The entire crowd at College Green turned to the east and, in unison, chanted the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or “The Hope.” Not even the construction noises pierced the connection that cocooned the nearly 200-person vigil. As a despondent voice listed the names of fallen soldiers, the university’s chaplain draped his arm around the orthodox rabbi. The men stood in silence, their heads bowed down, as tears ran down their cheeks. Two 20-year-old women stood to my left with an Israeli flag draped around their shoulders. A man stood by himself crying.
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My college trajectory rocketed me from a pantless, COVID-strained first year to a somewhat lucid senior who typically remembers to put on pants. Along the way, I’ve played party music and handed out peanuts in an elevator for three hours, interned for the moon (okay, maybe not literally — I worked at NASA — but you get the idea), and fallen victim to a prank by a professor. That’s my way of saying I’m still winging it and still want and need to grow. In the spirit of offering some unsolicited advice, here's my not-so-typical "Freshman 15."
I see Adam, a 10-year-old stranger, in a random apartment building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. His head rests in his hands, his feet shake, and his voice whimpers. As an unsettling bombardment of fireworks and gunshots fire 50 feet away from us, I walk up to him, and he looks up to me. The words barely tumble out of his mouth, the shock still placed on his young shoulders as he says to me, a near stranger, “I want to go home. I want my brother.”
My path to complete my computer and information science minor at Penn has been long and winding, rife with self-doubt and numerous failures, but also with many victories and moments of personal growth.
My grandmother survived a forced exile from her home country, Egypt, due to religious persecution. She has been fighting leukemia for the past five years. Even at 85 years old, she remains sharp and active, participating in book clubs, stock clubs, bridge clubs, political discussion groups, and volunteer organizations. Something as mundane as a Ford Fusion speeding around the corner of 21st and Chestnut streets should not have left her in the operating room with half her hair shaved off, tubes connected to her brain to monitor for seizures, and a ventilator strapped to her face to ensure she continues to breathe. My grandmother wanted to buy groceries. She now rests in a medically induced coma at Penn Presbyterian Hospital with a broken neck, clavicle, collarbone, cheekbone, and a shattered eye socket that has swollen her eye shut.
Other than first years, most students have likely heard about the Penn Bubble: an imaginary barrier between 30th and 42nd Street, Market Street and Baltimore Avenue. The problem permeates Penn’s culture, encouraging students to remain within the comfortable confines of campus. Many articles have been written about this topic arguing for Penn students and Penn as a whole to intellectually and physically leave the bubble. I’ll be honest, though, there’s a lot to like about the Penn Bubble.
My bike wheels hum and turn with every pedal. The sun reflects off of the Schuylkill River as slow streams of sweat trickle down my forehead. My heart rate drums against my chest at a consistent pace of 130 beats per minute. A canopy of trees offers me a quick respite from the heat as I pass a young family out on a walk. Nothing but a smile radiates off my face as I zip down Martin Luther King Drive (MLK Drive).
There are three ways to get into elite United States colleges and universities: the front door, the side door, and the back door. The front door admits students through the process most of us expect yet dread with college admissions: a slew of application essays, FAFSA documents, and standardized tests. Students who enter college through the front door are — at least in theory — judged on their merit and what they can add to a campus.
Last year, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported that Penn received nearly $258 million from foreign organizations between 2013 to mid-2019. Later that year, members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Amy Gutmann, alleging that “since 2015, the University of Pennsylvania has declared 92 gifts or contracts totaling $62,204,380 from China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia — all of which, 28 totaling $27,104,975 [about 44%] were anonymous.”