Every great story has a start, a middle point, and an end…not necessary in that order though. As you move through it, the sweet and bitter parts get mixed, the time becomes blurry and you start to remember fragments of it, fragments that become part of you, shape your being, and mark your journey.
Part 3 – Amber skies
The Autumn chill wakes me up, I don’t consider myself a morning person but this time I’m all excited, it’s time to go to the office in person. As I take the train I think to myself how the last few months have been busy jumping from online meeting to meeting and having to adapt to this new, post-pandemic (are we there yet???), World.
The train arrives in midtown, our team’s office building is located in the heart of Chicago, right by the Millenium Park which holds The Cloud, or as it is commonly known “The Bean”. As I make my way through the main entrance, Mr. Barmecha, my supervisor, welcomes me. I’m a bit nervous, it’s the first time that I work with a foreigner’s team, the first time that I’m working from a different country, and most importantly the first time that I consider myself the least known person in the room….and that’s totally fine, seeing how everyone is so prepared and up to the task gives me enough motivation to rise up to the challenge, to be as good as them and why not, with time, even better.
We shake hands and finally meet each other in person, we discuss our team goals and we celebrate our successful launch of the Claims Reporting Platform that will be used globally on AON. Everything about this day went better than I had imagined.
Part 5 – Grace
Spring is here and after 6 months the time has come, I finished my Internship program with Aon. It’s a bittersweet moment, although since there’s already a lot of bitterness in the World, I’ll focus on the sweets mostly in this writing.
When something ends you always think about the “what ifs”, what if there wasn’t a pandemic, what If I went every day to the office, what If the team didn’t like me enough…but at the end of the day so is life, you are the sum of your decisions. We do a final online meeting, everyone is nice and they give me and my other AADF colleague Mr. Gero the highest praises. That’s the last time I hear about the Aon team but this isn’t the end, I decide to utilize the last month of our gracing period as a trip to Los Angeles where I can feed my photographic passion and relinquish an old desire.
There’s a sense of freedom when you go from sunset to sunset, take every bus you can, walk hundreds of miles and enjoy the best views that you can. Sure, in the back of your mind you know that you aren’t part of this, you know that there’s a war going on, you know about everything and everyone, all at once…and yet…sometimes you just stop and take the best you can out of that moment, that’s what this is about, choosing paths.
Part 2- Arrival
It’s still summer and the day has finally come, after a 20-hour-long flight, I’m in Chicago! Here I’ll begin my adventure with Aon, as part of their Claim Team.
I don’t know much about this city, being a kid raised in the ’90s the only connection I have with Chicago is the Chicago Bulls, a legendary team that with the lead of Michael Jordan won the NBA 6 times. The last time they did it, I was just 10 so you could imagine how such moments of victory would impact a little kid.
The city feels much warmer and brighter than what I originally thought, dare I say this is the cleanest city in the USA. The buildings are majestic, Chicago is famously known across the world for its architecture. The river and the traffic flow backward in here, call it magic or just call it science. The nightlife is great, you can find the tranquility with Chicago Blues or even Techno Raves if you still dare.
There are some small things that no one mentions about the US but actually, those are the things that for me make all the difference, for example, you can turn right or left even if the street light is red and there isn’t a sign that says you can’t. It seems such a small thing but it confused me a lot. Also, the way their bathroom works is different too but I won’t spoil this one, experience it yourself 😉.
Finally, I get all the equipment from Aon, as the weekend is over and my first roam in the city ends, I’m all curious about this new experience that is about to start!
Part 4 – Cracks on the surface
As the last tree loses its leaves, the Winter slowly but surely crawls in…When I came here I was surprised as to how much warmth and the light were in this city, even though I had heard about the Chicago winters being harsh, I thought that the story was enlarged but oh boy was I wrong…
People would through me random numbers, in the US the temperature is measured with Fahrenheit and while I can do the conversion if I’m calm and focused, I can’t really tell what 20 degrees is supposed to be on the go but It didn’t matter since my body could, and it was screaming: IT’S COLD AREND!
Everyone was telling me that no one walks during the winters in here, people drive cars or they stay inside…now of course I didn’t do that, why? I don’t know, maybe getting frostbite isn’t supposed to be part of the experience and it’s not advised but hey, when will I ever get a frozen city again?
Wearing the heaviest clothes that I have, I march toward the city. Lake Michigan is all frozen, and when I say lake I’m talking about the Adriatic sized lake, not the small/pond-looking one that we have in Tirana.
The cold helps me think, each step I take on the Icy roads a crack appears, each crack feels like a small sign to keep going forward no matter how bad things are looking, they can get worse if you stop. I’m not sure why but I think that this is the season that I will be remembering the most and not because of the harsh weather but because of the beauty that is hidden under each small crack and can be unveiled only to those that are willing to see it…feels a bit like that Leonard Cohen saying “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”
Part 1- The road (not) taken
It’s Autumn of 2019, I finished work and went straight to the pc, enjoying songs even though they are mostly sad, the irony. A friend and fellow AADF alumni Mrs. Bruci contacts me, asking if I applied for the program she advised me. I say no and truth to be told, I had totally forgotten about it. Our conversation is small, she insists and she can be persuasive so I don’t do much of a resistance, I decide to apply not knowing what would happen. I finish the application 10-5 minutes before the final deadline and press enter.
Now, what would have happened if I didn’t finish that application in time? I guess we will never know.
Arend Rada, MIP Internship Fellow at AON Chicago, IL