Category Archives: Rebecca E.

Memories of Penn

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’ 13

Well, I can finally say it: I’m officially a proud Penn alumna!  I graduated from the Graduate School of Education this May, and as I packed up my apartment, I couldn’t help taking time out to browse through the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken of Penn this year.  As I’m sure all of you would agree, Penn’s campus is incredibly beautiful.  Inspired by Casey R.’s top ten posts, I’d like to share ten of my favorite places with you, in no particular order.

The Love Statue

Love statue

I can’t count the number of times I’ve posed next to this statue with classmates and friends.

Graduate Student Center

Grad Student Center

The Graduate Student Center (GSC) is my favorite place on campus to study or grab lunch.  Several of the friends I made outside of my cohort I met during the first few weeks of school at the GSC.

Locust Walk

Locust Walk

Locust Walk is beautiful all year round, but especially in the spring when all the trees come back to life and form a perfect arch for graduates as they process down to Franklin Field.  Walking through all the class flags with friends and classmates is definitely something I won’t forget anytime soon.

Graduate School of Education (GSE)


This is the building where I took most of my classes.  I made friendships, established lifelong professional networks, and learned from some of the most innovative faculty in the field of education here.  Penn GSE was founded in 1914 and will celebrate its centennial next year—hopefully I’ll be back to celebrate!

College Hall

College Hall

College Hall is one of my favorite buildings on campus, especially when the sunset hits the west side of the building.

Van Pelt-Dietrich Rocking Chairs

Van Pelt

You can find these great rocking chairs on the first floor of Van Pelt facing College Green.



Covenant by Alexander Liberman is one of my favorite pieces of public sculpture on campus.

Penn Park


Not only is Penn Park a great place to run or take a walk, it also boasts a fantastic view of downtown Philadelphia.

Franklin Field

Franklin Field

I took in a number of Penn traditions at Franklin Field this year, including the post-third quarter toast toss during home football games and the Penn Relays.  My final trip into Franklin Field this year was for the 257th Commencement.

Sweeten Alumni House


Finally, last but no means least, Sweeten Alumni House.  I was incredibly lucky this year to work as a graduate assistant in Alumni Relations. Not only did I learn a lot, I also got to work with a great staff and meet talented and proud Penn alumni from all over the country.



Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, GSE, Memories of Penn, Rebecca E., Student Perspective

Time to Celebrate

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

As the school year nears its completion, many of my classmates and I find that we have a lot to celebrate. Prime example: in one of my classes, the due date for our final paper was pushed back a whole week!  I’m sure I can speak for my classmates in sharing my excitement.

Outside of class, we have a lot to celebrate, as well.  The Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Wharton Doctoral Council hosted a Masquerade Ball for GSE and Wharton students last Saturday.  It was a fun evening to dress up, see friends that I haven’t been able to catch up with recently, and indulge my creative side by decorating a mask.  My full time cohort members and I will graduate in May, so while we enjoyed the evening, we also took a lot of photos with each other, trying not to think too much about the good-byes we’re all going to have to say in a month or two. \

GSE formal: Posing high-school-dance-style with some of my cohort members.

GSE formal: Posing high-school-dance-style with some of my cohort members.

Tomorrow Time to Shine will be held in Penn Park to celebrate the success of the Making History campaign.  The whole campus is full of bright signs and floating stars, and Locust Walk has a festive air to it.  I hope to see many of you there on Friday!

The view on Locust Walk today.

The view on Locust Walk today.

And one more...

And one more…

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Happy (belated) St. Patty’s Day!

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

My name may not sound like it, but my family actually has quite a bit of Irish ancestry on both sides.  And this year, for some reason, I celebrated that more than ever.

I checked out the St. Patrick’s Day parade here in Philadelphia (held the week before, on the 10th) and really enjoyed the bagpipes.  Thankfully, the day was warm and sunny—a rarity in Philadelphia so far this year—and a great day to be outside.


St. Patrick’s Day Parade

On the 15th, the Annenberg Center hosted Natalie MacMaster, a Canadian fiddler who, despite having a cough, played beautifully and simultaneously step danced throughout much of the performance.  She also shared touching stories of her family and musical inspirations with the audience.  Before the show, a friend and I went out for fish and chips—a perfect way to start off our evening of Irish music.

St. Patrick's Day Parade

Poster for the concert at the Annenberg Center.

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Filed under GSE, Rebecca E., Student Perspective

Sunset on College Green

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for beautiful landscapes, elegant architecture, and dramatic lighting.  As the days have gradually been getting longer, I’ve been walking home from class while the sun sets over campus.  I love seeing College Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library tinted orange in the setting sun.  Here are a couple pictures for you to enjoy.

2013-02-18 17 16 17

2013-02-18 17 16 28

Spring may still feel a long way off, but as each day grows a little longer, I feel my spirits rise with the anticipation of warmer weather coming soon.

