Valentine Van Der Slikke
Our IGS students spent their last week at Seagull Institute creating videos that encapsulate their Chicago experiences. We will miss them and the stories they've shared with us!
Valentine Van Der Slikke
I’m going to miss my American teachers.
We are getting close to our departure date. Chicago has been really fun so far. I’m glad we could stay long enough to see what the American lifestyle is like. I do have to say that I miss France—specifically the food and my friends.
This week went by pretty quickly. Since we’re almost finished with the program, a lot of our final projects are coming to an end. I’ve never spent so much time working on presentations before. I’m happy to do it because I’ve been able to practice and improve my speaking skills a lot here.
This week some of my presentations went well and others not so much. I’m still learning. I will definitely miss my American teachers because they are quite different from most of my French teachers. I guess the American culture makes the dynamics between teachers and students different, which is great. Our teachers’ kindness and enthusiasm really motivated me. I loved how they taught us through storytelling and the authenticity and involvement they showed. I hope we showed our teachers at Seagull Institute that we really enjoyed learning with them.
On Thursday we visited the LocalLux offices and sat down to chat with Randy, the company’s CEO. He was very cool and we had a great time. We talked a lot about entrepreneurship and passion. He also shared some tips with us for our future. We also met with Bryan, Bernard, and a few other interns from I.C. Stars. They are looking to grow in the technology industry with website and app projects. It was very interesting talking with them. We ordered pizza at Lou Malnati’s and had lunch together. I had to mention the pizza—it was delicious!
Everyone who comes to Chicago should go to a Bulls game.
Last Monday I went to see a basketball game at the United Center with several of my friends. The Chicago Bulls were playing against the Charlotte Hornets.
I must say that going to a basketball game was something I’d really wanted to do before returning to France. It’s typical of American culture but also something I’d never done before in my life. Even in France I’d never attended a big event like a sporting match or a concert.
I’m really glad that I went! Just arriving in the stands was exciting because they were so huge and impressive. We arrived during the pregame show and that was something I had never seen in person.
You didn’t need to be at the front of the crowd to enjoy the show. The atmosphere all around us was great and the audience was really excited and loud. There were several musical shows, games, and dances all throughout the match.
It really was a huge spectacle; you could tell a lot of preparation and organization went into it. Going to a Bulls game is something I recommend to all foreigners who come to Chicago. The experience will only give you good memories.
And the Bulls won!
Valentine Van Der Slikke
Time has gone by so fast.
Last weekend I went to New York for a friend’s birthday. It took me 18 hours to get there because my flight got canceled due to the snow in New York. Then my second flight got delayed. I ended up making friends in the waiting area and on the plane, which was cool. It really was an adventure, but my weekend in New York was so much fun that it was worth the 18 hours it took to get there.
This week went by really fast. I can’t believe I’m leaving Chicago in a week. On Thursday we visited Randy at his company, LocalLux. His company is like a big department store for local fashion—all on one website.
We talked about his company, as well as the program Randy started. He holds a 16-week program to help people change their careers. We met three people actually participating in the program now, and they all explained what they were working on and what their future plans were. They were all very helpful and gave us advice about our future. I loved the fact that they were really down to earth and so willing to help. It was a great visit.
This weekend is my last full weekend in Chicago and I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can. And next week will be my last blog post! Time’s gone by so fast!
We were all happy to experience an important part of American culture.
Unfortunately, we’re nearing our last few days here in Chicago. Personally I feel really sad to be leaving this amazing city. The cold weather is back, but the sun is still shining and it’s still pleasant. I love it!
Chris, Mathieu, my French roommate Marjorie, and I really wanted to go to a Chicago Bulls game because it’s such an American thing to do. We figured we couldn’t leave Chicago without going to a basketball game, so we bought our tickets to see the Bulls vs. Hornets.
On Monday night we met up after class and headed to the United Center. The place was huge and smelled like fast food! Before the game started, we walked around looking at everything. There were numerous souvenir shops selling Bulls and NBA merchandise, lots of concession stands selling food, and a beer store. People seemed really happy to be there. Some were tourists like us, but the United Center was full of Americans who came to enjoy the game with family and friends.
Around 7 PM, we found our seats and waited for the game to start. The pregame show was crazy. When you arrive in this huge place with the lights and music, the only thing you can think is “Wahoo, it’s real! Welcome to the U.S.!” Basketball is important in Chicago—I mean, who hasn’t heard of the Bulls? The fans around us were crazy, but in a good way. Everyone was just so happy.
After the pregame show, the game started and you could feel the mood shift—people were commenting and really interacting with what was going on in the game. There were a lot of pauses with small performances happening in between—cheerleaders, a hip-hop group, and a lot of different mini games. The funniest things were the selfie cam and kiss cam, where they would catch people and put their images up on the big screen. I’ve seen that on TV before and found it funny, but when it’s in person it’s even funnier.
When the game ended, the Bulls had won with 98 points. I remember the exact score because we were waiting for them to score two more points so we could all receive a free Big Mac. In Chicago, if you attend a game where the Bulls win with 100 points or more, McDonald’s will give you a free Big Mac. I think that’s ingenious.
We were all really happy to go to the game and experience something that’s an important part of American culture.
It was the best company visit we’ve had in Chicago.
This Thursday we visited 1871, a collaborative space and incubator in the city of Chicago.
We met with four people who work there and we all introduced ourselves. The way they went about it was interesting because they didn’t actually introduce themselves—rather, each of them introduced another member of their group. It was a cool and interesting idea.
Several of the people at 1871 have plans to create a smartphone app. They all talked about their experiences, how they work, and what their projects were like. I was able to ask several questions, because I also want to create an app someday. They answered my questions and taught me several things that I didn’t yet know about the domain. It was very interesting to meet people who have the same aspirations as myself and work in a field I want to explore.
