Sabbatical in Chicago
July 11, 2013 8:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently studying law in a UK university, and am contemplating taking a semester off beginning August 2014 (about 4 months) to work and travel. The plan right now is to move to another city/country and work and stay there, and on the top of my list at the moment is Chicago. How viable is this?

Part of the reason why I'm thinking of Chicago is because I'm evaluating as a long-term living option.

Special snowflake details
I have no professional qualifications, but in terms of skills I am reasonably familiar with systems administration (but no programming knowledge). I am open to either IT-related jobs, or working as a paralegal.

I plan to rent a small apartment by myself, so rental will be a concern.

I have savings to tide me over the initial moving-in period, but would like to use as little of that as possible.

I know that NYC is the first place most people think of when they think "sabbatical" and "US", but Chicago attracts me because of the slower pace of life, but decent living standards.

1) Is this a stupid idea? If not - what should I take note of, about university sabbaticals and Chicago?
2) Bearing in mind my lack of qualifications, can I find a job that pays a living wage?
3) What considerations other than rent and a job should I be thinking of?
4) Should there be other cities I should consider instead?

The plan is very much in the early, planning stages, so please feel free to give me general advice as well!
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Are you a US citizen? Being international that's going to be the single biggest factor in whether your plan is viable or not.
posted by sbutler at 8:13 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't tell from your question if you are a UK or US citizen, and getting a job in the US is kind of dependent on your eligibility to work here. You can contact the mods at the contact link down below and they can add that info.

(From what I know of UK legal education, you are probably undergraduate-age? That info might also be helpful.)
posted by rtha at 8:14 AM on July 11, 2013

It is going to be exceedingly difficult (likely impossible) for you to get permission to work in the US. Specifically, no employer is going to sponsor you for an H-1B visa if you're only going to be there for four months.

You should be able to get a working-holiday visa for a number of Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Australia.
posted by ewiar at 8:16 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd say Vancouver or Toronto would be a better bet because of visa issues.

Getting sponsored right now in the US is a PITA. Now, if you're eligible to work in the US, then Chicago can be fun.

Start checking out job boards for contract work. Secure a job first, then move.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:21 AM on July 11, 2013

Legal jobs are extremely hard to come by in most of the US right now. We're only now seeing the collapse of a massive law school bubble that produced young law-school grads far out of proportion to the actual market for entry-level lawyers; this has resulted in an awful lot of law school grads working at jobs totally outside their profession, or for very low wages, or as paralegals. You would be competing for paralegal jobs with people who are probably more desperate than you for employment.

You might have more luck looking for work at companies that specifically value experience with the UK legal system; I know jack squat about that niche.

All this assumes you can legally work in the US in the first place; if you're not a US Citizen then this basically requires that you find an employer interested in sponsoring you for a visa, which would require finding one right now to get lined up for a visa next year. Given that you're only here for four months, this is chancy at best and probably as close to "not going to happen" as you can bet on.

Sysadmin work exists; on the other hand I can't imagine anyone wanting to sponsor a visa for a non-citizen to come and do what I'm guessing would be entry-level sysadmin duties.

I'd definitely agree with those suggesting Canada instead. You can (I assume) still pop over to the US and visit Chicago, but your plan would be risky even if you were a US citizen.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Reminder: A citizen of the UK can visit the US for 90 days without a visa, if you could find a way to avoid needing employment.
posted by aramaic at 8:33 AM on July 11, 2013

Chicago is awesome, but it's not easy to find entry level jobs here (I speak from experience!) - especially if you're only going to be here a few months. If you're open to temping or working retail, you'll have better luck, provided that you're eligible to work in the U.S. You could probably find an unpaid internship - USians love those, apparently.

If you are not already eligible to work in the U.S., then Canada. Toronto is lovely and not a bad drive from Chicago, actually, if you wanted to visit (8 hours-ish, which I understand is really far by European standards but not bad at all by Midwest US standards).
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:13 AM on July 11, 2013

If you are a full time student in the UK you might be able to work in the US on a J1 visa arranged via BUNAC:
posted by monotreme at 9:20 AM on July 11, 2013

If you are not a US citizen, look into the J1 visa, which is intended for situations like this. It's a "cultural exchange" visa, but I knew many students from abroad who used it to work in the US over a summer. This was 10+ years ago, however, so you'll need to see if its still feasible.
posted by lunasol at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2013

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