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Photo courtesy of Riane Lumer

Five years ago during a college tour trip, I vividly recall sitting in a hotel, gazing out the window at the skyline of Boston. I felt inspired; I was eager to write my supplemental essays about why I wanted to attend Boston College (BC), and why I wanted to become a teacher. BC’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development attracted me because of its education program.

This tour was a few weeks before I was selected to present a speech at the back-to-school convocation in front of every K-12 teacher in the district on my passions for education and teaching. Becoming a teacher was a personality trait for me. “Most likely to become part of Lower Moreland Faculty: Riane Lumer.” I even won a scholarship award for someone potentially entering the field of education. “We’ll be colleagues one day!” my choir director constantly joked my senior year. “You’ll take over the organization in the future,” my Mini-THON advisor told me. 

I had wanted to be an English teacher since I was in fifth grade — or so I thought.

My sophomore year at BC, I student-taught at Brighton High School, a turnaround Boston public school in Massachusetts. This was something I was itching to do throughout my first year. I just wanted to get in the classroom. 

Like most city schools, students in the urban district are victims of pervasive systemic disparities that contribute to educational debt. I recognized this upon the first day of my pre-practicum and felt a need to assist on a political level. My passion for reform only intensified after more time connecting with students. 

But this desire extends beyond the role of a teacher. “There’s only so much a teacher can do within the classroom for change,” I thought to myself. 

And so, after a month of teaching, I began to heavily question a future in it. That frightened me — leading me to suppress these feelings until the end of the semester, when I truly began to consider that this really wasn’t the path for me. I didn’t want to swallow that pill. I didn’t think I knew myself without it.

I was grieving a dream that died, a future for myself that no longer matched what I had imagined for years. New experiences and exposures changed me and sparked bigger aspirations. But I also felt as though I failed myself; my family always told me teaching wasn’t for me, and I thought I was rebelling. Well, they were right, but for different reasons. 

I added a third major: political science. But I was faced with another dilemma. The licensure teaching program at BC was the last thing keeping me there. And the summer prior to that, the excitement for student-teaching and jump-starting my career in education counteracted my detached emotions toward the atmosphere of BC. 

I applied to transfer to NYU during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I enrolled in their education school, but I didn’t attend. I wanted to give BC one more shot: it was my top choice, and I wanted it to feel the way I expected. And I wanted my zeal for teaching to return, because that was all I thought I knew and was attached to. That linear path was comforting to me. It was something that I felt was within my grasp and control.

On May 18, 2022, I received my acceptance to Penn as a junior transfer majoring in political science. Yes, a junior transfer who also was entering with a new major that they had only taken one course for at their prior institution. 

Embracing my desire to transfer and reshape my career trajectory ignited my newfound eagerness to continuously explore new avenues that ignite my joy and curiosity. When I got onto Penn’s campus, I applied to join The Daily Pennsylvanian’s opinion and podcast departments and became a writer for 34th Street Magazine. At BC, I was involved primarily in educationally-oriented activities. It was my whole world; anything like writing for the student newspaper felt irrelevant to my future career. I was wrong and naive. And I ended up writing about it. 

Because of my experiences at the DP and with my journalistic writing minor, I explored the world of journalism — a discipline one of my English professors at BC suggested would be a good fit for me. But I refused to depart from what I thought was my path, until my college experience took an unexpected turn on its head. 

Currently, I’m unsure exactly what the future holds for me, but I am learning to find peace in all of the possibilities. When I transferred, I abandoned the habit of attempting to assume control over every aspect of my life and plan each detail. Instead, I embrace the uncertainty of the future and approach my twenties as a blank canvas, ready to be painted with new experiences and opportunities. 

My college experience has been anything but conventional. Although I will be walking across the stage this month, I will not be officially graduating until December — another detour from what I expected when transferring to Penn and assuming I would “graduate on time.”

When I met with my advisor and he broke the news to me that I would not be graduating “on time,” I panicked and my stomach dropped. Instinctively, I felt that I was falling behind. But in the aftermath of that moment, I began to question the concept of “on time.” What does it truly mean? Especially for me? I realized that this phrase carries little significance — it's more about when things unfold as they're meant to. The right time is when it happens, and this fall, I will be embarking on another chapter by participating in the Penn in Washington program in D.C. (another transfer application bucket list item!). 

The social clock, a sociological theory identified by Bernice Neugarten, is a timetable of expectations for reaching milestones in your life predicated on external pressures and cultural norms embedded into societal structures. But as I have come to view it, the pressures of the social clock can seep into every level of decision-making in your life, if you allow it to sway you in determining how to act according to what you believe society would expect of you, or adhering to what others are doing around you. 

I fell victim to this when experiencing dilemmas about my future. Now, I check myself as I fall into its harmful cycles time and time again. During rush, girls consistently asked me what post-grad job I had lined up or where I would be living. I didn’t know, but I was no longer embarrassed. Everyone has their own timelines, and we are all working to figure them out. The rigorous, hyper-competitive nature of Penn especially subscribes to the demands of the social clock, so beware. 

I find that the best way to withdraw yourself from this phenomenon is to know yourself. To listen to yourself. I encourage you to ask yourself, who are you? What sparks your curiosity? What excites you? What makes you tick? Are you driven by passions you have developed, or are you driven to fit the mold of what you think society expects of you? 

As I write this on my last day of classes at Penn, I sit at my desk reflecting on the past two years of my journey while a mug gifted from Penn’s Transfer Student Organization to seniors sits next to my computer reading, “I survived transferring.” 

Yes, I did. But more importantly, I've transformed into a person I never envisioned — I was so overly fixated on preserving what felt safe and comfortable that I lost sight of who I was actually evolving into.  

I leave with a reminder to my future self and to all of you: It's okay to outgrow places, people, things, habits, visions, or worldviews. Don't feel guilty about change and growth — untether yourself as you enter into new phases. We are here to exist, enjoy, experience, not to entertain a procedural social clock that may deter you from who you really are. 

RIANE LUMER is a College senior studying political science and journalistic writing from Huntingdon Valley, Pa. She served as podcast editor on the 139th board of the DP. Her email address is