We took a tour of the offices, met the people who work there, and ate pizza for lunch. After that, we exchanged contact information through business cards and LinkedIn.
For me, it was probably the best company visit we’ve had in Chicago. I was really interested in what they were doing and it made me want to work hard to progress in my professional projects.
I think I could be a little more aware of reality.
This week we volunteered at The Chicago Help Initiative and assisted in distributing food to the homeless. When I arrived, I felt quite uncomfortable because I don’t usually find myself surrounded by so many people less fortunate than I am.
However, the people who were there to help were very welcoming and nice, and when I saw the amount of food they had gathered I was pretty impressed. There was meat, salad, fruit, and all kinds of good things. The homeless people could take a bag of food to go or stay for dinner. In addition, there were several other people there to help them. There was a doctor there to verify their health, and people there to try to find them odd jobs and housing.
Everything was very well organized and set up to help the homeless in the best way possible. I found it all very touching, but what was the most touching was seeing the big smiles on the homeless people’s faces. They were very happy to be there and very thankful for all that was being done to help them. It was a pleasure to see and an eye-opening experience. I think I could be a little more aware of reality.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
It’s great to feel like you’re helping people and the community.
This week was great. On Monday we volunteered to help make invitations for a gala. The weather was beautiful and it really felt like summer. On Wednesday we did something I really enjoyed; we served food to homeless people at a church as part of the Chicago Help Initiative. It was really interesting. The staff was so nice to us and they were all smiling and happy to be there.
We served dinner to 130 people. First, I sorted through some boxes of food with Ana and Mathieu, and afterwards we served coffee at each table. Then we each had a task to do at the buffet. I helped serve the bread with Flavien. Everybody was really nice. They all said thank you and the atmosphere was joyful.
I’ve never done anything like that in Paris, but when I go back home I might try to do it. It’s great to feel like you’re helping someone and your community. It really brings joy and happiness to everybody, both the givers and the receivers.
On Thursday, we volunteered at CEM and made some name tags. After that we went to Chinatown with Flavien. Even though there aren’t many shops there, we still had a lot of fun. We went in every store and while we were inside of them we all felt like we were in China.
This weekend I am meeting a friend in New York. I am really excited to go!
Last week our teacher took us out for a fun night in Chicago.
Last week our teacher Sharon invited us to a very good Mediterranean restaurant. We met her husband and friends there, who are all really funny and friendly. We shared all kinds of great dishes and the cocktails were excellent.
Once we finished eating, we went to Hyde Park to listen to live music inside a bar. First we listened to a group of very cool and talented rappers. Then a jazz group got onstage. I’m not really a fan of jazz but seeing it played live was really interesting.
After that we went to a restaurant on the first floor of the bar for dessert and coffee. Then Sharon escorted us home to the Loop even though she lives right next to Hyde Park. It was very nice of her. She’s the best teacher ever and we had a fun night!
It was a wonderful experience to be able to help people who need it.
On Monday of this week we volunteered to help make invitations for the Chicago Innovation Awards Un-Gala. We prepared invitations in an office north from where we live. That day was very warm. It was really nice because it felt like summertime when you can walk outside in a T-shirt. We also ate pizza with the people we met in the office. It was a nice time since I love pizza.
On Wednesday we volunteered at the Chicago Help Initiative and served food to homeless people. It was great to help. Flavien and I served coffee first. Then we helped give people meals. It was a great place for homeless people to be because they also received medical attention and advice from people to help get them back on their feet. They were very grateful. It was a wonderful experience to be able to help them out in that way.
You can tell Chicago is a beautiful city, even from the sky.
It’s our last couple of weeks in Chicago and I’m starting to feel sad because I know the end of this trip is coming soon. The weather has been great lately, perfect for enjoying our last moments here.
Today I went with my friends Chris and Mathieu to the Skydeck at Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. It’s a Chicago icon and one of the tallest buildings in the world. There were a lot of people there—mostly American and foreign tourists. The views of the city were amazing. Up there you can see the whole city, take it all in, and enjoy.
You can tell Chicago is a beautiful city, even from the sky. Looking down, I realized again that the architecture and everything here in America is huge and different. Even though in Paris our architecture is amazing, and our wonderful Haussmannian buildings add charm to our city, it’s always cool to see something different. That’s why I really love traveling.
Here in Chicago, you can walk only a few minutes from the tall buildings downtown and be at the beach! To me that’s crazy! Since the sun is back out, we’ve started to realize how different Chicago can be between seasons. Unfortunately, we are leaving before the best season starts, but I’m still happy I was able to discover this city—even during the legendary cold!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people gathered in the streets before.
This week was cheerful and happy. On Thursday our teacher Sharon took my classmates and I to the South Side of Chicago. We visited South Loop by car and went to a restaurant near Hyde Park. The food was Mediterranean, and although I was not particularly familiar with that style, it didn’t taste all that different from what I’ve been eating my whole life. It was very good and we had a great time with Sharon, her husband, and her friends. They were all really nice, cool, and funny. I think we were all happy to be there. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to have a fun time with my friends and teacher.
This week we also visited the Maker Lab at the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library with our teacher, Gillian, and one of our program coordinators, Joanne. We met Mr. Mark Anderson, the director of learning and economic advancement for the Chicago Public Library. He explained to us that the Maker Lab offers free classes to anyone who wishes to create something and print it with a 3D printer. The Chicago Public Library won a Chicago Innovation Award for the creation of the lab, and while we were there we saw many well-crafted little pieces of art that had been 3D printed.
