Category Archives: Campus Life

What do you consider Penn Today?

By: Noelle McManus, C’17

What do you consider Penn Today? For me, it’s everything I see and do on campus. I’m up to date on most of the things that happen on campus. I check the Penn social media and I always read the e-mails they send. I am working diligently on learning more and more about everything at Penn. This is the exact reason why I was so intent on perfecting the meaning behind ‘Penn Today’.

Working for the Alumni Interview Program has been such a wonderful experience. They also see the importance of what ‘Penn Today’ is. Our interviewers are alumni from all over the world, young and old, alike. This idea of ‘Penn Today’ would benefit anyone from prospective student to our oldest alumnus. It could be a place that houses everything that exists at Penn, today!

Currently, a place like this exists only in a small scale. It has been my job for the summer to create my own version of ‘Penn Today’. The ins and outs of the academics, activities, resources, and most important news, all gathered together in one place. This is the place to be for anyone looking to enlighten themselves on what life is like at Penn in 2014. I have been working hard to gather the information for this hub and to present the information in an intriguing way. With feedback from those around me, I hope to provide a meaning to what ‘Penn Today’ really is!

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My 25 Year Penn Reunion: Living an “As Is” life in a world that only wants “So Perfect!”

Author:  Lisa Niver Rajna, C’89

Wandering on Madison Ave in Manhattan last week, I noticed paparazzi everywhere. After asking, a woman told us, with tears in her eyes, that JLo was eating lunch. I would have missed her. She did not look “So Perfect” but she is stunning. As I left New York City for Philadelphia for my twenty-five year college reunion, I have been thinking about what have I done and what do I want for the next twenty-five years!

In a life filled with product placement where JLo is lifting her Coca-Cola glass so many times per hour on American Idol, our lives have been given a structure that we might not purchase if it were not so insidious.

In As Is by Rachel Michael Arends, the story is told through several narrators and Arends is able to share deep perspectives about how people with different lifestyles lock themselves into their own cage about money, sexuality, and professions of what they think that want and should own and should do.

Through Arends’ intriguing characters, we are able to wonder and wander. Is it a good choice to be an artist? Is it okay to defer your dream to care for your father? Most of the interactions and characters would have accepted the decisions of their friend or family member if they had only been told. Fear made nearly every character in this book withhold their personal truth.

Hiding themselves made them seem like a cheap imitation of what they could have brought to the table. Choosing to be courageous and wish for what they really wanted and reach out to receive it often only comes after tragedy and hardship but hopefully Rachel Michael Arends’ novel gives you the hope to share your story and live a life painted fully without regrets.

Early in the novel, Gwendolyn says: “On television it can look glamorous, and perhaps some people would love this lifestyle. But I don’t,” I wondered what didn’t she like? And who was she really?

Wandering the parade and picnic at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought what would life be like if we did not pretend. Gwendolyn believes that Armand “actually enjoys being So Perfect all the time,” it gave me pause to think about who do I know who resembles that remark and do they feel like Gwendolyn that “it just seems wrong, incongruous, and unnatural,” and more of a cage than a life.

There were many buttons to wear at Reunion: “I met my wife at Penn,” “<3 Penn,” and “Don’t worry, I don’t remember you either!” Maybe several alums felt like Gwendolyn: “I find it scary and unnerving when strangers approach me as if we’re old friends. I don’t like to worry about what I wear, if my hair and makeup look good enough (according to Armand they never do), what I say, or how I say it. I prefer to stay at home behind our high fences, inside our security system.”

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

 

She has been told by Trey, her producer, “I’m lucky to have this job, that anyone in her right mind would want it.” At an Ivy League institution, in marriage or in many other settings, we are sold that line about being lucky. I went to medical school because I was smart in science. Like Gwendolyn I felt, “I don’t want to let anyone down…[but] I’m beginning to fear that I’ll be trapped in this mansion forever.” We sometimes become embroiled in a labyrinth or career and we seem to be stuck. Breaking out of the mold and consciously taking a different path can be a struggle but isn’t the freedom, to be who we really are, worth it?

