Life in Madison

As Wisconsin’s capital, Madison (pop. 250,000) is a political and cultural hub of the Midwest. Remnants of the city’s central role in the Progressive Era and in the 1960s countercultural movements still appear on the landscape, as does the influence of important figures who have called the city home, including architect Frank Lloyd Wright (who designed Monona Terrace) and naturalist Aldo Leopold (who shaped the 1,200-acre UW Arboretum).

Regularly named among the nation’s best places to live, Madison offers many comforts. Every afternoon and evening, crowds fill the lakeside Memorial Union Terrace, carrying on the Biergarten tradition of the city’s early German immigrants. At night, music lovers enjoy the nightlife of a city with the nation’s second-most rock concerts per capita as well as the programming of the Overture Center, home to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Madison Opera and host to national acts and Broadway touring performances. Every Saturday, shoppers flood the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. And each day riders peddle along the 75 miles of bike paths in this city that claims more bicycles than cars.


Graduate students are eligible to apply for the UW-owned rental apartments at Eagle Heights and Harvey Street, which are especially popular with international students and those with young families. Many of our students live off-campus in apartments or houses that they find on the University’s Campus Area Housing forum or Craigslist. The neighborhoods with the highest concentration of graduate students are labeled on this map (pdf) as Marquette, Tenney-Lapham, Emerson East, Schenk-Atwood, Vilas, Greenbush, and Bay Creek.


It is not necessary to own a car when living in Madison. All graduate students are issued bus passes, which allow for year-round unlimited use of the city’s extensive and reliable Metro System (pdf). Much of the city is easily navigable by foot, and many of our graduate students join the large number of residents who commute by bicycle.

Regional connections to Milwaukee and Minneapolis are provided by Badger Bus and to Chicago and Minneapolis by Van Galder Bus Company.

The Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) is just five miles from campus and very flier-friendly. However, cheaper fares are usually available at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) or Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW) airports.

International Students

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese is proud to attract students from all over the world. Support for international students during their time at UW-Madison is coordinated through International Student Services.

Parenting Resources

Students with young children routinely enter our program, and it is not uncommon for others to become parents while earning their degree. UW-Madison offers a range of services for parents through the Office of Childcare and Family Resources, including subsidized daycare and free, though limited, in-home childcare.