Category Archives: Elizabeth K.

I Remember: Halter Top Day

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz, C’04

Halter Top Day to me means springtime at Penn and the end of a long, awful winter.  I know some of you might be confused that I’m not referencing Hey Day or Spring Fling.  I bet some of you are wondering, “What on earth is Halter Top Day? They didn’t have that when I went to Penn!”  Ah, but you are wrong.  Halter Top Day has always existed,  even if you weren’t aware of its existence.

Halter Top Day is something one of my favorite sports writers, Bill Simmons coined in one of his weekly columns a few years ago.  Here is Urban Dictionary’s definition of it:

A term coined by Bill Simmons of ESPN in reference to the day when the weather finally becomes warm enough in a notoriously cold part of the country (i.e. the Northeast) that convertible tops can go down and girls can wear miniskirts and halter tops outdoors. Usually occurs in April.

I know, you’ve heard me reference my inner feminist on this blog, and now I’m writing about a term that possibly has sexist undertones.  I don’t care.  To a winter-hater like me, Halter Top Day is the best day of the year, sexist name and all.  Every year, from November through April, I basically curse myself for ever having left Los Angeles. I stare longingly at my flip flops and I angrily throw on my massive outerwear, including Uggs which are quite possibly the ugliest things I’ve ever put on my feet but I have yet to find anything as comfortably warm.  As a shoe lover, Uggs kill me.  As a cold weather hater, Uggs are my salvation.

Anyway, I digress.  After a long winter during which I am mainly miserable and randomly shout things out like, “THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO LIVE!”  (my husband loves when I do that), Halter Top Day arrives and it is truly magical.

Halter Top Day is really at it’s best on college campuses, and Penn really knows how to do it up.  Girls wander out in jeans and tank tops (I don’t think halter tops are really in style anymore).  Guys throw on shorts and grab Frisbees.  Lines at the food trucks grow.  People walk around with iced Starbucks drinks instead of hot ones.  The green gets crowded with people hanging out on the lawn, tossing previously mentioned Frisbees, eating previously mentioned food truck lunches, and drinking previously mentioned iced Starbucks drinks.  You can’t find a seat at any of the tables on the patios, and while you are mildly annoyed, you also don’t care because the sun is out, you aren’t freezing and you know that anything is possible!  Friends literally greet each other as if they haven’t seen each other since November.  It’s both relaxing and exhilarating all at once.

Without even realizing what it was, since Bill Simmons didn’t coin the term until after I had graduated, I lived for Halter Top day in college.  I live for it now as an adult.  Simply put, it’s the best.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Elizabeth K., Memories of Penn

I Remember…Working for Penn

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz, C’04

No, your eyes aren’t failing you and I didn’t suddenly develop poor grammar, I remember working for Penn because it is now something that is part of my past.  Way back on November 18, 2011, I left Penn to work at Bryn Mawr College, a small all-women’s liberal arts college, where I am running their reunion programs. This new job was a great opportunity for me to grow and move on to a new stage of my career, and I’m very happy in my new position. However, leaving a place and starting over is never easy, especially leaving a school where you spent over 6 years of your life between being a student and an employee.

So, loyal Frankly Penn followers, I can no longer write from the perspective of a former Penn student who is now an employee.  I can, however, still talk about my memories, and I can look at Penn as compared to another, very different school, which is what I will do here.

I know that Penn alums have healthy egos and a fair amount of pride in their school. And, let’s face it, it’s warranted. Penn is an awesome school – Ivy League, top 10 in the rankings, etc.  So, yeah, Penn’s great, but it’s not – gasp – perfect. And, in my couple months at a smaller school, I’ve seen some really wonderful things that I think Penn alums can take to heart.

First, the alums I’ve met here are some of the most dedicated, passionate alumni I have ever seen.  Their small classes mean that Mawrters (aka a Bryn Mawr alum) know everyone and that almost every Bryn Mawr student and alumna/e truly feels like part of the college community.

Second, Bryn Mawr has a lot of very important, longstanding traditions that every graduate, from what we would call the “Old Guard” to current students, take very seriously.  For instance, they have this really beautiful night called “Step Sing” where the students all sit around a set of important steps and sing songs to each other. I know this description sounds strange to some of you – could you ever picture all 9500 Penn students sitting around and singing?  But it’s really cool, I promise. We do an alumnae Step Sing on Friday night of Reunion Weekend, where all of the classes celebrating reunions sit around the same set of stairs and sing to each other, from the 65th all the way down to the 5th reunion.

