August 28, 2018: Sitting on the concrete bleachers overlooking Sheerr Pool in Pottruck, I was more nervous than I wanted to admit to myself. I was a freshman surrounded by about 40 other strangers, many of whom were pulling swim caps and goggles out of their bags and chatting with friends they hadn’t seen all summer. I introduced myself to the people around me, whose quiet demeanors suggested that they were freshmen, too. As always when I meet new people, I was more focused on making sure the words coming out of my mouth were coherent than on actually learning names. I remembered maybe one person, but I figured it was a problem for later. Practice got underway, and all the newbies and I were split into two groups: the swimming group and the “dryland” group. I headed down onto the pool deck and over to lane four, unaware that I just made one of the best decisions of college. And yes, I am referring to both the fact that I joined Penn Club Swim and that I decided on lane four (to my fellow lane four swimmers: I am forever loyal).

When I started at Penn, I knew that I wanted to be part of a club sport. I am by no means an extraordinary athlete, but I had been swimming since I was eight and wasn’t ready to give up the sport just yet. In high school, I loved the camaraderie on my swim team and wanted to experience something similar in college. Not to mention, the exercise from doing a club sport seemed appealing in the face of the “freshman fifteen.” As I made my way around the many tables on Franklin Field one afternoon during NSO, I gravitated toward the energetic group of people jumping up and down at the club swim table. I picked up a flyer with some info about practice and the upcoming barbecue. “Come get wet with us!” it read at the top, and well, I just had to go see what PCS was all about. 

From the first practice trying to remember everyone’s name, to the welcome–back barbecue where I took a shot out of a pull buoy, I realized I had made a life–changing decision by joining PCS. There was something about being with the team, this contagious happy energy of sorts, that immediately spread to me when I was around them. So, as the fall semester picked up, I eagerly looked forward to practice, using it as a break from my writing sem and Math 104 homework. Although, the 9:15 p.m. practice start time on Tuesday was a bit late for the old lady in me. I quickly got to know everyone through “set 1.5” where we all introduced ourselves, saying where we’re from and answering a question of the day (and yes, we do this every practice). Soon enough, I was considering PCS my family, and Sheerr Pool my home.

I could never have imagined that a month into my freshman year I would have already made some of my best friends in college. The rest of the fall semester went perfectly, and I can attribute much of that to PCS. I had truly hit the jackpot: a group of people who were welcoming, driven, down–to–earth, fun, and definitely a little crazy. With them, I could break out of my shell and be myself—dancing and singing like a lunatic at our meets and social events. 

Now, this semester as a sophomore hasn’t been the easiest. But what I’ve realized is that PCS is my constant. It’s the group of people I go to when I’m down, because I know that I’ll end up with a smile on my face. I know it sounds dramatic, but I truly couldn’t imagine what Penn would be like if I hadn’t joined Club Swim. We’re a hodgepodge of people of different ages, from different backgrounds, yet we all support one another—whether it’s swimming–related or not. Yes, the exercise is nice (though whether it kept off the freshman fifteen is questionable). But it’s the people—my best friends and role models—who make me so happy that I picked up that flyer last year and decided to give PCS a try.

The list of reasons as to why I love club swim and am so grateful for it could go on and on, so I’ll end with a chant that may be the cheesiest, yet most telling reason as to why I'll always be thankful for joining club swim:

“There are tall ships 

And small ships 

And ships that sail the sea

But the best ships 

Are friendships 

So here’s to you and me.”