Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chicago Weather is Alright, and UChicago is Awesome

First entering O'Hare after exiting the plane.
We headed out pretty early this morning--and for a good reason. We all met at the Charles Knight Executive Education and Conference Center's lobby at 5:50 AM in order to board a van to Lambert Airport. There we were to take a flight departing at 9:10 AM and arriving at O'Hare around 10:20 AM. After arriving, we knew that our flight to catch wouldn't occur for another hour and 30+ minutes and thus we ate breakfast at Chili's. We all ordered our food and ate peacefully, knowing that time was on our side. Afterwords, we trekked over to the boarding room and killed even more time. Some of us were half asleep, due to missing sleeping hours--but still we would survive as usual. We were all assigned to sit next to each other so we couldn't have any interesting conversations with anyone (Sorry Don). Moving along, once we landed, we were surprised by: one, the enormous airport having traffic overpasses meant for planes to cross on, two, the diversity of people we are so accustomed to and lastly how efficeint the timing of the overall process had been. We ended up taking a cab from the airport, all the way to Drake Hotel. There at the Drake Hotel, one is offered a glimpse of the history of old and the genuine Chicago. Once we got settled at the Drake Hotel we all decided to meet up within a few minutes at the lobby. We all met up and then went to the information session held by the University of Chicago. 

From T to B: 2 photos approaching Chicago from O'Hare, part of downtown and my room.
The speaker for the information session was Zack Evans a graduate of the university, who described just about everything needed to be known about the University of Chicago. He spoke based on academics and how the school focuses on a common core (8 disciplines) that is required by everyone to be taken and how UChicago has a wide range of classes to choose from. He also said that by every student's third year he/she must declare their major(s) and that UChicago runs on a quarter system. An interesting fact was that UChicago counts SAT scores out of 1600, by excluding the essay. Furthermore Concerning athletics, Evans kept referring back to the first Heisman trophy being won by someone of the university and how the school was Division 1 and is now a Division 3 school. He also talked about the admissions process and the often times odd prompts that one may receive in addition to the common application. Some previous prompts have been, "Where's Waldo?" and "The letter 'X' equals..." and this year's prompts include, "why are odd numbers odd?" Overall, Evans engaged the audience with outstanding eye contact and great answers. When he finished, we were placed into four groups for the tour guides to lead.
A rather odd photo of our tour guide.

Our tour guide for the day was Steve, who is a second year student studying biology and has his own office in order to assist in his research with a professor. Steve guided us from one end of the enormous and beautiful Gothic style campus of UChicago. Steve as a speaker tends to speak very fast and at times can be somewhat difficult to understand. Either way, he got his message across and explained to us every single building that we walked by. He explained how the dome building serves a study area and how there is a library underneath the structure where a robot arm can pick out any one book that you desire. He also took us to a housing building and explained how people assigned to every building become a close-knit network of people that become life-long friends from the activities organized. He explained how he organizes some of the activities of this nature for his entire housing assignment, the example he used was the "Awktober" month where he pairs up the most unlikely people to go on a date and makes them perform ridiculous tasks. Sounds amusing enough to watch and to take part in. Steve also mentioned how UChicago is home to the world's largest scavenger hunt and how some people ended up smuggling a bear and created nuclear fission on the quad as a part of the clues. Clearly with the information that Steve presented, UChicago is full of individuals who seek to change others lives and a the same time pursue their own goals in a holistic manner.

Here are some photos I snapped while on the tour:

I almost forgot to mention, while touring campus, a lot of construction was taking place and thus we passed by a very large multi-story glass covered building that is to be a molecular biology building. I find this interesting because, I for one enjoy the subject of biology to be very appealing and wouldn't mind studying in this particular field in the future. Another thing to note is that UChicago, being a liberal arts college doesn't have an engineering school--very surprising.

After walking us back to the main office, Steve concluded the tour with why he chose UChicago. The answer to this question, was basically the community. He loves the fact of how one can go up to anyone on campus and ask for help, with that student being more than willing to help, Whether it be just simple directions to class or studying for the upcoming final. I would soon find that many people also shared his same view.

Coming back to the hotel, we believed it would not rain anymore as it had prior to our tour of campus. Though, we were ill-mistaken as when at 6:20 PM we all waited in the lobby and when we exited as a group to walk towards David Burke's Primehouse-- it was POURING! The weather had changed just like that, without a moment's notice (just like home). I didn't mind, for the rain, apart of reminding me of home, it also made the journey to the restaurant all the more interesting and worthwhile as it became a minor struggle.In the end, we ended up calling two taxis to take us the few blocks around downtown Chicago, to the much acclaimed restaurant. We eventually got to the restaurant and met our four people of honor. This included Troy Carlson, the California Admissions Officer that serves specifically our area of the state, Matt Rosenbaum another admissions officer, but also in the form of a counselor. They brought along two current students who were Elizabeth (rising second year) and Teddy (rising third year).

