“I remember attempting to tell them what SABSing is and just being met with blank stares,” laughs Lauren Kahn (C' 19) as she talks about trying to relate to her high school friends. The unique Penn terminology she regularly uses is one of the many ways our school's culture impacts the lives and personalities of its students. When students return home for breaks, these "new" personalities are juxtaposed with the familiarity of home. Below, we speak to students with different opinions as to how well the two selves mesh.
Lauren Kahn (C’19)
When Lauren’s Penn personality is put in old situations, she finds it a lot more difficult to relate to the people she used to see every day back home.
“I feel like I do [revert back to my high school self] when I hang out with my friends at home," she says. "But then I realize that I don’t want to be that person anymore so I actually just don’t hang out with them as much now."
"We like different things and have different experiences now, and it’s nice to catch up but not for that much of an extended period of time because it is very different now. I’m a different person, and it took me a while to realize that I’m not a worse person just because I’ve changed. I’m much more open-minded now, and I also just don’t shut up anymore. I used to be very shy and I wouldn’t speak up as much, and in high school I started to break that down. And now in college, I just have no filter whatsoever.”
Duval Courteau (C’20)
“Of course I like being home, but the world is just so much bigger,” says Duval, before launching into a good–natured rant about how the pedestrians at Penn have gone rogue and that she'd be hit by a car if she pulled the same stunts back in California. Apart from abiding by traffic laws, though, she does feel that there is some difference between who she is here and who she is at home.
“I think when I came to Penn, I was very aware of like the 'Penn Face' and the college face in general, where everyone tells everyone that everything’s great and everything is fine when really they’re not doing fine," she says. "And I think because I was lucky enough to be aware of that before I was applying to college, that I was aware of actively trying not to maintain a Penn Face. If I’m going through something I try to talk through it with my friends, and in that sense, my Penn self is a very true version of myself, and my home self is also pretty true. But I think that there are more rules, and here I just get to be myself.”
Matt Peters (E’19)
“Yes, absolutely. Actually, no. No. I’m in different positions for how I react, but I react in a similar way," Matt says when asked about the concept of having a dual personality. "At first I was thinking of the situations I find myself in, and I’m in completely different situations when I’m here versus at home. But my mindset and my personality maintains through those different situations."
"My friends here, I’d say I share more of the same interests with, and friends at home, we share the same mindset. That’s what it is, because here, I have more diversity in how my friends think... One of the cool things about going home is that everyone has these new facets of their personalities that show through and are very different from who we were in high school...The home self is perhaps the same person as who we are, but in a situation where we’ve already been, and the Penn self is who we are at the moment, but turns into who we are going to be and trying to form that.”
MP Sanford (C’17)
“When I go home now, I always find myself really stressed, because all the sudden people are expecting me to act one way or the other,” Sanford explains as she details the cultural differences between Penn and Norfolk, VA, where she grew up.
“I guess my old self was really—or, I was more inclined to concede aspects of my personality to my parents, and to my sister, and just try to get along better," she says. "I’ve always been the mediator in the family, and now I see less of a reason to be. By the end of this last week at home, I was dying to get out. I don’t know if that’s just my particular situation, like it might just be where you’re from... Coming from such a different place—like Norfolk is a military town, my father is military, a lot of family is military—so Penn is obviously really different. There’s different expectations in both places. But in general, I think places like Penn specifically do encourage a little bit more growth in a way, or encourage change in a variety of directions and, for most students, push you out of your comfort zone.”
Adam Reid (C’17)
Reid thinks he's grown a lot as a person since he came to Penn, but he doesn’t feel it necessary to maintain a different version of himself when he goes home.
“I still make some of the same jokes that were funny with them back then because it’s like, a point of contact," he says. "But other that that, no, not really a different personality [when I’m at home]. Me and my high school friends are very close. A lot of people don’t really hang out with their high school friends as much, but we like hang out every day... We don’t really talk about school, we kind of just catch up and hang out."
"I think there are a lot of pressures for people to act a certain way at Penn that aren’t there at home. I haven’t really found that with me, which could be just my experience, but I think that it exists.”
Aiden Reiter (W’20, C’20)
Reiter’s impression of Penn is arguably not one that most people get during their first semester of freshman year. Two phrases he used to describe it were “relaxed” and “less competitive than high school,” but his boarding school background at Choate Rosemary Hall and the fact that he grew up surrounded by Yale professors might have something to do with that. He was pretty familiar with the notion of having different personalities around different people, as he discovered this himself when he left his hometown for boarding school.
“I think in the beginning I definitely felt pressure to be a little bit different from who I normally am," he says. "I think there is a lot of pressure to adjust to social norms... But I don’t think there’s much pressure to change who I was. I think everybody acts a little bit differently around their family and their friends. I like that different people in my life know me differently. I think that’s positive. And I think that it’s nice that I can, not necessarily be a different person, but I think it’s nice that I can experiment and change myself to make other people more comfortable.”
Header Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons