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As the school year comes to a close, outgoing staff members of The Daily Pennsylvanian have written senior columns reflecting on their time at Penn and offering advice to the Penn community.
Professor Simon Richter is the Class of 1942 Endowed Term Professor of German — he is also one of the most vocal faculty members on climate change that I have ever met. Richter is a key founder of Climate Week at Penn and its signature 1.5* Minute Climate Lectures as well as an instructor for "Water Worlds" and "Forest Worlds," two courses heavily focused on examining the environment through a humanities lens.
It is all too common a sentiment at Penn, as pre-professional and high-achieving as it is, to feel like we are not doing enough. But I don’t believe that is the whole story: If I could checklist my way to happiness, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d take courses in the philosophy of music and underwater basket-weaving and wine tasting; I’d do twenty handstands a day, walk 30 miles, whatever.
When I sit in a lecture hall, my eyes tend to wander away from the professor and toward my peers. You know the picture: Some students are chatting with their friends over iMessage, while others are browsing through Handshake, applying to various open positions. Still others are shopping online, or rushing a CIS assignment.
Welcome to Penn, everybody! We are all very excited to have you — as long as you can pay us, of course.
Two attendees at an event with 200 Insomnia Cookies. My suitemate and I sat in the club lounge, constructing model solar systems from styrofoam spheres and an assortment of paints. We were celebrating the Spring Equinox through an event organized at New College House West, but you wouldn’t know it from the poor showing.
My stepdad, a ‘75 Yalie and physicist, jokes that he was admitted as a part of the University’s “geek quota.” He was a high school student whose idea of playing hooky was playing with lasers in his friend’s basement. He wasn’t wealthy or suave. He once went to a mixer at Yale wearing hip hugging, hot pink bell bottoms and seriously questioned why not a single woman would dance with him. His family broke the bank paying for him to attend an Ivy at a time when they were considered exclusively for the rich, and he is eternally grateful for it.
I feel the year 2021 has this “Groundhog Day” quality to me. If you described 2021 to me in 2019, I would be flabbergasted. But after living through 2020, 2021 feels like a mix of unexpected and unwanted repetitiveness. 2021 was another year of climate disasters and political dramas. 2021 was another year of COVID-19 variants that continue to threaten to upend our daily lives. Will 2022 be any different, with Americans even more concerned over the emerging Omicron variant than they were with Delta?
Nearly everyone at Penn has experienced that one course with the nonsensical lectures, the mountain of work, the impossible exams, or some ungodly combination of all three. We often experience this course early in our Penn experiences, and it can remake our entire academic trajectory. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous “weed-out” course.
College is where you find yourself — where you explore, discover, and create. Why else would we be at Penn, if not for the myriad opportunities available here?
With unusual fervor, my friends and I scoured the perimeter of the Perelman Center, squishing bugs and exclaiming with joy when we landed a hit. To the untrained eye, we’re no better than the kids that burn ants with magnifying glasses. But these are not just any bugs. These are spotted lanternflies, or as Billy Penn calls them, “public enemy no. 1.”
At the start of every school year in New York City, our social studies teachers focused their lesson plans on 9/11. Each teacher had a different approach. Some described their own experiences and encouraged students to talk to their parents about the event. Others had us watch documentaries. In a geography class, my teacher started with a case study of how we link diseases to specific locations, tying back to the lingering health effects among 9/11 survivors.
Eco-anxiety is a misnomer. Healthline defines it as “persistent worries about the future of Earth and the life it shelters,” but those who have eco-anxiety also report anger, depression, existential dread, grief, guilt, obsessive thoughts, and post-traumatic stress. Eco-anxiety? It’s more like eco-anxiety, mixed in with eco-depression, eco-OCD, and eco-PTSD.
During the 2016 election, many voters justified their decision as “the lesser of two evils.” In fact, the percentages of U.S. adults who ranked each of the two candidates, former president Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, unfavorably in Gallup’s “scalometer,” were the highest in presidential polling history at 61% and 52%, respectively. Though Joe Biden’s candidacy fared better than Clinton’s on this metric, his rating was still relatively low.
As this term draws to a close, there’s a cautious optimism among Penn students. COVID-19 cases at Penn remain low, students are getting vaccinated, and Penn intends to hold in-person classes this fall, with vaccines required of all students.
After spending a few months here, I’ve grown to love Kings Court English College House, my college house. I enjoy a larger dorm room than my peers at Hill College House and it never gets too loud in the hallways, which can’t always be said for the Quad. My podmates are amazing, and I am eager to share a suite with them next year. But while I highly recommend Kings Court English College House to incoming first years, I can’t help wondering: what if I had gone somewhere else?
When I was accepted to Penn last March, I was completely floored. Penn is known for being the “Social Ivy” and was ranked as the number one party school by Playboy Magazine in 2014. I’m a chronic wallflower. Why did Penn’s admissions team think I belong here?
It’s expected that some parts of the college experience are going to be different when you arrive on campus in the middle of a pandemic. Instead of running across campus to lectures, I’ve been racing to COVID-19 testing sites with my PennCard in one hand and a loading OpenPass in the other. Instead of being social at parties and club meetings, I have a schedule jam-packed with Zooms. And instead of eating communally in buffet-style dining halls, I shuffle into Hill, grab a pre-packaged meal, and dine in my dorm during an online lecture.
No one said that moving thousands of students on campus in the middle of a pandemic would be easy. That’s why Penn delayed move-ins in the first place, when they had yet to implement cohesive testing and isolation protocols. But when we look at the numbers, Penn has pulled off what seemed impossible last year: a successful move-in while coronavirus cases nationwide are higher than ever. The cumulative coronavirus prevalence rate on campus is only 1.21%, and a week out from move-in, 90.3% of on-campus isolation capacity remains available.
I enjoy writing articles that encourage Penn students to take action. But after an attempted coup, it is naive to argue that students alone can resolve the partisan tensions that are threatening to tear the United States apart. Collectively, we are students entering Philadelphia, the birthplace of the Constitution, at a time when the document’s power is weaker than ever. We just lived through an insurrection. And the more I watch the news, the more powerless I feel.