Chicago Fever

Ekaterina Kuznetsova

Dear All,

I am in love, once again. This time, it's Chicago.

By now you might wonder whether I fall in love with every city I move to, and indeed, there is a pattern. It's a family thing. However, in self-defence, I have to say that I am picking very lovely cities. It's hard to resist the charm of Zurich, the paradise feel of Singapore, the beauty of Moscow or, the vividness of Chicago. And I have to admit, there are also cities which I moved to and realised quickly that they are not a fit for me.

So, what's so wonderful this time?

Let me start by explaining why I am here. I have never lived in the US before. It was always a dream for me to experience the American lifestyle. Really live here and be more than a tourist. At the same time, I preferred not spending two years on my MBA and, I had also never lived in Asia either. With the option of the campus exchange with Wharton or Kellogg, INSEAD offered me the best of the two worlds. So, here I am.

I only arrived a week ago, but the experience was as perfect (and "American"!) as I could only have hoped for. And, a lot of my prejudices disappeared.

My highlights:

  • Chicago's variety. Chicago is a very, very big city, especially as compared to Zurich. There is so much happening. Each day I can explore something new. And, there are so many neighbourhoods to discover. I love walking, and Chicago is definitely very walkable. The warm sunny welcome last Sunday when I strolled along the shore in Lincoln Park was the best beginning of my six US weeks that I could have asked for.
  • The American obsession with festivities. Halloween is not a big deal in Europe, but here it is. I was so surprised to see the immense amount of specially manufactured goods in every single store. In Switzerland, supermarkets start selling Christmas goods around this time of the year, even though you could still go swimming in the lake. I feel much less sad about winter now! Still, I am sad. Because I will have to leave before Halloween.

  • Incredible Kellogg campus. While I see pictures of the new Kellogg Global Hub, I was still blown away. A beautiful building, right next to the Lake. What a privilege to study here. All of my breaks I spend outside enjoying the beautiful nature. And the crisp, clean air.

  • Super welcoming and inclusive Kellogg students. On the contrary to all I was told about the US and two-year MBA students, I was pulled into social activities and communities from day one. Quite the opposite of "reserved"!
  • Very high-quality classes and faculty. Since we, the INSEAD students, are here only for half the quarter, the selection of classes is limited. I was warned that this might be disappointing compared to INSEAD. Well - I disagree!

Not only did Kellogg to do everything possible to provide us with a wider selection, but the classes are excellent.

For example, my pre-term crisis management class was very engaging and insightful. Also, most of the faculty had or still have a second career in business. Thus, the material is taught in a truly applicable, close to business manner - which I highly appreciate.

  • My first all-American party. Joining a second-year community, I was fortunate enough to be pulled into their social life right ahead. On my second day, I attended a "pre-game" at a student's house before the official term kick-off party. True American suburb feeling, campfire lit up outside, American pizza to snack, American pop music and the very sociable crowd of people eager to reconnect after the internship summer. And to add some drama: the police arrived around 10pm and asked us on behalf of the neighbours to shut down the music.

  • My everyday American diet. I love working out with weights, and as a result, I am always hungry. What you might not know is that I am absolutely obsessed with meat. The US is a paradise for me. I live right next to a WholeFoods and am spoiled by their selection of excellent, responsibly grown beef. I am in heaven.

I could go on and on. But for now, I will take a break and head out to explore more of Chicago.

God bless America.

Take care,