Last year, I wandered into the Penn Squash Center. This nondescript building is easy to miss and on a part of campus that many students may not find themselves by. Penn may not always hit the mark in the traditional sports arena. But when it comes to the high-stakes world of squash, they’ve apparently found their niche: investing in a stunning $15 million facility. After being allowed to borrow a racket and ball for free, I tried out a sport I had never considered before. Nowadays, I play often.
Serendipitous discoveries like squash are experiences I’ve tried to make a part of my personality because they’ve added so much to my experience at Penn. A friend and I started a radio show after accidentally discovering Penn had an internet radio station — shameless plug for "AM in the PM" on Monday nights at 10 p.m. — and I only got to hear renowned philosopher Cornel West on a visit to campus simply because I happened to sign up for the Philomathean newsletter a year earlier.
I wish, though, that I had known about these small opportunities before coming into Penn. Discovering large clubs doesn’t worry me as much because they make themselves known at the biannual club fair. First-year orientation involves plenty of talk about the well-known resources on campus (think Weingarten, CURF and CAPS). But how would I have ever found squash if I hadn’t made the game-time decision to walk into that quiet brick building? How would I have discovered the weekly sports analytics seminar with professor Abraham Wyner if a friend hadn’t pointed me in the right direction?
The beauty in these mini campus events is that they’re not competitive, and the experiences aren’t another resume builder. My amateur squash abilities aren’t particularly impressive, despite my quiet confidence that one of the coaches will see me on the court and beg me to join the team. Instead, these pursuits are something new, a way to fill the same old schedule with a splash of something fresh. Trying them doesn’t mean committing to anything at all, rather it means committing to the ideal I would hope we all subscribe to — on at least an intellectual level — that trying new things is a valuable part of college.
The clear progression of this ideal is wondering about the discoveries that others may have made but remain hidden gems to the rest of us. So I created a forum to share these opportunities, local clubs, and small experiences that don’t get the attention that they deserve. As a newcomer to the virtual bulletin board world, I wasn’t entirely sure where to start, but I eventually discovered and settled on Padlet: This board, right here, gives people the space to post a short description and maybe a link or two for context. Please use it.
The ultimate goal is that this mission can be taken up by Penn, or even The Daily Pennsylvanian. Imagine a weekly newsletter which has filtered down every event for individual students — across the myriad of Penn Today, department, and club newsletters — based on interest, whether that be medicine, hot button political discussions, or free food. Events will have better attendance, appreciation, and open access for students to take advantage of. No longer will I have to delete the flood of newsletters filling my university inbox.
Deciding exactly how to spend our limited time is a frequent topic of discussion within the pages of these opinion columns and not something I have the time nor space to properly discuss. But how about we stop just scrolling past the endless event announcements and start diving in? Grab an idea you see anywhere, run with it, and then, hey, why not post to the Padlet about something new that you found along the way? It's time to turn those ‘what-ifs’ into ‘heck yeah, I can’t believe I just did that’ moments. After an unprecedented last semester on campus and undoubtedly more drama to come in the year ahead, there’s plenty of room for us to find comfort in something new. This bulletin board is only the first step, and I look forward to building on this project in the months to come.
AKIVA BERKOWITZ is an Engineering junior studying computer science from Silver Spring, Md. His email is email@example.com.