I will miss Penn the most in the fall — the way it is warm but breezy, the abundance of orange and the start of classes.
It is during those first couple weeks in September, when expectations outweigh anxiety, that Penn seems to be at its best. There’s so much possibility during that period in which we all agree to ignore that winter will soon arrive.
The first time I visited campus it was April before my freshman year. The place felt immense, the way only unfamiliar territory can. It was colder than I had anticipated and I was exhausted from a day and a half of airplanes and airports — my extended travels the result of missing a connecting flight on my way from Costa Rica.
I cried in front of the U.S. Airways representative who told me I would have to spend the night at the airport. By the time I got to campus, I was too emotionally vulnerable and too tired to learn how to get from Houston Hall to the high rises.
Some months later I failed my first midterm. It went against all the expectations I had of myself and the expectations I assumed others had of me. I worried about what failing a midterm said about me as a human being. But my failure was not unique; many others in the class had failed with me. I moved on.
Falling in love with some of the buildings on campus was easy. Fisher-Bennett Hall came first. I discovered that my favorite classes were held there and the realization gave the building an aura of goodness that still lingers. I learned how to write screenplays on the second floor and plays on the first. I watched horror movies and discussed film theory. I met with professors that I was always equal parts anxious and happy to see. College Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library followed, both stunningly beautiful and easy to become infatuated with.
My love for the rest grew throughout the years. Van Pelt finally won my heart sometime during junior year, when I had to admit that despite its rough edges our relationship was truer and more long lasting than my brief, intermittent, affairs with the pretty buildings.
Junior year was difficult as many of my friends left to study abroad. While they were having life changing experiences overseas, I had to learn how to enjoy Penn without them.
For the first time I entered periods of sustained sadness that I didn’t know how to get out of. Although the sadness wasn’t severe, it was constant and left me feeling exposed and desperate.
Things got better gradually. I got a Netflix account, I listened to a lot of sad music and then my friends left Europe. I learned that it’s critically important to surround yourself with people who love you.
My last semester at Penn came unexpectedly. I knew it would come but it was still a shock to see it arrive. And still I was happy it did. If junior year was the year of learning to be alone, senior year was a time of togetherness.
I took classes that taught me that happiness is in the doing. I had a wonderful birthday filled with wonderful people. I took time to just hang out and sit outside. I discovered chai lattes. I had extraordinary professors. I confirmed over and over again how much I love my friends. It felt as if I had been collecting pieces of a puzzle throughout my time here only to see them all come together in the end.
I am four years older than the kid that cried at the airport, four years more certain of who I am and four years more confident. But I’m not quite sure of all that much, except that the past four years have been good.
Sara Brenes-Akerman is a College senior from Costa Rica. She has appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian as A Likely Story for a year and a half. After graduation, she will try to come of age, write and wear awesome shoes. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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