Why You Should Study Abroad. Seriously. (South Africa)

by Vidur Sehgal ‘15, Katie Smith ‘15

Booth students spending some quality time abroad in South Africa's wine country

Booth students spending some quality time abroad in South Africa's wine country

We get it. There are a million reasons why you are here and not somewhere else: Nobel prize-winning faculty, an inspiring entrepreneurial culture, stellar career placements, TNDC, and so on. Two years seems too short a time to even skim the surface of the Booth experience, and no matter how many activities you try to cram into your day, the vaunted “FOMO” is inevitable. But what if we told you that the most underappreciated opportunity that Booth has to offer is not in Hyde Park, but thousands of miles away, in London, Paris, Melbourne or Mumbai?

Granted, we know that we are biased, given how incredible our study abroad experience has been.  Nonetheless, here are a few reasons why we think you should follow in our footsteps and spend a quarter somewhere else:

  • Chiberia.  If you choose to study abroad in the winter quarter, you don’t have to deal with polar vortices, snowbanks taller than the average UChicago undergrad, or an ice-covered Hubbard St post-TNDC.  You can expect frequent Facebook un-friend threats to arrive in your inbox when people see the photos, but they’re pretty easy to ignore while you’re sunning yourself poolside.

  • If you move to a country with a low relative cost of living, you can have a warm private pool. In your backyard.  In February.

  • New friends!  We understand why some people would view a quarter spent abroad as missing a quarter’s worth of social opportunities.  Instead, think of it as ten weeks spent investing in new friendships with students from other MBA programs. Your Booth friends will still love you when you return, trust us.

  • Speaking of Booth friends, the Boothies you study abroad with will quickly become your new BFFs.  Our group of Cape Town Boothies were all on friendly terms prior to this quarter, but we didn’t know each other that well.  When we return, don’t be surprised if you see us hugging in the Winter Garden and weeping that our study abroad time has ended.

  • No matter where you choose to study abroad, you will have access to another country and culture at a level of depth that is simply unattainable during a week-long Spring Break trip.  Next weekend, we’ll be hiking the tallest dune in the Namib desert, and the following weekend we’ll be having breakfast with a colony of meerkats.  How will you be spending those weekends?

  • Some of the best adventures come about organically and without any notice or planning.  Spending an extended period of time - with a flexible student schedule - in a foreign country is practically an invitation to make every day an adventure.  

  • While we won’t dispute that Booth provides the best academic experience available, it would be impossible for Booth to offer classes on every topic of interest to every one of its students.  Booth’s study abroad partners, by comparison, offer specialized classes to suit many niche preferences.

  • For those who are attached: study abroad does not mean that your significant other can’t come along for the ride.  In fact, two Boothies’ partners are here with us in Cape Town.  For the single people out there: Tinder is just as prevalent and even more hilarious in other countries than it is in Chicago.  Requests for further details will only be entertained after you buy us drinks (plural) at TNDC.

It won’t all be smooth sailing. You’ll learn the hard way that your adopted country provides electricity via a prepaid meter that you forgot to recharge. And you will wake up your entire neighborhood at 4 AM on a Sunday when you forget to disarm the security system after a long night out, triggering a loud alarm that summons a car-full of armed security guards. But isn’t that the spice of life?  

This is the last chance you’ll have to study abroad.  Ever.  Unless you plan to get another degree, in which case, congratulations on delaying real life for a while longer, and good luck with all of the student debt.

Vidur and Katie are spending the winter quarter studying at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business in Cape Town, South Africa. They would like to apologize to any Chicago residents they have offended with their flamboyantly summery Facebook updates this quarter.  Apparently they are sorry they’re not sorry.