One of the best parts of attending business school is having the opportunity to travel to amazing locations with your classmates. Class of 2014 student Mauricio Perez Benitez recounts his trip to Alaska as part of Booth’s Random Walk program.
Let me give you some background about me first. I’m originally from Mexico. Before business school, I worked for PwC for 5 years, doing audit of financial statements for clients in the automotive industry. I came to Chicago Booth to pursue a career in Corporate Finance. The Random Walk seemed like a perfect opportunity for debunking all myths about Booth, while getting to know my future classmates and I chose the trip to Alaska to begin my business school adventure.
I wanted to go to Alaska for many reasons. To begin with, it was one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities. I was also hoping to see some wildlife, and do a lot of outdoor activities. But most importantly, I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Talking to one of the trip leaders during Admit Weekend, I realized that we actually had a chance to see the aurora borealis: “We will see it if we are lucky enough…”. That said, it was easy to put “Alaska” on top of my list of Random Walks.
One of the things that set this Random Walk apart from others was that we never had a tour guide. Instead, we rented two cars in Anchorage, and ventured by ourselves into Alaska’s wilderness, relying exclusively on our intrepid trip leaders and a map. Our small group of 11 “Boothies” (7 first years, and 4 second years) was an interesting mix of people coming from entirely different backgrounds. The investment banker, the consultant, the techie, and the marketing expert… they were all there. And we even had a mascot! (I will not elaborate on that, though).
The trip began with a short drive from Anchorage to Whittier, during which the mountain scenery and the vast amount of water formations left us open-mouthed. Once in Whittier, we took a boat cruise and saw, among other things, some of the most stunning glaciers in Alaska. On the following days, we started driving up North. We went to Talkeetna first, where 4 of my classmates accepted the challenge of eating a 5-pound caribou burger (and fries), as seen on Adam Richman’s television show Man vs. Food.
Talkeetna is precisely where the most memorable part of the trip happened. We took an Air Taxi (small aircraft) to Mount McKinley and landed on top of a glacier. The sense of scale in this place was indefinable, inexplicable, and incomparable to any other place I’ve ever been to. My camera could simply not capture the beauty or magnificence of this place.
The trip offered plenty of opportunities for getting to know my classmates. While we were on the road, we played fun games incessantly and narrated all sort of awesome stories. During the day, we went hiking, rode ATVs, and even did extreme rafting in freezing waters. If you go to Alaska, remember to save some energy for the evenings. When the sun goes down in Denali (up North) at 11.30 p.m., it’s show time! If you stay up late and the sky is clear, be prepared to witness a breathtaking natural spectacle: the Northern Lights.
All in all, whether it is in Alaska, Fiji, or Ecuador, a Random Walk is one of the best ways to start your MBA at Chicago Booth and connect with your future classmates. My last piece of advice is to choose wisely, and get to know the trip leaders beforehand (during Admit Weekend, or through the Random Walks website). Who knows? Perhaps they have experience in a field or industry you’re interested in. Go for it.