When we become lost from our selves, we often need someone like Gwendolyn’s sister, Megan, to ask us: “What’s your plan? Are you going back there?” We all want to have someone in our life that we can tell as Gwendolyn does, “You’re like an island of sanity in the craziest day I’ve ever had.” It is possible we have those people already if we would only be honest with them about how we feel and what we need. Most of us keep our wounds and concerns a secret only sharing what we think looks “So Perfect” to the constant measuring up on Instagram and Pinterest.

When one character with a cane walks on a floor above Gwendolyn with a sliding sound, she muses, “It’s strange to think of carrying your damage on the outside where everyone can see it.” What if we shared our fears and foibles on Facebook and not just our fairytales that come true? Carrie, a character who is a fan of Gwendolyn on television but becomes a true friend in the story, shares, “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of this year is that life is one big surprise after another, and maybe I should loosen up and try my best to roll with it.” As I walked the parade on Saturday standing in between the two wonderful women who were my college roommates, I realized that I am so lucky in both an “as is” and “so perfect” way to have walked this road surrounded by people who know what I look life in real life and want to be friends anyway! Whether there are tears of joy or sadness, they have always run to my side, whenever I am ready to share this rollercoaster of life.

Arends’ character, Armand, realizes that “As Is,” could be his “motto for acceptance. Not an excuse to settle necessarily, but a reminder that at a certain point, you just need to say, OK, enough is enough! I’m sick of chasing the dream of perfection and that’s not a failure.”

Gwendolyn does believe in fate, as she says, “You have to. I just saw a falling star out the window and I wished for you. When I looked up, there you were!” In some ways like the movies, we want to say, “I wished for you” and for the person to appear. What if you are really wishing for yourself to stand up, take up space and live your dreams? I wish for you that you are inspired to pause and think about your own parade and find a path that leads you to yourself and the fulfillment of your best dreams.

w/Barbara Yorke

w/Barbara Yorke

About the Author: Lisa Niver Rajna (CAS 1989) was honored to walk in graduation on May 19, 2014 with her classmates from twenty-five years ago! Learn more about her journeys at WeSaidGoTravel.com and ScienceisntScary.net.

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Lisa N.R., Memories of Penn, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Park, Reunions, Traditions

Congratulations to the Class of 2014

Author: Janell Wiseley

 

Comm-6comm-8Comm-5Comm-3

comm-4Comm-7Comm-2

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Filed under Academics, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Alumnni Education, Campus Life, Commencement, Janell W., Leaving Penn, Locust Walk Talk, Memories of Penn, Reunions, Sweeten Alumni House, Traditions, Uncategorized, View from Sweeten

I’ll Be Seeing You

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

Hit play and start reading!

It’s been a week of “lasts” here at dear old Penn – yesterday was my last chapter meeting with Sigma Kappa, today was my last day of classes, and Friday will be my last rehearsal with Counterparts.  Normally, I’d be excited for the closing of yet another school year.  Summer’s just around the corner, and I’ll get to spend it with so many of my friends who are choosing to stay in Philly!  But for one reason or another, I don’t feel that excited.  At least not right now.

Maybe it’s the rain (sorry, I mean MONSOON) outside.  Maybe it’s the looming papers and final exams that I have in the next couple weeks.  Or maybe it’s the realization that I’ll be boarding a plane next semester instead of driving 45 minutes to move back on campus.  Whatever it is, I’m sad to be nearing the end of my sophomore year.  It was hard getting back into the swing of things when I returned to campus this past August, and it by no means got any easier.  But in spite of all that, I can say with confidence that it was better than my freshman year.  I was presented with new and exciting opportunities, and more importantly I met new and exciting people, people who I am honored to call close friends.

