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Credit: Megan Jones

The Kelly Writers House isn’t a cult. As strange as it might seem to have an old house in the middle of Locust Walk, that sense of oddity fades the second you walk inside. With a full working kitchen, couches for you and your friends to lounge around on and do homework, and a staff of work-study students who are always willing to show you around, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this space? In a sea of pre-professional blazers and ties, the Kelly Writers House welcomes the weird, the artsy, and even the vegans. Last year, when I was a timid freshman, the Kelly Writers House was almost solely responsible for making me feel comfortable at Penn. It has afforded me opportunities I never thought attainable — like meeting the massively influential poet, Bernadette Mayer, and photographing art gallery openings. Penn is inundated with pressure. Pressure to get a summer internship at an esteemed bank, pressure to have a 4.0 GPA, pressure to succeed. But it’s also important to breathe. 

As a work-study student myself who can spend upwards of 20 hours a week at the Kelly Writers House, I am very acclimated to seeing the same faces funnel in and out of the building. While we love our regulars, we also want everyone to know that this place doesn’t discriminate. Whether an economics major, a friend of a Penn student, a traveling poet, or a visiting family member, please feel free to stop by and pour yourself a cup of coffee, of which we always have brewed.

The atmosphere and creativity permanently instilled in its events and employees isn’t the same vibe as one’s own home, but it is something, and sometimes it helps to just get a warm cup of coffee and a few minutes of peace. What’s more, it’s a space open to students of all years and all schools. A place that doesn’t necessitate asking what school or year you’re in, but simply lets you be. All colleges need more spaces like that. As people grow into their own and become the people they want to be, it’s important that safe spaces such as the Kelly Writers House exist. People need the space to grow, without knocking their backs on unreasonable and unnecessarily professional expectations. 

As stress continues to pile up, I know there’s a place on campus that fosters creativity and divergent agendas from the pre-professional rat races that leave many students wanting to quit the maze altogether. Sitting in the kitchen and chatting with other work-study students, or doing my Spanish homework on the beanbag chair upstairs is one way to indulge in the niceties that a true home affords you — a luxury that many students forsake when living in dorms created to function, not foster. 

The Kelly Writers House isn’t an exclusive club, but an open space for anyone who needs it. Beyond traditional therapy, there are alternative ways of alleviating stress and anxiety. Spaces on campus like the Kelly Writers House perform such actions. It has different walls from when it was originally built in 1851, but the same heart.

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu. 

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