I never thought I’d visit Montana. Ever. But the summer before junior year, I had 10 days free and a friend invited me to visit him at home. So I went. There were things that surprised me — I actually had to carry a can of bear spray when we went hiking. But most surprising of all was that I absolutely loved every second there.
In one of my favorite books of all time — Love Story, by Erich Segal — the main character describes college as a bunch of different people with all sorts of backgrounds getting thrown together in Santa’s sack for four years before being tossed out and settling down into their own, separate places. This is kind of gripping. Especially at an Ivy League school that can afford to provide hefty financial aid, there is a sense of being surrounded by people from all walks of life. And, because Penn’s Admissions Office strives for diversity, we’re surrounded by people from literally every state in this country, and many, many countries in the world.
Before Penn, most of us were probably immersed in a pretty homogeneous environment — be it culturally, socioeconomically or both. Five years out of Penn, most of us will probably find ourselves immersed in a pretty homogenous environment again. While at Penn, most of us are in the midst of the most diversity we’re likely ever going to be in. So, shouldn’t we take advantage?
Clearly this heterogeneity is something to be taken advantage of because the University spends a lot of time advertising it. It’s even one of Provost Vince Price’s three key priorities, according to the website of the Office of the Provost. But what he seems to define as diversity is limited to things like the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. college requirement, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center and the East Asia House residential program. Don’t get me wrong — these are great examples of Penn’s dedication to diversity. But they ignore the most important thing of all: Penn students ourselves.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t make use of the facilities Penn offers us. What I am saying is that we should also make use of each other. The fact is, with four years of fall breaks and Thanksgiving breaks and spring breaks — not to mention summer and winter — we’re racking up weeks and weeks of time that could be spent exploring, adventuring and visiting friends at their homes instead of bumming around at our own. I know it seems like the opposite of how most people feel (especially in the middle of midterms), but it’s very likely that we will never again have so much stress-free, free time to ourselves.
Some people make use of the diversity at their fingertips throughout their time at Penn. Engineering senior Rekha Jois has spent the last two Thanksgiving breaks at friends’ houses and plans to do the same again this year. In an e-mail, she talked about how much she loved her experiences. “I got to have a traditional thanksgiving — I’d never had one before!!” she said. Jois has also hosted friends over winter and summer breaks at her house in London.
But unfortunately, many of us don’t think to do this until we’re almost done at Penn. Freshman and sophomore year, we’re homesick and want to see our parents. Junior year, we’re stressed out with midterms and stay on campus. Senior year we try for one last hurrah with friends on a cruise ship or in Jamaica. Before we know it, college is over and the chances of ever checking out Montana are a small fraction of what they were for four years ago.
Who knows? Even if there’s a blizzard and you’re snowed in, it might well be one of the best decisions you made in college.
Tanvi Gupta is a College senior from Southeast Asia. Her e-mail address is gupta@theDP.com. Cosmopoli-Tanvi appears on alternate Mondays.Comments powered by Disqus
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