Universities are often called ivory towers because students get so caught up in the pursuit of the intellectual, they are at one remove from the real world. Knowing this, I swore to not get swallowed up by the “Penn bubble”, and to pursue new interests and opportunities, and to make the most out of my university experience at the University of Pennsylvania.
I took a class called “Comics and Graphic Novels”, where I talked to others about why Batman is such an intriguing character, how the Sandman captures readers’ attention, and the way perspectives can change in comics. This class gave me a chance to talk to others about one of my favourite things – comics. Not all the classes you take at university have to be academic ones. You can take elective classes for fun, too. Years later, you know you will only ever remember the classes you actually enjoyed. Who knows? Maybe my new-found knowledge will one day help me during a trivia night.
I also took up volunteering as part of my mission to get myself out of studying around the clock. It’s something that was a huge part of my life in secondary school, and I knew it was something I wanted to continue while at university. I found a wonderful community to be a part of as a result, who have helped me to familiarise myself with Philadelphia – a city that I have come to call home. Sure, it can be hard to find a balance between volunteering and studying, but I feel that giving my time freely allows me to put into perspective my life and truly grounds me as a person.
The final thing that I am doing is to learn as much as I can about the country I am studying in before I graduate. As a result, I want to hit up all the major cities in the US before I leave. Last Thanksgiving, a friend invited me to her home, where I got to have what she called “the quintessential American experience”. I tried turkey stuffing for the very first time, and picked apples in a huge orchard. I’m a city girl, so this was a truly mind-blowing moment for me. I know it’s a privilege to be able to study abroad, and I fully intend to experience as much as I can.
Academia is important, of course, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on during your time at university. Pop the bubble, step out of the ivory tower, and let your university experience be a time when you get to explore your passions.