During my first year at Penn, I had hundreds of conversations that went like this:
“Where are you living?”
“In the Quad.”
“Where in the Quad?”
“Where in Ware?”
“Speakman, fourth floor!”
Where you first lived when you came to Penn sticks with you throughout your four years, and my first-year hall makes up many of my friends today. There are many housing options for first years, but I lived in the Quadrangle, the iconic, Gothic-style buildings that lie along Spruce Street. The Quad itself is made up of three college houses - Riepe, Ware, and Fisher Hassenfeld, and each house in split into many halls, which span all the floors and contain anywhere from 10 - 50 people on each floor. To me, the Quad felt and looked like the classic college experience, and there’s nothing quite like living in a college first-year dorm.
Each day, I’d come home, and most of my hallmates’ doors would be open. We had an RA and a GA, a “resident advisor” and “graduate associate,” who lived on our floor, providing free food, advice, and friendship. They would hold office hours at least once a week, and my friends and I would often pile into their rooms and munch on snacks while telling them about our lives. The floor had two bathrooms and one lounge, all of which were old and worn down, but that didn’t stop us from staying in the lounge late into the night, doing homework or eating dinner or just talking.
I was often homesick during my first year, but the Quad gave me a home base to come back to every day. It offered me countless free meals, a chance to go see the Sound of Music, talks by doctors, entrepreneurs, and more, and above all, human connection with all the other students who were finding their way around Penn. When I struggled with my math homework in one of the Quad’s libraries, computer labs, or study rooms, there were other students struggling with the same assignment. We’d make late night trips to McClelland, the small dining hall housed in the middle of the Quad, and carry as many to-go boxes of food as we could back upstairs, balancing them under our chin. One of my hallmates boasted that he once brought back seven boxes, a feat unheard of and unsubstantiated. We went to office hours, study group sessions, and movie nights. We held Friendsgiving dinners and dressed up for formals and celebrated birthdays in tiny dorm rooms.
I now live in a house off campus, and I love the freedom and having my own kitchen, but one of the things I miss most is having all my best friends living right around me, never more than a five minute walk away. Your first-year dorm is an essential part of the Penn experience, and it continues to define mine. As I set off to navigate what my life at Penn would look like, the Quad gave me countless memories, my best friends, and a home away from home.