Hello there! I’ve already shared this a few times, but this summer I had the opportunity to go to Chicago, Illinois and participate/compete in the Future Business Leaders (FBLA) national competition and conference. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, so of course I have to blog about it!
While it ended with me being in The Windy City, this Sunday didn’t exactly start out too exciting. I began by waiting tables at a local café as part of a fundraiser for two hours. While I am glad I could be there, I was definitely anxious to leave.
So, I met my advisor and her family at one, and we drove to the airport. Our flight, which was scheduled to take off at 5:45 p.m., was delayed and therefore didn’t leave until pretty close to seven. The ride was pretty smooth, aside from a bit of turbulence at the end. I haven’t been on an airplane in two and a half years, so this part was pretty exciting, but the fact that I’m trapped up there was a challenge for me to overcome. So I was pretty happy to be back on the ground. Not to mention, almost nine traveling hours was quite a long while.
Next, we went to get our luggage and hopped in a taxi-like van to ride to our to our hotel. The Hyatt Regency of Chicago. Needless to say, I found it to be quite satisfactory. It’s probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. So, of course, I took pictures of it. Is that normal?
After getting settled in, we walked to get some dinner. I live in an extremely rural area, so being able to walk to food was SO strange. I had Red Robin for the first time! And it was “Yum!” I ordered chicken strips and French fries, which were amazing, but I completely forgot to take a picture of the actual food. It was so pretty for fast food too. (Cries because no food picture.) But I do have a photo of my cup with Sprite in it. This is not as good as food.
It was pretty late after this, so we just headed back to the hotel. I unpacked my things and tried to make it feel a little more homey. Then I ended up staring out the window for hours, because I’m so not used to a view of the big city and it really fascinates me.
So, after gawking out the window and taking in the city for much longer than intended, I finally went to bed, super duper stoked about what the next day and the entire trip would bring.
Day two proved to be significantly more busy and exciting than the first. But of course, first I had to get up and get ready. And then go and get a protein bar and some apple juice for breakfast. Super fun, right? Haha, but I did really like my outfit this day. I am wearing pants, b-t-dubs. They’re just light pink.
Once we were all ready and had eaten, we decided we’d go to Shedd’s Aquarium. So we took a taxi there, which was actually my very first taxi ride. Ever. So, I took a picture.
When we arrived at the aquarium, we discovered that the wait time was over an hour, and tickets were pretty expensive. So we decided to walk down to the Field Museum instead. This made me extremely happy, as I’m more a big nerd instead of a…fish person.
The museum was a pretty amazing experience. We didn’t have enough time to see all of it, but the most prominent exhibits we went through were a “special exhibit” of the ancient to more modern Chinese, an imitation of an Egyptian pyramid, and a “Discovering DNA” laboratory. We also saw the dinosaur Sue, from Night at the Museum. So, that was all pretty cool.
We ate lunch at a café in the museum, and, typical me ordered cheese pizza.
After lunch, we headed back to our hotel. I spent the next hour getting “business appropriate” for the first meeting of the conference, which was a state meeting in a conference room in the hotel. It was supposed to last about an hour, but ended up only being about fifteen minutes long. My advisor had to go to another meeting, so this left me about two hours to wander around the hotel and figure my way out before we had to leave again. Yes, I did get lost.
Good news! I found my way back to where I was supposed to be, and it was time to leave for the opening session. It was at the McCormick Place, which is the largest convention center in North America. We waited in line for an hour and a half to get a shuttle bus to go there, and the actual session, where there were over 11,000 people, did not go very smoothly. So there’s not a lot to share here.
Then we just went back to the hotel, and I chilled out for a little bit, and went to bed.
Tuesday morning, the first thing we did was go to McDonald’s for breakfast at nine in the morning. In Chicago. It was pretty busy in there, to say the least.
We then had to go find the place where my advisor would be coordinating an event from noon to almost six, and find the room I would have to go to later in the day for my competition. Then, my advisor and I killed a few hours sitting in the lobby doing just about nothing. Oops.
I spent about an hour going over stuff in my room, then went downstairs to take the test for my competition. I was actually 30 minutes early and had to wander around for that amount of time, but then I went back and checked in and went to compete. It was just a huge room with a ton of computers and teenagers taking tests on all of them, no big deal.
There was still about three hours left until we were leaving to go do anything. So the very first thing I did was go back to my room and change into the warmest clothes I had, because I was absolutely freezing the entire morning. I didn’t photograph what I changed into because I immediately threw a sweater over it and made it very frumpy and not cute. But there is a before picture. (Which is not super stylish either – the dress code was pretty strict. (Yes, that is my excuse.))
I went back to McDonald’s and ate a late lunch, got some Starbucks, and just kind of did whatever for a while. I walked around, looked in the gift shop, sat on a bench and watched people (stalker status, I know). And I did some dorky Snapchatting that in my brain is actually creative. Then it was time to get out of the hotel again!
