Spring Break Israel: History, Culture & Adventure at BoothRight

By Brian Gracia, Class of 2017

By Brian Gracia, Class of 2017

This Spring Break, over 130 second-year Booth students, from 19 countries, experienced the culture, history, and nightlife of Israel on what has become an annual student-led trip nicknamed BoothRight.

The journey began in the holy city of Jerusalem. There, the group was greeted by the Mayor of Jerusalem who discussed a wide range of topics including movement of the US embassy, the Palestinian conflict, and decriminalization of cannabis. After, small tour groups experienced some of the world’s most important religious sites including the “Wailing” Wall, Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre while others took a trip to Jerusalem’s Western Market. Daniel Ochoterena (Class of 2017) described the old city as “awe-inspiring: ancient, thriving and majestic.” The group wrapped up their Jerusalem experience at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The next stop of the journey was a luxurious day floating in the Dead Sea with spa-like mud treatments. Unfortunately, the group could not stay forever and soon departed for an evening with the nomadic Bedouin people. Participants Andrew and Liz Ward found the Bedouin tent party to be one of the highlights of their trip, where “they had belly dancers who pulled each of us out of the crowd to shake it in front of our fellow BoothRighters!” The visit included a sunrise at Herod’s palace-like fortress Masada.

Boothies stop to take a cheery photo during a sunrise visit to Masada

Boothies stop to take a cheery photo during a sunrise visit to Masada

A special treat was an Air Force Base tour organized by trip co-leader and former fighter pilot Lior Sahaf. The group learned about Israel’s air capabilities in addition to watching F-16’s take-off up-close on the runway. Next, the group transitioned to the Golan Heights to take an ATV tour to a former Syrian base. The remainder of the trip included stops at the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth before two days of shopping, relaxation, and beach time in beautiful Tel Aviv.

Other highlights included “Bus Fun”, “Wakey-Wakey”, ladies favorite ‘Steve’, and “Thank You for Your Service.” Student leaders Lily Rapaport, Itai Koren, Lior Sahaf, Eran Lewis and Maayan Aharon did an amazing job leading a transformative experience on Booth’s largest annual second year trip and have earned lifelong appreciation from the participants. Class of 2017’s Rikki Singh put it best: “Israel provides the perfect background for honest conversations and getting to know 130 friends better without being overwhelmed!”

The group returns to the US with a new affinity for hummus and pita.

Spring Break Colombia: Painting Colombia Maroon

By Jehana Vazifdar, Class of 2018

By Jehana Vazifdar, Class of 2018

Off to a delayed start, my Colombia adventure began with a flourish. I was part of the “lost” crew; a cancelled flight, unexpected night in NYC, and another delayed flight later, 23 other Boothies and I finally made it to the party in Bogota’s legendary steakhouse Andrés Carne de Res. After an Aguardiente-fueled ride on the party-bus, we entered a labyrinth of what felt like a massive 3D doodle, with every inch of the sprawling bar decorate with neon signs and eclectic hangings. In the one-day head-start other Boothies had on us, they seemed to have already gathered a collection of moves they rocked to the tunes of Luis Fonsi’s Despacito. The song became the anthem of our rollercoaster Spring Break trip.

Although the travel rigmarole meant that I had missed the Bogota city tour, I got to soak in culture in Medellin the next day. 60+ Booth students trekked through what was once the most dangerous neighborhood in the world – the comunas (slums) of Santo Domingo. We ascended the steep hill on a wobbly bus packed with locals. Atop the hill, we bought beers from a local bar before traversing Camino de la Vida, or the path of life – designed to create a sense of pride and community amongst the slum dwellers. The landscaped path presented stunning views of the slums sparkling like jewels below us as the last embers of the sun faded.

The highlight of my trip was a boat party in El Peñol De Guatape. Caps bearing our names added a host of color against the landscape of green hills and water. The Booth flag was flourished as we conquered Colombia with our revelry. It was flourished again when a hundred of us committed our loyalties to the Colombian soccer team as they defeated Bolivia in a qualifying game for the 2018 World Cup. In our bright yellow jerseys matching the crowd, we felt fully immersed in Colombian culture.

But nothing could match the fiesta on Isla Grande (the big island). The party began in the morning on a boat – the best ones always do! Our matching neon shirts filled the white yachts with color. Each boat belted its own beats as its inhabitants dived into the ocean. The party continued on the glorious sands of Isla Grande, punctuated by a delicious meal of shrimp and plantain fritters.

Shrimp, sand and surf; it was a befitting last day in Colombia for many of us. For the others, we got another day of sun and fun on the islands.

