34th and Walnut Street crosswalk

Penn Admissions Blog

Being Californian at Penn
Seung-Hyun | September 13, 2017

Most of my friends know that I never get out of flip flops. I’m the type of person who doesn’t really like wearing shoes or socks, so even under extremely cold weather, you’ll see me wearing flip flops (I know, it’s terrible). You’d think I would be wearing even more layers as a Californian, but my body denies reality! A security guard once asked me if Californians have their own person sun inside them. Possibly. This comment comes with a larger question: what is it like to be Californian at Penn?

Next to New York and Pennsylvania, California is home to a significant portion of Penn students. We’re the population who don’t go home often during Thanksgiving breaks, who carry umbrellas when it’s snowing, and rant about the quality of boba (not bubble tea) options available. I know, it’s basic. When I was a freshman, I remember expecting the worst of Philadelphia winter and feeling pleasantly surprised by the snow. Considering that I’m from a place where winter temperature ranges from 50-60 degrees, I enjoyed the transition of seasons that I don’t get to experience in one-season-fits-all California.

I come from the suburbs of Southern California where traffic was an everyday reality and driving was the bane of my existence. I didn’t get my drivers license until the summer before college; whenever I wanted to go out with friends, I needed somebody to give me a ride — a nuisance and an inconvenience most of the time. By the time I was applying to colleges, I knew that I wanted to attend college where public transportation was more accessible. I wanted to walk to places! One of the best parts about Penn is this balance of campus culture and urban life — you can have a community within the space, but also experience the center of Philadelphia in just a mile walk. You can take the SEPTA trolley and travel multiple parts of the city without the need for a car. Having such mobility has been truly enlivening for me.

Of course, I can’t generalize my experience to all of Californians, let alone the West Coast. I know many friends who would prefer to go back to California than stay in the East Coast. Yet, I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to experience a whole different geographic area. Reflecting as a senior, I know that Philadelphia has truly become a second home for me.

About the author

I'm majoring in English with minors in Asian American Studies and Theatre Arts. As an aspiring multidisciplinary scholar and artist, I love to theorize and philosophize - basically overthinking too much about anything and everything. I am strongly passionate about civil and human rights, social and environmental justice, and just about anything that involves helping people and empathizing beyond boundaries. I hope to combine my activist/scholarly interests with my artistic practice in theater, film, and storytelling! 

I was born in Busan, South Korea, but moved to the flat suburbs of Southern California when I was six. I decided to come to Penn partially because I needed public transport and hated driving. Living in Philly has been full of new discoveries and growths, and I'm so glad to have called this place my home for the past three years. I've also traveled extensively during my time at Penn, interning in Israel and India and studying abroad in London. Hoping to wander some more this year and after graduation!

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