I've never felt uglier than I did last Friday. 150 UChicago students were dressed to their nines, or tens, or some larger exponential--clipped and preened and clothed to their most fashionable. Meanwhile I wore a corduroy blazer I bought for $4.50 at a thrift store, and walked around with my mouth slightly open and a camera around my neck that I surely did not know how to use.
Yup, you guessed it, someone was paying me to take pictures of this event, so here I was, feeling small and ordinary, and trying to turn the darn flash off on this camera from the future (what happened to film? Where did it go? When was that a universal thing? Oh like 10 years ago? cool.)
The event was held in Chicago's Union Station, which is like the smaller and nicer cousin to New York's station of the same name. It also, for probably the only time this year, was filled not with harried commuters, but instead, frenzied fashionistas and many very very serious photographers (except, of course, for me).
The cavernous space was lit softly before the show started, muffled forms of organizers rushing around making final arrangements. The balconies shone with different shades of fluorescent lighting. I was handed a press pass, given directions and then let loose.
I immediately wandered backstage to where the models were preparing. It was an glamorous mess. Models in various states of dress were scattered everywhere, with photographers scurrying throughout. I wandered around, snapping pictures where I could, wrestling with the auto focus function on the camera when I couldn't (there are a lot of "test photos" of walls and pillars and things, all at many different levels of exposure, in my collection from the night).
As soon as I had gotten what I supposed to be my fill of models preparing I went down to grab a spot for the actual runway show. I found a miraculously unoccupied spot and then was told to move because I was blocking the lady calling the show. I snapped a bunch of pictures of Maya, the opening dance troupe, from my new spot until my camera promptly died. The entire time I was marveling at the idea that some people here probably thought I knew what I was doing.
"ooh look at that guy using his iPhone, how avant grade!."
My camera woes aside, the show was incredible. Huge floodlights illuminated the space, and a seemingly endless display of models, all clad in elaborate finery began to proceed. It really is eye-opening to see these models out of the sleet stained and work plagued reality of a UChicago winter and instead relaxed and sleek, made up and pretty. So many colors! So much cloth! There is something really great about someone who knows they look good smiling shyly at the cameras as they stop on their turns. There is something equally great in seeing someone who doesn't take herself too seriously, exasperatingly trying to teeter forward in dangerously high heels. Both were on display last Friday, affirming, if anything, just how many beautiful people are at UChicago, in all of their ways. MODA just makes them more visible.
In my House, Dodd-Mead, we have lots of traditions. In the fall, we go apple-picking with the rest of our dorm, Burton-Judson (B-J, affectionately). In the spring, we walk the 8 miles downtown to grab brunch at Yolk (and after 8 miles, you can be sure it is the best brunch you've ever had). In the winter, though, we have a different kind of tradition. Pretty much everyone in the house has an intense love-hate relationship with this tradition, but we do it anyway. Most of the university calls it Kuvia; we call it Kangeiko.
I actually moved out of housing at the end of last year. This year, I'm a fourth-year, and I figured that I should have some practice living on my own before I graduated. However, leaving the house doesn't mean that I'm no longer involved. I still visit fairly regularly, and just because I live off-campus doesn't mean that I'm exempt from Kangeiko.
Kuvia/Kangeiko is actually a college-wide tradition, open to participation from all members of the UChicago community. During the week, students arrive at Henry Crown Field House at 6 am. Then they do a warm-up led by UChicago faculty members, followed by sun salutes. The first day, you do only two. By the last day, you do ten. Then, after the sun salutes are finished, different RSOs lead different workshops, including cardio kickboxing, martial arts, and bhangra. Then, at 7:30 you grab a Capri Sun and bagel on your way out and usually go back to sleep for a couple of hours before your first class starts. On Friday, the last day, the entire group treks out to the Point, where you perform all ten of your sun salutes and get to see the sun rise over the lake.
However, Dodd-Mead does things a little differently. During the four days when most people do their workshops, we play children's games. Yes, things like Duck-Duck-Goose, Simon Says, and Red Light Green Light. Then, on the final day, we travel out to the Point with everyone else. However, each fourth-year in the House must remove one layer of clothing with each sun salute, until they are left standing in their underwear in the snow. I had been watching fourth-years do this each year I have been a college student, simultaneously feeling hugely amused and dreading my fourth year when I would have to do the same thing.
This year, it was my turn. It had been the thing I had been least looking forward to in my fourth year. I wasn't interested in standing unclothed in the cold. However, it was tradition and I was sort of required to oblige.
