Starting a brand new life as a graduate student in a foreign country isn't always easy. Schoolwork alone is a source of stress. Add to that the challenges of settling into an unfamiliar big city and navigating a culture not your own, and you get a glimpse of the problem of 'blending in'. Yih-Ting Chen is one a few new Liautuad MBA students who have come to Chicago from other countries. How has he dealt with blending in?
"MBA student life requires you to plan your downtime carefully. Why would I use my precious downtime to sing in a choir, to spend entire afternoons and evenings rehearsing, stuck in a small room with a big group?
"Even when I was beginning my MBA here, I was already exhausted by the adjustment process, getting used to the lifestyle differences, the teaching differences - everything was different, which emphasized my difference. There really was little sense of belonging. Then one day I received a Liautaud newsletter with information about the UIC choirs. Choir has always been an important part of my life, so I was thrilled to get this info. I auditioned immediately, and was asked to join, and so now, after a long day of coursework at a desk, I join my fellow choristers. It takes my mind off of the schoolwork, the deadlines, and the everyday stresses of settling in as a foreigner.
"I can't tell you how many friends I've made through the choir, fellow graduate students and undergraduates as well. They've really introduced me to Chicago, shown be the best groceries, the best places to see shows, the best jazz clubs, even some of the best weekend getaways. Do I still feel like an outsider? Hardly. Singing with these fellow students, it shows how quickly music breaks down barriers. And now, not only do I have the network of Liautaud MBA students, I have this group of friends from the choir, and who knows where these relationships could take me.
"Weekly rehearsals give my life some regularity outside of classes. Choristers take turns leading warm-ups at each rehearsal, and everyone gets a chance to help manage the choir. Our conductor, Andrew Lewis, is always telling us to not merely sing, but to engage in the deeply communal spirit of choral music. It's interesting - I spend my days working on business problems with MBA student teams at Liautaud, and spend my free time engaged with a different kind of group, for a no less important end.
"We regularly perform. I have to say, we sound amazing. And nothing beats the feeling of hearing the applause after the conductor's baton goes down. It's a great sense of achievement. All of my UIC Business colleagues should attend a performance! Come see how calming it can be to forget about the MBA for a minute - all you have to do is sit still and enjoy the music."
You can find information about Yih-Ting's choir performances here: