My serendipity with Chicago started in June 2014 when a friend of mine (Harris MPP’14) invited me to his Convocation. To be honest, I had some hesitations, but it’s hard to say "no" to a convocation invitation, so I had to go. And that was when the unexpected happened: my mind was blown away, but not by the wind...
The University of Chicago and the Harris School welcomed me with a super friendly dynamic, and I fell in love with the city of Chicago in a heartbeat. The rectangular matrix city planning reminded me of my hometown Beijing, the skyscrapers and the Magnificent Mile reminded me of Shanghai, Tokyo, and New York, the Chicago river and Michigan Lake reminded me of Hangzhou, London, Paris, Barcelona, fjord in Norway, well, all places around the world that have beautiful waterside. I was deeply touched by how the fearless Americans made Chicago great again right after the catastrophic fire in 1871 - phoenix rising from the ashes, true story. The yin and yang of Chicago looked just perfect to me. It is the typical American city I’ve dreamed of: grand, strong, romantic, and extremely beautiful. I couldn’t help but wonder: Who else doesn’t know what I didn’t know before visiting Chicago? And how many of them ended up never finding out what they’ve missed out?
Since then, I’ve been passionately advertising Chicago to everyone I met, telling them it is the most underrated city I’ve known. The skyline, the lake view, the architecture, the art from street to museum galleries, and the mid-west style of warmth, all lined up, showing off Chicago’s charm. Every time I walked in downtown Chicago, the old love song from Savage Garden, I Knew I Loved You, was always playing in my head, on repeat. I knew it is destiny when I found this job at the Harris School, the exact place where the magic started.
Before I started working for Harris, I had to go back home to apply for the visa. To my surprise, my two months away from Chicago turned out to be more profound lessons on the University of Chicago, especially the Harris School. My first visit to the University of Chicago Center in Beijing was a series of wows. It was an entire floor in a high-rise building, Culture Plaza next to Renmin University, and the interior décor is 5-star hotel standard. The choice of location couldn’t be more convenient in the university district, and it shows the University of Chicago’s priorities – students are the most precious, and thus must be offered the best quality of service. And then I met the Deputy Director of Beijing Center, Ji Yuan, a true teacher for younger generations. As a University of Chicago dad, Yuan couldn’t be more proud, and he has every reason to be. Every time he started talking, you can see the love for his daughter (BA’13), the love for the city, and the love for the University glow on his face. He told me that the University of Chicago has always been humble and low-profile since the day it was founded; bragging and name dropping were never shortlisted in the University’s campaign strategy. He told me there was no doubt, no stain, and no bubble in the University of Chicago’s reputation. What made me the most excited was that, young though the Harris School is, it is a rising star, with new rock star faculty such as James Robinson, new Pearson Institute, new Dean from the White House, and new building ready in 2018. Harris alums Bolong Song (MPP’15) and Yaxi Deng (MPP’14) shared their experience with me in great details, I couldn’t believe I didn’t have the luck to have met such wonderful people years ago, and I cannot wait to meet new admits from the very beginning of their paths to Harris.
So here I am, the Student Recruitment Specialist fresh off the boat. Having been on the same boat with other international students, having been on the same boat with other MPPs, having been on the same boat with other job-seekers and young professionals, even though I am the new one to our admission team, I believe my experience and perspective will be helpful for Harris students and alumni in so many ways. And I can’t wait to make myself useful for the Harris community.