The morning before I left for Henry Crown, I counted and double-counted all my layers. I wore 4 shirts and snow pants, plus my hat, mittens, boots, and jacket. By the time I arrived at the Point, I was so hot with all those layers on that I couldn't wait to start taking off a few layers! I put a towel down and got to work. All 7 fourth-years who showed up did our sun salutes all at once, with one person calling out the moves at a time as everyone did the salutes at once. By the time we got down to our final layers, we had attracted a rather large crowd (including the Kangeiko polar bear mascot) and we were all actually feeling great. We stayed in our final layer long enough to get some pictures together and then got to put as many layers as we wanted back on and stand around the fire we'd made.
The actual feeling of cold was pretty trivial compared to the feeling of companionship I felt during that time with my fellow Dodd-Mead fourth-years. These people were some of the first people that I met when I first stepped onto campus as an official student in September of my first year. These people included some of my best friends, even now, four years after I first met them. It was great to have a last, traditional experience with them before we all go our separate ways after graduation. Kangeiko is such a great way to bring together first-years and upperclassmen--after all, hanging out with someone at 5:45 AM is a great bonding experience--and also to reconnect upperclassmen with one another, even if they have dispersed from the house. I wouldn't trade my housing experience at UChicago for anything--even being able to sleep in during all those Kangeikos I've done!
Here we are with Dodd-Mead's participation trophy which we won for having the most house members attend the morning festivities for the whole week.
Not sure how you'll fill your time in the Windy City? I present to you: the beaches, the BBQ (Lillie's Q), Millennium Park, the comedy shows, the neighborhoods, the bookshops... and these things:
Go to a concert. From the United Center to Lincoln Hall, Summer Breeze to Lollapalooza, Chicago has some of the best live music in the world - it also has some pretty amazing old Blues Clubs. Also, really cool bands come through here a lot (like Daughter, pictured above, who are my favorite).
Cheer on the Cubs. Although many die-hard baseball fans would argue that the White Sox are better (and they are), there's something so lovely about hanging out at Wrigley Field and cheering on the North Side team. I've spent many a warm summer afternoon sitting in the bleachers, eating a hot dog and singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game... and I'm English. I do not understand baseball at all.
Thrift shop. MODA, the student group I help to run, threw a cool thrift-shopping event up in Wicker Park last Spring. Although that neighborhood is the best place to hunt for old bags and kooky dresses (Una Mae's is pictured above), I've found some gems in Hyde Park too.
Choosing the right dorm can seem like the hardest decision ever (and is also one that incoming students are in the process of making) - just because you want to be sure you're going to be closest to the dining halls/ by the bus to downtown/ around the corner from the Lake, but the right apartment? That seems pretty scary too.
My roommates and I were all in Graham House our first year and we loved it. Loved might not even be a strong enough word. We loved the movie nights, the house trips to Belmont and the zoo in Lincoln Park, the chocolate chip ice cream study breaks (except for that one time that Adam, our RA, made me try grits for the first time...never again), the water-gun fights on Bartlett quad, the house table conversations at dinner-time. But come second year, we decided to try living in an apartment together.
All first-year students live in the dorms, and you can stay living in them until you graduate. Some students do - the benefits of being close to classes, surrounded by a tight-knit community of house-mates, and all the fun that comes along with late-night-study-breaks are hard to leave behind. A few students move into Hyde Park apartments in their second year, and many end up moving out of the house in their third - because our neighborhood is full of pretty cool student digs. We found ours through a local leasing agent, and are now entering our third-year at the G: an always warm, record-filled, chalk-paint covered, home.
Oh, and UChicago apartments usually have really cool names... the Toolshed, the Shtetl, the Unit, the Little H, the Jericho, the Mansion, the Pepperland, the Dynasty, the Tree House, the Aquarium... it's a very goofy and beloved tradition.
So, here we are, post 3 of 3 at the end of a quick December and the beginning of a glacial January. I'm back in the states, London and the great swath of Western Europe rapidly becoming simply a fond memory.
I was lucky. I got the opportunity to experience art, culture, and places that many people don't. I don't think I need to wax poetic about that. It was a blessed opportunity, and one I hope I took full advantage of. I think I did. Here's a brief retrospective of the end of my trip.