Mr. Anderson also took us and our teacher Gillian to visit the music department of the library. I didn’t realize just how huge the library was at first, but it’s massive—both on the outside and the inside. They even have special rehearsal rooms for artists to practice their instruments. It’s pretty amazing how all of these resources are available for the people of Chicago.
We also went to Winter Garden, which was a very nice part of the library. We saw designs of what the library could have looked like. They were really awesome models. My favorite one had fountains in front and the subway was going inside and stopping at a library station. That design probably would have cost a whole lot more. It looked more futuristic.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade also took place in downtown Chicago this week. There were so many people outside. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people gathered in the streets for an event before. We had a good time and stayed outside enjoying the sun. We also saw the Chicago River dyed green. The very same river that was frozen not so long ago was green with beautiful sunshine overhead. It was a great day to be outside.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
We ate dinner with our teacher and listened to some live music.
This week went by really fast. Our new professors are wonderful and the classes are really interesting. Last night we went out with Sharon, our management teacher. She picked us up with her car and took us to a really cool Mediterranean restaurant in the South Loop. We shared appetizers and entrees. It was great.
After dinner we went to Hyde Park to listen to live music. We went to a club where two guys were onstage rapping. It was really cool. The place wasn’t packed so we could find a table and sit down. We really enjoyed the show. After the rappers finished, another group got onstage and played jazz music, which was great too.
We were all really tired by the end of the night and Sharon took us back home. Today I plan on going to the Museum of Science and Industry and probably also to the Shedd Aquarium, which I’m sure is going to be fun! The weather has been amazing here lately, so it’s the perfect time to walk around and enjoy the city. I hope it stays like this until the end of my stay!
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Chicago literally becomes a green city.
It’s sunny in Chicago! This week we’ve been enjoying our first sunny and warm days in the city. It’s so awesome and it makes us realize that Chicago really is a different city during the spring and summer time.
This weekend Chicago celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day. This day has started to become famous in some parts of France too, but nothing as huge as here. Chicago literally becomes a green city. They dye the Chicago River green, there was a parade downtown on Saturday, and everyone was wearing green clothing.
On Saturday morning we volunteered for the CEM Marathon, so we were awake early. Because of this, everyone was pretty tired but we wanted to see the river and what was happening for St. Patrick’s Day there. We stayed downtown with my friends and saw part of the parade. It was really funny and very American too. I liked it! Little kids were happy to be there and students were enjoying the day a lot. The streets and restaurants downtown were crowded with people who were enjoying the celebration and the sun.
We walked around during the afternoon and sat around the fountain to chill with my speaker and put on some music. People were really nice and some really appreciated the music. We talked with some young people and they played their music through my speaker and started to dance. We all had a lot of fun.
It was really cool to see all the things available to the people of Chicago.
On Thursday we visited the Chicago Public Library. First we took a tour of a lab where people can print 3D projects and create small objects of all shapes and sizes. It was really interesting. We could see and touch all kinds of printed objects in 3D.
We continued our tour of the library and saw that there were plenty of free computers, practice rooms, lots and lots of books, and a room dedicated to teenagers containing sofas, video game consoles, computers, a 3D printer, musical instruments, and books. It was really cool to see all the things that were available for the people of Chicago.
We also went to the top floor of the library to see The Winter Garden, which was very beautiful. We really felt as though we were outside up there.
Around noon we ate lunch at a restaurant. We had great burgers; I thought the blue cheese burger was the best.
In the afternoon we also volunteered for the CEM Shamrock Shuffle and updated their databases. It was a very sunny and nice day!
Valentine Van Der Slikke
It was nice to get away from the noisy city life.
Today my friend Anastasia and her parents invited me to go on a little tour of the state of Illinois. Ana’s parents rented a car and we drove two hours from the city to a beautiful park called the Rock State Park. We parked our car, went inside the Visitor’s Center, and talked to a really nice lady who recommended that we walk up to the highest point of the park to enjoy the view.
The ground was completely frozen—it was like we were ice skating. It was really funny just trying not to slip and fall. Finally, after walking really carefully on the ice, we made it to the top. The view was beautiful. We could see the river and we imagined how fun it would be to go swimming in the summer.
Unfortunately we didn’t see any animals, apart from some birds. Even so, it was really nice to get away from the noisy and hectic city life. At the park it was quiet and we could only hear the birds.
After admiring the view, we had a relaxing lunch and hit the road again. We passed through some little towns that were interesting to see because they don’t look at all like our towns in France. I fell asleep in the car and the next thing I knew we were already back in the city. It was a great experience!
I did some souvenir shopping in downtown Chicago.
On Friday I am taking a break from classes and returning to France for a week to see my family, friends, and girlfriend. Before leaving, I did some shopping in downtown Chicago because I wanted to bring them some souvenirs from the United States. I also took the opportunity to buy some clothes.
I spent most of my time inside two particular stores and what surprised me the most were the sellers. They were very nice and friendly. After spending several minutes talking with each of them, we ended up exchanging names and continuing to talk about everything and anything. I thought it was really great. They were really cool—full of excellent advice and good humor.
I think it’s a very good thing to be so friendly. I’m sure their pleasant natures contribute to the success of their stores.
Today I’ll tell you a story about a misunderstanding that happened to me here in Chicago.
At the beginning of our stay here, I always listened to loud music in my apartment. After a while it disturbed the neighbors and they pounded on the wall. Eventually there was a knock on my door and the receptionist told me to turn my music down. The neighbors had called downstairs to complain.
After that I decided not to listen to music for a few days. Then I tried turning it on again—this time at a much lower volume. I still heard the neighbors pounding on the wall, but I didn’t turn the music off because I thought the volume was appropriate and not too loud. The receptionist came back to my door and told me the volume was still too loud. I tried to explain that the volume was really low, but the receptionist must have thought I was trying to tell him it wasn’t me and said, “Oh no, I’m sorry. It must be the people next door.”
