I turned down a summer internship with IBM Digital Strategy to launch my own startup, Homebuddy, that helps homeowners manage and coordinate their home maintenance. My parents were concerned, to say the least. To be honest, I was a bit nervous myself.
Last week, a group of over 45 LGBTQ Boothies - student and alumni - packed their bags and travelled to Minneapolis for the annual Reaching Out MBA conference (ROMBA).
Last week, several of Booth’s best and brightest gathered for the Booth Women Connect Conference at the Hilton. Prof. Jane Risen, a Booth behavioural science professor, gave the keynote speech about her research in friendship formation.
Imagine being on a live stream on YouTube with your manager and playing games in front of thousands of viewers during your internship. Or witnessing an impromptu rap battle by Wyclef Jean in office.
Most people agree that an ideal health care system is easy to access and provides low cost, high quality care. However, nearly one out of every 10 Americans is uninsured, and approximately 60% are covered by high deductible plans. Nearly one out of every five dollars in the United States is spent on healthcare -- a number much higher compared to the rest of the world. And in return for this investment, we have one of the lowest life expectancies, 78.8 years compared to a mean of 81.7 in other high-income countries.
The general consensus as to why we all chose Cyprus as our Random Walk trip was because it was far away and we would probably never have gone to Cyprus if not for Booth.
Having spent most of this journey at London Business School (LBS), or traveling around Europe for fun or recruiting, I decided to spend a quarter here at Booth to get a taste of the American MBA experience. This led me to reflect on the past, and how I wound up here and not somewhere else.
As our group came together on RW NOLA, we could tell it was going to be an amazing and unique experience. For example, our service at KIPP Renaissance High School was one of the most rewarding moments of the trip.
Random Walk Italy began with 12 first years boarding a plane to Florence in matching “Random Walk Italia” tees. We would arrive in Florence 16 hours later, short two pieces of luggage, but ready to start our cultural journey in Italy.
Following a 9 hour journey, and a brief stop at the Delta lounge in the Atlanta airport, eighteen Boothies finally arrived at Quito airport. We were greeted by our guide Effie, who entertained us over the next 6 days with his many pearls of wisdom…
The adventuring starts early for Boothies. For our crew of 16, the adventure started in Costa Rica, part of one of the two Random Walks to the country.
Climbing into a tiny 13-seater plane in Belize City, I started to question whether we’d actually arrive at our final destination in one piece. The airport staff chuckled at my worried expression through the window as they locked us in from the outside and we prepared for takeoff…
We were excited to eat and drink our way through Argentina, but were not prepared for all the adventures, jokes, and friendships that would form.
Incoming first-year MBA student furiously scribbles notes at the eleventh hour while superimposing spider-charts to compare Random Walk destinations –
Agenda: Hiking up volcanoes, exploring Mayan ruins and sipping exquisite coffee. Seems like a winning combination.
Ratings: High on nature and culture, low on nightlife. Can’t trust a ‘5’ nightlife rating for a trip named after Fama’s thesis on stock price movements anyway.
Visa requirement: None. Score! Internet says it’s not the safest country for tourists, but my passport does rank 140th on the Passport Power Rank Index.
People leading the trip: hasn’t done RW before, Icelandophile not leading RW Iceland, journalist in a bottom-decile country for press-freedom, banker who temporarily gave it all up to be one with the tribes in Angola.
It was with some variant of this solid body of research that sixteen of us and a massive inflatable unicorn named Raphael arrived in Guatemala. Despite initial hiccups – being detained for entering the country illegally and realizing our local airplane was held together by duct tape – we journeyed smoothly to our first stop, Flores.
Flores sat at the foot of the cultural epicenter of ancient Mayan civilization – a glorious city built at the height of Mayan power that was, as good things often are, eventually forgotten and overrun by the jungle. We spent the day hiking through that forest, uncovering temples and climbing them. We learnt that the Mayans were cool, that they still numbered 6 million people, and that their culture was still very much alive. We also gathered that it amused them to no end that everyone else thought the world would end in 2012.
