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Credit: Ava Cruz

I miss places so much. While I count away the hours trapped in my room, I can’t help but think about everywhere I wish I could visit again, just once more before I graduate. Except my senior year was cut short, and all those perfect places I had come to love were out of reach before I had a chance to say goodbye.

Penn was not always perfect for me. My first year, I didn’t know anyone, and the people I met were not my people. They were cold, career-driven, exclusive, and pompous. A friend from high school who had transferred out of Penn had warned me it would happen like this, that I would be better off staying in Arizona rather than try to fit in amongst the fierce competition of Penn. I began to think he was right, but I held my resolve anyway. 

I won’t pretend it was easy. Sometimes that meant distancing myself from hurtful people, which was scary, and sometimes it meant putting myself out there to meet kinder people, which was scarier. It also meant doing what I wanted to do, instead of what I thought I should be doing. I changed majors, took the classes that looked fun, joined every club I wanted to, then dropped them as soon as they proved disappointing. I had to change my definition of success. 

By following every stray instinct, I discovered where I was happiest. Another lie that Penn pushes on students is that you can’t change the track you’re on. But when I realized I had stagnated, I began to rethink what I wanted. I changed course many times, unafraid to throw away progress and begin anew. That’s how I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. 

I found WXPN, the hub of arts and conversation just on the edge of campus that has given me three years of great music, unforgettable memories, and excellent people who love their work and show it every single day. No experience has been more formative for me in all my life. I am forever grateful to the wonderful people who work under that roof, and who give the gift of music to our community even now, from their homes.

I found the brothers of Alpha Phi Omega, the frat that isn’t a frat. We never had a place for us on campus ⁠— we made our home in Huntsman classrooms, study lounges, dorm rooms, and off-campus houses where a bunch of us would “coincidentally” gather. The kindest, most open-hearted people, they support each other, give back to Philadelphia, and inspire me to be a better person. 

And I found 34th Street Magazine and The Daily Pennsylvanian, the most dedicated and hardest-working students on campus. They do it for you, dear reader, to bring you news you need, start the big conversations, and ask the important questions, like which is better ⁠— Hinge, Bumble, or Tinder? Many alumni go on to do great things, but they will always have begun at Street. 

Penn is still not perfect, but it’s filled with perfect places. And to paraphrase “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Penn is not a place, it’s a people.” As we all gather in our homes, thinking of our perfect places, remind yourself that they are still there, and we will return to them soon enough. But the people who make up these perfect places, they are a phone call away. 

SAM YELLOWHORSE KESLER is a College Senior who served as a 34th Street Editor on the 135th Board of the Daily Pennsylvanian. Previously, he was a Film & TV Writer for 34th street and an Audience Engagement Deputy for the Daily Pennsylvanian.  

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