What You Wish You Knew: Greg, C'19

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I had the pleasure of talking with my roommate and close friend Greg W. He is a Philadelphia native studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE). Penn has been a part of Greg’s life long before becoming a Quaker; it is a 10 minute walk from our dorm room to Greg’s house. He took his SATs in the math and physics building on campus. Growing up, Greg and his dad would attend basketball games in the Palestra and football games at Franklin Field (and now that he is a student here they still do). His mom works for Penn.  Yet despite all of these connections to Penn, the deciding factor in choosing Penn for Greg was his “aha moment” when he was walking down Locust walk. There is something magical about the feeling of Locus Walk: the luscious trees, beautiful buildings, and palpable excitement that surrounds you as you walk through the heart of Penn’s campus alongside your fellow classmates. It is a feeling that is hard to describe… but you’ll know what I mean when you come to Penn!

I asked Greg what advice he would like to have given to his freshman self. Greg said that initially he was disheartened as he met so many students who had a definitive plan for what they would like to study. Greg was still uncertain. However, he know realizes what a blessing in disguise this uncertainty turned out to be. In his journey to PPE, Greg has gotten to take courses such as Music and the Brain and Greek and Roman Mythology, courses which he said have greatly broadened his perspectives. He also discovered a passion for Biology, an interest he thinks he likely would not have realized had he been certain about his path coming into Penn. 

—Nathan S, C'19

What You Wish You Knew: Paddy L, C'19

I had the great joy of chatting with my one of my closest friends, Paddy L, about his experiences so far at Penn. He is from North Salem, New York, and he is a Psychology major with a minor in Biological Basis of Behavior and a certificate in American Sign Language. When asked to reflect upon what he wished he knew as a freshman, he replied, "Coming into college, I know I was lucky in that I knew how to relax. But in the high stress of an Ivy, I think I often lost track of how acceptable it was to just breathe. A tendency to schedule, measure, and optimize one's free time is unleashed with increased academic rigor. Understanding that I didn't need to succeed in my relaxation, but to simply do the act, would've been very beneficial. I am a huge proprietor of stable mental health- freshmen especially should be aware, regardless of their chosen institution, of exactly how to ensure they have it." He emphasized this need and desire to always maintain balance in his life, especially during his freshman year, and not become swept up in the chaos of college. As for some survival tips, Paddy swears by the mantra, "Don't try 'to survive,'" which he explains further, "personally I indulge. I am a glut in every domain that I love: psychology, theatre, my friendships, ASL. The requisite to such is an ability to shed. So, be willing to give up, whether that be a friend, a class, a passing opportunity. Whomever is reading this is likely a master multitasker, superb at overextension; however, college is about amplitude. If you want to love something, you've got to be willing to actually love it." Again, Paddy circles back to pursuing this balance in life, even if that means passing some opportunities up or letting things go. Because surely enough, Penn offers more opportunities than you could ever dream of, but at the end of the day, it's about picking and choosing so that you stay in touch with yourself. 

—Katherine F, C'19

What You Wish You Knew: Kat M, C'17

1. Name, Hometown, Major

Kat M

Darien, CT


2. What do you wish you knew when you were a freshman?

I wish I knew that Penn that while would present me with challenges that I had never faced before, my experiences here would equip me to rise to meet them. The pace of life at Penn is fast but rewarding. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but usually it’s much more engaging to be challenged by others’ high expectations -- in and outside the classroom.   

3. Most memorable experience?

I have had a great time at Penn, so I have a few very memorable experiences. One is when the current Executive Vice President, Craig Carnaroli, told me that one day I would have his job. The EVP oversees the functions of the university that operate as businesses, like dining, real estate, and IT. Craig, who is second in rank after President Gutmann, is an exceptionally nice and thoughtful administrator (and Penn grad!). Craig, some other students and I have been working together since my sophomore year to tackle issues around Penn’s high costs of attendance. This year I have had the opportunity to serve as Penn’s elected undergraduate student body president. As President I have tried to advocate for lower costs across the university - not just in terms of formal tuition and fees, but also costs students face to participate in classes, like textbooks and course codes, and costs students face to participate in extracurriculars, like Greek life dues and club sport fees. The administration has committed to trying to solve these challenges, and to do so they take student input seriously. I have really enjoyed getting the chance to work with the admins, like Rodney Robinson from OSA (pictured here), to collectively make the Penn experience better for all students. 

