Reporting from the Coldest Place on the Earth

Saturday officially marked the third week that I have been in Chicago. It seems like I’ve been here for so much longer than that already! As a small town girl, I imagined the transition to go much less smoothly, but public transit and getting around the city has been intuitive and fun. All the Chicago Semester students have settled into their schedules and internships, as well as I have!

I am at Mercy Hospital, which is just southeast of Chinatown (one of my favorite neighborhoods). My placement is in the operating room (OR), pre- and post-operating care units, and the recovery room. So far, I’ve only spent time in the operating room, but I am thoroughly enjoying every case in which I’ve watched and helped. A unique challenge has been that the OR’s atmosphere and nursing expectations are different to a regular hospital unit. There a technical skills and instruments I have never seen before. Now that it’s the third week in the OR, I’m finally getting used to the roles that are expected of me, multitasking well, and the unique oddities of the OR. I am learning so much and anticipate using these lessons in my future nursing career.

The fact that my internship has come into full-swing has definitely not hindered my adventurous spirit. From spontaneous taco nights to swing dancing, I have fallen in love with all the exciting events that happen daily in the city, which reflect it’s unique history. Even though I’ve been *social* swing dancing for almost three years now, it felt like I had been dancing for three months. The style and energy was high above my technical level, and I anticipate getting much better in my dancing skills. Here’s a video of these talented dancers. I mean, what was I supposed to expect of one of the cities where blues/jazz originated?

I attended a play at Court Theatre, “Photograph 51”, about Rosalind Franklin. Commonly known for their discoveries about the characteristics of DNA, Watson and Crick owe the credit to their concept of DNA’s double helix to Franklin’s x-ray images of DNA, who is far less-popularly known. The story was captivating, dynamic, and full of emotion. What’s really cool about the Chicago Semester is that they offer free art events for the students every week. From the Art Institute to operas, I plan to go to as many as I can! There’s not many times in life where you get to go to free events that showcase Chicago’s diverse culture and history.

Most of my hours and days off have been spent exploring random parts of the city. Google has been a beautiful tool with which I’ve discovered interesting venues with fantastic events. From free arcade games to Lakeshore runs to the Navy Pier, I continue to settle in my internship, growing and learning and enjoying the city more than I would’ve imagined.

My favorite part of the city is how the people are all so connected. Somehow we live separate lives that converge at random points in time. I like to think of them as magic moments in which two strangers can somehow connect at a pre-destined time. I had to leave exactly 2 minutes after my shift ended to meet Ron, the 90-year old Chinese man, on the subway. After moving here in the late 40s, he bought a house in a north Chicago neighborhood and has since lived there. This short 15 minute conversation reminded me of how small I am in the grand scheme of life (a good reminder).

Overall, the past few weeks have been filled with small victories: conquering public transit, exploring a new city, and braving -50 degree weather, which made life very interesting and full of layers. Weird to think that I was in the coldest place in the world last Wednesday. Thankfully, I was bundled up inside with a cup of hot tea and fuzzy socks. Thankfully, the turn-around of 50 degree weather (yes, you read that right. We had a 100-degree difference in three day’s span) has allowed my adventurous spirit to re-emerge.

My goal for the next couple weeks? Continue learning at my internship (Gosh, it’s felt weird to be so young in my workplace). Hear more people’s stories. Find new ways to be uncomfortable (’cause that’s how humans grow to be better humans). Keep an open mind to new experiences that come spontaneously. Embrace city life.

The Windy City Welcome

Hello from the Windy City!

It’s almost a week in the city, and I am already absolutely in love with all of the experiences that the Chicago has to offer.  Most of last weekend was filled with orientation sessions that help us understand how to live in the city, but we’ve already begun to explore the culture of the neighborhood. After my family and best friend helped me move in, we grabbed lunch at a restaurant, called Wow Bao.

       

None of us ordered bao, which are steamed buns filled with pork (usually), but the rice bowls that we did order were so tasty! Instead of the traditional counter and register to buy food, customers order on a computer and the food appears in the pods with your name. It was a “Welcome to the future” for us if anything and a great first meal in the city.

My Roommates (left to right) Shannon & Molly

Saturday and Sunday were filled mostly with unpacking and making the apartment homey, especially since we’re living here for the next three and a half months. Chicago Semester is very committed to ensure that its students are well-acquainted with how life in the city works; this includes learning about public transportation, safety in the city, networking, shopping, and community involvement. The program provided several session in which we learned about these various topics. Another important value of the program is that the students embrace the vast cultural diversity that is found throughout Chicago and its over 200 neighborhoods. The city is widely-known as a place where immigrants can find a fresh start. To get a taste of the culture, all the students went to a different part of the city for deserts for the first night of orientation. I went to the neighborhood of Pilsen to Panadaria Nuevo León. The patisserie was brimmed with various deserts whose names I had absolutely no clue but were falling apart in delicious goodness. We even got the baker (after all of us urging her to) to take a picture with us!

            

The following day, several different groups visited different parts of the city for lunch and a short introduction to the people that lived there. I visited Little India (which is almost all the way north edge of the city), where we had the most delicious food.

 Would you believe all this food (for 8 people) cost less than $50?!

Foods pictured: butter chicken, lentil curry, tika chicken, chapati and naan breads, potato curry, basmati rice, beef and bean somoas, and a beef dish.

I had had Indian food before, but this was the most to-die-for that I’ve ever had. Needless to say, it was worth the hour commute from our apartment complex.

After learning about the various neighborhoods, my roommates and I began mapping our semester bucket list. Our first adventure was to Millennium Park and Greek Town. Following the sage advice of the Chicago Semester faculty, we carefully mapped our route. Even though I’d been to Chicago multiple times, my family and I had only visited Chinatown together, because of my Chinese heritage. So, I resigned to do the most tourist-y thing: visit the Bean. The only thing I learned from the experience? The Bean is super dirty.

Greek Town is about a 20-minute walk from our apartment in the Gold Coast neighborhood, and it is full of restaurants (because Greek food is the amazing). Molly, Shannon, and I got sandwiches and cannolis that were so tasty!

The day was windy, cloudy, and cold, but the view was well-worth the aching feet and numb faces. We walked around and eventually landed at a coffee shop called Meddle Dark Matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday was the first day of internship for most of the students. Fortunately, Shannon and I don’t start until next week, and Molly’s first day started late. So, we accompanied her to Andersonville, where she works at their chamber of commerce. We explored the Swedish neighborhood until she had to leave for work. For all the neighborhoods I’ve visited so far, it’s been fairly easy to see what the people value and the center(s) of their culture.

Less than a week in, and I’ve only scratched a piece of the entire surface of the city, but I’m well on my way. Even though I’ve already gotten myself lost twice, I’m becoming more comfortable with riding public transit and routing my destinations better. My first day of internship is on Monday, and I anticipate nestling into a routine of a set schedule mixed with bouts spontaneity.