At the time I wasn’t able to find the right words in English to tell him that it was me who was playing the music and that the volume was very low. I felt kind of helpless. The next day we received a note from the management warning us that if it continued we would have to pay a fine.
As I was coming home from school, I decided to go see the receptionist, apologize, and explain that it was me who had been playing music when he came to see me, and that it was just a big misunderstanding.
When I told him this, the receptionist replied, “I don’t know what you mean.”
I said, “Yesterday I was playing my music too loudly and I got a warning because of that.”
He said, “I wasn’t aware of that.”
So I reminded him. “You know, you knocked on my door last night to tell me to turn it down.”
He replied, “No, I didn’t come yesterday.”
I thought he was joking. “You’re kidding! Just kidding.”
He reassured me, “No, no. I didn’t knock on your door yesterday.”
I said, “Okay, this is really weird,” and left.
A few days later when I entered my building I realized that there are actually two different receptionists who work there. They both just look very similar. I felt so stupid!
My parents came to Chicago to visit me.
This week my parents came to visit me in Chicago and I was happy to show them the city because they haven’t been here for a long time.
Friday we rented a car and drove two hours from Chicago to Rock State Park in Illinois. It was a huge park with woods, a river, and a lake. We walked around for a while and ate lunch in the lodge restaurant. The restaurant had a real American sports bar type of vibe. The park was really beautiful and so calm! It would be the perfect place to chill during the summer.
For my parents’ last night in the city, I brought them to Buddy Guy’s Legends, a famous blues club in Chicago. We went there for dinner and stayed a couple more hours to listen to the music. We had a really good time! There were two different bands that were playing.
The first one was a blues band. It was fantastic. The women who were singing were awesome and very energetic. They spread a good mood throughout the place and people were smiling and really getting into the music!
The second band was a rock band. I was surprised because I’m not normally a fan of rock music, but I really enjoyed the music and the show. My parents and I had such a good time there and I would recommend the place to everyone who visits Chicago.
I toured many iconic Chicago places this week.
This week was the best I’ve had in Chicago. I did many interesting things. It was also pretty sunny outside this week. We had beautiful sunshine even though it was still a bit chilly.
I visited the Art Institute and I had a great time looking through the exhibits. I loved the paintings featured there and I saw work from artists I’ve learned about in school. I discovered new artists I liked as well. The sculptures were so interesting to look at because of the way they were made and how they differed from artwork created by other cultures of the world.
I went to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower and experienced a really beautiful view of the city and Lake Michigan. Watching the sunset up there is absolutely wonderful. I would recommend it to anyone.
I also stopped by a bar in the same tower. It’s a very cool place because you can have a drink while enjoying an amazing view of the city. It has a laid back ambiance and the cocktails are very good.
This week I also visited the Field Museum, which is near the Shedd Aquarium. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the temporary exhibits because I was too late, but I was able to see the permanent ones. Most of the exhibits seemed to cater to younger kids, but they were still interesting. The Field Museum definitely has a ton of exhibits to feed your inner child and curiosity.
Lastly, I also went to Navy Pier. You have one of the best views of the Chicago skyline there. If it gets a bit warmer, the next time I go I want to ride the big ferris wheel!
I think I’d like to work in the United States.
This week we visited a company called Veolia. Veolia’s offices are located on the 79th floor of a very tall building. First we visited the offices and afterwards we met a French team who work for the company.
We spoke with the team in French. They explained the differences between working in the United States and France. They all seemed to prefer the American working environment because it’s not as stressful. Co-workers get along much better and have fewer problems, people are friendlier, and the hierarchical system isn’t as important in the U.S. as it is in France.
We also talked about Veolia’s missions, its position in the environmental business, their methods, and how the company has established an international presence throughout the world.
It was a very interesting visit, and I was happy to be able to participate. I certainly think that, after all the companies we’ve visited here in Chicago, that I too would prefer to work in the United States rather than in France.
It was a lot of fun helping to create something I’m not used to.
Here in Chicago, I live in student housing with two American roommates and one French roommate. One of them studies fashion and she is graduating at the end of this semester. She’s really cool and interesting, and a month ago she told me about a project she’s been working on.
Swarovski, the jewelry and crystal brand, is selecting two students from her school to create a new pair of shoes for a fashion show in New York City. She’s been under a lot of stress because she hasn’t had much time to work on this project and it’s a big challenge—but she’s also aware that it’s a huge opportunity.
This week was the final week before her project was due, so she stayed up late working on it, slept very little, and spent most of each day at her school. Last weekend she asked me if I had some spare time this week to help her. I said yes because I found the project really interesting and she is a nice person. If I can help her out that makes me happy.
I met her at her school, which is a short walk from our place. When I arrived, my first thought was, “Wow, this is so cool!” The room we worked in was a standard design classroom with huge wooden tables, upbeat music playing over speakers, and students working on different projects. Everyone was concentrating really hard and completely invested in his or her work.
I spent a few hours there helping her with simple tasks. I hope I did them well; she seemed happy, but I was pretty nervous about making a mistake. It was a lot of fun to be there in a completely new environment, helping to create something I’m not used to. I found it really interesting and I surprised myself with how well I was able to concentrate and be precise. It was a great experience and I was happy to live it here in Chicago.
I found a little piece of home here.
On Tuesday night Chris and I joined two of our teachers for dinner at a French bistro called Kiki’s. Once we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the decor and atmosphere of the restaurant.
I was shocked. It really looked like a French bistro. After entering the restaurant, I felt like I was no longer in the U.S. I felt really happy as if I were at home in Paris.
As for the meal, the food was excellent and really worthy of a good French cook. We had a great time with our teachers. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, and had a fun evening. I think that was the time I felt my best in Chicago.
