Reflections from Ali: A CS Graphic Design Student

I hurried after Lisa, the kind woman who was showing me around the office and introducing me to everybody.  “Hi, this is Alice, our new intern.  Hi… yes, this is Alice.  She’s working in the marketing department.”  I would flash a smile and try to remember everybody’s name (knowing full well I might forget them soon after…  I’m the worst at names).  Then Lisa and I walked up to the last office: Rita’s.  This would be my new supervisor. We walked in, and she welcomed me with a quick hug and excitement in her eyes.

“Hello Alice! It’s so nice to finally meet you.  I see you met mostly everybody, and I’ll make sure to show you to your desk in a bit.  But first I want to tell you a little more about Choose Chicago.”

My feet shifted nervously in my Sketchers wedges. (Best shoes in the entire world.  Not kidding, I’m THE biggest fan.)

“Here is the binder with everything you need to know about the Marketing aspect of Choose Chicago.  It’s the brand book.  Feel free to study it for the rest of the day.”

My mess of curls swept past my eyes as I looked at this massive binder filled with paper.  Little did I know that this would be one of the most useful tools I would use as a guide for my designs this semester.

“Oh, and I want to tell you about this new campaign we started,” Rita continued.  “It’s called the Welcome Home campaign.  Basically we came up with this idea that we want to market Chicago as a piece of home for everybody.  Home doesn’t need to be just one place.  It can be a lot of places.  It can be as many places as you need it to be.  And we want Chicago to be one of them.”

Woah.  That struck a cord.

Up until then, I couldn’t put a finger on this feeling I had from the beginning of my time in Chicago.  I would say to myself, “Ali.  You love it here, the busyness and everything.  Duh.  It feels like home.”  But it wasn’t home.  Home is where my family is… where my first memories are.  Orange City is home.

It never occurred to me that home doesn’t need to be a single spot.

I think that’s the thing that scared me the most about Chicago.  Some people might be afraid that they won’t like the apartment life or the transportation system or the way cars honk constantly and people are always running from one place to the next.

I was afraid that I would love it too much.

Fast forward to right now, sitting on the futon in our apartment.   Finally processing everything that has happened in the past… oh, I don’t know, like 8 weeks or so.  I might be totally off because honestly, it feels like we’ve been here forever.  In a good way of course!

But I’ve done quite a bit in this time, and I have a few more stories about this new home.

In my last blog post, I basically wrote about how Chicago is absolutely nuts and how I totally love the crazy aspect of it all.  You might be surprised, then, when I say that I’m also one of those people that needs their time alone.  Exhibit A: I’m sitting on this futon at 10:00 on a Friday night with more Mac and Cheese on the stove.  #party

For people like my sometimes-introverted self, Chicago DOES, in fact, have some places you can get away from humans.  Last weekend, I spent about 3 hours at the beach reading, writing, and chatting on the phone with my mom.  I know if you’re here in the spring you might not have that beach time, but when it’s May 5, probably the day before you leave, and finally above 55 degrees, take advantage of the beach.  It will be worth it.

The beach near Ali’s apartment

If I don’t feel like walking to the beach (it’s literally only two blocks away, but just in case), I go to Starbucks two blocks the other way down the street.  The beautiful thing about Starbucks is that nobody is there to bother you.  Now, I love love love my small town, but our local coffee shop isn’t exactly the place you go to “get away.”  I’ll typically go there to meet up with old friends, new friends, and, well, friends of friends that soon become your friends because you went to this coffee shop to just meet up with one friend.  You hang out with everyone there.

In Chicago, though, you can put your earbuds in and be completely alone for a bit.  It’s different, but you know that basically anywhere you go, you can find time alone if you really want it.

Another thing I didn’t mention in detail yet is what my church is like.  Honestly, it’s probably one of the most incredible things that God has blessed me with out here.  Going to a college in my own hometown, I didn’t necessarily feel the need to go to different churches since my home church was right there.  I absolutely love my church in OC and the people in it who know my story.  But when you’re in a new place with millions of new people, there’s nothing more comforting than going to a common place to worship with those who genuinely want to get to know you.  The campus pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel was one who definitely went out of his way to get to know my roommate and I and invite us into this congregation.

Almost every Sunday we have the same senior pastor who preaches.  He is one who preaches on various topics, yet always uses the Bible to point right back to what we believe as Christians.  It’s raw, engaging, and always pushes me to dig into scripture.

If you’re looking into doing the Chicago Semester or if you’re simply just preparing to go to college within the next year, I can’t emphasize how wonderful and important it is to find a place where you can rest, worship, and be challenged beyond just Sunday mornings.  Get involved in a church, learn about small groups, and put yourself out there to get to know the people worshiping with you.

So if you’re like me and love the thrill of life, don’t shy away from that. Travel often and visit new spots.  It’s an amazing feeling knowing that there are so many places you can go to that just might be some sort of home.  Make those places comfortable and find those connections.  Chicago may or may not be my final destination where I settle down, but it definitely has a piece of my heart, and I find so much joy in knowing I dug some roots here.

Ali and CS friends

Seriously guys, ya’ll have got to come out and visit.

Until then… I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, which is probably making mac and cheese.

With love,

Alice Achterhof