This was the moment I was waiting for – Chicago style pizza! We ate at a place called Giordano’s, and I was so excited to try the pizza I forgot to take a picture. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I should stop now, or I’ll end up writing a ten page essay solely on pizza.
Oh yeah, we went into some pretty fancy stores while waiting for our pizza, but I was too excited about the pizza to fully take this in. Or to care. I really love pizza.
After eating, we went down to the Navy Pier and rode the Ferris Wheel and it was the COOLEST THING EVER. You can see the Chicago Skyline on one side, and Lake Michigan on the other. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, I loved it. The only way to fully capture the beauty of this is though pictures, so here you go…
We then walked around the pier for a little bit, and decided to walk back to our hotel. This lead us to some pretty sketchy places, and I was extremely happy to be back inside the walls of my room at the end of the day safe and sound.
Day three started off pretty boring. I ate a bagel from a place in the hotel, and then my advisor and I went to take Certiport certification tests. (I don’t know what it means either.) I got told these tests were extremely hard and that I had no chance of passing them, so I went in not taking it seriously at all. But, I took them in Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint, and ended up passing them both. Woohoo!
It was absolutely freezing in the room where we took these tests, so the first thing I did when they were over was change into the warmest thing I packed. Once again. This is pretty standard for me.
After this, we got in a taxi, and I rode in the front this time. NEVER AGAIN. They seem to be quite rough drivers, who go very fast and brake late. I was terrified.
We decided to eat lunch at Panera Bread, where I had never been before. So I ordered macaroni and cheese with bread, which was on the kids’ menu…oops. The ten year old with us ordered the same thing AND a half a sandwich. I eat like a child.
Next was the most exciting part of the entire trip – the Skydeck at the Willis Tower!! If you don’t know, this is a glass floor sticking 4.3 feet out from the building on the 103rd floor of the tower, which is 1,352 feet up. I’ve literally wanted to go do this since they opened it. By the time we got to the end of the ticket line, I was literally jumping up and down. And again, the only way I can fully capture how amazing this was is through pictures. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, I almost cried.
After doing one of the coolest things you could ever possibly do, we spent a couple of hours walking around Chicago. We saw the famous bean, which I thought was really interesting. I’ve always wanted to see it. We went to a few parks, saw a lot of fountains and statues, it was nice.
For dinner, we decided on the Cheesecake Factory, which I had never been to before. I was terrified of the giant portions, so I just ordered an appetizer. It was pretzel-crusted chicken, and it was pretty good. And of course, I HAD to try the cheesecake. So I went for the Ultimate Red Velvet, and it was the best ever.
At this point, I think I was way too tired to comprehend anything. I don’t even remember the walk back to the hotel. This day ended early for me.
Thursday was our last full day in Chicago, so we decided to spend the morning at the Art Institute. I’m pretty into art, and I’m always that annoying person in a museum that will stand there for fifteen minutes, staring at a work and trying to figure out what the artist was thinking or what they were trying to capture. So I got really lost in everything and didn’t take many pictures.
I had the same art teacher for ten years in a row. She recently retired, but I have always absolutely loved her and art class has always been one of my favorites. For as long as I can remember, she had a print of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat up in her room. And since I’ve always been fascinated with impressionism, it was always my favorite artwork in her room. I honestly almost got emotional seeing it in real life.
Georges Seurat – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
My mom had a print of the Claude Monet artwork, and it traveled through several houses with us and was up in my current house for a long time. Even though we don’t have it anymore, it was so amazing to see the real thing.
Claude Monet – Poppy Field
There is no backstory to this one, I just think it’s really cool and it was one of the artworks at this museum that I was super excited to see.
The Old Guitarist – Pablo Picasso.
And of course…
American Gothic – Grant Wood
The last thing on the agenda for the day was the closing session and awards ceremony of the conference. I didn’t place in the top ten, but I’m just extremely happy to have made it to national level in the first place. So it’s all good.
It was then time to go back to the hotel and pack to leave. This literally took me until past three in the morning, because I was too busy enjoying my last night of the city view out the window.
So, at this point our last day in Chicago had arrived, and I’m not going to lie, I was pretty sad. I got up fairly early and went down to the gift shop and got my family t-shirts, and picked up a t-shirt and hoodie (because I’m always cold) for myself. Because I mean, if you go to Chicago but don’t get dorky t-shirts for yourself and your entire family, did you even really go?
Afterwards, I went back to my hotel room and packed the last of my stuff. Then I went to the McDonald’s one last time for breakfast. Took some last picture of the view from my window. And then it was time to leave. (Sad face.)
So we caught our shuttle to the airport, got on a plane, and went home. It was sad to leave, but I am happy to be home. I’m so thankful for this experience.
I am aware this post is extremely long. But I really wanted to include every detail because I loved this trip so much, and this post will be something I can look back on to remember it. I really enjoyed writing it, and I really hope you enjoyed reading it too! I love you guys.