- by Joanne Goldhawk
I was one of the few of us who decided that we’d go the “unusual” route for our year abroad and apply for the internship program just to see what happens… Before I knew it I had a place to work for the British American Business Council in Seattle (Yes, it says Chicago in the title, wait for it…) and was so excited, Seattle is the birthplace of Boeing and Starbucks and Nirvana and how can this be a bad idea? To bring this fairy tale to its abrupt end my BABC placement fell through. (A few choice swear words were used at this point…) My second placement was brought together very quickly for a small orchestra called Baroque Band in Chicago. I knew nothing about Chicago, except that the Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Dark Knight were filmed there and Al Capone was once a big deal there. I figured it’d be decent weather (lies, currently snowing as I type!) and since I’d never been to Chicago or Seattle I figured it was a good decision, much better than trying to reorganise my whole year abroad.
I’ve been in Chicago for just over 6 months now and I adore every second of my city. Of course there are days when I’m tired of it and wish I was back in Bristol, but that’s probably because I’m bored of the constant questions about my accent – for the last time America, I’m not Australian!
My internship is so much fun, I can be creative and organising an orchestra is no small feat. I work hard and sometimes think I work harder now than I did in my first two years at Birmingham… Being unpaid is probably the worst part. American companies don’t generally pay their interns and Baroque Band couldn’t afford to pay me anyway but I’m doing ok! My weekends in Chicago aren’t ever b oring, I’ve been to drag show bars, free comedy shows, the zoo too many times, visiting different neighbourhoods, soaking up the baseball game atmosphere, art galleries, museums and admiring the views of Chicago’s epic architecture. Chicago has great transport links within the city itself and outside I’ve been to New York on obscenely cheap airfare and to Memphis on a very long, long, bus ride. (Lucky enough I had a rather good friend with me to enjoy it with!) There’s nothing like standing on the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and knowing that you’re stood in a spot where something happened that changed the course of history.
I won’t lie, it’s hard being in a city where you don’t know anyone. It is so much harder than our first year in university where there were plenty of events and alcohol fuelled nights to make your best friends for the year, whereas here I have to make a real effort and talk to anyone. It’s even harder being away from my friends and family at home but I wouldn’t change my decision for the world – I’ve made some great friends here, made some great memories and feel more grown-up now than I did before I left. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’m more passionate about my degree and my future as well as dying to travel some more! If you’re wondering if you should do something different with your year abroad and do the internship program, do it. The cities we got are epic (New York, San Francisco and Chicago) and none of us can say we’re not having the time of our lives!
Joanne is a BA American and Canadian Studies student at the University of Birmingham.