This is the final post in our multi-part series “Global Insights on Chicago’s Tech Sphere” detailing the experiences of our Professional Fellows from Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia as they discover more about Chicago’s thriving innovation community, and how it compares to their home countries.
Part 9: 10 Ways to Disrupt Your Emotions (With or Without Tech)
By Ante Vekic, Croatia
My other fellows covered most of the facts. Now it’s time for some emotions. On this hi-tech diagram you can see the effects the fellowship program had on most of us.
By (lucky) accident, our stay overlapped with the most exciting period Chicago has experienced during past decade. So we were affected by not just our professional program, but with everything else that was going on while we were being delighted by Chicago’s tech ecosystem and American culture. As a reminder for all of the past fellows and a guide for all of the future ones, here’s a short list of ways in which your Chicago fellowship placement can disrupt your emotions — and in the process, make you a better person, professional, and leader.
1. Be a witch, a zombie, or a baby
It is not hard to have a good night out in Chicago. But on Halloween, a good night out is even better. It is easy. Just forget about Europe not thinking seriously about Halloween, and go with the flow. Dress up as a witch, a zombie, a pig, a baby, Super Mario, a salsa dancer, or whatever you prefer, and hit the club.
2. Hang out with some smart people
Chicago’s tech ecosystem offers great opportunities for networking and generally being around smart people. Be sure to grab all the opportunities to be around them. Go to Chicago Ideas Week, go to Chicago Innovation Awards, Seedcon, take a tour around 1871, meet with people from 2112, check local meetups, conferences, workshops… You can sleep when you return back home.
3. Hang out with your homestay host
Most of the fellows will agree with me that our homestay hosts were great, but although Roland paints really nice, and makes the best barbecue, mine was the best. Period. Karen took me bike riding along the lake, out to eat at her favorite restaurants, to see turtle races at local bar (anyone done that?), and to help her friends move to a new home. I went home shopping with her, watched baseball in a local bar, improved my English. I left the U.S. richer for a friend.
4. Ask a lot of questions
On your professional placement, you’re the one with the steering wheel in your hands. Be as curious as you can feel comfortable with, and your mentor will help you make the most out of the experience, learn the most, and connect you with the opportunities to strengthen your skills, your professional network, and share and promote your ideas, or just move you bit closer to making them happen. Don’t be afraid you’ll look stupid. You’ll be more stupid if you act smart, and miss getting the information that can help you excel professionally or personally.
5. Go to people’s homes
Be sure to visit people’s homes. If invited, of course. Don’t just break into random houses. You can meet locals from other walks of life, and see how it really feels like to live there, feel their worries, and share their excitement. Usually such visits come with good food included, so I don’t see any good reason to skip on an American home party.
6. Walk the neighborhoods
When a random stranger walking his dog on the street greets you like he’s your best childhood friend, or when you get “Howyadoin?” with a smile from a bus driver, it will make you rethink whatever you’ve been expecting from interacting with locals. And you will get the opportunity for that if you just get out of the house and walk around your neighborhood, or exit one station before your work…
7. Cry a little bit
When you’re crying you know it’s emotional. And when you see a lot of people cry, you know it is special. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series 2016 was something Chicago didn’t see for 108 years, and no one expected to see even when we arrived. But it happened, and it was special. The city exploded with emotions and we felt it, even though we didn’t know a thing about baseball. I doubt something like this will be possible again, but when you come to Chicago, and someone tells you about the time when Cubs won the World Series, remember that your fellows were there to see and feel it.
8. Cry some more
Once in a while the world makes a turn, and things begin to unfold after historical events that mark such turns. The U.S. 2016 elections were a turning point not just for U.S., but for the entire world which is going through the most uncertain times since the Cold War. And we were here to witness that event. We saw a lot of people cry, worried about the future of this great nation. But we didn’t share that worry, because from our perspective, the U.S. is made of fabric that can’t be torn so easy. And all those tears wept after the elections are guarantee that people will do everything to ensure the country doesn’t go back, but forward.
9. And then cry a lot
You can’t stay in Chicago forever. And the day will come when you realize that. Sooner than you think. At that point you’ll be like family with your fellows, you’ll have feelings for them, for other people, for the places you’ve been visiting. You’ll return home and feel it in your gut. But your life will change. And you’ll be a different person. A better person. A leader.
10. Make some impact
Use your newly-acquired superpowers and change the world. Or at least make some steps to make it better for everyone.
This post is written by Ante Vekic from Osijek, Croatia, placed in LimeRed Studio, a UX design agency, and hosted by Karen Bradley in the diverse Edgewater neighborhood. Shout out to WorldChicago for making all of this (tears) happen, and Maria for being part of our experience.