One of the only videos in my otherwise sparse camera roll is one that I took of myself on May 15, 2020: a reaction video of me opening Penn’s transfer application decision letter.
Still sweaty from a late night workout, I opened up my laptop and set up the screen recording app, then navigated to Penn’s decision portal. I found the link to my decision letter, clicked on it, and then without much thought, zealously started scanning the page for a “we regret to inform you…” sentence — so zealously, in fact, that I completely missed the “congratulations” written in bold and all of the colorful confetti raining on my screen.
I didn’t actually think I’d get into Penn and consequently hadn’t given much thought as to whether I was ready to go there. Committing to Penn meant leaving Dallas, my lifelong hometown, and hoping to find home at an unfamiliarly fancy east coast school.
But nevertheless, I took the leap of faith and submitted my enrollment deposit two weeks after.
Anxiety dissipated quickly following my arrival to Penn’s campus later that summer and gave way to newfound excitement instead. I quickly bonded with my fellow incoming transfer students, and despite the raging pandemic, I found a warm and welcoming community of similar yet interesting individuals.
The experience motivated me to join TSO’s (Transfer Student Organization) executive board the following year, where I and my fellow board members helped lead transfer students’ New Student Orientation when Penn returned to in-person instruction in Fall 2021.
As in-person school began once again, I sought more ways to engage with Penn’s campus.
I joined Penn’s student government as an elected member of the Undergraduate Assembly, where I utilized my dual position as TSO co-president to improve different aspects of the transfer student experience. I started writing opinion columns for the Daily Pennsylvanian, eventually becoming the editor of the Opinion section, where I helped play a role in amplifying the voices of community members on campus. I started volunteering as an ESL tutor to overseas refugees as a member of Penn for Refugee Empowerment and eventually became the director of its ESL tutoring branch, where I helped recruit and train other Penn students to support our cause.
Through all of these and other extracurriculars, my college experience grew more and more enriched. I felt fulfilled that I was not only able to take advantage of Penn’s unparalleled resources, but also that I was able to give back to my communities in some capacity while I was at it. Altogether, these experiences helped define my career as a Penn student, and made that title all the more meaningful.
Sitting now in my apartment in New York, writing this column as the date of my graduation approaches, I can’t help but feel a slight twinge of grief that my college career is coming to an end. But also, grief only arises from the loss of something great, and my time at Penn has been nothing short of that.
I’m thankful for the many amazing friends, memories, discoveries, and achievements I’ve made over the past three years here.
I’m thankful to have had the privilege of sharing a classroom with so many passionate and brilliant professors. Every course I took at college began with a hope to satiate some niche curiosity, and every semester I found that tall hope not only be achieved but often superseded. Thank you especially to professor Neetha Devdas for teaching me to always believe in myself, to professor Nili Gold for showing me the necessity of having empathy towards all, to professor David Christianson for setting an example of compassion in his classroom, and to professor Deven Patel for always being an open book of wisdom to his students.
I’m thankful to have met so many interesting, diverse, and ambitious students: a sophomore from Hong Kong dedicated to raise awareness of international human rights abuses; a junior completing three majors and a masters in just four years, all while also researching cutting-edge pancreatic cancer treatments; a senior who co-founded a local community clinic dedicated to addressing healthcare inequities affecting Philadelphia’s homeless population — just to name a few cool classmates in my class on the neuronal circuits of survival.
I’m thankful for Penn’s administration. It’s uniquely fulfilling to be part of a community whose leaders care deeply about our success and wellbeing. From providing us with ample resources to carry out hundreds of student groups’ programs across campus to putting together public events featuring world-leading scholars, Penn’s administration constantly ensured us a plethora of eventful opportunities to intellectually engage with on campus.
Looking back on it all now, the last three years went by faster than I could have imagined. Although I’m certainly going to miss my college days, I’m also excited to embark on the post-graduation journey and explore all that the future holds. Until then:
Thank you, Penn, for an incredible three years.
ASAAD MANZAR is a College senior studying neuroscience from Dallas. He previously served as The Daily Pennylvanian’s opinion editor on the 138th Board of Editors and Managers. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.