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Credit: Sabrina Tian

It’s odd how my sense of time seems to be warped at Penn. In the moment, minutes seem to drag out for hours. Days pass by at the speed of a three-toed sloth. Yet, when I look back, I begin to ask myself, “Where has the time gone?”

At Penn, students are often caught up in the moment — stressing over our next big assignment, worrying about an extracurricular commitment, or overthinking social interactions. We don’t allot time for ourselves to slow down and reap the benefits of self-reflection.

I recently finished my second round of midterms along with a huge paper, and I could no longer use my excuse of not having enough time. I began to carry out my approach to self-reflection that I had been planning to do since the beginning of the semester: building a time capsule. 

Into a shoebox went my sketchbook from an art history course, a physical copy of my first column, ticket stubs from multiple movie nights, my first midterm, my 2018 planner, a random Penn-branded fidget spinner, and other trinkets I’ve collected over the year. I then wrote a letter to my senior-year self, delineating my current state and where I believe I’ll be in three years. In this shoebox containing notes of my hopes and worries, fragments of my first year at Penn lie preserved and indestructible. As each item spurred a walk down memory lane, I was forced to reflect and appreciate the passage of time — acts that Penn students should incorporate into their busy schedules.

My sketchbook reminded me of my exciting adventures to Philadelphia’s historic landmarks, but also countless sleepless nights due to procrastination. My first midterm and its score brought back emotions of frustration towards the grader. In reality, I should have studied more instead of only cramming a few days before the exam. It’s easy to place blame on others for our own mishappenings. When we self-reflect, we grasp onto the courage to realize that what happens to us is a consequence of our own actions, and we have a choice to accept responsibility and grow from them.

Building my time capsule gave me a sense of awareness about the direction my life is taking and the direction I hope it will take. The process of reflecting was valuable in that it was a cognizant deliberation and analysis of my mentality and actions. It helped me break out of habit and identity my faults, my ways of responding to situations, and the methods I can take to improve my lifestyle. It also helped raise self-acceptance as I pinpointed victories that I’ve achieved through hard work and compassion.

When it seems like buzzing forward is the only option, self-reflection allows us to breathe amidst the turbulence of being a Penn student. We can then unravel and process our thoughts and experiences and make sense of the enigmas that lie within us. When acting upon this newfound comprehension and reconciling the past, present, and future, we can buzz forward with more purpose, efficience, and self-awareness. Especially as undergraduates, self-reflection is benefitial for us to gain a more established sense of identity that will prepare us for our years beyond college. The knowledge of who we are and how we want to impact society is just as important and useful for our future careers as the concepts and skills we learn in class. 

That sunny day in late August when I excitedly began my life at Penn is ingrained in my memory, although I feel like I’ve evolved into a different person. We’ve all experienced some sort of development while at Penn, and it’s particularly rewarding to look back on our growth. And, even if you didn’t experience self-reflection while constructing the time capsule, you’ll inevitably experience it, years later, when you open the capsule.

Experiencing Penn only with a fast-paced mindset is living in oblivion — a state in which it’s difficult to recognize the miniscule triumphs that enliven us and the the small blunders that can pile up and result in burnout. It can also cause a disconnect between long-term and short-term goals and feelings of insufficiency as we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the accomplishments we’ve achieved along the way. Spare an hour or two before the school year ends to build your own time capsule. I hope you’ll be transported to a state of positive self-reflection, just as I was. 

CHRISTY QIU is a College freshman from Arcadia, Calif. Her email address is