Life at Penn
Shriya, University of Pennsylvania
University Of Pennsylvania is in full bloom. Spring is here, so every time you walk down the center of campus- Locust Walk, you’re walking under a massive canopy of shaded green. The campus is scattered with students sitting and studying under the light of the sun, professors taking their babies out for a stroll and grad students jogging with their dogs. Any picture you take wouldn’t do true justice to the breath taking view and the contagious lull of the ‘semester coming to an end’. This is the peak of Penn, everyone is happy and we have a while before exam crunch time starts.
Coming in as an international student, I expected college to be a more intense version of high school- something I thought I had mastered. However after being here for three years I can say that, unlike high school, your life here can be tailored to be exactly what you want. Despite the risk of sounding highly clichéd, I believe that coming to study abroad has given me a chance to get to know myself better by finding unity in diversity. Initially being away from home, in a place with a significantly different culture was definitely intimidating but before I knew it, it was the novelty of college what made it most rewarding. I started seeing myself in a different light. I got a chance to experience things I never even knew existed. Personally I came here thinking that I would study Biology however taking classes in fields like Urban Studies, Criminology and Astronomy- made me change my decision. I began to see sides of me I never knew I even had. For instance, despite being someone who is usually on the more conservative side, I went out of my way to try new things, ranging from Belly dancing to Moroccan food. This then reinvented my whole list of things that I love and others that I am.
In fact, becoming comfortable with myself, helped me find a whole group of friends whose passions and interests aligned with mine. They took me with them for Quidditch tournaments while I showed them how to celebrate all the festivals that I had back home. Everyone in this friend circle, including me, wanted to learn more about the other’s life. This just showed me that everyone here loved me for who I am. They want to know more about my culture, my hometown and the way I’ve lived my life. I distinctly remember bonding with all my freshman year hall mates about the different traditions and aspects of India. They all accompanied me to the annual celebration of Holi and came to the big Indian party that was hosted at the end of the year. Similar to this, I too have learnt so much about other cultures, religions and places whilst being at Penn. For starters, my freshman year roommate got me addicted to French music, without me knowing a single word of French. I also went down to China town with my hall mates and picked up ingredients to cook an authentic Chinese meal. During my time at Penn I have ended up celebrating 6 festivals (4 of which I had never even heard of)! All this has made me look at the friends I have made, from all over the world, as a giant family. Three of my friends from sophomore year even came and visited me in India. I had the chance to show them around and travel with them all over the country. In fact they loved it so much that they came back the next summer to do an internship in New Delhi! The bonds that I have made with this diverse group of people are stronger than I ever expected. Each person is unique in his or her own way and that’s what makes such a community thrive. It respects differences and applauds novelty. You are expected to be exactly who you are and in being so find a home away from home. This in fact is one of the main reasons I feel proud to be at a place like Penn. It has taught me to that I am far more capable, valued and loved than I could ever know. Not only have I grown, far more than I could ever imagine, but I have also started loving all the small unique things that make me, me.