I found this picture in my room earlier this afternoon:

It’s the first picture of me from this academic year, the first day of NSO to be exact.  I definitely had no idea what the year was going to be like, but that didn’t stop me from goofing off with my friends!  That seems to be the best way for me to combat the anxiety of not knowing, acting silly.  Hopefully, I can keep a similar lightheartedness as I enter my semester abroad next year.

I wonder what my last picture from sophomore year will look like.  I guess I don’t really need to know right now.  There’s fun in not knowing.

Until next year, dear Quakers.  I’ll be seeing you.  Thanks for reading :)

 

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Filed under Academics, Campus Life, Carolyn G., Clubs, Memories of Penn, Penn in the Summer, Photos, Student Perspective, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Video, Videos

Do You Want to See My Show, Man?

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

Tapping into my inner Pitbull while rapping  "Timber" with the Mask and Wig band!

Tapping into my inner Pitbull while rapping “Timber” with the Mask and Wig band!

Well, Fling has finally been flung, dear Quakers, and oh what a wonderful weekend it was! As planned, I danced to David Guetta, sang/rapped on stage with both Counterparts and Mask and Wig, and ate my weight in fried oreos. All in all, a successful few days :)

But my performances are not over!  Oh no, my biggest show of the semester is coming up this weekend: the Counterparts Spring show!  If you’ve clicked on the link, then you’ve just discovered that our show title “Do You Wanna Build a Show, Man?” is, in fact, “Frozen”-themed.  Because “Frozen” will always be relevant.  Always.

I have to say, the publicity we’ve done for this show is pretty awesome.  We have a great series of posters (see below), and we just released a promotional YouTube video as well.  However, if you haven’t seen “Frozen”… well I don’t know what to tell you.  None of these references will make sense.  So I suggest you watch the movie before coming to the show.

Our poster for "Do You Wanna Build a Show, Man?"

Our poster for “Do You Wanna Build a Show, Man?”

My Facebook profile picture to promote the show!  I know, it's pretty adorable.

My Facebook profile picture to promote the show! I know, it’s pretty adorable.

We’re back in Iron Gate Theatre, where I sang in my first-ever CP concert.  It’s a beautiful space, and I can’t wait to see it packed with my friends, family, and Counterparts alumni!  Our set list is also stellar.  I’ll be singing “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” with one of our new members, Andrew.  In addition, we have songs by the Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Sara Bareilles, Ariana Grande, Hall and Oates, and Delta Rae…just to name several.

Like the many other student artists on campus, I am always in a bit of shock when I enter the week leading up to my show.  It’s crazy to think about how much work I’ve put into the semester for Counterparts, and it’s going to be culminating into only two performances this weekend!  It’s times like these that I try to truly appreciate the level of talent and dedication to the arts that exists here at Penn.  Though I cannot go to every show that happens on campus, I will always applaud the effort that goes into any and every performance.

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Filed under Campus Life, Carolyn G., Clubs, Photos, Student Perspective, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Video, Videos

Spring In My Step

By Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

On my way to work, I sometimes walk through the beautiful courtyard between Vance Hall and the McNeil Building. I am grateful that, in recent days, this path has revealed the promise of spring. My favorite part of the transition from the season of gray and white to that of blue and green is the dazzling display of flowers blossoming on the trees. I never tire of these lovely and fragrant halos; the impression is always so stunning that it offers an immediate boost to my spirit. After the winter that we have endured here in Philadelphia, I believe that all of us have earned the pleasure of witnessing the trees as they adorn themselves to celebrate the arrival of spring.

The beginning stages are captured below.

Here they come...

Here they come…

And they're off!

And they’re off!

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Flung, Wild, and Free

Author:  Carolyn Grace, C’16

Spring has finally sprung on campus, dear Quakers, and just in time for Penn’s greatest weekend ever: it’s time for FLIIIIING!

