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)


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).


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.


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

Comprehensive Guide to Pottruck

The gym can be overwhelming for anyone, whether you’re runner-up in the Mr. and Mrs. Penn Bodybuilding Competition or a resident couch potato. But Pottruck, our campus health and fitness center, is on its own level, or four levels, if you want to get technical. Centrally located at 37 th and Walnut Street, the 120,000 square foot facility contains four fitness centers, a weight room, an Olympic-size pool, a co-ed sauna, basketball courts, a three-story climbing wall, a golf simulator, fitness and Pilates studios, and even a juice bar. With so many options, it can be overwhelming just walking in the building. Where do you start? Well, let’s start by breaking it down floor-by-floor.

Lower level: Locker rooms

Pottruck’s basement includes men’s and women’s locker rooms, as well as family changing rooms. Complimentary towels are available for showering. This level also houses the entrance to the Sheerr Pool, which is used for recreation as well as various club and Varsity sports teams. The pool has an on-deck dry sauna and shower as well as a handi-accessible chair. The roped lanes are designated for slow, medium, and fast-paced swimmers. The lower level also has a massage therapy room.

Atrium Level: Katz Fitness Center, Climbing Wall, and Juice Bar

Just past the front desk, The Katz Fitness Center lines the left side of Pottruck as you enter. The center is dedicated to cardiovascular workouts with Life Fitness Cross Trainers, Treadmills, Steppers, Upright and Recumbent Bikes and Concept II Rowers. To the right is one of the most popular attractions in the facility, a 40’ climbing wall. No experience is necessary and all equipment is provided. Other features include the Energy Zone Juice Bar, where you can get a quick pre-workout granola bar if you skipped breakfast or your post-workout protein shake after a hard day’s lift. The ground level floor of Pottruck also has a big TV as well as couches, tables and chairs.

Second Floor: Fitness Center, Basketball Courts, Multi-Purpose Room, Weight Room

Pottruck’s second floor is where much of the action happens. The floor makes up another Fitness Center. There is Life Fitness cardiovascular equipment, as well as Selectorized Circuit pieces, and a stretching area, along with the Avent Basketball Courts, the Multi-Purpose Room (a hidden gem), and a weight room. The 8,000 sq. ft. Weight Room contains the biggest collection of weight lifting equipment in the building, although more lifting options can be found on the 3 rd floor, 4 th floor, or in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Third Floor: Fitness Center, Cycling Studio, Dance Studio 305, Golf Simulator, The Pilates Studio

The third floor contains another Fitness Center, also with Life Fitness Cardiovascular and Selectorized Circuit pieces. However, this Fitness Center is different as it is generally programmed as a “Quiet Floor” so there is no music playing overhead. The third floor also contains the Cycling Studio and Dance Studio 305. Finally the Golf Simulator, which features 35 World Championship Courses and includes features like shot analysis. The Pilates Studio is also located on this floor.

Fourth Floor: Fitness Center, Group Exercise and Yoga Studios

The fourth floor contains another Fitness Center with Life Fitness Cardiovascular equipment and Hammer Strength Plate Loaded equipment. This floor also has Group Exercise Studios and along with Yoga Studios.

-Eva S, C’21

What I've Learned from the College Dean's Advisory Board

Over 50 academic departments lined up on Locust Walk. Several food trucks parked around the Button. Dance and acapella groups performed in front of the Ben Franklin statue.

As prospective freshmen descended on campus for Quaker Days and sophomores were preparing to declare their majors, all the College departments convened in an event known as College Palooza. I helped direct department representatives to their assigned tables and run a Jeopardy game for prospective students. My involvement in this annual event stems from my position on the College Dean's Advisory Board (DAB).

Comprised of 25 College students, DAB advises the Dean of the College on issues affecting College students and enacts initiatives to strengthen the College's academic offerings, community, and student life. I joined the board as a first-semester freshman, unsure about what I wanted to do at Penn but sure I wanted to help enhance the Penn community. These past couple years, DAB has allowed me to collaborate with mental health groups on fostering mental wellness, promote student-faculty interaction through outreach events, and take part in wide-ranging discussions with the Dean on different ideas.

Through my involvement in DAB, I've realized just how diverse College students are in their academic interests and backgrounds. Beyond the over 50 majors the College offers, students exhibit such a wide array of passions — from music to politics, from fine arts to scientific research.

Granted, the sheer diversity of the College means it's more challenging to create a sense of unity; in particular, College students aren't all taking the same courses or striving for the same kinds of careers. However, I've come to view our diversity as a strength, not as a drawback.

