“The rags-to-riches American immigrant narrative often fails to acknowledge its darker stepsister, a chronicle in which some children, failing to fulfill their American dream, revert to fight lost battles from their parents’ homeland.”

One year after the Boston Marathon bombings, writer Andrew Lam reflects on the Tsarnaev brothers & the immigrant experience. I wrote a bit about this last year, albeit exploring the American dream aspect more broadly.

For every immigrant who succeeds and builds a better life, there is one who is left in the cold, no better off than he was before. The crushing weight of a dream deferred can turn into anger and grief, and evidently, it drove the Tsarnaev brothers, or at least Tamerlan, to drastic actions.

Lam rightly points out that the emotional toll of immigration and assimilation are particularly acute for immigrants of war, and it’s certainly a perspective worth considering.

Parisian Reverie

This city feels like a dream.

I get on the RER and start thinking about where I might go. I consider walking along the quais by the river, maybe grabbing a quick crepe or some gelato if I get hungry. Or I’ll try braving the lines at Berthillon. That salted butter caramel ice cream is worth the wait (and the extra cost)…

Pardon, madame? 

The guy next to me wants to sit down. I move out of the way, my stream-of-consciousness thoughts interrupted. 

Paris obviously has some must-see attractions, but what I really enjoy is just walking. It’s easy to get lost among the winding streets, the nooks and crannies of Paris. I like getting a little bit lost, as long as I can regroup and navigate back to where I need to go, with a little assist from Google Maps. Along the way, I usually find some hidden gems: tucked away between two busy thoroughfares, a cozy park that might make a good spot to do some reading or writing, a falafel stand with a long line (a sign of quality, I hope). I stop to make a note of these and keep walking along. The next happenstance is probably just a few streets over.

This city feels like a dream. I keep waiting for the moment when the spell is broken, and I’m brought back down to Earth. Sometimes it happens: when my French fails me, and all I hear is a sputtering, unintelligible mess; when I catch a whiff of someone’s b.o. on my commute to class (the French are not known for their hygiene), and all I want to do is escape the mound of people that are squished against me in the crowded train car.

But in this city, people seem to be living life in a dreamlike state, soaking in the rays of sunlight while sipping espressos and eating baguette, strolling along the banks of the Seine in their motorcycles. The pace is much slower here—even in a big city like Paris, things move leisurely. You’re encouraged to take your time—waiters won’t give you the check unless you ask for it. It takes a bit of getting used to. Sometimes, I feel myself growing a bit impatient, but not too impatient, because this city feels like a dream.

Tunnel Vision

One thing that has fascinated me about Paris’ massive public transit system is the underground tunnels that allow riders to make transfers. It’s easy to lose your way amid the seemingly endless paths. What makes things tricky is when the paths diverge without warning. If you’re not careful, you could walk down the wrong tunnel and end up on the wrong transit line.

My discovery of this underground labyrinth came when I spent probably a solid 10 minutes walking to transfer from the Metro to the RER at Chatelet-Les Halles. It’s the largest station on the Paris Metro. There, you can transfer between the RER A, B, C, and D trains, and the Metro lines 1, 4, 7, 11, and 14. Needless to say, the tunnels are extensive, and it’s a lot of walking. I try to avoid transferring there if I can.

But it got me thinking about how many people walk through those tunnels in a given day or week or month or year. Do they have interesting stories of getting lost in the tunnels? The tunnels would be a unique place to take shelter. Do homeless people live in the tunnels? What are their stories? What about underground societies? Do they hold secret meetings in the tunnels?

Or maybe what happens underground stays underground.

Tourre, former Goldman trader, will not teach undergrads, Univ. says

The Chicago Maroon - March 3, 2014

Economics Ph.D. student Fabrice Tourre, a former Goldman Sachs trader found liable for fraud, will no longer be teaching undergraduate economics this spring.

“As preparations continue for the spring quarter, Fabrice Tourre will no longer be assigned as an instructor for Honors Elements of Economic Analysis in the College. Instead he will be able to fulfill the teaching requirements for his Ph.D. program through opportunities in his department’s graduate-level curriculum,” University spokesperson Jeremy Manier said in an e-mail.