Finally, the classes are all connected to each other, thanks in part to traditions like the one above that have endured for years and years. For example, this year, the 50th reunion class is giving a book written by one of their classmates to all of the graduating seniors as a gift. Bryn Mawr is a really special place, one that I’m now proud to be a part of.

Don’t worry, I couldn’t spend a paragraph gushing about Bryn Mawr without making mention some of the things that I think Bryn Mawr could learn from Penn. Penn alumni do have a lot of Quaker spirit and pride. While Bryn Mawr isn’t going to field a football team anytime soon, I think we could get behind our student-athletes, or incorporate athletic events into more alumni activities. On a related note, you can’t walk around Penn, or even Philadelphia, without seeing some red and blue Penn clothes.  I’d love to see some more Bryn Mawr gear being sported around this campus and beyond.  Second, I like that Penn alums get a little bit competitive with each other about things, like setting attendance and giving records.  I’d love to infuse some of that competitive spirit into Bryn Mawr when it comes to reunions and fundraising.  And, finally, obviously, Bryn Mawr needs to start an alumni blog!

So, while leaving Penn was difficult and I still miss so many of the great people I got to work with, I am happy about this new job and about learning more about a small school culture. Furthermore, I am VERY excited about being able to experience Penn events solely as an alumna and not have to work them. For my 10th reunion, I’ll be able to walk in the parade instead of being one of those crazy people running around telling people when it’s their turn to walk. I can shmooze with classmates, drink in hand, and not have to worry about leaving in time to staff my next event.  I can’t wait!

Until then, here’s a picture of the tradition I mentioned, the Step Sing:

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Elizabeth K., Memories of Penn, Reunions, Traditions

I Remember…BYOBs

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman-Schwartz, C’04

When I was a college student, I loved going to BYOBs in Philadelphia.  In fact, one summer when I stayed at Penn, two of my girl friends and I would go to a different BYOB every Thursday night and we would bring a bottle (or three) of the finest White Zin that the State Store had to offer.  By the end of the summer we had conducted what we considered to be a thorough taste test on all the White Zins in the liquor store and concluded that Gallo was the best.  Just FYI.

I tried almost all of the affordable BYOBs in the city when I was at Penn and I loved them.  Cheap food, good company, the ability to drink wine no matter what our IDs said*, and it got my friends and I out and exploring downtown Philly.  We loved a lot of the small Italian ones and our particular favorite was a Mexican spot that was “BYOT – Bring Your Own Tequila.” We’d always go out to a BYOB with a large group before sorority formals.  My senior year, the Greek Honor Society that I was a part of took over a downtown BYOB for our end of year dinner. Every table had it’s own box of Franzia!  (Who says Penn students aren’t classy?)

I have such wonderful memories of all of these BYOBs, and I was so excited to move back to Philly in 2007 and go to all of them again.  I soon found out that BYOBs are like a lot of college things that seem charming and fun when you are there – things like dorm rooms, sharing bathrooms, having your normal bedtime be 2 AM – that turn out to be horrible ideas in the real world.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say my memories have been tarnished, but I will say that they have suffered.

So, that Mexican BYOT place?  I last ate there in May 2009.  The food and company was great, fun times were had, although my friends and I were the oldest people there by at least five years.  I thought all was good.  Until my friend wound up in the hospital with a horrible stomach bacteria.  People had to wear hazmat suits to visit her!  When she told them where she had eaten the doctors and nurses said they were not surprised and that they see a lot of cases of this after people eat at this restaurant.  I sadly crossed that one off of my list.

Next up, those little Italian charmers.  The last time I went to one of my favorite BYOB brick oven pizza places from college, there was a sign at the entrance stating, “Bottles of wine are limited to one for every two people.”  I read this in a panic as I clutched my box of wine, waiting for two of my friends to show up (judge away, but some boxed wine really isn’t bad and it lasts longer).  I spoke to the owner and told him, “I’m really sorry but I didn’t know about this policy.  If you’d like, I can ask my friends to bring bottles instead.”  He looked at me and kindly said, “Oh, ma’am, that isn’t directed to you.  That’s directed to the crazy students who come in here.” Color me old, and appalled.