A big thank you to Booth students Sebastián Pérez Restrepo, Valentina Díaz and Camilo Alvarez for organizing this trip. I'd also like to acknowledge the Vaova travel company team, especially Juan Pablo Toro and Christian Byfield, whose energy, enthusiasm and creativity infused the trip with fun. 

Spring Break Japan: #KonichiWhyBooth

By Alejandro Lozano, Class of 2018

By Alejandro Lozano, Class of 2018

As someone who likes to think of themselves as decently well-traveled, I have never felt so out of place or so far from home than when I was in Japan. However, what I can clearly say is that the country was absolutely phenomenal and in some ways completely indescribable. After a thirteen hour flight, 42 Boothies landed in Tokyo to experience what Japan had to offer. While the group as a whole got to visit a number of cities including  Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, Hakone, Tokyo, I found myself recalling specific occasions more than specific cities.

Stepping off the plane, Japan felt like an entirely different planet, but that could be because it was my first time in Asia proper. Tokyo in particular feels like stepping into a sci-fi movie, where you are surrounded by hundreds of people in dark suits rushing about their day. Stimuli in every way, shape and form constantly surrounds you, from an immense amount of human activity at the Shibuya crossing, to maid cafes where you are referred to as “master” in the anime-capital Harajuku. A visit to the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku truly brings all that together with an absurd, larger than life robot show which really drives it home that Japan is nothing that what you may have ever experienced before.

Group at the magnificent Miyajima Floating Torii. 

Group at the magnificent Miyajima Floating Torii. 

In stark contrast, Kyoto and Osaka had more traditional atmosphere, and our time there was spent visiting serene, ancient sites. One of my favorite things of the entire trip was visiting a traditional farm-to-table restaurant in a cul-de-sac in a residential part of rural Kyoto. Here we sampled the top-grade “legendary” Japanese wagyu beef and then, were able to exercise it off by doing a twenty minute hike up a mountain to a monkey park where macaques roam freely and you get a spectacular view of Kyoto.

What also struck me was that visiting Japan was way more challenging than any other country I’ve been to without having a native speaker accompanying you constantly. Yet the politeness, generosity and patience of each person you meet can take you aback, especially if you are an American living in an urban city. You are greeted everywhere you go with a bow and sent off with a thanks. Even the subway transit conductors will turn around and bow every time they move from train cart to train cart. Try getting the Chicago Metra folks to do that.

Shout out to Yoko Ushioda and Yala Su for organizing a life-changing trip. The Boothies return to Chicago with a greater appreciation of the diverse offerings Japan holds while recognizing that while the country has it all, it could do with a few more English speakers.

Spring Break Morocco: Bargaining and Barakah with Boothies

By Enrique Hederra, Class of 2018

By Enrique Hederra, Class of 2018

Who would have said that travelling with more than 50 unknown people from all over the world, in a country where you get lost in translation, and where you cannot drink tap water (but you always get a super sweet peppermint tea as soon as you step into a place) would have been such an amazing experience.

I participated in the Explore Morocco spring break trip, and this experience will remain vividly in my memory not only because of the magnificent country but also the friendships I walk away with.

The whole trip was a perfect blend of cultural visits, clubbing, relaxing and eating. We visited Tangier, Casablanca, Essaouira and Marrakech, each city offering a completely different experience; we walked through ancient medinas, did horseback riding at the sunset at a beautiful beach and climbed the Atlas Mountains on donkeys. We also ate like kings! Moroccan food has huge French and Spanish influence, which we were able to taste in lots of Tagines, including the meals we prepared ourselves in a cooking class!

Group enjoys the sites in the seaside town of Essaouira

Group enjoys the sites in the seaside town of Essaouira

The Moroccan sense of time, bargaining and barakah (good luck) were also some interesting learnings. Whenever we were told someone would arrive in 20 minutes they really meant one hour. Whenever somebody asked 800 dirham for something, you could easily buy it for 300. And you can attribute  to barakah nearly everything. I remember a friend buying a tagine. After getting the price down from 300 to 90 dirhams he found it full of dust. After complaining, he was told to better to keep the dust because it would bring him barakah.

As much as I was impressed by the country, I was equally impressed by the group of Boothies and their partners in the trip. I will honestly say that I have never been in a group with so many interesting people of so many different nationalities. Already in the very first minutes, I met people from as countries as far from mine as Botswana, Albania and Ethiopia. However, the conversations in the days that followed made me wish I could take more than just one spring break trip a year.

Finally, I want to thank Ziad Abouchadi who organized this trip to show us his beautiful country and its amazing culture.

Spring Break Tanzania: How Close Can We Get to That Lion?

By Tanya Puri, Class of 2018

By Tanya Puri, Class of 2018

The Booth Spring Break trip to Tanzania attracted over 20 Boothies united by the common mission of spotting as many wild cats as possible on our four days of safari game drives.

