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OPINION: Seeing the Second City

Windy City Wildcat students at the top of the Willis Tower Skydeck

Weber State University’s Study Abroad program offers many exciting travel opportunities, both in-state and out of the country, for the many different programs that are available at WSU. Communication and media students were offered to have an immersive multimedia experience during spring break.

The “Windy City Wildcats” experience started on March 1 and ended on March 9. This study abroad trip cost $1,400 (not including flight) and was one of the cheaper study abroad programs students could go on.

During this trip I and 23 of my peers came together to work on social media campaigns that brought us closer to both the city and community of Chicago. We also got the opportunity to visit and explore a variety of different museums, institutes and the many iconic landmarks that make up Chicago.

Weeks before going to the Windy City, the students participating in the trip were brought together and divided into groups of four to begin the early stages of our social media campaign.

After throwing around a few ideas, my group decided to focus our Instagram page on thrift shopping in Chicago, but more specifically the local businesses in the city. We went with the name “Windy City Thrifters.”

Other groups that were on the trip focused their social media on local restaurants, bookstores in Chicago and some of the locations where films and TV shows had been filmed amongst other things.

We checked into the Freehand Hotel, a building constructed in 1927, when we arrived in Chicago. The Freehand Hotel is located in the River North neighborhood on Ohio Street and is within walking distance of many attractions in the city as well as many restaurants.

Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due, the local restaurants where the Chicago deep dish pizza originates from, were two of the restaurants that were near the hotel. During our first evening in the city we went to Due and I found out that the Chicago deep dish style was unfortunately not for me. I will stick with my thin crust pizza for now.

The following day, we split into our social media groups and went on a scavenger hunt across the city. This scavenger hunt took us to many well known landmarks in the city such as Navy Pier, Cloud Gate and a more recent attraction, the Rat Hole.

After becoming more orientated with the city through the scavenger hunt, my group took on the task of thrift shopping and recording footage of our activities for our social media page.

During this first outing we visited a variety of stores all located in Wicker Park that sell thrifted clothing, including Round Two Chicago, Store B Vintage, Crossroads Trading and 2nd Street, which was celebrating a grand opening while we were there.

For me, the highlights were The Exchange, a local DVD and record store, and Myopic Books, a great bookstore where I found a book called “Shock Value” about the history of horror films.

A few days later we returned to Wicker Park to find more stores to shop at. We discovered a Village Discount Outlet and Reckless Records. Reckless has a great variety of records and I was able to find a few to add to my collection. The bulk of the content posted for our social media came from these shopping sprees.

The social media side of the trip was a great way for students in all areas of the communication and digital media departments to learn about the work that is needed for storytelling on social media platforms. Teamwork and consistent communication is important for a project like this to run smoothly and build up traction.

With most videos uploaded to social media only being about a minute long, I found it eye-opening to figure out what content would be important/essential for our posts to not only tell our story but the story of these local businesses.

Another exciting side of this study abroad trip was visiting some of the professional organizations that make up the world of media. On day five of the trip we visited The Associated Press, one of the prolific news outlets in Chicago. We had a discussion with a handful of individuals working in the world of journalism — editors, reporters and video journalists. It was interesting to hear what journalism was like in a city so much larger than Salt Lake City.

Day six of the trip consisted of visiting Northwestern University. We got to check out the Knight Lab, a project that brings developers, students, educators, journalists and designers together to create new technology and methods of advancing journalism. It was interesting to hear about some of the innovations that institutions are working on to bring the world of research to new heights with technology like AR and VR.

On day seven we visited BCW Chicago and Ogilvy, two public relations companies. Personally, I found this visit insightful as someone who has not spent much time with PR or advertising. I was fascinated by the process of their work and how they used teamwork to achieve their goals in advertising.

When we were not working on our social media project or visiting firms, we got to explore some of the local attractions. The Museum of Ice Cream was one of the highlights of our travels. A brightly-colored and fun museum that lets you learn about the history of the treat and sample some of the unique flavors of ice cream that the museum has created.

We also got to travel to the top floor of the Willis Tower to look off the sky deck, but unfortunately, it was cloudy that day and made it impossible to see just how high up in the air we were.

The “Windy City Wildcats” experience was a great way to spend my spring break, making new friends and exploring a city I had never been to before. Study Abroad trips are a great way to have experiences that will benefit your education while at WSU.

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About the Contributors
Cooper Hatsis
Cooper Hatsis, Culture reporter
Megan Swann
Megan Swann, Co-culture editor
Adam Montgomery
Adam Montgomery, Editor at Large

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