Do you know who we are? You pass us on Locust Walk sometimes, or stand behind us in line at Van Pelt. But mostly, we're creatures of the night, and you don't see us. We have our own private underground network of recommendations and favors, information shared and books borrowed, and our tenuous connections are sustained through e-mail and the occasional after-class coffee and drink. Personally, I walk a funny, blended line. My business clothes fit in with my fellow night students, but at 22, I could pass for a day student. Yet I barely know what the campus looks like by day. After five years, I can make my way from Bennett Hall to 30th Street in my sleep, but I can't keep track of the various dorms' locations, much less their ever-changing names. In some ways I feel like an old-timer: I came here when the wounds from the 'water buffalo' incident were still bleeding; I remember Kathy Change; I know enough to anticipate the joke issue of the DP every spring. But in other ways I am still a newbie. I've never attended a Penn sports event or been to a Senior Screamer. Of course, my experiences aren't true for every night student any more than every day student attends football games or even takes only daytime classes. But my years at Penn have immersed me in a certain community, one that gets short shrift in the discourse about campus life. CGS is in some sense Penn's best kept secret. Many of my fellow students have told me they stumbled upon it -- much as I did. For a school that advertises itself through SEPTA posters and newspaper ads, this may seem strange. Yet people I work with or meet regularly express surprise that Penn even has a night program, while its on-campus reputation seems to be somewhere between one of "gut" courses and those designed for athletes and late-sleepers. Reputation notwithstanding, night classes at Penn have taught me what art deco is and how to locate the epicenter of an earthquake. They have provided me with enough psychological terms to spar with my sister-the-future-psychologist at the dinner table: "Didn't that article confuse correlation with causation?" or "Hey, trying to resolve a little cognitive dissonance there, huh?" I've learned about the complex man who created "Franklin's University," and why our founding date is a handy but likely misleading reference point. Yes, night classes have been good to me: I can coherently discuss Descartes and Hume at 9 p.m., explain why the demand curve might shift to the right, and I'm even reasonably proficient in a foreign language. And along the way I've connected with some marvelous people. We may not have time to hang out with each other too often, but we share tips on classes, buy books for each other and conduct study sessions over the phone. Over the years I've been party to some wonderful -- and sometimes bizarre -- situations: classmates snowed in at home in Bucks County who had to have the final exam faxed to them; a man late to class because his company's fiscal year was ending and they had to spend some money by 5 p.m.; a boisterous class field trip to Old City; fiestas in Spanish class and giddy after-class outings at the White Dog. College as a working commuter student is certainly different from the traditional college experience. As I've juggled my schedule to make room for an advising appointment or get to the bookstore during the chaotic first week of the semester, I've felt a kinship with my fellow night students. Whether or not we attend the orientation session or read the CGS newsletter, we're part of something unique. Intriguing people are thick on the ground at Penn, regardless of what time of day they attend classes or whether they attend them at all. So the next time you're on Walnut Street during the evening, hurrying along in the tide flowing away from campus, take a moment to notice the people walking against the current. During the day we may inhabit offices or paint buildings, but at night we are students, purposeful and proud. Notice us.Comments powered by Disqus
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