On the second night of my freshman year, I shivered in a crop top on a frat house porch while a guy I’d never met debated whether I was hot enough to be allowed inside. I watched him watch me and felt sweat dribble through the layers of my foundation, my face twisting while I bit my cheeks to look skinnier. A male friend I’d come with nudged me. "You should have worn something sluttier," he whispered. By the time I actually entered the house, I wanted to throw myself away.
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There are no neat conclusions to draw from a year at Penn. But if I had to assign a label to my freshman year, it would be “sinusoidal.” The past eight months have been a sequence of peaks and troughs, memories and mishaps. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Perched on the roof of the Singh Center lounge, two of my best friends and I stared at our piles of homework and groaned. My friend in an Engineering and College dual degree had problem sets. My friend in Wharton grappled with a marketing assignment. I had a column to write and a book to read.
I have heard the phrase “Tier One” too many times this week.
I am fascinated by the graffiti I encounter on a daily basis.
I am terrified of my roommate’s wall calendar. I am scared of the time running out, of my inability to stay a freshman. My friends and I sieve our schedules through countdowns and deadlines. Two weeks until Easter. Four weeks until Fling. Seven weeks until finals. I procrastinate meeting with my advisor to discuss classes for next semester — I’m barely recovered from midterms, so I don’t want to plunge into the next batch of classes without thinking. The thought of completing a quarter of college feels more like a punishment than an accomplishment. I just want time to stop, to freeze on Locust Walk long enough to enjoy the spring weather and not think about having to leave. I know freshman spring is too early to feel sentimental, but I can’t shake the idea that the existence I’ve crafted at Penn has an expiration date. I’m stuck in a state of premature missing.
Leaning in the doorway of my friend’s dorm, a freshman girl from down the hall explained why she wasn’t enjoying Penn. “I hate college. It’s too stressful,” she said. The University doesn’t guide us enough. People are ashamed to talk about CAPS. There’s the constant guilt, the opportunity-cost calculation — if you sleep an extra hour, you fall behind; if you have lunch with a friend, you’ve lost time to study or join a club or add to your resume. “Penn is bad for me,” she concluded. “I’m just not happy here.”
The blow came in the form of a dry-cleaning bag to the head.
Two weeks ago, they invaded Commons. Clad in bright red lanyards and clinging to their parents — they’d probably cling a lot tighter if they knew about the latest wave of dining hall health reports; want some pink slime with that ice cream? — Penn’s latest crop of accepted early decision students bombarded campus for Connected Quaker Days.
We can’t hold our liquor.
Polarization ain’t just for Congress anymore.
The awakening came in the form of a text. A quick, absent-minded text sent from my mom’s Subaru as we drove back from my grandparents’ and catalyzed by the boredom only six hours of my sister’s Dave Matthews Band CD could produce. The words fluttered from my fingers before I could question them.
I spent the train ride back from Thanksgiving break mourning the mounds of turkey leftovers I’d forgotten in my fridge and mapping out my study schedule for finals. I looked up library hours and planned out a detailed itinerary, complete with denoted “gummy bear breaks!” and “five minutes to drop everything and breathe!” I figured I could survive my first round of finals if I just got myself together.
I fou nd the list scrawled in last summer’s notebook, buried in my desk drawer back home.
T wo months before I’ll step into my next semester courses, I already have my schedule. I know what classes I’ll take at what times in what buildings. But I have no clue if I’ve chosen the right courses.
S o me time around the last Olympics, I sat around, pretended to be knowledgeable about sports and saw a mini-documentary on Maria Sharapova. There was a reel of tape I couldn’t get out of my head of Maria winning the Wimbledon: Her racket arched upward, the ball sailing in a perfect palabora, Maria punching the air. The announcer boomed over the scene, “How does it feel to have accomplished your life’s dream when you’re 17?”
G ive a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a year — but what if you give him a how-to-fish video?
I t’s no t easy being Greek.
Ispend way too much time on Penn InTouch. With Advance Registration looming over my head, I feel obligated to spend my free time creating mock schedules, deleting them, testing out the possibilities. It’s fun, to an extent — I can take a mural painting class?! — but when reality sets in, the process gets more frustrating. Instead of taking any class that sounds interesting, I need to chip away at Penn’s College curriculum requirements. But while that’s an annoying aspect of registration, course requirements don’t deserve all of our complaints.