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

Not your typical Penn Abroad

Before coming to Penn, the two coolest travel experiences I could credit to my name was going on vacation to Cuba (I'm Canadian and this was before Obama renewed diplomatic ties) and getting to hug a panda bear in Sichuan, China. These were all experiences I had with my family, and truthfully, I had never travelled much I came to Penn. Travelling in university is very different from travelling with family, and I am infinitely grateful for the opportunities that Penn had provided directly and indirectly for my travels.

Even though I've never formally been abroad during the school year at Penn, I was able to go to Tokyo, Japan over Spring Break in freshman year and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa in my sophomore summer. I went to Tokyo as part of a trip organised by Wharton Asia Exchange in order to expose people to business and culture in Asia. Tokyo was a city in a class of its own and I got the opportunity to visit the Tokyo headquarters of companies like Honda, Google, Sony, and Morgan Stanley and was able to meet Penn alumni who are working there now. Along the way, we visited places like Asakusa shrine, the Buddha of Kamakura, Tokyo Skytree, and the hot springs. I made some very good friends on that week-long trips, ones that has lasted until now.

In sophomore summer, I went on a volunteer trip with three other Penn students to South Africa through an organisation called Penn International Business Volunteers and we worked on a management consulting case for an education non-profit in Johannesburg for three weeks. It was an extremely educational experience both in getting hands on experience in exploring a potential career path and getting immersed in the South African culture. We worked everyday alongside the employees of this non-profit in Diepsloot, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Johannesburg. My favourite memory was spending time with the school children after their classes ended and singing and dancing with them. After our time with this non-profit ended, we also swung by Cape Town for a week and got to hike Table Mountain, go to the Cape of Good Hope, and visit the University of Cape Town.

These experiences abroad, despite not being your typical abroad story, really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that were out there in the world. I got my first taste of independent travel and I've been exploring every chance I get ever since. 

-Ber Ber X. '16