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Credit: Lilian Liu

College is a critical time in each and every young adult’s lifetime. 

Maybe you’ve grown up hearing your parents recount their favorite memories from attending university and meeting longtime friends, now considered family. Maybe you’re the first in your family to take on higher education, becoming an inspiration for the generations after you.

Maybe you’re a first year, like me, or a senior, a teacher, or maybe you never intend on going to college at all. 

Whoever you are, welcome. 

I wanted to start my article by welcoming you, the reader. The lessons learned at university will weave their way into you, and eventually become a part of you and your life for decades to come. The opportunities and gifts school, and specifically Penn, gives us, are unique and help shape who we are, and who we would like to become.

For me personally, my journey started March 7 of my junior year in high school, when I was told I had earned a spot on the women’s swimming and diving team at Penn. Being recruited meant I had 534 days to sit and wonder what my life at Penn would look like. Although, even with about a year and a half to plan, I was still utterly unprepared for the transition to come. The past month has truly changed my entire life, and it was far from simple. 

Contrary to how it may look, I have almost nothing figured out, but I have learned a few things that changed my perspective entirely, and maybe can change yours, too.

Everything passes.

My first two weeks at Penn may have been some of the worst of my life. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have fun, but the adjustment was far from what was described. I pictured arriving and being greeted with parties, brand new best friends, an awesome room to myself, and all the amazing things college offers. And while I did eventually get there (minus the amazing dorm, it resembles more of a shoebox than a room, but I make it work), I initially found myself in an overwhelming vat of homesickness, sickness-sickness, awkward small talk, getting lost, and dining hall food. 

I thought Penn just wasn’t for me, and my overall discomfort led me to begin to question my life and myself entirely. And the worst part was, no one knew. My mom would assure me during our daily calls that all of these feelings were in fact normal and would pass, but my mind had been decided: I needed to drop out as fast as possible. Of course, she didn’t let that happen, and I am beyond grateful for that. Sitting here today, writing to you all, I feel like I belong here, and I wouldn’t trade my position as a student at Penn for anything. 

New Student Orientation is not an accurate representation of life at Penn.

While a great time, NSO meant constant social events and interaction. On top of this, the excitement and thrill of college, along with a few other things, means little sleep, zero time for food, and constantly being on the go. 

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with NSO. I found myself overwhelmed and usually wondering why I chose to leave the comfort of my twin bed at all. The week is filled with drastic ups and downs, but just know it does end, and life at Penn looks very different on the other side, for better or for worse. 

Dress for the life you want, not the life you have.

If you have ever seen me running down Locust at approximately 10:17 a.m. trying to make it on time for my 10:15 a.m. class, you’ve probably wondered why I’m dressed for a day in the city rather than a lecture on the difference between induction and deduction. 

While “dress for success” is a depressing cliche, there actually is some science behind the mantra. There’s a strong correlation between things like focus, confidence, and higher productivity and what you’re wearing. At a place like Penn, these factors are critical, and could improve your entire day. So next time you go to wear your “class sweats” for the third day in a row, consider something a little more formal, so you can feel as good as you look.

Cherish moments to yourself.

College means being surrounded by people, constantly. We spend most of our time in a classroom, a dining hall, or participating in clubs or other activities, before retreating back to our dorms where many will encounter their roommates returning from a similar day. While there are so many benefits to being at Penn with so many incredible people, don’t forget to find moments for you and you alone. 

Even if it’s simply a walk to class, give yourself space to be mindful and focus on what you need, not what everyone else needs from you. 

Find opportunities to immerse yourself in.

Though it may be difficult, reap the benefits of being at a university as special as ours. Between classes and other obligations of being here, I encourage you to find any opportunity to do something you love, or do something entirely new. 

Whether it’s a sport, one of our many clubs, a job, a class, a group, or something entirely different, throw yourself into an activity you think could benefit you in any way. I have never written for a school paper, or for anything substantial, but I knew I wanted to. So, I decided to apply to almost every department that remotely interested me at The Daily Pennsylvanian. And now I find myself able to write this to all of you right now — to tell my story or the stories of others — and honestly, I think that’s really cool. 

So, that's all I have to offer right now. Overall, my first month at Penn has been filled with many highs and many lows, but as I reflect today, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I look forward to continuing to meet all of you, and learning more as I do. Remember, regardless of how things may appear, none of us truly know what we’re doing. The future is a realm not yet conquered by humans (but maybe one of you can change that), so keep calm and carry on, because you’re going to be OK.

ANNIE BINGLE is a College first-year student from Connecticut. Her email is