Episode 3 of Annie Explores Chicago

Hello, friends!

Following along the journey of a nursing student continues. On today’s episode of Annie survives Chicago, we will see a short, Asian young lady attempting to blot away her worries with beautiful conservatories, visits by her best friend, lunar new year celebrations, and bubble tea. Don’t be fooled by her long work days; she continues to live her life to the fullest.

All joking aside, the last few weeks have been an excellent balance between work, home duties, cooking (because food is paramount), and exploring new parts of the city. Although I feel like I will say that in every post, there truly is something new in the city every time I step foot out of my apartment. The streets are filled with evidence of rich culture and history of the city’s people. I cannot believe that Saturday marks six weeks since I’ve moved to Chicago. I’ve settled into my routine (and, of course, mixing it up every now and then) and continue to figure out the teeter-totter of balancing adult-like responsibilities while still adventuring in the city.

When my friend visited from home, we had planned our entire weekend to the “t”. And, how fortunate was it that she came the weekend of National Pizza Day. That Saturday, we went to a Puerto Rican restaurant called Nellie’s Restaurant and ate their breakfast special: omelet with chorizo and veggies topped with plantains, french white toast, and coconut oatmeal. All were delicious! I was initially apprehensive about the coconut oatmeal, but it ended up tasting like cinnamon rice pudding.

After we thoroughly stuffed our hungry (which quickly turned to not-so-hungry) stomachs, we scurried over to Garfield Park Conservatory. I can’t say much more about it other than it was breathtaking. I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Plants are pretty.

The next day was filled with Chinese New Year celebrations! After church, we decided to grab lunch in Chinatown at a Cantonese restaurant. It’s pretty typical to order several entrees and the entire party share. The custom is fairly common in Asian countries. Among the entrees we ordered, there was egg drop soup, vegetarian egg rolls, Mongolian beef, curry chicken, orange chicken, and chicken fried rice.


One of my (and everyone else in China’s) favorite part about the lunar new year is the red envelopes. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, red envelopes are what kids receive for Chinese New Year and have money inside (I’m sure you can now see why it’s everyone’s most anticipated part of the holiday). There was a parade, which we ended up missing because we thought it would last at least an hour. By the time we finished eating, the parade had just finished…so sad. We at least got to see the countdown. After the countdown was finished, we went to buy rolled ice-cream and bubble tea. Weekends always fly by quickly, but I’m thankful for the fun I pack into them.

On the internship side of my week, I’ve been slowly growing comfortable in the operating room (OR) both circulating and scrubbing in on cases. There are so many nuances and multitasking skills needed in the OR that can only be gained from experience in the OR. I’m so incredibly thankful for the nurses and surgical technicians who have been patient enough to take the time to teach me how to open surgical instruments, teach me the names of instruments, and the specifics of how to scrub and circulate. I’ve learned so much about surgical services and I continue to analyze my weaknesses and grow from my mistakes. I appreciate how the nurses are able to point out my mistakes and forgive them even more easily. I’ve always been a believer that learning from your mistakes is the best way to grow.

One of the fanciest events that I’ve attended thus far is the opera, Elektra! It was so fun this past Friday to dress up in fancy attire and listen to really talented people paint a beautiful ancient story with their voices. It captured the rawness of humanity and vulnerability in its true form.

Overall, I’m still finding myself in each part of the city and simply enjoying the ride. Bonus material: here are some cool murals I’ve found around the city. Ta-ta for now!

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.

A Week in the Life of a Newberry Seminar Student in Chicago

What is the typical week of a Newberry Seminar student like?


Classes ran on a MWF schedule at the beginning of the semester. As the semester continued, the seminar tapered off. Encouraged to begin their individual research, students explored the Newberry Library. The Newberry staff worked right alongside each of the 16 students. Individual attention and interest from the staff encouraged each researcher to delve into unique areas of study.

Georgia Armitage (pictured in the back and center), developed one of the more unique projects this semester. Interested in architecture, She devised an in-depth case study on First Presbyterian Church of Chicago, Illinois. She evaluated the church’s explicit use of nature within the frame of Neo-Gothic architecture.

With plenty of one-on-one guidance from our seminar professors, Bill and Eric, projects like Georgia’s thrived. When we weren’t in class on Monday’s, our Tuesday’s were spent exploring the city of Chicago.


Available daily, Chicago runs free events all around the city. From winning free prizes in marketing campaigns in Millennium Park to strolling through the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoo Light Festival, we remained constantly entertained.

When Tuesday’s adventures would come to a close, Wednesday led us back to the library. Wednesday nights my roommates and I would bake. A lot.


After a long day at the library, carbs were a must. My roommates and I often bonded over food. A recurring delight of ours? Pretzels. With limited diets, homemade pretzels were among the few things we could all eat. That being said, our pretzels did not disappoint!

