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With graduation just three days away, it’s too easy to rely on rose-colored nostalgia and be all, “OMG, best four years EVER!” But I’m going to spit some real talk in the next few hundred words. My college experience has been important and transformative, but it was by no means perfect.

There were times when I felt elated, inspired, accomplished and lustful. I’ve also felt deflated, disappointed, defeated and heartbroken. This isn’t so much a function of Penn as an institution as it is a function of being a late teen/early 20-something trying to “Figure It All Out.”

That said, there have been way more wins than losses, pluses than minuses, pros than cons. I can’t imagine coming into my own anywhere else, but I do wish someone would have warned me that at Penn, even the most dedicated liberal arts students will sacrifice Ibsen for i-banking.

Some of the best things I learned here, I learned on Tuesday nights at Smoke’s or Wednesday nights at 34th Street Magazine. (And some of the worst things I learned, I learned before noon in 150-person lectures.) I have received an academic education, but more importantly, I have also received a social education and an emotional education. Yes, I received what Ben Franklin called a “practical education” — something that I think goes under-appreciated among the huddled masses at Van Pelt/Huntsman Hall/[insert sad, stupidly intense place here].

I’ve become less nice (in a good way) and more cynical (in a bad way), but my cynicism has been offset by the hunger Penn has given me. I want to see and do and act. And on the eve of this whole experience, I can confidently say I’m sick of the “then” and the “now” — I’m ready for the “next.”

Don’t get me wrong, the “then” has been pretty great. I’ve loved becoming a “regular,” having the folks at Metro give me a cup of ice before I even order so I can fill it up with decaf coffee. I’ve taken classes that let me learn about subways and fonts and all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. I’ve laid in the grass in the Quad, on College Green and in Rittenhouse Square, and decided Philadelphia is a lovely place to be. I took a midnight walk from my house on 39th Street all the way to the Delaware River one warm spring night, because the city is magical in moonlight.

But I’ve worn out my welcome. Maybe becoming a regular means becoming too comfortable. Maybe mastering the all-night cram session means a new challenge is in order. I’ve been in some form of school for 20 of my 22 years, and for the first time in my life I have nothing but the blankest of slates in front of me.

Last week I read a letter I had written freshman year. In it I wrote that my roommate was excited for me because my future was such a question mark. I never thought I would still be a question mark come graduation, but there is something exceptionally empowering about knowing that I (and not a set of annoying course requirements) will determine the next step and the step after that and so on.

Penn has indeed allowed me to “Figure It All Out” (well, at least to start to), but it has also reminded me that there is so much more to figure out than I could have possibly imagined. And that’s okay.

Julia Rubin is a College senior from St. Louis. She is the former editor-in-chief and managing editor of 34th Street Magazine. Her e-mail address is Julia is moving to New York where she hopes to “get paid to write about stuff.”

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