Another experience I want to highlight is from my senior year fall. It was pouring outside. One of my housemates came and asked me if I wanted to get a banh mi sandwich with her from a Vietnamese market in West Philly. We would walk there and back, she suggested. For whatever reason we thought it was a better idea not to bring umbrellas, so we got drenched during the ten minute walk. At Penn we are very lucky to be able to live within walking distance of so much culture. The city of Philadelphia has so much to offer. West Philly is a great place to live, explore, and eat - even in the rain.

—Hannah F, C'17

Featured Series: What You Wish You Knew

In light of recent regular admissions decisions, our bloggers and members decided to talk to close friends and peers who aren't a part of Cognoscenti in order to share with you a broader sense of what Penn students do, care about, and wish they knew before starting college at Penn.

We hope that what these students have to say will either help you make your decision to come to Penn, or be good advice for you as you look at Penn, and specifically the College of Arts and Sciences, as a school you would like to apply to in the future!


Exploration: The General Education Requirements in the College (PART 2)

Last time I wrote about the courses I took to fulfill the Foundational Approaches portion of the College's General Education Requirements. Here is part two, on the Sectors of Knowledge:

Sectors of Knowledge

Society: I’m really interested in media, so for this requirement I took COMM 130, Mass Media and Society. The class looked at the evolution of media throughout human history and also considered where different media are headed. It was also a great opportunity to work with someone like Professor Turow, a very accomplished scholar and public figure.

History & Tradition: HIST 023 -- double counted with Cross Cultural Analysis.

Arts & Letters: I’m currently taking COML 100 (The Global Novel). This is my first English class in college and it’s been such a welcome change from what I’m used to! I’ve been able to employ the analytical skills from math classes in our class discussions and papers and I hope to do the reverse this in my math classes!

Interdisciplinary Humanities & Social Science: For this requirement I took HIST 012 Globalization and its Historical Significance -- check out my earlier blog post on the class!

Living World: I took classes the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years and PSYC 001 (Psychology 100) was one of them. It was my first true science course while at Penn and looked at the brain and psychology.

Physical World: I am currently taking GEOL 125, Earth Through Time. When I was young, I was obsessed with dinosaurs, and a big part of Earth Through Time has been committed to learning about the earliest forms of life on Earth. We are just beginning to talk about dinosaurs so I am very excited to continue.

Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences & Mathematics: When it came time to fill this requirement I decided to do something a little bit different and take PHIL 025, the Philosophy of Science. We talked a lot about what it means to truly ‘know’ something and what it means for something to be a fact-- particularly relevant today!


That’s just a brief introduction to the classes I took to fulfill the Gen Ed Requirements. The great thing about the College is that given the amount of choice, everyone’s coursework will be totally different. It comes down to what you want to have learned and be well-versed in after four years.

Matthew S, C'18


Penn Perspectives

As a second semester senior, a lot of my extracurricular involvements over the past four years have inevitably died down. However, I’ve actually gotten involved with a new student-led group this semester called Penn Perspectives. Every Wednesday for an hour and a half, a lecture hall full of seniors meet and listen to a popular professor talk. The professor changes every week, and the choice of professor was solicited by seniors Penn Perspectives. The students who lead the group claim that the seniors in Penn Perspectives encompass all of the majors at Penn. This gives seniors a chance to learn about different disciplines from amazing professors and to foster curiosity beyond what we currently know. I really enjoy the experience every week because every professor has a very interesting story to tell about their life and career path, and they’re all really fun and genuine people.

