By Marta Odainic, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Marta is a Work and Travel participant from Moldova who is very passionate for programs focused on helping those infected with HIV/AIDS and preventive teaching for teenagers. During her program, she loves the city of Chicago, as it speaks to every part of her heart.

There are a million places to visit and a million things to do in Chicago. Seriously, a million. That’s why I tried not to miss a thing, so I could say that I did my best to get to know this city as much as possible.

From the towering skyscrapers of the Loop, to the colorful mosaic of neighborhoods that make up the city, Chicago is beautiful in the summer and buzzes with energy and excitement all season long.

The city offered me hundreds of opportunities each day. That’s why after having spent almost 3 months in Chicago, I tried looking at it as a tourist.

I totally enjoyed the great outdoors with a Chicago Architecture Foundation river boat tour. Also, I walked a lot to places such as Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Oak Street Beach, Water Tower Place, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Navy Pier, Wrigley Field, and many other places.

I realized that summer is ripe for arts and culture as well. I discovered gallery districts and caught museum exhibits like “Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo” at the Museum of Contemporary Art. At the heart of the exhibition, I saw two of Kahlo’s rare self-portraits: “Tree of Hope,” and “Little Deer.” The rest of the show is devoted to a little more than 30 works, most created in the past 25 years, by artists from around the world who were not necessarily influenced by Kahlo directly, but who share a similar spirit of rebellion and take on issues. I must say, it was such a source of happiness for me, as Frida is one of my favorite contemporary artists. It’s a pity I cannot share pictures with you, as it wasn’t allowed to take photos at this exhibition.

The Field Museum was incredible. It had an amazing collection of fossils unlike any other museum. Apparently, “Sue” is the largest intact T. Rex skeleton ever found. This museum also has some fantastically well preserved stuffed animal specimens (including 3 infamous man-eating lions from Africa that inspired “The Ghost and the Darkness”). They also have an incredibly diverse collection of artisans, and crafts, and, including an entire 2000 BC boat of pharaohs Senusrert III and many mummies. I truly believe that this museum is a real highlight of Chicago.

One of my American friends told me that no trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and, the Ledge at Skydeck Chicago. So, I decided to do that! I got to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, just to stand out on the ledge. The glass balconies extended 4.3 feet outside the building! It looked simple until it was my turn to step onto the ledge. My instincts were alerted; my stomach got queasy, but I did it. It was almost like a thrill ride. Good therapy for those like myself who are afraid of heights.

Chicago has something for every piece of my heart: music, art, sport, cinema, amazing people, and lots of opportunities.