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Dan nessenson

I think I said no to engineering somewhere around my third midterm.

I quickly realized that, unlike in high school, this was going to be a tough competition for grades.

I found solace (and an ego boost) in The Daily Pennsylvanian’s copy department. I loved it. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, I am the world’s only engineer-slash-grammar-Nazi.) I also had those things called “electives” that many an engineer are wont to forget. I took Psychology 001. I loved it too. I delved into media and psychology to try and forget what I had gotten myself into.

So I turned my back on engineering (but only in a metaphorical way — I was too afraid of having to take Spanish again to transfer to the College). Eventually, I turned my minor into a major and myself into a psychologist and writer — and chemical engineer.

The summer before senior year, I landed an internship at DIY Network. In Knoxville, Tenn. Where I didn’t know a single soul.

My mother made sure I took with me a bathing suit (“There’s a pool at the apartment — you’ll make lots of new friends if you just go swimming!”).

So I drove 10 hours with my loaded car down south, bathing suit in hand, a modern carpetbagger.

I soon realized that I could not spend all my free time watching Netflix (that’s for school). So I pleaded for help. I emailed the listserv of interns, all working in other departments, telling them of my plight as a Yankee in a foreign city. Let me note here that I am the “leader” of the introverts — leader in quotations because introverts don’t band together like that.

Luckily for me, the gods heard my cry and sent a singular response. She gave me her number and told me to stalk her on Facebook and to call her if I ever got bored (“But maybe after we get paid as I’m poor.”) Being only the first week of work, I wasn’t desperate enough.

A couple weeks (joyrides, movies, Sonic happy hours) by my lonesome later, I received a text from that same girl to meet up with her and her friends (I suppose we had been paid at that point). I summed up the courage — read: was entirely desperate at that point — to go meet these new people, and the rest is history.

I had to hit rock bottom in order to see it. I hadn’t been accepting of my situation before then to understand that all I needed to do was say yes.

Saying yes that summer brought me new opportunities and experiences. I made new friends, I stayed out until 3 a.m. (if you couldn’t tell before, I’ve lived a sheltered life), I explored Knoxvillian nightlife and culture. I even went, begrudgingly, to a drag show. I don’t know why two queens insisted on sitting on my lap while performing, but it was definitely a unique experience. Saying yes meant being all in and being open to those new experiences.

Armed with my newfound outlook, I came back to Penn ready to tackle senior year. I said yes to that seven I got on a test. I said yes to my dreaded senior design project. Yes to my canoe that capsized on the department excursion (RIP phone, keys, glasses, wallet). I finally said yes to engineering.

And you know what? I enjoyed it. I looked past the competition and remembered that I am a problem solver — an engineer — at heart.

And so I find myself saying yes to the fact that I don’t have a job lined up just yet, to the fact that the future is open and to the fact that I am graduating from Penn. I hope all my friends and classmates can do the same.

To my parents, brothers and the rest of my family. To Shenali. To Mitchell, Nick, Franklin, Shaan. To Alyssa and Rachel. To Dana. To the 127, the 128, the DP. To Jessica, Suzanna, Sarah. To the Nipple. To CBE, engineering, 2013. To my mentors. Thank you for your support throughout these four years.

Dan Nessenson is an Engineering senior from Berkeley Heights, N.J. He is a former copy editor and video producer for the DP. He’ll be saying yes to the first job offer that comes his way. His email address is

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