On an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday, I felt the need to bring academic masochism to an entirely new level. How? By staying in one of the most sophisticated academic buildings in the world (and my personal hell) for 24 hours. Straight. Don't try this at home.
2:58 p.m.: A taunting breeze hits me as I hike across the 38th Street Bridge and walk into the building, armed with a salad. It’s time for me to reconnect with the leading man in my life: Jon M. Huntsman. 24 hours in Huntsman Hall should do the trick.
3:24 p.m.: After beelining for the MBA Cafe in the hopes of snagging a table, I walk all the way to the back until I spy a blonde boy at a long table. I decide that my salad is worth more than my pride and sit opposite him.
4:16 p.m.: I’m five minutes into this episode of 30 Rock and cannot distribute this salad dressing evenly.
4:21 p.m.: I’m bored, and now I’m resigned to looking at the art on the walls in the back of MBA Cafe. It’s a floor–to–ceiling composite featuring oddly blended dictionary definitions of the word “leader,” blurry silhouettes of people walking, an abacus, dolphins and what appears to be a Ferris wheel? Or maybe it’s plane wings. I’m not in M&T.
5:06 p.m.: One hour in. I’ve moved to the Forum and waved to several acquaintances. These sightings bring on a bit of self–reflection. How is it that I, as a Wharton student, have maybe one friend in Wharton? Tops? I decide it’s too early for this contemplation.
Out comes the planner—I may as well make use of this time. I resolve to study for my stat midterm. It’s in 48 hours. I’m not panicking, you’re panicking.
6:42 p.m.: Is it too early to fall asleep in a chair? I’d probably have to snag a full–sized couch first, and that’s about as likely as me getting a McKinsey offer. Plus, the forum is popping right now. Kids are getting out of class and heading out of this dungeon. Good for them! A professor across the room looks suspiciously like Barry Zuckerkorn from Arrested Development. Take to the sea!
A boy walks past with nine boxes of pizza. I am tempted to follow but don’t want to chance walking into some recruiting session in my ripped tights and minidress. To stave off my craving, I call my mother. She warns me to “be careful” tonight and tells me that she does not approve of this concept for an article. After nearly three hours, I’m dangerously close to agreeing with her.
7:54 p.m.: I’m one political podcast and half a cheat–sheet deep in my schoolwork.
I’ve always had this theory about the lights in Huntsman. Whenever I’m here, I feel a little more on–edge. Sitting in this windowless room, I mentally add this instance as another piece of evidence to bolster my theory of Penn–sponsored brainwashing for performance enhancement.
8:29 p.m.: All hope of a productive night is lost. I’ve been scrolling through the Unofficial Official Penn Squirrel Catching Club for far too long.
9:58 p.m.: A friend stops by to SABS with me. We notice a boy curled up on one of the couches, head lolling off the side. I’m shocked to remember that he’s the same boy I saw sleeping about three hours ago. Even with all the noise of the forum and the fact that the blood is rushing straight to his head, he sleeps.
10:32 p.m.: Sleeping Beauty is awake! His legs are still hanging off the tragically short couch, but he seems vaguely alert as he checks his phone. I hope he had a good nap.
11:02 p.m.: I grab a makeshift dinner from the vending machines and resign myself to the shocking amount of money I will spend on Diet Coke tonight.
The crowd in the Forum has grown increasingly studious. There’s much less noise; groups in the GSRs huddle and I see very few people chatting. It’s almost ominous.
11:34 p.m.: Three stoners, one draped in a pink drug rug, come to visit. My future roommate's chaperoning them. The stoners leave (hopefully they weren’t too addled to find the exits), so my friend and I retire to a GSR to watch Netflix on the big screen. She relishes the opportunity to get away from studying for her math midterm. I relish the company.
12:10 a.m.: It’s officially tomorrow and I am officially tired. Why am I here?
1:00 a.m.: I am visited by one of the moderators of the Penn meme group, Owain West (C’19). I’m basically a celebrity. I talk about writing this article and he responds, “The only things I have to write are mod posts.” Three cheers for squirrel catching?
