Life in Madison

Downtown Madison and the university campus are dense areas where walking place to place is easy. However, if you need to go further, there are several good options.

bike rider

Biking: Madison has 17 miles of bike paths, and major roadways have bike lanes. There is ample parking for bikes on campus. Check out bike routes in Madison.

photo of bus

Riding the bus: Two campus buses provide free transportation around campus. Madison’s public bus service is available free to students with bus passes, available after registration. Check route listings at Madison Metro Transit.

Renting a car by the hour: The Zip Car program has flexible options for short term car rental. Consult this page at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's website for information on licensing.

Like most of the midwestern United States, Madison has four distinct seasons. Summer tends to be hot and somewhat humid. Fall is cooler but beautiful as the leaves change color. Winter is cold and snowy. Spring is rainy and cool.

If you arrive in January for the spring semester, you will need a warm jacket, hat, scarf, and mittens.

Students arriving for the summer session will want light clothing. Short sleeved shirts and shorts will often do.

If you arrive in August for the fall semester, the beginning of your stay will be quite warm, but it will rapidly become cooler. You should have a light jacket for cooler days, although long sleeves will do for much of the semester. It will be cold by December.

There are many fun and interesting things to do on campus. Below are links to just a few of them.

Things to do on campus

Join Hoofers. The Wisconsin Hoofers is one of the largest University outdoor recreation programs in the United States. Their clubs offer training and participation in sports such as rock climbing, horseback riding, sailing, SCUBA, skiing, and snowboarding.

Explore the Memorial Union. This is the heart of campus, offering a coffee shop, delis, art galleries, and more. New events are constantly being scheduled in film, music, theater, art, and lecture series. The union also runs numerous mini-courses on wide ranging subjects including pottery, dance, and painting. Check out Union South, which features a theater, restaurants, and event spaces.

Rent outdoor equipment. This includes tents, sleeping bags, skis, canoes, boats, volleyballs, and more for your recreational fun.

Stay informed. UW-Madison has two daily student newspapers: The Daily Cardinal and The Badger Herald. Reading these will not only help your English skills but also tell you about the best restaurants in town and keep you up to date on current events around the campus.

Madison is the vibrant cultural and political center of the state of Wisconsin. The city has been consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States (ranking #1 in 1996).

Along with one of the premier comprehensive universities in the world, Madison is home to the Wisconsin state government. The capitol building is open daily with free tours available to the public.

Things to do in Madison:

The University of Wisconsin offers a number of programs to support students.

The International Students Services Office (ISS) can answer your visa questions.

The Division of Housing provides various housing options.

You can apply for health insurance at SHIP and learn about University Health Services (UHS).

See the UW-Madison Student Services website for more information.