This past spring break, my family and I embarked on a vacation to Chicago. Our main intention was to visit the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, so that I could get a feeling for the location and atmosphere of some of the colleges that I am applying to in the fall. These institutions were both a part of the city and in their own campus bubble. To be able to study at either school would be incredible, not only because of their exceptional instruction, but also the amazing opportunities that are offered in the city of Chicago.
As our Southwest flight descended into Midway Airport, we noticed that the ground was covered in a thin layer of white snow. This surprised us because we were there in the middle of April, and the warmest it ever got during the entire trip was the mid 50’s. However, our hometown of Greenville stayed in the upper 60’s. Still, the snow barely put a damper on our vacation.
We braved the cold to catch buses and L trains across the city to destinations ranging from Hyde Park for the University of Chicago, to Wrigley Field, and the Art Institute of Chicago. I particularly enjoyed the art museum because of my interest in art history. It was surreal to be standing face-to-face with paintings by van Gogh, and Monet, and the centerpieces of the museum, Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte. My interest in architecture was fed by our walking tour of the city’s historic buildings through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Highlights included the simple, but unique structure of the Monadnock and the decorative marble and gold detail in the Rookery building.
The food in Chicago was also filled to the brim with history and culture. Each road had an insurmountable array of options for any palate. Every place that we ate was amazing, from the ethnic cafeteria food at the University of Chicago to the sandwiches as big as my head at Bat 17 in Evanston, Illinois. Gino’s East was our destination for classic Chicago pizza, and Portillo’s fulfilled our desire for quintessential Chicago hotdogs and sausages.
Shopping was not a priority on this trip, but we did have a chance to peruse what high-end stores on Michigan Avenue had to offer. Standing under the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park, I realized that I had fallen in love with the city and its rich history. Simple walks through the Navy Pier, down Michigan Avenue or along Lake Michigan were breathtaking. This was due to not only views of the lake, river or awe-inspiring architectural landmarks, like the Trump Tower or the Willis Tower, but also from the culture that emanates from every crack in the sidewalk.
My family has visited New York and Philadelphia, where life is fast-paced and hectic, and the buildings menacingly tower over you, but Chicago was something completely different. Nature was incorporated into the plan of the metropolis, not just confined to a park at the center of the city. Streets were wider and people more friendly. The vibe in Chicago was pleasant and enjoyable, even though the wind from the lake chilled us to our cores.
There were many places that we did not have time to explore while in Chicago, including the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, but if I do get accepted to one of the local universities, the city will be at my fingertips to discover hidden gems and major landmarks.
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