At home this weekend, we thanked our families and friends over fat turkeys and overflowing cups. But we probably forgot to thank beloved ones at our second home in West Philly.
So here’s a toast to all the people, places, institutions and cultures that have contributed to my metamorphosis over the last four years. Despite the American obsession with self-sufficiency and the government’s reluctance to acknowledge its debt, I invite you to join me in thanking all who have invested in our future here.
My gratitude goes out to:
Families (the Florys and Mabuds!) for inviting alien students like myself to their homes for a taste of American culture at its best.
The Office of Admissions for accepting me and then unaccepting me for a gap year.
OCR culture for kidnapping us from our books and friends. Hook-up culture for murdering romance. Frat culture for squandering privilege, homogenizing our music and dance moves and promoting self-segregation along racial and class lines.
Happy House and Penn Co-op for being my nest for the past two years and providing an alternative community to the Greco-OCR world. My fraternity for brotherhood that goes beyond differences. Clueless freshmen for your zest for all things Penn — it was an honor to be your RA.
Wharton classmates for pushing me through rote memorization and Darwinian competition. Monk classmates for your silence.
Professors, like Marion Kant, for not only tolerating my weekly visits during office hours but also for candidly discussing my academic and personal shortcomings. Alan Charles Kors, Andy Lamas and Justin McDaniel for inviting my class into their homes for lovely symposiums: outside the ivory tower, you taught us how to bridge knowledge with our lives. Jessica Goldberg, Walter Licht, Santosh Anagol, Cristin Aptowicz, Eugene Park and Matthew Schreibeis for teaching me about West Philadelphia’s history, slam poetry, Korean music and business. More importantly, for breaking bread and hierarchy with us.
Illustrious alumni like Warren Buffett for dropping out of Wharton and still making the big bucks. Elon Musk for pioneering commercial space travel after being a super-senior. Donald Trump for showing us that even in an American plutocracy, money cannot buy the presidency. Noam Chomsky for fighting against power all his life and Noah Ready-Campbell for living the American Dream (just two years out of college) by building a multi-million-dollar company “Twice” without daddy’s millions.
The administration and staff for their tireless work behind the scenes to open doors for us and keep us safe. Dining hall workers who braved the storm to feed us. Security guards and cleaners at Huntsman Hall who stay up all night to guard and clean the tool factory.
Hillel for sending a Gentile on a service trip to Rwanda. Penn Engineering for sending a non-engineer to France. The Wharton Entrepreneurship Center for giving me thousands of dollars without asking any questions.
The Daily Pennsylvanian, including the opinion editor, for letting my mind wander and translating my “magical nonsense” into English. My dear copy editors: sorry, English is not my mother tongue. Design and online editors for seducing eyes to my columns. The photo editor for my mug shot (maybe you can add a touch of Photoshop?) as well as the managing and executive editors for not censoring.
The Delaware Printing Company and truck drivers for baking and delivering fresh copies of the DP to our hands every morning. TheDP.com’s gossipmongers for their headless rants and ad-hominem attacks. Readers with brains for their constructive criticism and encouragement. We columnists bare all on this black ink — we do it for you.
Philadelphia for being so cheap without being cheap. Philadelphia Orchestra and the Annenberg Center for world-class classical and jazz at student price. Art galleries in Old City for free cheese and wine every First Friday and the Philadelphia Museum of Art for free first Sundays. The Morris Arboretum and Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College for providing rest notes amid Penn’s breakneck tempo. The naked bike ride for teaching me to appreciate clothes. Penn Park and the Philadelphia Marathon for keeping me fit.
West Philadelphia for her hip cafes and Clark Park. And Occupy Philadelphia for awakening my political consciousness.
Finally, my family for their love and tuition. Despite all the extraordinary people I’ve met here, the curious Lee family tops them all.
JY Lee is a College and Wharton senior from Gangnam, South Korea. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “Wandering Curious Lee” usually appears every other Tuesday. Follow him @junyoubius.