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USA | Professional internships | J1

Chicago guide: Where to do your J1, Grad visa or US internship

Shooting the breeze on the Windy City and why you should work and travel in Chicago.

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Big city living plus homespun midwestern hospitality makes Chicago an amazing place to live and work. The third most populous city in the US, it has as much going on as its famous coastal counterparts – but is way more chilled (and cheaper). Like the musical, there’s a lot to sing about. From the miles of beaches along Lake Michigan to packed sports stadiums and late-night jazz bars, here’s why you should breeze into the Windy City for your summer J1 or 1-year Grad USA visa.

Why Chicago

Sarah Bernhardt famously called Chicago ‘the pulse of America’. It has a diverse population, fiercely loyal sports culture, incredible architecture, and some of the best food in the country – from deep dish pizza to soul food. The home of Duke Ellington and Muddy Waters, it also has some of the best nightlife in America – with blues bars, jazz clubs, rock pubs and a festival scene that will blow you away. But unlike similarly sized cities like New York and LA, a night out won’t blow your budget quite so much. One of the best cities in America/the world for sport, it’s also a great place to see a game. Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks… there’s a menagerie of teams to watch.

Where to live

The city is defined by its north, south and west sides. And depending on where you live, you'll want to brush up on your baseball intel (the Cubs play on the north side, the White Sox on the south). In the centre, you'll find the Loop and the shopping of the Magnificent Mile. On the north side there's Lincoln Park with its old town theatres, or the beaches and multicultural communities of the Far North Side. Historic Bronzeville lies to the south, while the west side's trendy Bucktown and Wicker Park have become popular with artists and graduates. Some J1 employers will include subsidised accommodation, but if not – visit, or to find a place.

J1 jobs Chicago

Previous UIST J1-ers in Chicago have worked as dock hands, servers, food runners and bartenders. Average salaries for 2023 in Chicago ranged from USD $10.50 - $18.50/hour. Often including perks such as great tips, meals during work, and end of contract bonuses. Each year, we have 1,000+ J1 jobs with our tried-and-trusted US employers across America. Book onto J1 early and select ‘USIT Job’ for access to our online Job Hub where you can search, apply and get hired.

Where to work or intern

If you’re heading to the USA on one of our Grad USA, Internship USA or Trainee USA visas, then Chicago houses all the sectors and industries you’d expect of a cosmopolitan city of its size. There’s a robust publishing industry, second only to that of New York. It’s also home to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, making it an exciting place to intern in America's financial sector. Green energy, transportation and health services are other large Chicago industries. From microbiology to marketing, Chicago has plenty to offer as your base for a year of career training in the USA. Plus, Barack Obama began his career here, so you’re in good company.


Chicago’s weather is as famous as its pizza. You'll experience all four seasons in Chicago, with wet springs and humid summers tempered by pleasant Lake Michigan breezes. Pack your woollies for famously frigid winters – where you’ll need a pair of snowboots for the sidewalks and a pair of skates to glide around the rinks. July is the warmest month with an average high temperature of 84 °F (29 °C) and an average low of 63 °F (17 °C), so for J1-ers in summer, you’ll get away with shorts and t-shirts and a light jacket for evenings.

Want to put your career or summer on the US map, but not sure where you can go? Book a call with the USIT team.

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USIT Staff

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, DM us about writing for USIT.

“J1-ers and Irish grads have long pointed their giant foam fingers at Chicago as a place to live and work. Food, music, sport, beaches – it has it all.”

USIT Staff Blog Image.png


USIT Staff

Our content is shaped by our community. If you also have a way with words and a travel tale to tell, DM us about writing for USIT.

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