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Filed under Academics, Campus Life, GSE, Rebecca E.

The Graduate Student Center

Author: Rebecca Eckart, GEd‘13

After taking five years off between undergrad and grad school, I imagined it would take me a while to readjust to being a student again.  I also imagined I’d spend a lot of time in the library.  The first of these expectations was true: it took me half of fall semester to get used to managing classes, papers, reading, and work again.  But surprisingly, the second was not.  Although I do go to the library sometimes when I study on campus, more often I tend to go to the Graduate Student Center (GSC).

For those of you who may not be familiar with the GSC, it opened in 2001 and is located between 36th and 37th Streets on Locust Walk.  It has a large common room with tables, couches, computers, a café that has great lunch deals, and free coffee and tea all day (if you bring your own cup).  There are a lot of programs for students—foreign language chats, teaching workshops, and other activities.  And there are also cute gnomes scattered throughout the building, sure to brighten anyone’s day.

The GSC has a great community atmosphere.  I almost always see someone I know when I stop by for lunch or to read.  The GSC is also a unifying space for grad students.  There are twelve different graduate and professional schools at Penn, and the GSC is a place where students from all schools can come, like me, to study, eat, or take a break between classes.


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A Longwood Gardens Holiday Wish

Author:  Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

Happy holidays, everyone!  I hope you’re having a wonderful time with family and friends and are taking a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I’m back in my hometown celebrating the holidays with my family, but I wanted to share with you some of holiday cheer I experienced in Philadelphia and elsewhere during December.

In early December, International Student Affairs in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) organized a trip for GSE students to Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, PA.  I went with some of my classmates and was truly overwhelmed by the beauty and grandeur of the grounds, both outside and inside the conservatory.  In the conservatory, because of the history and architecture of the building, I felt as though I had stepped back in time to the Gilded Age or Progressive Era.  Pierre du Pont, the famous businessman who purchased the property in the early twentieth century and opened Longwood Gardens to the public, once entertained guests in the conservatory during the holiday season.  Many of the decorations in the building referenced that tradition.

Penn’s campus and downtown Philadelphia also displayed a lot of holiday cheer.  Below are just a few pictures for you to enjoy.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy New Year!

Longwood Gardens inside

Longwood Gardens outside

Longwood Gardens inside ii

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Reflecting on the Fall Semester

Author:  Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

Now that the fall semester is coming to a close and I’m almost done with all my papers/projects/exams, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my first semester of grad school.

Some of the most rewarding things of this semester were:

  • Participating in the English Language Programs language exchange—my language partner and I became good friends, and we learned a lot about one another’s culture
  • Participating in the Philadelphia half marathon—what better way to see the city than to run through it with friends?
  • Bonding with my cohort in the Graduate School of Education—we all came from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but we’ve come together as a supportive group.
  • Working on final projects for several of my classes.  Students were able to tailor projects to their specific interests.

And now, some of the things I wish I’d known before starting grad school:

  • If you take time off between undergrad and grad school, it will take a few weeks (or months…) to get used to academic reading and writing again.
  • Again, if you take time off, you may be surprised to find that your study habits have completely changed.  In undergrad, I was a night owl and did most of my studying until the early hours of the morning.  But after five years of working a day job, I can’t stay up past midnight, no matter how much coffee I have!
  • In a lot of ways, grad school is more independent and less structured than undergrad.  This gives you a lot of freedom to explore your interests, but it also means you have to work harder to make relationships.

Now I’m looking forward to spring semester and graduating in May.  I’m planning to do a lot of reading over winter break, so that hopefully next semester will be a little less hectic than this one has been.  I’m also really excited to go a Phillies game—I wasn’t able to make it to a home game this fall.

After the race in front of the Rocky statues; Graduate Student Center; stack of books I’m using for research projects?

After the race in front of the Rocky statue

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What I’m Thankful For…

Author:  Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all enjoyed the holiday with your families and friends. This year, I hung out with family for the first time in five years, so my Thanksgiving was extra special.  It also made me realize I have a lot to give thanks for.  Here is a list of the top five things for which I am grateful this year:

5: Thanksgiving food.  Having lived abroad for the past five years, I could not wait to eat turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, and I encouraged my international friends to try this uniquely American holiday cuisine.

4: International friends. One reason I chose to study at Penn was the large international student population on campus.

3: My GSE cohorts.  I was so worried before coming to Penn: Would I make friends? Would I fit in with 22 year-olds after having been out in the work force for five years? Thankfully, my cohort is a fun, supportive group of people of diverse experiences, and I’ve made good friends both within and outside my cohort.

Members of my GSE cohort at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

2: Being accepted to Penn.  I never imagined I’d be an Ivey-Leaguer, and I wasn’t able to visit before I accepted my offer of admission.  My first week on campus, though, I was so glad I’d chosen to come here. Penn embodies the perfect blend of large-university-with-extensive-resources and beautiful-old-campus.

