Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicago at Last

In comparison to the last two days, today was quite a calm adventure.  I, again, decided to sleep in for an extra hour but promptly got out of bed to pack up the rest of my things for check-out which was at 12:00 PM.  I was a bit sad to say goodbye to St. Louis, I will definitely miss the lush environment and great people, but I was excited to fly off to the Windy City this afternoon.  

I think that staying at the Knight Center was an excellent choice.  Since we stayed on campus, we had direct access to a number of campus resources and we were very close to a variety of key St. Louis sites, such as the Zoo, Forest Park, and the Loop.  Although we did not have the chance to visit all of these places, with an extra day we easily could have, and that is the biggest advantage, I would say, to staying at this campus hotel.  

Once we had gotten all of our heavy luggage out of the hotel and into our handy 12-seater van, we headed over to Subway for a quick lunch before departing for the St. Louis airport.  With stomachs full from our yummy sandwiches and wraps, we all piled back into the van and dropped it off at the lot.  A shuttle picked us up from there and carried us to the front of our terminal doors. I really enjoy how easy the transportation has been too, we have not had any problems get to and from our destinations which has greatly benefited our trip so far.

The plane ride from St. Louis to Chicago was the speediest flight I have ever been on!  In a short 45 or so minutes, we were already landing!  Super quick and cool flight, although the plane was much smaller than the others we had been on.  Understandably of course.  I sat next to Cameron for the third plane ride in a row, which was fun because we got to talk about our Social Justice course and read more of the short books for our pre-class assignment.  

Chicago Airport Artwork
The experience getting off the plane was different because instead of walking off the plane and into an airport hallway, we stepped out onto a small set of stairs outside and walked into the airport.  The Chicago airport was filled with great art which I greatly admired and appreciated.  From there we took a shuttle to the fabulous Drake Hotel, during which time we got stuck in traffic.  Turns out it wasn't that bad because I had a chance to check out the surrounding buildings and take some pictures of the skyline.

When we stepped out of the shuttle and walked toward the hotel doors, I noticed how warm it still was at 8:00 PM.  This is my favorite weather, when there is still warm air in during the night.  Tomorrow however, the temperature is suppose to be 105 degrees with a heat index of 115 degrees!  That will definitely be a new experience for all of us.  Inside the hotel and the restaurant, The Grill, where we went for dinner, the air was cool and refreshing.  As for the restaurant atmosphere, it was a bit more casual, which was also really nice.  The food was excellent, but I was so full by the end of the meal that I took some leftovers back to my hotel room.  

Traffic and Chicago Skyline
Tomorrow, I plan on getting some exercise in, having a great lunch with University of Chicago students, learning more about the university, and taking awesome pictures with everyone in my great cohort.  


I woke up at 8:17, just a few minutes prior to the time we were supposed to meet for breakfast thanks to my lovely roommate, Ivette! We met at the elevators in just enough time to meet the rest of the cohort. After eating another hearty meal of pancakes and fruit among other things we headed back to our hotel room to get dressed for another day of travel. My roommate and I decided it would be a good idea to stock up on snacks as well as do some laundry before we headed off to Chicago.

After doing laundry and packing up our final items, we headed down to the lobby to checkout. The cohort waited for Ian in the lobby while he printed our boarding passes which we would need later to get on the plane.

Ivette and Chloe ready to hit the road again!
The  cohort all piled into the 12 passenger for one last time and headed to a local Subway for lunch. After leaving Subway we made our way to the Avis shuttle station once and for all. We struggled, like many times before, to fit all of luggage.
Our luggage took up all of the luggage space on the shuttle.
Our plane to Chicago left at about 4:30 and we landed shortly after 5:00 at the Chicago O'Hare airport. The drive to The Drake Hotel seemed to be way longer than the plane ride there, but it was well worth it. The hotel is beautiful and the food at "The Grill" was so worth the wait. I was really excited at the fact that we were eating in a more relaxed environment.

At this moment I am on the phone with friends from school, blogging, and engaging in conversation with my cohort. I am super excited for the next two days because we will be touring the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
Until next time.

Hello Chicago

This morning wasn't any different from yesterday. I woke up at 6:20 AM, and headed straight to the hotel's fitness center. After that we all gathered together to enjoy some breakfast. Then we all went back to our rooms to pack our stuff, and get cleaned up a bit. I don't know why but my bags felt so much heavier today than they did when we arrived! After a bit of struggle, we managed to load our luggage into our shuttle. A quick stop at Subway, then we headed to the airport.

Our flight was delayed a couple of minutes so we left at 4:30 PM instead of the original time, which was around 3:50 PM.  The plane ride was very short, so I enjoyed it quite a bit. The plane was very small, but maybe that's why I liked it. We made our way over to baggage claim, then off to our shuttle. This was my first look of Chicago, and it was while sitting in traffic. It took us an hour to get to the hotel! The Drake Hotel is quite elegant. Wait, I take that back, The Drake Hotel is beautiful, breathtaking, stunning, astonishing ... etc.