I left London as I entered it, in the hushed morning dark of a chilly Friday, the daily bustle just starting to build as I moved through the slowly awakening streets. There was less wonderment this time however, this city, once unknown, was now, if not completely, at least somewhat familiar. I learned London piecemeal, borough-by-borough, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, streets once disparate slowly beginning to weave together. As I made my way to King's Cross-station in the cold dawn of December 6th, my understanding of central London came less from the map in my pocket, and more from the map in my head. The last weeks in that city were quick. School responsibilities, as they often do, took precedent, but I found myself having time for the small things. For me the allure of London came less from the things to do or see anyway. While those things enhanced my experience, in the end, it was more just living there, experiencing daily life, looking, at least to the casual passerby (before I opened my mouth and spewed Midwestern accent over everything) like I was just another person living on the heaving back of this beast of a city. With this attitude in mind then, the lasting memories of my final weeks in London are simple things. Things like stopping mid run on Waterloo bridge (and startling tourists who I think mistook my stalled wonder as more the desperate consternation of someone deciding whether or not to through himself off the bridge) to gaze west down the Thames at a bloody sky, darkening like ink through parchment over Parliament, or walking along the same river at night, seeing my breath for the first time that autumn, the water swirling to our left as we walked east to Blackfriars Bridge. Things like raising a glass in the pub around the corner, or wandering through Sainsbury's for the last time, McVitle's Digestive biscuits and pre-made chicken tikka masala nestling in my basket. It was the life of the city, the small things that stayed with me. The art and the sights and the food and the people are all wonderful, but it's the atmosphere I will long remember.
So, as I sat on the train station headed to Luton airport for my absurdly early flight to Rome these swirling vestiges of the experiences of a lived-in London were what I remembered.
The rest of the journey was grand, but different. Traveling to places is obviously different from living in them, and that burgeoning and often surprising comfort and familiarity that sneaks up unawares after living in a place for a while is missing when you're just passing through.
This is fine though, and the snippets of culture and life in the other places I visited were wonderful in their own way. In my four days in Rome, I was struck by the casual ancient beauty seemingly just placed in the midst of a sprawling modern city. That, and the actual water fountains everywhere. Seriously, it's a fountain that you just drink out of. I felt like I was in Gladiator every time.
The rest of northern Italy was equally, if not more, beautiful, Venice staggeringly so, in an almost imaginary way. The mist of early December rising from the Grand Canal and hazing the lights spiraling out of sight down the hundreds of waterways slicing the city is emblazoned in my memory. North and West of Milan, the three towns sitting in a triangle at the intersection of the y-shaped strands of Lake Como were also absurdly beautiful. They're vacation spots during the year, but in December stand mainly empty, just winding stone streets lined with pastel buildings, crisp mountain air everywhere pouring down from the mountains soaring upwards in every direction. It was incredible and words don't do it justice so I'll stop trying.
Milan too was beautiful in its own way, a modern European way, with he fascist overtones of some of the architecture tempered by the abundance of open spaces. As I tooled around on a borrowed bicycle through the gigantic Parco Sempione, marveling at everything and angry that I didn't do the same in every single European city I visited, it all came together, the new, the old, the natural and manufactured meeting in relative harmony, something I would venture to say is a feature of most of modern Europe.
The end of my European journey ended in Madrid. This was lower paced, tapas and friends. The Parque Retiro, another beautiful spot, and hiking in the Sierra Norte, spread to the north of Madrid, were highlights. Then I came home, and began the task of sorting this jumble of experiences into something cohesive.
I'm also very sure that there is a time lapse on certain insights gained from this trip, that more clarity will appear later, as I have time to frame those experiences and my experiences back in the states side by side.
So that's that. Three months abroad--finally at an end. Thanks for reading dudes. Look for more stuff on things related to life back at UChicago in Chicago soon.
First of all, thank you for the time and effort you put forth in your UChicago application. We've laughed at your jokes, we've contemplated your mantis shrimp, we've even cried a little (yes, we do have the full range of human emotions!) at some particularly touching essays, and once again, we've found that UChicago continues to attract AWESOME students. This year's applicants have come from across the globe, united by a compelling interest in learning and the power of ideas. Rest assured--no matter your admission decision, these traits will serve you well.
You can now view your decision in your UChicago Account. Paper mailings are sent only to admitted students.
What Decisions Mean
Admit: Congratulations! You have until May 1 to reply to the University of Chicago. Just a friendly reminder: students are placed into the housing assignment queue based on the date of payment of their enrollment deposit. You can connect with your fellow students via the UChicago Admitted Student portal.
Defer: A defer means that we are not granting you acceptance at this time, but we will review your application again in the winter.
