Convocation – Tuesday – Day 47

September 9, 2012

Today the various schools (faculties) at Penn hosted their freshman welcome sessions. The event pages on the university website made it sound interesting and worthwhile enough that I decided to attend and pass as a freshman for another few hours.

At the Freshman Engineering Welcome the various Deans, Vice Deans etc spoke. Contrary to other official speakers I’ve heard in the past, the short messages they gave were quite inspiring. A highlight was the beginning of Vice Dean Sun’s talk.

“I would like to get to know you, the class of 2016. If my statements apply to you, please don’t be shy,” he began.

“Who here has saved a life?” – a few in the crowd stood up to roaring applause.

“Who here has played in varsity level sports?” – a larger number stood.

“Who here has performed in front of hundreds? Sit down. Thousands?” – it was my turn to stand and, for a moment I really did feel special.

After a few more of these he ended with one last statement: “who here has failed or flunked a big test, interview, paper or exam?” and everyone stood, bringing the class together. He talked a bit about imposter syndrome for a bit and told everyone that if they were sitting in the auditorium they were meant to be there. Though I knew I wasn’t quite meant to be there, I felt that it was important that I had come. Penn truly was a place that I needed to get to and thanks to hard work and a good bit of luck I had made it.

He talked about the fact that Penn held the rewards for a life thus far well lived, and though it felt strange to me to be receiving awards before having done anything of note, I could understand the sentiment.

The rest of the daylight hours were spent arranging my upcoming trip to Canada, meeting with immigration advisers to figure out how to stay validly on my visa.

However, the night brought a big event, ‘Convocation’, the formal opening of the academic year.

Penn Band

With a grand opening by the band and the formal entrance by the faculty and house deans, the ceremony began in fine style.

Due to the rain, it was moved to a large indoor basketball stadium that unfortunately lacked cooling and so the thousands of students and many professors sweated heavily, fanning themselves with programs. Amy Gutmann, President of Penn, gave a speech that, though well written, fell slightly flat due to the lack of concentration amongst the attendees who were far more concerned with the heat.

Amy Gutmann

A few musical performances could hardly be heard in the ‘echoey’ stadium and everyone quickly tired of them.

Penn Glee Club – Very Good

Finally, Jonothan Youshaei brought out the class of 2016 flag and the closing ceremony began.

Everyone together sang “The Red and the Blue”, Penn’s school song, replete with heart beating on the words “hurrah for Pennsylvania”.

As soon as she announced the commencement of the academic year and the dignitaries filed out, the freshman swarmed to the exit, desperate to free themselves from the warm gluey mass of bodies, radiating heat all the while.

From there it was to the President’s Dessert Reception, held outside in the humid heat, after grabbing a few desserts I spied a few freshman I had met earlier in NSO¬† and went to say hi. This was my one really unpleasant interaction thus far. One of the girls in the group who I believed I was getting along well with took me aside to talk. She had become uncomfortable with seeing me so frequently during NSO and additionally I had sent her a few texts etc. to try and begin a friendship. She had taken it as a more dangerous interest from an older guy and asked me to stay away. It was done so for the most part in a polite manner however, there were a few seconds where she slipped up and it became quite cold and direct, rending a little tear in my outer confidence and happiness. Thankfully, we parted on decent terms, if never to really speak again and though it was an unpleasant experience, overall my experiences have been unforgettably brilliant.

With that NSO came to a close and my semester began.

© 2012-2024 Shaanan Cohney