So it’s almost over. To be frank, I never fully realized the immediacy and gravity of graduating until around two weeks before finals. In typical Penn fashion, I was swamped with urgent deadlines, group projects and incomplete papers, but still had taken the time to go out for a final BYO with staff from the DP. For some absurd reason (and one which I am admittedly now thankful for), we decided to walk back from our restaurant on 2nd Street, all the way back to campus. In freezing weather. At midnight.
As we huddled past the bridge across the Schuylkill River, warmed only by the alcohol swirling in our veins, I paused and loitered behind the group. The chatter of my friends faded slowly away and I stood, silently, in the middle of the Walnut Street bridge. In front of me, the immense FMC tower, with its gleaming glass panes and flashing LEDs, shone vividly on the glistening Schuylkill. The apartments on the other side of the river seemed dull in comparison, but several windows still emanated a muted glow, no doubt some couple watching "The Late Show," or a teenager studying through another late night. Cars rushed across the Schuylkill Expressway despite the ungodly hour, weaving through the perennial construction equipment that dot the roadway.
There was something strange about the setting. What was it, that feeling creeping into my consciousness? Was it regret? No … I certainly felt nostalgia, but I believed myself to be at peace with where I was, and with the incredible journey that had brought me up to that moment. No … it was a feeling that I could not describe.
As I would later learn, there is a Portuguese term — saudade — that perfectly encapsulates such a feeling. It is one that carries many definitions: it’s a melancholy, a nostalgia, a longing for something that has happened; yet it is also an assurance, a "knowing" that it will never happen again. Perhaps Portuguese writer Manuel de Melo described it best: "a pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy." Saudade. There’s no other word that would more succinctly describe the feeling at the end of my Penn career.
Despite all my cynicism, despite all the jaded comments that I’ve made to underclassmen, I’m going to miss Penn. I think it’s taken a full four years for me to understand that, a full four years of denial, but I will miss Penn. Not just the friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met, but the institution itself, the faculty, the memories and the experiences, the failures and the joys, the disappointments and the successes. The work, the challenges, the anxiety, the deadlines, the all-nighters. The grind in Huntsman. The sunrise from a rooftop lounge. The feeling of dread in the morning of an exam after a night of drunken antics.
I will miss the stench of compost, the only event at Penn that marks the true advent of spring. I will miss being harassed by friends to book GSRs, and having to give excuses on why I “forgot” about their Facebook message. I will miss the snow days, where I’ve cautiously stepped onto seemingly frozen puddles on the corners of Spruce Street, only to discover the thin ice was secretly hiding a water-filled pothole. I will miss Penn, in its entirety.
And for that, I am incredibly thankful. Never could I have dreamt of a better, more fulfilling college career. Coming in as a freshman from over 8,000 miles away, without family and without friends in an unfamiliar country, I had braced for the worst. Of course, my fears were mostly unfounded. My new friends celebrated each and every achievement, while also supporting me through the darkest hours. Thank you especially to the wonderful people at the DP, who adopted me without question into my second family. True, Penn is not without its flaws, its stresses and its failings, but I’ve come out of college stronger, ready to tackle my next chapter of life, despite the saudade. Penn, with its warts and all, has left an indelible print on my life journey, one that I will not quickly forget.
For a brief second on the bridge, I looked back. It wasn’t perfect, but damn, was it a hell of a ride. What an amazing, beautiful, long four years it’s been at Penn. Thank you so much to all that have made it incredible.
LUCIEN WANG is a Wharton senior from Hong Kong, studying finance and statistics. He served as the print director of the 133rd board. Previously, he was the copy editor of the 132nd board.
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