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The University of Chicago
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Updated : 2012.03.27  18:42:50
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  The seven years that I spent as a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago (1988-1995) might be the most intense memory of my life. Perhaps that is natural, since Chicago was the first foreign city that I landed in after my first flight abroad. The memory of the first night in Chicago is still vivid, that I couldn’t even sleep because of the excitement and expectation in the archaic style dormitory that resembles the one in Harry Potter movie. It was shocking to see the banana, which was a luxury food item in Korea then, was cheap and abundant in America. It also feels like yesterday that I somewhat envied the wealth of the US while eating the deep dished pizza, the signature dish of Chicago, full of cheese, ham, tomato sauce, and all the other ingredients used without restraint. For the first time in my life I was speaking in English, becoming friends with students from all around the world and studying and working out with them, and eating out together at Korean restaurants on weekends all became unforgettable memories. The campus flaunts the thick trees measuring more than one stretch, green grass, and the gothic style buildings, and you can feel the tradition and weight of the school that produced numerous Nobel Prize winners as well as President Obama. The structure on campus that commemorates Enrico Fermi, the former professor who worked on the first nuclear reactor that ended WWII, also evidences that the University of Chicago played an important role in one of the most historic moments in world history. 

  The most impressive thing about the University of Chicago was the quality lecture and academic achievement by the professors in the Department of Economics that I attended. I especially remember Professor Robert Lucas Jr., the Nobel Prize winner and a pioneer of the new classical school in macroeconomics. He was one of my dissertation committee members, and I will introduce an episode regarding his class. Whenever he entered the classroom, the first thing he did was taking out an ashtray from his thick black leather bag and put it on the teaching desk. Then on the upper left side of the board he wrote down what he was going to teach that day, numbered one to five, and he began his lecture, lighting his cigarette. When he finished his lecture from number one to five, it was exactly when the class should end and there were always three cigarette butts in his ashtray. The episode is quite famous, but I never heard that he ever smoked more or less than three---is it strange if I could feel his humanity by seeing that man of great learning smoking in class? How well organized his thoughts are, that he could control the number of cigarettes he smokes during the lecture for decades? I heard that he recently quit smoking, by the way.

  It has been 17 years since I received my Ph. D. degree, but I still sometimes think about the days spent in the University of Chicago. The name of the street that I lived on, the name of the courses that I took, and the name of the restaurant that I frequently visited…… so many things faded into memory. What became clearer over time, however, is the academic integrity, rigor, and discipline that my teachers showed then. I know I can’t rewind the time, but I regret that I didn’t become closer to them when I was under their wings.

-Chin Hee Hahn, Department of Economics

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