Since I arrived two months ago, I’ve felt homesick. Kiki’s was the only place I’ve found in Chicago where I didn’t feel that way. It really made me happy to feel like I was in France and to find a little piece of home here. The restaurant seemed almost magical to me.
I’d advise everyone to go to Kiki’s because it’s excellent and the service is really great. I especially recommend it to future French students studying in Chicago who might be homesick!
Valentine Van Der Slikke
We talked about the differences between working in France and the U.S.
On Thursday morning we visited a company called Veolia. It was a great experience. The offices were on the 79th floor of a tall building and provided beautiful views of Chicago.
While we were there we had a really interesting talk with a French team who worked at Veolia. We talked about the differences between working in France and the U.S.—especially the fact that Americans are on time and French people aren’t so much. We also talked about how French people have a lot more meetings than Americans do, and how much time is lost during those meetings.
From there we talked about the company itself. We discussed the challenges Veolia has faced, its market, and its main competitors. At the end of the visit, we received goodie bags that had a T-shirt, water bottle, and other little gadgets inside. It was very nice.
This week we also started a new session of classes with new professors. I am very excited to learn more in each new class. All of our professors are great and interesting. I’m especially excited about my writing class. I hope I’ll learn more vocabulary and my writing will improve.
I can’t believe I only have a little more than a month left in Chicago! I still have so much to see and do!
The people we met seemed to know exactly how to answer our questions.
This week we started the second half of our semester here in Chicago. We began new classes, which are very interesting. I hope I will learn a lot. I’ve been trying to work on my personal project, which is to connect with and have a better understanding of the music industry here in Chicago. Ideally, I would like to somehow work in this industry in the future.
We also visited a company called Veolia this week, and we met with some French people who work there. It was a really informative visit. Veolia’s offices are located inside one of the tallest buildings in Chicago, and the view is simply amazing.
We took a tour of the offices and the people we met seemed to know exactly what questions we wanted to ask and how to answer them. They told us about the differences between working in the United States and France, and what they liked about working at Veolia. I learned a lot and all of my questions were answered.
It made me want to get started creating a new life abroad.
Yesterday it was Thursday, the day we usually visit companies around Chicago. This week we visited an interesting business called Industrious. It’s a new office concept in Chicago for freelancers, growing start-ups, and small businesses. The concept is thoughtful and smart, and the place is lovely—with modern design, huge offices, and a luminous floor.
We met with Nicole Meyerson, the community manager of Industrious Chicago. She was a really nice woman who was always smiling. She explained the company’s concept and how it works. It’s basically an all-inclusive business office rental company. The clever advantage of this business is that the offices are rented out on a month-to-month basis, so there is more flexibility. You can also talk with other professionals who are working in the office spaces near you if you need advice or want to build a network. It’s great for communication.
Industrious was so pleasant, modern, and luminous. There are both private offices and common area spaces. Each office contained big windows so you could see everything—a design that’s definitely American. It creates a friendlier workspace instead of an isolated and private one.
There were also small rooms for people to take phone calls or concentrate on work. These were modern and comfortable and still had windows, but they were soundproof. There were also blackboards in these rooms where people could write down ideas.
We met two French men who rent offices in Industrious. They work for a business that was created in 2012 called ECD Network. They have created a professional dermatological treatment system. The men talked about their job and how they ended up in Chicago. It was an interesting meeting, and to be honest it made me want to get started creating a new life abroad.
We also met a really nice woman named Sarah. She works for Artworktool, a new company from the UK. Its website allows users to create graphic designs for free. Then they can be printed onto posters, prints, etc. and sold. If everything goes as planned, the website will be launching in March. I’d never heard of a concept like it before, and I found it really smart and interesting. Sarah talked about her team and asked us questions about ourselves too. It seemed like she has a really great team and it was pleasant to meet her.
Visiting Industrious made me want to work there.
This week we visited an incubator, which is a place where companies begin to take shape. The one we visited is called Industrious and is located at 320 West Ohio Street.
We took a tour of the offices with Nicole, the community manager. The offices had a very cool design, which seemed to encourage a very good working atmosphere. There were small kitchens where workers could make breakfast, meeting rooms, and rooms with sofas so people could work but still be relaxed.
After the tour, we met with people who worked at Industrious. They talked about their start-up and why they worked there. They said the advantage of working at Industrious is that there are people around who all have the same ambitions and are working on the same kinds of projects. They said it helps to talk to people, network, and come up with ideas. This concept is very appealing and has only just arrived in France.
It was an interesting experience. Visiting this place made me want to work there!
We learned a lot about how start-ups can be successful.
This week in Chicago was quite busy. We’ve been here for a month and a half so we had our midterm assignments. It was very interesting for me to summarize what I’ve learned in my classes so far. All the presentations I made helped me remember what I’ve personally learned since coming here.
We visited a coworking company called Industrious. It was very nice to see, as I’d never heard of a coworking company before. We began our visit in their office. Nicole Meyerson, the community manager, arranged the visit and was very nice. She explained the advantages start-ups have when they sign up with Industrious.
We then met two French engineers working for ECD Network, a start-up company working on a system that can detect cancer by analyzing moles. It was very informative listening to their backgrounds, the challenges they faced, and the jobs they have as French people working in the U.S.
After that we met Sarah from Artworktool. She talked about their upcoming website that allows users to create designs online. She was very nice and explained to us about how she got the job and what her background was. We learned a lot about how start-ups can operate and be successful.
I left feeling inspired.
This past Thursday, we met with several companies at once. One of them was called Industrious. Industrious rents an entire floor of a building as a start-up space for new small businesses.
