I leave for Denmark in five weeks, and I have been fairly busy. Recently, I’ve been busy getting my wisdom teeth taken out, work, writing a lot, cleaning my room, making pins, and dealing with the emotional realization that everything will change very soon. My father has been quite busy as well, and within the chaos, we had to schedule a visit to Chicago to get my visa paperwork done.

Scheduling the visa visit is a nightmare within itself. The website wouldn’t let us schedule anytime in July, so we had to resort to June. So, my dad and I planned a trip to Chicago that would last about thirty hours. For most people, that would be way too little time, but not for me and my dad. Our approach to traveling is to go in all out tourist mode and to see everything, and it turns out that you can get to know Chicago very well in thirty hours.

My dad and I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and drove all the way to the Minneapolis airport, which took over three times as long as the actual flight itself. After taking off, it took less than an hour to arrive in Chicago. Upon landing, we promptly got ourselves public transportation passes, which we used right away in an adventure getting to the University of Chicago.

This year, I applied to many colleges, one of them being the University of  Chicago. UChicago was my first choice, and though I fully expected to be rejected, I got the great honor of being waitlisted at a school that accepts less than eight percent of its applicants. Before this visit, I had never gotten the opportunity to visit UChicago, so there was no way that I was going to miss out on that this time.

Getting there was far from easy. My dad and I spent a sufficient amount of time wandering around the city looking for the correct train station, and after finding it and getting off, my dad and I found ourself in a sketchy neighborhood. Thankfully, two strangers explained to us how to get there, and after almost giving up we found ourselves in the prettiest college campus I have ever seen.

(See? It’s just like Hogwarts and covered with ivy. This is their chapel.)

Not long after, we worked our way up to Millennium Park to see the famous Bean and meet up with with my aunt who lives in Chicago. My Aunt Margaret easily made the trip way better by showing us around. After escaping the craziness that is the Bean, we headed to a coffee shop to relax for a little bit.

(It really was crazy.)

Here is my dad and me. One of us likes taking pictures, one of us does not.

After a delicious open sandwich and my first watermelon drink of the trip, we started walking around Chicago, and decided to go up the Sears/Willis tower. Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do, but it was easily worth it. The Willis tower is the second tallest building in the United States, and the view was nothing short of spectacular. I even managed to get a postcard type picture with my iPhone!

Our day doing touristy things wasn’t quite over yet. My aunt knew exactly which place to get the best deep dish pizza in Chicago, and we ended up going to one of the places founded by the inventor of deep dish pizza.

We ordered the classic pizza, which had a literal layer of sausage on it, a beautiful amount of cheese, and crust that was definitely worth the forty-five minute wait. After two pieces each, all of us were stuffed.

At that point, my dad and I were quite tired, so we headed over to our hostel. My dad and I decided against staying in a hotel and instead staying at the Chicago Getaway Hostel, which I am really glad we did. Not only was it more comfortable staying in a home-like place, but the people there we really friendly. The workers went out of their way to print off a form I needed for my visa in color, and were quite friendly. At the end I found out one of them was a former RYE student!

Since I was dead tired and by myself (my dad was tired to the point that he didn’t feel like socializing), I read the newspaper until I found someone to talk to. This place was full of mostly people in their twenties – they even had a self serve thing for beer – and it’s a little strange sitting in a youth hostel by yourself. I ended up talking to a doctor from India who is living in New Jersey, and that was really nice.

The next morning, we ended up striking a conversation with some people from Germany due to my dad asking them about their accent. Everyone we talked to was super nice and friendly, and it’s safe to say that I highly prefer hostels over hotels now.

When it comes down to it, my favorite part of traveling is meeting new people and getting in very long conversations with them. This happens to me a lot of places – at the coffee shop, at the hot tub at the district conference, and at yearbook camp. There are so many amazing people out there, and their stories are all unique. I don’t think this is the reason why I originally wanted to become an exchange student, but it’s definitely one of the main reasons why I want to now. I have so many wonderful people to meet yet.

The next morning, my dad and I experienced the quite the adventure getting to the place I needed to go to get my visa. We made the unfortunate decision of googling the address of the Danish consulate, and so we wandered around for quite a while trying to find that address. After going the wrong way for quite a while, we finally found it. It turns out that it was at the John Hancock building, and when we got there, we soon found out that tthat was not the place actually needed to be with fifteen minutes to go.

Well, we didn’t make it to that place on time, which turned out to no big deal. The guy in the waiting room helped everyone feel at ease, and it was fun talking with the other people applying for visas. I didn’t have any trouble because I brought all of my paperwork, and it turns out, a lot of the stuff I was told to bring I didn’t even need. It’s a huge relief knowing that that is working out, and I am very glad that it was mostly straightforward. Exchange students to Denmark, consider yourselves lucky. I’ve heard it’s not as easy for other countries.

The guy in the waiting room knew all of the good food places in Chicago, and so my dad and I got his advice on where to go. We ended up going to the oldest Italian restaurant in Chicago, which was nothing short of phenomenal. The whole setup was a bit surreal, and the prices were very affordable considering how high quality it was.

I ended up eating every last bite of my lasagna, determined not to waste a bit of the best lasagna I have ever had. Now, this wasn’t the smartest decision considering we were about to walk a lot around Chicago on a very hot day, but I don’t regret it. It’s not every day you get to eat at such a good restaurant.

Next stop was Lake Michigan. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I met a family of ducks!!!!

After that, we headed back to the airport through public transportation (another adventure in itself) and then home. I have a lot more to say about Chicago, but I think I’ll save it for another post. This post already has way too much stuff in it for one post, just like the amount of stuff we did in Chicago in thirty hours.