Finally, my FAVORITE Italian place from undergrad is about two blocks away from where I live now.  I was so excited to have this be my neighborhood place – you know, that spot you and your husband go to when you are out of dinner ideas or want a quick and easy date night and where the owners know you by name and greet you warmly whenever you come in. What did I find there? Fast and borderline rude service, along with big, rowdy, loud groups of Penn students. As my husband glared at them for ruining our romantic date night, I said, both proud and ashamed, “You know, that used to be me and my friends.” We have since found another neighborhood Italian spot, one that the Penn students haven’t overrun…yet.

So, yes, my Penn go-to BYOBs are now a thing of my recent past, but I do have to give a shout out in general to the BYOB culture of Philadelphia. First, now that I am a “grown up”, I’ve found other, classier BYOBs here that I love going to. I’ve had some of the best meals of my life at BYOBs.  A great BYOB is a must-eat-at destination spot for any out of town visitor.  And, I’m happy to live in a place that has something for everyone, from your loud Penn student to your almost-thirty something married couple looking for a nice date night spot.

*The former lawyer in me would like to point out three things.  One, I do not condone underage drinking. Two, I do not admit to underage drinking in this post. Three, I will not list any of these BYOBs by name so that today’s Penn students can still enjoy them.

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I Remember Facebook…Part II…When I Knew Everyone’s Name and No One Had Babies

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman-Schwartz, C’04

Last year, I had a meeting with a Penn student about an alumni project she was working on.  Our discussion turned to how things have changed since I graduated from Penn even though it wasn’t that long ago.  I told her what it was like when Facebook arrived at Penn for the first time, and she told me how helpful it was when it came to connecting with fellow students before college starts.

I told her, “Just wait until you get older.  Facebook will start to get really weird.  First, people start getting married.  Then, someone pops up in your newsfeed who you haven’t heard from in awhile, his profile picture is a baby and you realize that the crazy guy you knew in college is a DAD.”

To which she replied, “Oh, that’s really funny, because when someone I know has a baby picture as a profile picture, I just assume it’s them as a baby!”

I’ve never felt older.

I miss the days when all Facebook was about was what classes you were taking, who your friends were and whether you were in a relationship or not.  With growing up and living lives, it turns out that simple things like social networking become much more complicated.

First up on the complications list:  names.  I got married over a year ago and, ignoring the outraged feminist within, finally took my husband’s name at our one-year anniversary.  However, my name on Facebook is Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz.  Why?  Because no one knows who Elizabeth Schwartz is!  I barely know who Elizabeth Schwartz is!  (Honestly, will that name ever feel like mine or not look weird to me?)   How can I expect other people who don’t speak to me on a daily basis to keep my new name straight?

For the record, this is NOT my wedding photo...

The name change thing has led to some confusing Facebook situations.  Like, when someone pops up on my newsfeed and I think, “Who the heck is that and how did we become friends?  Do I care about the fact that she just watched a “‘Clarissa Explains it All’ marathon on Teen Nick?”  (Answer:  Yes, I do.)  Or, I get a friend request and delete it thinking, “I don’t know that person,” when in reality we were best friends in second grade and I really would have liked to reconnect with her.  Imagine our volunteers who make facebook pages for their reunions!  They can’t add you to their fun reunion pages if they don’t know who you are.

Also not my second grade class.

Ladies.  I implore you.  Don’t get rid of your maiden name on Facebook.  The whole point of Facebook is to reconnect with old friends.  How on earth will people find you if you don’t have the name on there that you’ve had for twenty-plus years?

Secondly, babies.  So, while it’s weird to get a friend request from someone who you think you don’t know because her name is different, it is ten thousand times weirder to not talk to someone in awhile and then learn from Facebook that he or she is a parent or parent-to-be.  Remember in college seeing that crazy guy in your class who would go shirtless to football games in forty degree weather, paint his chest red and blue and run up and down the stadium? And you’d find yourself wondering, “God, I wonder what his future children will be like?” Or, if you were in a meaner mood, “I am really scared for his future children.”  Well, guess what?  He has kids and you can learn all about them on Facebook!

This IS my favorite mascot!