Our deferral list is not ranked, and historically about 10% of deferred students have been admitted in our Regular Decision pool. If UChicago remains your top choice, here is some advice on what to do next:
+ Have your school send us a "mid-year report." Occasionally, students are deferred because we want to see these senior year grades. If you have new testing, be sure to send those scores as well.
+ Send an email to your regional counselor. This should be a thoughtful paragraph or two specifying why UChicago remains your first choice. There are no hard deadlines, but keep in mind we will release decisions in March.
+ Continue your college search. UChicago represents just one school in a sea of incredible institutions of higher learning. At the end of this process you're going to end up with an incredible place to call home; we encourage you to keep your options open, and to work with the college counselor at your school to identify other institutions where you'll wind up being an awesome fit.
+ Optional: You may upload supplemental materials directly to your Portfolio in your UChicago Account. This is not necessary, but if you do have additional material you'd like to share, you are welcome to upload it.
+ Book an overnight flight to Chicago. While we always enjoy welcoming students to campus, we do not make decisions based on whether or not a student has visited. Besides, there's nothing we can tell you in person that we couldn't do over phone or email.
+Start writing all-new essays. We have determined that the application you sent us originally is a strong one--we just need a little more time and context to make our decisions. We evaluate applicants' original application materials after they are deferred, considering the small new additions we suggest above, but do not require or recommend that students resubmit essays or provide additional letters of recommendation.
+ Panic. An admissions decision is not an evaluation of you as a person. Decisions are made over a long period of time, by several people, with some conversation, taking into account our entire applicant pool. Perhaps a star cellist applies and is fully qualified for UChicago, but this year our orchestra is already busting at the seams with cellists (note to all Regular Decision cellists: this is purely hypothetical)! Or perhaps it's just a great year to be an anthropology major. Please keep in mind that we cannot give reasons for decisions over the phone or via email, as it really is impossible to condense the conversations behind our decisions in a way that would be adequate or helpful to you as an applicant.
Deny: This is your final decision. There is no appeal process, and it is not possible to reapply during Regular Decision.
As a student who identified UChicago as an option for yourself, you are a rockstar--regardless of your admissions decision. We know not everyone comes away from decision time in a highly selective admissions process feeling amazing, but we know everyone in our applicant pool will wind up finding a school that is an awesome fit for you, and a great place for you to spend four years.
So, I'm a member of MODA on campus - our student-directed style organization, that publishes a magazine and runs a blog and is generally pretty cool (even if I do say so myself). And recently we got to talking with the UChicago alums who started Vintage Campus USA...
Chris Stavitsky and Tiffany Young, both members of the Class of 2013, started their company last year with the hope of transforming college-wear... and it's beyond cool. They looked through some of the old vintage photos of late 19th and 20th century college athletes from the UChicago archives (we've put some on the Tumblr here), for style inspiration, and have created sweaters, cardigans, socks, and mittens that are pretty much... exactly what I want for Christmas?
Mum, are you reading this?
Oh, and they had a photo-shoot on the quad, with current students. And now they're expanding to other colleges. Waaah! You can find out more about them here.
So. It's clearly been awhile (for those of you keeping track), for which I apologize. With the traveling I've been doing in the past weeks, along with various assignments that have been subjected to the usual "I can finish this in 12 hours! Right??" treatment, I have had little time to write anything substantial about my experience. But! I'm back! New class, coasting on the ebb of a long travel break, I'm ready.
That long travel break I speak of was last week (11/7-11/17). Spent the first five days in Ireland, and the rest of the week in Paris. Ireland was interesting. It's very similar to England, but rougher around the edges, Dublin especially. But this is oddly comforting, as it allows for this lived in feel. Ireland has been in the throes of a vicious recession for some years now, but it's still humming with good-natured people, and flowing water, and green expanses, and beautiful seascapes, and warm pubs, and dark beer. Galway gave this feel to me especially. It was this place that I can already feel calling me back. Galway is not a place you just visit and leave. You leave a bit of yourself there, seeped, with the sea spray, into the stone walls, the colorful storefronts and the winding cobbled streets.
The same could be said for Paris, but in a far more expansive way. Paris marked the very first time I have ever set foot in a country where English is not the predominant language, which presented it's own unique experiences. First, I was amazed at how intuitive traveling in modern cities has become. Even without a word of French, (aside from a hastily mumbled and horribly pronounced variations on 'jais n'parl pas lu francais') I was able to navigate the metro and (somewhat) the streets. Second, Europe has gradually attained a further association for me aside from the cultural, artistic and linguistic normalcies and it comes in some form of: "no Wifi." Which makes navigating decidedly more 19th century than 21st.
