Of its many traditions, Penn’s tradition of senior societies is one of the lesser-known ones. As senior year approaches, juniors have the chance to be “tapped” - selected by a current member - or to apply to a society after learning more about the community and its members. Each group is a unique, small group of seniors who are selected primarily based on their contributions to the Penn community and their leadership. The oldest one, Friars, has been around since 1899. Some of the organizations are more secretive than others, and some are cultural, academic, or activity-based. They each have their own traditions and cultures, and they are part of what adds to Penn’s charm and makes graduating even more bittersweet.
A friend told me about Oracle, one of the societies, last spring; I had just come back from abroad early due to COVID-19, so I hadn’t really been expecting to be able to apply to a senior society in the spring since the events are usually in person. However, due to the unique circumstances of everything being moved virtually, I was able to have Zoom coffee chats with a few members and attend a virtual event where members talked about their experiences and got to know us better. I decided to apply after hearing about how close-knit the community was and being inspired by many of its members and what they had achieved at Penn.
Oracle is a cultural senior society specifically for students of Asian Pacific heritage. I am half Chinese, and I wanted to connect more with my Asian heritage. It was really inspiring to see how many Asian students had demonstrated so much leadership and commitment at Penn. When I was accepted and met my class, I had heard of many of the members before and had actually thought that I wished I could get to know them better, so it was great to be able to connect with so many more students, especially as a senior and in a virtual format.
Oracle has become one of my favorite communities at Penn. My class is just over thirty people, so it is small enough that we all have gotten to know each other, and I’ve found that I’ve connected instantly with a lot of the members. People have all types of leadership roles, involvements, and interests; from cultural groups, to the arts, to athletics, to publications and student government. What brings us together is our desire to connect with each other and with our heritage. Recently, we held a virtual day that included trivia, a cooking demonstration from a classmate halfway across the world in Sri Lanka, a workout class, and a game night. I am looking forward to the day we can all hopefully gather together in person!
Beyond connecting with my class, there are also great connections with the Oracle alumni. When the class was announced, a bunch of alumni emailed the whole class welcoming us to the group, and it’s really great to see there is a larger community out there that we will be able to continue to connect with once we are alumni.
I am constantly in awe of how impressive, warm, and inspiring my peers are at Penn, and joining a senior society has just reaffirmed that. There are so many different ways to connect with my classmates and friends at Penn, even virtually, and senior societies are one of the lesser-known but most rewarding ones I’ve found.