How One Trip to Chicago Completely Changed My Life

A lot of people today from all around the world are dreaming of moving to the US one day and starting a career there. If you’re reading this, you might be one of them, but you are also probably aware of the fact that it is not the easiest thing to do, mostly because of all the bureaucracy and the amount of money you have to personally invest in this journey. I hope my story will help you find a way and motivate you, even more, to start planning your big move overseas. Quick disclaimer, in this blog post I’m going to share my personal experience which may or may not be the same in your situation.

Since I was 10 years old, I knew that one day I wanted to move to the US, even if just for a couple of months. This land of many opportunities always represented my dream destination and on the other hand a big challenge. When I was in high school, US was always in the back of my mind, but I didn’t have any idea how to start planning this big next step in my life. I was nervous because I didn’t have a lot of working experience and my English was not really at the fluent level. During college, I got busy with studying and working in an advertising agency and almost forgot about my plan to relocate someday. In 2016 I applied for ABC Business Academy in Toronto and got accepted. ABC Academy is a summer entrepreneurial-based education program. In those 3 weeks in Canada I had the most amazing time and I’ve learned a lot. Moreover, I met really wonderful people who I remained friends with until this day. Why I wanted to mention this experience is, because this summer program made me realize that I'm more of a big city girl and reminded me of what I wanted to achieve in my life. This trip was also the first time I really stepped outside of my comfort zone and went somewhere by myself. So if you’re planning on moving abroad, I would recommend doing a little vacation alone before that (it doesn’t have to be another continent), so you can get a feeling of how it really feels when you’re completely on your own.

Chicago Adventure

In 2018 I decided to visit my friend in Chicago. I was there for 12 days and that trip changed everything. Lake Michigan, skyscrapers, rooftops with amazing views, lovely and very kind people were one of the many reasons why I fell in love with this city. When I returned home I was determined that I wanted to move there as soon as possible, however, even though I thought I was mentally prepared for the journey ahead of me, I often had mini breakdowns and luckily in those moments my parents, partner and my friends were always there for me. That’s why you need a good support system when going through this process.

The first step towards finding a job there was to redo my resume and cover letter. I also created a LinkedIn account and started connecting with people from different companies in Chicago. Moreover, I started applying through job search websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. I was doing that for about 3 months and I got a lot of rejections and some interviews that were not that successful so I’ve decided that I would have to change the approach.

While applying and looking for new opportunities I was working for an advertising agency in the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana, and also writing my bachelor’s thesis. It was a pretty stressful time in my life but I managed to save money and got a bachelor’s degree in between. After that, I decided that I want to move to Chicago for 3 months. My plan was to attend a Project Management course there and try to find a job by visiting companies directly.

If you’re staying in the US for less than 3 months and you’re from Europe, you don’t need any special type of visa just ESTA waiver and you can apply here, but I have to warn you, if you’re planning on staying for 3 months you need a return ticket and a good reason why are you staying that long. Remember, working in the US without having a proper visa can have you deported. So be prepared, have all the relevant documents ready, and most important BE HONEST when CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers ask you questions when entering the country.

My first 3 months in Chicago were very exciting and I felt like I was on the right path. I was living with my partner (who by the way is also from Slovenia) and made a lot of new friends. On the weekends we were exploring the city and also made some trips outside of Chicago. During the week I was taking Project Management classes and putting my effort into finding a new job. My partner reminded me that it would be a good idea to attend some kind of a job trade fair event.

So I found just the perfect one, internship fair for the marketing industry. The day before the event I prepared myself 30 copies of my resume and rehearsed my pitch for the companies. I remember being so nervous walking into the big conference room the next day but as soon as I started interacting with people, the nervous feeling went away. The internship fair was a total success. After 2 weeks I got an email from a digital agency saying that I left a really good impression at the event and they wanted to meet me for an interview. The interview went by smoothly and I had a good feeling. 2 weeks before my departure I got the call from them. I got the job! I was jumping around, calling my family and friends, letting them know that finally after 7 long months of applying, my dreams came true. Even though my first plan was to find a full-time job, I realized that it’s going to be a bit easier getting an internship in order to enter the system and then slowly move on.

Going to Chicago for 3 months was definitely a right decision for me. I took my time to get to know the city and new culture but what is more important, I was really focused on networking with people from a variety of industries. In my opinion, that is a really great step towards building a successful career.

J-1 Visa

If you get an internship in the USA, it makes the most sense to apply for J-1 Visa. J-1 is an exchange visitor visa that allows people to come to the US for a temporary stay. In order to apply, you will first need to find a sponsoring organization. Sponsoring organizations are third-party sponsors that are responsible for monitoring all aspects of the program, including orientation and placement. They also take care of your insurance and help you with all the documentation. I choose Cultural Vistas ( They were very helpful and kind from the beginning and made this process a whole lot easier for me. Getting a J-1 Visa takes time and you have to be aware of that. I’m planning to write a blog post about this specific topic to make sure you’ll have all the information you need if you decide to apply for it. Before actually getting a J-1 you will also have to schedule an interview with a U.S. Embassy in your home country or Consulate. They will approve your program and issue the visa.

It took me 2 months before I actually got everything in order and I came to Chicago 2 days before my first day at the company (right on time).

What I’ve learned

In this blog post, I’ve really wanted to share with you a short overview of my first experience with finding a job abroad and my journey towards fulfilling my personal and professional goals. It all started with a big desire to move overseas one day and then slowly developing my action plan. But who knows, if I didn’t take that vacation in 2018, maybe none of this could have happened. That’s why it is so important to travel. It is a great way to really open your eyes and step out of your comfort zone. You can learn so much not only about other cultures but about yourself as well.

If you decide to take this big next step in your life and move to another country, you have to be prepared for literally anything, from getting 100 rejections to dealing with bureaucracy and everything in between. You have to be sure why you are making this decision and be clear about your end goal. Patience and self-confidence are 2 most important characteristics to possess if you want to achieve what I’ve achieved, but also don’t forget to have fun in between because it is not always about the destination, it’s about the journey also. My journey also taught me to ask for help more often if I need to and there is nothing wrong about that, so if you need any extra information or just quick advice, I’m here for you.

If I gave you the little extra confidence you needed to go on a similar adventure as I did and you’re not sure where and how to start I would recommend you to first pick cities where you would like to move to and then get to know them. Prepare a good resume, cover letter and start being active on LinkedIn. Find companies that are interesting to you and start connecting with people who already work there. You can also check my blog post on how to start applying for jobs internationally.

Start a conversation with people that already have experience with moving abroad and learn from them. You can do this and you deserve it!

Lara P.

Let me know if you have any questions

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