This, in a way, is nice however. It's easier to feel the city, to rub your hands over its grooves and whorls and unique varnish, to feel out its subtleties when you are stumbling around hopelessly lost.
Paris is the ideal city for this. Wandering lost in Paris is unlike anything I have ever done, and I've wandered around hopelessly lost in plenty of places, including several times in a single class building back at Chicago (a time I was woefully late for a first creative class comes to mind).
In Paris being lost is a joy. There is a different smell around every corner. Baking bread, and cheese, and pastries. Fresh fruit and vegetables sold on the street corner with vendors yelling back and forth to each other, some singing or whistling. Restaurant boats on the Seine. Stacked history housed in ornate graves sprawled, among skittering amber leaves in Parisian cemeteries. Paris, is diverse as well. In just one corner in Chinatown I saw three continents represented. Signs hung from storefronts read in French, English, Hindi, Mandarin.
In a way, to the uninitiated observer, Paris seems like a monument to a European ideal--a diverse, sophisticated, beautiful city. And, from the art, to the cafés lining the Seine, to the lights that fog everything in a nostalgic glow it's tough to argue with this.
I don't know if this is actually true, as I only spent three days there. I don't know how much of this atmosphere is fabricated for the thousands of tourists that flood the streets, the tourists that speak in rough tongues and anger Parisians. But walking through the streets, awash in gilded wonder, I couldn't help but feel that, even if this was just my naïve interpretation of a place I had hardly been, the Paris I was able to see and that I loved was the part of Paris that the world loved, and will always love despite the endless flow of people through it and the resulting sheen of tourism.
So this week was a nice initiation. I was able to gain at least a taste of a larger Europe outside of merry ol' England.
Not to mention I turned 21 in Paris and got to sip absinthe with several dear friends, which is not something most can say. Blessed.
That's that. Look back in a week for more about the end of the academic quarter and journey's further afield.
So I was on my way to class, but I had a few extra minutes to enjoy the warm breeze. I looked around at all the leaves on the ground and sought out a pile to relax in, and there were NONE to be found.
It is now the end of eighth week of FALL quarter, the leaves have FALLEN, yet there is no pile on the quads for undergraduates and graduate students alike to FALL into. What are we supposed to do with our lives? Not jump into leaf piles? Psh.
Leaf piles should be a university-wide priority for the following reasons:
1. They offer a comfortable napping space between classes
2. Squirrels can bury nuts more efficiently without leaves everywhere
3. Right now, the University of Chicago Lab School has a playground, and we look like fools without anything to compete
4. Makes it easier to bag the leaves later
5. The leaf pile would unify dendrophiles on campus (maybe they could make an RSO!)
6. Makes my Instagram 20 times better
7. We make snow forts? Why not leaf piles? This makes it seem like winter is the only good season here at uchicago!
In the early afternoon yesterday, as most of us sat scattered around campus eating lunch, we looked outside the pale-grey windows and saw snow. The first snow! And by first, I mean the first of many that mark the beginning of our infamous Chicago winter... the one that took me by surprise (just a little!) when I moved here from the UK three years ago.
I mean, I didn't even pack a coat.
As a first-year, when fall ended and they strung lights up on the quads, I was all "...oh, I don't really need a coat...", as I tried to go and play in the snow with my House, or wander over to Reynold's to sit by the open fires without shivering. I spent many mornings trying to run from Max Palevsky to Harper so I wouldn't feel the chilly-ness of my mistake and admit to myself that, okay, I did need a coat. And actually, once I got one - a big, warm, furry-hooded one, the Chicago winter wasn't bad at all. It was... fun?
These are my three favorite things about it:
At Millennium Park, and on the Midway (right by Harper), there's nothing better than skating around on long evenings... or, holding onto the side and skating slowly while your friends whizz past you, in my case.
Hot Chocolate from the Med
Mexicana Hot Chocolate from our local bakery is so good I can't even write about it. Chocolate, steamed milk, cinnamon, whipped cream... aaah.
Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko is UChicago's annual week-long winter festival of morning exercise, knitting, ice skating, hot chocolate, ice sculpting and as always...the (naked?!) Polar Bear Run. On Friday, students trek out to Lake Michigan for a pre-dawn salute to the sun. The name Kuviasungnerk comes from the Inuit word for "pursuit of happiness." Kangeiko comes from the Japanese samurai tradition of winter training.
See? So coat-up! And enjoy the wintery Windy City.