I found this concept to be a really great way to make the most of a space. It’s very friendly as well. You can meet up with members of other start-up companies in the common areas, and by chance come across someone who has something you need. It’s a great way to uncover new opportunities, and I love the idea.
We met in the offices of two Industrious start-up companies. The first was called Artwork Tool. They create online graphics, posters, prints, and so forth. The concept was interesting and the platform seemed easy to use. The second company was called ECD Network and they were working on developing high-tech medical equipment.
The tour was very interesting and we were left feeling inspired and filled with good ideas.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
I definitely realized how big Chicago is.
Last Sunday was great. One of my friends who lives in Chicago picked me up at my apartment at 10 AM and took me on a tour of the city. It was really cold and snowing outside—good thing we had a car!
We drove down to the University of Chicago. It’s a really cool university. We looked at the historical buildings on campus, and also the newer ones, like the library. We also saw a monument of the first nuclear reactor from World War II.
After that, we went to Little Village. It was really interesting to see the Mexican subculture in Chicago. We ate at a little restaurant and had avocado and beef tacos, which were delicious.
Then we moved on to Chinatown. We wanted to have lunch there, but unfortunately it was packed, and we couldn’t find anywhere to park the car. Instead, we had lunch in town at a Thai noodle place, which was very good. I ate spicy green curry shrimp and we tried a very strange tapioca bubble slushie, which was surprisingly very tasty.
We drove through the Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park, Logan Square, and to Wrigley Field. It was awesome to finally see where the Cubs play. We ended the day by grabbing delicious cupcakes downtown.
The whole day was such a great adventure. I think I saw most of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods. It’s funny because every time you’re in a new neighborhood, you feel like you’re in a completely new little town. I definitely realized how big Chicago is. I think we drove approximately 4 hours in all. I will definitely go back to Chinatown sometime and have lunch there.
We laughed a lot together.
This week, we went to a high school in South Chicago where students were studying French. We met with them so we could talk about France and some of the cultural differences that exist.
We met four classes of different levels and ages. When we first arrived at the high school, I was a little worried because the surrounding neighborhood might be considered a bit “difficult,” but all my uncertainties disappeared after meeting the first class.
In fact, the students were very interested in hearing what we had to say. They asked a lot of questions, and had a good opinion of France. We laughed a lot together when we started discussing the stereotypes and prejudices about Americans and French people.
In the end, I had a very good day. I met a lot of friendly people who seemed to love what they were doing. The students seemed to love studying French, even though it is a difficult language to learn.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
Our professors are really great. I’m happy to meet them and learn from them.
On Monday, we attended an event for Art for the Hearts with Jane Canepa, our Public Relations teacher. Art for the Hearts is an organization that helps parents who have children with heart problems. The event was in the 900 North Michigan Shops mall where Jane works at Bloomingdales. I really liked the store and their Chinese New Year decorations.
We also went to a fast-food burger place called Shake Shack with one of Jane’s students. All my friends have recommended it and told me to go. I wasn’t disappointed with the food. I had a bacon burger and fries, which were delicious. I also tried some Mexican food this week. I loved the chips and guacamole.
It’s the end of our first session here at Seagull Institute, and our professors were really great and very helpful. I was happy to meet them and learn from them. I’m also very excited to start a new session with different professors. Time has gone by really fast. I can’t believe we are already halfway through the program!
It was the best experience I’ve had since we arrived in Chicago.
This week, we took a bus from Roosevelt University to a high school in Bronzeville with Thomas, one of our program coordinators. I think, for me, it was the best experience I’ve had since we arrived in Chicago.
We met a French teacher at the school who explained to us what her French courses were like. She introduced us to four of her classes. The students introduced themselves in French; they told us their names, how old they were, what they liked, etc. Then they asked us some questions in French; where we lived, what we liked, if we liked Chicago, and why.
Afterwards, we did the same thing in English. That was easier for them; the students were between 14 and 18 years old, and for most of them it was only their first or second year studying French.
The students in this school were very friendly and funny. Many of them liked dancing and singing, and they demonstrated it. It was very cool.
One student told me that he liked to draw. I asked him what he liked to draw and he replied, “Whatever pops in my mind.” At the end of our visit, we took a selfie with the group, and he gave me a sheet of paper. On it was a drawing of me. He also drew himself with a speech bubble coming out of his mouth, saying, “It popped in my mind, so I drew it.”
It was an amazing experience to be able to talk with the students. I loved it.
This week in Chicago was very busy. The sad part was that I was very sick, so I wasn’t really at my best. But it was nice in a lot of ways too.
I met up with some friends I’ve made here, and we went to a trivia event. People asked us random questions, and it was very fun to try to guess the answers. Being the only French person there, it was really interesting. Everything went well and I had a very good time.
After trivia, my friends and I went and played pool at the pool bar. There was a jukebox there that could play any genre of music you wanted. We played many games of pool with other people we met there. I also met some British people the same day, and it was nice chatting with them.
On Friday, we visited a high school in the South Side of Chicago with Seagull Institute. It was one of the best experiences we’ve had in Chicago so far. We took a bus over there, and we could see our surroundings changing as we drove farther south—the neighborhood where the high school was located was a lot different from Downtown Chicago.
I was very eager to see the class and the high school, and I was pleasantly surprised. The kids were nice, fun, full of life, and very interested in what we had to say. I almost feel sad because I didn’t take many pictures.
We talked about the similarities and differences between France and the USA. We also talked about what influences them most—most of the students said sports or whatever makes them want to excel. I think they are more mature than I was at their age.
The ones that surprised me the most were the younger ones. They were so funny, with unique and strong personalities. It was an amazing experience to be able to talk with them. I loved it a lot.
My first impression when we walked in was, “Wow, that’s definitely American high school!”
