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Chicago Center can make your Windy City internship dreams happen

May 19, 2011

Downtown Chicago, as seen from Willis Tower

Lane Chesebro, Director of Admissions, Chicago Center

Lane Chesebro, Director of Admissions

By Alex Braun

We know many of our users would like to intern in a major urban cultural center like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but many are intimidated by the logistics and cost of moving for a temporary work experience.

This week, I discussed these issues with Lane Chesebro, admissions director at the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture. Chicago Center is a nonprofit organization that arranges internship experiences and student accommodations in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, site of the University of Chicago and longtime home of President Barack Obama.

Where do most of your students come from?

A: Chicago Center students come from across the continental U.S. and occasionally a couple international locations. They are usually enrolled in liberal arts and science colleges/universities in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.


Chicago Center's student housing, a.k.a. "The BLVD," is located in Hyde Park.

Aside from the obvious convenience factor, what’s the advantage of going the Chicago Center route? I’m sure some people assume handling things independently would be cheaper.

A: It’s actually more expensive and time consuming to try to move to a city and set up your own internship, and for most students, that kind of cash just isn’t readily accessible. What’s nice about Chicago Center is you can transfer a percentage of your financial aid to cover some of the program expenses. The other advantage to enrolling in the program is the fact we cover all the bases students moving into the city don’t realize they need to cover.

Moving into an urban center for an internship is more than getting an apartment, paying bills, and learning the public transportation route to work. Its learning to navigate the diversity of experiences and people the city offers. At Chicago Center, we teach our students about Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods and the communities and cultures that exist beyond the tourist attractions. Our students complete a two-week orientation that includes architectural and neighborhood tours, cultural events and public transit/ safety training. We make it a point to give students all the tools and support they need to take advantage of their time in Chicago. What sets us apart from an individually arranged internship is our seminar offerings that provide a context for the work experience students will gain.

Additionally, Chicago Center offers a credit-bearing internship experience with supervision. This is often a significant factor for students, particularly if their college or university doesn’t have a structured way of accrediting practical/work experiences.

How does the application process work?

A: The online application requires includes two letters of reference, a copy of the student’s transcript, and an essay about why the student is interested in studying in Chicago. We also ask questions relating to the student’s internship interest as to have an idea of organizations to suggest the student apply to upon arriving in Chicago.

A Chicago Center tour group

Part of the Chicago Center experience includes tours of the city that go beyond the tourist landmarks.

Theoretically, if I applied now, when’s the earliest I could start interning?

A: Our summer session begins JUNE 13, 2011! Applications for our terms are accepted on a rolling basis. Upon arrival we have a two-week orientation that includes time for you to interview at internship sites, but after that, you’re good to go. Term dates, fees and application requirements are listed on our website.

How safe is Hyde Park?

A: Hyde Park is by far the best neighborhood for students to live in. Our students often leave Hyde Park feeling like it is their small town. The residents of Hyde Park range from student to elderly; the average educational attainment is a master’s degree. Hyde Park has more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other neighborhood in the U.S. It’s historically significant — home to the University of Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, the Museum of Science and Industry (the site of the World’s Fair 1893) and exact place where the splitting of the atom occurred.

It’s a walking neighborhood filled with great restaurants and friendly people. The residents of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago take safety very seriously and that’s an important reason why Hyde Park is an ideal location for our program.

On the job at a medical internship

An Chicago Center intern on the job at a local health care facility.

What kind of feedback are you getting about the program?

A: Our program has been around for 40 years and that means a lot — our alums have gone on to do great things and have made it a point to keep in touch after they’ve gone. What is an even greater testament to the power of our program is the amount of our students who end up becoming residents of the city after graduation. We have an Urban Apprenticeship Program that we offer to alums after they’ve graduate, and the amount of applications we receive from alums who want to come back and work with us is astronomical!

What are some of the coolest internships the program is offering?

Chicago Center interns on Lake Michigan

Chicago Center interns take a boat tour on Lake Michigan.

A: Our students have landed internships at Merrill Lynch; Ballet Chicago; Maria’s Shelter; the Goodman Theater; Studio Chicago; Access Living ; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Weiss Hospital; Mujeres Latinas en Accion; the Chicago Sun-Times; and the Chicago Rush, to name a few places. We work with both corporate and nonprofit organizations . It’s really about finding placements that will give the student an experience in their field. We want to make sure our students are having resume-building experiences — not just making coffee!

How many games will Lebron/Wade/Bosh last against the Bulls?

A: The Bulls will win it in 5.