You can never forget that you’re in the United States.
I loved exploring this city when I arrived. There are a lot of things to do, and everything is great. I’ve seen some sights here that you can only see in Hollywood movies. The buildings, cars, roads, signs, subway stations, and sirens never let me forget that I am in the United States.
My girlfriend and I visited the SkyDeck at the top of the highest tower in Chicago. It was impressive to walk on top of a glass floor at that height and look below. The view was gorgeous. We could see the whole city.
I live in an apartment on Ontario Street. The neighborhood is very cool, and there are plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants. The people are friendly, conversational, and open-minded. I feel good here.
My English was not the best when I arrived, but I think it will quickly improve through the courses and volunteer activities Seagull Institute offers us. The Seagull team is very friendly and takes care of us. Through this program, we have the chance to be in a class with only five people, which makes it really interesting and interactive. My first experience in the U.S. is great so far, and this is only the beginning.
My accent doesn’t bother me anymore.
This week was great. I was able to speak with a lot of different people.
Unfortunately, I somehow lost my credit card and ID while exploring Chicago. As I was searching the streets for my ID with my friend Ana, a lady walked up to us. She asked us what we were looking for.
After I explained the situation to her, she was very nice and told us that if she found a lost credit card or ID, she would immediately come looking for me and return it.
She also told me something I’ve heard at least once a day since coming here:
“I love your accent!”
People here will say things like “I could listen to you talk all day!” to me and the other French students. This only makes me want to speak more and more. It doesn’t really bother me anymore that I have a strong French accent. Our accents make us different from the people here, and the people here like them.
Some people just smile while they listen to us speaking French.
Valentine Van Der Slikke
I’m surprised to hear so many languages spoken on the street.
During my intercultural class on Monday, I learned a lot about the different communities that live in Chicago. I was very surprised to hear so many different languages while walking the streets. I’ve heard Polish, Spanish, Hindi, Italian, Chinese, and also French and Russian.
I visited an Italian restaurant and store right next to my apartment called Eataly. Flavien and I bought some Italian cheese and salamis, which were very good. The store is huge, and there’s a great selection of wine, a really nice bakery, and a variety of pasta from Italy. I would definitely recommend it to my friends.
There is also a big Irish community here in Chicago. I am really excited for St. Patrick’s Day, which will take place while I am here. I’ve heard that the river is dyed green, and there is a parade. I lived in Dublin for three months last year, so I know about Irish culture. It’s also exciting to be working on the Shamrock Shuffle, because the race has a fun, Irish spirit.
I am really happy to be a part of this “melting pot” for the next three months, and I am sure I will not only learn about American culture, but also about the culture from other communities. I plan on going to some Polish and Greek restaurants next week.
He asked me to teach him “thank you” in French.
On Wednesday night, a man stopped me in the street as I was walking home. He was selling magazines for charity. He started to explain why he was selling them, and why I should buy one.
After a few seconds, I stopped him and told him that I didn’t want to lie, I wasn’t interested in his story, but I would still give him money. This made him smile, and he asked me to give him a hug. Then we began to talk.
We had a great conversation about what I was doing here in Chicago. He said he regretted wasting so much time when he was as young as I am. He said he would have liked to study, because “The more we study, the more money we have.” He encouraged me to continue what I was doing.
After that, he said “God bless you,” and I replied that I wasn’t sure if that would be the case, seeing as I was not wearing my necklace. He looked at me quite strangely, but when I told him that I gave my necklace to my girlfriend, he smiled warmly and gave me a high five. He was super funny and nice. He smiled a lot, like many of the people here.
Before I continued walking home, he asked me to teach him French so he could thank me in my language. I thought that was very thoughtful of him.
It really was as you’d imagine it would be.
It’s still only the beginning of our experience in Chicago, and we’re discovering more and more about the city and American culture every day. American culture is certainly very different from ours. As with everything, there are both good and bad aspects, but it is still pleasant to experience it all.
After a really fun party with the group Saturday night, I went with my friend Chris to walk around the area on Sunday afternoon. Before we could get too far, two boys around 20 years old asked us if they could use our phone to make a call. Afterwards, we started talking with them. They were very interested in our French background. They seemed like good-natured young guys, and they asked us if we wanted to meet their friends. We followed them to Millennium Park, a famous park in Chicago near our student housing, and met up with their friends near the Martin Luther King statue.
Their friends were seven really nice guys around 20 to 25 years old. Some were students, and others had jobs. We hung out with them for a while. They seemed especially interested in the French language. They asked us to teach them how to say a few words in French. We tried to teach them the correct pronunciation. That was a funny moment!
As I looked at my new friends spending time in the park, I thought it really was as you’d imagine it would be. It was like something out of an American music video : a group of young African-American guys listening to hip-hop music in the park, and dancing and rapping. It was a really great moment, and very pleasant spending time with them. We asked them to take a selfie with us before we left so that we could remember the afternoon. We plan to see them next weekend!