Here are the professors who we have listened to so far:

  • Professor Paul Rozin: He teaches a popular class at Penn called “Psychology of Food.” He’s been teaching at Penn since 1963 (!!).
  • Professor Jeffrey Babin: He teaches Engineering Entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering, though he graduated from Penn with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and later received his MBA at Penn. After undergrad, he actually was a drummer in a band and eventually ended up in entrepreneurship.
  • Professor Fariha Khan: She teaches in the Asian-American Studies department, and her commentary was especially relevant since she talked to us a few days after the debacle with President Trump’s immigration ban. I learned a lot about Asian-American refugees in the Philadelphia community, which was super interesting.
  • Professor David Eisenhower: He teaches a seminar about Political Communication in the Annenberg School of Communication. He takes a class to the Republican and Democratic conventions on election years and described his perspective on elections over the years to us. Oh, by the way, he’s the grandson of President Eisenhower and is married to President Nixon’s daughter.
  • Professor Jamie-Lee Josselyn: She teaches Creative Writing and majored in English at Penn as an undergrad as well. In her lecture, she incorporated one of her essays, in which she wrote about an experience teaching in class.

Obviously, these little blurbs do not give these professors justice, and I am not accurately listing out all their lengthy credentials -- but regardless, I have loved listening to these incredible professors that I have heard great things about over the course of four years in a more informal setting. One of the best things about Penn is being an arms-length away from experts and scholars in all sorts of fields and taking advantage of that learning opportunity. 

Emma Hong, C'17

Exploration: The General Education Requirements in the College (PART 1)

The College of Arts and Sciences is defined by its liberal arts curriculum, meaning that College students take classes beyond their majors and learn about a variety of disciplines. College students acquire a broad set of skills to prepare themselves for the rest of their academic and professional careers. This most clearly manifests itself in the College’s General Education Requirements: The Sectors of Knowledge (specific academic areas) and The Foundational Approaches (skills). These requirements are best thought of as buckets of classes with many classes fulfilling each requirement. Taking these classes has been a great opportunity for me to learn about fields different from my major and I am better prepared for the future because of them. I’ll go into Foundational Approaches below, and look out for another post on the Sectors of Knowledge soon!

Foundational Approaches

Writing: For this requirement I took WRIT 076 (The Urban Invasion) which looked at gentrification and urban redevelopment. I’m pursuing a career in real estate, so working on my writing through a real estate lemse was instructional and informative. I also developed a strong portfolio of relevant writing that I have used with potential employers!

Foreign Language: After taking French in high school, I decided to complete the Foreign Language requirement by continuing my French studies. This continuation provided a transitional set of courses during my first few semesters of college and left me with a certain level of proficiency.

Formal Reasoning: Here I took MATH 103, which was a prerequisite for my major. Additionally, MATH 103 was a Structured Active In-Class Learning (SAIL) class, so most of the learning happened outside of the classroom and we worked on complex problems in class. I would recommend SAIL classes to anyone who wants to learn about their learning style.

Quantitative Data Analysis: I fulfilled this foundation with ECON 103, Statistics for Economists, and was able to count it towards my major.

Cross Cultural Analysis: I took HIST 023 (The Islamic Middle East) for this requirement, as did many of the other Cognos. We learned about the history of the Islamic Middle East (starting with the fall of the Roman Empire and ending with the Ottoman Empire). This course actually inspired me to take an elective this semester about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Cultural Diversity in the US: For this requirement, I took ARTH 278 which was an American art history class. Beyond lectures, our class got to travel to different museums around Philadelphia to look at iconic works of American art. Seeing the famous pieces in person absolutely enhanced my learning, and was only possible in a city like Philadelphia!

Matthew S, C'18


Consult for America: Clubs Connecting Passions with Service

The first club that I joined at the University of Pennsylvania was Consult for America. The name was as enticing as its mission, which was to help provide the resources of the University of Pennsylvania to small business within the West Philadelphia area. In order to do so, members of the team form client groups and work to provide free small business consulting to local businesses.

Throughout my time in this club, I have the chance to work on 4 entrepreneurial ventures, while also gaining leadership experience through my time on the executive board. I have explored patent law and the patent application process, while working with an entrepreneur who was at the beginning phases of a product to revolutionize showers for people with disabilities. I developed marketing strategies for men’s boxer products, and local restaurants. I even got to generate a social media strategy and evergreen social media content for an author looking to raise money for her most recent self-help book.

Beyond the friendships, business acumen, and leadership experience that this club has provided me, I am most proud of the opportunities it has given me to interact with the West Philadelphia community. All new Consult for America members take a walk through the communities surrounding Penn, to gain a deeper understanding of our larger community. As students, we come to this area, live here for four years, and then many of us leave for other cities and opportunities. Through Consult for America, I found my way of saying thank you to West Philadelphia. 