The trip kicked off with a traditional Tanzanian dinner in Kilimanjaro, followed by an early morning departure to the Tarangire National Park. Split into three jeeps stocked with binoculars, cameras and of course, unlimited frosty beverages, the Tanzania Spring Break had officially begun!

While we didn’t see any big cats at Tarangire, we saw zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and plenty of impalas and gazelles. We even spent a night in a tented lodge with the peaceful wildebeests as our neighbors. The next morning, after a half-day game drive, we stopped at a Masai Village where we were invited in to learn about their nomadic lives and learn some not-so-easy Masai dancing (read: jumping). Next, we drove to the Ngorongoro Crater which, at over 7000ft, is the world’s largest inactive volcano and is home to several animals, such as hippos and rhinos, and also featuring some incredible views.

Group pauses during an exciting game drive at the Tarangire National Park in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Group pauses during an exciting game drive at the Tarangire National Park in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The highlight was Serengeti National Park, where we were able to get close to our favorite wild cat, the lion. While it can be unnerving to be so close, with temperatures going up to 30 degrees Celsius, the animals were unaffected by our passing safari jeeps and were either seeking shelter from the harsh sun or searching for water. We spent two nights at the Serengeti, sleeping under the African sky full of stars and being escorted by Masai men back to our rooms after dark to avoid becoming lion prey.

The last day was a drive back to Arusha, with some Boothies making their way back to Chicago and others (ahem, second years) deciding to skip week 1, to explore more of East Africa. The group takes a moment to acknowledge James Levinson for fearlessly leading 20 Boothies to the African Savannah. James made sure we were close enough to the Lions to get incredible pictures but far away to escape with all limbs intact. In all seriousness, he handled all the logistics and planning and made this a once in a lifetime experience!

Booth Attracts Diverse Candidates at Fall Event

By John Frame, Class of 2017

By John Frame, Class of 2017

On Friday, November 18th, Booth welcomed over 50 prospective students to our fall Diversity Day recruiting event. The event was organized by the Campus Community Affinity Admissions Fellows representing four of Booth’s student groups: The African-American MBA Association (AAMBAA), the Hispanic-American Business Students Association (HABSA), the OUTreach LGBTQ group, and the Armed Forces Group (AFG). Affinity Fellows included Zachary White, Allison Miller, John Frame, and Katie Wurzbach from each of the groups respectively and all members of the class of 2017.

The day kicked off with a breakfast meet-and-greet between current students and prospective students, followed by an introduction from Associate Dean of Full-Time Admissions and Director of Marketing for Chicago Booth, Kurt Alm, who spoke of Booth’s differentiating qualities, emphasizing the unique ability for Booth students to forge their individual paths steeped in inquiry, insight, and impact.

Adjunct Associate Professor of Behavioral Science and Executive Director of the Center for Decision Research, Heather Caruso, followed Dean Alm with a talk about breaking down cultural divisions that might exist among people in social and professional settings, an abbreviation of her research at the CDR and experienced by students in the popular Power and Influence in Organizations course. The talk was followed by a discussion with attendees where Professor Caruso answered poignant questions about communication barriers and cultural differences that sometimes cause problems in the workplace and hinder productivity. To bridge these divides, one must be willing to truly listen to and understand others’ perspectives, she said.  

Indeed, the day was yet another testament to Booth’s ‘pay it forward’ culture...

After, prospective students were treated to a campus tour and a free-flow career-focused lunch where they got a chance to speak with second-year students about internship and full-time recruiting. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with guests complimenting the presence of Booth students throughout the day. Indeed, the day was yet another testament to Booth’s “pay it forward” culture, with the bulk of the programming organized and executed by current students.

The day ended with a series of panel discussions centered on career exploration and diversity at Booth. Associate Dean of Career Services and Corporate Relations, Julie Morton, spoke of the resources that Booth students have at their fingertips, and the relationships established across classes and between students and Career Services staff, while second-years shared their experiences via a panel discussion. Affinity group leaders spoke to guests in-depth about how their groups contribute to the Booth culture and maintain a closeness that is characteristic of the Booth experience with Jessica Jaggers, Director of Diversity Affairs, moderating a candid discussion.

The day ended at the LPF happy hour hosted by the Media, Entertainment, and Sports Group (MESG). Feedback from the event showed that attendees were impressed with the day’s schedule and were much more inclined to apply to the MBA program. The event’s success has made the Admissions team excited about hosting the event next year with some small changes to enrich the experience. The day was an overwhelming step forward in Booth’s mission to attract even more top diverse talent and continue to improve diversity on all levels in the full-time program.   

John is honored to have been a part of the planning process and execution of this event.