Class of 2020 hindsight

Hey first-years, how was fall quarter?

Susie Allen, AB’09, and Jeanie Chung

At the start of the academic year, the University’s News Office shared a series of interviews with first-years on its Facebook page. The students talked about what they had done in high school—chess, poetry, judo, start-ups—and what they hoped to do in the College.

During reading period and finals week, the Core checked back in: How did fall quarter go?


Allen plays tuba with UChicago’s pep band, the Marching Maroons (below). The band has a “zero-audition policy” and is open to musicians—and nonmusicians—of all ages. (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Danielle Allen

Hometown: Oak Lawn, Illinois

I really enjoyed College housing. It was a really good way to meet people. Softball has been enjoyable too—I’m on the team. It was a little hard at first to get used to all the work, but I’m settling in and getting the hang of it.

One of our house activities was a dessert run downtown, which was a scavenger hunt, Amazing Race–style thing. There were eight or so different dessert places all around downtown.

I’m in the Intervarsity club, and I do pep band (the Marching Maroons) sometimes, because I don’t have a tuba anymore. The pep band is the only way I can get one. I started playing tuba in fifth grade. I just wanted to pick something silly. If I’m going to do band, I’m going to go silly.

My dad would complain that I never played for him. So one Christmas I did seven songs, and I did accompaniment on the computer and gave him the album.

Chemistry was probably my favorite class, media aesthetics was OK, calc—I had never done proofs before. I’m starting the premed sequence, and I’m excited for softball. At the end of the year the team is going to Australia.—Susie Allen, AB’09


Zhao is a midfielder on the men’s soccer team, which won 17 of its 20 games last season. The Maroons lost one match and tied two. (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Gary Zhao

Hometown: Mason, Ohio

Zhao scored the first goal of his college soccer career September 13 versus Wheaton College.

Scoring my first goal was a great feeling. To score it under the lights at Stagg Field in front of our fans was unbelievable. Max Lopez, a sophomore forward, got the ball in the middle of the field around the circle, and I was on his right. I made a darting run forward, and he played a perfect throughball right into my path. I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and put a strong shot into the roof of the net. To score it against Wheaton, typically one of the best teams in the country, was especially satisfying.

I’ve been surprised at how much fun I’ve had. I came to UChicago with the expectation that schoolwork would take up all of my time, and there wouldn’t be time for anything else. At least during my first quarter, fun didn’t die.

With the season over, I’m really looking forward to exploring some RSOs and becoming more involved on campus.

Being surrounded by so many smart and interesting people has expanded my intellectual capabilities and social horizons. I’ve met so many people with diverse backgrounds, and every one of them has taught me something new.

Thankfully, I haven’t gotten a C yet. I’m waiting for econ to ruin my GPA next year.—Jeanie Chung


As well as practicing judo, Clausen enjoys teaching: “Little girls look up to me and realize that they can find success in judo and beat boys in practice.” (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Sarah Clausen

Hometown: Chicago

When you’re choosing UChicago they tell you how big house culture is, but I hadn’t realized how big. I’m in Strongin, formerly Maclean, in the new dorm, the Jeanne Gang building. The way the lounge area is set up is really nice. It’s such a large open space that you can see everyone, or if you can’t see them, you can hear them. So you can always tell who’s in the house.

My mom saw me the other day, and she was like, “Oh, you’re so grown up!” I was home for Thanksgiving break. I’m from the North Side of Chicago, but I’ve only been home two times.

I practice judo three or four times a week, and I joined the women’s chorus. That’s been fantastic. I’ve been a choir kid my entire life.

I’ve been participating in a lot of intramural sports with my house. My house takes IMs very seriously. We have what we call our IM czar, and I am an IM minion. I’ve done all of the fall sports—kickball, volleyball, dodgeball, wiffle ball, flag football. There’s something satisfying about going and kicking around a kickball, pretending it’s your p-set. And flag football is such a fall sport. It feels like a surrogate for the fact that sports culture isn’t so large here, but you still get to play sports and it’s still that school spirit.

