Chicago, the third largest city in the country, offers endless opportunities. Whether for work, food, art, or going out, Chicago has so many options. Going to DePaul University, a school that is fully immersed in the city, carries a mix of the good and the bad. For one, I am never bored, and if I am, I immediately question myself and go out and do something. On the contrary, having an awful amount of exciting things to do can easily distract from school and work, so creating a balance is necessary to succeeding in the city. Living here for the past year has taught me more about life and myself than I have ever learned in my preceding high school days. If you are looking to go to college in Chicago or are just curious about what it is like to live in a city so beautifully strange, keep reading for the 10 reasons that my life is now completely changed!
1. Chicago made me independent.
Here at DePaul University, Chicago is my campus. At most schools, a majority of the things you will need reside on campus. In DePaul, you have to venture the streets on your own. We have two campuses: one in a northern neighborhood called Lincoln Park and another in the Loop which is 20 minutes away from the Lincoln Park Campus on the Chicago “L” train. It is expected by the University that the students immediately know how to navigate the city and use all of its resources to their advantage. Jumping head first into that kind of environment taught me how to thrive off of my independence. It is safe to say that I learned how the Chicago Transit Authority operated fairly quickly.
2. Chicago enlightened me on catcalling.
I have learned that catcalling is an expectation in Chicago. 2 P.M. grocery run on a Tuesday? Expect to be catcalled. Walking home from the bars at 4 A.M. with all of your friends? Expect to be catcalled. There is no escaping it, and there is definitely no fighting back. Instead, Chicago taught me to acknowledge it and move on. No matter what you do, where you go, what you wear, and who you are with, someone will yell at you. Early in my freshman year, a man yelled out of his car window to me, “shark bait, walking home by herself,” when coming home from the library on a Monday night. Catcalling was relatively new to me at the time, but being called out and essentially threatened by a stranger in a car passing by was something I had never experienced before and made me feel incredibly violated. I decided from then on out to not let catcalling affect me in any positive or negative way, but to simply ignore it and carry on with my life. Their words are not my concern.
3. Chicago taught me to be strong.
Chicago is a rough city. Like every city, it has rougher spots that are easily avoidable, but no matter where you go, you have to be fully alert and ready for anything to come at you. Safety should always be the main concern anywhere when walking at night but in Chicago, the fear should be elevated. I keep my shoulders back and my head held high, ready to take on whatever comes my way. In addition, Chicago taught me to stay strong strong when it comes to daily interactions. There is always someone screaming on the train or someone nearly hitting me with their car on the busy Chicago streets, but I learned to be strong in those situations and stand up for myself. Expect to be flipped off if you drive too close to me, because I am now a strong Chicago woman!
4. Chicago launched my extreme appreciation of nature.
Growing up in a rural suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I have been surrounded by the woods for my whole life. As much as I loved nature growing up, the city always excited me. The tall buildings and busy streets lured me in. I romanticized the grayness, the noise, and the clutter and had no idea how exhausting it would all be. Do not get me wrong, I am in love with the city, but sometimes it gets to be too much for me. At home, I could just walk out of my house and be fully immersed in nature, but now, I have to seek it out. I usually walk to the lake or different parks around the city for some peace and quiet, and even when I find it, it is nothing like the serenity I find at home. I have learned to appreciate my time at home in nature and in the city parks because they both have unique characteristics and qualities that help me grow as a person.
5. Chicago decided that I am 21 years old.
Everyone is 21 in Chicago. Enough said.
6. Chicago helped me find myself.
I have had plenty of lonely nights spent debating who I am and what my place is in the city. Even though Chicago is full of people and constantly busy, it can leave you feeling the most lonely you have ever felt. It is a different kind of lonely; the kind where you are surrounded by all of these people that you do not know and feel invisible. After going through those feelings in my head countless times, I learned how to handle them. I do not let the hugeness of the city drag me down, but instead I let it inspire me to be something bigger and better. Chicago does not wait; it keeps moving. Instead of letting that implement fear into day to day life, I let it lift me up. Now I see the beauty in being incognito on a crowded train and thriving as the unique individual that I am.
7. Chicago showed me how amazing food is.
Chicago possesses innumerable amounts of incredible restaurants ranging in prices. I had so many eating options merely feet away from my freshman dorm causing me to rarely go to the Student Center and spend all of my money on actual edible food. Chicago deep dish and hot dogs, five star restaurants, Chinatown, Greektown: Chicago has it all. Chicago also has plenty of late night Mexican restaurants that are open all night (one in particular near campus that Chance the Rapper is frequently spotted at) and those alone have changed my life for the better.
8. Chicago uncovered my not-so-hidden passion for home.
Chicago has a large sports following, to say the least. I was never super into sports growing up, but now that I am here, I have immense pride for Pittsburgh. People are sports fanatics here, so I figured that holding onto the sports teams in Pittsburgh would be a way to keep myself rooted in my hometown. It worked! Every time I see someone reppin’ Pittsburgh gear on the streets, I make it clear that I support them. Seeing something that represents home when I am here always makes my day. It makes me feel proud to be from where I am from. Sometimes leaving home is the only way to fully understand how special it is.
9. Chicago made me grow up fast.
Instead of being tucked away on a campus for four years, DePaul throws you into real life and makes you fend for yourself in this overwhelmingly huge city. This lifestyle was something I sought out; I did not want to be at a large campus school. I knew what to expect when I arrived here; however, I underestimated how significantly it would affect my experience and how I grew as not only a student but a person. Commuting from campus to campus on the CTA with the rest of Chicago makes you feel less like a student and more like a working professional. I not only grew into a college student but also into a Chicagoan. Now, after living here for eight months, I fit right in.
10. Chicago gave me a home away from home.
Despite all the hardships that moving to a new city entails, Chicago provided me a safety net to fall into while getting acquainted to a completely new life. It has been good to me. This city gave me countless friends that I know I will have in my life for years to come and experiences that I could not have gotten anywhere else. I am thankful for the Big Apple of the Midwest and I cannot to see how many other ways it will change my life for the rest of the time I am here.