Dealing with Homesickness

Homesickness. It happens to the best of us. I remember thinking about going away to college before coming to Penn. I was extremely scared, mostly because I was moving to a completely different country and as an only child it felt unnatural to be so far away from my parents. 

However, my first few weeks at Penn were very overwhelming—in a good way! I was making tons of friends, exploring new places, and learning about things that actually interested me. Don’t get me wrong, I did shed a couple of tears when I said goodbye to my parents, but I was doing so many new things that I put missing home into the back of my mind for some time. 

Then my first midterm season came around the corner, to finish it off I got sick due to the change of temperature and my laundry had been piling up for some time. All I wanted was to bundle up in my room and have my mom bring me some homemade food. 

Even though it was a sucky week, it led to a good thing, I bonded with my friends. They had noticed that I was a little down and brought some delicious freshly baked insomnia cookies to my room (which were founded by a graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences, by the way). It led to genuine conversations with them and I got to know them better. It also helped me see that even though it can seem that people have it all together when you’re struggling, your friends can be going through tough times too. It was nice to know that even though I was away from my family, I had a new family away from home. 

Other than having friends as a great support system, it’s also super important to know that missing home or have a tough couple of weeks is not only completely normal, but also perfectly okay. Just make sure you’re in contact with your family or friends from back home and don’t be afraid to use some of the amazing resources that Penn offers, such as faculty and peer counseling.  

- Fernanda B.

Get Off Campus!

One thing that I love about Penn is its perfect location- Penn is located about a mile from Center City (downtown). My college experience has been great so far; however, I do occasionally become stressed from the academic pressure. One of my favorite things to do when  I am feeling stressed is to just leave campus and explore Philadelphia. 

Like most first-semester freshmen students, I was too nervous to wander far from campus- partly due to a fear of the unknown. One day, an RA in my freshman dorm suggested I explore Philly whenever I need a break from campus. Despite being nervous, I took her advice, hopped on the Eastbound trolley to Center City, and got away from campus. Since then, I have convinced my friends to do the same, and whenever we are collectively stressed, we grab a bite to eat off campus or we walk along the Schuylkill River that leads into Center City. 

There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops, and historical sites in Philadelphia, and my go-to off campus study spot is Good Karma Cafe on 23rd and Walnut Street. It is a nice spot to drink a latte while studying for a test. Nothing makes a college student perk up more than hearing the words “Do you want to eat?” There are loads of trendy restaurants in Philly; however, like most college students, I am broke 75% of the time. There are many inexpensive restaurants in this city- including my favorite place to grab a cheap bite- Alice’s Pizza on 15th Street. Conveniently, there are plenty of shops in Center City as well. Philadelphia is a wonderful city full of life, and exploring the city with my friends has been one of the many highlights of my time here at Penn. 

- Ami I.

The Medical Sociology Minor

The Medical Sociology minor is a little-known gem in the sociology department. As a neuroscience major (BBB) with interests in the health field, this minor really appealed to me when I discovered it. I didn’t know about it until I took Intro to Sociology (SOCI001) during my freshman spring. I took the class to fulfill two general education requirements: Society Sector and Cultural Diversity in the US. Then, one day in class, I stumbled upon the minor and the rest is history.


Conveniently, that class was the first of six requirements for the minor. The two other required classes are Intro to Sociological Research (SOCI100) and Medical Sociology (SOCI175). I took the latter during my sophomore spring with Jason Schnittker. Medical Sociology introduced me to the basics of healthcare availability and health status on a societal level through the lens of different factors (e.g. socioeconomic status, education, race, gender, age). While I really enjoyed that class, I was kind of dreading Intro to Sociological Research. To me, it sounded a little dry; but it turned out to be the furthest thing from that. I took the class last semester (junior spring) with Melissa Wilde. Prof. Wilde was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the different sociological research methods we were studying, so much so that I started looking forward to going to class every day. This class taught me how influential the professor’s charisma and care for their field could be for the class’s quality. The three other classes required for the major had a lot more flexibility. There’s a methods course, a substantive course, and a final class in a related discipline. My methods course was Population and Society (SOCI007). This class looked at different populations across the world and examined how and why population sizes differed. My substantive course was Mental Illness (SOCI277), also taught by Jason Schnittker. This class was what drew me to the minor in the first place. We discussed different psychiatric illnesses, vulnerabilities that lead to them, and biases surrounding them.