According to the economics department’s graduate program policy, “pedagogical training is a component of our doctoral education and for all students beginning in the autumn quarter of 2007 and later, the degree program requires compensated service equivalent to five appropriate teaching assistantships.”

Manier declined to comment on what prompted the decision or offer further details. On the courses website and on Time Schedules, Tourre’s name has been removed from the course listing, and the instructor is listed as “pending.”

Second-year Allan Zhang bid for the section and was disappointed that Tourre would no longer be teaching the honors section of the macroeconomics course.

“Macro, I feel, at the very least at the U of C, depends on who’s teaching it, so I was hoping that with Fabrice Tourre, it would be different than with other people in the past. I guess I was hoping that his experience in the private sector and [investment] banking would add something to the class,” he said.

Despite the change, Zhang still plans to enroll in the honors section.

“I guess it depends on who the econ department picks to fill the spot, to see if it’s a net gain or a net loss,” he said. “Having Fabrice Tourre is a plus, but honors econ is still honors econ.”

College applications down 9.5 percent

The Chicago Maroon - February 14, 2014

This year, 27,499 students applied to the College’s Class of 2018, a 9.5 percent decrease from last year’s record high of 30,369 applicants.

University spokesperson Jeremy Manier attributed the decrease to problems with the Common Application but noted that the number of applicants has steadily risen since 2006, when the College received 9,538 applications.

“Applications to the College remain at historically high levels, more than triple the numbers prior to 2006. Problems with the Common Application affected this year’s total, but highly qualified students who are passionate about the College continue to apply in extremely high numbers,” he said in an e-mail.

This year’s revamped Common Application was wrought with technical glitches that caused College Admissions to push back the regular admissions deadline to mid-January, instead of the usual January 3 deadline.

The decrease in applicants this year marks a departure from steady increases over the last 10 years. Last year’s 30,396 applicants comprised the College’s highest total yet and a 20 percent increase over the previous 25,271 applicants. Application numbers have markedly increased since the College adopted the Common Application in 2009 and hired Dean of Admissions Jim Nondorf in 2010.

Last year’s acceptance rate—8.8 percent—marked a record low for UChicago. As for this year, Manier said, “It’s unclear what the overall acceptance rate will be, but it should be roughly in the same range as last year.” While applications have decreased, he said that, given higher yield rates over the last few years, “the number of students admitted this year is likely to be lower.”

The University of Pennsylvania saw a sharp increase in applications for the class of 2018:  Its 35,788 applications marked a 14 percent jump from last year. Northwestern received 33,200 applications, a 1.3 percent increase from last year. Princeton received 26,607 applications this year, a 0.7 percent increase. Harvard and Columbia both saw slight decreases: Harvard received 34,295 applications, a two percent decrease from last year, and Columbia received 32,952 applications, a 1.5 percent decrease.

In recent years, the University has touted developments such as the Logan Center for the Arts, the Institute of Politics, the Institute of Molecular Engineering, and UChicago Promise as attractive to prospective students. This year’s applicants cited various reasons for applying.

Josh Nickelman, a high school senior from Kettering, Ohio, who was admitted during the Early Action round of admissions, visited campus in November as a prospective track athlete.

“[The track team is] a really close team and really tight-knit. That’s what I felt when I visited, and I really like that because as soon as you get there, you have a team, people you know can help you with whatever you need,” he said.

Noel Rubio, from Guam, who was also admitted, cited a variety of reasons for his interest in the College, one of which was the History and Philosophy of Science (HIPS) major.

“When I found out about the HIPS program, I was really excited because I’ve always wanted to go into a premed degree that blended some sort of humanities with the sciences,” he said.

While Nickelman plans to attend UChicago, Rubio will make a final decision after the regular admissions round.

UChicago received 11,143 Early Action applications this year, an all-time high. Those applicants received admissions decisions in December. All Class of 2018 applicants will receive admissions decisions by late March.