To put it simply, Chicago was absolutely amazing. I needed a change of scenery and Chicago was everything I could have hoped for.
I went with a group of 23 students from Florida State University through the Advertising Club. The group split up to travel the city and paired up again to tour the agencies. Since it was my first time visiting the Windy City, I made it a point to do all of the touristy things first. I flew in Wednesday morning, and by Wednesday night, had visited Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), the Willis Tower (previously the Sears Tower), and rode the subway all across town.
The first place we toured was Millennium Park and Cloud Gate. I didn’t know a lot about its history or purpose, but had seen the iconic pictures of people taking selfies in The Bean all over the Internet. My friend, Kirsten, told me about the artist, Anish Kapoor, and how he created it to emphasize distortion. When standing directly underneath The Bean and looking up, you can see your reflection in a dozen different areas. (I could count 10.)
This is what you see when you look straight up at The Bean when directly underneath it. (I’m the one in the red peacoat.)
When I was at the top of the Willis Tower, I walked into the Skydeck. I wish I could portray the level of emotion that surged through me when I looked down, but I cannot even scratch the surface. It was unreal. It was unbelievable. It was petrifying.
It’s 103 floors. It’s 1,451 feet tall. And when you’re in it, the only thing beneath you is some sort of Plexiglass. Now I don’t have a fear of heights, but standing on that glass, looking down at all of the people, buildings, and cars beneath me absolutely terrified me. But at the same time, I was ecstatic. I had such a rush of adrenaline and adored the view of the skyline.
On Thursday and Friday, the mornings were spent touring agencies and networking with ad professionals. I was fortunate to tour four agencies: Leo Burnett and mcgarrybowen on Thursday, and Havas and Starcom on Friday. I loved getting to interact with the higher-ups of these prestigious agencies and learn about the backgrounds of each agency. For instance, not many people know that Leo Burnett opened its doors in 1935 and would put bowls of free apples throughout their office, and has continued this tradition for nearly 80 years.
When we toured mcgarrybowen, we spoke with Derek Clark, who is one of the copywriters. Being that copywriting is my passion, I absorbed his every word. He provided us with so much knowledge and intel on the inside of the ad world. The one thing he said that truly resonated with me was:
“Always follow the opportunity. Don’t go for the money. Do good work–the rest will follow.”
His words were so simple, and yet meant so much to me. I am so grateful to have interacted with such a perceptive professional.
Starcom MediaVest Group had four Florida State alumni talk to us and it was the last agency we toured. When we first arrived, I noticed all of the modern art that adorned all of the walls. As we looked at one of the murals painted on one of the walls, a woman walked up and asked how we liked it. It turned out that that woman was Laura Desmond, the CEO of the global company!
(FSU students with FSU alumni at Starcom MediaVest Group. Photo courtesy of Ashley Van der Laan.)
Apart from the agency visits and tourist attractions, I made time to find the best local restaurants. During my five days spent in Chicago, I came to realize that Chicago is definitely the perfect place for a foodie, such as myself, to live! We ate Chicago’s infamous deep dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno, which was the first pizzeria to introduce deep dish pizza in 1943.
But my favorite restaurant in all of Chicago was the Grand Luxe Cafe, where I had gnocchi for the first time!
On Thursday, we went to the Bank of America Theatre and saw a live Broadway in Chicago performance of Peter and the Starcatcher! It was my first time seeing a professional, live performance and I loved every minute of it! I would definitely recommend that everyone see this show!
As we roamed the streets of Chicago, we saw so many quaint neighborhoods, vintage shops, and beautiful buildings. I loved that I could walk down one street and see pink and blue houses, and walk down another to find local businesses.
This past week has been such a thrill and I am so grateful to FSU for providing me such an extraordinary opportunity. I’ll always remember the exciting subway rides, breathtaking views of the skyline, and the remarkable people I met along the way.
If you have ever wanted to travel, I suggest planning a trip to Chicago, because it is one of the most incredible places in the world.