A Day in the Life at University of Pennsylvania

Carolynne is a current sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the Biological Basis of Behavior program, and specializes in algebra tutoring, Mandarin Chinese tutoring, and many other subjects. Read on for her college experience interview about her time at the University of Pennsylvania.

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Carolynne: The University of Pennsylvania is situated in the city of Philadelphia, with the inner city only a short subway ride away. Buses are also readily available all over campus and the city itself. The campus is relatively urban, but also not in the middle of the city, so there is the perfect balance of having a campus and also having the city relatively accessible. Some students choose to bike, skateboard, or scooter around campus, but the University of Pennsylvania is really walkable, so I don’t think having a bike is necessary. The school also provides shuttle buses, though I’ve never had to use one, since it takes me a maximum of 15 minutes to get to all my classes.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Carolynne: My professors and teaching assistants are almost always readily available after class to answer any questions I might have. If not, they are always willing to meet with students during office hours. My academic adviser is also open to meeting with me whenever.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Carolynne: I live in the New College House, which is the newest building on campus. My room here is larger than the one I have at home! I like the dining options we have; the New College House dining hall provides a variety of food, and there are also other dining halls open around campus at various times, like 1920 Commons, Kings Court, Hillel, and McClelland. My floor and my dorm as a whole provide a lot of opportunities to meet other students. Some of my closest friends live in my hall, and I also know a lot of people who live on the other floors.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Carolynne: Although the undergraduate program has four different schools (Wharton, the College, Nursing, and Engineering) I don’t feel like any one major or program is better supported than the others. I have found so many unique opportunities to explore my multiple interests. For example, next semester, I will participate in research related to biology and neuroscience, since I enjoy biology. At the same time, I will organize activities as VP of the Spring Trip Committee in the Wharton Asia Exchange club, which promotes business and culture in Asia. I also love promoting dialogues about diversity and cultural awareness, so I have participated in Penn’s Intercultural Leadership Program. I am Freshman Liaison of Hong Kong Student Association, and next semester, I will be participating in Penn’s Fellowship for Building Intercultural Communities.

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Carolynne: Everyone at Penn who I have met is so open to meeting new people, so it was really easy for me to make friends. Greek life plays as big a role as you want it to in your social life. There are so many more fun social opportunities that don’t involve Greek life, like socializing events or just hanging out with friends. No one has judged me for not being as involved in Greek life.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? 

Carolynne: I’ve been to Penn Career Services twice so far, and the people there have been really helpful and informative. I’m also involved in the Weingarten Center, which offers student support services, and they are generally available to students who reach out. Penn also has CAPS, which stands for Counseling and Psychological Services, and Student Health Services, which are pretty available for students as well. As an underclassman, I’m not as involved in recruiting, but I know from my upperclassmen friends that many reputable companies come to Penn to recruit, especially from Wharton.

How are the various study areas, such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Carolynne: Because Penn is a large school, you do have to book ahead for private study areas, like Group Study Rooms in Huntsman Hall or rooms in Weigle Information Commons in Van Pelt Library. But other study areas, like libraries and dorm lounges, generally have plenty of space for students. The dorm lounges and the second-floor reading room in the New College House are spacious and readily available.

Describe the surrounding town.

Carolynne: The surrounding city has such a variety of things to do. I haven’t explored Philadelphia as extensively as I’d like, since work and other commitments sometimes keep me on campus. But the city has museums, shopping opportunities, nice restaurants—literally anything you would want to do, and everything is really close by.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Carolynne: The undergraduate student body at Penn consists of about 10,000 students. There are lecture-size classes, which can have around 200 people, but the majority of classes at Penn are seminars, which can have 20 people. You can choose whether you want more lectures or seminars; it depends on how you like to learn.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Carolynne: One memorable experience I had in a class would have to be when my Urban Studies professor, Dr. Dennis Culhane, brought in a guest speaker to our class, Homelessness and Urban Inequality. The guest speaker talked about his 23 years of experience living on the streets and in jails, and how he now works for Pathways to Housing, which provides homeless individuals with supportive housing with no strings attached. I really enjoyed listening to our speaker’s lived experiences; his story has inspired me more than anything to contribute to social change in a positive and long-lasting way.

Check out Carolynne’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.