Here at the University of Connecticut, there are some clear favorites for places and things to do on campus. Everyone enjoys getting ice cream from the Dairy Bar and watching the sunset on Horsebarn Hill. This is the Basketball Capital of the World, and the pride we all have in our women’s and men’s basketball teams runs deep. Of course, we all know we have the best mascot, Jonathan the Husky, and it’s such a treat to spot Jonathan XIV on his daily walk across campus. While each of these UConn icons have the spotlight, rightfully so, there are a few components of campus life that spend just a little too much time in the shadows.
Underrated Dining Hall: Towers
Formally named Gelfenbien Commons, Towers isn’t just common dining. There are halal and kosher options, adding to the variety that this dining hall has to offer. Plus, there are designated “bars” each night, allowing students to fully customize their entrees. Monday brings the mac and cheese bar, Tuesday will always have a stir fry bar, Wednesday is Pasta night, and Thursday is for the quesadillas. You can always plan on a great meal during weeknights for dinner, and pair your creation with other food being served that evening as well. This is the dining hall that gives you the most consistency and the most options. Since the location is quite literally off of the beaten path, most people don’t go unless they live in Husky Village or Towers, but the food is worth the trek!
Underrated Study Spot: UConn Bookstore
Many people come into the bookstore to grab Starbucks and might take a seat to sip on their coffee while doing some work. There are also a few tables just outside of the Starbucks space, closer to the apparel section. It’s great to find a seat there, but it can be a little loud. I recommend heading upstairs to where the books are sold and you’ll be able to find more tables and chairs in a much more peaceful setting. It’s quiet, there’s a great view of Gampel and the Rec Center, making it a perfect spot to hit the books! Plus, if you come to find that the required textbook for your class is in fact required, you’ve come to the right place!
Underrated Weekend Activity: Late Night
Hosted by Major Events & Programs within Student Activities, Late Night programming is every Friday and Saturday night between 8-11:30 p.m. in the Student Union. There is always so much going on with a new theme for every weekend and free food and activities to support it! It’s great to go with friends, but also it’s the perfect way to meet new people who turn into new friends! As much fun parties can be, it’s usually the same thing every weekend and Late Night is a chill, sober break from the craziness of a random basement. The best part? It’s all free! I remember my favorite Late Night was a few years ago when you could pick your choice of pottery to paint and then enjoy cupcakes and other snacks. My mom adored the bowl I made for her and I was in bed by midnight, definitely a night well spent!
Underrated Job: UConn Rec
I am biased because I did work at the Rec throughout my undergraduate career, but looking at the job for its face value, there’s a reason why over 400 students work here. There are so many different positions, from facility attendants to marketing specialists and even fitness instructors. Being that UConn Rec is a student employer, there is lots of flexibility to work around your academic schedule. Not to mention, lots of room for growth and opportunities for promotion into managerial positions.
The Rec gives all of its staff t-shirts and quarter zips, as well as plenty of training on what to expect while you’re on the job. I found working at the Rec to be a great stress reliever from regular school work and since I’m on my feet all shift, a little bit of a workout, too! If you make the effort to connect with your managers and fellow employees, the shifts really do fly by and to this day, I’m still best friends with one of my coworkers who I met at the Rec. Even though we’ve both graduated, UConn Rec gave us both more than just jobs but such great memories we often laugh about. It is definitely where the student body develops, as there are few employment opportunities on campus where growth is fostered in a positive environment with such great people.
Underrated spot in the Student Union: Earth, Wok, & Fire
Dunkin’ and Subway are national chains that have locations in the Union and both usually have quite lengthy lines. On Union Street Market, there are stations for pizza, pasta, salad, burritos, sandwiches, and drinks where points, Husky Bucks, and regular credit payments are accepted. Perhaps the longest line of all is usually at One Plate Two Plate for their semi-fast food sourced from local farms. These are all great places to eat, but Earth, Wok & Fire is the best that the Union has to offer. First of all, the name is super catchy. Beyond that, the General Tso’s chicken is so savory, especially when paired with the steaming sticky rice. Now, it isn’t as slept on now as it used to be, since this University Dining location now allows students to use their flex passes to purchase an entrée and a drink. While this is slightly frustrating to the original fans of EWF since the line competes every day with One Plate Two Plate for the longest food line, I’m glad EWF is getting the recognition it deserves and I hope this means that the Asian cuisine location will be open for quite some time.
