Thanks to Matt Shomo, Class of 2020, for his reflection on his first quarter at Harris. 

Growing up, the first day of school always felt like a big deal. It was the tangible representation of new beginnings; of a fresh start and renewed energy. Turns out that feeling doesn’t go away by the time you start 17th grade – at least not for me.

Nearly three years had gone by since I last set foot in a classroom and I was anxious to be learning again. Anxious in a positive way to be a student and to meet new friends and explore all of my interests. Anxious in another way to be at a top program doing challenging work while being permanently away from home for the first time in my life. Three months later, I can assure you that the only anxiety anybody should feel at Harris is the good kind.

Sure, the work was challenging. Of the three required classes in the first quarter – Microeconomics, Analytical Politics, Statistics for Data Analysis – all three were difficult in their own way. Statistics for Data Analysis with Professor Amir Jina involved learning multiple programming languages, something with which I had zero experience. Analytical Politics with Professor Alexander Fouirnaies was a ten-week deep dive into advanced game theory models and frameworks necessary for evaluating policy. Microeconomics with Professor Ariel Roginsky served as a more in-depth and theoretical look at economics by way of analyzing consumer behavior.

Of course, the University of Chicago is an ambitious academic environment. People often equate the semester system to running a marathon and the quarter system to running a sprint. Here at Harris, it’s sort of like doing both. Time management has been and will always be a crucial skill to master for students and professionals, and that is absolutely the case in your first quarter at Harris. What makes Harris different is the variety of activities and events outside the classroom that are worthy of your time and energy. Daily events that provide students with opportunities to learn about important topics being addressed on the South Side of Chicago and around the world. Weekly guest speakers providing un-matched levels of expertise and insight – Congressman Adam Schiff, author and University of Chicago Professor Eve Ewing, and some guy named Barack Obama – to name a few. Balancing the coursework with the seemingly endless opportunities to learn outside the classroom might seem overwhelming at first but it is the best possible problem to have.

My classmates and I were pushed by the rigorous material and academic schedule, and we are better off because of it. The people you meet and the relationships you build at Harris will make your experience even better than you can imagine. It’s natural to feel anxious about going to graduate school, especially at a place like the University of Chicago. But be anxious in a positive way. Be excited to learn. Be excited to dive in head first in your efforts to master your particular area of study. Be eager to make friends and form lasting relationships. Be invested in your future and take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities this amazing place has to offer. I did; and my life has been forever changed for the better by the first ten weeks I spent at the University of Chicago.