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

On Campus Recruiting

On Campus Recruiting is stressful. Companies from all over the world send representatives to interview Penn students for internships and jobs. As a senior, it can be difficult to take a step back when it seems like everybody in the world is recruiting.  But in my years at Penn, I have come to realize that OCR is not the end-all-be-all.

While most of my friends did get their internships from OCR, I got mine because I was a lost kid outside of Penn Station, yelling on the phone asking my friend for directions. A woman came up to me and asked me if I needed help (I guess I was more desperate than I had thought).  After politely declining, the woman insisted she help me get to my location. As a southerner with a stereotype of a New Yorker, I was shocked that someone would be so kind as to go out of their way to help me. We made our way down the sweltering hallways of Penn Station together, talking about my major and what I thought I wanted to do after college. It turns out, this woman had also gone to Penn, and when I told her I wanted to do something in public relations or entertainment, she responded with a simple “That’s kind of what I do!” We continued our conversation on the train (that she so graciously paid for), and at my stop, she pulled out a business card and told me to call her if I ever had any questions or wanted an internship. I shook her hands and walked away, grateful for her help getting me to my destination.

After I was all settled into my friend’s house, I looked at the card. She was the VP of PR for Hearst Magazines—she literally had my dream job. I contacted her two years later, reminding her of our encounter, and two days later, I had an internship that might potentially be a full time job after graduation. As I mentioned, OCR is an incredible tool, but it’s not for everybody, and that’s okay!

Kimberly C, C'17

On Being an International Student Orientation Leader

    After a semester abroad in London, I was convinced that I had been renewed. I romanticized my walks to class, the sounds of the city, and the way that the crosswalks never seemed to be in right place. Yet what I loved the most about my experience was the people that I met everyday. In London, I knew I had access to a vibrant city with people from all over the world. When I returned to Philadelphia, I realized that at a global university like Penn that mindset never has to end.  

At the end of my junior year, I became an International Student Orientation Leader, which means that I got to directly interact and connect with the students from all over the world who were studying abroad at Penn. I created friendships with students from Australia, England, France, Brazil, Croatia, Switzerland, and more. We ate pizza in my living room, and watched movies at the local theater on Friday afternoons. I was able to learn about their perspectives, share knowledge, and build great friendships. Even as a junior, they taught me to experience Penn with fresh eyes.

For me, that is the value of attending a school with a reach well beyond the borders of the United States. In addition to the ~12% of students who spend 4 years here as internationals, we invite ~200 students to study abroad every year. Whether in class or hanging out on the weekends, I am encouraged to try on different lenses and experience life through other viewpoints. Today, I am still in contact with a lot of the students I met last year. I have even been able to connect with two students who are studying abroad at Penn this year. I can’t wait to continue my global education within and outside of the classroom.

Jaslyn M, C'17

Medicine in Action

Coming into Penn, I knew I wanted to study medicine. Unfortunately, in high school I was only able to participate in hands-off volunteering at a local hospital. So, as I walked down Locust Walk during our activities fair, I desperately searched through the hundreds of tables for a way I could get involved medically. I saw a bright red sign that read “MERT” and in small print underneath, “Medical Emergency Response Team.” I walked over to the table and began talking with one of the people sitting at there. I soon found out that I could not only get certified as an Emergency Medical Technician while at Penn, but also actively participate in medicine as part of a 911-like response service.

One semester after that day I was an active member of Penn’s MERT. I had successfully completed all parts of the certification and was ready to go. Through my past two and a half years as a member of the team, I have been on calls from seizures to drug overdoses to dislocated shoulders, wrists, and everything in between. These serious medical calls have not only taught me about the severity of medical care, but also about patient interaction and other skills that allow me to be a good professional and person. Not only is Penn’s MERT an extracurricular activity, but it is also a community. I have made so many friends through our long days and nights serving the Penn community. With the phrase being, “more than EMS” MERT is truly a family. Being able to get real, clinical experience as a student EMT has enabled me to reaffirm my interest in medicine. With much of the nationwide pre-med curriculum consisting of sciences not always directly related to medicine, MERT allows me to be a medical professional and a student all at the same time. Not only has MERT allowed me to serve University City community, but with my certification I am able to work at home at my local firehouse in an ambulance. With even more medical exposure, I am being an active participant in the Penn community while also doing something that I really love.

