Before arriving at Penn, I selected Gregory College House, Van Pelt Manor as my second choice. I Googled pictures of Gregory and thought it was nice, so I looked forward to living there.
I did not expect that I would start to find fault with Gregory just two days after moving in. Gregory’s isolated location gave me a hard time. I had to walk 15 minutes to eat with friends at Hill House or Lauder, or to go to CIS recitation. I was not very surprised to learn that an upperclassman took an Uber to his classes at the David Rittenhouse Laboratory when he lived in Gregory.
Inside the building, Gregory looks old despite renovations. The dumbwaiter works just as I had seen in movies from the 1960s. The wall tiles remind me of jail, and the many dysfunctional facilities just add to how ancient it feels. My suitemates and I spent our first week fixing the toilet, window, bed, and air conditioner.
Nobody I knew chose Gregory as their first choice, and some people put it as low as their sixth or seventh choice. Yet many students have already started to enjoy living in Gregory, so I tried to be positive about it. In messages to family members, I emphasized the large space of my room and the tight-knit Gregory community. When friends ask me how it feels to live in Gregory, I usually say it’s nice and cozy.
But, I still can not peacefully accept Gregory.
I observed people’s reactions when I say I live in Gregory. Some upperclassmen who lived in Gregory and disliked it, empathized with my frustrations on Gregory’s location and ancientness. Most people were unfamiliar with Gregory and were curious about the living experience.
Going to meetings at The Daily Pennsylvanian last month was probably the first time I was envied for living in Gregory, which is a five-minute walk from the office. I talked to schoolmates from Lauder and Hill, who were surprised that they missed out on so much that was happening on the west side of campus. Shopping at ACME, I realized how close Gregory is to the many retail stores and great restaurants on Penn’s campus. I also began to appreciate its proximity to Amazon@Penn and Quaker Kitchen.
Once I found one upside, I quickly started to find more. Soon, I saw unexpected benefits of living in Gregory itself. Gregory offers a variety of residence programs. We can drop into the movie lounge on movie nights and participate in language house activities. I enjoy Gregory’s suite-style design, which gives me a safe, personal space. On rainy or gloomy days, I feel cozy staying in my room, reading, listening to podcasts, or doing whatever I like.
During these times, I felt connected to Gregory.
Having lived in Gregory for more than a month now, I can finally call it home. I love its brightly lit corridors, the sparkling clean kitchen, the relaxing parties on the first floor, and the serene surrounding area. I have also come to accept Gregory’s removed location, which helps me walk faster and farther, keeping me healthy. Most of all, I appreciate its tight-knit first-year community, which thankfully is neither too quiet nor too loud. At this point, I feel like rooting for Gregory.
I bet most of us do not live in our first-choice college house, and it may be disappointing that we need to spend eight more months here. However, no first-year College House is perfect. The problems we experience may well exist in other college houses: It’s just that we, “fortunately,” happen not to know. We better our lives by discovering the upsides of our College House. What truly matters is how we think of our College House, not its reputation of being the most isolated, the most noisy, or the most unclean College House.
We create positivity through appreciation. So the next time that you visit a friend’s dorm, remember to mention something you really like about it!
FRANKLIN LI is a College first year from Beijing, China. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.