Finally, as a BBB major, I had already taken many classes that could count as my “related course.” I chose Drugs, Brain, and the Mind (BIBB270) taught by Michael Kane. This class looked at different recreational and therapeutic drugs and examined how they affect neuronal circuitry, neurotransmitter levels, and behavior. Not only was the class great, but so was the professor. Prof. Kane was both knowledgeable and relatable. After taking his class, he became my major advisor and I will hopefully be taking another class with him in my last semester at Penn.

- Grace M.

 

Mete Twi

Mete Twi. For most, if not all, of you that sentence is meaningless. It means “I speak Twi.” As a Jew from New York City, it is very unexpected that I can read and somewhat understand the language of Ghana. That said, at Penn it is not that radical to take on bizarre interests and skills. Throughout high school I studied Spanish and could have easily continued that in order to fill my language requirement, but I decided to completely jump out of my comfort zone. The summer before I came to college, I spent a month in Ghana, living with a family and working at the local hospital. Because the official language of Ghana is English, I could easily communicate with the doctors, nurses and my host family, but many of the patients that I worked with were uneducated and therefore never given the opportunity to learn English. Working so intimately with people and not being able to verbally communicate with them was heartbreaking. I helped deliver a woman’s baby, but couldn’t even ask her how she was feeling. Leaving Ghana that summer, I knew I wanted to go back. When I was choosing classes freshman year, I stumbled across Twi on the course catalog. I knew that being at a university where I had the chance to learn the language, I couldn’t turn it down. I signed up and anxiously walked into my first day of class on my first day of college freshman year. I was not only the only student in the class who was not of Ghanian decent, but many of the kids already spoke Twi fluently. The other students in the class immediately took me under their wing, so excited to teach their language. I am now in my third, of four semesters, taking Twi. Not only have I learned much of the language, I also have such a tight community at Penn that I can always turn to. The class has 6 students, two who grew up in Ghana, and our professor who is from there. We start class each week by giving updates on our lives, so at this point we all know everything about one another. The professor makes sure that everyone feels at home in his classroom: he loves to mention that two of his old Twi students from Penn are now married. During class, we go through exercises in our textbook, but also spend time talking about culture in Ghana. For example, last week we talked about Ghanian marriage and the way it differs from American marriage. I really could not be more thankful that I decided to take a leap of faith and sign up for Twi last year. And finally, thanks to PennAbroad, I will be spending the second semester of my junior year in Legon, Ghana. 

- Eliza C’22

Favorite Study Spots

Sometimes — especially during finals — you need a good place to just cozy up, enjoy pretty architecture, and study. So I compiled a list of my favorite quiet study spots at Penn, which showcase some of the prettiest and inspiring study spaces the University has to offer.

Van Pelt Grand Reading Room

The Reading Room is a go-to space to study for many undergraduates and can serve as a perfect place to work with friends (silently of course!). There is a gigantic wool and silk sculpture that looms over the room which you can take a break and observe. There’s even a designated piece of the sculpture that you can touch — if you can find it!

Fisher Fine Arts Library

This is the classic quiet study space on campus, with the whole building being a quiet study center. However, that shouldn’t discourage you from exploring all the nooks and crannies of the building, especially the carrels in the loft of the main room (pictured). Apart from making you feel like you forgot your Harry Potter-style robe at home, it’s a great view of the rest of the library.

Museum Library

The Penn Museum offers a ton of remarkable exhibits, but did you know they also have a library open to students? The library overlooks the upper Egypt galleries, and is the perfect place for people who need to take breaks while studying since you can go off and explore the rest of the museum.

Singh Center for Nanotechnology

Though not a library, the Singh Center is a stunning glass building where you can get a ton of natural light and work quietly with friends in their many booths and tables. Rarely crowded, it’s one of the best kept secret study spots for undergraduates at Penn!

Biddle Law Library

Located inside the Penn Law building, Biddle is the place to be if you love to be surrounded by books. Throughout the year, they also have tons of interesting projects, board games, or puzzles on the first floor that can be the perfect break during finals. Penn Law is also a great place to catch some free food, if you can get there quick enough!

—James N, C’21

Getting to Know Your Professors

Penn students come from all types of high schools—small, large, public, private, American, international—and yet people are always surprised by how easy it is to get in touch with Penn professors. 

I came from a small high school where students and teachers were pretty close. Coming to Penn, I was worried I would get lost in a sea of other students, and the only interactions I would have with professors would be asking questions in lecture halls.