Mayan magnificence eventually gave way to Spanish grandeur as we travelled from Flores to Antigua, the old colonial Spanish capital. Today, Antigua is a UNESCO world heritage site – an urban complex of beautiful Spanish architecture nestled between three enormous volcanoes. Our first activity in the city was ziplining. Fears were overcome with mutual encouragement and screams were drowned in cheers as Boothies flew over the valley, with a collective sense that the group was starting to bond. Over the next two days, the city was explored and appreciated. A volcano was climbed and used as a marshmallow roaster, since no one had any powerful rings that needed destroying in the lava. By this point, the group had moved on from just being new friends to launching a company (Pocket-Egg) and podcast (The Daily Dimitris) together. We spent our last day in Antigua doing small-group dinners, getting our nails done at clubs and wandering the city.
We moved on from Antigua, winding down our trip on the shores of idyllic Lake Atitlán. We spent time at the lakeside hotel drinking cervezas and sharing stories, occasionally venturing out to the numerous villages that dotted the countryside to explore local weaving, coffee and chocolate. We capped off the holiday by renting a boat and a speaker for the afternoon, and finally unleashing Raphael on the lake’s waters.
We returned to Chicago exhausted, but as a new set of close friends looking forward to doing TNDCs, classes and all other things Booth, together.
“No matter what, make sure that you sign up for Random Walk.” This was the one piece of advice that my friends who were Booth alumni gave me when I decided to go to Booth. They set what I believed to be unachievable expectations that this trip would introduce me to some of my closest friends and provide an extraordinary insight into another culture. One week, twelve friends, and three cities later, I understand how transformative my Random Walk experience truly was.
I chose to go to India in part because I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone. India provided a window into another world, with each city introducing new culture, architecture, food, and history. In addition to the stereotypical cows in the streets, India’s daily routine included ample street vendors, stray dogs, and my Random Walk’s personal favorite, hundreds of goats paraded in the streets and sidewalks in preparation for Eid al-Adha. On our tour, we had the opportunity to explore diverse historical and religious landmarks that demonstrated devotion to religions, rulers, and even love. These landmarks included the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort, Jama Masjid, Jaipur Palace, and the Akshardham Temple.
One of the most memorable cultural immersions was a dinner at a local family’s home in Jaipur. The dinner was held in a traditional Rajasthan house, which was designed with central outdoor courtyard surrounded on three sides by the physical home and one side by the entranceway. Our hosts welcomed us with stories of life in Jaipur and the most delicious Indian food I may ever eat, all of which was homecooked by the family. I was fascinated by the family’s demonstration of cooking daal and pakora; the vibrancy of the colors of their spices and the aromas of the fresh vegetables remain in my memory. During the meal, we spoke with their sharp-witted thirteen-year-old daughter as she described traveling through her neighborhood with the family’s guards and her mother, who enthusiastically shared local remedies for improving our health. This experience introduced me to what life in Jaipur may look like away from the common tourist sites.
Although I loved exploring this country that is rich in culture, my favorite part of the trip was the people I met. I distinctly remember meeting many of my fellow Random Walkers the evening before left for India and thinking, “Well, they seem nice, but I can’t believe I’m about to go to another country with a large group of strangers.” The feeling that we were strangers quickly dissipated as we bonded over our thirteen-hour flight, discovered each other’s hidden talents, and shared rickshaw rides through Old Delhi. I am grateful for the relationships that I cultivated on this short trip, and am excited to go through my Booth journey with my now-not-so-new friends by my side.
As we made our way to ORD, fully prepared to act surprised when World Strides announced that we were going to Italy, we tried to keep up hope that there would still be some mystery to the trip. Would we spend all of our time in Milan, given that the Milan embassy sent all of us emails the previous week? Would we spend time in Switzerland or France as well? Regardless of where we would end up, each of us was excited to spend a week with a cohort of 17 other mystery seekers who had proven they can hold their own in a shot glass throwing competition.
Then, we were handed a gift. We found the World Strides rep and she informed us that we would spend a week in Slovenia. A look of excited confusion came across all of our faces as we prepared to step foot in a country which, in the previous day, we barely knew existed.