One thing that is really special about Penn, is that many students find ways to use their passions and interests to connect with the surrounding Philadelphia area. Consult for America is not unique in that regard. There are clubs that teach dance classes in local public schools, some clubs paint nails in local elderly homes, and some clubs work with women in the prison system. There are thousands of ways to turn fun activities into meaningful work here at Penn. I have always found that the hardest part is just choosing which one to join.

Jaslyn M, C'17

Sofar Sounds in Center City

The idea is simple. In cities all over the world, people can sign up to attend small concerts in order to get closer and bring the intimacy back to music. Sofar Sounds is a company that operates on this premise. The day before the concert, you are sent a secret location. When you arrive, you have no idea who else will be there or who will perform. Last weekend, I decided to take a break from my typical Sunday routine of coffee shop study sessions, club meetings, and laying in bed watching Netflix, to travel to &Pizza in Center City and interact with three new bands and a plethora of Philadelphia residents.

My friend and I arrived to the pizza shop, where benches were spread across the room, pillows and blankets were placed on the floor, and young people from all over the city were bustling with energy. As the company promised, the environment was intimate. The restaurant provided free drinks and pizza, and the audience sat around a stage. The pizza was family style, so boxes of different types of artisan pizza were being passed around the room, from stranger to stranger. Neighbors, who had been strangers only moments ago, began talking about the pizza, what schools they attended, and whether or not they had been to a Sofar concert before. My friend and I found that the two people behind us were also Penn students, and we were all able to share stories about our lives on campus and found common connections and friends.

Eventually the music began, and we were able to hear acts and stories of artists who had traveled from California, Russia, and New York. They played their songs, and then re-joined the crowd to engage in conversation, answer questions, and listen to the other acts. Last weekend I was reminded that as a Penn student, I am also a resident of the city of Philadelphia. Which means that when I want to escape campus, or practice living the young professional life, I can find incredible and unique ways to do so. So, no matter where you live, I suggest that you check out to see if there is a Sofar Sounds program in your area. Find a way to make music and your connection to your city intimate again.

Jaslyn M, C'17

In and Out of Prison

Every week, I spend around an hour and a half commuting back and forth to VisionQuest, a juvenile delinquent facility in North Philadelphia. Through the on-campus organization, Petey Greene, I tutor juvenile delinquents to complete high school equivalency through an online learning platform. In my two-hour tutoring sessions, I have helped out with a huge range of subjects, ranging from Shakespeare to personal finance - whatever the student needs help with.

The other tutors who go in every week as well include Penn, Temple, and Haverford students. I started volunteering with Petey Greene as a junior, and it is still the only activity I’ve done at Penn that integrated and collaborated with other college students in the area. We also work closely with regional Petey Greene employees whose job it is to keep Petey Greene running.

My experience with Petey Greene has been challenging yet rewarding. How do you explain what a literary symbol is to a student who has trouble with basic reading? Still, I understand how important the tutors are for giving some extra support to the students, which keeps me motivated to continue and to stay creative and energetic in my teaching methods. When people think of “prisoner” and “jail,” the gut reaction is fear - but, as a tutor, I have found my tutees to be kind, funny, respectful and receptive to help.

One main reason why I came to Penn was for the unique opportunities available to engage with the community, given the city location. Seeing the impact of poverty and crime firsthand through community service organizations at Penn has been eye-opening and inspires me to use my knowledge gained at Penn for greater social good in the future, particularly in the realms of education and criminal justice reform.

Emma H, C'17

"Globalization and its Historical Significance" (For Me)

Every now and then you come across a class which really changes your perspective entirely. For me that happened last semester when I took History 012: Globalization and its Historical Significance. The interdisciplinary class, lectured by Professor Guillen of the Lauder Institute, Professor Spooner of the Anthropology Department, and Professor Cassanelli of the History Department, looked at the phenomenon of globalization now as well as the historical processes which have lead us up to this point. We tackled a variety of topics and issues from global finance to the globalization of sport (think the Olympics or the World Cup) to the ever politically relevant topic of immigration.

