Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can I Borrow a Penn?

Julia and I would have made it to the lobby at a reasonable time it we hadn't realized last-minute that we had forgotten to pack—we were going to the station now, not after eating breakfast. After panicked packing, we arrived in the lobby late. I am sincerely sorry for the inconvenience I caused, and though Mr. Hillyer and my cohort have forgiven me, I understand that my tardiness was not acceptable and I promise that I won't make that mistake again. Still, we had given ourselves plenty of time to get there, and were only about ten minutes late, so after the taxi to the train station we had time for a quick breakfast (mm, crepes), and I boarded the train to Philadelphia (still feeling guilty about holding up the group). I ended up sitting next to a woman I didn't know on the train (I never did catch her name), and after I mentioned Penn she showed me a Penn Engineering bag—coincidentally, her son had taken a summer class (in biomedical engineering, I think) at Penn too. We ended up having an interesting discussion on Penn's summer programs (she warned me that it would be a lot of hard work) and colleges (her daughter is trying to decide which colleges to apply to as well). For the rest of the train ride, I read a book for fun (we've been busy, and it was a nice break from constant activity) and soon we were dragging our bags (a tire on Gwennie's bag broke, so for her she really was dragging it) up to the hotel in the heat. 

We had some time before we would meet up to head to Penn for our tour, so we rested for a while in the rooms, and Donna and Gwennie showed us their room's cool view of Philadelphia and the swimming pool, which just barely beat our absolutely spectacular view...of a parking lot. If you couldn't guess, Julia and I are pretty jealous. 

To make up for our blunder earlier, Julia and I were waiting for the group in the lobby ten minutes before the group had planned to meet (we were the first ones in the lobby when we left for the dinner, too).

The beautiful Irvine Auditorium where
our information session was held
Due to a university-wide heat advisory, our tour was cancelled. Apparently, people have fainted on tours, so Penn took the heat pretty seriously. Instead of the tour, we would have a student panel to answer some of our questions about student life. The session started with a video on Penn, and I honestly couldn't decide whether it was cheesy or powerful (the hopeful music and the general information about Penn pushed it both ways). Next, an admissions officer named Alex took over, telling us that she would try to "make the free information session worth your money," which I thought was hilarious. She also promised to do a jig if any cell phones went off (sadly, we didn't get to see that). Unfortunately, though her information session was surprisingly funny for an information session, only a few people in the audience laughed at her jokes, which made me feel like we were a bad audience...we probably were. 

Alex told us that students who get in to Penn see its countless opportunities as materials to build their own paths, and that Penn teaches students in a way that they practice what they're learning, so they get a more hands-on college experience. In addition, we learned that Penn has great financial aid programs, students are very involved in extracurricular activities, and Alex told us that Penn is a traditional university in an urban environment (I would put quotes around that, but I'm not sure that those are the exact words she furious note-taking couldn't keep up). She gave everyone advice on applications, telling us that test scores aren't as important as the transcript, and reassuring us that admissions officers understand that what you do in four years is more important than something you do in four hours. Hearing all of this convinced me that I and all of my friends absolutely need to apply to Penn.

The student panel
After the information session, the student panel told us about life at Penn, covering food, the Penn living situation, extracurricular activities, and traditions like throwing toast on the field at football games.

We explored the Penn campus a bit with Mr. Hillyer leading us around. I was really impressed; the buildings were beautiful and the campus looked fantastic. 

The gate to a fine arts hall had hands
holding art tools


Next was the dinner at Butcher and Singer. I loved the dinner. I LOVED it. And, don't worry, it wasn't because of the food. (Not that the food wasn't spectacular. It was.) 

I sat next to Alex (yes, the same cool admissions officer who gave our information session) and across from Ken, a physics major. Our conversation started with theater (Alex was a psychology major with a theater minor), and I was happy to find that there were plenty of ways to be involved in the performing arts at Penn. I found out that Alex was a representative for Northern California in Penn's admissions office, which meant that she knew a surprising amount about the high schools in California, and even the high schools in our district. I listened in amazement as she managed to talk to Mr. Hillyer (as someone else put it) like she was from the area. 
The swordfish

I was so absorbed by the conversation, I would have forgotten to mention the food without the picture on the right. I had swordfish for (I think?) the first time this dinner. It was amazing. Oh, also, I had a fantastic New York-style cheesecake that tried valiantly to distract me from what everyone was saying, but failed. I remained hooked on Penn as each new tidbit that was said about it paralleled something in my personality. 

At the Georgetown dinner, it was a challenge to think of the right questions to ask and I sometimes struggled to think of things to say, but at this dinner, I was so curious about Penn that I found it easy to come up with questions and contributions to conversation, especially later in the meal. Alex and Ken happily answered everything I asked them about (I got a recommendation to visit Magic Gardens from Alex and one to see the Philadelphia Museum of Art from Ken, both of which I hope to find time to check out). I asked Alex what her favorite question to answer about Penn was, and she told me about her favorite moment at Penn, in theater, watching people come together to produce a very moving piece of art. Listening, I couldn't stop smiling, because I could tell that it was a great experience for her and for everyone involved. 

On the way back from Butcher and Singer, there was light rain and several flashes of lightning (something we don't really see on the West Coast), and I arrived at my hotel room dizzy with excitement. I am so lucky, and so happy, and so eager to be taking this class at Penn. Through the information session and the tour, Alex became the reason why I am in love with the University of Pennsylvania. She was the source of most of the information about Penn that I now know, and there is no question whether I will apply. Penn seems perfect for me, and I'm waiting for this course to prove me right. 

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes you just fall in love with a campus. I have always believed that UPenn is a great fit for our students. Seems like Alex really made a difference, glad to hear it!