Hi quinty55, can you tell me a little (or a lot, if you have the time) about the surrounding neighborhoods? I'm currently in California and I will have to look for housing remotely so I can't check it out for myself. I've never been to Chicago either, so any info would be awesome. Thanks!
There are many neighborhoods throughout Chicago. In my personal opinion, I like staying East of the Highway, including the following neighborhoods:
1. River North. This neighborhood is probably the most active of all the neighborhoods in terms of nightlife. It is expensive but close to Kent. There are lots of restaurants, shops, and bars/clubs to go to (not that you will have time 1L year). [Location: North of the River, and to around Chicago Ave.]
2. The Gold Coast. This neighborhood is just north and east of River North, and it can be affordable, depending on where you live. It has many bus routes that run into the city--some even coming right to Kent. It also has lots of restuarants and bars. There is no green space, however. [North of Chicago Ave., East of Michigan]
3. Lincoln Park. Lincoln park is a great neighborhood, though it does have its share of yupppies. It can be very affordable and offers a slower pace and less traffic than River North or the Gold Coast--not to mention much more green space. [East of Ashland, North of Armitage]
4. Old Town. This is a terrific neighborhood--though rental housing is harder to come by than in the other areas. There is a lot to do in Old Town, including theater, movies, bars, restaurants, comedy clubs, etc. It is a quiet and family-oriented neighborhood (at least Old Town Triangle, which is part of old town http://www.oldtowntriangle.com/
) [Old town runs from just south of Division to Armitage--Old town triangle is basically runs Just north of North Ave. to Armitage]
5. Lakeview includes Wrigelyville (where the Cubs play) and boystown. Many women live there because it is "safe." I would not recommend living around Wrigely because for 3 months you have annoying drunkards hanging around your stoop.
The West Loop is also a viable option, and probably the closest to Kent. This includes Greektown--but it is not a particularly lively area. I would highly recommend NOT living in presidential towers. I knew several people who lived there and it seemed awful. It is essentially a large complex next to Kent; but because it is located in the loop, you are isolated from everything else and everything closes early and nothing is open on the weekends.
West of the highway there is bucktown and wicker park--they have lots of restuarants and shops, and are very affordable. The difference is the atmosphere, which takes on an "alternative" feeling. To be honest, though, the people there can be just as bothersome as in say, Lincoln Park or the Gold Coast, it's just a matter of deciding who you like better.
PM me with more questions.