In the next edition of our Best Booth Moment Series, first years Narayani Gupta and Esther Kim share stories of how they found their b-school families.
Coffee and Cake
Flowers started blooming again. Winter in Sydney, Australia gave way to spring with its bright colors and comfortable breeze. On a Saturday morning in August 2017, I set out to consume yet another flat white and avocado toast in my hipster, café-laden neighborhood of Surry Hills. This day there was a larger goal too: to decide what I would share about myself with Chicago Booth in my application essay.
I pondered my deep love for economics and my long-standing curiosity to understand human decision-making. I also contemplated my appreciation for art; how growing up in homes brimming with my mother’s and others’ artworks, visiting museums globally, and doing photography for over a decade had led me to start an art festival in Rajasthan, India. Finally, I decided to write about community empowerment; the moment of two Boothies holding each other up resonated the most with me. I reflected on the communities I had been a part of – growing up in many small towns of Rajasthan, attending middle school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later going to Wellesley College, spending summers studying and working in China, running excel models down Wall Street in New York and then in Sydney – what I contributed to these communities, and where I thrived the most and why. I wrote about what people might say at my funeral and what my legacy may be.
Fast-forward to this October. A few close friends from our random walk in Guatemala were celebrating my birthday at a restaurant. While the dinner was planned, these new friends, unknown to me, conspired to surprise. They brought cake from my favorite bakery, a card that was discreetly passed around to write birthday wishes, an AeroPress to feed my love for coffee, and, finally, a lot of Booth swag. Apparently, my passion for Wellesley radiated during all the dinner parties I had hosted in our first month in Chicago. Now my home needed to show that I was a Maroon, too.
Quite a few magical things happened that evening. First, we had some delicious caramel cake. Second, these new friends managed to change my daily coffee-making ritual. Most importantly, I realized that this was exactly the kind of community and home I envisioned at Booth. I had already begun to find the people – my people – that I hoped to while writing my essay in Sydney and while deciding to join Booth. As someone who had moved every year or two of her life, I had a deep appreciation for how exciting, adventurous, and even isolating a new start can be. I also knew how my engagement with the Booth community would define my MBA years.
I have seen the same generosity, thoughtfulness, and openness that I saw on my birthday in numerous ways every day. From bringing medicine when I have been sick and building my furniture, to sharing experiences and helping me debug R code late into the night, Boothies have been inspiring and challenging, all while indulging my desire to cook (and feed), as well as to learn and share. I am still discovering what I would like my legacy to be – at Booth and beyond. What I know for sure is that there will be plenty of cake, coffee, and Maroons holding each other up along the way.
In just my first few months at Booth, it seemed like I had already been here for years. As the quarter flew by, I could say without any hesitation that it more than exceeded my expectations.
Right from the start, I snorkeled with the manatees in Belize (#rwbelize2018, #youbetterbelizeit), played dress-up at the first year semi-formal, celebrated numerous birthdays with fabulous folks (aka another excuse to just get together), and enjoyed the beautiful beaches in Guatemala with fellow Boothies (best Thanksgiving break trip). At the same time, I networked like I have never networked before (counting event #102), received my worst exam grade in years (#trustthecurve), and ran on 3 hours of sleep for a case competition the next day (not planning to do that for the next one… hopefully!).
But more than these sparkly and rollercoaster moments, I found the ordinary moments of catching up with my Boothie friends most rewarding – whether over a meal or over a glass of wine. During one particular brunch, we forgot about the finals we had just taken the day before and celebrated the successful finish of our first quarter at Booth. We caught up on the latest news of life and chatted about everything on our minds. We laughed and we laughed – about the best, worst, and funniest memories shared so far.
At the time, we had known each other for only a few months, but we laughed as if we had known each other for years. After time whizzed by in the Fall, I am thankful that we squeezed in this brunch into our crazy schedules to think about everything that had happened so quickly and what we’d already experienced together. With another year to go, I look forward to the many more seemingly ordinary moments ahead that make this experience so special.