Nightlife for professionals

Chicago has a lot to offer, so you better be ready to choose!

You’ve all seen those parties where the people with name-tags mingle while discussing something important. Maybe you’ve attended them.

However, I guarantee you didn’t attend as many in as short a time period as your average Professional Fellow.

Average fellow (me) with World Chicago president, Peggy Parfenoff

I, along with 14 other entrepreneurial-minded individuals from the Balkans, am currently in Chicago for a professional fellows’ exchange month. We arrived last week, and we’ve already experienced a month’s worth of things (including the journey itself). Our organizer is World Chicago, and they take care of us very well. One of the things they do is take us EVERYWHERE.

When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on exchange, but they usually follow a similar path: lots of initial excitement followed by bleary weeks of agony and filling out forms. Our exchange is not like that — thanks to World Chicago and our amazing professional hosts, we get to keep the initial buzz going right until the end of the program!

In the one week since we’ve been in Chicago, we got a chance to experience talks from famous movie stars/authors, learn what gorillas, colonoscopies, divorce and Hanukkah have in common (thanks for that, Daniel Pink), work with locals that inspire awe, attend comic-cons (I’m still so happy I did that), watch football games (I thought Notre Dame was a church), meet the mayor and even brag about our experience to the cool people that attended the Fall Fundraiser “What in the world is World Chicago?”.

Fall Fundraiser — 4 girls, 2 countries, one gallery, endless fun

How cool is that?

We’ve bar-hopped, we’ve gone to concerts, we’ve seen protests and parades. People are thrilled to recommend places to us, happy to share their opinions on the food, drinks, atmosphere. Our approach is personal, relying on those we meet along the way rather than some anonymous reviewer on Yelp.

The results are a mixed bag, ranging from getting star struck because you met your favorite financial wizard (yes, that’s a thing) to deliberately under-tipping a waitress that was as rude as she was unprofessional (she’s lucky we tipped at all, tbh).

Chicago Ideas week — one event out of many

Naturally, it’s the attendees (ie. Us) that made all of this as fun as it was. I mean, Rok compared himself to Melania Trump in his speech (same accent, same country) in front of a hundred people, Simona and Nataša have been remotely organizing a whole organization in their home country, Ivana started a blog of her own and I haven’t burned anything down. That’s a success right there!

People are important. This program, our visit to this country, they wouldn’t be what they are if it wasn’t for those who join us on this journey. They can be hosts, like my cool team at Holistic Index or the kids attending the after-school program with Erduan at the Syrian Community Network. They can be a part of World Chicago, like the board and the homestay hosts. They can be the random folks that meet us and want to know more — and those have a special place in my heart!

Erduan and a kid at the after school program

Every day is a new adventure, and every event is a potential meeting-ground for new friends. We’re lucky to be invited to all these places, and we’re grateful to everyone who takes an interest in us, our organizations and all those that had a hand in getting us here.

For all of you out there that haven’t come across some of the things that I mentioned in this blog — check them out! I wouldn’t be mentioning people or things that I don’t find important and interesting, and I don’t want you skimming over them. After all, we can’t meet everyone in person; there are only so many nights in Chicago, and those are filling up real quick!