Get to Know the Southeast Asian Community at Chicago Booth

Get to Know the Southeast Asian Community at Chicago Booth

Guest blog by Arindha Purwandari

From Jakarta to Chicago
Coming from Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world, where 23% of the population is between the ages of 18 and 30, I was surprised by the underrepresentation of Southeast Asian students in global MBA programs. When I decided to apply to Chicago Booth, I discovered that there were only two Indonesian students enrolled, which made it challenging to find guidance and resources within the university. Despite these odds, the support from one of these students, who generously navigated me through the admissions process, not only bolstered my resolve but also inspired a profound commitment in me.

Driven by this experience, I became keenly focused on enhancing visibility and support for the Indonesian and broader Southeast Asian community at Booth. My goal was to ensure that more individuals from Southeast Asia could have the opportunity and confidence to pursue an MBA at such a prestigious institution. By increasing our representation and building a supportive network, I aimed to make Booth a more accessible and appealing option for students from my region.

Cultivating Community at Booth
My journey with Booth’s community really kicked off at the Around the World Event. As one of only four Indonesians at Booth, we decided to introduce our culture through food. We set up a small Indonesian corner where we cooked and shared traditional dishes. More than 150 people visited our booth, enjoying the food while we also shared some music, cultural insights, and highlighted interesting places in Indonesia. Seeing the openness of people to learn about new cultures gave me confidence that, despite our small numbers, we can still actively share our heritage and help build a bigger, more inclusive community at Booth.

The Heart of Home: Friendship and Community at The Chicago Asia Pacific Group
Together as Co-Chairs of The Chicago Asia Pacific Group, we recognized the immense potential to share our diverse cultures. We hosted a Vietnamese Coffee Workshop and engaged in celebrating diverse Asian cultures through Filipino and Thai events. Additionally, during AAPI Global Heritage Month, we actively participated, connecting our community with these broader cultural festivities. These activities helped highlight the close relationships between different Asian student groups at Booth, fostering a sense of a large family within the university. We also extended our outreach online by launching an Instagram account to share our activities and local food recommendations. This not only increased our visibility but also sparked significant interest among prospective Booth students, showcasing the vibrant and interconnected community that defines Booth.

Amplifying Booth’s Presence in Southeast Asia
As a Global Booth Ambassador Admission Fellow, I took several initiatives to expand Booth’s influence across Southeast Asia. Together with the Country Captains, we organized targeted in-person events in Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines, alongside over ten virtual events. These gatherings introduced prospective students to Booth’s vibrant SEA culture and streamlined the visa process for new students. Each event was tailored to reflect local interests and provide insights into the Booth experience, from informal meet-ups to detailed discussions about life at Booth. This dual approach not only increased Booth’s visibility but also strengthened our connections with prospective students throughout the region, ensuring they had the support and information needed to join our community.

The Continued Growth of the SEA Community at Booth
While enjoying the spring sunshine in the winter garden, I had a conversation with an admitted student from Thailand about the SEA community at Booth. I shared how our community is thriving and growing, continually enriched by cultural exchanges and a shared commitment to openness. It was a proud moment to reflect on the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere we’ve cultivated.

Reflecting on my journey at Booth, it’s clear how much the Booth brand and the SEA community have strengthened over time. This journey has been about more than just education; it’s been about opening doors, celebrating our diverse cultures, and creating a welcoming space for students from Southeast Asia and beyond. Booth’s inclusive environment enables us to build strong connections and create a sense of belonging for everyone, especially those 10,000 miles away from their original home.

We’ve built more than a community at Booth; we’ve formed a family. This enduring legacy, created through our personal challenges and united support, is designed to grow stronger with each passing year. It is a commitment to continually inspire and empower everyone who joins. No matter the distance from their original home, students at Booth can expect to thrive in this nurturing environment, supported by a family that commits to expanding and deepening its roots over time.

To find out more about SEA students’ activity at Booth, access our Instagram account: