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If there’s one thing that Penn students love, it’s the idea that they’re participating in some sort of collective existence, driven by the same motivations and hoping to achieve the same ends. Less philosophically, we can’t resist being a part of “a thing.”

It’s that tingling feeling in the pit of your stomach and the racing of your heart when you realize that, for better or for worse, everyone else is in the same boat as you.

You might have felt it two Sundays ago when Osama bin Laden was killed and your classmates put their studying on pause for an hour to watch President Barack Obama announce the end of an era. Or maybe you experienced it during On-Campus Recruiting, at Smokes, during Mardi Gras in New Orleans or when you looked up from your laptop in class and realized that everyone else was also reading Under the Button.

In reality, though, we can’t be categorized by any one activity, nor should we be. Taking a page from Penn President Amy Gutmann’s book of platitudes, what makes Penn so great is the incredible diversity of our student body, not just in terms of race or creed or major, but in the range of our passions.

What’s important to recognize is that at the same time you’re surrounded by friends, feeling like the word revolves around you, there are thousands of your peers who are probably feeling the same thing under different circumstances.

To hold any one set of collective Penn “things,” if you will, over another is the ultimate exercise in naivete. Without trying everything, there’s no way to know what’s superior. Not even a school-wide poll can determine that, if the Late Night (of Under the Button triumph) is any proof.

That said, we should cherish these fleeting feelings of universal participation. The chances that we’ll have a uniting experience like Spring Fling are slim to none, unless you find euphoria in post-work happy hours with coworkers or the realization that everyone’s as freaked out about your friends’ marriage as you are.

My greatest regret at Penn is not seeking out these moments of connection as frequently as I could have. Nevertheless, I appreciate like no other the “things” I was fortunate enough to be a part of.

I wouldn’t trade being an editor of 34th Street (and The Daily Pennsylvanian) for anything. Being “snarky” and “obnoxiously sarcastic” with other like-minded individuals has led me to explore Penn and Philadelphia in a way I never dreamed possible.

The same is true for my roommates, friends and once-strangers whom I’ve BYO’d with across Philadelphia, trading classes for culinary delights in a city that excels at food.

Similarly, my time working in the Vitale Digital Media Lab. There are few other places on campus where one can peek over the shoulders of Penn students furiously applying their intelligence to such a broad variety of issues.

Nor would I trade the late nights in studio with my architecture classmates. As uncool as it sounds, the rush (of insanity) that you get around 3 a.m. in Charles Addams Hall is unparalleled.

Finally, the one “thing” I would happily give up, at least for another year or two: the feeling of trepidation at entering the real world.

Enjoy it while it lasts, sophomores and juniors, because soon enough you won’t be collecting experiences but checks. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume that pay day doesn’t quite compare to Hey Day.

Thomas Jansen, a former Daily Pennsylvanian Web Development Editor and 34th Street Photo Editor, is a College senior from Washington, D.C. He plans to work and travel abroad before returning to Penn in the fall of 2012 for his Master of Architecture degree.

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