But when I started taking classes my freshman fall semester, I found that classes were so much smaller than they always looked in the movies. In small seminars, professors knew everyone’s names and became familiar with everyone’s personalities and senses of humor. In lectures, professors stuck around at the end of each class to chat with students and answer any lingering questions.

Office hours are one of the main ways students can talk with professors one-on-one. Every professor is required to set aside at least 2 hours a week for students in their classes. During these hours, students can come to the professor’s office to ask questions about the course, about the professor’s research, or simply just get to know the professor. In my experience, professors are always really excited when students come to office hours. Penn professors enjoy their teaching, and they want to become acquainted with the students they teach. On your course’s website, your professor will have his or her office hours listed. They’ll also announce them on the first day of class. 

I certainly didn’t expect to get on first-name basis with as many professors as I did. But through a combination of going to office hours, participating in class, and getting over any anxieties about looking dumb because I was asking questions, I feel comfortable going to a number of different professors with questions relating to careers, study abroad, and college life in general. And when it came time to ask for recommendation letters for internships, I found professors who were more than happy to help me along in the next stages of my career. 

Professors can seem intimidating. At Penn, they’re scholars at the top of their fields. But they are all here because they love what they study, and they love getting new students every year to love what they study too. All you have to do is show up and ask questions.

- Olivia C.

Take Your Professor to Lunch

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

In my introductory microeconomics course, my professor had this quote on her syllabus. Luckily, she qualified it with, “but I’d be happy to have lunch with you free of charge at the University Club!”

Students in the College can go to lunch five (5!) times a semester cost-free with current or previous professors, teaching assistants, or advisors. You can go with up to 2 other classmates. I try to go as many times as I can, and they’re always very enjoyable!

Often times we’ll talk about the course, why we choose Penn, our major, and career aspirations. The professor usually explains their research and how they became interested in their field, or regales us with stories of when they were in our shoes as an undergraduate. But lunch topics stretch beyond academia, and one of the great strengths of the program is it affords students the opportunity to get to know their professors outside of being a brilliant academic (they also root for the 76ers and watch Netflix!). As an added bonus, the food is great; the menu changes each day, but there’s always a delicious salad bar, fresh fruit, and a wide selection of cakes for dessert!

I’ve gone with professors from a variety of fields—physics, economics, psychology, history, and religious studies. With my Game Theory Professor, we talked about the Great Gatsby. My friend and I also participated in a miniature version of her research experiment during lunch! With one of my physics professors we talked about the physics of baseball, and how a physics background could translate into a career in sports. I usually get so engrossed in the conversations that I lose track of time and am late to my next class!

This semester, I’ve used up one of my Take Your Professor to Lunch spots. I will most certainly be using my final four!

-Nathan S, C’19

Penn Basketball in the Big 5

I always knew my born-and-raised-Philly father would’ve loved for me to go to Villanova or Penn State, so that he could cheer with me at packed sporting events in gorgeous stadiums broadcasted on ESPN. To both of our surprises, UPenn actually has all of those things.

The Palestra, or as some call it, The Cathedral of College Basketball, is as beautiful and historic of a stadium as you can imagine. It’s the oldest college stadium still in use and has hosted more NCAA games than any other facility since its opening in 1927.

Penn basketball plays in two main divisions: The Ivy League and the Big 5. A huge Villanova fan, my father was thrilled that I chose a school in Philadelphia’s Big 5 division (Penn, Villanova, Temple, St. Joe’s and LaSalle), even though it wasn’t Nova.

My dad and I have been to many Penn basketball games, but by far the most memorable was the Penn v. Villanova game this past December. As big sports fans, we were excited to see the talented Villanova team play; however, our own Quakers shocked everyone, pulling out a 78-75 win over Nova. I remember storming the court with the other students as my dad cheered from the stands. For weeks afterwards, I bragged to my friends for the following weeks that I had been at the game. Penn won the Big 5 tournament this year, breaking Villanova’s 25 game win streak in the Big 5.

Sports probably isn’t the first thing people think of when the University of Pennsylvania comes to mind, but school spirit definitely is a huge part of the Penn community. Alumni of all ages attend basketball games, dressed proudly in a “Class of __” sweatshirts. Don’t be surprised when you see me twenty years from now in my ’21 shirt, screaming loudly for our Quakers.

