Student Stories

Class of 2022 shares memories of past four years in the College

Interviewed as first-years in 2018, students reflect on intellectual journeys and paths ahead

During their years in the University of Chicago College, students can expect a transformative education, but their exact path over the next few years is unknown, brimming with potential.

Four years ago, UChicago News interviewed five members of the Class of 2022 about their interests, perspectives, and hopes for their journey in the College. We caught up with four of these five students—Shivanii Batra, Aryan Kejriwal, Karen Ma and Julian Spencer—as they prepare for Convocation and the next steps in their lives. (Abed Alsolaiman, who was also featured in 2018, took a gap year and will be graduating with the Class of 2023.)

Shivanii Batra

When entering the College, Shivanii Batra was drawn to the political science, public policy and economics majors. Ultimately, she opted for economics, relishing the chance to take classes at the Booth School of Business, where she often learned alongside MBA students. But the Core Curriculum’s language requirement also led her down an unexpected path to a minor in French.

Shivanii Batra
Shivanii Batra (Photo by Jason Smith)

“I was so impressed with the French department and professors that I wanted to continue learning the language by completing the minor,” she said.

Batra said that it’s truly the members of the UChicago community who have made her time here special from its earliest moments.

“I met some of my closest friends before the start of my first year at the overnight for admitted students, and I've lived with them for the past four years,” she said. “This university is filled with some of the kindest, brightest, and most talented individuals that I have ever met, and I'm so honored that I've had this experience here and that I met all the people that I did along the way.”

Batra will be moving to Seattle to work in consulting after graduation, taking with her treasured memories of early spring days gracing Chicago.

“I've experienced an incredible sense of community here during those sunny days,” she said. “I'm so grateful that I've gotten to spend them swimming at the Point or sitting on the quad with some of my best friends.”

Aryan Kejriwal

As a first-year mathematics student, Aryan Kejriwal said he challenged himself to the extreme, making an effort to take the difficult classes like “Honors Mathematical Analysis” and “Graduate Measure-Theoretic Probability,” while filling his remaining hours with Registered Student Organizations (RSO) activities.

Aryan Kejriwal
Aryan Kejriwal (Photo by Jason Smith)

Over time, he said he learned that it was more beneficial for him to focus less on doing the impossible, and more on staying consistent in each of his activities. He eventually took RSO leadership positions in Derivatives Group Quant Trading and UChicago Applied Math Club, which were both meaningful experiences for him.

“In the end, it wasn’t the difficulty of a task that helped me achieve my goals, but rather the skills I had developed when performing the task,” he said. 

Kejriwal said some of the best friendships he made at UChicago came from late-night conversations at the A Level of Regenstein, which he said ranged from intellectual to casual to “straight-up silly.”

“More than anything, UChicago has given me a community for the rest of my life,” he said. “The people here taught me how to grow in my passions, be humble, have meaningful conversations and to be my best self.”

Kejriwalwill be joining Chicago Trading Company as a quantitative trading analyst after he graduates; in that position, he will use mathematical and statistical tools to analyze markets and place trades based on his analyses.

“In 2018, I talked about my love for inquiry, and how it fueled my passion for math,” he said. “I’m excited to continue questioning, and see the practical impacts of mathematical models on the job.”

Karen Ma

As a high schooler, Karen Ma traveled the world with her badminton team—even representing the U.S. in international matches. 

Those trips as an athlete, it turns out, were only the beginning of her world travels. During her time at UChicago, Ma studied abroad twice: first in Paris for a European Civilization sequence and later in London for courses in economics.

Karen Ma
Karen Ma (Photo by Jason Smith)

“Both programs were some of the most valuable, eventful and eye-opening experiences I've had to date, giving me the opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation of various regions in Europe (Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, to name a few) while developing meaningful relationships with amazing peers and some of the coolest, distinguished professors,” she said.

Although she still keeps in touch with teammates and coaches, Ma no longer plays badminton competitively. Instead, she’s focused on academic interests that led her to degrees in economics and psychology. She will soon apply what she learned at UChicago in her work as a consultant for EY-Parthenon in New York.

“I wanted to ground my interest in human behavior with more practical knowledge of business and economics, which I think ultimately provided a unique intersection for understanding business strategy, economic theories in practice and decision-making through a consumer lens,” she said.

Ma tells incoming first-year students to not be afraid to ask for mentorship when needed, “especially from those who have made it clear they want you to succeed.” 

“It sounds like such simple advice but learning when and how to ask for guidance is one of the biggest lessons I've learned from navigating classes, recruiting and relationships at UChicago,” she said.

Julian Spencer

As part of his bachelor’s in neuroscience, Julian Spencer completed a thesis that analyzed immune responses in patients with multiple sclerosis. His findings are being used to influence treatment timing and even had implications in other immune system functions such as vaccine receptivity, which had direct applications amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More than anything, UChicago has helped me learn the value of critical thought,” he said. “This is a place where your professors and your peers are constantly challenging you to question the world around you.”

Julian Spencer
Julian Spencer (Photo by Jason Smith)

Those debates, he said, often spilled out into the dining hall, the house lounge and onto the quad—defining his time at UChicago. “Debates about the American justice system, the role of mythology as a historical tool, the chemical definition of a vegetable, whether Plato would consider a bean bag a chair,” Spencer recalled. ”On this campus, no idea is too trivial, too complicated, or too controversial to be spared from dissection.”

Over four years, he also found his “favorite people” among his peers at UChicago. A member of the UChicago swim team, Spencer reflected fondly on a week-long training trip spent in the sun with all of his teammates in Coronado, California, during his second year.

Although he explored many varied interests as an undergraduate, Spencer encourages first-years to find balance: “Start slow! There are so many cool opportunities in college, and it’s easy to overbook yourself out of excitement. Give yourself enough time to do the things you love with all the passion and dedication they deserve, and expand from there.”

After graduation, Spencer will spend a few months in Hawaii to surf, bike and bartend. He will then head to Los Angeles to work in business development with the biotech company Amgen.