On Thursday’s we would present our research process to Newberry and the Chicago public.



Our professors–exceedingly present in our research–would schedule time for the class to present their research findings. Presenting throughout the semester kept us in line. Although the checkpoints were few, we were expected to present substantial work. Personally, my public speaking skills drastically improved.


Alas! The weekend has arrived. One of my most favorite times, and below, you can see why!

The Weekend

I know many will say that Friday is not a part of the weekend. But with this off-campus semester, you made your own schedule. Boy, was I thankful for that! On the weekends, we could explore Chicago with complete freedom. From eating at hole-in-the-wall breakfast places to eating at high-end sushi restaurants, I was well fed!





My friends doubled as my adventure team! Walking around Chicago was one thing, but with our free public transit passes, the possibilities were endless. But, there were times where we just wanted to stay in the apartment. Relaxing in Canterbury Court Apartments was easy to do. The already fully-furnished apartments were comfortable and became a second home to me!




This semester was extremely difficult. I cannot express that enough. The intensive seminar and independent research study left you wary at times. But the end results were worth the long, tireless hours. I would not have traded this semester at the Newberry Seminar for anything. I will always cherish the people I met and valuable skills I learned.

Thank you, Chicago.

For When You’re in Chicago…

Since each of my previous blog posts  have enticed you so, I am sure you are curious on some must-see sights and things to do here in Chicago! Below, you will find pictures—taken by yours truly—accompanied by my experience at each location. These have to be a few of my most favorite places here in Chicago.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park, arguably the prettiest park of Chicago, has a lot to offer. On any given day you will see runners, bikers, and especially vendors out here! It is a great way to get into nature while still being in the city. Along the walking paths there is a restaurant called The Patio and plenty of art pieces to admire! My favorite part about Lincoln Park? Several paths lead you to the beach!

Broken English Taco Pub, Old Town. If you are looking for a super modern and fun place eat tacos, Broken English is the place for you. Just a hop and a skip from the Gold Coast, this restaurant has a super speedy service, lively Hispanic music, and great authentic Mexican-food. If you are looking for a good deal, until 7 pm, most nights you can grab $2 tacos!

Mural, Old Town. There are beautiful murals and graffiti all throughout Chicago. But I have to say, Old Town has some of the prettiest on the sides of their buildings. If you are ever free on a Sunday afternoon, visit Old Town for a quiet and beautiful walk through a small town in a big city.

Oops, did I make you hungry for some exploring?


Because Chicago has a lot to offer.

Growing in Faith and Understanding.

Wow, I am already finished with week 7 of my semester off-campus. I knew that I would grow in many ways, but these five were not what I expected.

Research is hard.  

Where do I even begin here. Research is something I always have found interesting. I like learning things I didn’t know before; but, there are so many  types of research intended to bring subjects to light in different ways. Humanities research, as my professor this semester would say, is, “obsessed with the past. Humanities looks at the impact of something at its time, and only its time.” That struck me to my core. Since being in Chicago, I have learned that Humanities research, although incredibly fascinating, is not where I want to spend my time—not entirely, anyways. Although this may be a difficult “pill to swallow,” I am thankful I learned this about myself now, rather than later.

Pasta DOES get boring after a week of eating it. (?!)

Go out, people! I am serious, you are only off campus in this cool city/town/place once. I spent a week straight eating pasta for dinner every night. “Who could get sick of pasta?” you might ask. I am telling you, everyone could. Eating out only becomes expensive and unhealthy if you are not careful. Eating in can be just as unhealthy and expensive! I have made many a microwaved meal, and I am up for a home-cooked meal. Mom? Dad? Where are you in your infinite cooking wisdom?

Branching out is necessary.

This week I have been so blessed to reach out to other students in my program. The first couple weeks I had become close with my roommates, but only my roommates! That being said, I wanted to get to know the other students on the program. On a Monday, in the midst of intense studying, a group of us took a look around the room. Nobody wanted to be reading another page of their book. Someone sighed, “I just want a donut.” No wiser words have been spoken in that library! Immediately a group of us got together and ventured out into Chicago. We stumbled upon a quaint donut shop named, Glazed and Infused. If I hadn’t branched out, I would have missed out on some cool conversation with some people who are now becoming good friends of mine. I could explain to you the joys of this delicious donut, but I would rather show you.

God works in mysterious, mysterious ways.

This is probably the most important thing, that I am still learning about! I have loved this program in how it has brought me closer to God. My reliance on Him has grown stronger every day. I find it important to dedicate my time, when I have it, to digging into His Word. Through my time exploring different devotionals, I have come to understand the Bible in a new light, and God’s Love in a deeper way.

Ask me about my off-campus experience,

and I will tell you that it has been eye-opening in the best way possible.