We Were Merely Freshmen…(88 Weeks To Go)

This weekend, September 2-3, 2016, marks 88 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 13, 2018). We are counting down the weeks until we return to campus to celebrate our time at Penn. #93tothe25th

Caren Lissner originally wrote this seven years ago, reflecting on the 20 years since we entered Penn as freshmen. She revised it slightly before we posted it here.

By the way, the movie version of Caren’s first novel, Carrie Pilby, is having its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next week. You can follow her on Twitter @carenlissner.

Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups. We are also on Twitter, Tumblr, and recently joined Instagram.


We Were Merely Freshmen…

By Caren Lissner, C’93


Locust Walk at Penn, credit: Kiera Reilly, C’93

During the first few days of my freshman year of college in Philadelphia – 20-something years ago this week – it was sunny, bright, and contradictorily cool. We kept waiting for rain, and there was none, which was good for us suburban kids who weren’t used to walking around outside to get everywhere. Some of us already had blisters on our feet by the third day of school.

The first several days were reserved for freshman orientation. It included “diversity training” on the grassy college green, where we acted out skits designed to erase any racism and sexism we’d acquired back home. We got up early and stood on line to drop and add courses last-minute, attended seminars like “using campus phones,” and quickly learned to do laundry. We walked up Locust Walk, past the Quad and Book Store, and along the way, salespeople set up tables to offer us credit cards, sell us college t-shirts, and sign us up for gym or video store membership.

Everybody wanted us. We were the future. We were not yet hardened or sullied. Our mailboxes and backpacks overflowed with coupons: The local pizza restaurant, wing joints, bagel shops. Credit card companies told us which gifts we could have if we used their card. Clubs and non-profit volunteer groups begged us to join.

Everybody wanted us. We were the future.

One night during orientation, there was an introductory event at the Christian center with free burgers. Of course, all the non-Christian freshmen came too, because it was another free dinner, a way to avoid spending money when some of us had precious little.

Everybody wanted us. We were the future.

And some of us wanted each other, no doubt. A few “floor couples” formed, and some of us made new friends at Casino Night or the Freshman Mixer. There we were, with thousands of people our age, of similar backgrounds, suddenly sprung from the stuffy halls of high school and shedding the social labels of nerd or geek or jock.

Everybody wanted us. We were the future.

It was the beginning of independence. For some, it took a while to figure out how to use that independence. Some took even more time after graduation. But no matter what happened, beginnings are nice. We didn’t know which path we were about to take, only that there was so much future ahead of us.

That feeling comes back to me every year around this time, when the leaves crumble and the cool winds of autumn return. I remember when I felt like I could do pretty much anything. You don’t have to be 18 to believe that, but when you are 18, it sure helps that other people feel that way about you, too.



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