We endured our grueling flights to Amsterdam and Venice, without sleeping, met our eccentric guide, Janez, and boarded our private coach bus to luxuriate in excess space while Janez lulled us to sleep discussing the Italian countryside in his soothing voice. After the 2-hour bus ride, we finally ended up in Ljubljana. Ljubljana was a beautiful, romantic city in the heart of Slovenia, with some of the most walkable streets. Janez gave us a tour of the city while we snapped photos and pretended we were listening. We took in some fantastic views over the Ljubljanica river and began to stake out our spot for that night. The winner was a quaint and romantic wine bar, into which 18 of us stormed, rearranging tables and ordering beer and negronis. We decided to call it an early night, as we hadn’t slept much and had a full day of activities in paradise ahead.
On day two, we toured Ljubljanski Grad, a medieval castle complex sitting above downtown Ljubljana. For lunch, we explored the local market and some of us indulged in “Melania Apple Pies”. That night we arranged a group dinner at an Italian restaurant and I brilliantly decided to introduce the game “What are the odds” to the group. This game is an easy way to make your friends perform foolish tasks and it led to us chugging copious amounts of wine at dinner. This spilled into our night at a local “club” where No Scrubs by TLC was played at least six times.
The next morning, waking up for breakfast was a struggle. However, there was solace in the fact that we were all struggling equally. We then made our way to Lake Bohinj to go canyoning in Jerečica. Putting on our wet suits was not so pretty as none of us actually fit inside our suits, none of us felt great to begin with, and the sun was beating down hard. As soon as we made it into the water, we realized everything was going to be okay and we ended up having a great time.
We couldn’t leave Ljubljana without one more lake stop. We spent our final half-day in Ljubljana at Lake Bled touring the Provost’s House and the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. We then boarded our private coach and headed south to Portoroz, making a stop at Vinakoper, a winery in Koper. We were amazed at the prices of wine bottles at the gift shop, roughly 4 euros for high quality bottles. We bought all that we could possibly carry, a move we would later regret.
That night, we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner and found another local “club”; but this time No Scrubs was not played. This time the morning struggle did not matter, because we had the entire day to relax in our private section of the hotel beach. We enjoyed some R&R, floated in the Adriatic, and embarrassed ourselves on banana boats. To keep up with the theme of spending every day on the water, we started our final full day in Portoroz on a private pirate boat, or cargo vessel, or whatever. This boat stopped in a nearby coastal town by the name of Piran and our fearless leader, Janez, gave us a walking tour of the romantic town. The boat then took us to the middle of the Adriatic Sea, and we enjoyed some time to ourselves. To close out our final night in Slovenia, we decided to stake out on the beach and attempt to finish all of the wine we had purchased. We failed miserably, leaving most of the unopened bottles with hotel staff the next morning.
At this point, we were headed to Venice for a half-day. When we arrived in Venice, we held back tears saying goodby to Janez. We then met Monica who took us on a 3-hour – that’s right, 3-hour - walking tour of Venice on a 90 degree, humid day. Following the tour, we embarked on Gondola rides with snacks and aperitifs, and had a close out dinner, in which we discussed trip highs and lows.
Leaving at Venice at 3 am to travel for the next 18 hours did not seem ideal, but I would not have changed anything. Again, we all rode the struggle bus together and had new memories with new best friends to look back on for the rest of our lives. None of us would have ever thought to visit Slovenia before this trip, but now we had a common bond that not many others can talk about.
Maroon 7 and The Beluga Fails rocked at the Booth-Kellogg Battle of the Bands!
We were all often presented with situations where it might have been easy to be an ass. I was constantly impressed, with a few rare exceptions, how rarely folks fell into this trap. What’s more, I think the most successful people at Booth have also been the most kind.
There’s nothing quite like that first month or so at Booth. My wife Nicole and I packed up a giant moving truck and drove it here from Atlanta, and we were immediately inundated with messages to do this and that, meet at this bar and go to this beach.
Every year, a handful of students at Booth are fortunate enough to receive scholarships from the school to cover the ever-increasing cost of tuition and fees. Most students, including those scholarship recipients, are unaware that a portion of the scholarships paid out annually is funded by returns generated by the Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF).