30 days into my summer in the city

My 30-day Ventra card expired this morning, and that's when it hit me — I've lived here in Chicago for a whole month.

That's 30 days of riding the Red Line downtown, living in Wrigleyville during (really, really loud) Cubs games, still not realizing how unpredictable midwest weather is after 21 years, learning my way around, working with the graphics team at the Chicago Tribune, watching Netflix, missing my greyhound, missing my family and friends, missing my boyfriend, watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, eating out too often, exploring, touring, meeting (a few) new people, learning tons, etc.

There have been some really awesome parts to my last month ... and some not-so-awesome parts. 


As my friend Miranda so poignantly put it, sometimes I want everyone to think I'm having fun, even when I'm not.

Hey, look! Shiny Pulitzers! Yes, very cool, Katie ... but a more accurate picture of my last month would be a Snapchat of my laptop screen with Netflix pulled up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Hey, look! Shiny Pulitzers! Yes, very cool, Katie ... but a more accurate picture of my last month would be a Snapchat of my laptop screen with Netflix pulled up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Do not get me wrong — all in all, it's been a good experience. I'm learning lots. But it's most definitely an experience that's coming with some growing pains.

My internship is stressful. It is probably more stressful for me than it would be for a normal person. And four weeks in, I'm still adjusting to the learning curves that come along with it. After talking with several of the other graphics producers during the last few weeks, I now realize everyone struggled with the speed at first. So I'm not alone there. It's still pretty frustrating for me not to be able to do my research/reporting and design as quickly as everyone else, but so it goes — I'm still an intern who's learning.

Also, research/ reporting and story idea generation are not easy. There's a reason why people go to college for four years and major in journalism ... because it is not easy. I don't know why people think it is. I'm realizing that now more than ever before.

I'm also weirdly struggling with not knowing anyone? But I also don't want to meet people? I have never really had an issue being alone or eating alone or doing anything alone, really. Until now. Perhaps it is because I've been working long hours, and when I'm done with work, seeing new humans sounds exhausting. So I want to see the old ones. It's a weird time to be alive. 


All of the above isn't that big of a deal because I am truly learning so much. During the last three and half weeks, I've learned countless Adobe Illustrator tricks, how to use Arc GIS software (which is a really powerful mapping program), different charting techniques and how to build basic HTML story pages. I've learned the questions I need to ask myself when I'm visualizing data, like: What's the most important information? What's my goal? How do I not confuse people? What does the reader need to know? Those might sound like obvious questions, but I'm sure any journalist would tell you that making yourself ask those questions second-nature takes time.

I'm also getting published. Here's a sampling of some of the more time-consuming work I've done.

  • Hockey goalkeeper's equipment: The evolution of Rule 11 The first call I made identifying myself as someone who works in graphics at the Tribune was to the NHL headquarters in Toronto. So that was cool.

  • Race for the Triple Crown: How close they came I "drew" the horses in Illustrator and designed the jerseys for each of the jockeys. I also compiled and updated old information. All in all, this was a fun project. I pulled the jockey graphic from an old graphic. I did not make those guys. Yay for archives! (Note: American Pharoah won the Triple Crown — first horse since 1978. So that was cool.)

  • More than a century of Chicago championships I did the research for this, not the online design. I did create a graphic that published in the Blackhawks special section after they won the Stanley Cup. So that was cool.

And here are some graphics (mainly charts and other data visualizations) I produced that published in the print edition and online.

The not-work parts

Beautiful Tiffany glass dome inside the Chicago Cultural Center

Aside from the "work" side of work, our internship class has done some cool stuff. Two Thursdays ago, we got paid to get to know one another, and the city, a little bit better. We started the day off in the Page One conference room, where we played awkward get-to-know-you games and learned everyone's names. Then we sat in on the 10 a.m. Page One meeting to see which stories editors deemed most important and when those stories would post to chicagotribune.com. That was a cool process to absorb. Next, we ate lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern, which is famous from a Saturday Night Live skit. It's also where reporters from the Trib and the Sun-Times would meet after deadline, eat dinner and talk about the day's news. It was an average cheeseburger but a cool experience nonetheless.