Me and Alysa's room, twin beds & our TV

We had dinner reservations at "The Grill", it was a nice place. I needed a break from all the fancy food, so I ordered chicken tenders and french fries. Tomorrow we are going to visit The University of Chicago, in an attempt to beat traffic we will be leaving at 8:15 AM and meeting for breakfast at 7:30 AM. Sleep is necessary to function, so this is my goodnight to you all!

I Cannot Believe I Am In Chicago

I did not want to leave WashU to go to Chicago knowing that we were going to have to go through the airport again. I woke up late today compared to the past two day, 8:25AM. Packing my luggage was not such a hassle as I thought it would be because I discovered my suitcase had some zippers that expanded it. This would have been a lot help two days ago when I was jumping on it trying to shut it close. By noon, we checked out of the wonderful Charles F. Knight Center and headed off to Chicago. Although we had some delays with our plane, passing through the airport was very fast and quick. The plane ride was less than an hour, we were barely able to start a conversation without it being interrupted by the landing.

Chicago From Within
Before embarking on the journey to Penn, I talked about all the adventures I was going to go on with all of my family members, which I easily over 50 people knowing that I have about 14 uncles and 10 aunts. Out of all the family members, only one of my cousins had ever been at Chicago. They said the streets are fluttered with people, mostly tourist, and the traffic is horrible in the 90 degree weather. Most of what he said was completely accurate. Luckily, the shuttle we took to the hotel had the best air conditioning. I am still scared of the weather because it is rumored that tomorrow was going to be 115degrees, which is really going something new. I brought the best sun screen I could find in the stores. Hopefully it keeps me from tanning up, which easily happens.

Entering The Drake
The Drake Hotel was the most luxurious hotel, that's probably why it is one of the best in the nation. Today, we went to a semi-formal restaurant for dinner, The Grill is what it is called. The food was great. The burger I ordered filled me up so much that I think I might skip dinner tomorrow. I can't wait to tour more of Chicago tomorrow, especially the University of Chicago.

Last Stop Before Penn

Today I woke up relieved because that was the first night that I actually got at least 6 hours of sleep . I better not get used to that because for the most part this will not be happening , so I should expect the unexpected.

The day filled with travel started with breakfast at knight hotel , which would be our last couple hour there in St. Louis , as we left for Chicago at 3:54. Back to the room we went for a couple hour of packing , were I figured out how to actually fit everything I brought into my suitcase! The only fear now was,"is my suitcase going to be under 50 pounds"? Before we arrived at the airport we stopped for some lunch and subway. When we finally arrived ,I was relieved that my luggage only weighed 48.5 pounds. St. Louis was fun , but now it was time too head to a big city known as Chicago.

When we arrived in Chicago after about a 45 minute flight ,it was not hot, at least not yet, as what was set in store for the remainder of our stay here ,was over 100 degree weather.The shuttle over to the drake hotel was full of the Chicago city traffic, but at least we got time to talk about some of the very tall buildings.When we arrived at the Drake ,we were all excited that it was right in the middle of downtown near a lot of shops.Cant wait to meet with the University of Chicago tomorrow !

                                                                 Drake Hotel

New Opinions

Airplane view of Missouri
I woke up this morning at the late time of 7:30 AM and meandered down to breakfast. Our cohort shared funny stories about trying to fit everything back into our suitcases, and it was great to relax and enjoy each others company like we had last night. I went to the gym after breakfast to try and work off some of last night’s delicious dinner, then showered and finished packing for Chicago.
Chicago viewed from our shuttle

Overall, our experience at Washington University was a success. Our first college tour was an eye opener. I initially assumed that I wouldn’t be interested in Washington University, but I found that as we spoke with alumn after alumn, I started forming a favorable impression of the school. I hadn’t seriously considered WashU before this trip because of the location–I wasn’t sure if I could stand the culture shock that I assumed would result as a Bay Area girl moving to the Midwest. After visiting, however, I think it would be less of an adjustment than I originally thought. Everyone was very welcoming, and it sounds as though the student body is pretty diverse both culturally and politically. No matter how many times I think I’ve learned this lesson, I need to remember not to make assumptions before I’ve experienced something for myself, whether it is a place or a person.

It has also been great to see how my perspective about college has changed over the past year. Last year, when I toured colleges as part of the Brown cohort, I was fascinated by the idea but couldn’t fully connect with the differences between colleges. Everything seemed exciting, but somehow mysterious and distant, as I still had two years of high school left. As a rising senior, college is practically the only thing on my mind, and I am so thankful for this second chance to tour universities that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. This first college tour has been a great chance to realize for myself what I’m looking for in a college and what I’m less excited about. I look forward to touring U of Chicago and Northwestern and further developing my college criteria.

Arriving in the Windy City

Today started with a smack to the alarm clock and a disgruntled roll out of bed.  I decided to skip the workout this morning and met everyone else for our last breakfast in St. Louis.  We chatted about our high schools and the differences between the Midwest and the Bay Area.   Pretty soon it was time to head back to our rooms and tackle the challenge of repacking.  Luckily we had a few hours until check out time and I was able to get my suitcase closed just in time. 