-Kaitlyn B, C’21

“Going Abroad: One of the Best Decisions You’ll Make”

If you ever come to one of my College Cognoscenti presentations, you will likely hear me emphatically declare my love for study abroad and strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. And I mean it. It might sound cliché, but study abroad truly is an amazing chance to develop as both a student and an individual. The learning may take place overseas, but the skills, experiences, and confidence you acquire come back to Penn with you.

In the spring of my junior year, I studied abroad at Pembroke College of the University of Cambridge. In many ways, Cambridge could not be more different from Penn. First, Cambridge is a small, quiet town steeped in so much tradition and history that it makes America practically look like an infant. In comparison with the College of Arts and Sciences, which contains 6,400 students, Pembroke College has only 686 students. Beyond just size, Cambridge also offers a unique academic system. In addition to large lectures, Cambridge courses (or “papers” as they’re called) are accompanied by supervisions in which 1-3 students meet with a professor once a week. In preparation for an hour of intense discussion, debate, and analysis, students write essays and review readings before each supervision. Despite possessing a radically different academic system, I found that Penn prepared me incredibly well for this intense style of learning. While I was writing my weekly 3000-word essay for supervision, I secretly thanked Writing Seminar for training me how to read large quantities of material and synthesize disparate texts into a cohesive argument. Recitations back at Penn had enhanced my comfort level with clearly articulating and defending my arguments.

As cheesy as it sounds, I loved every single second of my six months abroad at Cambridge. Academically, I cherished the opportunity to work one-on-one with my supervisor who helped me realize a deeper form of analysis that I didn’t know I was capable of. Our supervisions were scheduled to last for only an hour, but we often discussed politics, philosophy, and political theory for upwards of two and a half hours.

Although I already considered myself a competent student, these intense discussions pushed me to become an even better academic (and maybe even an intellectual). Before going to Cambridge, I never imagined that I would be able to write my own dissertation. However, in my final term there, I completed a 26-page dissertation on a topic of my own choosing— a theoretical argument for the necessity of political hypocrisy for a successfully functioning democracy. Coming back to Penn, I possessed the requisite confidence to tackle a senior Honor’s thesis in Political Science. Beyond just academics, I forged some incredible friendships with fellow study abroad students as well as full-time Cambridge students. My Cambridge friends welcomed me into their little family with open arms, which introduced me to a more authentic Cambridge experience. I will never forget playing pool in the Junior Parlour, gorging myself at formal halls (complete with Harry Potter-style robes and a three-course gourmet meal for £14), and punting down the Cam.

After my study abroad experience, I came back to Penn a more confident, comfortable, and academically capable person. So if you get the chance to go abroad, do it!!

-Katherine F, C’19

What's for Lunch?

In a lot of our presentations, we get questions about good lunch spots on campus. Here's the 4-1-1 on great places to eat around campus on and off the dining plan. There are different dining plans that are available depending on your schedule and dietary preferences. You're required to be on a plan for your freshman year but after that, it's up to you. Dining plans are comprised of some combination of dining swipes (used at dining halls and other select locations on campus) and dining dollars (used at certain restaurants on campus)

DINING HALLS

These are usually utilized by students who have dining swipes (typically freshmen or student athletes). They are all-you-can-eat so you can definitely get your fill. The best dining halls are probably Hill (newly renovated!) or NCH. However, I did live in Kings Court English House my freshman year so I ate at that dining hall a lot and liked it a lot (the sandwich station during lunch was the best part).


DINING DOLLARS

Depending on your dining plan, you'll also have dining dollars. There are a lot of great places on campus that accept dining dollars (which is actually why I'm still on a dining plan). A very popular place is Houston Market in the basement of the student union, Houston Hall. Houston has a variety of options including (but not limited to) sushi, salads, a grill, pizza, a sandwich place, grab-and-go options, and a cafe. Other places that accept dining dollars include Frontera (mexican fast food), Pret a Manger (soups/salads/sandwiches/coffee/pastries), Starbucks, and many cafes in different academic buildings. I practically live at Pret - everything they have is delicious! There's also a small grocery store called Gourmet Grocer that accepts dining dollars. Finally, there's a farmer's market outside of the bookstore every Wednesday; some of their booths accept dining dollars so you can get fresh fruits and veggies every week.


