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Credit: Sydney Curran

When I say that I’m a double major and double minor, it sounds like a carefully planned achievement. But what truly brings me joy is not the accomplishment that’ll go on my transcript. It’s what I explain after listing my areas of study: that they came about because I went where curiosity led me.

Starting college during the COVID-19 pandemic, the most concrete part of my experience was the academics. During those first two semesters, half of my classes were made up of the Integrated Studies Program, a requirement for Benjamin Franklin Scholars in the College of Arts and Sciences. What this really meant was that in the fall, we dissected Homer’s “Iliad” in classical studies while reading Erasmus in history. The next semester, we learned about behavior in positive psychology while attempting Jain vegetarianism as part of religious studies. More than specific topics, however, what BFS really taught me is that when it comes to separate disciplines, overlap — integration — matters more than difference.

From there, the rest is history. My time in BFS cemented my decision to major in both Hispanic studies and political science. Post-ISP, I was required to take three BFS seminars. After my first, on Shakespeare, I fell in love with English and decided to complete the minor. And when I stumbled upon global medieval studies at the end of my junior year, I quickly added that minor, too.

None of these important academic choices were particularly strategic. I didn’t take on any of my majors and minors because I thought they’d look great on my transcript or help me professionally, but they’ve taught me so much. They represent what college is really about: exploration. Throughout my Penn experience, my main goal has been to learn but never to force myself to be interested in areas I didn’t feel genuinely curious about — at least, not beyond giving them the “old college try.” 

To any and all undergraduates reading, please delve into the interests you didn’t have the opportunity to pursue in high school — and even if you’re an upperclassman, the ones that you feel are being sparked now. Allow curiosity, not just perceived usefulness or resume bling, to dictate how you spend your time. Let it lead you both within and beyond the classroom. Spend six-plus hours per week in Charles Addams Fine Arts Hall for a drawing class. Visit Van Pelt Library and borrow more books, across genres, than you can hope to finish in an academic year. Attend talks, performances, concerts, and movies both on and off campus. Walk around inside of museums and outside in Philadelphia. And apply to work for the student newspaper — especially if, like I did, you have no prior experience.

As anyone who works for The Daily Pennsylvanian knows, curiosity is central to journalism. As a writer for 34th Street this year, it inspired me to cover an array of topics, from niche musical genres to public libraries. For the copy department, curiosity is uniquely crucial. In the Red Room — copy’s headquarters — curiosity is expanded and focused on every single detail. A copy editor’s job isn’t just about fixing grammar, spelling, and style; it’s also about fact-checking every statement an article makes. Often, it means dozens of open tabs, and a seven-year-old laptop’s fans running louder than a jet engine (fact-checked, yes, this might be an exaggeration).

Copy-editing can be exhausting. But more often, it’s exhilarating. Nowhere else can I say that I’ve worked on a basketball recap one minute and breaking news the next. I’ve learned so much about campus happenings and culture thanks to copy. And it’s also fundamentally important to publications like the DP. Professionalism, integrity, and the trust of readers rely as much on those behind the scenes as those listed in bylines. In a world where it’s easier than ever to encounter misinformation, copy-editing is a service to truth-telling that’s more essential than ever. And I’m so proud to have been a part of it.

To those reading, stay informed. The fact that you’re reading the DP is a great sign. Thank you for supporting student journalism. But don’t allow yourself to be limited in your sources. Never be satisfied with a headline or with a single article. Click on the links your news outlets cite and venture beyond them. Fact-check where you’re doubtful, and even where you’re not. Read across the political spectrum. Question your own assumptions, and those any writer or editor might make — for all our hard work, journalists are still human.

As I wrap up, I’m reminded of the many people I’m grateful for. Like any good editor, I’ll keep it concise. Thank you to Brittany and Sophie, my predecessors, for all your dedication and encouragement. Thank you to Allyson, for being the best co-copy editor and fellow Philadelphia sports fan. Thank you to everyone who made the Red Room warm, filled with laughter and inside jokes. And thank you to my friends and family who read everything I write and listen anytime I say a sentence “sounds weird.” Your support means far more than I can keep within 1,000 words.

Soon, the DP sticker on my laptop will signify my role as an alumna, not a staffer. But I’ll hold on to what the DP and Penn have taught me. I’ll continue to verify the truth where I can. I’ll watch YouTube video essays and go down Wikipedia rabbit holes, collect fun facts and be curious about the places and people around me. And although I’ll depart from my regular schedule of copy shifts, I’ll keep the memories and friendships I’ve made.  At the end of these four years, I guess there’s one last thing to say. As I wrote many times on Slack after copy-editing articles — “Done!”

JULIA FISCHER is a College senior studying political science and Hispanic studies from Virginia. She served as copy editor on the 139th board of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her email is