Goofing around in the Fling photo booth :)

Fling 2013: goofing around in the photo booth :)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or you just happen to be reading this blog post and you don’t go to Penn, Spring Fling is the biggest (and best!) college festival on the East Cost, in existence for now over 40 years.   The festival actually has a pretty rich history and is certainly one of Penn’s biggest traditions.  Without a doubt, it’s the favorite tradition among students!

The theme for this year’s Fling is the oh-so groovy  ❀☮ PEACE LOVE AND FLING ❀☮  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited.  SPEC has a great line-up for the big concert on Friday: Magic Man, Ra Ra Riot, and headliner David Guetta!  I wasn’t familiar with the first two artists when SPEC first announced them, but after to listening to them on Spotify I am so stoked to see them perform live.  Here are a couple favorites of mine from Magic Man and Ra Ra Riot, both of which I hope are played at the concert!

“Paris” by Magic Man

“Beta Love” by Ra Ra Riot

Lilly and I before CP takes the stage!

Lilly and I before CP takes the stage!

As great as the big concert is going to be, I have to admit that I’m looking forward to the Quad concerts the most!  It’s the chance to see my friends in other performing arts groups rock the stage in front of the entire student body.  I’m especially excited to watch Bloomers Band, Penn Glee Club Band, and Penny Loafers a cappella (good luck guys!).  Counterparts will also be singing in prep for our Spring show…but that’s for another blog post ;)

The final performance, however, is going to bring the walls of the Quad down.  Some lovely ladies of Counterparts (Sam, Swaroop, Lilly) and I will each be singing with the Mask and Wig band!  Their performance is the final one of the entire Fling weekend, and it always draws a huge crowd.  I can’t wait to be up on stage with them, mostly because my performance is going to be something I’ve never done before.  I’ll be singing the song Timber by Ke$ha and Pitbull.  Well, actually, I’ll be rapping it.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I’m going to be rapping Pitbull’s part of Timber.  And I literally cannot wait.

A crowd shot from the Mask and Wig stage.  I'll be up there in almost a week!

A crowd shot from the Mask and Wig stage. I’ll be up there in almost a week!

So grab your fanny packs, don your neon tanks, and make room for the fried oreoes, dear Quakers.  The countdown to Spring Fling begins NOW!

 

 

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Penn Traditions: The Good, The Bad, and THE RED & THE BLUE!

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

Every college student takes part in traditions on their campus as part of a unifying undergraduate experience.  I’ve attended and worked at several colleges so far, and Penn’s traditions stand out for their uniqueness, mass appeal, and staying power.  Experiences like Hey Day, Spring Fling, and taking a photo with your boo at the LOVE statue, have stood the test of time.  Creative Class Boards, Penn Traditions students, and other student leaders are forming new traditions (shout out to Holifest!) every year.

On the other hand, some traditions have faded into history.  And let’s be real, I’m feeling okay about that.  While I love reminiscing with our Old Guard alumni about retired traditions from their Penn days, I see a few good reasons to keep these in the archives:

“The Bowl Fight”

Although these strapping young lads look quite happy in the photo (from 1905), The Bowl Fight stands as one of Penn’s most historic, but also most sketchy traditions.  I’m not sure which one of these students was elected to be shoved INSIDE that bowl by his peers, but I would cry seeing our fabulous freshmen and sophomore duking-it-out on College Green in present-day.  Final verdict: This tradition is one of Penn’s best (craziest) stories, but a happily retired one.

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

“The Poster Fight”

(Note how many of these old traditions include the word “fight.”  Thankfully the advent of Pottruck Gymnasium seems to have given students a more productive outlet for their pent-up energy).  1905 was a busy year for traditions, and The Poster Fight stands as another fine example of class rivalries at their best/most intense.  The poster below (located in Sweeten Alumni House – come visit!) shows how “no blow was too low” when asserting your eminence over other classes.  Hopefully they all hugged it out at the end of the day.

poster fight3

“Kissing the Boot”
Everyone loves a good freshman rite-of-passage, but the 1940s-50s tradition of kissing Ben Franklin’s boot outside of Weightman Hall strikes me as a bit unsanitary.  Good thing freshman carried this out in early fall, because kissing a metal boot in the winter seems like it could cause the same nightmare as getting your tongue stuck to the flagpole in elementary school (Note: this did NOT happen to me, whew).

