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I first heard the news Tuesday night from another resident on my floor. First, a door slam. Then, the sound of someone running exuberantly through the hall. And finally, the news itself, reverberating against the walls:


Initially, I didn’t believe it. Penn hadn’t given students a snow day in seven years, and I hadn’t had one in nearly four. After checking the University’s web site three times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, I immediately thought of all the extra work I could accomplish — chapters that needed reading, problem sets that needed completing and essays that needed writing.

Then my inner fifth-grader woke up and slapped me silly. This was no time for work.

At its core, a snow day for a student is an unexpected taste of pure freedom. You’re suddenly relieved of your primary responsibility — school — and given a day to play until exhaustion.

For College junior and Texas native Michael Shaw, Wednesday was his first snow day. “I was really excited when I found out,” he said. “I knew I didn’t want to study. I wanted to use the entire day to have fun, go crazy and play in the snow.”

Amen to that. After a late breakfast on Wednesday, I heard there might be a snowball fight in between Rodin and Harrison College Houses, so I headed to the Superblock. When I got there, random groups of people had already gathered. Some were going sledding; they gripped their orange boards tightly as they marched off to glide at breakneck speeds down a nearby hill. Others were building snowmen. But most were packing snowballs, preparing anxiously for the coming war.

Like all snowball fights, this one degenerated into a series of fratricidal battles. Your only friend is the tree behind you, and God help you if you fall. I hadn’t been in a really good snowball fight in at least 10 years, so I had to relearn some of the rules the hard way. For example, when all your friends pick up snowballs and smile at you, it’s probably a good idea to run.

Eventually, my friends and I made truces and joined together. Emboldened by our newfound strength in numbers, we roamed around like a band of Vikings, surprising other groups with a hail of frozen fury.

Participating in a snowball fight as an adult brings its own set of challenges. For one thing, building protective snow forts proves much harder when you’re six feet tall. The only thing I could effectively hide behind when rebuilding my arsenal was the Dueling Tampons. I also get colder faster.

Not everything’s different, though. There’s still a certain feeling of ecstasy when you ambush your enemy from behind a tree. And nothing matches the sheer thrill of charging blindly at the other team, yelling hoarsely into the wind as you pelt your enemy mercilessly. Like all snow days, this one ended with me defrosting next to a heater, sipping some milk and watching the gusts of wind outside. It’s nice to know that after a decade or so, some things haven’t changed.

After graduation, we will enter the real world, where nothing — not even the weather — can give us a break from our responsibilities. Years from now, we might even consider snow a nuisance, an obstacle that prevents us from driving to the office or getting errands done.

That’s why snow days are so precious. To all the underclassmen out there, you just might get a few more before you leave college — if you’re lucky. Hold onto these snow days, and use them to reconnect with the kid inside you. You might have to procrastinate a little, but it’s well worth the effort. As Calvin and Hobbes put it, childhood is short, and maturity is forever.

Ashwin Shandilya is a Wharton senior from New Market, Md. He is the former Marketing Manager and Editorial Page Editor of the DP. His e-mail address is Penn vs. Sword appears on Thursdays.

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