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Four years at Penn — what a marathon.

For many students, Penn is a stepping stone to the next plateau in life. We learn how to pad resumes, write cover letters and wrestle with PowerPoint and Excel. We learn to redefine mediocrity via curves, which tell us that we should always compare ourselves to the best of the best.

It hasn’t been easy, but by way of blood, sweat and tears, Penn has made me as fit a candidate for medical school as I could have possibly become.

And in that way, I have to appreciate that Penn has taught me my own limits — thanks to the last four years, I know how hard I can work, how much I can (and, sometimes, cannot) achieve and just how crazy I am willing to drive myself for a letter on a piece of paper.

What Penn does not teach us, it turns out, is how to live. Savoring a moment, discovering new ways of being and seeing — for these, you often have to leave campus and look to the rest of the world, which can be hard to find time to do.

Over the course of innumerable hours spent studying in local coffee shops, I’ve met people who live life to the fullest, from famous photographers to African music producers to saxophone-playing barristas who just want to be left alone with their espresso and jazz.

Similarly, in my summers away from Penn, I’ve tried to forget the stresses of school. I’ve spent nights wandering the calles of Madrid and the streets of New York, eating tapas and basking in the glow of the Broadway lights. I’ve passed hours on two-lane highways, mulling over the meaning of life in a car packed full of friends with nowhere else to be but in the moment. My fondest memories involve a beach, a lighthouse, a six-pack of Maine-brewed beer and dreams of the future. There were not enough of those nights.

Every person I’ve encountered on these journeys — to West Philly and beyond — has given me a novel perspective on the day-to-day goings on around me. Before I start medical school (fingers crossed!), I hope to gain more of that perspective, far outside the Penn bubble. As stressful as Penn can be, I hope everyone gets time at some point to leave campus, explore West Philadelphia and, as I’ve mentioned in these pages before, travel by bike whenever possible.

Penn has made me a suitable candidate to be a physician; the rest of the world has made me a suitable candidate to be a well-rounded human being.

And at our age, the world is our oyster.

Grades matter, extracurriculars matter, internships matter and they all absolutely deserve a good amount of your time and energy. But, to those in danger of being pulled under by the pre-professional tide, remember — you matter, too, and the most interesting lives are those with a certain degree of spontaneity. Penn may deny actively trying to suppress impulsiveness and fun-seeking, but its more intense programs can effectively do so. Don’t let them.

Thank you, Penn, for the resources, the amazing professors, the chance to interact with some of the most intelligent people around and the preparation for the real world.

Thank you to the people I’ve met here, who’ve taught me everything from what espresso is to how to use the word ‘epistemology’ in a sentence.

And thanks to the time away, which made it all make sense.

Lindsey Stull is a College senior from Oklahoma City. She is a former DP opinion blog editor. Her e-mail address is Lindsey is taking a gap year and then plans to attend medical school.

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