Monday, November 25, 2013

Finding Your Niche at Penn

Penn quite simply is a huge school.  While this is an advantage because it means there are more opportunities than your time at Penn will even allow, it is also overwhelming for freshmen coming from high school where classes were maybe 30 students maximum.  This is why it is incredibly important to find smaller communities within Penn.
Each year in the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, there are club fairs that occur on Locust Walk.  You have never seen so many flyers and email list signups fly at your face before, but it is a great chance to learn about various clubs that you may never have found out about otherwise.   Furthermore, it is no mystery that engineering is tough, and so it is essential to be involved in other activities that can allow you to use a different part of your brain.  You should always make sure to take study breaks for the things you are passionate about; it will make you more productive! 
For me, I am involved in Class Board, a branch of student government that plans spirited events for my class.  Being part of Class Board allows me to be creative and to meet other students who I normally wouldn’t meet in my classes.  Most of my board is in the College of Arts & Sciences, and if it weren’t for being a part of Class Board, I may never get the opportunity to interact with these students since Penn is so vast.  Being friends with students who take completely different classes from me offers me an even greater perspective on what Penn has to offer, and it is nice to talk about topics other than math and science occasionally! 
Within engineering, however, I am also a part of Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity.  Becoming a brother of Theta Tau has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had thus far at Penn because all of the brothers understand the demands of an engineering curriculum.  It is also helpful to know other engineers from various years and majors who can give you can ask about classes, work on problem sets with, or just hang out with when you have downtime (which does in fact exist!).  Engineering is one of those fields where you cannot go it alone, and so it is crucial to connect with your classmates.  Some of my closest friends at Penn are in Theta Tau, and it is not only a fun group of engineers who are all nerds at heart, but also an awesome support network.  I feel like being part of two very different groups like Class Board and Theta Tau gives me the best of both worlds because I can be creative with planning events for my class, but also be connected to my home school through the engineers I know from across majors and years.
So how do you find where you belong at Penn?  The important thing to note is that there is not just one place where you belong.  You can be a part of as many or as few communities as you want as long as you are passionate about what you spend your time doing.  In high school, there was this sense that everything you did was for your resume in order to impress colleges.  But being in college is different, and it is a fantastic opportunity to delve into something you love or to try something completely new.  At Penn, there is a club for everything under the sun, and even if you cannot find what you are looking for, there is bound to be someone amongst the 10,000 undergraduate student population who is interested in the same things as you who would want to create a new club.  The bottom line is, do not be afraid to commit to an activity or go outside of your comfort zone completely.  As my best friend Rebecca always tells me, “Girl, you gotta PYOT & SOT (put yourself out there & stay out there)!”  So go out there and find your niche or niches at Penn!

Questions for Chloe?  Email her at

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