Why European MBA Students Love Chicago!
Chi-town: home of Boeing, Groupon, Oprah Winfrey and Kanye West
This weekend the city of Chicago became the first North American city outside of Washington, D.C., to host a summit of the NATO military alliance, boosting its position as a “global crossroads”, according to City officials.
It’s a fair claim to make. Chicago has long been a hub for businesses from commodities exchange to pharmaceuticals to food and beverages. Today, an eco-system of innovative web firms like Groupon and venture capitalists is growing too.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, was established after the end of World War Two as military alliance between the countries of North America and Western Europe.
With the ties between Europe and the US as our starting point, we asked two European MBA students in the city to tell us why Chicago truly is a global crossroads.
Sabrine Waismann and Danilo Gargiulo are both full-time MBA students at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business, due to graduate in 2013.
Both of them came to Chicago from London, where Sabrine was a manager at Legal and General Investment Management and Danilo worked in wholesale banking at Lloyds Banking Group.
What were your impressions or ideas about the city of Chicago? Has it exceeded your expectations?
Chicago was like a hidden treasure. It far exceeded our expectations of a sleepy Midwest city covered in snow.
Popular Hollywood films often portray a one-dimensional view of Chicago but the city offers numerous different neighborhood experiences. A personal favorite is Wicker Park, with its boutiques, art galleries, theaters and restaurants amid the influence of the surrounding German, Scandinavian and Eastern European communities.
For shopping in Chicago, we were delighted to discover the iconic Magnificent Mile bursting with high-street and high fashion brands.
We were most impressed with Chicago’s distinct architectural beauty. While having a breathtaking skyline when viewed from sailing on Lake Michigan, Chicago is a center of architectural developments. It gave birth to the first skyscraper, a ten-storey building.
Furthermore, adjacent to the Chicago Booth Harper Centre is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, one of the most important buildings in American architecture and renowned as a forerunner of modernism.
Chicago has incredible architecture, culture, restaurants and nightlife that we are still exploring!
How have you found the global community in Chicago?
As the third largest city in the US with the third largest airport in the world, Chicago is a large tourist destination. On the first days we arrived we were both surprised to hear Portuguese and Italian, our native languages, spoken in the streets of Chicago. But it turned out Brazilian and Italian tourists love the shopping, food and nightlife Chicago has to offer.
Walking on North Michigan Avenue and seeing tourists queuing to take photos in front of Millennium Park or the Tribune Tower, it is evident that people from all parts of the world come to descend upon Chicago.
While attracting many tourists, Chicago is also a popular choice for global institutions hosting conferences. A few weeks ago Sabrine attended the annual CFA Institute (Chartered Financial Analysts) conference in Chicago along with hundreds of other global investment professionals. It is not surprising to us that NATO is being held in Chicago, reflecting its stature as a global city.
Most importantly Chicago is a melting pot and home to many nationalities such as Irish, Germans, Polish, Indian, Pakistani, Mexican, and Chinese, among others. We did not have to look far to find a local Irish pub, which we missed from our time living in London. Chicago felt a bit more like home after that.
What opportunities are there for cultural activities (food, museums, festivals, music)?
There are as many opportunities as you have the energy for! As University of Chicago students we have received amazing discounts to museums, ballets and operas. We have attended many productions of the Joffrey Ballet, a world-class dance company.
The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s best art museums is a five-minute walk from the apartment complex where many Chicago Booth students live and there are often wonderful exhibitions. Danilo recently saw Marc Chagall’s “American Windows” and the vibrant colours of the windows were truly breathtaking.
In the fall of 2012, we look forward to hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, directed by the world famous music director Riccardo Muti, who deliberately chose Chicago over other cities.
What advantages are there in Chicago compared to other cities such as NYC, Boston, or Washington DC?
While it’s very international, Chicago also offers the opportunity to live the American experience. In no other city can you see a passion for sports, listen to saxophones solos in the corners of the street or walk into art deco buildings as if you were living in the 1930s. And, more importantly, where else can you eat the same huge tasty steaks and famous deep dish pizzas?
Chicago in the past been depicted as second best to New York, but now it has exceed its reputation by attracting the most famous artists, chefs, musicians and architects and by re-launching its tech scene.
What multi-national companies are located in Chicago?
Chicago is a global business center with many multinational companies head-quartered or having an office here. Multinational companies that are headquartered in the Chicago area include Boeing, CME Group, Morningstar, Northern Trust, Orbitz, McDonald’s and United Airlines to name a few.
Many more large multinational corporations have a presence in Chicago but the list would be too long to mention! It’s sufficient to say that if you are a large global business you probably have an office in Chicago.
Less well known is that Chicago has a growing and vibrant venture capital market. A key player in supporting and providing a forum for members to invest in seed and early stage businesses in Chicago is Hyde Park Angels, founded by a group of Chicago Booth alumni.
Finally, how can we not mention the rising start-up scene? This city saw the launch of many successful businesses like Groupon, Braintree and Grubhub, and is continuing to expand its imprint in the tech area, with entrepreneurs and business innovators constantly looking for exciting new opportunities.
What will you miss about the city when you return to the UK after you graduate?
We will definitely miss seeing the four seasons! Chicago is a magic city that transforms itself throughout the year. When you live here, you are constantly surrounded by new colours and smells. Even the music, the venues, the lights seem to follow the rhythm dictated by the changing seasons. In winter you can enjoy ice-skating in a white Millennium Park and drink hot mulled wine with friends, while in the summer in the very same location you can listen to the most famous bands playing live, after you spend a day at the beach on the lake.
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