Considering the late night hours of the Regenstein Library, you might not think of UChicago students as morning people. Far more often, we are awake late at night finishing a p-set or polishing an essay. It might be difficult to imagine hundreds of students filing out of their dorms and swarming to Henry Crown Athletic Center before sunrise, but this past week that’s exactly what they did. Their purpose? An annual event put on by COUP known as Kuvia, short for Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko.
What is this bizarre event? Its name is derived from the Inuit word for happiness and the Japanese tradition of winter training. At UChicago, Kuvia is a spirited five day event where students perform various exercises together before morning classes, culminating with a walk to the Promontory Point on Friday for sun salutations just as the sun creeps over Lake Michigan. While the Chicago winter can make it difficult to go outside and get moving, Kuvia inspires students to be active and start their days strong.
Plus, beyond a sense of camaraderie with fellow early risers, there’s one major motivating factor to attend all five days: a coveted long sleeve t-shirt.
These aren’t the only reasons for Kuvia’s popularity. The event—which had about 1,000 participants total this year, with over 500 attending on all days—is a classic UChicago communal experience. It’s common to spot some in colorful onesies or head-to-toe costumes instead of coats and scarves. As students pour in to Crown, some college houses get an early start by running around the track waving banners. Prominent among the runners is Dodd-Mead, the Burton-Judson house with historically high participation. “When I say ‘carpe’ you say ‘diem,’” they shout. “Carpe! Diem! Carpe! Diem!” Whether through collective exhaustion or early morning endorphins, participants certainly seize the opportunity to strengthen bonds within their housing communities.
Still, is this experience worth waking up at 5:30 a.m.? Kuvia goers like to profess that they’re “only doing this for the t-shirt,” and it’s true that this year’s long-sleeve features a cheeky-looking polar bear that seems to say “I woke up early for five days and now I have bragging rights.” However, students seek far more than the permission to gloat. Kuvia provides an opportunity to practice self-discipline and try new things, making it a bucket-list item for many students. Daily workshops hosted by various RSOs, from Chicago Raas to fencing to Le Vorris & Vox Circus, give attendees a taste of campus student life and put a fun twist on exercise. By the end of the week, students know they can set their minds to any task and complete it.
While Kuvia probably won’t be transforming our student body into a bunch of early risers any time soon, this time-honored tradition continues to challenge and reward students year after year.