This class opened my eyes in a couple of different ways. The first and most obvious, was that my actual understanding of globalization changed dramatically. Before taking History 012, I always thought about globalization strictly with respect to trade. The globalization of trade has become a buzz-topic of sorts in recent years, but globalization goes so much further than that. Globalization involves the creation of supranational organizations, cultures, institutions, and worldwide experiences. Today a resident of New York City probably has more in common with an individual living in London or the urban areas of the Pearl River Delta (a densely populated area in China) than they do with someone in rural Iowa or even upstate New York. Similarly, globalization does not just mean the spread of Western technologies and ideology. Instead, it has to do with the integration and mixing of diverse cultures and philosophies into a more global society.

But beyond just what I learned about globalization itself, this class really opened my eyes to the value and importance of interdisciplinary study. As a mathematical economics major I hear a lot about interdisciplinary work, but it wasn’t until I saw it take place within one class that I understood what makes it and the work done in the College so important. It was only through the synthesis of Professor Guillen’s knowledge of the global financial system and global politics, Professor Spooner’s expertise regarding the social origins of globalization and its unevenness, and Professor Cassanelli’s deep understanding of African culture that we were finally able to put together the pieces and get a complete understanding of globalization. Globalization and its Historical Significance really put into perspective for me what it means to truly take a multi-disciplinary look at a problem or a phenomenon, in order to come to a much more complete answer or understanding. I look forward to taking more classes like this during the rest of my time at Penn!

Matthew S, C'18

On Internships and Funding in Philadelphia

One of my favorite parts about being a Penn student is living in Philadelphia. I love attending gallery openings, trying out new restaurant, and exploring the city. Another benefit for living in the city has also been gaining hands on work experience. The spring of my sophomore year, I received academic credit for an internship at the National Museum of American Jewish History. I was so inspired by my work in the museum that I applied for a summer internship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since then, I have worked at many more cultural institutions in the city and have solidified my desire to pursue a career in the art world after graduation. At the PMA and the following summer while interning at the Institute of Contemporary Art, I felt so fortunate to go to an institution like Penn that supports the arts. The museum field is not an industry that typically pays their interns. To compensate, Penn has stepped in and offered many means for students interested in interning in typically unpaid industries to receive generous stipends. These are just a few of the many internship resources and funding opportunities that Penn offers:

  1. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowship’s Summer Humanities Internship Program. This is the funding I received two summers in a row! This program offers paid internships to dozens of cultural institutions in Philadelphia. Each host institution guarantees an internship spot for a Penn student, which is such an advantage in a really competitive industry.
  2. RealArts @ Penn offers 24 internship positions for Penn students. Fields range from museums, journalism, the music industry, television and film, and theater. Positions are open in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Even better, RealArts streamlines the confusing application process by administering a uniform application for all positions and helping arrange on-campus interviews.
  3. Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program offers research positions across the disciplines in the humanities and sciences. These opportunities are only offered to freshman and sophomores, in order to allow for students to engage in research from the beginning of their Penn experience. The coolest part is being able to work closely with a professor over the course of the summer.
  4. Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative offers extremely generous funding for students who find their own public policy internships in D.C. I have many friends who interned in the White House and the State Department and were able to live comfortably in D.C. for the summer thanks to PPI’s help!

Hannah F, C'17

Learning New Ways to See

Currently, I’m taking my first Cinema Studies course, recommended by a friend who had taken the class two times already. That’s because each semester the course focuses on a different director. So, over the past semester, I’ve taken a deep dive into the (quirky) world of Wes Anderson, having now seen all of his movies in class. We watch the movies in chronological order from week-to-week, allowing the class to witness and discuss the director’s progression and development of style. 

Before taking this class, I loved watching movies but mainly out of enjoyment of characters and stories than aesthetics. However, this class has definitely inspired a completely different movie-watching experience, drawing my attention to aspects like the variety of shots, shot composition, and strategic use of music in a film. I also feel more confident in my ability to develop opinions and interpretations on movies, narratives, and acting. 

For the final class project, everybody in the small class selected a scene in a Wes Anderson film and modified it in some way. Everyone created a script and storyboard for their particular vision and pitched it to the class. The class was split into three groups of 5-6 people, and each group picked a pitch from a different student to bring to life. So, today, I spent around three hours freezing outside and garnering stares around campus as my group filmed our final project scene, as we attempted to recreate a style reminiscent of Wes Anderson. 