Yesterday, we had a really cool experience. I think it was the best one we’ve had since arriving here. Usually we have Fridays off, but yesterday we met Thomas at the university at 7:30 AM. Because we had to wake up so early, our night was really short, and the weather was ridiculously cold. It felt like -19 degrees.
Anyway, waking up in the morning wasn’t so easy, but we got on a bus, and after a 40-minute ride, we arrived at a high school in the southern suburbs of Chicago.
My first impression when we walked into the school was, “Wow, that’s American high school!” It was just like the big schools you see on TV with huge hallways and lockers everywhere. It was so cool to see that.
We went inside a classroom, but the students weren’t there yet. Their French teacher was an American woman who studied French and lived in Nantes, a city in West France, for a few months. She explained to us what the class was and about the students’ choice to take French as a second language.
A few minutes later, students started arriving. Some were smiling right away. They introduced themselves in French and talked a little bit about themselves, such as what their names were, their ages, and their hobbies. Their knowledge of French was elementary, because they had only been studying one or two years. We quickly introduced ourselves in French, and after that we all spoke in English, and they asked us a lot of questions.
The cool thing was that although the students were young, between 15 and 18 years old, they were really direct. We were able to see how they behaved at school, and they were all very fun. Some of them were really special and had unique personalities. I appreciated their attitudes.
They asked a lot of funny questions about things, such as our daily lives. We answered with honesty and clarified some stereotypes with a smile, like “French people don’t wear berets.” Other ones we confirmed, like, “French people think they’re perfect and are a bit self-important.” It was a really great teaching moment.
Some students showed off their talents, and that was the best part of the day. One of them danced, and two boys rapped. So cool! Another girl sang us a song. These moments were lovely, and they kept me smiling all day. I left their school with some amazing memories.
The students made me happy to be here and share those moments with them. It was an awesome experience, and I’m glad it happened here.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
It’s nice to know someone will take care of you.
This week went by so fast. Last weekend, I traveled to New York City to visit my friends from summer camp. It was so great to see them, because I hadn’t seen them for so long. They live in Manhattan, and the view from their apartment was truly amazing.
We didn’t do much on Friday night, but it was sunny on Saturday, so we walked the famous High Line, which was a lot of fun. Then we had dinner in a really cool restaurant on Bond Street that night.
I was supposed to fly back to Chicago on Sunday night, but the weather was so bad that I couldn’t get on a plane. All flights going into Chicago were canceled. They moved my flight to the next morning, but that flight was canceled too, because we had a small blizzard in New York.
Finally, my airline booked me for a flight on Monday night. I waited a really long time at the airport. It was certainly an experience!
One of our program coordinators, Joanne, told me that it was really typical for flights to be canceled during the winter because of the snow in Chicago. My airline reacted immediately to the situation and rescheduled my flights.
I don’t think that would happen so quickly in France. I feel like Americans are better at handling situations like this. It’s nice to know that whatever happens, someone will take care of you.
We had a special class in our Intercultural Communication course.
Our first month in Chicago has ended. To be short and sweet, I am still really happy to be here, and I’m starting to get used to the cold weather!
This past Monday, we had a special class in our Intercultural Communication course. It was a lot different than our other classes, and it was directly related to one of my passions. We studied Chicago music and talked about the city’s role in the origin of blues music. We also talked about how hip-hop, rap, and electronic music were born. I really enjoyed my time in class. It was so cool!
We listened to the first track of all of these different genres of music and watched old school video clips. Our teacher explained music history to us. Our teacher is really energetic and interesting. I hope we’re going to a couple events with her—that would be amazing!
Besides class, this week we participated in two volunteer activities: One for our Public Relations teacher, Jane Canepa, and the other for Chicago Event Management, the company that organizes the Chicago Marathon.
For our first activity, a marketing promotion for a product, we gave free food to people who were on the street in the snow. That was quite a cold experience! People were happy to get free things, and they were very nice to us. Some people told us, “God bless you,” which is an American way to say thanks, and I love that.
Our second volunteer activity was for Chicago Event Management, where we all volunteer every Thursday. They gave us a poster to put up inside the shops downtown. We divided into two groups and went inside restaurants, gym clubs, and even the university to pin up posters. People were always nice, even if they sometimes told us we couldn’t hang them up. It was a fun experience.
I’m really adjusting to life here.
This week in Chicago was very interesting. We had an awesome music class, where we learned about the origins of jazz, hip-hop, rap, house, and techno. Being an avid music lover, I really enjoyed it. I thought the class was very insightful and energetic. The teacher is very nice, and I’m looking forward to going to music events here in Chicago.
I’m really adjusting to life here. My English is getting so much better that I lose some of my French accent at times.
I’ve gone to see some friends who live up north, so I’ve used the train system here many times. In Paris, I use the train and metro a lot, so I’ve gotten used to riding the train, and I enjoy it. I like to gaze at the landscapes as they pass by. It was cool to see Chicago during wintertime.
Last Tuesday, we volunteered to distribute free snacks on the streets of Chicago with our teacher, Jane. People were very happy. It was surprising to see that, and I liked that very much. It felt great to give to people.
It was nice to find a little piece of home here.
Last Friday around noon, I went to the French Market on Clinton Street. I met my classmates there, as well as another student our Public Relations instructor, Jane Canepa, teaches. She brought along some of her friends, and we all ate together.
The meal was delicious, and the market was pretty big. I was very surprised to find such high quality products, and even some authentic French cuisine, here in Chicago. It was really fun to see everything.
The market had a nice atmosphere, and there was even some French music playing in the background. In the back of the room, there were small tables and chairs, much like a café in Paris.
It was nice to find a little piece of home here. That’s the beauty of this city—all these different cultures can be found here. I think that is exceptional, and something that is sure to lift anyone’s spirits.