The opportunity to plan College Palooza made me realize how College students are doing such different things at any given time — while one student is analyzing the cadence of pop music, another is amplifying DNA fragments in the lab. Still, others are debating classmates on a recently introduced bill or perusing historical texts in one of the many languages offered in the College. The broad range of interests everyone brings to the College has made my Penn experience much more interesting and multifaceted.

As a DAB member, I’ve discussed ideas to enhance the College and planned events that supported mental wellness. But through DAB, I’ve experienced how diverse the College is — and how that’s one of the College’s strengths.

-Brian Z, C’20

Flexibility in your Major

A Penn education is truly interdisciplinary, allowing students to explore a multitude of interests across a variety of disciplines. One of the ways that Penn accomplishes this is through concentrations within your major. In addition to taking the same core classes as all of the other majors in that subject area, you get to specialize in a topic that may not even be directly related to you major.

For example, I am doing a Business & Technology Concentration within the physics major. In addition to taking the same 12 classes as the other physics majors, I get to take 4 business classes and 1 computer science class. Even though my home school is the College, I can take a computer science class in the Engineering school and business classes in the Wharton school, and they all count towards my major in the College! There are also concentrations in chemistry, computer science, astrophysics, and biology.

A popular major here at Penn is Philosophy, Politics and Economics (common referred to as PPE – we love abbreviations!). If the fact that this major encompasses three fields wasn’t enough for you, if offers concentrations in choice and behavior, globalization, public policy and governance, distributive justice, and ethics and the professions. These concentrations allow you to further explore your interests across different fields and subject areas. For example, the choice and behavior concentration can include courses from the finance, marketing, legal studies, math, communications, statistics, and linguistic departments – plus other ones!

Perhaps one of the most customizable majors is the English Major. With 20 different concentrations, you’re sure to find one that strikes your fancy (and if you don’t, there is also the option for an individualized concentration). Furthermore, the English department has 4 foci, which are topics that are not yet concentrations but may become ones if there is student interest.

The big takeaway is that there is a lot of flexibility in using your major to explore the topics that are interesting to you!

-Nathan S, C'19

Housing at Penn

1. Hill College House
I’m slightly biased, because this is where I lived freshman year, but I believe that Hill is one of the best places you can live during your first year at Penn. Hill is a first year (freshmen only) college house divided up into four quadrants, designated by color. I lived on the second floor in the blue quadrant, so my hall was titled, “Blue 2.” Each hall has its own lounge (with a flat screen!), bathroom and study space, drawing people out into the hallways to be social. Unless you stay in your room 24/7, you are guaranteed to have multiple interactions with your hall mates every single day, leading to close bonds that are just what a shy freshman like myself needed to meet new people. Not to mention, Hill was just renovated last year, so all of the facilities are new, including the dining hall on the bottom floor. Tbh, you don’t even have to leave Hill to do anything except go to class; it has a gym, study space, two outdoor terraces, and a club lounge with a kitchen, pool table and ping pong table.

2. The Quadrangle
Whenever Penn alumni think of their freshmen year, they think of the Quad. It’s iconic: the beautiful architecture, the squares of green space. The Quad is also a first-year college, meaning it houses only freshmen, and A LOT of them at that. The Quad is separated further into three college houses: Fisher Hassenfeld, Riepe, and Ware. Although they all have different names, they are all part of the area known as the Quad, which can be super confusing for incoming students. If you are looking for an incredibly busy, social dorm, the Quad is for you; however, if you go to bed early or like some peace and quiet throughout the day, you may want to consider a different college house.

3. New College House
New College House, or NCH, is the newest dorm on Penn’s campus. All of the rooms are suite style living, which means anywhere from two to six singles connected to living room. NCH has had incredibly high demand over the past two years, so consider yourself lucky if you get in! One of the only downsides is that it is a four-year house, so you will not be living with all freshmen. If you are looking for a more relaxing, private experience your first year, then NCH is perfect for you.

4. Kings Court and Kings Court English House (KCECH)
These next two college houses are so similar that I can describe them together. Kings Court and KCEH are both four-year houses located right next to each other. They are a little further away from the other dorms, lending to a quieter environment to bond with your hall mates. Students in these houses often get very close as well.

5. Gregory College House                                                                                                                                                        Only about 100 freshmen live in Gregory, in room styles ranging from singles (one person) to quads (four people). The quads are also suite style with four bedrooms, which is another unique housing situation most freshmen do not experience.

6. Stouffer College House
Stouffer is a relatively small college house; as a result, many of the students create long lasting friendships. Although only about 70 freshmen live in Stouffer, it is located right next to the Quad, meaning that residents are not too far away from lots of their classmates.