NON-DINING PLAN OPTIONS

If you're just looking for a place to grab a bite but aren't on a dining plan, there are a ton of places to eat around Penn's campus. We have the classics: Chipotle/& Pizza/Qdoba/Subway/Bobby's Burgers/Subway/McDonalds/HipCityVeg/Honeygrow/Sweetgreen. But we also have other places that are a little more unique to Penn life. Greek Lady is a great option if you're looking for both Greek and American comfort foods (Hummus is another great Greek option on campus). Gia Pronto and Just Salad are both great salad options. Sobol has delicious acai bowls. Food trucks are also very popular on campus. Though they're all very good, the best are the Halal trucks. There are also great options at Franklin's table, the new food court by 34th and Walnut. If you're looking for good sit-down restaurants, you can't go wrong with White Dog Cafe, Baby Blues Barbeque, Han Dynasty, Pattaya, Sitar, and Ramen Bar. If you're a coffee fanatic, Penn is probably the place for you with our 4 off-campus Starbucks as well as Saxby's and United by Blue.

-Grace M, C’18

Resources on Campus

Penn has a number of wonderful resources to provide students with whatever help they’re

looking for! Here are a few of my favorites:

1) Career Services: We have an AWESOME Career Services Department here at Penn! I’ve gotten so much help with resumes, cover letters, interview practice, and tips on how to utilize all of the job searching resources available to Penn students (still waiting on John Legend to reply to my email!).

2) Tutoring Center: Each semester, Penn students are guaranteed 1 hour of tutoring/week for 2 separate courses (for a total of 2 hours of tutoring). I started to take advantage of this wonderful service in my sophomore year, and have continued to use it since! It was so helpful for me to sit down with someone who had just recently taken the course I was having difficulty in, and often times things clicked when my tutor explained it to me!

3) Campus Recreation: We have a really nice fitness center at Penn! Conveniently located and with flexible hours, it’s really easy to go and get a quick work out in before class (if you’re feeling ambitious!), between classes or at the end of the day. They also have basketball courts, a pool (which I still need to take advantage of!) and delicious smoothies.

4) Civic House: Civic House is Penn’s hub for student led community service and social advocacy work. I was part of an organization called West Philadelphia Tutoring Project that is run through Civic House where I tutored a 5 th grade student in West Philadelphia in math and reading. I really enjoyed working with my tutee and traveling out into West Philadelphia, and I hope that my tutee got as much out of the experience as I did!

-Nathan S, C’19

Why I Joined Greek Life at Penn

Coming to Penn, I was nearly certain that I didn’t want to be a part of Greek Life. Built up from years of misrepresentation in film and television, my perception of what it meant to be Greek in college was entirely skewed. To me, membership in a sorority was cloaked with superficiality, competitiveness, and anti-intellectualism. I had no desire to be a part of a Greek community, and even began to feel bothered by many of my friends who were so invested in impressing Greek upperclassmen and attending Greek philanthropy and open-house events. 

As second semester rolled around, I filled out the rush form on a last minute whim, spurred on by a fear of missing out and intrigued by the rush process. To say the process itself was grueling is an understatement. Encompassed by five very long, very cold days, talking to dozens of sorority sisters in brief 2-3 minute conversations, trying to make an impression, and moving on to the next house. Every chapter blurred together, and by the end of the fourth day I was burnt out, with a hoarse voice and numb fingers. It was on  preference night, the last night of the rush process during which you are left with either two, or just one sorority, that I ultimately realized I had been entirely misperceiving Greek life at Penn. The past president of my sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, gave an extremely moving speech. She spoke about how this group of women was there for her when nobody else was, when she couldn’t be there for herself; they picked up the pieces and put them back together, supporting her through one of her darkest times. As I stood there, numb toes, chapped lips, and a dry throat, I realized how right this all was, that I belonged here, and that these would become my people. 

I am so thankful for the decision I made that day. The people and the community that I’ve been able to find and to form in SDT is incomparable to anything I would have ever imagined for my Penn experience. To be supported in such a way, both as a woman and as an intellectual, is an indescribable feeling. SDT has become one of my core support systems, and has introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever met. So, if you’re reading this, and you end up at Penn, give Greek life a chance - it could change your life. 