The other thing about the baby factor is that your newsfeed becomes clogged with status updates about children, none of which a non-parent like me can relate to.  It’s either about how hard it is being a parent, or sappy like, “My little angel smiled at me today and my heart burst with sunshine and rainbows.”  I de-friended someone once who wrote intricate details about her child’s poop.  Not cool, and I’m pretty positive if that baby knew what was going on (which s/he will one day) s/he’d be pretty embarrassed.  Mark Zuckerberg – I’m telling you – start Facebook for Babies.  BabyBook.  It will be a huge hit.

Not my baby.

Facebook started out as a fun place to stalk, to learn more about people in your classes, and to find fellow Penn friends in the different cities you moved to after graduation.  But then life changed, and facebook changed right along with it.  So, Penn students – enjoy this Facebook while you have it!  Turns out, like most things about college, it’s not how the real world works!

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I Remember…Music Class

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman-Schwartz, C’04

Today, I got an email from the Philadelphia Orchestra (nerd alert – I’m on their mailing list!) advertising a visiting orchestra coming to town and the fact that they’d be playing an all-Beethoven program, including my two favorite symphonies – Eroica and the 5th.  I had a major, all-out nerd attack.  In the span of two minutes, I called my husband, made sure that he was on board with the ticket purchase, ordered us two seats (after memorizing the seating layout in the Kimmel Center, including doing some Google image searches, to make sure the seats were acceptable), and exuberantly ran into another employee’s office telling her about my AMAZING purchase.   Let’s just say that her reaction did not come close to matching my level of enthusiasm.  I’m a classical music nut and I’m proud of it!  I owe almost all of this love to the University of Pennsylvania’ s Department of Music.

As a freshman at Penn, I signed up for a first year seminar called “History of the Symphony.”  I was intrigued by the title and thought it might be a good chance to learn something new.  I sang in select choirs all through high school and was in the shows, plus I enjoyed musical things like Broadway.  My dad is a classical music fan, and I’d always have to listen to classical music in his car when he’d drive me places.  He give me the choice of riding with no music and actually…gasp…talking, or listening to classical music and, to me, the choice was clear.  I’d pretend to hate it, but deep down, I thought it was beautiful.  I liked how listening to classical music stirred my imagination, painted a mood for me, and let me be peaceful and reflective.  I didn’t get to take any classes about classical music in high school, so when I got to Penn, it made sense to me to learn more about it.  I loved my symphony class and before I graduated I took two more music classes, including a music history course and a course entirely on Beethoven.

I’ve talked in this blog before about how Penn is very pre-professional and how I was constantly worried that I didn’t know what I was going to do for the rest of my life.  That’s true – except for the time I spent in music class.  In music class, my fears about what would happen to me, my worries that what I was learning wasn’t applicable to the real world at all, faded away.  I would watch my professor map out a symphony, feeling like I was learning a secret, beautiful code.  I learned what motivated Beethoven to write such deeply meaningful pieces.  I spent hours in the music library, learning how to identify parts of the symphony like the introduction, recapitulation, bridge and coda.  Soon, I was mapping symphonies on my own.  By the end of my classes, I could hear a few seconds of any Beethoven symphony, at any point, and correctly name it.  It was amazing.  I didn’t care how or when I used this knowledge, but for one of the only times in my life I was learning for the joy of learning.  And I was happy.

I didn’t become a music major or even a minor.  I never worked for a symphony or played for one.  But what I gained from my three music classes was so valuable.  I gained a love and knowledge of a true art form, which I will carry with me throughout my entire life.  I learned the power of music to inspire true creativity and emotion.  In learning this, I really think I became a better, more well-rounded person.  When it comes down to it, I think that’s what a good college education should be about.

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Filed under Academics, Alumni Perspective, Elizabeth K., Fine Art, Memories of Penn, The Arts, The Arts at Penn

I Remember…Sorority Rush

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz, C’04

A confession:  I wasn’t that cool in high school.  (I know you are shocked by this given that I’ve divulged my love for the X Files on here).  But wait – I wasn’t a nerd either – I was in that in between category, mainly reserved for people who cared too much about school to ever be cool.  I had a lot of friends and a fun social life but I was in the smart classes and didn’t party.  In any case, I really did like high school.  I still have great friends from that time in my life and wonderful memories.  However, I knew when I got to college, things would be different.

