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Eoins' Chicago J1 Experience

Eoin spent the summer working in Chicago, before travelling to New York, Philadelphia & Washington DC.

Like every other J1-Bound student, I wanted to spend my summer in San Diego, but it quickly became obvious that wasn’t going to be possible for me or my friend I was travelling with. We cycled through potential destinations, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and eventually decided that Chicago was the way to go. From day one, we could see we made the right choice.

Chicago in my opinion is the perfect J1 City. It has the Big City skylines for the concrete jungle feel and loads of beaches lining Lake Michigan for the beach vibes. It’s the perfect hybrid of New York and California. Stepping off the CTA Blue Line for the first time on our way to our hostel we were greeted by the impressively tall Willis Tower (or Sears Tower as the locals still call it), the second-tallest building in the USA. That first sighting set the tone for the kind of trip we were going to have.

Chicago in my opinion is the perfect J1 City. It has the Big City skylines for the concrete jungle feel and loads of beaches lining Lake Michigan for the beach vibes. It’s the perfect hybrid of New York and California. Stepping off the CTA Blue Line for the first time on our way to our hostel we were greeted by the impressively tall Willis Tower (or Sears Tower as the locals still call it), the second-tallest building in the USA. That first sighting set the tone for the kind of trip we were going to have.

It wasn’t long before we got sorted with accommodation just a few stops south of the City Centre, and then we got started with working. I worked with a catering company that took me all across the city at a number of different events, such as a buffet attendant at the Field Museum, rooftop parties at the East Bank Club, beverage running at Arlington Race Track and food running in the VIP Tent at Lollapalooza. This was the highlight of my summer. I worked three out of the four days and got free access to the festival where I saw acts such as The Coronas, The Weeknd, Arctic Monkeys, Khalid, James Bay, Rex Orange County and more. I got the full festival experience for free, and it meant I had no problem with missing out on Electric Picnic a few weeks later!

I found myself with quite a bit of spare time in between shifts, and I made sure to make full use of it. I was blessed that a lot of my friends from college had also travelled to Chicago, and along with the new people I met along the way we had no shortage of people to explore with. We took in the sights from the Willis Tower Skydeck, we explored the Chicago River Walk, watched the fireworks at Navy Pier, experienced an authentic 4th July celebration in Grant Park, had a gawk at the animals at the free Lincoln Park Zoo and supported the Chicago White Sox in victory and (mostly) defeat at the amazing Guaranteed Rate Field.

By far my favourite activity was sitting amongst Chicago’s wealthy and looking totally out of place in the Signature Lounge on the 94th floor of the Hancock Centre where we dined on Duck Nachos and drank $10 bottles of our favourite Chicago beer, for cultural reasons. I’m reliably informed that the Women’s bathroom in the Hancock Centre provides the best views of the city, while the Men’s bathroom, doesn’t.

Like everyone else we spent our last few weeks travelling, touring the East Coast hitting spots like New York, where I linked up with relatives I hadn’t seen in over twelve years, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. It was incredible to see New York’s landmarks that I’d seen so many times on TV in person, like the Empire State Building, Times Square, The World Trade Centre Memorial and Central Park, to try an authentic Philly Cheesesteak and see the Rocky Steps, and see the White House, Washington Monument and all the Museums. The only aspect of traveling that I didn’t enjoy was the actual travelling itself. Eager to save money, we travelled by bus and had to endure an 18-hour journey from Chicago to New York, and a 22(!) hour journey from Washington D.C back to Chicago. It may not be the most comfortable experience, but it does save you some money, and you’ll see plenty of fields along the way, so it’ll feel just like home.

I knew that this summer would be the best of my life, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I actually enjoyed it. I cannot recommend Chicago enough to anyone planning a J1. It has everything you could possible need from a J1 destination. We had locals telling us that they’ve been in Chicago for over 40 years and still hadn’t seen everything, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied for the summer! The J1 will be the best summer of your life, and Chicago is a great city to spend it in.

Read more blogs: Laura's J1 in Newport, Rhode IslandMike's J1 Summer In ChicagoRebecca's New York J1 ExperienceMark's J1 Summer Of Sport In ChicagoCara's Ocean City J1 Summer5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your J1 ExperienceHow To Source Your Own J1 JobKate's Boston J1 SummerCiara's Long Beach J1 Experience.

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