Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Everything I needed to know about Penn Engineering I learned from AWE Pre-Orientation

Everything I needed to know about Penn Engineering I learned from AWE Pre-Orientation. Within that short period of time I met over half my class of fellow female engineers, found incredible role-models in the upperclassmen volunteers, attained valuable advice to help me in my classes throughout the year, and was given the opportunity to acclimate myself to my dorm, campus, and the city of Philadelphia well before my peers. 

I was so worried that when I came to campus I wouldn’t know anyone, I wouldn’t know my way around, and would just be a hot mess of awful. When I got to Pre-Orientation, I realized everyone felt the same way I did. And that was a comfort. Also, coincidentally a great common ground on which to build friendships. I look back on the pictures from Pre-Orientation, where I met so many people, and did so many things, and I’m amazed at how many pictures I can point to and say, “Oh, we have this class together,” or “Oh, I’m hanging out with her later this week.” The girls you meet at Pre-Orientation, really will become some of your best friends, study buddies, note takers in class when you’re sick, partners for group projects, hall mates, or even members of the same extracurricular activities you’re involved in. Coming from a place where I knew no one coming to Penn with me, I cannot stress enough how important and comforting it was to be able to walk into the first day of class and recognize most girls, and have friends to sit next to. 

Trolley tour of Philly!
The upperclassmen who volunteer to help with Pre-Orientation are girls who thoroughly enjoyed their time participating their freshman year, have done exceptionally well in their time at Penn, and are personable and willing to help anyone. They showed us around DRL (the most notoriously confusing building to navigate) and answered any questions we had, no matter how sheepishly we asked them, or (in retrospect) how silly they might have been, because they know we genuinely were concerned, and their answers always calmed our nerves. I remember the volunteers giving us free reign to ask any and all questions we had, and promising to give us the straight-up answer we were looking for, not necessarily the ones  they were supposed to say. They gave us invaluable advice about classes (particularly Chem 101 for engineers), how to best stay on top of the work and get help if you need it, and where the best places to study are. Throughout my freshman year, I’ve stayed in contact with many of my Pre-Orientation volunteers and they’ve helped me countless times. It’s so good to have an older friend in engineering, who can relate to what you’re going through, has been through it successfully before, and can help you out if you’re having a tough time. 

One of the things you’ll hear often when you get to Penn is, “Don’t get yourself trapped in the Penn Bubble.” Many people are so comfortable on campus, make excuses like they have too much work (okay, just kidding that one may be legitimate), that they never make time to get off campus and explore the AMAZING city of Philadelphia that is literally a 10-15 minute walk from the Engineering Quad (let’s face it, you’re there all the time anyways, you might as well take a break!). AWE Pre-Orientation has you do extremely fun activities around campus and around the city to help acclimate you more to your new surroundings, and that includes taking you out of the Penn Bubble. My year we took a trolley ride around to see the city, went to a Phillies game, toured Reading Terminal Market, and even one night split up with different volunteers and went to dinner in center city with a smaller group of girls. 

There are so many fun things to do at Penn and in Philly that AWE Pre-Orientation couldn’t possibly cover it all. It does, however, give you a great taste of what is to come in your freshman year ahead, and leaves the rest of the exploring up to you. Take advantage of every moment you get at Pre-Orientation, it was by far one of the best parts of my freshman year experience. 

Questions for Alexis?  Contact her at awe@seas.upenn.edu

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