Living in Chicago is one of the most exciting parts of coming to Harris for many students. Victoria Sellas, MPP Class of 2022, observes that while Chicago deserves to be celebrated, it is also important to respect and acknowledge the challenges the community faces today, especially as residents continue to face deepened disparities brought about by COVID-19.

There are many things to be excited about as a new Harris graduate student: classes, professors, new friendships, professional networks, and living in Chicago.

The third largest city in the United States, Chicago has nearly every attraction you could imagine. Made up of various diverse cultures, each neighborhood has something unique to offer. While living in Chicago, we are presented with a rare opportunity to explore these cultures and immerse ourselves in new traditions, customs, cuisines, and more. The city also includes many parks and recreational areas to enjoy, as well as theaters, concerts, and more than sixty museums.

As we celebrate all that Chicago has to offer, we must remember to do so with respect and appreciation for all the communities that call Chicago home—especially in the continued aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has impacted each of us in some way, and many of us are eager to return to our lives as they were before. However, we need to recognize that may be a different reality entirely to many who call Chicago home.  We have experienced a dramatic shift in the ways we interact and function on a day-to-day basis, and it has taken a toll on businesses, organizations, and people as a whole.

With the wide-spread distribution of the vaccine, life has just begun to shift back to “normal," but with this sense of normalcy comes the reality of closures and overworked businesses, as well as individuals and families that have lost their homes, careers, and loved ones.

Most of all, we need to be mindful of the effect that the last year and a half has had on everyone and how disproportionately it has impacted communities of color. You may choose to participate in Harris Community Action or programming through the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement to make a difference in these communities. 

While you should make the most of your time in Chicago, remember to be understanding, respectful, and of service to others.