NSO is over, and God bless Benjamin Franklin for that.
As an early–decision applicant, I spent the second half of my senior year anticipating college. I confidently explained to my peers the wonders of Penn, the majesty of Locust Walk, the delightful paradox of having a grinning Quaker as a competitive athletic mascot. As the school year approached, confidence turned to nerves and I sought out the advice of the few Penn upperclassmen I knew. Their recommendations varied, but one clear theme emerged: NSO is, in the best way possible, the craziest week of freshman year.
Well, I attended the frat parties, squirmed through the safe sex and relationships presentation and gazed up in wonder at Amy Gutmann’s face during convocation. I survived NSO and I can say without a doubt that the first weeks of college aren’t the best—they’re the worst.
Freshmen are in a strange, transitional state. We're in college, but we know very little about campus life. Penn is supposed to be our new home, but instead it feels foreign. No freshman can say they have mastered Penn's geographic nuances and social complexities.
As for me, I can’t get into the Quad without swiping my PennCard at least four times, and I’ve stepped on the compass at least twelve times. I made the mistake of purchasing Urban Outfitters string lights whose light bulbs have already shattered and scattered delicate pieces of glass all over my Urban Outfitters duvet cover, which I have taken to mean that I’m trying too hard. I have a suspicion that a family of cockroaches has made my dorm their personal nest, most likely out of spite. And, worst of all, I’ve realized that no upperclassmen really want freshmen at their parties.
But before I seem too jaded, let me say this: I love Penn. My classes are filled with brilliant, high–achieving individuals, all of whom have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. It’s strange and it’s frightening and it’s exhilarating. It’s a gentle reminder that although we’re all here because we deserve to be, we’ve got so much more to learn. NSO isn’t supposed to be great. It’s supposed to be a kicking–off point, a landmark in time where we can look back as seniors to poke fun at our freshman selves and marvel at how much we’ve grown.
And that’s the fun of it. The chaotic dash to classes (aided by Google Maps, of course), the sheer joy of discovering that almost every dining hall is equipped with a waffle maker and the knowledge that we will spend the next four years together. NSO is just one week—it won't define my Penn experience. I have a lot more than rainy day parties to look forward to.