Monday, July 4, 2016

Red, White, and Blue

My day began with a tour of our "home area" at 9:30 AM, with my RC group. The home area is the area that we will be allowed to roam free in during the program, which includes a few blocks away from our dorms in each direction. In our home area there are several restaurants, a grocery store, and a gym, to name a few things. My friend Lizzy did tell me about a few places that I wanted to try that were out of the vicinity, but I'm pretty confident that we will be able to make the most out of this limitation. It seems likes there is a lot for us to do.

We walked back to the Quadrangle for brunch, which was served buffet style in the lower quad, where a few of UPenn's other summer programs are staying.
They had bagels, muffins, and fruit set out for us, and we relaxed on the grass to eat. Today the schedule was rather lax, so there was nothing specific for us to do from about 11:00 to 2:00. Most of this time was just spent mingling with some of the people we hadn't met yet.

Since we weren't allowed to leave the Quadrangle until later in the day, not even to go out into the home area, we were forced to get to know each other better. Me and some of my friends that I met last night made a circle on the grass and were eventually joined by some people that we had never met before. We spent a lot of time just talking about our lives. I met two other girls from California, and together we tried to convince the rest of the group of the superiority of the west coast. In the end, we had to admit that the east coast was at least a worthy competitor. I also learned some very interesting facts about other people in my program, like how my friend Jana's mom is a famous Indian actress and how another boy, Sam, had created a viral documentary. It became clear during this time how diverse our program actually is.

At 2:00, my RC group headed out again for an activity with just us. We went to get gelato at Capogiro, the same place where the ILC went with Dyana So on our first night in Philadelphia. I got bourbon butterscotch and chocolate hazelnut this time, which changed my life. I'm afraid that gelato may become a bit of an obsession during my time here, so I'm going to try and stay away from that place from now on.

Upon our return, I changed into the UPenn sweatshirt that I bought yesterday, since it is red white and blue. Then I went back outside. With the goal of meeting five new people each day, a benchmark that Jana set for herself and for me, we roamed the quad and joined any group that would have us. It was actually surprising how friendly everyone was, and how easy it was to start a conversation. I definitely got lucky with regards to the group of people that I am here with.

We had a barbecue for dinner, which went from 4:00 to 6:00. In addition to eating our burgers and watermelon, some of us used this time to continue talking and play games together such as volleyball. It was generally just a good time, but I decided to go back up to my floor for a bit to get away from all the noise and activity. On my way there, I stopped by the main office to sign up for a Duck Tour tomorrow. Apparently, a lot of others had come to sign up for afternoon activities that morning, because I snagged the last spot, and the RC on duty told me that most of the other activities through Wednesday were booked. I guess I should be thankful, as I will have a lot more time to focus on my coursework throughout the next few days!

Instead of hanging out alone in my room for hours, I went to Lizzy's single room, along with a few other people with whom I've established a friend group. Of course, I get along with most of the people that I've talked to, but we wouldn't be able to squeeze all 333 of us in there! We stayed until it was time for Orientation, which took place in a lecture hall for the Nursing School. Eli Lesser, the director of Summer Discovery at UPenn, told us that it was the largest lecture hall there, and we all barely fit! I had no idea how many of us there actually were (I heard the number that I referenced earlier from Lesser as well), and it was surprising once I saw us all together in one room. However, we were also only 12% of the people who had applied.

During the Orientation, Lesser and some of the RCs went over the different courses that were offered and how our days were generally going to look, as well as some of the rules and regulations of the program. Some of the things we had already covered yesterday, such as the importance of keeping track of our keys. Others had been a bit unclear, such as exactly what the protocol was when visiting each other's rooms. I was glad that I finally felt like I had all of the information I need.

By the time we got out of Orientation at 8:00 PM, the night had taken a turn for the more interesting. While we were inside the lecture hall, it began raining, and the storm was quickly picking up. We rushed back to our dorms, wondering whether or not the Fourth of July festivities were going to be able to continue. My RC texted us, however, that fireworks were still on at 9:30. In the meantime, my friends and I decided to take advantage of our newfound freedom. We went to Cosi, a restaurant by the Penn bookstore. Their menu featured comfort and American food, and it was pretty good. After we had finished, we stopped by Wawa to pick up some snacks for our rooms. By the time we got there, the rain had become a downpour, and we found ourselves quite literally running to make our way back to the Quadrangle unscathed.

We were initially unsure as to wether or not we should go to the fireworks display due to the weather, but we decided that it wasn't Fourth of July without them. With my hood on and my umbrella up, I made my way along with some of my friends (some had opted out of this particular adventure), to Penn Park. We ended up on a grassy hill with a good view of the sky, but the rain was getting increasingly uncomfortable and we we weren't sure wether the noises we were hearing were the fireworks or thunder.

Eventually we could make out some of the show, but at this point we were ready to get out of there. We tried to navigate our way back to our dorms ourselves, which we were able to do with a bit of patience. Now, most of us just wanted to get out of our wet clothes and into our warm beds. From here, the night began winding down. I got ready for bed, listened to some music with Jana, and then came back to my room for curfew.

Today was the first Fourth of July that I've spent without my family, and it was definitely strange. However, I was still able to have a good time. Even the end of the day, which was foiled somewhat by the precipitation, was a memory that I know I will hold on to for a long time. No matter how much we complained, we were full of laughs as we splashed through puddles together. I feel refreshed and ready to begin work tomorrow, our first day of classes. I hope everyone else had as good of a holiday weekend as I did!

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