Here’s one of the unspoken, great things about Penn.  Probably 80% of the people at this school were not cool in high school.  But then we come to Penn, a place where it is okay to study and work hard, a place where it’s okay have a conversation about nerdy things and where there are so many people and groups that you don’t have to worry as hard about fitting in.  There is no cool clique or popular crowd because there are just too many people for that to make sense.  Additionally, most of the students here were like me in high school – “nerdy” by default but social and fun.  So, what did I decide to do with this newfound sense of belonging and “coolness?”  I rushed a sorority.

I am sure most of my high school friends were taken aback by the thought of me in a sorority.  Girls who watch The X Files and take Calculus for fun are not the type of girls who are supposed to join sororities.  I didn’t care.  I wanted to try it out – I wanted to be part of a world that seemed completely inaccessible to me when I was a high school freshman, singing second soprano in choir and performing in the shows (yup, I’m dropping nerd alerts along the way as you keep reading).  So, I signed up for rush and was on my way!

Let me tell you – for an extrovert like me, rush was amazing.  We recently learned in a seminar at work that the difference between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts derive energy from interacting with large groups of people, whereas introverts are drained by it.  Sorority rush, to me, was like drinking five cups of coffee, and I don’t drink caffeine.  I put my black pants on and met new person after new person, after new person.  It didn’t stop at the girls in the sororities! I met the girls who stood near me in line, the girls in my rush group, the girls who were preffing (a word for the last round of rush) the same houses – so many new people!  It was awesome…until I got rejected from a couple sororities I liked.  But, I bounced back, kept going, and found my home at Chi Omega.

With some of my Chi Omega sisters at our 5th Reunion

Of course there were parts of the process that weirded me out.  At some rounds, when the sisters talked about how much they loved their house, they would cry.  I didn’t like that.  One of the sororities dressed up as hippies for the first round.  As someone who shopped solely at the Gap and maybe Arden B when I was feeling “wild,” I cut them immediately.  But those experiences were few and far between.

I know that rush might sound silly.  Parading around campus in black pants meeting lots of girls and having nothing more than superficial conversations does not seem particularly productive on the surface.  But, sorority rush taught me a lot about life.  It taught me how to have a conversation with almost anyone, something that comes in very handy in my job in Alumni Relations.  It taught me to be polite (you never wore a watch during rush because if you glanced at it while talking to someone it would be rude).  It taught me, when I was on the other side of rush, how to work as a team.  (Just ask me, I still remember our dance to “Funky Cold Medina” which became “Funky Chi Omega.”)  And, it taught me how to face rejection, keep my head up, and how to have faith that in the end things work out.

Sorority rush also led to one of the most defining experiences in my Penn life – serving as Panhellenic Council President.  But, I’ll save that for another day!  Now, I’m off to a work meeting where I will no doubt have a great conversation with someone and not glance at my watch.

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I Remember…Freshman Orientation

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman Schwartz, C’04

The summer before I left for college, I was a really mean person.  I wouldn’t admit it, but I was completely stressed out about starting school.  Also, being from the suburbs of Philadelphia, most of my friends were going to Penn State.  So, not only was I scared to go to college, but also I had to listen to all of my friends talking about how much fun school would be when they all got there together.  A part of me was so jealous that they would get to experience all of this with a built in friend group and that I had to do the college thing alone.  At the same time, I was so excited to go to Penn and was just itching to start my college life and gain more independence.  It was a very complicated time, which led to me snapping at everyone in close proximity, especially my mother.  I’m really sorry, Mom. Thanks for being patient.

Even with the combination of stress, nerves and excitement, official move-in day went pretty well, besides my Dad almost breaking his back carrying my computer monitor in and out of the car. My family and I were completely enthralled by the concept of the giant rolling carts and were amazed at how efficient the move in staff was. I got to my room before my roommate, so I got to pick my side first and decorate my dorm room to make it the happiest, most colorful place EVER.  I had a collage of pictures on the wall next to my bed, giant corkboard already full of things above my computer, really bright fun bedspread that I had picked out at Bed Bath and Beyond, etc.

