Muaz Chaudhry, MPP Class of 2024
Muaz Chaudhry

Muaz Chaudhry, MPP Class of 2024, shares how he managed to build a vibrant community at Harris as a queer, international student.

While I was in Pakistan, I never imagined I would make so many friends when I moved to Chicago, much less friends who would eventually come to feel like family.

During Orientation, the Dean of Students’ Office ensured that we had all sorts of fun, interactive activities to help us get to know each other. The Orientation events were designed to break the ice and encourage us to engage with each other, which helped us to form bonds quickly. In the vast range of activities—from volleyball to bicycling—there was something for everyone. We also formed WhatsApp groups for each activity, which became daily sources of joyful interactions, and we quickly made friends with our cohort.

Soon after the Orientation events, I was excited to meet people with similar experiences and backgrounds through Harris Student Organizations (HSOs) like OUTPolitik and South Asian Students Policy Association (SASPA). My friends' circle in Pakistan was mostly comprised of queer people, so I was pleasantly surprised at how many cishet friends I was able to make here in Chicago. And then meeting so many other queer people from around the world under one roof was a once in a lifetime experience for me. It was amazing to connect with such diverse people who shared similar struggles, hopes, and dreams. Together, we explored Northalsted (informally known as “Boystown”), the “gayborhood” in Chicago, and I’ve been going there almost every weekend since. Building a queer community was great for my mental wellbeing as I found friends with whom I could comfortably share my life experiences and have so much fun!

Apart from the interactions at Orientation and through HSOs, Hyde Park and the UChicago campus have a lot to offer in terms of community building. As soon as I moved into my building on 61st Street, I found a whole community of South Asians who hung out very frequently and formed a friend group that wasn’t just limited to Harris. We threw parties and hosted potluck dinners and celebrated events like Diwali together.

 The community I've built at Harris—both on and off campus—not only helped me feel more at home in a new city and country but also has  created meaningful connections that I will carry with me well beyond my time at Harris.