7. W.E.B. DuBois College House
DuBois is a unique dorm in regards to its dedication to African American culture. Students of any race can live in DuBois, which houses a small population of 160. The building contains primarily triples (three residents), but also has some quads, doubles and singles. Every year, the students put together a Souls of DuBois conference to honor the house’s namesake, civil rights activist William DuBois.

Good luck in your housing search and make sure to check out even more specifics on Penn’s housing website!

-Kaitlyn B, C'21

A Guide to Lunch Spots on Penn’s Campus


As a Cogno presenter, I give presentations to prospective students and families each week from 12:15 to 1:15. Once these presentations wrap up, I am almost always asked about the best spots to try out for lunch. Penn has countless options for a fantastic lunch, but here are a few of my personal recommendations to check out on your next visit to campus!

If you are looking for the most authentic student experience:

Try Houston Market! Houston Hall is located right across from Claudia Cohen Hall (where we give our Cogno presentations) so it is a very convenient spot to grab a quick bite. Head down to the basement, and you’ll see a marketplace with a salad bar, pasta bar, grille station, sushi, and more grab-and-go options. Houston tends to be packed with Penn students studying, eating and catching up with friends, or just taking a break in the middle of the day. Since we can use our Dining Dollars in Houston, it is a go-to spot for many Penn students.

If you are in a hurry:

No visit to Penn’s campus is complete without stopping by one of our many food trucks. My personal favorite is Magic Carpet. Magic Carpet is located on the corner of 36th and Spruce, right outside of the entrance to the Lower Quad. Magic Carpet has fantastic vegetarian options with a Mediterranean flavor. My go-to is their falafel with rice and veggies with one of their famous vegan cookies on the side. Be prepared for a bit of a wait if you go during the lunch rush, but it will definitely be worth it!

If you are looking for lots of convenient options:

Take a walk down Walnut Street, primarily between 37th and 39th Streets. You’ll hit options like Honeygrow (stir-fry, salads, and fruit bowls), Chipotle, Bobby’s Burgers, Sweetgreen (salads), and Hummus (Mediterranean options). These restaurants do quite a big to-go business for students rushing between classes and meetings, but there is also plenty of seating for you to relax in the middle of your visit to campus.


-Rachel W, C'20

Creative Writing

During the fall of my freshman year, I took a creative writing class called “Creative Non- Fiction Writing: The Personal Essay.” There were about 12 people in our class and every week we workshopped each other’s personal non-fiction essays, stopping for a break halfway through
class to enjoy coffee, tea, and cookies in the kitchen of the Kelly Writer’s House, where our class was held. I absolutely loved it, so the next semester I searched for another creative writing class to take and stumbled upon Kenneth Goldsmith’s class “I Shop Therefore I Am: Writing Through Consumerism and Fashion.” I’m an avid online shopper (perhaps too avid) so I thought exploring my identity through a consumerist lens would be a lot of fun.

Fast forward a few months, and I was getting on a 7:30 a.m. bus to New York City on a Saturday in March. Our creative writing class was meeting up for a field trip in New York. The first stop: Dover Street Market, 160 Lexington Avenue. Dover Street Market was created by the founder of the famous avant garde fashion brand Commes de Garcons; it sells rotating collections from many high-end labels like Thom Browne, Gucci, Valentino, The Row,  Vetements, and of course, Commes des Garcons. We got a tour of Dover Street Market from its
current director and got to learn all about its history and philosophy, as well as the upcoming Commes des Garcons exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After Dover Street, we headed to the apartment/studio of fashion photographer Olivia Locher. Olivia has been frequently featured in the New York Times Magazine and W Magazine, and she regularly photographs Thom Browne and Marc Jacobs’ collections at New York Fashion Week. She showed us past and upcoming projects of hers, and then took individual portraits of each of us. It was such a treat.

Next we had a quick lunch at an Indian restaurant in the Curry Hill neighborhood, and then headed off to Rizzoli, the independent bookstore and publisher that carries lots of specialty fashion books. You might have heard of Rizzoli because they published Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies, Selfish. Finally we stopped off at the Chelsea Flea Market to search for hidden treasures, and then it was back on the Bolt Bus to ride back to Philly. I would never have had the opportunity to meet Olivia or get a comprehensive tour of Dover Street Market without this class (let alone know where Dover Street Market is, as it’s unmarked!). I am so glad I took this class, and I will always look back fondly on our New York field trip. It’s just one example of the amazing, surprising opportunities that come along with a Penn education.

-Hannah R, C'19