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Liz Jacobs

Dear Madeleine,

I’m so proud of you. I know you were really nervous about applying to college, but I always knew it would work out and that you’d be happy anywhere, because that’s the kind of person you are. An optimist.

You have four incredible years ahead of you. You’ll have a great freshman hall and you’ll write a brilliant thesis. Maybe Obama will be your graduation speaker and maybe you’ll hear Beyonce sing the national anthem live.

In between these “big moments” are a lot of smaller moments. The day-to-day activities that shape your experience and irreversibly change you.

These little moments are unremarkable — they’re the ones that slip away on a rainy Thursday afternoon spent watching “Notting Hill” with your best friend and eating break and bakes.

These are the experiences that filled my days and cohered into four magnificent years.

The time we played soccer on High Rise Field in the rain on the Saturday of Fling sophomore year.

The time I “permanently borrowed” a chair from the Radian lobby for one of the best Secret Santa challenges ever.

When we ate floor cake.

All of the emails from Kelly Cleary and the Kelly Writers House.

A Friday afternoon in a screenprinting shop in South Philly.

When the light on Locust Walk is soft and warm, right before the sun slips behind the 38th Street Bridge. Or when it rains in the springtime and Locust is so green and alive, but also a death trap of slippery leaves.

The professors who fermented beer with their own saliva, or who participated in Japanese calisthenics, or who contracted scurvy from eating too many Twix. The one who knew Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

When we stayed up all night, with Hurricane Irene raging outside, debating cultural relativism and race relations in America.

The time my roommate slept on our couch for 21 hours.

When I hear someone complain about Philadelphia. If you’re not in love with this city, you don’t know it well enough. Go to the original Federal Donuts. Check out the murals between 48th and 60th streets on Market. Ride the Broad Street Line.

The time I was dragged to a My Chemical Romance concert in Camden. I’m so glad I didn’t spend that Saturday night doing my Spanish linguistics reading.

When we waited too long for brunch — after changing our plans 17 times — only to end up at the place we originally agreed on at the time we originally planned for.

The time we were promised free food at Han Dynasty on the Singaporean government’s tab just to be turned away and finding ourselves making s’mores at a friend’s birthday party.

When the lights went up on Locust.

This is what happened between NSO and graduation.

What made these moments special was their normalcy. These were the times when I was fully present, living Penn to its fullest in the most unassuming way possible. When I didn’t think about the future, or the past, or the digital rendering of an ancient Peruvian temple that was due on Monday. I was just there, in the moment, because where else would I want to be?

Madeleine, your four years will be filled with your own unique moments. Your college experience will be cooler, better dressed and more culturally relevant than mine ever was.

You’ll go to concerts that are way too hip for me and you’ll learn things that haven’t even been discovered yet. You won’t eat as many carbs. You’ll be a positive presence on campus and your friends will be like you — smart, funny, selfless and creative.

Through it all you will have two great parents there to support you the whole way through and to copy your sartorial and optical choices.

I may only have one “big moment” of college left, but the little ephemeral moments are not lost. I would not be who I am today without them.

To the Class of 2013: We might be graduating, but college doesn’t end on Monday at noon. Whether you’re moving to 45th and Baltimore or to the suburbs of New York or to the high rises of Hong Kong, Penn will stay with you.

You’ll stay in touch with the people you care about. You’ll remember what Bordieu said about cultural capital and you’ll mercifully wipe everything you “learned” in Math 170 from your memory. We have a responsibility to lead a life worthy of our education.

So, Madeleine, I jealously sign off on this letter. Good luck. Expect me to borrow some of your clothes, so please plan accordingly.


P.S. Thanks for catching all of those typos in my thesis that the grown-ups with Ph.D.’s missed.

Sent from my iPhone

Liz Jacobs is a College senior from Merion, Pa. and a former multimedia editor at the DP. She is moving to New York after graduation, where she plans to Instagram buildings and food. Her email address is, which is also, embarrassingly, her Instagram handle and will probably be the name of her Mongolian Throat Singing band when she’s older.

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