Even before I got to Penn, I received an email in the summer from my Orientation Pre-Advisor (OPA) asking about me, my interests, and offering advice from how to address professors to which classes to register for. Besides providing insightful answers to questions I didn’t even know I had yet, it was helpful and comforting to know I had an upperclassmen in my corner who I could turn to through the ups and downs of the craziness of adjusting to life at Penn.
Finding mentors at Penn has been one of the most valuable parts of my experience so far. In a place with over ten thousand undergraduate students, you’d be surprised at how small it can feel when you see a friendly face every ten feet on Locust Walk. Just today, in the ten minutes between classes, I saw my teammate from Ultimate Frisbee on Locust, a graduate student who I’ve never seen on campus before, and our three-minute conversation really made my day. I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to develop mentors and friends through upperclassmen on campus. Like the OPA program, there are many structured programs available for those looking for student mentorship; I also have a MEAM (mechanical engineering) family, a mentor for the residential program I’m living in (Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship) and a research advisor. Just sitting down to talk to these upperclassmen for an hour or two has really helped me get a sense of what my life at Penn could look like and what the vast breadth of opportunities available to me are, and they’ve all been incredibly approachable and understanding, and they make Penn feel a little smaller.
I’ve also found that upperclassmen are some of the best workout, coffee, or study buddies. Through ultimate Frisbee, I’ve met so many incredibly supportive, hilarious, helpful upperclassmen who are always willing to offer advice or join me in a workout. Through the Christian Union, I was assigned a “bro,” who luckily is the coolest person alive. Not only is Lauren, my “bro,” also a mechanical engineering major (and the most passionate one I’ve met here), but she also is studying fine arts, loves lattes, and is super into music. Last week, we went into Center City to grab coffee and work on problem sets together, and just getting off campus for a couple hours and being with someone so caring and positive always makes my day brighter. Likewise, through the different clubs I’m involved in, I’ve realized that the age difference really doesn’t feel as large when everyone is an adult, and I’ve loved connecting with people one, two, or three years older than me, knowing that they were just in my shoes a few short years ago. I’ve discovered that Penn is not only full of intelligent, high-achieving students, but also full of students who are excited about teaching and sharing their knowledge with others.
Until next week, happy Thanksgiving all!