We also have a large amount of people who bake and cook. We have fantastic study breaks. My RA made a s’mores dip. It’s so easy. She put chocolate and marshmallows in the oven and we used graham crackers to dip. I want to eat only that for the rest of my life.—Susie Allen, AB’09


Aziem abhors small talk: “I’m perfectly fine with the assumption that people know a lot or everything about me, but I think once they get to know me better, they’ll realize there were some pages stuck together all along.” (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Laila Aziem

Hometown: New York

When I went home at Thanksgiving, the biggest change I realized was how much more I felt like a tourist. I’m from Manhattan and, like most New Yorkers, I get really annoyed by tourists because they slow everything down. Now when I walk in the street I find myself taking pictures a lot just to show friends at school.

One thing I often boast about is our $1 pizza. This made me realize how much I appreciate my city and that there is no other place in the world as amazing or convenient.

I do really like Chicago, but being someone who prioritizes convenience, there are some small downsides. Food delivery is expensive. Postmates [on-demand delivery service] after 1 a.m. has a $25 delivery charge. There’s no way I’m paying more for delivery than my food.

One good thing I noticed about Chicago: every time I hear or see something moving on the ground I think it’s a rat, but it’s always a leaf, which is a nice change.—Jeanie Chung


In high school Wang played chess competitively, but at UChicago just plays for fun. She started one game at 12:30 a.m. “I don’t know if that was the best decision.” (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Joie Wang

Hometown: Centreville, Virginia

I quite like having the new independence where the day is never completely made up for me. I can do whatever I want. I usually end up going to the Reg, but it’s still a nice decision that I can make on my own.

I think at the beginning of the quarter I called my parents almost every day. But then as it got busier, it became more like once a week.

The RAs and the RHs provide a very nice home feeling, the whole family gathering, which is nice to feel when you’re not actually with your family. I really like that they have children, too. You can babysit them. It’s very interesting to hear their thoughts, because they speak a lot more than normal four- and one-and-a-half-year-olds. I think it’s because they’re around College students all of the time.

I’m not really sure how I’ve changed. We’ll see. It’s different being in college. The fact that more people are around me makes me want to talk to everyone all the time, which has definitely been a little hard on grades.—Susie Allen, AB’09


Stein has participated in debate competitions at City University of New York and Moody Bible Institute. At the college level, “you get the case moments before you debate and come up with arguments on the fly.” (Photography by Jean Lachat)

Julius Stein, LAB’16

Hometown: Chicago

I used to walk through the quads three times a week to the food trucks. That was the main thing that weighed against UChicago—I was worried that it wouldn’t feel enough like going away to college. But now that I’m here, it’s a very different experience. About a fifth of my Lab class is here. But I don’t see my friends from Lab that much.

I live in a suite in Max Palevsky with a roommate and two suitemates. I’ve been really lucky. I know lots of people who—it’s not that they hate their roommates, but they don’t have close relationships. My roommate and I get along great, even though there are a lot of things that would make him, on paper, empirically, a bad roommate. He’s massively messy; I’m really neat. We have issues about the temperature of the room. But I spend the bulk of my time hanging out with him, and we’ve become really close.

Growing up, I played hockey. I pretty much did nothing else, ever, since I was six, including summers. But here they don’t have a hockey team. Instead I’ve started debate. It’s something I looked at in high school, but I didn’t have time because of hockey.

I don’t think I’ve changed. It’s kind of hard for anybody to feel like they’re actively changing. But my interests have certainly shifted. My friend group is different. My roommate and suitemates are interested in public policy, theater and acting, and anthropology, respectively. I don’t think any two of the people I hang out with have the same interests.—Jeanie Chung


Read stories about three more members of the Class of 2020.


During O-Week, incoming first-years gather for an aerial Class of 2020 photo. (Photography by Joel Wintermantle)