After we checked out, we stopped for a quick lunch at the subway by the airport.  Once we started checking in, I found out my bag was slightly over the weight limit, but thanks to Ivette's super packing skills, I was able to transfer some of my stuff.  I'm still not sure how my suitcase gained 3 pounds without me buying anything new, but I guess it will remain a mystery.  

Our flight to Chicago was brief, and after a traffic filled shuttle ride, we arrived at the Drake Hotel.  The Drake is beautiful.  Once again, I am sharing a room with Chloe and Mariko, but this time it has two Queen sized beds and two bathrooms!  We had a couple minutes to change and then we headed out for a Penn Team dinner at The Grill.  I had the mac and cheese, my all time favorite dish, and even though it was just a side, I am full to the bursting.  

I am really happy to be in Chicago again.  It's been a long time since I last visited, but as we drove down the freeway, I was reminded what an amazing city it is.  I can't wait to tour the University of Chicago tomorrow.  After having such an interesting experience at WashU, I'm hoping U of Chicago will open my eyes even more about what might await me at college.  However, I'm not looking forward to the 115 degree weather forecast for tomorrow.  I guess that is just one of the many things I'll have to adjust to when I move away from the Bay Area.

Go With the Flow

Wow, I sure did sleep well last night.  After such an adventurous and fun-filled day yesterday, I was was able to fall asleep super fast on my comfortable spring cot.  This morning I had planned on getting up with everyone to go to the gym so that I could work off all of that amazing food I ate yesterday, but instead I decided I should try to catch as much sleep as I can before my schedule gets too busy.  So instead of joining my early-rising peers, I slept like a baby for another precious hour. 

By 7:45 AM, I was out of bed and dressed for our first hotel breakfast.  From the nice dining area, we proceeded to Holme's Hall for the guided tour check-in.  Initially we walked to the wrong building, but the office attendees kindly pointed us in the right direction.  From then on, I realized that everyone on campus really was incredibly nice and hospitable.  At the dinner last night I noticed that each of our Wash U guests repeated how friendly the students and faculty of their school are, and how welcoming they are to incoming members of the school.  Today, I was able to experience this as the admission officer, Elise Miller, a rising Wash U senior, Jacob, and our tour guide, Elizabeth Chen, helped me understand the full university experience in an enthusiastic and open manner.  They were patient with our many questions and gave me a bunch of new reasons to apply to the Washington University at St. Louis.  

UPENN Cohort at Washington University, St. Louis
Once the tour and information center was over, we had our first chance to eat the campus food.  Since everyone we had met had raved about how great the meals were at this school, I was very excited to check out the cafeteria for lunch.  Well it turns out the food is...awesome!  I myself bought a delicious burrito and enjoyed it thoroughly.  The great thing about the cafe though is that there are so many different selections of food that I feel that I could never get tired of eating there.  I think that this is an important factor to consider in a school and Wash U definitely gets bonus points for this aspect of campus life.  Even so, I know I can deal with pretty much whatever food situation other schools offer so, don't worry, I'm not writing off universities for their food variety.

One of Four Hungry Hippos
After our stomachs were full and our hunger completely satisfied, we headed off to the St. Louis Zoo!  Personally, this was my number one choice when it came down to picking today's destination.  One of the students from the dinner last night told us that the zoo is free and that there was even a super cute baby elephant!  Hearing this news got me pumped up and ready to head off to this wonderful place, and apparently the rest of my cohort felt the same so we ended up spending the next 2-3 hours walking through the beautiful landmark.  I have not been to a zoo for such a long time, but I can say that this one was the most vegetated and scenic one I've ever been to.  I can say that this time was well spent observing numerous species of animals and connecting with the rest of my cohort.  I only wish we could stay in this city for another day to site see and check out the rest of the recommended hotspots.

Beautiful Elephant Fountain
Ending our day off with dinner at Tony's was absolutely wonderful.  We ordered a shrimp dish as our appetizer and I am not lying when I say it was spectacular.  An appetizer, spectacular?  Yes, by far the best plate I have ever had before an entree.  Oh and how delicious the entree was!  I ordered veal for the first time and did in fact enjoy this dish, along with the truffle sauce that came with it.  Not only were the first two plates extremely satisfying, but for dessert I ordered the incredible Zabaglione with raspberries.  The waiter was convinced that I would like to have the sweet creme brulee more, but I stuck to my strong desire for Zabaglione, and it sure was the best choice I made tonight.  Every bit of every dish eaten, every area of my body satisfied from this restaurant.  In addition to the food, I loved having a night out at a fancy dinner with just the cohort.  I really feel that it gave us the time to relax outside of our hotel rooms, and we have already grown closer, which I am so happy about.
Mariko, Me, Ivette
After our time in St. Louis, I am more than excited to continue on this trip with these people, because I feel that we will help each other grow everyday this summer.  Even when we split up into our two different classes, I know that we will feel comfortable enough to reach out and come together as a group.  Saying that, I am sad to leave St. Louis but I am thrilled to fly to Chicago tomorrow and gain more precious memories with this year's UPenn cohort.