Credit: File Photo

For many LGBTQ freshmen, arriving at Penn is a chance to find a community that might not exist at home. For others, it can be a chance to open up about their sexual and gender identities, maybe even for the first time.

“I went to high school in Atlanta, Ga.,” Engineering freshman Seth Rogers said. “Because of that, the culture is far less progressive than it is in the Northeast.”

Last week, Rogers attended "The Annual Affair," a yearly event hosted by the Queer Student Alliance, where freshmen are invited to mingle with various LGBTQ student group leaders. It's the first of many events that QSA organizes to facilitate new students' transition to life at Penn. 

Rogers said he was happy to see students at the event that he had already met. "It opened up new networks for me to communicate with people and get to know them better," he said. 

Rogers also said there is a difference in the maturity levels between high school students and college students. While talking to upperclassmen at the event, Rogers noted the confidence they had in their  identities, whereas in high school, students were still "trying to figure themselves out.”

QSA Chair and Wharton junior Rio Dennis said the organization actively works to ensure new students feel welcome at Penn through events like The Annual Affair, which was publicized through the University of Pennsylvania Class of 2021 Facebook group as well as through a QSA Facebook event page. To keep students' identities confidential, the guest list on the Facebook event was kept private. 

"The reason why we have this event at the beginning of the year is to immediately provide that safe space to students," Dennis said, "especially for freshmen who are looking for their space when they get to university."

Though the event is meant to connect LGBTQ freshmen, many students arrived with friends in the LGBTQ community they had already met on campus. 

“It’s really hard not to meet queer folk at Penn,” said College and Engineering freshman Angela, who did not want to include her last name because she has not come out to her family. 

For many students, the highlight of the night was The Affair’s unofficial after-party, which took place at Pi Lambda Phi and was unaffiliated with QSA. 

“It was nice seeing everyone integrating into that different culture,” Angela said. “I definitely see that in some frat parties they have a more straight vibe.”

College freshman Ricky Ayala called the after-party a highlight of his experience so far at Penn, second only to Convocation. 

“It was just very open," Ayala said. "People could just freely talk to whoever they wanted to, dance on whoever or dance to whatever song however they wanted to. I thought it was very free and expressive, and I thought that was really cool.”

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