My class-picking strategy at Penn is simply to find the best classes offered, regardless of the subject matter. These classes have helped me to develop an interdisciplinary breadth of knowledge and to create associations between diverse classes. For example, some philosophers discussed in the context of my Cinema Studies class are the same ones that I have studied in the past in relation to Asian-American history and literature. This Cinema Studies course, like many other amazing classes I’ve taken at Penn, has altered my perspective and refined my attention to detail in ways that I believe will stick with me for the rest of my life. 

From NY to LA, The Traveling Involved with OCR

              One weekend in DC, one weekend in St. Louis, three weekends in New York, and one weekend in Los Angeles. This semester, I spent more time carrying tiny suitcases, studying in train stations and airports, and meeting new friends from Penn and schools all over the country than I ever could have imagined.

            At the University of Pennsylvania, students find full time and internship opportunities through many different ways. One of which is On Campus Recruiting (affectionately known as OCR), where companies travel to campus to hold information sessions, coffee chats, and interviews regarding the positions they have available. Most of the time, the interviews on campus are followed by interviews at the company headquarters to expose students to other employees, potential new hires, and the company culture.

            While these interviews can be stressful and time consuming, I am actually very grateful to have had them be a part of my Penn experience. Besides the benefits to finding great internships, full-time positions, and travelling for free through this process, I have also had the ability to connect with so many new people. One of my favorite moments was spending a relaxing post-interview day at Venice Beach with two new Penn friends, and a new friend from Duke. I loved laughing and grabbing dinner with a group of 7 students in the St. Louis airport, after a long day of interviews. I won’t forget walking with a new friend to Times Square, and watching her awe at seeing New York City for the first time ever.

            On campus recruiting is not for everyone, and people at Penn will find their post-college path in their own ways. However, it ended up being the perfect way to find a job for me, my senior year. Throughout the process, there was not a single company that I travelled to, where I did not have another Penn student there for support. Most of the time, Penn alumni, who worked at the company, reached out for support and to see if there was any questions that they could answer for me. I am so grateful to attend a university that has such a strong Career Services Center, and legacy of alumni that OCR was all possible for me. If OCR is the best path for you too, take advantage of the travel, and the new people around you. You never know what cities, companies, or new friends you may encounter throughout the process

Jaslyn M, C'17

Why the College? The Opportunities Are Endless

I’m majoring in Mathematical Economics with an interest in going into business as a career. As you might guess, during my weekly Cognos presentations, one of the most common questions I’m asked by people is why I chose to go to the College rather than Wharton? It’s a legitimate question and the reasons are not necessarily what you think—no it isn’t easier to get into the College and no the College isn’t less academically difficult than Wharton. As a senior in high school I spent a lot of time mulling over how I wanted to spend the next four years. I asked myself questions like, “what do I want to learn,” “what experiences do I want to have,” and “am I even ready to commit to specific career?” But, when all was said and done, I came to the realization that the College was the perfect choice for me for a couple of reasons, which I’ll go into below.

One of the best aspects of the College was that it allowed me to do almost anything after graduation. While I was pretty certain I wanted to go into business, I wasn’t ready to commit, and I wanted to keep my mind open to other possible fields. At the time I was binge-watching The West Wing and thought, maybe I wanted to go into politics. I thought, hey I love television, maybe I want to go into entertainment. My parents even tried to float the idea of going into medicine by me (that one never actually got much traction). By going into the College I was able to have a diversity of experiences and classes that would prepare me for any future career that I chose to go into, and I had the opportunity to keep all of possible doors open.

Similarly, so many of the skills that I learn in school are useful for business specifically! I spend a lot of time working with data and numbers, which obviously appeals to business sensibilities, but I also spend a considerable amount of time writing papers and doing complex analyzation. An interdisciplinary degree like mathematical economics has allowed me to bridge the gap between numbers and the story they tell. I’m able to understand what a model or what the data are saying and then explain it to others-- an undervalued skill among college students, but a cherished skill for employers.     