-Jack C. '17

Finding a Smaller Family in the Greater Penn Community

The beginning of any semester is incredible for many reasons. It's a new start for classes, for clubs, for you. And while the fall and the spring bring different attitudes, they both offer Penn students the valuable opportunity to take part in something new or simply just to become more involved with a club that they are already in love with.

At the eve of any semester clubs are undergoing a process of "turnover" in which they prepare for the parting seniors by looking for new leadership and new members. This is turn offers Penn students the opportunity to take a chance on a huge variety of extracurricular activities from the arts to business to publications. With 450+ clubs on campus the potential "homes" are endless. I has personally never had a hobby of any kind before coming to Penn, but when I saw all of the clubs looking for new membership I knew it would be a tragedy not to go for it. I tried out of dancing groups, singing groups, acting groups, writing groups, social groups. I  found family among the myriad of clubs I had tried out for. Each club was different but each offered me to tap into a different passion within myself among a group of people who shared the same desired to volunteer, to write, and to heal. Finding these groups came from nothing else than the fearlessness to try something new and the faith that my family was out there in the sea of clubs and it was my job to find it. 

So whether you know what your passion is and you have your eye on a specific club or you're like me and you're still figuring out who you are and what's your thing, go out, go audition, have fun and always have faith that things will work out. They always do, and you'll find your family at Penn; you just need to have to courage to go out and find it.

-Kelli L. '17

TEDxPenn 2016: Eureka -- A Show-and-Tell Philadelphia's Most Inspiring

One of the most mind-boggling things about Penn is its incredible web of extracurricular activities that keep its students busy (as if academia wasn't enough...). For the past two years, I have had the utmost pleasure of being part of the organizing team for TEDxPenn, an annual conference that showcases some of the Penn community's boldest, pioneering ideas in 15-minute digestible chunks. Held at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on April 10th, this year's conference hinges upon the theme, "Eureka", or the all-of-a-sudden realization of the solution to a problem. We're bringing in professors, students, and community members alike to talk about their own eureka moments, whether in fields of science, social entrepreneurship, the arts, music, and more. I'm so fascinated by seeing these speakers talking about their true inspirations. It's very easy to forget that, though your Physics 101 professor is teaching you basic kinematics, his actual research involves measuring the diameter of the universe, or the kid you sit next to in Sociology is, in his free time, developing a Google Glass app for the visually impaired. The culmination of TEDxPenn is the perfect marriage of a show-and-tell, a lecture, and a launchpad for getting motivated the nurturing your own eureka moments and sharing them with the world.

Note: The TEDxPenn conference is open to the general public. Information about conference and how to buy tickets is available on

-Helen N. '18

A Sport's Tale

Being a Penn kid can be a pretty heavy burden to bear sometimes. The nights are long, the classes are tough, and the expectations are so massive that it becomes easy to feel really small. There’s a big, scary world out there. This is the time of the semester where I begin to feel really grateful for the friends that I’ve made here.  

Too often, elite schools carry the stigma of being a cutthroat, hyper-competitive place. I can’t argue that Penn is a place where competition isn’t prevalent. It’s one of the most beautiful things about being on campus. Great minds rub off each other like flint and steel, and flames of inspiration and innovation can be seen illuminating Locust Walk. This kind of brilliance can be overwhelming. It is easy to think that everyone else has it figured out. The honest truth is, nobody really does. Every student you meet is dazed and confused, letting their ambition replace their doubt and hoping that their hard work opens doors that they can’t imagine just yet. This is something that my friends here have taught me.

