I already miss Chicago so much it hurts. This internship was an experience of a lifetime. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that the summer is coming to an end and, thereby, this incredible internship with it. My latest motto is to be happy it happened opposed to sad that it is over. We shall see if I can keep this outlook.
So why exactly was this internship life-altering?
I am a big fan of lists, so in order to reflect on this experience I will do so by composing a detailed pro-con list…
- The people – Everyone that I met this summer, from my roommates to my coworkers to the strangers on the subway who decided to spark up conversation with me and so on, were some of the most amazing people that I have encountered. My roommates quickly became known as some of my best friends (special shout-out to Roohi and Aly who introduced me to Ghareeb Nawaz, the best (and most affordable) Indian restaurant known to man *see photo below of me representing U of M at my last Indian meal in Chi Town*), my coworkers (mainly my supervisors Jaya and Samantha) became my closest and strongest allies–always offering their hand to help me grow and learn about the organization and industry as much as possible, my fellow interns (Chelsea and Anna) never failed to lighten the mood and make me laugh at lunch every single day as well as simply being my partners in crime to ensuring we all were succeeding at our positions, and some of those random strangers simply smiled my way to brighten my day and others (like the priest and yoga instructor) asked me about myself with the most genuine curiosity, offering life advice, encouragement, and words of wisdom. All of these people made Chicago feel like home opposed to a strange, huge, new city in which I knew not a soul.
- Open Books – This organization provided me with the best possible internship I could have ever imagined. They assigned individual and group projects as most internships do but they did so in such a way that encouraged creative expression, freedom. At every turn I was presented a challenge and given the tools to overcome it without being told explicit instructions. First, it was redesigning and further developing the online Reading Buddies library system. Then, it was creating captivating lesson plans for students ranging in age from 8-18. Then came finding fundraising ideas for Team Bookin’ It, a group of coworkers (including myself) who were running in the Chicago 5k, 10k, and half-marathons. In between all of this there were ‘Think Tanks’ to be lead, administrative work to be done, interviews with nonprofit founders to be had, and so on. Every day was something new, and the variety of this setting mixed with the incessant encouragement and support of everyone in the office made my ideas feel heard and important. There was always constructive criticism being offered, and I could see the growth within myself from day to day. I genuinely learned something, a lot of things, each and every day.
- Chicago – This city is something else. I lucked out with my housing situation, ending up finding a sublet offer on Facebook with some Loyola students. The room was affordable given my scholarship budget, and the girls seemed nice. I signed without ever seeing the place. When I drove up, my jaw dropped. I was less than a block away from the beach, the lake so close I could always sense it, could always feel the cool breeze coming my way. I spend almost every afternoon after work doing yoga out on the dock, and I saw the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of my life thus far. I also biked to work half of the time, finding that the ride along the lakefront path was pure bliss. The skyline always in sight, with the water beside me. What a way to wake up.
- Chicago- I have to follow that last point with the fact that I discovered I do not think I am a city person. The part of the city that I loved the most was the lake, which is not really the biggest part of it. When I was downtown I found the hustle and bustle to sometimes make me anxious. All of the smells were similarly overwhelming. Not to mention, some of the people on the subway at night did harass me and it is not something to be taken lightly. However, I learned to walk with confidence, self-assurance, and a general demeanor intended to attract only those with good intentions. Public transit was not my favorite thing, but learning to navigate it so quickly (and fairly effortlessly) did leave me with newfound confidence in my street-smart-competency.
- Theft- Unfortunately my phone got stolen at a Starbucks not too far from my apartment. It was of course my fault for leaving it unattended, though it was only a few mere minutes. Needless to say I learned my lesson.
- Pokemon Go – I have intense feelings against Pokemon Go. As soon as it came out, my favorite spot in the whole city (the dock just a few blocks from my apartment where I would always do yoga and swim) got overtaken by zombies staring at their phone with the aims of catching rare Pokemon. One day I walked out, and there were easily 300+ people. I was shocked. It never ceased. Every day after there were just as many people at almost all times, though increasing in the evening. I will admit there are benefits to the game, but what I saw scared me. People were missing out on the beautiful scenery around them by staring at screens instead, and the peaceful quiet was overtaken by never-ending chatter (and sometimes even screams and shouts). The icing on the cake, however, was that this was such a hotspot because of the water (the lake) and the grasslands (which turned out to be a protected wildlife park). The latter began being stomped all over, slowly killing an endangered species of plant. It got so bad that I started hearing announcements on the radio that there would be repercussions for those who did not stay on the trails. I even started seeing activists out trying to patrol. It simply made me sad to see an area that was once so cherished by so many nature lovers, families, runners, bikers, and so on taken over by people who did not seem to appreciate what the area had to offer outside of the video game.
At bottom, the pros far outweighed the cons. Not a day went by where I did not feel blessed to be where I was. It was a challenge getting acclimated at first, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Again, I cannot thank the scholarship committee enough. I hope that all of the rest of you had amazing experiences as well, and I cannot wait to read about them! I am off to do so now.