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Meet Lode in Chicago!

Meet Lode in Chicago!

Chicago Chicago, Lode is doing his internship in, guess what…….. Chicago! We asked him some questions about his experience in the USA and his mechanical engineering internship.

Why did you choose to go abroad? And why specifically Chicago?
I’ve always wanted to live abroad and get a taste of a different culture. Even though the US culture doesn’t differ too much from our European culture, it was still quite a transformation. Chicago is one of the largest cities in the US that has an amazing summer. It’s a big city but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s very lively. People are friendly and enjoy having us internationals around. There’s much to do and see: concerts and movies in the park, the lake, the beach, the architecture along the river, etc… And the food is great. I haven’t yet experienced winter, which I heard can be tough, but I’m sure I’ll see the beauty in going to work in two feet of snow…

How does the Chicago culture differ from your culture and what has impressed you the most?
Especially during summer Chicago culture is very stimulating. There are numerous concerts, movies in the park, festivals, etc. They will definitely keep you entertained. Chicago also has a very unique topography. You have towering skyscrapers along the river all the way up to the lake, but unlike a typical metropolis you have some very nice beaches just North of downtown. There is a large contrast wandering from one place to the other.
People are welcoming and often invite you to join them. People are always playing sports in the park, the beach, the streets, wherever they can in fact and if you show interest they will definitely ask you to join in. You’ll always find something to do here during the summer months and as long as you don’t bruise your ribs the first time you play, like I did, you will certainly get your share of exercise and easily meet new people.

Could you take us through a day? What is your routine?
Let me just mention that my day isn’t very representable for a typical J1 intern in Chicago. My friend’s days are generally more relaxed and a bit shorter. I work in the suburbs about 30 miles west of downtown and so I need to wake up very early to get ahead of traffic. I arrive to work around 6:30, which also has its benefits as I’m allowed to leave earlier than the rest. At work I first have breakfast in the break room and check my emails. I then go about my daily tasks. I leave work around 4:00-4:30 and arrive home an hour and a half later. Traffic is generally pretty bad in the afternoon… I then take my bike to the lake or the beach and just hang out with my girlfriend. Seeing as she is Spanish we then have a late dinner and go to sleep. The next day, repeat!

What is your housing situation? Do you live in an apartment? Roommates? Housemates?
I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Lakeview, Chicago. I live there with my girlfriend who is also here on a J1 visa. We live on the 5th floor with a nice view looking north. It’s only 200 meters from the lake, which is a good place to get away from all the traffic and relax.

Have you made any trips so far?
I have not made any trips so far but I definitely want to visit a very good friend in Miami. We plan to travel there for Thanksgiving. Once the internship is over, I plan to use my 30 days to travel to the West Coast and do a road trip from one national park to the other. We’ll have to make some choices because there are a lot of places to visit, just not enough time to see them all.

What are your future plans?
After my exchange program I first plan to travel out West and visit some national parks: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc. After this road trip I will return to Belgium. First off I will go see my friends and family and eat some Belgian fries with a ‘sito-stick’. In the long term, I tend to build out a career as mechanical engineer.

How has this experience abroad helped you grow both professionally and personally?
I’ve only just started my adventure in Chicago yet made some invaluable memories. Professionally, it improves your position on the labor market when you return to your country. Your English improves drastically and you learn to adapt to working with people from different cultures. In my case working with both American and Indian nationals took some adjustment but once adapted it certainly paid off. Personally, you meet many new friends that you keep for the rest of your life. People from all over the globe that are more than happy when you visit them, making future travel that bit cheaper!

Why would you recommend others to do their internship/traineeship abroad?
Professionally the experience and contacts from an internship abroad are more valuable than spending the same time working in your home country.  However, the foremost reason to do an internship abroad is personal development. Apart from all the friends and numerous memories you make, there will always be some difficult times. Having to figure out how everything works, learning to be totally independent, having the responsibility to pay all the bills on time, etc.  These are the moments that strengthen your character and your ability to cope with adversity. Something that is invaluable both personally and professionally.

How has Stage-USA helped you to arrange your program abroad in Chicago?
Once I found a host company in Chicago there was still lots to do and so I contacted Stage-USA. They helped me get everything in order to make my internship a reality. It was the first time my host company would host an intern and so everything was unknown. Stage-USA was very helpful to clearly explain all the necessary steps to both the host company and I. Most important to me was the help in developing the training plan. There were a lot of unknowns before I could step on a plane and fly to Chicago and Stage-USA helped every step of the way answering any and all questions.

If you could express your internship experience in three words, what would these be?
Most memorable experience.