I’m proud to say that some of the best friends I have ever had are right here. It’s hard to imagine my life without them. They have quickly become key elements of my existence. They offer warmth, laughter, and comfort in a place that has become my home. Their stories and backgrounds have opened my eyes to worlds that I couldn’t have imagined before. Being a Penn student doesn’t just mean having the best education. It means sharing my campus with some of the brightest young minds in the country. I am very grateful for the opportunity. Whenever things seem rough, I can look back to memories that I’ve made and smile. I can look forward to memories in the future and become excited. Classes can kick my butt all they like. Walking to my dorm room and hearing laughter from the hallway can make all of that go away so quickly.

If playing rugby has taught me anything at all, it is that the most talented team isn’t always the one to overcome the odds. It is the team with the most chemistry and teamwork that goes the distance. You’re only as good as your bond. That goes beyond the field. Everyone here is a genius. That’s something you realize on day one. The people that truly get the most out of their Penn experience are those who allow others to touch their lives and leave their mark forever. That’s what being a Penn student is all about. Wharton kids call it networking. I call it friendship.

-Ibrahim B. '18


Impact Beyond Campus

Walking down Locust during the Fall Student Activities Fair as a freshman can feel both exciting and overwhelming - student groups are dancing, singing, beckoning you to come visit their table, and shoving flyers in your face. With so many clubs and students passionate about these clubs, there are endless opportunities and ways to get involved with clubs on campus. For me in particular, I was interested in clubs doing impactful work for causes beyond Penn’s campus.

This drew me to the Penn Microfinance club. Students apply and interview to join various project teams that focus on a certain geographic region in the world. Each team works with an outside organization that is working on microfinance initiatives in that region. I first joined the Rwanda initiative, and through the Rwanda team, we were in contact with a NYC startup that was expanding microfinance in Rwanda. We helped the startup with competitor research throughout the year and ended up visiting the startup office in NYC to meet the startup founder, which was an awesome and fun experience. Some project teams even travel together to their locations, like in the Philippines and Brazil!

I really admire the student-led initiatives at Penn that seek to solve difficult social problems and make a meaningful difference both locally and internationally.

-Emma H. '17

Rugby and Reality

It isn’t always easy to find yourself in college. Our obsession with the future tends to blind us to what is right in front of us. There are expectations to be met. This mentality is magnified at a place like Penn, where every move we make is towards a bright future that we’ve deluded ourselves into believing we already have figured out. The truth is, we have no idea how to go about finding our path. That’s the beauty of playing a sport.

    Coming into Penn, I had never played rugby before. I heard a great deal about how physical it was. The name of the sport itself carried so much weight. It’s association with hard running and harder tackling made it seem like a sport that only the strong could play. My desire to prove myself in front of my peers led to me to walk on. This spur of the moment decision may have been the best decision that I’ve made at Penn.

The practices are grueling. I’ve been sore for so long, I don’t remember how it feels not to feel that way. The action during matches is nonstop and exhausting. Every position is an important position. Slipping and letting your guard down for even second all but ensures that you’ll expose a weakness in the team’s defense. Nothing has ever prepared me for the world beyond college more.

Rugby has taught me discipline. It has taught me that preparation and working hard is meant to be painful. Striving to be the best at what you do isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. But the exhilaration, the pure ecstasy of realizing how far you’ve come and what you’re capable of because of the work that you’ve put in beats the pain every single time. You grow to love and care about every member of your team. Success can’t be reached alone. You need people around you who care about you- people who will always have your back because they know that you will always have theirs as well. You grow to respect them more than you can say. Nobody on a team actually wants to be the best player. The goal is to grow together. You even grow to have a begrudging respect for the athletes on the team opposing you. They’re playing their hearts out just like you are. The handshakes at the end of the match are completely genuine. Most importantly though, rugby has taught me to run without fear. There will be times when you have the ball and the only option is to run forward. There will be guys on the other side waiting to tackle you to the ground. This is something that you accept. The best option is always to take the hit. Run without stopping, have no fear, take the fall. It always leads to you and the ones you care about being able to move up to field. Even when things seem hopeless, they aren’t. The field constantly changes. As is life.

There’s an entire world waiting for me after college, but it doesn’t seem very scary anymore. All I have to do is keep moving forward, for myself and for my loved ones. The best advice I have when it comes to finding your way in college: find a club or a sport to love.

-Ibrahim Bakri '18