Thanks to Alejandro D. González López, MAIDP Candidate 2020, for writing this post!  

Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MAIDP)
Master of Arts in International Development and Policy (MAIDP) students gather outside of the Keller Center

As a conclusion to Day One orientation, including a rigorous week of Math Camp, MAIDP students participated in a scavenger hunt and, afterwards, gathered at The Revival for pizza and drinks. I was excited to continue making new friends. I was also very hungry. 

As I was eating my pizza, a classmate walked up and called me out: “Why did you take so many slices of pizza and not leave any for the rest of us?”

I looked down at the four slices I had on my plate and the one slice she had on hers. As I stuttered in an attempt to reply, she burst out laughing. ...and that is how I met my first MAIDP classmate, Cheistha, and also when I realized that we were going to be good friends. 

As a class, we have all made our own memorable introductions, curiously listened to each other’s stories, and supported each other as we transitioned into the classroom after several years in the real world. 

Already, we have created an authentic sense of community. Since the program is only one year, we are being deliberate about building deeper relationships in the short time we are together. One way we have intentionally built relationships is by organizing a signature cohort-wide activity each month. In September, we went for a day trip to Starved Rock State Park, exploring waterfalls and hiking up to its view posts overlooking the Illinois River. In October, we went to Jonomac Orchards to participate in some signature Midwestern activities like apple picking, cider tasting, and getting lost in corn mazes. In November, we will have a Pecha Kucha Potluck to share food from our countries as well as more personal stories with each other.

We are also making it a point to casually get together outside of class. Earlier this month, we hosted a surprise birthday celebration for three of our classmates. We have gone out to dance the night away in Chicago. This past weekend, several of us went to the outlet mall to stock up on winter gear. We have invited each other over for dinner and getting to taste all sorts of food from all over the world. We are exploring the many unique Chicago neighborhoods with each other on the weekends.

Perhaps most importantly, we are studying together. The program is definitely rigorous, but our cohort supports each other in amazing ways. This past week, two of our classmates held a Microeconomics review session to ensure that we all understood the material before turning in an assignment. And I could have not gotten through our first problem set for Analytical Politics without my all-star study group.

I have known my MAIDP classmates for about six weeks now, but it feels like much longer. We are putting in the work to make sure we graduate in June not only as classmates but as an MAIDP family, forging connections that will last a lifetime and lead to professional and personal collaborations across continents and policy areas.