My go-to introduction at Penn usually goes something along the lines of, “My name is Julia, I’m from Taiwan, and I’m a sophomore studying English and Computer Science.” For me, the part about being from Taiwan is a natural statement--it is, after all, where I lived for eight years, and where my family currently resides. It wasn’t until recently, amid discussions about internships and voting, that several of my peers were surprised to find out that I can actually work and vote in the US.

So the long story is that I was born in Boston, but moved to Hong Kong at an early age because of my parents’ jobs, and ended up in Taiwan for the second half of my childhood. I had always attended international schools, and both English and Mandarin are my first languages. Growing up straddling multiple cultures felt natural to me.

At the same time, I don’t fit in the quintessential “Third Culture Kid” profile that sites like Buzzfeed often publish lists about. I haven’t attended ten schools in eight countries in the span of three years; I’m not mixed; I grew up considering myself Asian-American. Then I got to Penn and realized that my conception of Asian-American is completely different from what my peers, who grew up in the US, understand. The beauty of Penn’s diverse student body, though, is that mutual understanding does not depend on geographical or cultural circumstances at all.

The people closest to me at Penn seldom have the same background as I do, but there is something about the people here, an openness towards new ideas, that allows us to bond despite our perceived differences. It really comes down to personality, and that of course, knows no socially constructed limits.

-Julia W. '18

An Unexpected Friend

Over winter break I had the privilege of traveling to visit my sister who is living in Taiwan. Previously, I hadn’t been able to travel very much, but when I got this opportunity I was very excited. Experiencing Taiwan was so cool for me with different language, food, culture, and way of life. Having so many friends from school that were international and even Taiwanese made the experience especially cool. It really opened my eyes to the size of the world and how lucky I am to be at Penn where I have so many people living down the hall from me with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

After being in Taipei for three days, my sister and I decided to take a trip to Okinawa, Japan. With only an hour and a half flight, we were there very quickly. We went through customs and proceeded to find our way around the small island. Speaking no Japanese made it difficult at times, but my sister and I managed. We took tours through the island, went to local restaurants (as long as they had a picture menu), and relaxed on the beach. On the last day, we decided to take a ferry to an even smaller island, inhabited by less than seven hundred people called Tokashiki. This island was truly paradise with turquoise water and large white sandy beaches. As we got to the beach it was only my sister and me. This was paradise. Then, after about an hour, two more people came onto the beach. I looked at them and couldn’t believe it. It was one of my hall mates from freshman year at Penn. It was truly amazing to me that I could literally be around the world on a small deserted beach island in the middle of the East China Sea, yet still see a friend from Penn. It really showed me how lucky I was to be connected to a place like Penn. It’s truly an international place with amazing connections around the world. 

-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

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