I’ll admit it: Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, has traditionally been more about how many pumpkin pies I can consume than reflecting on what I’m thankful for. But as a freshman who wants to get as much out of a Penn education as possible, I believe some self-reflection is probably healthy. So, I’m going to try something new this year and contemplate what I am and am not thankful for at Penn thus far.
First off, I’m very thankful to be here, at Penn, sitting in my cozy Quad dorm room, writing for all of you. I think back to how I felt last year at around this time — stressed out of my mind writing application essays and counting down the days until mid-December — and where I am now, and it honestly seems like another life. With all the stresses we endure at Penn, it’s so easy to forget just how lucky we are to be here. Thanks, Dean Furda!
I am not thankful for the Penn dining plan. The conversion rate from swipes to dining dollars is absurd, and considering that all freshmen are required to be on the dining plan, it’s ludicrous that Penn would feel the need to effectively take money away from students. For students on the meal plan with the most dining dollars, each swipe is worth around $16.48, so it’s about a 70 percent loss to convert swipes into dining dollars at $4.87 per swipe. Not to mention that the price of the food itself for the quality we are getting (or lack thereof) seems high.
I am thankful for the residential programs Penn offers. These programs automatically give students a community when they come to Penn, easing the transition between high school and college life and connecting students with like-minded peers. As a member of the Integrated Studies Program, I’ve really benefited academically and socially from living with same students who share half of my courses; friends in other residential programs that don’t have a strictly academic component also love it. If you’re a prospective student reading this, consider looking into these residential programs, as many other schools don’t offer these truly unique freshman experiences.
I am not thankful for the cap on courses in the College of Arts and Sciences. Freshmen in the College and the School of Nursing are limited to 4.5 course units in their first semester, whereas freshmen in the Wharton School and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are limited to 5.5. It’s laudable that College academic advisors want to ease the transition into Penn by limiting the amount of courses we can take, but many students enter the College with plans to pursue rigorous interdisciplinary majors, double majors, and dual degrees. And most students want to take as many courses as possible to discover their interests, particularly in their first year. If taking five courses during freshman fall will potentially cut the course load of future semesters — and if we all pay the same tuition — it seems difficult to justify why College and Nursing students shouldn’t at least have the option to take similar course loads as their Wharton and Engineering peers.
I am thankful for how accessible Penn’s resources are to its students. Coming into Penn, I knew that Penn’s resources were vast, but I was concerned as to whether or not these resources would be out of reach for a College freshman. In my limited experience, I have been utterly impressed by how easy it is to find out about certain events, grants, and fellowships, and how easy it is to reach out to speakers, professors, and more. While some opportunities are, by nature, exclusive, that I can even put something like the President’s Engagement Prizes on my radar as a freshman and have a network of people who can help me along the way to my goals is incredible.
Finally, I am not thankful for the standard of living in the Quad. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful that I live in the Quad and the outside aesthetic is stunning. Indoors, on the other hand, is a whole other story. There’s mold in the showers, in the bathrooms, and in the walls. I have heard of countless cockroach and silverfish invasions, and as an arachnophobe, I despise the many spiders I have seen crawling about my room and the halls. Perhaps before spending $163 million on a new residential building, the administration could invest in making the Quad a less gross place to live.
For sure, Penn has its faults. But with Thanksgiving just around the corner, we can all take a step back and reflect on what an amazing school Penn is, even if there’s room for improvement every now and then.
JACQUELYN SUSSMAN is a College freshman from Westport, Conn. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. "The Objectivist" usually appears every other Wednesday.
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