After lunch, we took a walking tour of Chicago. We started at the corner of Wacker and Wabash, then went to Michigan Avenue and walked south. Our tour guide gave us a decently thorough history and architecture lesson. We stopped at the Chicago Cultural Center (which was the original Chicago Public Library after the Great Chicago Fire) and also at Millennium Park ... because what's touring Chicago without a Bean selfie? 

Bean selfie!

Bean selfie!

Soooo the night before this intern-outing, I could not sleep. No, it was not from excitement. It was from dread. Our internship coordinator sent us all an itinerary a couple weeks in advance, so I had two weeks to dread the fact that we had to take an improv class. It gave me so much anxiety. I did not want to go because I did not want to be put on the spot to be funny or clever or whatever. (Little did I know that improv is definitely not like that, but one day I might learn not to go into situations thinking I know everything.) As it turns out, the improv class was the best part of the day. Well, maybe it was second only to the improv show we attended later that evening. Wow. It was hilarious! We saw Shakespeare Improvised at the IO Theater. Seriously, if you're in Chicago on a Thursday or Friday night, go see it. Well worth the $16 ticket. We also ate dinner at Dinosaur BBQ. (It was no Oklahoma Joe's, but not every place can be. So it goes.)

Aside from the intern day, I've done a decent amount of solo-exploration, most of which has involved a food destination. Mmmmm. There is so much good food here!

The realization part

It hit me that I am in this weird phenomenon where I'm living the dream I thought I had, but now that I'm here, I'm realizing it's not exactly what I want anymore. To clarify, I absolutely love Chicago. I would love to live here eventually, and I definitely want to live in a city after graduation. I'm not 100 percent sold on a career focused on news graphics, though. I love journalism and the news industry; I'm just not sure graphics, specifically, is where my heart lies. I am so glad I'm learning all of this now, before graduation. It's super cheesy, but I know the skills and lessons I'm learning in this internship will apply to anywhere I work in the future.

Until next time, Internet.

Ps – Did I mention that I love Chicago?

I am a ... Chicagoan?

Katie's life: an update

Things that are crazy: This past semester. Also, I'll be a senior at KU in the fall? Things that are crazier: The last four weeks. Things that are crazier-er: I have lived in Chicago for seven days. 

She did it! Kristina graduated from KU, and she's moving to Seattle in August. She's my lifeline, and I'm so happy the Universe brought us together in Lawrence.

She did it! Kristina graduated from KU, and she's moving to Seattle in August. She's my lifeline, and I'm so happy the Universe brought us together in Lawrence.

So, let's back track a bit. At the beginning of this month, I was still in classes at the University of Kansas. I had recently been hired to serve as the editor-in-chief at the University Daily Kansan for the fall semester. The first couple weeks of May were filled with a lot of intense emotions and anxiety surrounding hiring section editors at the Kansan, meeting with what felt like everyone in contact list, my final exams and projects for my classes, my boyfriend moving away, the prospect of my best friend graduating, and plans surrounding my move to Chicago/starting my internship. Then the second two weeks of May were filled with intense emotions and anxiety surrounding Kristina's graduation, packing up my apartment in about a day (sorry, Kristina), going home to Indiana for four days to visit Blake/ family/ greyhounds, moving to Chicago, and beginning my internship at the Chicago Tribune.

May has been a whirlwind, and I only feel as if I've stopped to take a breath right now. I've been constantly moving, missing people, adjusting, learning and generally feeling overwhelmed. But I think I have a handle on myself/life now, so we should be good for a while.


My apartment is fabulous.

My apartment building. It's a beaut.

My apartment building. It's a beaut.