Fall leaves on Locust Walk.

1: My family.  Spending Thanksgiving with my family was truly wonderful this year, and I have to say thanks to my parents for driving me and a car-load of stuff across all of Ohio and Pennsylvania in August.  I bet they thought they were done with that two years ago when my younger sister finished college.  Thanks Mom and Dad, and I promise that after I graduate from Penn, you will never have to do that again!

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Running in Philly

Author:  Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

Philadelphia and Penn have a lot of great places and opportunities for runners.   Running on the Schuylkill River Trail has been especially beautiful this month, as the reds and golds of the autumn leaves cascade over the trail and reflect in the river.  As many runners can probably attest, some days are harder than others to get out and go.  But right now, with the lovely fall colors and the cool, crisp autumn air, it’s easy.

My morning view of the Schuylkill River Trail.

Over the summer, as I was saying goodbye to friends and preparing to move to Philly, I really hoped I’d be able to find a good running group at Penn.  I started running about four years ago, and the reason I was able to keep running was that I had a close friend who ran and entered races with me.  Thankfully, when I got to Penn, finding a group wasn’t hard at all!

The second Saturday I was on campus, the Graduate Student Center (GSC), in response to student requests, held a casual run.  There was a good turnout, with close to twenty students attending, a mix of returning and first-year grad students.  We ran from the GSC down to the Schuylkill River Trail, and once there, split up according to distance and pace.  I met some other women with similar pacing and distance goals that day, and we’ve been running together on weekends since.

We’ve also entered races together at Penn and in Philly.  In October, we ran in the Penn Park Homecoming 5k.  The race was a lot of fun and we got official Homecoming 5K shirts.  For me, half the fun of running in races is collecting shirts!

With me friends…That’s me as #43.

Just yesterday, several of us ran in the Philadelphia half-marathon.  My running group and I are all first year grad students, so it was a real challenge to train for a half-marathon while trying to balance our academic, work, and personal schedules.  Some of my friends had time goals for this race, but my goal was just to finish (which I did!).

Running has been an important part of my life at Penn.  It has encouraged me to set new goals and enabled me to make friends outside of my graduate school. After our big race this Sunday, my group is planning to go out for Philly cheesesteaks, and I’m sure we will look for more events in the area to join.

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Engaging International Students

Author:  Rebecca Eckart, GEd’13

Last week, Dr. Altamirano, Director of International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) at Penn, was a guest speaker in one of my classes at the Graduate School of Education (GSE).  He spoke to my class about the services his office provides for international students, and how hard he has worked to make connections with offices throughout the university to make it easier to support international students.

In the discussion following his presentation, a classmate raised an interesting question.   She noted that many international students often tend to socialize with others from their own country, and that American students also tend to socialize with other Americans.

My class tried to understand why this is the case.  We talked about a number of potential factors: lack of confidence in language ability, hesitancy to step out of comfort zones, and possible misunderstandings about gestures or customs of unfamiliar cultures.  We also discussed how difficult it can be to speak with a person of another culture as an individual, rather than as a representative.  When we meet someone from another country, we’re interested in the customs and culture of their homeland, so we ask about those things.  But it’s important to keep in mind that people are individuals, and to make a relationship with someone, we need to be interested in that person’s life and interests, not just his or her culture.

Participating in part of a spring festival in Japan, 2011.

Dr. Altamirano encouraged all of us to take time to speak with international students, invite them out for a cup of coffee, and make a genuine effort to get to know them.  I completely agree with him.  I lived in Japan for five years, so I felt that I could understand well some of the things we talked about.  There were other Americans who lived near me, and it was much easier to spend time with them than to try to make Japanese friends.  Initially, I was uncomfortable with Japanese and there were so many customs that I didn’t understand.  But eventually I did make some Japanese friends, because people reached out to me.  They invited me to participate in community events, attend festivals, stay at their house, or go out to try a new food.  Because so many people were welcoming and friendly to me, I gained a perspective on a culture that was totally foreign to me.

Now that I’m back in the States, I feel the need to reach out to international students, to try to give back some of the kindness that was extended to me.  Penn is a great place to do that.  Penn has a large international student population—in the Graduate School of Education, about 29% of the student body.  There are plenty of opportunities to interact with international students at Penn, through language chats, volunteering as a language exchange partner with English Language Programs, and other avenues that I haven’t yet explored, but hope to.  But the best way, I think, is just to reach out as an individual, and strike up a conversation with someone you see in class, your dorm, or at a social event.

In closing, I’d just like to encourage you to take a chance and start talking with international students you don’t know well, even if you’re worried about a possible language barrier.  As Dr. Altamirano told my class, there is a lot we can learn from international students if we take the time to get to know them, and international students will be glad to feel included.  For those of you who are still students at Penn, take advantage of all the opportunities here to engage with international students!

Outside the Osaka Castle with the junior high school principal who generously invited me to travel to see it with him and his family.

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