In my case, the College provided me with exactly the skills and experiences I wanted to be able to look to at the end of four years. The College has continued to open doors for me and has set me off on the right path towards a career in business—EVEN if I never took Management 100 at Wharton.

Matthew S, C'18

Lectures Outside Class

I’ve recently been a lot more proactive about seeking out opportunities to attend guest lectures and other “nerdy” academic experiences. Despite the fact that I am busier than ever with classes and on campus recruiting, I find that the time I make, the extra hour here and there, has accumulated to some of the most interesting experiences of my fall semester so far.

About a month ago, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, professors of Design and Emerging Technology at The New School in New York, came to campus and participated in a round-table where students and professors got to talk about what critical design meant to them in an increasingly technological and digital age. How does the professionalization of design affect creativity? What do we need to consider to design systems for humans? Is materialization necessary to create immersive environments? Suuuuper open ended questions that don’t necessarily have right or wrong answers, but the fact that Penn brought in experts in the field to discuss these ideas is, I find, an incredible opportunity that I’m not sure I would as easily have access to were I not a part of an academic institution.

Another really cool lecture I attended was by Billy Mitchell of the Apollo Theatre—this guy literally lived history. He was inspired by James Brown to try harder and do well in school; he watched as Ella Fitzgerald, then a nervous young girl, accidentally started scatting at Amateur Night; he’s seen people like Jamie Foxx, Dave Chapelle, and Adam Sandler all booed off stage I admit that I didn’t know about Billy Mitchell or the Apollo Theatre at all before this lecture (which I stumbled upon last minute from a listserv email from my department chair), but I was completely floored and somewhat inspired to hear about this man’s life and opinions as a cornerstone of modern American history. 

These events are not nearly as in-depth as a full semester’s worth of studying architecture history, but that I even have the chance to get these snippets from the people themselves has definitely been a highlight of my semester so far.

Julia W, C'18

From Applications to Elections

            Approaching the Early Decision deadline, every presentation seemed to end with one dreaded question: “What did you write about in your college essay?” This prompted me to reread the words I had written four years ago.

            I was surprised to see how I had written about my desire to go to Penn because of all of the ways it provides avenues for learning outside of the classroom. I specified how I wanted to intern at an art museum, work on the 2016 presidential election, and teach in Philadelphia public schools.

            Fast forward four years. This week, I spend my Sunday leading a gallery tour at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On Wednesday morning, I wake up early to attend a rally downtown to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Every day, I spend countless hours making phone calls and knocking on doors for the Hillary Clinton campaign. On Friday, I lead a group of Penn students to West Philadelphia High School where I am the head teacher for a program that teaches News Literacy in a senior year government class.

            As a senior in high school, I had no way of knowing exactly what Penn had to offer or what I would achieve in my college years. However, I did recognize my passions and realize the issues that drive me. My love of art and politics are so engrained in my identity, that I knew these would be essential to the communities I formed in whatever university I ended up at.

            Two sweatshirts, a sweater, a jacket, hat, scarf, gloves, boots, a pocketful of snacks. I have all of the essentials ready for the six hours ahead of me to wait on line in Penn Park in order to see Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on campus.

            I stroll up to the VIP table with the rest of the Penn Dems Executive Board. After spending months on our voter registration and get out the vote efforts, we were rewarded by the campaign with wristbands allowing special access to the front of the rally.

            Five more hours of waiting ensue…and finally Hillary and Tim come out. With the Philly skyline as a backdrop and Penn’s campus just around the corner, these are the moments I could never have even dreamed of as a reality of my college experience.

            After cheering throughout her speech, she exits the stage right in front of us. All of a sudden, Hillary Clinton, the woman who I have gave more hours of my life to this semester than I could even count is right before me. One of my friends tells her of the conference we had planned that weekend for college Democrat groups around the Northeast and she congratulates us for our success.

            With less than a week to go, I am so grateful for the contribution I have been able to make on Penn’s campus and in Philadelphia through my involvement in Penn Democrats. Years from now, I will be proud to tell my children that I did everything in my power to help elect the first woman president of the United States, and most importantly in such an essential swing state as Pennsylvania.   

