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Credit: Catherine Liang

I’m not the biggest partier. Growing up, I never went to any school dances, and only after my friends relentlessly pestered me, I agreed to go to senior year prom. I didn’t have anything against parties; I was simply uninterested. However, my interest began to grow after I committed to Penn, widely known as the “Social Ivy” and one of the best party schools in the country. I started telling my friends, “Catch me at the parties,” genuinely thinking that I’d soon be sending them Snapchats of me in dark basements holding red Solo cups. 

New Student Orientation rolled around and freshmen hopped from frat house to frat house, partying until sunrise. However, I had quite an unconventional NSO experience. My parents were with me for almost the entirety of the week, and knowing that the next time I’d see them wouldn’t be for another three months, I dedicated almost all my time to be with them. By the end of the week, I was feeling intense FOMO, the fear of missing out, and I made it a top priority to go to at least one frat party before classes started.

Then, I started hearing from my friends that their party experiences had been far from positive. They bemoaned how the parties they went to were held in hot, humid basements, where everyone got pushed up against each other with their bodily fluids grossly coalescing. Floors were sticky and ceilings leaked. They were pressured into drinking alcohol, taking shots after beer pong or whatnot. Parties getting “busted” by the police, while jarring at first, was par for the course.

I started to question myself: Why was I so interested in going to a party? After all, I am disinterested in drinking, disgusted by humid basements and sticky floors, and distressed by crowded, loud spaces. It doesn’t help that I just happen to be the worst dancer ever. One specific memory of my terrible dancing is forever etched in my memory. During the Toga Party, an NSO event, my friends and I had struggled our way into a room crowded with people and reverberating with loud music. After a minute or two of awkward swaying to music I had never listened to before, all I could think was, “When can I leave? Please get me out of here.” 

I ended up not going to any frat parties during NSO, and I still have yet to try one. When people at Penn and friends from home ask how I like college parties, and I tell them I haven’t gone to any, they are in utter shock. “You’re in college! How’s that possible? How do you spend your Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights?” These remarks made me wonder whether there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be able to have a good time mingling with my classmates outside the confines of a lecture hall. I wanted to be able to post pictures of me at parties on social media. I wanted to be cool like everyone else who partied.

Credit: Carson Kahoe

However, I’ve come to the opinion that partying is no indicator of how “cool” a person is. Popular culture has glorified the “Animal House” college party scene, establishing it as an essential element of the college experience. Especially at a school like Penn with such a strong party scene, it’s easy for people to think that their weekends should feature at least one excursion to Greek row. I understand why some students might like the idea of loosening up after a long week of work by getting ready with friends and going to a lively party. 

My idea of loosening up is just different. It might involve going to a special movie screening, getting comfort food with a couple close friends, laughing over the silliest Youtube videos, or chatting the night away. It might even just be spending the night alone, cozied up in bed and binging a feel-good TV show. 

The key to a night well-spent, in my experience, is quality. That is, spending quality time with quality people. At parties, quality is difficult to work with, and quantity is revered. The loudness of music drowns any conversation one might try to have. Maybe the next day, a party-goer can walk down Locust Walk and be able to say “hi” to five new people. But simply introducing oneself and dancing with other people for a couple minutes at a party doesn’t encompass the process of creating a genuine connection. Though parties might be hot spots for mass socializing, don’t expect them to be sites for cultivating sincere friendships.

Not partying doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to have a good time or that I waste my nights cooped up in my room. It shouldn’t label me as a “Debbie Downer” or a “goody-two-shoes.” I just don’t see the appeal. I would much rather sit down with a friend, one-on-one, and discuss interesting and important matters rather than be in an environment of superficiality where my voice can’t even be heard. 

I’m not responsible for partying just because I’m in the so-called best party school of the Ivy League. With each day, I feel less and less susceptible to FOMO because the fact is, I don’t think I’m missing out on anything. I’m building strong relationships that go beyond the walls of a frat house. 

CHRISTY QIU is a College freshman from Arcadia, Calif. studying architecture. Her email address is christyq@sas.upenn.edu.

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