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One of the many attributes (both positive and negative) that The Daily Pennsylvanian has instilled in me is a total inability to write anything more than a few hours — or minutes — before a deadline. So here I am, the day before my editor wants a copy of this column, writing the piece I’ve been dreading for years.

Usually if I’m staring down a blank page for an article, I stare at my pages of interview notes expectantly until something materializes. But now all I have is four years of memories to turn into a short, coherent message.

Penn is a tough place. You’re thrown into a small campus with some of the nation’s best and brightest, and in the struggle to fit in, get good grades and build the perfect resume, it’s easy to lose sense of who you are.

So if there’s any lesson that I could hope to impart, it’s this: Don’t shy away from the things that you love, no matter how difficult or different they seem.

I’m a total nerd. I played cello in a quartet, advised people on how to improve their public speaking skills and spent the bulk of my college career locked in a windowless office measuring my time in column inches and headline-font sizes rather than nights spent at Smoke’s. I pulled more all-nighters than I’d care to count and wrote an embarrassingly long thesis when much, much less would have sufficed. This semester, my social life was dictated by New Deck Quizo with my fellow DP seniors (here’s to you, It’s Never NCIS).

And you know what? I’m happy. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Penn is an amazing place, but it will only ever be what you make of it. Don’t change yourself to fit the Penn experience; change the Penn experience to fit you. It doesn’t matter what you love to do — just do it with integrity. And, most importantly, it’s important to surround yourself with people who share that passion and remind you every day how much you love it. I’ve been lucky to have many.

To the students that recognize the need for a campus newspaper and continue to support the DP by picking it up and giving us your feedback: you have my deepest gratitude.

To my literal family: you are due so much more credit than I could ever give you. You encouraged me to join the paper instead of student government and have always been there to help me resolve the inevitable crises of faith that come with shouldering such responsibility as a student. Mom and Dad, I love you more than I could ever say.

To my figurative family, the generations of editors that have come before me and will come after me: I hope I have done my best to fill the big shoes you have left behind and to continue the legacy of this paper. You are my heroes and my best friends — the students who, day in and day out, give up so much of themselves for the DP.

And to Penn: it was four years here that really taught me who I am. Here’s to another 270 years of teaching students the same.

Rebecca Kaplan is a College senior from Bethesda, Md. She is the former managing and campus news editor of the DP. Her e-mail address is Rebecca is pursuing a career in journalism.

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