My Side of the Room

My roommate, however, was from South Korea and she came with two suitcases.  Her side of the room had a pale violet bedspread, the free Penn calendar on the wall and that was about it.  Grace was nice but very different from me – we quite literally spoke two different languages.  She had never met a Jewish person before and I had never met someone who actually lived in Korea.  A few hours in and already we were part of the Penn melting pot!

Roommate's Side

I don’t really remember a lot about official orientation besides those boring lectures on the Penn Reading Project (our book was Metamorphosis, which I hated, a guy turning into a bug seemed really implausible and I don’t enjoy books that are just one big metaphor), taking a walking tour of West Philadelphia, and attending a big fair for new students in Houston Hall that had a fake casino.  I remember telling myself constantly to not call my parents so I didn’t look pathetic, trying not to sit on AIM all of the time talking to my old friends, even though I wanted to, and every time I left the Quad, hoping that I would come back to my dorm room and see a message on the whiteboard on my door.

The beginning of college wasn’t as easy for me as it seemed to be for other people, and this was frustrating.  Everyone seemed to become insta-best friends with their hallmates.  My “hall” was 8 people – two doubles and four singles.  Grace, my roommate , immediately bonded with the Korean Christian Association so she had her clique.  The two girls who were next door were on the swim team, so they immediately were friends with other swimmers, and the people in the singles across the hall seemed to have no interest in leaving their rooms and making friends.  I didn’t have a built in group to eat meals with or go stand in the awful lines at fraternity parties with.  It was just me.  Luckily I’m an outgoing person, so I just forced myself to talk to people, but it really took awhile to find my footing.

As time went on, things got better.  I became really good friends with the one other person at Penn who I went to high school with. There was a guy in one of my classes who I thought was cute – nothing happened with him, but I did become best friends with the girl who lived next door to him after hanging out at their dorm all of the time (we are still best friends – she was in my wedding in October 2010 and I will be in her wedding in March).  I met the girls from a hall two floors above me and became really close with them, and, subsequently, an adopted member of the third floor of Baird.  A month or so after orientation, and I finally had a hall to hang out with!  Woo hoo!  Slowly but surely,  I was really starting to feel like I belonged at Penn.

So, Penn orientation for me didn’t mean insta-friendships, and now, when I work orientation events (yes, I get to staff that student fair with the fake casino!), I want to go up to the students who seem kind of lost and tell them, “Don’t worry.  It works out!.”  But really, everyone seems kind of lost, nervous and unsure of themselves, even the ones who travel around in the giant packs of insta-friends.  I wish I had realized back then that I wasn’t so alone and that the people who seemed to have a lot of friends were just as nervous as I was.  Also, be honest, how many of you are still really good friends with those insta-BFFs from orientation week?

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Elizabeth K., Historical, Memories of Penn

I Remember…Freshgrocer

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman, C’04

I know, I know.  This one seems kind of obvious.  I went to Whole Foods last weekend to get some produce and I certainly remember that.  Going to a supermarket is not a big event, right?

WRONG.  Unless you are a recent graduate of Penn and therefore think your campus always came with a convenient well-stocked (at times) grocery store, you know what I mean when I say that the arrival of Freshgrocer was an event worthy of a blog post.  When I was a freshman, Penn had no supermarket.  There was Wawa, and there was a sketchy Thriftway on somewhere around 43rd Street.  I never actually found out exactly where it was because I was too scared to go.  One of my friends went there with her parents during orientation week so she could stock up on Easy Mac and Elios pizza and I think it took all they had to not throw her in the car with them and take her back to North Carolina.

Since Thriftway was out, Wawa was my only option when it came to groceries.  I remember going there for my milk and cereal and pints of Ben and Jerry’s (freshman fifteen alert!) and then I’d supplement with the fruit food truck for some fresh produce.  Granted, an 18-year-old’s diet doesn’t require much more than that, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  One time I asked my best friend to bring me some fruit.  It was during Passover, I was sick and I really couldn’t eat much.  The fruit truck line was too long (so she claims), so her only other option was bringing me fruit jelly slices that her parents had given her to eat as a treat during Passover.  My poor swollen tonsils just couldn’t handle it.  Penn needed a supermarket, and fast.

Luckily, with about a week left to go freshman year, our prayers were answered.  Freshgrocer opened at 40th and Walnut and I swear I had tears in my eyes and heard angels singing as I stared up at that glistening building.  It was a miracle, like every Penn student’s collective wish coming true.

