“Isn’t it super cold in Chicago?” is one of the first questions I get asked when I tell people I’m doing my Fulbright here. The answer is yes, which is why I decided to pack my skiing jacket. That turned out to be a wise decision. In Chicago, it snows and it gets cold – really, really cold. This year the famous polar vortex passed through the Northern Midwest, breaking negative record temperatures. Even eyelashes weren’t safe.
Needless to say, this was quite the event. Yet, what was even more remarkable about the whole experience was how unconcerned the locals responded to it. For example, the bus I usually take to the University was still running (see photo). Being a Belgian myself, accustomed to a more modest climate, I have gotten used to the idea that once the first hints of snow trickle down from the sky, it’s safer not to rely on public transportation anymore. But not in Chicago. Here, the busses persist. This is telling of something important about the city that I have had the honor of calling my home for the past year: the City of the Big Shoulders is not going to be thrown off by a little snow.
When it is cold outside Chicago life moves indoors. You can cheer on the Bulls or the Blackhawks at the United Center. You can check out Hopper’s Nighthawks at the Art Institute. You can even hang out with some sharks at the Shedd Aquarium. Pick whatever you like. This great city has a million things to offer.
One of my personal favorites in winter time was the University of Chicago intramural indoor soccer competition. It turns out Americans like to play soccer too (although it remains a mystery why they insist on calling it soccer given that you use your foot to kick a ball). Conveniently enough, we got to take the bus to the games and the bus was on time – even when it snowed.
Associating Chicago with ice and snow, however, is only part of the story. The city also thrives in summer time. You have your classics, such as the Lollapalooza music festival and the shows at the Pritzker Pavilion. But there is more; the city really transforms when the sun comes out. The banks of Lake Michigan – a lake that is roughly two times the size of Belgium – are an invaluable addition to life in Chicago, offering 26 miles (42 kilometers) of lakefront and beaches to enjoy for free. Chicago is famous for its architecture, and in the summer time, you get to admire it sitting on the beach sipping from a cocktail (photo). Which is why, if you’re coming to Chicago, pack you winter jacket but don’t forget your swimming trunks.
Bregt Raus is a 2018-2019 Fulbright Student in law to the University of Chicago, School of Law. Bregt studied law at Ghent University and graduated in 2015.Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.