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From Melissa Wong's, "Days Like This," Fall '99 From Melissa Wong's, "Days Like This," Fall '99I was almost crushed on the Superblock footbridge by a herd of polo-shirted and tank-topped freshmen stampeding towards me. One of them pointed to the famous dueling tampons sculpture looming in the distance and very knowledgeably told another, "Look! It's the nipple." As we welcome the incoming Class of 2003, we more seasoned members of the Penn community cannot help but feel a little nostalgic for that first year of blissful naivetZ and drunken debauchery. To be a freshman again, knowing nothing but feeling comfortable with that fact because no one else had a clue either. The first semester is an utter shock to your entire overachieving being. It is a time of new beginnings and pretty much everything else you said in that cheesy valedictory. You slowly realize that you are no longer the only person on the face of this planet who was student council president, yearbook editor, varsity soccer, science league state champion and all-state all-star in everything. Your next-door neighbor got an 800 verbal too. These kinds of people are the ones you despised in high school, clear competitors for that coveted spot in the Ivy League. Now, you're all in the same boat and it builds a sense of camaraderie and cooperation. Until you hear about that impossible curve in Econ 001. Then it's every 4.0 for himself. College classes are different. You think that since you have only two exams the entire semester, you only really have to study a week before each midterm and final, right? What do you mean there's no extra credit?! The professor will never know if you're missing his Friday 9 a.m. lecture. You can sleep in without having your mother call in or write a note. "Johnny isn't feeling well today. He spent the entire night playing beer pong." College life is different. No one makes sure you have clean boxers for the week. Nourishment consists of chicken nuggets for lunch, chicken fingers for dinner, chicken filet for lunch, chicken on a roll for dinner, chicken tenders for lunch and maybe a cheesesteak if Judy Rodin is visiting your dorm. You wear flip-flops in the shower. You sleep in the shower. This is diversity at work, the first time that you will be surrounded by people from places other than New Jersey. Places like New York and Pennsylvania. My freshman year, I had rice balls wrapped in seaweed with my newfound friend from Japan. The girl from Los Angeles down the hall got a new tongue ring. Martha from Alabama made a great strawberry cream cake. Upperclassmen who have abandoned those wild parties freshman year for more refined soirees forget the bonding experience of walking home with 30 of your friends from 41st Street, stopping at random intervals so the guy in Room 335 could yell at each parking meter along the way. Who else but your hallmates would hold you upright while you vomit into the lounge's trash can? Or cook you ramen the next hungover morning? Remember the guilty thrill of trying to convince the Spectaguard that you really haven't been doing jelly shots all night? Despite all those wild times, my favorite freshman memories are of all-night study sessions and intolerable stress levels. The Engineering students would be crouched in the suite lounge over textbooks and TI-83s while the College students read Plato with highlighters in hand and the Whartonites desperately worked on their Powerpoint presentations. The smell of buttery popcorn would waft through the room and we would all chug Surge until we started convulsing. All of a sudden, popcorn kernels fly through the air into mouths across the room. David does his napkin trick. And all work is abandoned for another 40 minutes.

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