My best friend (of fruit slice fame), another friend and I were done with our finals early and decided we needed to celebrate the new supermarket.  So, we went to Freshgrocer and pretty much bought everything we could on our student budgets.  I mainly remember buying a giant baguette, tons of cheese and grapes.  We had a picnic in the quad and were so happy!  Freshgrocer led to other happy times, like visits to their candy wall during finals studying and before movies, late night food runs, and dinners of their surprisingly yummy hoagies.  That supermarket meant so much to us, because we knew what it meant to be at Penn without it.  And, despite some shutdowns because of rodent problems, ridiculously long checkout lines and a layout that was nearly impossible to navigate, we loved that store.

Looking back, Freshgrocer was only the beginning of a 40th street expansion that continued long after I graduated.  There are now things like Bobby’s Burger Palace, Capogiro gelato, one of the prettiest CVS stores I’ve ever seen, Jimmy John’s, etc. lining Walnut Street between 39th and 40th.  Izzy and Zoe’s might be gone (I really don’t know how the students are surviving without their brunches) but the expanded Greek Lady almost makes up for that.  Don’t worry, Smokes is still standing strong.  But, there’s no doubt campus has changed, and definitely for the better.  To think, my classmates and I were there when it started, standing in a checkout line for 15 minutes waiting to buy some cheese!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Elizabeth K., Food Fiends, Memories of Penn

I Remember…Being Pre-Med

By: Elizabeth K.

At Penn, it felt like everyone knew exactly what they wanted to do when they graduated, from the minute hellos were said to new roommates freshman year.  Especially the Wharton students, who not only knew what they wanted to do but also wanted to go into fields I’d never even heard of!  For instance, consulting.  When someone told me she wanted to do that I thought , “So is that like when a friend tells me about a problem with a boy and I tell her what she should do?”  Thank god I never verbalized my confusion, although honestly I still have no idea what consultants actually do and why they get paid so much for doing it.  Anyway, everyone I knew had their career, in some cases ones I didn’t even know existed, planned out.  In the meantime, I was completely undecided when it came to my major and my life.

At Penn, it was socially acceptable to say you were doing certain things after graduation.  Something Wharton-y like banking, something engineering-y (I’m not even going to pretend to know what their fields are), nursing and if you were in the College you went to either law school or med school.  Anything else and you felt terrified that you were inadequate and doomed for a life of failure.  So, when I found myself undecided I knew I needed to remedy that, and fast.

When I started at Penn I signed up for four classes – Calculus, Biology, The Symphony and Spanish 4.  I signed up for them to fill requirements and because I liked them.  Yes – I liked Calculus and Biology!  I started these classes freshman year and realized almost every single person in my Calc and Bio classes was pre-med.  So, I became friends with the pre-meds and learned about all of the classes I needed to take for medical school.  Before I knew it, I decided to be pre-med too!  It felt awesome to have a life direction!  Now I was part of all of those, “What will you do when you graduate?” conversations!

A page from one of my college scrapbooks – proof that I was taking my pre-med courses! One of my amazing best friends from Penn made me this cake before a big chemistry test.

Close up of the cake! It was delicious

Everything was going fine until junior year hit.  I was sitting in Organic Chemistry, listening to the professor drone on, pretty positive that I would never understand what he was talking about, and I had this little thought, “Elizabeth.  Being a doctor isn’t worth a year of this class.”  A couple days later, my then-boyfriend, who was also pre-med (and today is a wonderful oncologist!), said to me, “You should really volunteer at HUP with me.  I play bingo with cancer patients and it’s great.  Plus, it will look really good on your med school applications.”  I said, “Oh, that’s nice but no thanks.  I don’t really like being around sick people.”

YEAH.  I KNOW.

It dawned on me.  I didn’t actually want to be a doctor.  I just wanted so badly to know what I was going to do with the rest of my life and be a part of the Penn pre-professional culture, that for two years I was pretending I had found my life calling.

I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but it wasn’t.  Since I wasn’t going to be pre-med, I HAD to do something or end up at the dreaded “I don’t know where I’ll be after I graduate” bar during senior week.  Since I was a successful student in the college, I did what any sane undecided junior would do  – I became pre-law!  Only this time I actually followed through, took the LSATs, went to law school (which I loved) and practiced law for a couple of years.  Needless to say it wasn’t for me.  And, after some soul searching and being really honest with myself about what I wanted in a career, I wound up back where I started, at Penn.  I feel very lucky that I can say I truly like my job and while my path to working in Higher Education Administration was roundabout, I know I ended up in the right place for me.

