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We flung.

Freshman Fling was hyped up to me as a time to enjoy myself — a time to relax and feel connected with everyone else. A time for “so college” backyard parties and Quad performances, fried Oreos and, this year, way too much glitter. It meant “waking up and rallying.” And, for a lot of us, it meant sunburns and unfortunate tanlines.

My friends and I blundered around campus, from one end to the other and then back again, dancing and talking and enjoying the sun. We weren’t on our phones. We weren’t stressed about work or meetings or our five-year plans. We were just there, in the moment. At peace.

For once, we were united. The campus pulsed with a singular goal, a common energy; we all knew what everyone else was doing. That’s the beauty of Fling. More than attempts to live up to “I’m Schmacked” videos, we understood we were united by the same spectrum of experiences. Fling is a phenomenon we all go through together. It’s hard to join 10,000 undergraduates together, but Fling allows us to unify and feel like we’re a part of something. We acted as a force, a team. I might be over sentimentalizing (hey, isn’t that what freshman year is for?), but I believe Fling is important for us to celebrate just being here.

Over the past few days, I’ve tried to explain Fling to my friends back home. “It’s a carnival,” I tried to tell them. “It’s a few days to just relax.” In our “work hard, play hard” environment, Fling means the chance to take a break from Penn, but also to epitomize our dear University. We wear Fling tanks to demonstrate our love for the different groups we’re passionate about. We watch performing arts groups in the Quad and cheer on Penn’s diversity and talent. We adventure with our friends, repeat ing again and again that “so much of learning in college occurs outside the classroom.” I spent much of Fling trailing down Locust Walk in the miraculously clear weather and attempting to take everything in. Penn on a regular day is overwhelming; Penn during Fling, insanely so.

Fling didn’t comply with my image of it. I didn’t spend as much time in the Quad as I thought; there were a few friends whom I thought I would roam around with all day that I just didn’t see. I’ve known about Fling since before I applied to Penn and built up these preconceived notions. I’d spend hours in a bouncy castle — I didn’t even step into one. I’d eat pounds of cotton candy — at most, I had three bites. After rehashing our weekends over the past week, my friends and I have realized we all projected different expectations onto Fling, a microcosm of our August naivety towards college itself.

A close friend of mine and I spent the days leading up to Fling referring to it as our “last first” — the last recurring Penn tradition we freshmen would partake in before becoming slightly washed-up, jaded sophomores. We’ll have more events to look forward to — I am stoked for Hey Day — but Fling was the last major Penn event we brave as freshmen. So we built it up. We checked it off. We packed Van Pelt Library. That sequence of events seems to summarize much of this past year at Penn.

The Fling-to-finals dichotomy demonstrates what I consider to be Penn’s defining characteristic: its intensity. This past fall, we were ranked the third most intense school in the country by Business Insider. We don’t accept moderation; we snap between extremes. We swap stories with our friends in the middle of day-long study sessions. And at the end of the day, we pack up our bags, walk past the stream of campus tours and realize — or maybe just re-remember — how lucky we are to be here at all.

DANI BLUM is a College freshman from Ridgefield, Conn. Her email address is “The Danalyst” appears every Thursday.

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