-Sarah G, C’21

Finding A Cultural Community

Growing up in a mixed race household, I've had a variety of experiences when it comes to cultural contact. However, since my mother immigrated to the United States at a relatively young age, she assimilated rather quickly and did not remain very connected to her Japanese heritage. As a result of this and the demographic breakdown of the town in which I grew up, I was never very connected to the Asian American community. After coming to Penn, I found multiple outlets to explore this part of my identity. The first was the Japan Student Association (JSA). Before I even came to campus, another student reached out to me on Facebook after he saw my post in our class group. He asked if I was planning on joining JSA, which we both ultimately did. We quickly became close friends and bonded over our experiences with the group. We did a variety of activities such as attending the cherry blossom festival, hosting the annual Mochi-fest event, going out for karaoke, and more. My favorite part of this experience is that you did not have to be Japanese at all to join JSA or take part in these activities. It was simply a group of people interested in connected with the culture.

The second experience that had a strong impact on my cultural identity was joining APALI. APALI is a leadership initiative for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. It's a one semester program with students from all different years. We started the semester with a weekend retreat and became very close to each other very quickly. Throughout the rest of the semester, we met once every other week for a 3 hour discussion section. Each discussion had a different theme ranging from things like fat-phobia to affirmative action. It was really amazing to connect with such a diverse group of people that were all tied together by a cultural identity, and participating ultimately lead to a wide variety of other experiences throughout the semester as we opened up our lives to other members in our group. Through both these experiences, I was able to expand my cultural perspectives while also developing a new community for myself within Penn. I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunities, since I almost feel like I stumbled upon them by chance. Interestingly enough, it was actually a fellow College Cognoscenti co-presenter of mine that recommended I apply for APALI. I think this speaks for many of the interactions I've had at Penn, in which peers are constantly looking to introduce new experiences to each other.

-Daniel K, C’20

A Field Trip to the Barnes Foundation for PSYC 474

A study once found that the average person spends only about seven seconds looking at each work of art when visiting a museum. Although I’d like to think of myself as someone who does my best to appreciate fine art, this statistic definitely applies to me. As a result, when my professor for PSYC 474 (Being Human: The Biology of Human Behavior, Cognition, and Culture) told us that during our field trip to the Barnes Foundation, a renowned art museum in Philadelphia, our assignment would be to observe the same painting for an hour straight, I was both intimidated and slightly skeptical at what I would get out of this experience.

The premise of PSYC 474 as a whole was to analyze human neuroscience to determine what exactly about our brains distinguished us from other species and made us uniquely human. We approached this goal by dissecting a different theme each week. For the week of the field trip, the theme was aesthetics and how our brain processes fine art and beauty, making the Barnes an ideal location to explore this topic. Once we arrived at the Barnes, we were given a guided tour of the museum that was a combination of art history and neuro- aesthetics – an incredibly interesting combination. At the end of the tour, we chose which painting we would observe. I personally chose George Seurat’s Entreé du port de Honfleur, which was a portrait of boats on a body of water.

To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire hour of looking at only one painting While it took a couple minutes to get over my initial restlessness, I quickly began to realize both how much more detail I noticed and how much more of an emotional experience I had by being purposeful in my observation. While this class was meant to be specifically about neuro-aesthetics, this assignment made me appreciate not only this specific painting but also the effort all artists put into their work, which is not something I would have predicted to get out of a psychology class. Learning this unexpected lesson reminded of how unique the opportunities Penn classes present are, as well as the importance of always being open to these new experiences as you never know what you’ll gain.

-Rudmila R, C’19

What is the Communication Major?

“Have you declared your major yet?”

“Yea, I’m studying communication.”

“Communication? What does that mean you study?”

As a junior now, the number of times I have had a conversation much like this one is countless. I’m not quite sure that my answers help people understand any better because my parents still ask me what I study, but here’s another attempt!

Communication is a very broad major with a multitude of ways to personalize it, and find your niche. In a general sense, the major is intended to deepen students’ understanding of messages and their impact on people around the world.

Political communication, critical journalism, global communication, culture and communication, visual communication, media effects, media institutions and policy, health communication, race, gender, and identity, civic communication, messages and marketing, and communication and public service are all the concentrations in the major. You can choose to take related courses in one of these concentrations or not have any concentration at all. In Culture and Communication, for example, you could be taking Sick and Satired: The Insanity of Humor and How it Keeps us Sane—analyzing satire as a form of communication and the significance of it in certain situations. On the other hand, in Messages and Marketing, you could be in Advertising and Society, learning about ad networks and how an advertisement gets sold. Communication is an immense umbrella under which there are so many different topics you can explore, but in one way or another all the topics relate to a form of communication between people.