I loved my time at Penn, but looking back I wish I had enjoyed my academic ride a little bit more.  I should have enjoyed learning just for the sake of learning, and shouldn’t have wasted so much time and stress concerned with what would happen after I got my diploma.  So, to all the Penn undergrads reading this (soapbox alert!) – enjoy your four years of college!  This is such a special time in your lives.  And, if you are in the dreaded “undecided” category, you’ll figure it out along the way, I promise.  Even if your path isn’t obvious or prescribed, you’ll find your way to happiness.

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I Remember…Facebook

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman, C’04

Second semester of my senior year, I had the best time of my life and was also an emotional wreck. I was distraught at the thought of the inevitable end to college and saying goodbye to Penn (if you’ve read my commencement article, you know this culminated in a tear-filled hysterical graduation). With a couple months left to go senior year, there was this article in the DP about something called “Facebook” coming to Penn. I remember thinking, “What a stupid name for a website, the facebooks are those things we got freshman year” and then I pretty much ignored the article. This said a lot, considering that I was a second semester senior and all I did during class was read the DP.

A few weeks later, facebook hit Penn. I didn’t immediately sign up for it because it just seemed so weird. Why would my roommate have to be my facebook friend when I could just walk next door to her room and say hi? What was the point? A few days later, my friend, appalled with what I had been missing out on, bluntly told me, “Elizabeth, this thing is awesome. Just do it. And it’s only at Ivy League schools, so it’s really exclusive and cool” (watch the movie,  The Social Network. The exclusivity thing was a marketing tool for them and it totally worked). I added in my own argument that it might be a nice way to stay in touch with people after graduation, and, by the end of the day, I had an account. Madness ensued.

Do you remember when you signed up for facebook for the first time? Remember how much fun it was to find your (real) friends and how neat it was to connect with someone you hadn’t seen for years? Imagine all of this becoming available to you a month before before college graduation. What better way to cope with your anxiety about graduation than “friending” every person you ever met at Penn. Wondering what will happen to the cute guy from music class you figured you’d never see again? Facebook friends! Nervous that you’ll never talk to one of your good acquaintances once you move to L.A. and she moves to NYC? Facebook friends!

Once you became friends with someone, you’d look at all of their friends and find even more people who weren’t actually your friends and realize you HAD to be facebook friends with them. It became absolutely necessary to be “friends” with every girl in your sorority, every single person from your classes (you could sort by class in the early days), anyone who lived in your dorm freshman year, etc. Every time I opened my email, there were at least 20 unread messages with friend requests.

Some people tried to make rules like, “I won’t request friends, I’ll just accept requests” or “I won’t join until after I graduate.” Those rules lasted about a day. Facebook was a tidal wave and everyone got swept up in it.

It seems silly now that facebook was such a big deal, especially because back then it didn’t really do anything. There was a profile, relationship status and you could “poke” someone (a concept I still do not understand). There were no walls to write, no photos to upload, no groups, fanpages, or newsfeeds. Yet, it was fascinating. There was something so captivating about connecting with all of these people I went to school with for four years. I have 803 facebook friends. I promise you, I’m not that cool. I just happened to be part of this wave that swept Penn for a month back in 2004.

The first iteration of Facebook. See? Not much to it.

When I started working in Alumni Relations, I tried making another one of those silly facebook rules – that I wouldn’t be friends with my volunteers. That rule lasted for a few months, until I realized that facebook was a vital part of my job. We use group pages and fan pages to build class unity and promote our reunions. We ask questions like, “Who was your favorite professor?” so that classmates can easily start up conversations for the first time in twenty-five years. We get our playlists for reunion parties by starting facebook discussions about music they want to hear at reunion. I think the connections that alumni are making on facebook now are so much more meaningful than the frantic “GRADUATION IS COMING” connections that were forged during my senior year. People genuinely want to talk to each other and get back in touch.  Maybe even with that boy they had a crush on from their music class…

Class of 1986's Facebook Page for Their 25th Reunion

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