15 SEP 2014 // KANG YONG LOH
UIUC SSA commemorated the long Labor Day weekend with our annual trip to Chicago between August 30 2014 and August 31 2014! Our strong contingent of 45 SSA members began our journey to metropolitan Chicago on early Saturday morning with 2 fully packed buses and 3 cars. While the 3 hour ride through the corn fields of Urbana-Champaign was exciting, our morale was significantly enhanced upon reaching our first stop – CHINATOWN!
First thing first, lunch! Although we split up into smaller groups, everyone chose dim sum unanimously. The Siew Mai, Xiao Long Bao, Har Gao and Liu Sha Bao reminded us of all the wonderful cuisine back in Singapore. Many will agree that it is really hard to find good Asian cuisine in Urbana-Champaign. To finally be able to try these delicate and delicious Chinese food after 2 weeks in US was really a PLUS factor. With that, we kicked start the Chicago trip with a Blast!
Understanding that members in SSA have different needs and expectations, efforts were made to try to cater to demands of every member. After a group photo of SSA in Chinatown, the group was split up once again into small groups which individually focused on a theme of music, food and sightseeing. Nonetheless, the first stop was Millennium Park where we were all mind blown by Chicago’s towering skyscrapers. Some of us also managed to catch a glimpse of the magnificent Lake Michigan, so huge that it resembled an ocean! We also made our way to the famous Cloud Gate a.k.a. The Bean to observe the skyline of Chicago. Interestingly, we spotted many couples having their wedding photo taken at The Bean, this implies the magnificence of the view and the significance of this landmark.
The first group made our way to the Chicago Jazz Festival, which saw some of the world’s best, famous musicians. Iconic musicians such as Gary Burton and Ari Brown performed with god-like skills and demonstrated world class jazz music! Every year, hundreds of thousands will come to Chicago to celebrate its rich jazz history. After listening to the top notch jazz music at the festival, we head our way to the famous Purple Pig for an amazing dinner of pork! At the same time, other SSA members also went on a food trial to find food trucks, which was an interesting feature that could not be found back in Singapore. Since only one food truck was spotted (to their disappointment, because the cupcakes from the food trucks were so good!), they eventually moved on to Portillo’s, and Deep Dish pizza in search of more good food (you can never have enough of good food). In addition, just to get themselves intellectually enticed, members also head for the unique Intelligentsia Café!
Finally, after a long day of enjoyment and excitement, our last stop was at Navy Pier. There we were treated with the Chicago Fireworks. Synchronized fireworks were just simply breathtaking to watch and enjoy. Finally we ended our first day with a group photo of UIUC SSA with the Singapore Flag! Just when we thought we were done with Day 1, we were pleasantly surprise by what the hotel had prepared for us. It was a huge board outside the hotel that states “Welcome UIUC SSA students”!
Our second day was spent shopping and spending money at Aurora, an outlet mall. We spent hours shopping for essentials (or so they say) that were sold at reasonably discounted prices! After making our way back to UIUC, we ended the entire trip with a great dinner at Lai Lai Wok!
To conclude, this Chicago trip was an incredibly great experience which all members will treasure! It was a trip that not only exposed us to the American Culture but more importantly brought all of us closer to each other and bonded as one big Singapore Family! This epitomizes our SSA vision to be a home away from home, and to collectively engage the University community and beyond!