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I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to visualize the person I was four years ago. For whatever reason, I’ve found this very difficult. Fall 2006 seems so long ago and far away. The fragments of memory most vivid to me paint the portrait of someone who was eager, excited and, most of all, confident. I was, to put it simply, very sure of myself.

Sure that I would enjoy and excel in all of my classes. Sure that I could meet people exactly like the terrific friends I had in high school. And sure of all the various activities I would take up on campus.

It was naive of me to be so certain. I could not have expected that the past four years would unfold as they did. And the narrative of my Penn experience has been full of surprises.

Above all, I could never have guessed that my involvement in The Daily Pennsylvanian would be so defining.

As a freshman, I was not at all interested in journalism. But I was impressed with the DP from the moment I picked up my first issue. I immediately wanted to get involved. A good Wharton student, I decided to join the DP’s business division.

I started out selling advertisements to local area customers, which seemed like it would be a good learning experience. And I did learn a lot — not the least of which was that I am not very good at selling advertisements. Two semesters later, I was ready to move on.

At the time, the DP was looking for a Web Editor-in-Chief. Because I had website-development experience, this seemed like it could be a good fit. And it was. For the next several months, I poured my all into (now and the DP’s other websites. But I could have that particular position only for a semester and, apparently, the web department was considered something of a dead-end.

My ego probably got the best of me because I figured I was ready to run the entire organization. Fortunately for me, I was in the right place, at the right time. Online was, it seemed, an important area of growth for the organization moving forward. And so I was elected Executive Editor as just a second-semester sophomore.

In short, I stumbled from one opportunity to the next at the DP. Along the way, I learned a lot about myself and developed friendships I hope can last a lifetime.

My four years at Penn have exceeded the expectations I had coming in. And largely so because of that critical decision I made to join the DP during freshman year.

College life makes it easy to try your hand at something completely new, something altogether different. And this aspect of college life is what makes it so unpredictable. As my own story illustrates, small choices can have large and lasting consequences. Taking a course just to fulfill a requirement may lead you to change your major. Selecting one college house over another can cause you to have an entirely different social circle.

Of all that I have learned here at Penn, the lesson with the most significance is how difficult it can be to tell where some of your choices will lead you. You just stumble forward and hope for the best.

I’m thankful to Penn for teaching me this. As I look forward to life after school, I’m wary to make up my mind about anything. After all, the more carefully I set my plans, the more likely it is I’ll set them aside when some opportunity inevitably pulls me in a different direction.

David Lei is a Wharton senior from Brooklyn, N.Y. He is a former DP executive editor and web editor-in-chief. His e-mail address is David is going to work in the private equity industry.

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