Peggy Xu, a recent graduate, first came to campus on a cold, rainy prospective weekend. Despite the dreary weather, conversations had in the Crown House lounge convinced her UChicago was the place for her.
“I really fell for that whole life of the mind spirit and learning for the sake of learning,” she said. Xu’s love for the housing system continued past her time as a prospective student, as the Wendt House resident stayed in the dorm for three years, only moving off campus for her final year.
Xu graduated as a double major in classics and law, letters, and society (LLSO). When deciding majors, she first picked classics because she liked the small, tight-knit Latin department, “It’s a really good community to be a part of, and I will miss it a lot when I leave.”
By the end of her first year, she decided to add LLSO as a major because it allowed her to tie her interest in classics to her interest in modern and historical political theory. It was within these majors that she met her most influential professors: her thesis advisor, Clifford Ando, and Dennis Hutchinson, who was tough and always making her think about things legalistically.
Also adding to her interest in law was Seeds of Justice, a corps for social justice issues that she was a part of as a first-year. Her time in Seeds of Justice framed her College experience, as it was one of the reasons she chose to pursue a degree in LLSO. She was able to study, through an academic lens, what lay behind social justice.
Xu later joined the University Community Service Center as a way to give back after Seeds of Justice, and she now sits on the student advisory board for UCSC.
However, perhaps Xu’s most significant experiences came during her summers. Between her second and third year, Xu worked for Michelle Obama. She was one of 13 interns, but she was the only one who had an inside joke with the former first-lady. She recalls almost blacking out when she met Michelle, but remembers her comical response when Michelle learned she went to UChicago, “I hope they’ve made it more fun since I’ve left!” In addition to her near-brunch-buddy-status with Michelle, Xu had the opportunity to sit in on state dinners and had the chance to see Pope Francis and many other influential people.
The following summer Xu worked in New York City writing speeches as an intern at West Wing Writers. While she loved her experience, Xu recounts how difficult it was— learning not only how to properly address topics but also developing the skill to be funny on cue and to know your audience while doing such.
Much like her summer experiences, Xu’s study abroad experience is not one she will forget after graduation. Xu spent fall of her third-year in Rome studying classics. When asked about her craziest adventure there, she recounted an almost near-death experience. Xu, along with two friends, decided to go to Switzerland for the weekend and climb Harder Kulm Mountain. They started their climb around 2 p.m.; however, they began climbing up the wrong side. It wasn’t long before they were climbing on hands and knees, as they had gone too far to turn back at that point. By the time they had reached the top, it was nighttime, which was made worse by freezing rain and Chicago-like winds. They called 911, and because it was too windy for a helicopter rescue, a small alpine rescue team came up to get Xu and her friends. Although terrifying at the time, Xu tells the story while laughing now, and finishes it with the fact that they got to eat cheese fondue when they returned to their Airbnb.
The presence of food also played a role stateside. Xu, along with a few of her friends, ran an underground supper club known as Nous. Every Saturday night, they would provide a home cooked meal to students who reserved spots. While the club was at times hard to manage, it was overall successful. When she isn’t cooking, she can be found at the Lutheran School cafe or the Divinity School, two of her favorite places to spend time. She could even be found at the Reg in her final days, despite being a graduating student, with a completed thesis.
Like many other graduates, Xu was thinking about her final days at UChicago. She accumulated a list of things she wanted to do but mostly spent as much time with friends as possible. Though while making plans, she tried to not think too much about leaving, “One day it’s gonna hit me, and I’ll be in tears for like six hours,” she recounted a few weeks before graduating.
Xu’s going to miss most the basic things— having her friends around her, feeling like she’s a part of many strong communities, taking incredible classes— “The very college things that you kind of take for granted for four years then realize that you’re leaving and won’t have it for a long time. So it’s little things like that."
Xu will continue to take incredible classes, though, just not here. Having received the prestigious Pearson Fellowship, Xu will be going to graduate school at Cambridge, studying classics for a year. Xu went through a University and national application process, and was the one student chosen. As far as her plans for next year, it’s currently to go with the flow. And this summer? Hiking in Canada looks like a possibility; hopefully this hike won’t turn out like her Harder Kulm climb.