I chose this major because of its diversity of courses. I do not have a concentration, and I find myself learning different skill sets in each of my courses because of how different they are. A lot of the courses are writing intensive, so you definitely learn to effectively communicate your ideas to a target audience. No matter what field you end up working in, knowing how to communicate well is an immensely important driver of success. If you’re not exactly sure what you want to study and have an interest for people and the different ways we communication with each other, consider taking a Communication class! Plus, even if you don’t end up pursuing the major, the course can count towards a sector/foundational requirement.

-Lucia K, C’20

My Favorite College Snacks

I like to consider myself a professional snacker. I like to get my hands on the best snacks according to three categories (which I may weight differently depending on the day): healthiness, expense, and effort required to make it. Based on these three things, I’ve come up with a list of my three favorite college snacks so far:

1. Graham crackers, cream cheese, and grapes. Yes, three things that are seemingly completely unrelated and that sound gross when put together. But trust me, it’s actually mind-blowingly good. If you have a sweet tooth, like me, try replacing the grapes with chocolate pieces or a peanut-butter cup every once in a while for a more dessert-like snack.

2. Fruit. With Wawa in such close proximity, fruit is a healthy option that requires (almost) no preparation (depending). I am particularly a fan of Wawa’s apple slices, watermelon, and mixed berries. There are also some fruit trucks located around University City, so even if you’re not near a Wawa, fruit is usually somewhere nearby. Yum!

3. Hard-boiled eggs. This one is a funny one. Hard-boiled eggs are so easy to make: 10-15 minutes in boiling water on the stove, and there you go. This makes them a great “I’m-busy-but-want-a-low-effort-food” snack. They’re also small enough that you can take them anywhere (ahem, on your way to class). They make a great on-the-go snack—just remember to either peel them at home or bring a little plastic bag to put your shell in!

If you haven’t tried these snacks, definitely give them a try. They’ve changed my life (okay, maybe not literally, but they’ve made my college snacking a bit easier and/or better).

-Duval C’, 20

Global Research and Internships Program: A Summer in Sydney

As I was applying to colleges, I knew that I wanted to attend a school that would provide plenty of opportunities to go abroad. From semesters and years abroad, to global seminars, to summer abroad programs, Penn certainly fit that criterion. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to take part in the Global Research and Internships Program (GRIP) at Penn. This program essentially matches Penn students with internships around the world, and provides the funding to enable us to have these internship experiences. It’s a great opportunity for students who may not want to miss any time on campus during the school year but still want to go abroad, or for students interested in gaining work experience while still spending time abroad. Penn sent seven other students and me to Sydney, Australia for two months. We were matched with internship opportunities, set up with housing and funding to cover most of our expenses, and were even enrolled in a course at the University of Sydney.

Personally, I worked at global crowdfunding platform dedicated to supporting projects that benefit the social good. I served as an Entrepreneurial Intern, and I was able to redesign the company’s website and run several successful marketing campaigns. Being able to gain such valuable and hands on internship experience while also having an abroad experience was incredibly valuable to me. As someone interested in pursuing more of a business related career, Penn also enrolled me in a course about Australian business culture to enhance my abroad experience.

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing this summer was. Aside from working at a great company (which I was actually hired to work for remotely from Philly during the school year) and learning so much at one of Australia’s most prestigious universities, I was also able to forge incredible relationships and explore life on the other side of the world. I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, met some koalas, and truly had the best two months of my life.

-Rachel W, C’20

Penn in Washington

This past spring semester, I had the amazing opportunity to do the Penn in Washington program. Along with eleven other Penn students, I was able to live, work, and study in Washington, DC. It was like having a semester abroad, except I was only a short train ride away from Philadelphia and even came back to campus a few times to see friends.

As part of the program, I was interning four days a week. I am a Health and Societies major, and my internship was at the American Public Health Association, one of the oldest public health non-profits in the country. I was working in their Center for Schools, Health and Education, and I got to learn all about their program to improve graduation rates in high schools across the country in a broader effort to improve student health. The most exciting assignment I had while I was there was designing a flyer highlighting the results of the graduation program for a funding request meeting with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two days a week after work, I had class with all the fellow members of the Penn in Washington program. One of our classes was on international relations, and each week we discussed a different topic that was relevant to current events. We had some amazing guest speakers with experience as foreign service officers, and we practiced writing action memos on foreign policy issues as if we were really advising the Secretary of State. Another class focused on political communications, and when we weren’t meeting New York Times journalists and CNN correspondents, we were analyzing the State of the Union address and writing op-ed pieces about media coverage of the president.

