My ‘Why UChicago’ essay was longer than most newspaper articles.
Therefore, as you might’ve guessed, I arrived at the University with high expectations. My head was ringing with visions of school-wide scavenger hunts, bizarre class lists, and professors who re-enact papal elections — complete with costumes, assassinations and alliances — below the gothic spires of Rockefeller Chapel. The University of Chicago, with its traditions, quirks, and eerie resemblance to a certain wizarding school, had become almost magical in my mind.
I realized, after my first few weeks, that the true magic in UChicago wasn’t in these grand traditions and wacky classes. While seeing the entire school grumble out of bed at 6 am every frigid winter morning for Kuvia was astounding to say the least, what really made UChicago special is the people. Everyone has something to teach you, and they’re always excited to learn new things. They’re also incredibly passionate about their interests, so small talk isn’t something that’s heard often on campus.
These diverse passions and backgrounds really come into focus during core classes. UChicago’s core is a set of requirements across disciplines, from the arts to the physical sciences to civilization studies, aimed at instilling a broad renaissance education into their students, ensuring that no matter what they choose to pursue, they have a myriad of perspectives to draw on. These classes are also great for building community, for example, every first year is required to take a humanities class, which is limited to first year students. In these classes, students from all around the world, majoring in everything from comparative literature to Chicago studies, discuss primary texts and their effect on society. I learnt so much in these discussion based classes as it wasn’t just the professor that I was learning from, but the rich dialogue created by the diversity of perspectives in the classroom. The professors are always happy to help out, and much like the students, are usually conducting research into something remarkable (one of my professors, for instance, specialized in puppeteering practices in Afghanistan) that they’re always eager to talk about in office hours! The core was a fantastic way for me, as a bio major who loves literature, history, and theatre, to maintain my interests in college and still (hopefully) achieve my professional goals. In high school, I would email hundreds of professors for research opportunities, and never get a response. I expected finding a lab to work in to be just as hard in college, but to my surprise, the first five professors responded to me immediately, and within the week, I had a research position at a tissue engineering lab that I’m still working in now!
The university is located a short hop away from downtown Chicago, which is easily accessible (by Uber or the train or a long-ish bike ride) for a quick brunch or shopping trip. Chicago is an amazing city, and as someone who lives for food, I love how no matter where you go, you’re assured to find a delicious and wide variety (even on/near campus)! The university has gained a reputation of being where fun goes to die, in terms of academic rigor. While classes are certainly not easy, the university does offer resources that help, such as the Harper core tutors. Moreover, while Greek life isn’t as big as it is at most public universities, it is still a large part of the UChicago community. Making friends is also not as hard as I expected it to be. The university assigns you to a ‘house’ based on what dorm you’re assigned, and you can eat with them, go on house trips (to see the Chicago Bulls for free, for example) with them, or just hang out with them in the house lounge for a study break (usually with fun snacks)!
UChicago was the perfect fit for me, as someone who loves learning, no matter what the subject (well, perhaps not physics), and wanted a college experience within a city environment. I also love to read, which I would say is quite important as some core classes can be quite text-heavy. What I love most about the university is that intellectual vitality that they prize, and that lives on in every student, professor, and TA on campus. It shines through everything from the snippets of conversations about quantum computing and Egyptology overheard on the quad to the school wide traditions like Scav, where one year, students built a functioning nuclear reactor. I’ve also made friends who I feel like I’ve known all my life, who understand me on a different level, who I learn from everyday. From the classes, to the professors, to the city itself, I can easily say that there’s no better school for me.
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