Hannah C, C'17

Being a Fresher, A Second Time Around

A little over a year ago today, I touched down in London to start my junior year fall semester at University College London (UCL). This was a direct exchange program, so I took classes and lived alongside normal university students. What I didn’t realize until I got to London was that, in strange ways, my study abroad experience would feel like freshman year all over again. My dorm consisted of freshers (what English people call first year students) and study abroad students.

When I got to my dorm from the airport, I groggily made my way to the dorm’s dining hall to get food. It was so strange walking into a lunchroom setting again and having to find a place to sit in a sea of unfamiliar faces. Particularly in the first few days, everybody was so eager to meet new people; I relived that freshman year experience of meeting a million new people in passing at various new student events. At times, this was exhausting, but I also ended making a lot of great friends from all around the world during my term abroad. 

In classic freshman style, I went a little overboard at the club fair for the university. However, it was so refreshing to be able to try out so many different clubs while abroad and try out random activities that seemed interesting to me. For example, I participated in my first coding hackathon with the Tech Society, I attended dodgeball, rowing, and badminton practices, and I learned how to juggle with the Circus Society. However, I ended up being most active in Running Club. I absolutely loved running through London with the group -- we often ran to Regent’s Park, a sprawling, famous park right by campus. One night, there was an all-girls running event, in which we ran around the city covered in face paint and blasting music. Another one of my many favorite memories from study abroad was the club’s Christmas Dinner at the end of the semester -- everybody wore their most festive Christmas “jumpers” (aka ugly Christmas sweaters), and we had 3-course meals at a local pub while enjoying each other’s company and breaking open Christmas crackers.

A pit stop during our colorful run throughout London

A pit stop during our colorful run throughout London

Overall, I think it becomes natural past freshman year for people to get comfortable in a routine and with a certain group of people - and not branch out past that. For me, studying abroad reignited that fresher-like hunger to meet new people and to seek out new experiences that can be lost in the day-to-day college grind.

Emma H, C'17

Finding Your Study Spot

There are so many important decisions you have to make during your time at Penn: what are you going to major in, where do you want to live, what clubs do you want to join. But for me, the most important question I had to answer, was where do I want to study. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Matt, why does that even matter?’ but it was a question that plagued me (and many others before me) when I finally arrived on campus, my freshman year. Now, there are those out there who advocate for Van Pelt Library, others who swear by Fisher Fine Arts, and even some who won’t go anywhere besides the Starbucks in the basement of Commons (the new Starbucks at 39th and Walnut has proved to be quite the controversy).

There are so many choices on campus, that it can be a bit overwhelming. So what did I do? I just began to try out different spaces. This place was too dark, that one was too noisy, and the other one was just too far away from my room. But eventually, like Goldilocks herself, I found the one that was just right: the study carrels on the Sansom side of the second floor of Biddle Law Library. For me, the space is perfect: cozy yet structured, bright but not distracting, quiet without being isolating. I’m able to go there and get work done without feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

In general, there are so many options at Penn, and in the College specifically. But, I encourage you to be like Goldilocks-- test things out and eventually you will find what works for you! Try different classes, join different organizations, and meet new people. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even see you in studying in the law library. Until then, take advantage of all of the opportunities here and you too will find your ‘place.’  

Matthew S, C'18

The Creative Meets the Professional

Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences has a multiplicity of resources in terms of professional endeavors, even if you want to go the more non-typical creative route, like me. I found my internship this past summer through a Penn-funded program called RealArts@Penn, which is further supported by the Kelly Writers House. Essentially, this program offers a couple handfuls of undergrads internships each year with a select number of amazing creative companies and institutions, such as museums, music studios, and publishing houses. All of which are distributed with a monetary stipend for the summer! It’s a pretty sweet deal in which I was lucky enough to partake.

My internship was with Settlement Music School, a Philadelphia-based community music school for people of all ages and skill levels. I was deemed the Digital Marketing and Community Engagement Intern for them (it’s a long title, I know), which meant I helped with everything from social media to community events. From this experience, I was able to integrate my music background with my professional development and had the chance to learn more about education too. It’s something I would have never thought I would be doing, and it definitely would not be possible without the help of this amazing Penn program. It’s totally possible, and even encouraged, to be your creative self at Penn, even in the workplace.

Karis S, C'18