Sara Schonfeld | Out of place at Penn

What it means to be a “senior” and why I don’t feel like one

· March 2, 2014, 8:53 pm   ·  Updated May 16, 2014, 12:06 pm

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If you had any doubt, the answer is yes: I’m the girl at that party, standing in the corner and awkwardly head-bobbing to the music.

While this is an appropriate reaction to some parties, I shouldn’t be this way when I’m surrounded by people I know. Or at least, people I should know.

It’s making me wonder: What percentage of my classmates are complete strangers? Can I really say that I belong to the senior class?

I spent the final days of February racking up Feb Club events - that is to say, trying to enjoy the last few parties for the entire senior class.

In practice, there is no way all graduating seniors showed up at any single event. I don’t think any of the venues are technically large enough to get all the seniors together in one place, except perhaps the first.

Luckily, I’m more than prepared to continue my antisocial behaviors.

I was standing at the Vesper Boat Club, attempting to nod along to a Spice Girls mashup, when I realized how sad it was. It’s one thing to feel alone. It’s quite another to feel alone in a group.

I always forget that Penn is so big. It feels small: I see the same faces on Locust Walk, the same students in my major classes.

It seems impossible that there are over 2,000 students in my undergraduate class at Penn. And judging by my rocking social interactions at the Feb Club Events, I know a grand total of three of them.

I’m not good at math, but that doesn’t feel like a high percentage.

At one point, one of my three friends asked me to summarize these social interactions. I explained it simply: At such events, I end up high-fiving and thumbs-upping a disproportionately high number of people.

Most people tell me that they use such opportunities to reconnect or make new friends. I see people doing it: schmoozing, floating between friend groups. But all these “seniors only” Feb Club events feel a lot like middle school dances.

My attempts to make friends in classes have had mixed results, and I should have known that I wouldn’t do much better at a party.

I missed Hey Day - while my classmates were biting each other’s hats, I was biking to class along the Guadalquivir River. I still don’t know if styrofoam is technically ingested on this ceremonial day or if there’s just a large production of litter.

Maybe that’s my problem: I missed these formative moments. But I guess I’m stuck like this. While I have plenty of Penn pride, I don’t really identify with my class.

When I graduated high school, it was with less than 80 kids I could identify by name and senior picture. We had chants and picnics and a special skip day.

What do we have at Penn as a last hurrah? I guess it was supposed to be Feb Club, but these events have left me feeling like the estranged cousin at a family holiday. And that’s only if I’m able to get into the event (I must confess, I’m still bitter that I missed out on some free snacks because the line was too long.).

I want to be a part of the class, but the reality of the situation is that I’ll probably never get to be with my class all together except when we walk together in May.

The last time we saw each other, we all got dessert with Amy G. The next time I see them, it will be a long goodbye, hopefully with interludes from special musical guest John Legend.

I can’t wrap my head around the fact that some of my classmates are people I’ll have only seen twice, ever. And then we’ll be gone.

I’ve spent my whole Penn career trying to find different niches - Greek life, writing clubs, volunteering groups - I forgot to bond with my class. So as my last year at Penn comes to a close, I don’t know what it means to be a “senior,” but I don’t really feel like one.

So as I begin my whirlwind final months at Penn, it will be a race to complete my college bucket list before I graduate. Here’s to a lot of “lasts” and to hoping that I’m not the only one still feeling so out of place.

Sara Schonfeld is a College senior from Philadelphia, studying English. Her email address is s.schonfeldthedp@gmail.com or follow her @SaraSchon.

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