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It was late Sunday night when my throat started to tickle. Instead of going to sleep a little earlier than usual, I decided to remedy the situation like any other intelligent freshman -- I found every person in my dorm suffering from similar symptoms and invited them to my room to discuss possible cures for the common cold. It was a symposium of sorts, lasting until about two o'clock in the morning. All of our deep thoughts on the effects of various Sudafed commercials were to no avail, however, as it seemed we were all in worse shape the morning after. That day, I could barely breathe, let alone swallow, so I decided to hit Student Health between classes to get a quick throat culture. I arrived about 11:45 a.m. and was greeted by 30 sneezing students, who warned me with glazed-over glances that I'd better be prepared to wait in line. The line didn't scare me, though -- I braved my way around the girl passed out on the couch and the guy with the chattering teeth to get to the sign-in window. I filled out various forms and after about 40 minutes of counting the coughs of the girl sitting next to me, I decided it would be more advantageous to make an appointment for the next day than to catch something worse than the common cold while waiting to see a doctor. The receptionist assured me I could meet with a doctor Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Tuesday arrived and there I was, same time, same place as the day before but a step ahead of the rest of the waiting room. I had power. I had an appointment. I couldn't help but smile when the name of a walk-in patient was called and one nurse asked another if she should wake a snoring girl to see if she was the most recent name called on the list. Who knows how long she'd been camped out. But within 15 minutes of announcing my arrival, I was greeted by a smiling nurse and a cozy examination room, where I briefed her on my symptoms and was quickly diagnosed. I suffered from a head cold, she said, and I should drink lots of fluids while attempting to catch up on my rest. The nurse told me to "take it easy" but also informed me -- to my utter amazement -- that my illness was not an isolated case. In fact, she alluded to some million other cases of "the cold" floating around campus. I was astounded. At that moment, I realized what college is truly all about. Parents, teachers and older brothers and sisters try to convince you it's is a growing experience -- a time to expand horizons, make new friends and define yourself. They neglect to articulate the true collegiate challenge, though, the one in which only the lucky stay healthy. Three months into my career at Penn, I think I've figured out the rules to the game. After living in cramped quarters, staying up late every night and sharing everything from bathrooms to beers with perfect strangers, the person who manages to stay healthy wins.

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