I went to Chicago for the first time a couple weeks ago. In between conference talks I attended and my own presentation and intense sessions of dissertation writing, I was lucky enough to explore a few famous areas of the Windy City. I even got to write with a view on the Bean (Cloud Gate):
But first, let me fangirl a little bit: Zoltán Dörnyei mentioned Ben Heddy, one of my mentors, during his keynote presentation at TESOL 2018.
What to See
First, I highly recommend walking downtown and along the lake to Navy Pier. The view is breathtaking, especially if you’re not used to skyscrapers. I did not get to ride the ferris wheel, but enjoyed the view very much. The color of Lake Michigan is stunning, and the river is even greener (even without Instagram filters).
Second, if you like art or pretend you like art, have time (or do not want to study), and some money, tour the Chicago Art Institute. It’s pricey ($19 for students), but oh so worth it if it’s one of the only things you do there. I had seen a few paintings or sculptures when they were lended by other museums in France, but I really enjoyed seeing Hopper’s Nighthawks, a concentration of Andy Warhol’s which I had been lucky to see at the Tate Modern ten years ago, a few Van Gogh, and a selection of Rodin’s sculptures.
I grew up with a replica of the Thinker in my parents’ living room, and although I did not know much about Rodin, I went ugly crying in the Institute when I saw the original (I’ll put that on the account of fatigue).
Third: I also got to enjoy the view from Sears Tower but the price ($24) is prohibitive and becomes completely absurd when the building gets surrounded with clouds: you simply do not get to see much. I was lucky enough to get there when the weather was still nice enough, but left the building after 2 hours in line (yes, carrying my laptop and everything else) and people were waiting to see pretty much nothing from the 103rd floor. So here’s a few suggestions from Captain Obvious : check the weather and don’t carry your house in your bag. If it’s really cloudy, don’t waste your money.
I walked a little bit more and by chance ran into the Union Station (which was being renovated). Yes, this is where Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner caught Al Capone’s bookkeeper in The Untouchables.
What to Eat/Drink
Unfortunately, my exploration of this was very limited, but I did get to try a local brew, eat a slice of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria with some colleagues, and enjoy some soup and chai tea lattes from a series of cute coffee shops including The Spoke and Bird (located on 205 E 18th St, Chicago, IL 60616, just 10 min by walk from the McCormick Place). I was also recommended Giordano’s Pizza, Gino’s East as well as The Purple Pig, Portillo’s Hot dogs, and Ground Control (this one is a vegan option) by several friends, and Hanckok Tower for a drink.
Recommendations for grad students on a budget or not:
- Apply for travel grants: your academic department, your college, the graduate college, your grad student senate usually have grants for you. Follow directions, meet deadlines, and actually know what you’re talking about in your research, but be able to present it to people who are not specialists. Most of the time, committees are not from your field and simply want to be able to understand whether your research is clear. Be concise.
- Ask for your registration fee to be waived. Some organizations are willing to let you go for free. They want you to learn, not to starve.
- Volunteer at the conference: you might get a free lunch, network, or even your registration fee waived.
- Do not stay at the conference hotels (unless your advisor tells you to): they’re way too expensive. Instead, look for a room or an apartment to share with AirBnB.
- If you do not know anyone going to the conference, contact the organizers to know if they can give your contact info to share a room.
- Network! This is a golden opportunity to meet people in your field and potential future employers or colleagues.
- Tidy up, but get comfy shoes (avoid heels if you can): you’ll likely spend the day walking in the venue or standing by your poster.
- Avoid heavy bags. You don’t need what’s in your satchel.
- Bring business cards and resumes.