Hello! My name is Ria, and I’m a freshman in Wharton who moved to Philadelphia from Dubai. I can’t wait to share my first year learnings and adventures with you!
When I first got to college, I was more than a little overwhelmed by all that Penn has to offer. Every upperclassman I talked to seemed to be involved in more extracurriculars than can fit in 24 hours, all the majors seemed equally fascinating, and the student activities fair was an absolute tornado of energy. Before I knew it I had three info sessions scheduled every day for two weeks straight. It was super exciting to have so many opportunities, but I felt scatterbrained while trying to grasp at so much.
One thing that I have now realized after recognizing that I couldn’t do everything is that I don’t need to overthink my involvement! The approach I’ve found that works for me is simple: I find something I enjoy doing, look for further avenues to get involved in it, and then stick with whichever route has the people I get along with best.
I fell into this low-pressure, interest-driven involvement within my first few weeks here. During New Student Orientation I attended a preceptorial, which is a no-grade, one-session-only seminar about a variety of topics. I picked one about how advances in neuroscience will shape our world based on my high school interest in biology and a book I’d read over the summer (I highly recommend “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari!). Throughout the lecture and the discussion following it I felt like new connections were being fused in my brain because I was thinking in ways I never had before. I was completely energized and left the room realizing that I wasn’t ready to let my exploration of how biological advances influence our society stop.
At that point in time class registration was still going on, so I pored over the course listings for biology, the biological basis of behavior, neuroscience, cognitive science, health and societies, and any other major remotely related to the seminar. I found the perfect class— it was titled “Biology and Public Policy”, and its description stated that it discusses the intersections between advances in various areas in biology and public policy. Upon realizing that the class was exactly what I was looking for, I ran down my hall in excitement and told everyone I could set my eyes on about how eager I was to take it.
What happened next broke my heart for a few minutes: I saw that the class was only open to post-bac students. Once I went through the five stages of grief I realized that my problem was so easy to fix. All I had to do was email to the professor! I had heard of friends using this approach to get into classes they really wanted, and I figured that it was worth trying. After a quick google search I found his email and sent in my request. Later that day, he let me into the class and it is now one of my favorites.
I also got onto the email lists for the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club and the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative Student Society and now attend whichever events of theirs interests me.
Through all of this exploration I’m figuring out what I like and dislike, and through that, I narrow my focus towards what will hopefully be a fulfilling and challenging career.
The overarching point I’m trying to make is that at Penn, you have the ability pursue almost anything that interests you. Whether you want to go down a more popular path or something a little off the beaten track, Penn either has the resources to help you out or can provide you with the support you need to build those resources for yourself. There are classes in engineering, business, the College of Arts and Sciences, and nursing for you to avail from, as well as the other resources that these schools have. The hardest part is just figuring out what paths appeal to you!