Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Photo credit: Jessica Rutkowski

Two weeks ago, I bought a hat.

It wasn’t a major, life-altering purchase, nor was it a result of impulsive enthusiasm. It was a decision made after weeks of perusing Pinterest and determining that if I owned a hat, I, too, could traipse through life with the same daring vibe as, say, Indiana Jones.

It was one small step out of my comfort zone, and one giant leap into an upcoming year of adventures.

Four weeks ago, I made a slightly more impulsive—and perhaps more earth-shattering—decision. During a meeting with the director of the journalism school at Ohio University, I learned about the Global Leadership Certificate program offered through Ohio University’s Global Leadership Center (GLC): A two-year-long program designed to provide students with professional experience through team-based projects centered around politics, culture, religion and other global issues.

I had long since missed the application deadline for the program, and as it was, my schedule was packed with a chaotic mix of courses and extracurricular activities. So naturally, I took Dr. Stewart up on his offer to email the director of the GLC to see if I could learn more about the course in hopes of enrolling in the program—what’s another three-hour commitment in my week?

Twelve hours later, my inquisitive email was met with a much more decisive response: “Can you start on Friday?”

And that’s how one month into the semester, I enrolled in the first course of the Global Leadership Certificate, flipped through the syllabus and learned that one month later, I would be taking a trip to Chicago with other members of the program.

And then I learned that I will be going to Ghana in June (but I will panic about that later).

Leading up to the trip, my friends and I created a list of numerous restaurants and attractions we wanted to experience while we were there in hopes of maximizing our free time in between company visits—The Bean and Navy Pier are swell, but we knew there is more to see.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
Nope, I have no idea who this woman is, but I took her picture while simultaneously trying to explain to our lost Uber driver where my classmates and I we were standing.
Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
Friday evening’s sunset along the Chicago Riverwalk

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

Though I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times before– including for another school trip back in March— this weekend’s adventures felt different, as though the sunny and 70-degree October weather combined with the sheer freedom of being twenty years old and left us with an indescribable sense of spontaneity and enthusiasm for life.

(Or maybe it was the combination of deep dish pizza and Molly’s Cupcakes that we consumed throughout the trip– that’s up for debate!)

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
I tried Molly’s Cupcakes for the first time in March, and I have been thinking about them ever since. The frosting has the consistency of fudge, and the cake itself is delicious enough to make Betty Crocker weep– it was all I could do to not order a lifetime supply before I headed home.

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

After arriving in Chicago on Thursday and spending the majority of our day on Friday touring Accenture and IRI (aka, the actual purpose of this trip!), we had the entire day on Saturday to explore the city. Steven, Jessica and Catherine– three of my classmates and fellow adventurers– and I left our hostel at 8 a.m. in hopes of maximizing our daylight hours.

We walked to the Green City Market and the Lincoln Park Zoo, but we were admittedly more interested in taking pictures of the fall flowers and Chicago skyline than we were in actually purchasing anything.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
I do not think that Jessica stopped smiling once throughout the entirety of our trip, though she was especially cheerful when we came across the flamingo exhibit at the zoo.

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

As liberatingly Ferris Bueller as our weekend felt, it wasn’t a stolen Ferrari that guided our adventures on Saturday, but rather a herd of Divvy bikes that cost $10 to rent for the day and gave us the opportunity to explore the streets of Chicago on our own timeline.

If you had access to vehicles like these, would you take them back right away?

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

Neither would we.

We started our trek by biking roughly two miles north of Lincoln Park to visit Wrigley Field. While learning how to traverse the city traffic via bicycle was fairly daunting, the destination allowed Steven to check an item off his Chicago bucket list and was, dare I say, a home run.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
You can almost hear us all thinking, “Go, Tribe!” as we posed for a photo in front of Wrigley Field’s iconic sign.

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

Next stop? The Chicago Lakefront Path– a jogging and bike trail that runs parallel to Lake Michigan and perfectly juxtaposes the stretch of skyline ahead.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
Yes, the weather was so beautiful that people were sunbathing in bikinis in the middle of October!

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure
Some midwesterners pick pumpkins in October; we picked beach glass.

 

As we strolled the shoreline, Catherine interrupted our thoughtful silence to express her disbelief that it was only 3 p.m. In fact, we frequently found ourselves losing track of the time (and not just because of the time difference that almost caused me to miss a 4 p.m. EST phone interview. Oops.)

Sometimes saying “yes” to life means buying a new accessory and feeling brave enough to wear it in public; other times, it means losing yourself in the moment as you catch a few hours of sleep on a bus or hostel, navigate the streets of a big city on a bicycle and embark on every adventure that pops up along the way.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

I felt oddly at home as we pedaled against Saturday’s warm October breeze, racing to beat the clock before our impending departure marked the end of our 72-hour homework hiatus. At 11:45 p.m., we boarded the bus, legs aching from our 10(ish)-mile sightseeing excursion and hearts full of anticipation for our next grand adventure.

Hold on to your hats, folks– my experiences with the GLC have only just begun.

 

Hats Off to Chicago: A 72-Hour Adventure

 

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