Hello! I'm Naina Suri, MBA '17 with a concentration in marketing and business analytics. I moved to Chicago from Mumbai to attend UIC Business. So, what's a week like in the life of a Liautaud student?
My days start around nine. I get up, get ready, and, because what they say is true - Chicago weather is unpredictable! - I check the forecast. I’ve learned to never leave home without a sweater and umbrella. Now that it’s November, add a winter coat to that. Tip for new arrivals - there’s a Burlington Coat Factory at Taylor and Canal, four short blocks from campus. A great place to pick up affordable winter gear.
By 10:30 a.m., I’m at work (after a quick stop at the Starbucks in Daley Library). I’m a graduate assistant in the admissions office, so I work about 20 hours a week in exchange for a stipend and some tuition support from the university. Balancing classes and the assistantship requires careful planning, but for the difference it makes in expenses, to say “it’s worth it” is an understatement.
Around 5:30 p.m., I leave work to grab a snack with a few classmates. We usually eat in Student Center East, spending about twenty minutes recapping our days before heading to our 6:00 p.m. class, “Improvisation and Leadership.” It’s an unconventional business class; the professor draws on techniques from improvisational theater to develop our public speaking and interviewing skills. The class exercises help me loosen up and laugh after a day at work, and my confidence as a speaker has definitely grown - I’d recommend the class to all business students.
I get home around 9:00 p.m. and join my roommates for a late dinner, usually homemade Indian food. It’s nice to have friends waiting for me when I get home. After we eat, I call my parents in India to see how they’re doing. Regular phone contact and video chatting help us deal with the distance. The separation is difficult. Dining with my roommates and talking to my parents both help me decompress so that I can do a few hours of schoolwork with a clear head.
I try to start my homework before 10:00 p.m. First comes economics, then, this week, preparation for a marketing exam. Marketing is all about application; a grasp of the concepts alone is nothing unless I can use them in real scenarios, so I devote extra time to drilling. As I lose steam, I spend a little time searching the web for internships and putting together internship applications. By midnight, I’m in bed catching up on social media until I drift off to sleep.
Today I got up especially early to review for my marketing exam, which I’ll take this afternoon. The admissions office let me reschedule my work around the exam - a huge help, because now I have the entire morning to prepare and get into test mode. The supervisor for my assistantship is very understanding when it comes to putting school first.
At schools in India, you have all of the exams together. Stressful, but you’re done in one day. Here in the U.S., things are less predictable. It takes more planning to schedule all of the work required for different exams and deadlines on different days. I feel like I’m looking in ten directions at once - grad school is no joke!
I went in for my exam at 2:30 p.m. and was out by 4:00 p.m. A tough test! I make a beeline for a Farmer’s Fridge to pick up a salad, then meet a friend on campus. The slight change in my schedule leaves me room for something I do all too seldom: hit the gym.
I’m home by 5:30 p.m. I shower and then join my roommates in preparing dinner. After eating and cleaning up the kitchen, I study for an economics exam, which is a week away, fortunately. This weekend, I’m organizing a study group to further prepare for the exam. Studying in groups has been one of the most helpful practices during my time in business school; there’s something about group discussion that really helps my grasp of key concepts.
I turn in a little early after a hard day, around 10:00 p.m, and unwind with some TV. I’m loving Quantico right now, the new ABC series about the FBI. It features a famous Bollywood actress in a central role.
I get up around the usual 9 a.m. I don’t have class today, and don’t have to be at work until noon, so I take the extra time to enjoy an especially well-prepared breakfast of yogurt, fruits and granola, and look at more internships while I eat. I also take a few minutes for some student organization work: I serve as Director of Marketing for the Graduate Marketing Association (GMARK), and I want to make sure all of the right information is in place about tonight’s event, a visit from Ajay Pattani as part of the MBA Executive Chats series.
If you’re a student who could benefit from networking (and which students can’t?) and you haven’t yet joined a student organization, you should - you’ll meet students and faculty outside of the classroom, and you’ll make contacts beyond the university, too, and you never know when one of those contacts will be a lifeline later down the road.
Work is busy, with a lot of applications to go through, so the shift passes quickly, which is good - I’m looking forward to this evening’s talk with Ajay! Just after 4:00 p.m., I go straight from work to the boardroom where the talk will take place. We help Ajay set up his presentation, which will cover the history of the company he founded, Perfect Search Media, as well as his own personal history that led him to found a company.
The talk is great; what sticks with me especially is his analogy of entrepreneurship to personal fashion, and how good-humored he is about laughing at past mistakes. After the event, I meet with my marketing group to discuss a case analysis for next week. We opt for Daley Library - plenty of big tables, and we all need a dose of Starbucks to keep our motors going so late in the day.
Today, I sleep in, and wake up to the first snow of the season! Usually, Saturday morning means running all the errands I couldn’t get to during the week. But this week’s a little different. Back in India, my family is celebrating Diwali. At times like these, it feels especially hard to be away from them. But at times like these I’m also especially grateful for my new family here at UIC. We celebrate the festival together by doing a small prayer at home and offering sweets to the god. Then, after a late brunch, we go outside for some snow. Being from India, I haven’t yet had my fill of snow. The beauty of it is hard to express! And it transforms the city. These memories of the snow are something I’ll always cherish.
By 5:00 p.m. my roommates and I are on our way downtown. The snow is inspirational in more than one way - we realize we need to stock up on some winter gear. Once I have what I need, I go back the way I came. One great thing about Chicago is that when you’re as close to the loop as UIC, it’s very easy to find a bus or train that takes you straight downtown. In only a few minutes, I’m en route back home, where I’ll get warm and prepare for the economics study group and all else the coming days have in store.