Bacon and sausage appetizers.
Where I was seated, Elizabeth was directly in front of me with Mr. Rosenbaum to my right, Mr. Chan-Law to my left, Natalie to my diagonal left and Carla to my diagonal right. Talking to Elizabeth, I soon figured out the she's an eccentric and intelligent woman that has a strong passion for the arts in the form of theater and at the same time also studies Spanish. She partakes in school plays and of course musicals all throughout the year and when I asked her if she has a hectic schedule, she said that she had to participate in a in a playwright in her finals week--talk about a hectic amount of work. Either way, she finds time to succeed and have fun at the same time. I asked her, what drew her to the school, and her answer was none other than that of theater department of UChicago, and now she has some connections with a group in the city itself. What I found interesting was her answer to the UChicago prompt, "there is life and death, what is in the middle?" and her answer was her passion--theater.

The unbelievable 40 day rib eye steak
Not to mention Mr. Rosenbaum was very informative and clear as well. To my surprise, he was not a graduate of UChicago, rather another liberal arts university called Grinnell in Illinois as well. As Senior Admissions Counselor, he oversees much planning of traveling and carrying carrying out presentations at 120 schools in a region of the U.S. every year. He ends up reading a great portion of applications with tedious consideration going into each one and then joins a committee of people who debate which students they want admitted. I remember asking him about why there isn't an engineering school in UChicago and he pointed out how that's too specific of a study and is found elsewhere in some other courses offered at the university, but ultimately these students go into graduate school at other places that have engineering. He also mentioned the new molecular biology building that is being built, and I told him my interest in biology and how I understood what the manipulation of genes does to cells. He grew up in the Chicago area, specifically next to Northwestern University and went to Greece to serve as counselor at a high school for two years and felt like he could do more to help his community and enjoys giving back to it, serving now as a vital function of it.

Side dishes of macaroni and cheese and whipped potatoes
Teddy about to enter his third year now has declared what he wants to pursue academically. He, wants to major in art history and an interdisciplinary course named arts, letters and sciences that I believe just from the sound of the name to be very rigorous work. To my amazement and perhaps the rest of the cohort as well, he is from California, not the Bay Area, Southern California. He is a really laid back and relaxed person that makes conversation easy, just like about everyone else at the table. He got accepted to numerous other great universities when he was a senior in high school and chose to attend Chicago instead of UC Berkeley because his sister was there and he enjoyed the Chicago city lifestyle and declined Brown because he felt the city of Providence wasn't as large as he would've liked to enjoy. Overall, he knows what he is doing and no doubt will succeed with whatever he does after this summer.

The watermelon and vanilla sandwiches with caramelized peaches all covered in pistachios.
To my disappointment, Mr. Carlson was at the far end of the table and for me to have a normal conversation with him would've included me shouting across the table. Instead I listened intently on his conversations and learned more about him by asking Mr. Rosenbaum. Mr. Carlson being an admissions officer also has to read more than a thousand applications and meticulously goes about his work, from a few hundred emails a day as well and the athletic recruitment to UChicago also. Mr. Carlson is the Nor-Cal regional officer and regularly holds presentations in the area and will do so in Oakland not too long from now and invited us to attend (I will first have to see to it if I can attend it or not because of SAT study). Saying that, I am definitely considering applying to the school after hearing such amiable and intellectual people before me share their experiences and thoughts about the school I just visited this morning and had previously had second thoughts about. Just the plain thought of a community being comprised of individuals like the ones before me tonight literally changed my mind along with the backing of a gorgeous campus being full of so much history and tradition--I'm not sure what else could be missing from an ideal school.

From L to R: Matt Rosenbaum, me, Jun, Sue, Katelyn, Carla, Natalie, Teddy, Elizabeth, and Troy Carlson
On top of all of them being kind enough to accompany us through dinner, Mr. Carlson even gave us all a gift in the form of a UChicago synch bag with a UChicago shirt, pen, sunglasses a nice pennant and even his business card whenever we have questions about his university. Truly I believe I can speak for my cohort when I say that we are all truly thankful for all the information that we receive from these dinners with school representatives. Time to mingle with the rival--Northwestern University, in practically the same exact way as today.

1 comment:

  1. A well written blog. And aren't you lucky to get all those souvenirs from UChicago.