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

The Penn Traditions program is currently working on a new event (to launch in fall 2014) aiming to teach current students about some of these hilarious/spirited/dangerous traditions of the past.  If you took part in a really fun tradition on campus during your time at Penn, email svonavec@upenn.edu so we can include it in our event!

*Thanks to the Penn Archives and Under the Button for inspiring this post!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Historical, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Traditions, Uncategorized, yPenn

Where in the World

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

Spring Break is slowly winding down for us Penn students, though I can’t say I’m entirely heartbroken.  While many of my friends spent the past week vacating in warmer climates, I stayed right here in good old Philadelphia, which wasn’t so bad until the Ides of March kicked in.  (Kudos to anyone who got the reference in that last link!)

I’m not that discouraged, though.  My time to travel will be here before I know it!  It was only a few weeks ago that I recieved my acceptance into the Columbia in Paris program through Penn Abroad :)  This September, I’ll be going back to France to study abroad for the entire Fall 2014 semester.

My acceptance e-mail.  I'm going to Paris!

My acceptance e-mail. I’m going to Paris!

I’m extremely excited about the immersion experience this program offers.  I’ll be taking classes at both Reid Hall (the institution designed specifically for study abroad students) and a Parisian university.  There are so many in the city, and I get to choose where I want to enroll!  I also have the opportunity to live with a host family, which I did this past summer in Tours, France with the Penn-in-Tours summer abroad program.

What I am most excited for, however, is the opportunity to live in Paris (skip to 1:45) for the semester.  I visited the city for three days during the Penn-in-Tours program.  I can only imagine what it’s going to be like living there for three months!

Staying with the Pixar theme :)

Staying with the Pixar theme!

I have my first abroad meeting when school is back in session.  It seems like such a long way off, and I certainly don’t want to rush the rest of this semester.  I can’t deny, though, that the sooner I’m back on a wine and cheese diet, the happier I’ll be :)  Vive la France !

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Author: Liz Pinnie

Yesterday a friend from Admissions stopped by the Interview Program Office for a cup of coffee during his break from sitting in committee (yes, it’s that time of year!).  As he melted into a chair and took a slug of his coffee, we started to chat about his impressions on reading hundreds upon hundreds of interviews.

What has recently struck J. about interview reports is the ability of interviewers- of all Penn class years and schools- to touch upon those certain qualities that makes Penn Penn, and a Quaker a Quaker.  Interviews took place via skype, phone, and in person conversation all over the world this year- from Dubai to Detroit, from Slovakia to Santa Monica- from alumni ranging in age from 22 to 85.

In 64 years, there have been a few changes at Penn- a transition from typewriters to computers to tablets, the conversion from Penn-specific building to community oriented growth in West Philadelphia, the evolution from weekly letters home to dorm hall phone calls to texts, the creation of Locust Walk as a pedestrian thoroughfare, the full integration of women to the University, and growth through eight different Presidents (among a few other changes- The Arch, anyone!?).

However, what we’re seeing from interview reports is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Throughout Penn’s past, a passion for activity both inside and outside of the classroom has remained, along with a desire for growth in knowledge, a hunger for integration, and excitement for innovation.

Over 12,000 of your fellow alumni are discovering students with these indelible Penn qualities from all over the world through interviews- if you’d like to help, join the Interview Program by clicking here, and share with us what you think makes a Quaker a Quaker.

 

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Filed under Campus Life, Historical, Interview Program, Liz P., Memories of Penn, Uncategorized, Volunteering