What were you doing last Friday at 1:39 a.m.? If you live in Pforzheimer House, you probably wish you'd been at your computer like Bonnie Cao '12, who was up late working on a paper.

Early Friday morning, Cao saw an email from Pfoho Tutor Andrey Liscovich with the subject line "outing to Sears tower – yes, the one in Chicago – Sat, Sept 24." Before she'd finished reading the unusual email, she responded expressing interest in the outing.  Cao, who is from Los Angeles and hasn't visited the Midwest, said she had been hoping to travel to Chicago and that this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

"Andrey had been my floor tutor my sophomore year so I knew he was a trustworthy guy," she said. "He tends to be really good at these things."

Other students who received the email were more skeptical of this bizarre offer—a day-long "outing" to a city 1,000 miles away free of charge. Regardless, Liscovich estimated that he received 100 responses in the hours after he sent the initial email. After asking each student who'd written back to provide his or her full name and date of birth, Liscovich selected the first eight Pfohosers to do so as his traveling companions for this weekend's "outing."

"I guess I got really lucky by being an insomniac," Cao said. By around 4 a.m., all eight students had been notified that they'd be on the excursion, and their round-trip tickets to Chicago had been booked.

But how on earth is this trip free when most normal House outings—a day of apple-picking or a trip to the movies—require participating students to cover half the cost?

"It's just how you manage the budget," Liscovich said.

"It's very mysterious, to be honest," said Jinyan Zang '13, who will be on Saturday's trip.

Liscovich wants to keep it that way.  He declined to give specific costs, but did say that the trip would be covered by the $300 outing budget that each tutor gets each semester, and that admission to the Sears Tower—which costs $17 for adults—is going to cost more than the plane tickets themselves.

Lunch at the University of Chicago will be free. For his part, Liscovich says he is looking forward to "free lunch in a place that doesn't believe in free lunches."