By Nicoleta Ionela Brinza, Work and Travel participant 2013

Nicoleta worked at a popular restaurant in the Chicago area during the Summer 2013 season. She shares her experiences on CCI Greenheart’s Work and Travel program in a series of blog posts. This is the third blog post on her adventures. Be sure to read more to see what Nicoleta learned while in the “Second City,” hometown to CCI Greenheart!

Besides traveling and working in Chicago, I was able to go outside of this city. First, Six Flags, a huge amusement park, is very close to Chicago. If you like adrenaline, you should try the rollercoasters. I spent two days addicted to the thrill of these rides. However, one of the things that I dreamed of all summer was to visit Gary, Indiana because that is where Michael Jackson’s childhood home is. I did it! I still keep one small stone from there that reminds me that I visited the memorial house of a megastar.

The good news is that my American experience wasn’t limited to the area around Chicago, Illinois. In September, I traveled on the West Coast for one week. I was so curious to see California, and I did. Thank God I spent three days and three nights in the spectacular Las Vegas, Nevada. I saw one of the greatest views from Stratosphere Tower, and I bet on the red color, on the roulette, at the casino. I won 10 dollars and I still have them. It is my lucky money. After that, I went to the Hoover Dam. Once known as Boulder Dam, it is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It is situated on the border between the states of Arizona and Nevada. Then, I saw the Grand Canyon. I cannot find appropriate words to describe it, but… it was tremendous. I can still remember sitting there like a statue, not believing that it was real. It is definitely the most impressive landscape I have ever seen.

West Coast. California Love.

After that, two vans (there were ten students in each van) went to Los Angeles. Usually I don’t like transportation, but driving down the California road was one of the best times I had spent in America. We spent the time telling jokes, listening to music, taking pictures, and sleeping. After a few hours of driving, I was eating in Hollywood, California at the Hard Rock Café. I took so many pictures. I walked on the Walk on Fame and I climbed the big hills to the Hollywood sign. Before that, when I was in Santa Monica, I swam in the Pacific Ocean. It was exactly how it seemed on TV and in movies. The trip didn’t stop there. We then went to the extraordinary city of San Francisco. We admired the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39 and walked with the famous tramway on the streets. The California trip ended with visiting Alcatraz Island, a mysterious legend that should be explored. It is a must.

I must say that returning from California was kind of depressing because I fell in love with the West Coast. I was only there for a few days, but that time could be considered the best time of my life.

East Coast is a must!

Now, let me introduce you to the East Coast. Visiting New York was on my “to do” American list, so I traveled there in October. I stayed in a friend’s house in the Queens district. I went to Chinatown then went to 1000 Islands county, Niagara Falls, Washington, Philadelphia (to see the Liberty Bell), and finally came back to the famous New York City. I was able to see Manhattan, Broadway, 5th Avenue, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, and Times Square. My time there went by so quickly that I really wanted to go back and stay there for more than three days. Three days in New York is not enough, but it is definitely a good start!