I have been very lucky to be a part of many communities at Penn, but one that has been most influential to my time in college has been the Penn Catholic Newman Center. The Newman Center has provided me with an amazing community of warm, supportive people who share my faith. I came from a small, Catholic high school, but coming into college, I wasn’t sure how my faith would fit into my life at college.
Early in my first semester, I met some students who were involved in the Newman Center, and I decided to go on the fall retreat on a whim. I had gone on a retreat in high school that I loved, and I was hoping that I’d be able to meet some more people in the community and start to find my place at Penn. My first semester was a fun but challenging time; academically, it was difficult for me to adjust, and living away from home was harder than anticipated. I wondered if I was good enough to be at Penn, and despite meeting lots of really great people already, I struggled to feel like I belonged.
Going on the retreat was the best decision I made in my first semester at Penn. I was immediately warmly welcomed into this tightly knit community of people who seemed so sure of their purpose in life and so happy to be there. I met some of my future best friends on the weekend, I was reassured that I belonged at Penn, and I came back to campus refreshed, with the perspective to think about the big picture and stress less about the little things.
Over the next few years, I continued to return to the Newman Center for things like dinners, Superbowl parties, and study breaks. I joined a small group of women that met weekly to talk about our lives, and I made friends and gained mentors. Everyone at the Newman Center shares a similar faith, but one of my favorite parts about the community is how diverse it is; students are from all over the world, with a strong international group, and are always open to discussion of different beliefs and ideas. Though we all have very different backgrounds and experiences with our religion, we are able to bond over the shared experience of pursuing a deeper meaning in life while living with the everyday ups and downs of being a college student.
The Newman Center is just one of the many communities on campus that makes Penn feel smaller. Though I have found a home in this wonderful group of people, the beauty of Penn is that it offers communities for everyone - whether it’s in a performing arts group, a sports team, or a religious center, each Penn student has the opportunity to carve out their own space. We aren’t restricted to one or two communities but can be involved in as many as we’d like. These vibrant, welcoming groups of students are what make the Penn community come alive and come together.