2:17 a.m.: I leave my GSR and head back to the Forum. A former MGMT 100 teammate, stops by to say hello. We catch up, complain about case competitions and hug. He leaves and I stay in my own personal hell. Most of the people I see now are not walking through the Forum to sit but to leave. Many Canada Geese fly by and head for the exit.
3:00 a.m: I can’t think of anything but sleep, so I head to the interior of the “donut,” or dome—that weird, round structure in the Forum. However, a very stressed–looking student has co–opted it, and out of respect for his anxiety, I leave. I remember a corner of the 3rd floor with very comfy ottomans and head up. However, when I arrive, some loud–mouthed kid in a band t–shirt is sitting there. I’m too drained to deal with him and decide to hide in an empty GSR.
When, a few minutes later, I still hear his nasally voice, I decide to sneak up to the 8th floor on the nearby elevators. I know it’s not allowed, but at least if a security guard yells at me, I’ll have had some human interaction.
3:14 a.m.: I walk out to the 8th floor see the sign saying “private floor” but then think about the douche sitting downstairs. I decide to walk around, figuring that I've been here before. What can another time hurt?
I definitely hear noise and decide not to head all the way around the floor. But then again, part of me is curious. I peer down the hallway and see the large ballroom where I did my pre–orientation program. Should I explore? I see the West Philly skyline and remember seeing the whole of the Philly skyline earlier this year from the room right around the corner. If they catch me, I resolve to use a different name and start crying (just to be safe).
I go around, and I succeed! After heading back downstairs, I see that the dude is gone from the third floor corner; I passed by the contractors renovating the 8th floor without a hitch. This success seems to call for a quick nap.
4:09 a.m.: I retire to GSR 243. I attempt to sleep in the chairs, under the table and on top of the table. Nowhere seems to work. I’m tired but CANNOT seem to shut it all out and get some shut–eye. I suppose this is a heavenly sign to listen to some music and continue with my homework.
A year ago when I sat anxiously awaiting my Penn admissions letter, I had no idea that this would be the particular way I’d choose to waste my Ivy League education. I guess life is never quite what you expect.
4:44 a.m.: I curl up between two chairs in the GSR and attempt to sleep.
7:58 a.m.: I wake up, slightly delirious and feeling more than a little bit disgusting. I head for the bathroom, where I wash my face and take a long look at my bleary–eyed self in the mirror. Good morning, sunshine.
8:03 a.m.: Back to my ancestral home—the Forum. Only one other student occupies the couches, and he's sound asleep. Apart from him, the building is fairly empty. I dread the floods of people coming in; I’m already imagining the headache.
9:08 a.m.: For breakfast, I treat myself to coffee, a bagel and a heaping dose of self–pity. People have started trickling in. A boy in a rainbow propellor hat resembling the kid from Up sits across from me, and next to me is a very cute couple who seems entirely too chipper given the early hour. The sun pours through the weird slits in the ceiling. It’s a new day. I only have seven hours left here.
10:27 a.m.: Someone left a navy Penn hat here last night; it’s still sitting on an unoccupied chair. It’s been here for longer than I have. I feel a pang of sympathy. I’m empathizing with a hat.
It must be a weekday at Wharton because it’s not even 10:30 a.m. and I’ve already seen four students in some variation of business formal.
11:42 a.m.: I spy a tour group. I contemplate tagging along with them, just for something to do, but then I realize I’m a little rusty when it comes to human interaction. I remember touring this building before I applied; it seemed so impressive and monolithic. And now I’m just searching for the optimal place to sleep in it. I hope this group doesn’t see me binging Netflix and get some correct crazy idea that students here are just as hopeless as everywhere else.
1:27 p.m.: A few hours of Netflix later, I make my way to my 1:30 class. Luckily, the stars aligned for my 24 hours here, and the only class I have today is in JMHH. I chat with my professor, grateful to have someone to talk to and some stimulation. The gratitude wears off when we start discussing the cases that, despite my time in a purportedly academic building, I still have not read.
2:51 p.m.: Class ends. I try not to bolt for the door too eagerly. I fail and spring down the escalator in 30 seconds flat. I walk out onto Walnut and feel the sun on my face. I think I’ve had enough Wharton for one day.