I live in Wrigleyville, just two blocks away from Wrigley Field. I've been at home during two Cubs games, and it's been loud. Let me tell you. The apartment itself is quite large and has beautiful wood floors with woodwork throughout the entire space. Perhaps more importantly, the shower was made for tall people. That never happens! I thought I was doomed to perpetual shower-squatting for my entire life. Turns out, that's not the case. Anyway, back on track ... My roommates are also friendly, which is so comforting. A bit of random trivia for any KU Basketball fans — ONE OF MY ROOMMATES WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH WIGGINS!

I haven't taken too much time to explore the city yet because, quite frankly, I've been physically and emotionally exhausted the last week. (However, I discovered a great coffee shop that's under my train stop. I bought a delicious breakfast taco and coffee for $4.) I promise I'll explore this amazing city soon! I need to decompress a bit first. Which leads me to ...

Chicago Tribune

Holy crap! I work there. (!!!)

Four days ago, I started a graphics internship at the Trib. So, Katie, what exactly does that mean? Well, let me tell you a bit about what I'll be up to this summer. 

The incredibly talented graphics staff at the Trib researches, designs and edits any and all graphics that appear in print, on social media or on chicagotribune.com. These range from information graphics to explainer graphics to illustrations, charts and maps. These graphics might explain a process, visualize data, make comparisons or show you where something is. The goal is to make information easier for you to digest and understand exactly how something affects you. Here's a sampling of Tribune graphics for some examples if you're curious!

I will be frank — at the moment, I'm in over my head. The last four days have been the biggest learning curve for me. I have never taken a formal design course or had a design internship, so I have a long way to go. The pace at which these people work is incredibly fast, but also accurately edited with stunning visuals. I have struggled to adjust during my first week, but after several conversations with Blake and Kristina, I've come to realize that I need to calm down. This was only my first week. I can't be perfect starting on day one. I have to allow myself time to observe their process, ask questions and soak up as much information as possible. It is all about learning. That's the point of an internship after all, right?

Friday, I met with my mentor for the summer. She's a graphics producer in the department and one of the nicest people I've ever met. She helped put my mind at ease when we started talking goals. Goals give me something to work toward and something to achieve. Goals make me happy. We talked about making big, medium and small goals. What skills do I want to learn? What types of topics do I want to cover? What's something I would like to see in my portfolio? What platforms do I want more experience using? Etc etc.

Despite the ups and downs this week, there is nowhere I would rather be than the Trib's newsroom. I feel so at home overhearing pissed off reporters who are waiting for open records requests to be fulfilled, everyone drinking too much coffee and working too many hours to feed the news beast.

But thank goodness it's the weekend. I need a couple days to decompress, drink wine and think. I need to regroup and re-energize myself for Monday. I don't think I'm nervous anymore — just excited for what's to come and ready to learn a ton. 

Thank you

Now I need to thank a lot of people. Huge thank yous to:

  • My mom. Thank you for being simply amazing but also for arranging my storage unit and rental truck in Lawrence. And for always having my back when I needed help or a word of advice. And for hanging out with me and always knowing how to make me laugh.
  • My dad and sister. Thank you both so much for helping me move out of my Lawrence apartment! Thank you for not hating me when I wasn't packed when you arrived. And thank you for bringing me back to Indiana. I could not have done it without you. 
  • My parental unit. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for helping me move into my apartment and helping me navigate the city. I had a fun weekend with you, even though it was pretty stressful. Huge thank you! 
  • Kim and Jessica. THANK YOU FOR THE CAKE! It made my few days at home extra sweet and special. I love you guys very much.
  • Blake's family. Thank you for being so kind and inviting me to dinner and making me feel at ease knowing I have people (!!!) in Chicago.
  • Kristina. Thank you for your patience when I'm freaking out, and thank you for cleaning up the messes (literally and figuratively) I leave behind. I don't know what we're going to do apart, but I suppose we'll figure it out. Here's to so many more adventures in the future! (Including ones in Chicago when you visit in July!!!)
  • Blake. Thank you for talking me out of insanity on a daily basis and for caring so much. It means the whole world. You are the best.

Until next time, Internet.

Ps — Walking down Michigan Avenue, knowing that I'm not a tourist and my destination is Tribune Tower is a feeling that will never get old.