When it comes to planning a clinical rotation, there are many factors to plan for. Some things to consider are housing, transportation, and safety, just to name a few. But while it might seem easy to just figure it out as you go, it can get rather complex and overwhelming very quickly. In a bustling city like Chicago, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the various transportation systems and the different neighborhoods. In this blog post, we will explain how to prepare for your rotation in Chicago, Illinois and the different resources that you can utilize to optimize your planning and overall experience.
For those who are not U.S. citizens, you're going to need a visa to enter the United States, if you don't have one already. You can learn more about how to obtain a U.S. visa on the U.S. Department of State's website, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html. There, you can find more information about what visa you should apply for and how to contact a U.S. embassy/consulate in your country. However, getting a visa can be a rather lengthy process. You should consider applying for your visa months in advance of when you'd like to do your US clinical experience. This way, you don't run the risk of running into issues later closer to your rotation and not being able to make it in time. The overall process can vary depending on which country you're living in and your country's different travel laws and regulations.
If you are planning on flying to the U.S., your next step is to purchase your plane ticket. You go to the website, you purchase your ticket, and then what? While the COVID-19 pandemic has been more contained, there are still numerous travel restrictions across the world. However, as of June 12th, 2022, the United States will no longer require travelers to show a negative COVID-19 viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding their flight. You can learn more about recent requirements using the CDC's website.
Additionally, it can be beneficial to do research when looking for flights. Make sure to compare different websites rates and explore different dates to see when you can get the lowest prices. Try not to fly during U.S. national holidays, as these typically are very busy, high-demand days and drive rates up.
There are many different modes of transportation with walking as the most simple form. Depending on how far away you are from the clinic or hospital, you may be able to walk. You can check your area's walkability score by using the Walk Score website: https://www.walkscore.com/cities-and-neighborhoods/states/. However, in a bustling city like Chicago, walking long distances might not be possible and you may have to revert to other types of transportation. Additionally, walking to your destination in the brisk cold of the Chicago winter might not be ideal. Thankfully, Chicago has a plethora of public transportation options for you to choose from. From buses to water taxis, there's numerous ways to get around. Here are just a few:
Subway (the 'L') - Just like many other bustling cities, one of the most common forms of transportation in Chicago is the subway, also known as the 'L' by Chicago natives. With numerous different lines and trains, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. That's why this article from 'Life Chicago' goes into great depth to everything there is to know about the ins-and-outs of the subway system in Chicago, https://lifechicago.com/guide-to-riding-chicagos-l-train-system/#:~:text=From%20the%20north%20into%20downtown,)%2C%20before%20entering%20the%20Loop. As for your fare, you can by purchasing a Ventra ticket (which you can purchase at the Ventra machines in every station), using your bank card with 'Tap to Pay' feature, Apple/Android Pay on your phone, or reloadable Ventra card. A single fare typically ranges from $2.50 USD per ride to $3.00 USD.
Metra Rail - This rail train runs throughout Chicago and its suburbs. On the Metra website, you can find a free fare calculator, https://metra.com/. Additionally, you may choose to download the Ventra app which you can use to purchase and display your mobile Metra ticket. The only downside of this transportation is that the tickets are more expensive, have less departing times, and make less stops in the city, than the 'L'. One upside is that these trains are typically less busy and are nicer than the subway trains.
Taxis - You can hail a taxi in Chicago just by standing on the side of the road and sticking your thumb up like a hitchhiker. However, thanks to smart phones, you can now also hail a cab electronically. You can use the apps ARRO or CURB. You can also find out more about taxi services in Chicago via the CHICAB website. However, while taxis are abundant in the city, the downside is that they can be a somewhat unreliable form of transportation as they're not necessarily at your disposal (unless you use the apps!). Additionally, there is always chance of getting stuck in traffic in route to your destination, whereas the Metra Rail and subway can be good in avoiding that. Additionally, the taxi service can take you to any one place in the city whereas the subway, Metra Rail, and water taxis only have particular stops.
Ride Sharing - There are numerous different ride sharing services that you can use to get around. Two that you may already be familiar with are Uber and Lyft. You can easily view fares in the app and request rides. The main thing to keep in mind when using ridesharing services is that fares can fluctuate depending on the time of day, availability, and how high demand is. However, they can be a more reliable option in terms of punctuality as they do provide how far away your driver is and the estimated arrival time to your destination.
Water Taxis - The Chicago River runs directly through the heart of the city of Chicago. What better way to sightsee while also serving as a mode of transportation than a water taxi! The Chicago Water Taxi Service offers rides around the city of Chicago including Chinatown, Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago Avenue, and more! The only unfortunate part is that the water taxi service does not run all season and only starts back up for the spring, summer, and some of fall. While it may not be the quickest mode of transportation, this could also be a great opportunity for sightseeing on your days off.
Vrbo and Airbnb are among two of the most well-known vacation rental sites and can be a viable option for finding a place to stay during your rotation. Just search the city or neighborhood you're planning to stay in and you'll see numerous different housing options available by hosts. Although these vacation rental sites can be nice, they do often come with additional cleaning and service fees that can tack on to the overall price. Some other options you may want to consider is Booking.com, which provides connections to various hotels, lodging, shared rooms, and hostels. There, you can find the cost for your entire stay and the various amenities offered.
When staying in an area, you want to ensure that the areas you'll be staying in is safe. You can directly search for whatever address, neighborhood, or city you're planning on staying by using Area Vibes. Just search the area, address, or neighborhood and Area Vibes will provide you with an overall livability score derived from letter grades for crime, amenities, cost of living, housing, and more.
Things to Do
Now that you've got all of the logistics out of the way, you can finally think about how you will enjoy your time in Chicago! In the heart of a big city, the possibilities are endless. But here are just a few popular tourist attractions:
Walk through Millennium Park Visit the Art Institute of Chicago
Shop around on Navy Pier
Visit the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain
Sight see through the Chicago Riverwalk
Enjoy the scenery in Lincoln Park
You can find more information about top attractions and things to do in Chicago on Tripadvisor.
Whatever you decide to do on your trip to Chicago, we hope that this information will help to make informed decisions, plan ahead, and, even more so, give you ease of mind to perform well at your rotation.