs" Facebook group for us to communicate. It's become a built-in network to for us to create events on our own or attend events with others.
5. Learn to appreciate public transportation to the city
If you come from a place without trains or subways (like me), it's rather terrifying at first, but the convenience and lack of traffic are unbeatable. The Metra is easy to navigate and scattered throughout the suburbs.
6. Expand your travel time threshold to 30 minutes
Depending on the suburb you call home, you'll be close to the city but not want to go every day. I have found that within a 30-minute radius there's a ton to do and many other young adults to hang out with. Socializing during the week becomes easy when you meet halfway.
7. Keep exploring
While sitting on the couch is always great, there are other fun ways to spend time. There are many parks, forest preserves, downtown areas, shops, boutiques, restaurants, etc. in both the city and suburbs and many free opportunities and endless places to explore. Your life will be enriched by the diversity of exploration and you might even meet some new friends.
8. Give back to the community
The suburbs are filled with organizations looking for a helping hand. I have enjoyed volunteering with Jewish Child & Family Services and meeting and interacting with like-minded individuals. I help facilitate social events like bowling and putt-putt for those with developmental disabilities a few times a month. We have so much fun, it's a positive way to fill time and it contributes to a balanced life.
9. Stay eager
Events in the suburbs can be unpredictable (unless you take initiative and make them happen), so I continue to search for fun experiences that aren't far from home or work. I have no doubt there are even more opportunities that I have yet to encounter.
10. Be open and have fun
There is nothing quite like being a young Jewish adult in the Chicago area. When I moved here, I had no idea what to expect. Now I absolutely love living in the suburbs while also enjoying occasional city trips.
Today I continue to be thankful for Jewish geography, kosher delis and the power of connection. I am excited for my future as a Jewish young adult in the Chicago area!
Lauren Sobol lives in Vernon Hills and works in Northbrook as an Analytics Consultant for CVS Health. She grew up in Ohio where she obtained her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from The Ohio State University. Lauren loves to spend time with friends and family, practicing meditation, giving back to the community and meeting new people. Feel free to reach out to her through the Facebook group mentioned in Tip #4 if you're interested in connecting.
For more posts in our "New-ish and Jewish in Chicago" blog series, visit www.oychicago.com/newish.