Over the past five months, Penn students have flocked back to their home cities or remained near campus as the COVID-19 pandemic continued its spread. With the summer rushing to a close, many of us now find ourselves in the position of deciding where we’ll spend our fall semester—and, more broadly, imagining our hopes for the coming year.
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Yemen is currently undergoing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Upwards of 24 million people — roughly 80% of Yemen’s population—in the country are in need of humanitarian assistance, with the health and sanitation effects of COVID-19 only exacerbating the shortages of basic necessities. The crisis in Yemen, already the poorest country in the North African and Middle East regions, can be traced back to 2011. Arab Spring uprisings led by pro-democracy figures fought against the rule of current Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in power for over 30 years and cemented an authoritarian regime in the nation. Saleh was ultimately forced from his position in favor of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, Saleh’s vice president since 1994, who finally claimed the presidential office in 2012.
I have seen innumerable people — on social media, politicians, on cable news channels, authors — question whether riots or protests are productive modes of change the past week amid the protests in response to George Floyd’s murder. It is a question that has, for generations, relentlessly reared its head during contentious fights for liberation.
For many rising seniors, the foreboding anxiety of securing summer employment began to loom far before they’d even chosen a major or discovered their career goals. Months-long stress of recruiting for lucrative positions, perfecting the 20th cover letter, and grappling with external pressures to land an internship can often feel akin to a subverted rite of passage for most of us. The idea that an impressive junior-summer internship is almost synonymous with a stamp of approval and security — a necessary stepping stone on the climb to acquiring a full-time position the next year — is among the most rampant I’ve experienced on Penn’s campus.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a blog post halfway down the first page of Google titled “The Simplest Ways To Happiness.” I usually steer clear of headlines like this which often seem to repeat the same advice, but I clicked anyways. The page was dedicated to some sort of challenge urging readers to say “yes” to all of the opportunities thrown their way.
My name commands the truth. Its five letters and three syllables have always rolled effortlessly off my tongue, but are often mangled and regurgitated from the mouths of others. As a kid, I loathed its abnormality, and was filled with envy for the girls who swung around their store-bought, name-engraved key chains. Once I got to Penn, I initially resolved to shorten it — a Western-sounding nickname in order to make it easier on the people I met. To make it easier on me: not having to repeat it five times only for it to be immediately forgotten, not having to be asked if I would prefer to be called something different. I folded myself away for the sake of convenience.
When I leave my apartment to go somewhere at night, I check my reflection in the mirror twice. Once simply to make sure my shirt is buttoned up correctly or to smooth down a flyaway hair, and the next to ask myself a question: Is this outfit going to make me a target?