Over 24,000 students from 70 countries, with 4,000 professors and 16,000 workers make up the University of Pennsylvania. Yes, it’s a whole different world in itself, one global institution of students, professors and employees.
The first week honestly didn’t feel like college just yet. We started with a weeklong welcoming party of countless events, some of which I’d never experienced. Simply put, it seemed just like a dream.
Scavenger hunts followed by group lunches and dinners with presentations and parties in between—everyone celebrated the fact that we made it to college.
Here in college, there are so many new people, events to go to and places to explore. I suddenly felt like a child again, exploring a whole new territory, trying out things, getting lost and learning more about different cultures. In the process, I even learned more about my own culture and beliefs.
I was meeting students from incredibly diverse backgrounds. There were students who could speak more than five languages, students who went on gap years to serve different communities and explore new countries, students who started their own businesses, and countless other students, each with a unique story to tell.
Experiencing a toga and museum party, movie nights with my college house, social events, Nerf wars, students’ activities fair with hundreds of clubs barely scratch the surface of what college is like here in the US.
Adjusting to college life
When classes finally started, everything slowly became more real.
You think about homework, your grades, your future and your career path. Sitting in different classes felt like a whirlwind. One moment I was in a Cognitive Science class, the next I was signing up for a Sociology class.
Then you find out that there are those super cool classes such as Globalization, Product Design, Artificial Intelligence, Game Theory and what not.
More than just the vast number of classes, I suddenly also had to think about the little things I took for granted back home. I was now washing my own laundry, planning my meals and
making sure my schedule was up to date.
Then came the activities fair. This blew me away as I was exposed to a myriad clubs and organizations, ranging from volunteer groups to athletic teams, from Greek life to consulting, from finance to entrepreneurship and technology. After observing some of the sessions, I even considered joining the salsa dance club.
It was overwhelming. Before I knew it, I was going to interviews for different clubs, receiving acceptances and rejections, and going through one application after another, in the hope of finding the right group for me.
To top everything off, I even attended my first career fair where Bain & Company, Accenture, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and hundreds of other established companies were recruiting. Suddenly, I faced the bridge to the working world.
With all this going on, I felt like a speck in a humongous university city. You can’t help but feel lost in all the madness going on. You have that fear of missing out on something, and wanting to experience everything. You also fear not knowing what you will become four years from now. Many times, I sat in my room staring at the screen of my laptop, overwhelmed.
I quickly came to realize that I have only so much time. Just like how the first two weeks of college quickly flew by, the next four years will go even faster.
One of the best pieces of advice I got came from Christina, a sophomore we met during the NSO week. “College is just like a table of desserts. You have the strawberry-covered chocolate, the chocolate chip cookies, the brownies, the cakes and all the other mouthwatering treats. Yet you have to choose and pick which ones you’ll eat or else you’ll end up with a really bad tummy ache.”
I’m honestly not sure what the future holds. There are simply too many possibilities and things that can happen. Who knows? One year from now, I could major in something totally different. But then again, everything happens for a reason.
Rest, play, renew
University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann said it best during the welcoming convocation for the class of 2018: “Stay present. The time you spend here will go by fast. Stay balanced. Give yourself time to rest, play and renew. This will give you a foundation that will help you move forward. And finally, be generous, engage to do good, and show the world the difference a Penn education can make.”
Honestly, college abroad comes with a scary but exciting type of freedom. But at the end of the day, college is simply what you make of it, and I plan to make the most out of every sweet second of the next four years here at the University of Pennsylvania, where the biggest toga parties are held.