Eye contact is the name of the game on Locust Walk.
Amongst the faces glued to iPhones and the perfected art of head-down speed walking, I have learned that making eye contact is the key to getting my group’s flyer into a student’s hands and striking up a “Hey, what are you doing this weekend? Come see us perform!” conversation.
It is the reel — the hook, line and sinker — to make it so that student cannot completely ignore me as he walks past. Be it social pressures or human pity, that student must now acknowledge my presence. And success! I potentially fill one more seat at my dance group’s show.
Will that student come? Debatable. Should he come? Of course. But my guess is he probably thinks he’s too busy.
To many students, Locust Walk is just a means to get from one class to another. Ignoring the flyered world of student organizations and the creativity, passions and interests of fellow Quakers is a well-recognized ritual. The path from Huntsman to Van Pelt is a lot quicker if no human contact is made, no interest shown.
This, unfortunately, reflects an attitude found beyond the cobbled blocks of Locust: to many students, Penn is just a stepping stone between high school and the “real world.”
This comes to the detriment of the Penn community as a whole. I’ve found when I invest more in my experience on a day-to-day basis by attending student shows, making eye contact on Locust and, come warm weather, relaxing on College Green, I have a fuller, more balanced and more rewarding time. Penn is more than an education — it is home for four years.
The solution is to look up from your iPhone, your textbook and your internship application to appreciate the fact that you are at the University of Pennsylvania, surrounded by all the people and opportunities you sought coming out of high school.
What happened to the extracurricular interests that filled your Common App? To any of the clubs you hoped to join in your “Why Penn?” admissions essay?
“Locust was one of the things that I thought was most exciting about this campus,” says College senior Devika Dhawan. “I loved that there was this hub that went throughout the school.”
Locust hasn’t changed, just our attitudes towards it.
Yes, that paper sucks. Yes, there is a career fair tomorrow, and no, I haven’t done the reading for two of my classes either. But there is time to enjoy Penn, to spend an hour this Friday going to see Dhamaka or Bloomers — and no, I’m not in either of those.
Beyond time constraints, students also face social pressures dictating various levels of involvement.
College freshman Catherine Darin doesn’t feel like she’s completely taking advantage of all Penn has to offer because she, like many students, finds it awkward to attend a show or event if she doesn’t know anyone else there.
Additionally, in spring semester post-rush, “You’re expected to just do Greek stuff,” she says. “On the weekends you’re supposed to go to this mixer and this mixer and this mixer.”
That’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy Greek life or that other students don’t struggle with deciding how much time to prioritize in their social organizations. But building a community among the various groups at Penn should also be a priority.
There are roughly 630 student groups at Penn that range from pre-professional groups to service organizations, from Greek life to endeavors in the arts. Even if you don’t know anyone in a group hosting an event or performance and can’t find a friend to bring along, attend. Just going to one or two shows a semester will increase the sense of community and school spirit here at Penn — as an added bonus, you might also make a friend.
A strong community is one of the most important aspects of any school, and one that Penn at the moment lacks. Prioritizing your own interests, going to a show or slowing down and engaging on Locust won’t put you too far behind on homework or detract from your mixer schedule — I promise.
After all, Penn in and of itself is an experience, not a walk down Locust to be endured.
Morgan Jones is a College junior from Colorado Springs, Co. Email her at email@example.com or send her a tweet @morganjo_. “Nuggets of Wisdom” appears every Thursday.
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