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Wharton senior and Penn Sangam member Maryam Mir (right) sat with students for a series of discussion-based activities focused on what makes introverts and extroverts who they are — and whether or not those designations are always black-and-white.

Photo: Luke Chen / The Daily Pennsylvanian

In the basement of Rodin College House, students gathered to share samosas, cups of hot chai tea and conversation about introversion, extroversion and everything in between. This event was the year’s first Chai Chat held by Penn Sangam — an Asian-American community discussion group.

Last night’s chat comprised of various interactive discussion-based activities, the first of which was a speed discussion date. Participants stood in two lines and prompted conversations based on question strips provided by facilitators, alternating partners every few minutes. Questions like “Does media influence your perception of personality?” and “What do you think of the categorization of personality?” pushed the attendees to think about how society defines, categorizes and influences people’s personalities.

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Participants were then split into small groups based on whether they identified as introverts or extroverts. Here, conversation centered mostly on the life experiences that have shaped the students’ personalities, revealing in almost every group that the classification of people as only either “introverts” or “extroverts” is inaccurate.

“This was a nice reminder that many people have traits from both ends of the personality spectrum,” Wharton senior Stephanie Johnson, who identifies herself as an extrovert, said. “Extroverts can be good listeners, and introverts can be confident.”

In the last bit of the chat, everyone came together in a large circle for a formal discussion facilitated by Sangam officers, who steered the conversation to touch upon a few key topics — particularly how Eastern and Western cultures differ as to which personality types they tend to value, and the perception that Penn values extroversion over introversion.

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The discussion elicited varied responses. In regard to the East-West dichotomy, many agreed the United States seemed to value the extrovert ideal, especially in the corporate world. Some Asian students, however, made the point that Eastern cultures are changing and beginning to accept more extroverted personalities.

Wharton students chimed in strongly on the topic of the Penn culture, asserting that — especially in Wharton — the culture does seem to value extroversion more.

College senior Tiffany Kang — a self-proclaimed “converted introvert” after entering Penn — said, “At a place like Penn, where extroverts tend to dominate, I think there is a disparity between extroverts and introverts. It’s good to know that formal dialogue does exist here to bridge that disparity.”

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