bye Chicago

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March 25th 2013
Published: March 27th 2013
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As I stand at this moment, I have on one hand a degree from a world renowned institution, and on the other the prospect of a very promising future. I wrote to the admission office over four years ago that I wanted the U of C to be the cornerstone foundation for the rest of my life. And it is.

Gratitude is not enough. Words are not enough to express incredible appreciation for opening doors and windows into a world I had never before experienced. For showing me a beautiful city, and giving me the courage to act on life. And for giving me the room to grow and the space I needed to embark on a lifetime of self- discovery.

We as students of the University of Chicago are blessed to attend an institution that allots us with so many skills and opportunities for growth. We are a small group of people who have acquired an education that is unlike any other, and the work we perform from here on out will no doubt leave an impact on our generation and for the world around us.

Unique, also, is our university where more than 80% of the
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Community organization in Englewood
student body is not from Chicago, and hails an international student population of 10%. This may translate to one very sad reality- that it is difficult to see everyone in the same setting again after graduating. But it also means that we had four years to deepen friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime, and that no matter where we go in the world, we will never alone. As of this moment, I know someone from nearly every corner of the globe: from Malaysia to New Zealand, Brazil to South Africa, Miami to Palestine. No matter where I find myself from here on out, I know that I will have a friend to call on. That is a blessing in itself.

But I also I know that the uniqueness of this education extends to the environment for which we develop our studies. The University of Chicago is a $6.5 billion institution, and yet is surrounded by some of the poorest and most segregated communities in America. The boundaries between our institution and the rest of the South Side are so stark that it has become common practice on behalf of the administration to warn University students from venturing too far from campus grounds.

If there is anything I ask from my friends and students at the U of C, it is to eradicate the notion that someone from a different socio-economic background is somehow intellectually inferior, or that the color of someone’s skin or the opportunities that were not afforded to them places them in a position of societal alienation. Woodlawn and Washington Park are our neighbors, and it is our duty as a neighbor to help one another. It is the obligation of the student body to help the very communities that have suffered under some of the University’s aggressive policies when we as an institution have (at times) benefitted at the expense of our neighbors. And the broken history that we have with them demands a lot of outreach by the administration, the faculty, and the student body to heal those relationships.

Education is a gift, a blessing. It is my firm belief that education is to be shared with those who have not had the same opportunities or backgrounds that we have been so fortunate to have. I call on my friends at the U of C to act upon the duties that
Rainbow Push Coalition Rainbow Push Coalition Rainbow Push Coalition

Operated by Reverend Jackson
are necessitated to them for being a student of this school: ie be a mentor to a child who aspires to attend college, coach an afterschool sport’s game, attend your local alderman’s community meeting, visit a Sunday service outside of your church, participate in a rally. But most importantly, be sure to have friends outside of the University community, someone to trust enough to turn to in times of need. The friends I made outside of school were the ones who offered a perspective on life that I could not have otherwise received. My experiences with South Side neighborhoods taught me two of life’s most important lessons- what it means to be a neighbor and what it means to be part of a community. The friends I have made here have become an extension of me. They are my family. From living and working in Chicago, I have family to return to, and that is the biggest blessing of all.

Finally, to the City of Chicago. I arrived here for the first time in September of 2009. I came with the expectation of discovering myself through education. What I found instead is a city full of life, stories, diversity, struggles and achievements, community, hope, and faith. I came to Chicago expecting to “find myself” in college, and yet what happened instead that fall was something completely unexpected but much more powerful.

From the years I have spent working and studying here, I’ve seen so much of this city. I witnessed some harsh realities of urban life, realized the contradiction of politics, endured the bitter cold, sorrowed for the people who had been left behind. I have lived the beautiful, and seen the ugly.

From watching people battle with drug addiction and others climb to success, from riding by rows of vacant buildings and blocks of wealthy high-rise towers, and living between the highly affluent and the impoverished- this is a city of paradox.

What I learned is all that makes a city is a compilation of human stories. And Chicago has a lot of story to tell.

But in spite of all this, I’m leaving Chicago with a feeling I have not been able to shake since the first time I arrived here nearly four years ago. A feeling that has deepened for every escape downtown, for every North Side neighborhood explored, and for all of the joys and sorrows I shared with the residents I served.

I’m still in love.

Additional photos below
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deep dishdeep dish
deep dish

ooh mama.
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Chicago at dusk

View from my running route

29th March 2013

hey yasmeen, congrats! i agree with the part about acknowledging that people can be successful regardless their background. keep writing willy
24th May 2013

Thanks Willy!
Sorry this is late, but thanks so much Willy!! I love reading about your adventures in Cairo- keep those coming as well! =)

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