I’m the one who needs her phone to calculate tip. I’m the one who dropped MATH–103 after the first day. And while it wasn’t necessarily me who received an A on an incomplete math project in high school, a grade given by a teacher too frustrated to continue watching me use Excel.... It was me, and I’m not ashamed. Or at least, I wasn’t.

My freshman year began with an inflated ego. “Look at you,” I thought. “You’re a legend. You go to Penn. Benjamin Franklin started this school, and he basically invented light. And America.”

This inner monologue was cut short by a scoff from another freshman, who acknowledged my intended English degree with, “Have fun at the College of Arts and Crafts.”

At Penn, your intelligence isn’t gauged by your admission. Everyone assumes you have a baseline of smartness. You’re not impressive until you’re starting hedge funds, saving lives or doing whatever engineers do (3D printers are beyond my understanding).

An English major who constantly watches movies because that’s her homework? Not as admirable.

And that was difficult for me to reconcile. My passion led me in the same direction: English.

However, that creative urge felt incompetent next to my pre–professional peers. These are the kids Benjamin Franklin wanted at his school, students that could also have probably harnessed electricity alongside him. Not confused undergraduates like myself who always singe their curtains with candles.

And while I joked with my friends about my lack of a stable financial future, I secretly felt weighed down by “my useless degree.” By the end of freshman year, I was ready to explore coding.

That all changed this summer. Through a scholarship offered by the Daily Pennsylvanian and Street, I got an internship at the New York Observer and was suddenly thrust into the company of some of the most exciting writers I’d ever met. It was during my job that I realized humanities students are not hindered by their specific interests—they’re freed by them. They’re free to express themselves by explaining, analyzing, rewriting.

I return to Penn not afraid of my English degree but thrilled by it. I know Penn is pre–professional. And it’s easy to get lost in the mass of students, all of whom know with certainty their life routes. But the mastery of a language, of a country’s history or of a culture is just as important, and just as impressive.

Take advantage of the opportunity Penn extends to its humanities majors. Go to Kelly Writer’s House, take a poetry class, explore the Barnes. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your career path, but the unknown is pretty exciting too.

But still, try and learn how to calculate tip in your head. For pride’s sake.


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