Trading Cultures in Chicago

♪♫♪ I was close to a fault line / Heaven knows, you showed up in time / Was it real?

Last Saturday I had the chance to volunteer with the Trade Winds group at UIC at the Illinois Medical District guest house! Trade Winds is a semester program that is run by UIC OIS (Office of International Services) in which domestic students are paired with international students in order to spend time together throughout the semester to learn about each other’s cultures. The program is unique in that it’s mutually beneficial for all participants. International students are able to learn about things to do in Chicago, UIC, and American cultures and traditions. As a domestic student who has grown in the Chicagoland area my whole life, I am able to learn about cultures, traditions, and values from around the world while making friends and connections that really last. This program offers one of the most welcoming and accepting environments I’ve experienced, and any Trade Winds hosted event is always fun and meaningful. Another great thing about Trade Winds is that the partners decide what they want to do based on their similarities. I participated in Trade Winds during the fall semester as well, and my partner and I had a great time bonding over some delicious food in Chicago! It was a great way to try some new restaurants while getting to know someone from another country. I definitely recommend Trade Winds to all of my friends as a way to experience a different culture within the city of Chicago.

Last week I was able to attend the Trade Winds service event for this semester, which involved making care packages for the people who stay at the Illinois Medical District guest house. I initially looked up the address and traveled there by blue line, but to my utter surprise I found myself right in front of Polk Street Residence (PSR)! Despite having visited PSR many times before, I had no idea that there was actually a guest house connected to the residence halls on west campus. It’s a little bit of a maze inside of there because all of the building are connected one way or another, but after we walked through SSR, eventually we found ourselves in the community room of the guest house.

The IMD guest house, for those who are unaware (like I was) is a safe place that provides accommodations for patients and family or friends of patients at Stroger Hospital or Rush University Health Center at an affordable price. This provides people a safe and warm place to stay while they or their loved ones are receiving health care nearby. I had no idea that there was such a wonderful resource available nearby our school! I was excited to volunteer my time to support the people there and hope to do so again in the near future.

There was a great turnout from our Trade Winds group as we all assembled on Saturday to make dozens of care packages for the people who are staying there. While we worked through a makeshift assembly line to fill bags with all kinds of snacks, we talked and laughed over stories and got to know each other. A few of us, including me, helped out by writing several greeting cards to the package recipients that had positive messages to uplift their spirits. In the end, we had dozens of care packages that each had a greeting card, juice, and several bags of snacks inside. It was very fulfilling to know that just a few hours of our time might make somebody’s day in the future a lot brighter just when they need it. Afterward, since we finished much quickly and efficiently than we expected, our group had a great time just relaxing and getting to know one another! Through games of Jenga and UNO, I made some wonderful new friends that I now see around campus all the time.

Thanks to Trade Winds for such a terrific volunteer experience! I can’t wait for our next event!

Is it dark where you are? / Can you count the stars where you are? ♪♫♪

Longest Night - Howie Day

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About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

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