When I go on vacation, the last place I usually think to go is a university. Why go back to school when I worked so hard for five years to get my bachelor’s degree and escape it? Visiting a college campus hadn’t even crossed my mind when it came to temporarily relocating to Chicago, but after suggestions from co-workers and roommates, I decide to give it a shot. Making my way south to The University of Chicago, I find I’m in for more than I bargained for. Walking through the campus of gothic architecture and buildings, I find this is no ordinary campus. Not only is it much bigger than the campus of the school I attended, Mesa State College (currently Colorado Mesa University), but it takes academic learning to another level with its elaborate design and architecture.
The Oriental Institute
My original plan was to only visit The Oriental Institute, a museum dedicated to showcasing artifacts and history of various Middle Eastern countries. Observing displays of jewelry, pottery, and other elements of everyday life from countries including ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia (present-day Iran), Nubia, and Persia (also present-day Iran) I’m taken through parts of the world I know very little about. I’m fascinated to discover part of a façade from the Khorsabad throne room excavated by archaeologists of the institute that is comprised of human figures and human-headed winged bulls, also known as a Lamassu. Another figure that captures my attention is column capital from Persepolis, an ancient palace and administrative center of Persia. This is no ordinary column since it’s composed of a Man-Bull with dangling earrings, a crown (which signifies he’s most likely a minor deity), and feathers. I’m beginning to think this is where the interest in unique style contrasts and combinations began.
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
Beyond the Oriental Institute, I find the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel nearby. Completed in 1928, this chapel’s Gothic architecture within the 265 foot long and 102 foot wide structure is what catches my attention. Appalachian oak wood carvings that adorn the interior entertain me as I slowly walk through and take in the elaborate designs. The floral stained glass brings my attention to the organ and pulpit, where the lectern has been carved with eagles. Glancing back up at the windows, I’m intrigued to learn later that their designs are those of symbols of many meanings including humanity, creativity, and the cosmos. It’s incredible to think how many symbols and elements can adorn the windows with a variety of concepts and ideas.
University of Chicago Campus
Exiting the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, I decide to take the time to wander through the University of Chicago Campus. It might not sound like such an interesting idea, but seeing all of the ornate architecture, I find it’s necessary to satisfy my curiosity. The campus of this 125-year-old university is nothing short of spectacular. Walking through the gardens and past brick and stone towers and buildings, I’m taken back to my college days as a group of students walks past me, perhaps for a late orientation. I begin to recall how I awkwardly stumbled through the social life of college, wishing now I had done things differently, but I’m reminded it’s never too late to start. I’m finding education can happen anywhere at any time and that you never stop being a student. Learning never ends, as the university’s Latin motto suggests: rescat scientia; vita excolatur “Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.”
Although I could stay much longer wandering through and finding more buildings throughout the University of Chicago, I know my long commute home on public transportation will not allow me to stay as long as I wish. It’s towering and elaborate architecture has become a reminder of life-long learning and how it will continue just when you think you’ve got everything figured out. Thinking back to my college days, I occasionally wonder how my alma mater, now Colorado Mesa University, has changed and what it will look like next. College campuses may not be a main tourist attraction, but the wonders of University of Chicago should be on your list in order to rekindle college memories and inspire life-long learning.
Hours and Location
The University of Chicago Campus: 5801 S. Ellis Ave.
The Oriental Institute: 1155 E. 58th Street, Open Tuesday 10am-5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm, Thursday thru Sunday 10am-5pm, Admission is free.
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel: 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.