Underrated Residence Hall: Northwest
North campus gets a bad rap for north dining hall and north residence halls. As a two year resident of north, I’ve suffered my fair share of fallen ceiling tiles, brown water, and shower curtain tears to understand the downsides of living in north. However, I don’t think northwest should be looped in with the chaos of north’s jungle. In my visits to friend’s dorms in northwest, it’s clear that these rooms have been modernized much more than north’s. Also, the mailroom is right there, whereas north residents have to go to northwest to get their packages. Not that’s it’s far, but it’s nice to save a minute or two when you can! Also, northwest is the preferred dining hall. Personally, I find north and northwest to be at the same level since it’s all University Dining, but it’s nice to have two dining halls within five minutes of each other so chances are, you’re bound to find a great meal at either place at any given time.
Underrated Hobby: Club Sports
The perks of going to an NCAA Division I university mean that there is almost always a great game to watch. Both of UConn’s basketball teams are amazing, along with each of our hockey teams and the baseball and softball teams. Still, club sports at a DI school are no joke. There are so many opportunities to compete amongst other schools through a variety of sports, many of which aren’t offered as varsity sports here at UConn. Although there is flexibility, it’s not unheard of for teams to have practice most days out of the week, usually dedicating weekends to games, tournaments, and competitions. Depending on the sport and season’s schedule, there are travel opportunities, with the chance to compete in different parts of New England and the country as a whole. Participating in a club sport is a great way to find your people at UConn and stay active while having fun and enhancing your college experience.
Underrated Course: Film
UConn offers film courses that range from films in foreign languages and countries to analyzing popular or historical movies that are globally acclaimed. No matter which one (or two or more!) that you take, you really can’t go wrong. Many of them are offered to satisfy general education requirements, which can be seen as cumbersome and unnecessary but I promise that there is a lot to get out of studying film for course credit! I took German Film my sophomore year and as a three hour class in a language I didn’t understand portraying a culture I wasn’t familiar with, I was nervous and almost dreading it. While German movies have very minimal, if anything to do with my studies, this was such an amazing class to take and I’m so glad I did. It didn’t usually take the full time, I watched a new movie every week that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I learned how to analyze all films regardless of subject. To this day, I still don’t watch movies the same way that I did before this class. Plus, it satisfied two general education requirements for me, leaving one less class I needed in order to graduate. Other classes that are similar to this are Chinese Film, Italian Film, and Women, Gender, and Film— definitely consider adding one to your plan of study!
Underrated Off-Campus Spot: Hops 44
It’s debatable whether college bars Huskies, Huskies Tavern, and Ted’s are considered on campus or not, but Hops 44 is just a mile off of Discovery Drive for when you want a bar atmosphere without the chaos and with much better food. Storrs center has a few great spots with Dog Lane Cafe and Blaze, but this is still very close to campus so any place in Storrs center is usually well-frequented by college students. Hops 44 is a relaxing pub featuring craft beers and the best of food. There are so many different types of homemade pretzels all affixed with toppings for an appetizer, entree, or dessert depending on what you’re craving. The restaurant is locally owned and the staff are all so nice and give the best recommendations when everything looks so good and you can’t decide what to order. It’s the perfect spot to watch a game, especially a UConn game, and hang out with friends. There are even board games you can play at your table while you wait or just sip on drinks. I’d choose a night at Hops over a party or night at the bar any day. It’s the perfect mixture of a bar atmosphere and chilled-out vibes with the best of food and drinks.
Underrated On-Campus Spot: The Innovation Zone
Formerly known as the Learning Community Innovation Zone (LCIZ) the Innovation Zone, or IZone, is in Werth residence hall with many other learning communities, so it was branded as such. However, this makerspace isn’t limited to just students in a learning community, any and all students and faculty can use this space. It’s a workshop where anyone can make anything; yes, anything. There are laser engravers, 3D printers, soldering machines, power tools, sewing machines and more all open for use. You can also find a Cricut, vinyl cutter, sewing machine, heat press, just to name a few more pieces of equipment. As long as you complete the basic safety training, which you can request access for here, you are able to enter the space and learn how to use any of the machines! Of course, you don’t need anything fancy to get creative, there are plenty of paints, Legos, and art supplies available for use. Since the makerspace is downstairs in Werth, it’s a hidden gem but truly shines brightly. There are so many possibilities to make anything in there, and half of the fun of being there is seeing what everyone else is creating around you. If you haven’t been to the Innovation Zone yet, hurry up and complete your training so you can make something as unique as you!
Check ’em out!
UConn is such a wonderful university with a campus that supports its academic missions in every way possible even outside of the classroom. Each of these components of UConn contributes in their own way to the overall campus culture, although it may not be obvious at first glance. Take some time to explore these components and get the most out of your UConn experience!