Student Stories

Here Comes the Sun(rise): Kuvia 2020

Students come together for annual winter festival

Each winter quarter, second week is known for one thing: Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko. Derived from the Inuit word for “happiness” and the Japanese word for “winter training,” the week-long winter festival is most commonly referred to as “Kuvia.” 

A campus tradition since 1983, Kuvia is put on for students by the Council on University Programming (COUP). Students participate in morning stretches and workshops, and are treated to bagels and juice afterward— all before 8 a.m. Those who wake up for all five days of Kuvia get a t-shirt, a campus-honored emblem of the rigor and dedication it takes to participate. 

“Kuvia is a testament to the question of how far college students will go for a free t-shirt and a lifetime of glory,” said Tiffany Yooj Kim, president of COUP. 

As they do every year, participants arrived at the Henry Crown Field House at 6 a.m. each day for opening stretches —  called sun salutations — led by UChicago faculty and staff. As is tradition, the last sun salutations took place at Promontory Point on Friday, where participants watched the sunrise and were greeted by the Kuvia polar bear and John W. Boyer, dean of the College. 

“There's something comforting about waking up at the crack of dawn with hundreds of other sleepy glory-seekers and greeting the sun,” said Kim. 

Morning workshops were led by various Recognized Student Organizations and were structured to include athletic, dance and creative components each morning. A number of RSOs participated this year, including the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the Women’s Rugby team, the Swing Dance Society, Zumba and Off-Off Campus.  

“I enjoyed learning a new exercise from a different RSO each morning,” said first-year Sophia Pegues. “My favorite workshop was with UBallet.” 

Students who live in the residence halls often consider Kuvia an important House tradition.

“Kangeiko is my favorite UChicago tradition because I love getting up early and getting active with my house,” said Gabriella Griffen, a fourth-year student and a resident assistant in Wendt House. “It brings everyone together and gets us active on those early winter mornings.” 

An illustration with two polar bears eating a bagel with a yellow sun rising in the background.
The 2020 t-shirt design, created by fourth-year Olivia Shao.

Olivia Shao, a fourth-year student who created this year’s t-shirt, wanted to incorporate what she thought were “some of the essential parts of the Kuvia experience” into her design, “like being tired and eating free bagels.” 

“I also wanted to add the sun rising to refer to the sun salutations,” Shao said. “It's always kind of nice to go out to the Point on the last day and see the sunrise.”