We started off just going to buy a pair of shoes and ended up with big bags full of clothes.
Last Saturday, I got up early in a good mood. I decided to go to brunch with Valentine at a nice restaurant called Beatrix, which is located in Chicago’s River North District.
We started with glasses of orange juice, and the server advised me to try the Chimichurri Steak & Eggs. The dish was comprised of grilled shishito peppers, poached eggs, hash browns, and golden fries. It was very good.
After brunch, we decided to go to Adidas to buy shoes, and from there our shopping day began. We also went to Urban Outfitters, H&M, Top Shop, Zara, and Forever 21. We started off just going out to buy a pair of shoes and both of us ended up with big bags full of clothes.
We were tired and thirsty from walking around so much, so we decided to take a break and grab a refreshing drink. We also ate a really delicious pizza with truffle. It was so good, I had to take a picture of it.
In the evening, we met up with Anastasia and Chris and spent the evening with them. We all really enjoyed ourselves.
Here, it’s all about giving or sharing.
This week in Chicago was pretty busy. It went by very fast, and it felt good, because I didn’t have time to be bored.
Here, people like to give a lot. It’s all about giving or sharing. It seems that people help each other by sharing their experiences, connecting people, or inviting them to an event. For example, our teacher Jane invited us to Carol Marin’s event for her Journalism Association this week. It was really pleasant, and it was good to talk to so many different people.
It’s really interesting to see how people socialize together, and to be able to learn from them. Actually, we’ve even made some good contacts here already. We can see that connecting with people is easier now than it was when we arrived three weeks ago, and it will definitely become even easier as time goes on.
I was very impressed by the size of the French-speaking community here.
Last night, I attended the monthly evening meeting of the GPF (Groupe Professional Francais of Chicago). These meetings were established to bring together the businessmen and important French speakers of Chicago.
There were many personalities there, even consuls. I was also able to meet American businessmen who spoke very good French—that was very pleasant and surprising at the same time. As the evening continued, there were speeches, which were all interesting and positive. The atmosphere was great, and I was able to meet some young people who had just gotten out of business school, and were beginning new lives in Chicago.
I was very impressed by the size of the French-speaking community. It is bigger than I thought, which I find to be a very good thing. I did not think that so many Americans spoke French, and that they would take so much pleasure in coming to the meetings.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
The best way to describe McCormick Place is flexible. All of its spaces can be transformed.
Today, we visited McCormick Place. My first impression was that it was really huge! McCormick gathers thousands of people, often coming from across the world, to volunteer for a convention or see an exhibition. We met Scott Winterroth, the marketing manager, and Mary Kay Marquisos, the senior director of corporate communications. They were the ones who created the tour for us. I thought it was really nice of them to take time away from their schedules to show us the place.
We talked about McCormick’s history, and we saw pictures of the center from its construction, to the fire that made its ceiling collapse, to its reconstruction after being damaged.
I thought the pictures from the seventies were really fun, especially one of a car show, where girls with awesome style were sitting on top of brand new cars. We also saw pictures of the different presidents who visited the building. It was great to be in the place where Barack Obama got re-elected. I remember seeing all the coverage of his second campaign back home, and it was cool to see where it happened.
McCormick also has interesting pieces of art . I took a picture of the piece I liked most.
We also saw a model of the future hotel complex and entertainment center. I thought the architects had a great idea to connect all the different buildings together, because people want to stay warm during winter. The entertainment center will house basketball games, but it can also turn into a concert venue or exhibition hall. The best way to describe McCormick Place is flexible. All its spaces can be transformed and rearranged.
It was my pleasure to talk to people who spoke my native language.
On Thursday, January 29th, I attended a meeting of the Groupe Professional Francais of Chicago. All the French-speaking consuls of Chicago were present, and they made speeches. There was a buffet with lots of good food, and a bar with inexpensive drinks. One man offered drinks to each of us Seagull Institute students. That was very nice of him.
Chris and Valentine took pictures, Anastasia worked the reception, and Mathieu and I directed people to the event from the hotel lobby. It was my pleasure to talk to people who spoke my native language. I met some great people. I hope we often participate in these kinds of meetings. I enjoyed myself so much.
French and Americans show their successes in life very differently.
Our third week in Chicago has ended, and everything is going well. I’m still happy to be here, and school is still interesting, even if we study a lot.
Last night, we went to a meeting of the Groupe Professional Francais of Chicago, a group that was created by David Reithoffer, VP of Seagull Institute. It was their first meeting of 2015. The reception was in a nice hotel in downtown Chicago. All consuls and representatives who spoke French and lived in Chicago were invited. During the meeting, each consul took a few minutes to present to the other members.
We went to the meeting directly after our work with Chicago Events Management, so I think everyone was tired, but the evening was still a success for everyone in my group. It was pretty cool to meet adults who have been living and working in Chicago for several years. They were nice and interesting, and there was a cool buffet.
One thing I noticed during the evening, and that comes back to me as I type this blog, is that French and Americans show their successes in life very differently. I don’t want to stereotype and say it’s the same for everyone, but it’s kind of interesting. French people are more demonstrative about their money, and how successful they are in life. There were a few French people at the meeting whom I could tell felt proud of their success. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. They should be proud to succeed.
Here in Chicago though, even really successful people are less demonstrative about it. You can meet people here who are very significant, famous, and hold jobs with high responsibility, and you would never guess how important they are. For example, Carol Marin, NBC journalist, Scott Winterroth, Marketing Manager of McCormick Place, or even David Reithoffer, VP of Seagull Institute. These are all people we’ve met since coming here, and they were always really nice and down-to-earth. You can’t see how important they are in their faces. That’s really surprising to French people, because French people are more “haughty,” but I think that’s just a European thing.