One of the Booth students new to the US, Jerry Jiang. Jerry poses in front of a river in Guizhou, China, in April.
With more than 50 countries represented in Booth's student body, the school's rich cultural diversity has become one of its many trademarks. But what is the Chicago Booth experience really like for those living in the United States for the first time? Two international first-years, Kostia Pertsovskyi and Jerry Jiang, share their experiences and cite the biggest surprises they encountered upon making the US – and Chicago Booth – home for the next two years.
Pertsovskyi, originally from the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, moved to Chicago over the summer, having never lived anywhere outside of Ukraine for longer than several months. He noted that he immediately noticed several societal differences between the two cultures.
"What I'm impressed with about America overall is how people can take kind of an optimistic approach to life," he said. "In the Soviet Union, people think about why things won't work, but in the US, by default, everything is possible; people think about why things will work."
Pertsovskyi said Booth's culture also presented some surprises.
"One thing that surprised me about Booth was how supportive and intense everyone was," he said, reflecting on his first days of orientation. "The biggest surprise to me was probably LEAD and its focus on teamwork and feedback. What's beyond the academics at Booth is what really impressed me."
Jiang, who was born and raised in small town in China and spent his last six years working in Shanghai, said he too was surprised by his early experiences at Booth.
"Students here are more humble than I expected," said Jiang. "At other business schools, they're totally different."
Jiang said his three-day trip to Chicago for his Booth admissions interview marked the first time he had visited the US.
"It's more relaxed here," he said. "People know more about what they want and need – there's more self-reflection. Also, in the US, people have their own standards and values. They know what's important to them, and they don't need to sacrifice; they know how to get what they want."
Both agree that they felt the impact of Booth's competitive nature early on.
"The attitude toward work and classes here is that everyone is really taking their studies seriously," Pertsovskyi said.
People aren't afraid to ask questions at Booth, Jiang observed, noting that the school's culture has been slightly more competitive than his undergraduate experiences in Beijing.
While Jiang is interested in pursuing opportunities in the US post-Booth, Pertsovskyi said he is interested in returning to Europe.
"I see my career and internship in Europe," he said. "But I really wanted to experience school in the US – it just has such great value."