Thoughts on Madison?

by Nathan Hamm on 1/30/2005 · 10 comments

So, who can tell me stuff about Madison, Wisconsin? What’s great about it? What sucks? How’s the weather? Cheap town, expensive? How’s life on campus, especially for grad students?

I’m sure Brian has some good input, but how about the rest of you?

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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praktike January 30, 2005 at 9:44 pm

It’s like a Midwestern Cambridge. Weather sucks ass.

Nathan Hamm January 30, 2005 at 9:58 pm

That’s what I figured. After this winter, I’ve decided I’m cool with snow so long as there are no hills involved. Or SEPTA. I hate SEPTA.

Looks like a cool town though, right on those two lakes and all.

Younghusband January 31, 2005 at 7:40 am

Sounds cold… but hey! I’m from the Great White North!

Nathan, what’ll you be doing for grad studies in Madison?

Nathan January 31, 2005 at 9:43 am

If I end up there, I’ll be in this program. If I go to Washington, it’ll be this department.

Younghusband January 31, 2005 at 9:57 am

Nice, I appled to this program last year but didn’t get in… they concentrate too much on the European aspects and I was looking to do Caucasus and Central Asia. This year I applied to two IR programs in hopes that they let me have free reign within their general frameworks.

Good luck to both of us huh!

Nathan January 31, 2005 at 10:08 am

I recently got an email from a reader in the UK lamenting that you can’t find anyplace that offers Central Asian languages. Turkish and Persian are close, but, Turkish, for example, is pretty different from what’s spoken on the steppes. It’s nice to see more and more places here offering at least Uzbek. I’ve even seen more regular offerings of Kazak and Uighur. And Indiana’s language offerings? Nothing short of impressive.

Good luck!

Brian Ulrich January 31, 2005 at 12:05 pm

Why, yes, I could say a lot. There is snow, but for me that’s an attraction =) People know how to handle it up here, though, so a foot in Madison causes less disruption than an inch somewhere like North Carolina. I know people in CREECA. State Street is the main drag, and you have pretty much any cuisine you could want. The only really expensive thing is rent – I pay about $600 a month for a one-bedroom less plush than what you can get for, say, $350 in Champaign, IL.

Feel free to e-mail with any questions.

upyernoz February 2, 2005 at 11:22 am


for what it’s worth, i love madison. i used to go there at least once a year when i lived in chicago and i still try to get there every other year or so. its a trendy little college town, about 2.5 hours from chicago. the winters are cold there, but i love winter, so that’s not a problem with me. no SEPTA, the place is pretty small and walkable, though there is a bus system. personally, i would move there in a second.

Lyndon February 8, 2005 at 5:11 pm

Madison is a great town – my father was born and raised there (and my parents met in a Russian language class at UW) so I spent a bit of time there growing up and have been back recently. It is pleasant in that it’s got a small-town feel but there are lots of things to do there (sort of the same way I feel about DC, but Madison is obviously much smaller). The winter is harsh, but as someone already mentioned they take it in stride so the city does not shut down, and summers are downright pleasant, as I recall.

I considered the Slavic lang & lit department at UW back in the day (6 years ago now – yikes!) when I was looking at grad schools. I think at that time the CREECA program was just a certificate and not a stand-alone MA. I ended up going to Georgetown’s MA REES program, which was the right choice for me, since DC is my hometown and I wanted to get back there at the time, plus I was really looking for an area studies program and not a Russian lit degree. Although I don’t have any firsthand knowledge, a couple of my cousins hace attended or are attending UW (some undergrad, some grad school) and I’ve never heard anything bad about the student life there.

Good luck in making your choice, I am sure you will find grad school to be a great experience no matter where you go.

tiff-dog June 20, 2005 at 2:11 am


I’m a grad student right now at uw-madison. and i totally hate it – so do all of the people in my department – and we’re all looking for new schools. the thing is, madison is ranked really well and everything, but what those rankings don’t tell you is how poorly madison treats its students. i absolutely regret coming here. if you’re still really interested in it, i would definitely try and visit a few times and meet with the prof’s in your department. a lot of the prof’s at uw madison really don’t care at all about students, rather they just want to advance their own research and use the UW’s resources. and as a grad, it’s really difficult to find quality advising (which is something you totally need for your thesis and stuff). i’d really think twice about UW if I were you. it’s really nothing more than a name.

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