Outside of the classroom, the program allowed for an amazing amount of exploration in and around DC. My office was right near the National Portrait Gallery, which quickly became one of my favorite places in the city to go see amazing art. I never got tired of walking past the White House all the way down near the Capitol Building and the botanical gardens. And on weekends, I was even able to go visit such historic sites as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

The entire semester was truly an amazing experience that gave me a real sense for what it is like to live and work in DC. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that I got to meet Joe Biden twice!

-Hannah R, C’19

The BBB Major

The Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) major is one of the most popular majors at Penn, especially among pre-med students. Here are a few reasons why:

First, on a more practical level, BBB already fulfills a lot of the pre-med requirements that med schools look for. Through this major’s requirements, you get the intro bio classes, chem classes, and a stat class. Almost all of the remaining pre-med requirements can fit under the elective section in the major. And, as long as you take biochemistry in the chemistry department (as opposed to the biology department), you also will have fulfilled all the requirements for a chemistry minor.

Second, BBB is an endlessly fascinating examination of why we behave like we do (albeit I admit: I am biased). Most BBB classes focus on a certain behavior and will use evidence from a microscopic, cellular level to explain the macroscopic, organismal behavior. There are so many different areas you can study in the department from sleep and feeding behaviors to psychiatric disorders. The classes are always very engaging. Last fall, I took a class called Drugs, Brain, and the Mind and it ended up being my favorite class I’ve taken at Penn. This class examined how recreational and therapeutic drugs operate in the nervous system and their short-term and long-term effects on the human body. I’m currently taking a seminar on the Biological Basis of Psychiatric Disorders. In this class, we examine scientific articles of current research being done to improve treatments and find cures for a variety of psychiatric disorders.

Third, research can be a big part of the BBB major. There are so many opportunities to get involved in research on campus that are directly related to the neuroscientific fields of study within the BBB department. Research is so prominent in the major that, depending on your lab, you can even get class credit for being involved with it. There are different ways in which you can get involved in neuroscientific research at Penn. A lot of professors have undergraduate positions open in their labs and are happy to have passionate, driven undergrads help out. Also, as a BBB major, I get so many emails about labs seeking undergrad BBB majors – these opportunities don’t just come from professors but also PI’s at HUP and CHOP as well.

I would highly recommend this major to anyone interested in neuroscience. As one of Penn’s interdisciplinary majors, it allows students the opportunity to have exposure to numerous departments and faculty members. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of Penn!

-Grace M, C’20

Exploring Penn's Farmers Market

Most Penn meal plans consist of two components: meal swipes, and dining dollars. Meal swipes grant the user all-you-can-eat access into a dining hall on campus, while dining dollars work more like actual currency at designated locations. Every Penn student has his or her go-to location to use dining dollars. Some like the chips and salsa at Frontera’s, others prefer the freshly made sushi at Sushi Do.  I, however, prefer to spend my dining dollars at the University Square Farmers’ Market.

The farmers’ market, which is held weekly outside of the Penn bookstore, features a variety of local vendors selling everything from succulents to muffins. My first stop is always to Beechwood Orchards, which sells locally grown fruit and vegetables. Throughout August and September, I stock up on white peaches, yellow peaches, nectarines and plums. In October and November, Beechwood brings at least ten different types of apples, as well as homemade applesauce and apple cider. When they return in the spring, Beechwood features various vegetables and berries.

With my bag of fruit in hand, I then head to Big Sky Bakery, the smells of bread and pastries already wafting my way. Some days, I purchase a feta and spinach croissant for lunch. Other days, I pick up a loaf of multigrain bread or some crumb cookies to split with my roommates.

Finally, I browse through the rows and rows of pots at PetAl Plants and Flowers, trying to restrain myself from purchasing yet another succulent or exotic houseplant. Although PetAl doesn’t take dining dollars like the other two, the prices are affordable as far as succulents go: 4 for $10 for the minis, $4 for 6 inch exotic houseplants. PetAl also sells herbs, tomato plants, and sunflowers at various points in the season.    

Occasionally, the University Square Farmers’ Market brings additional vendors, but the above three remain the most popular amongst Penn students. Next time you’re considering buying another sushi bowl, maybe take a stroll down Walnut and supporting some local Philly businesses.

-Kaitlyn B, C’21