After recently finishing her first semester at Penn, Sophia Schiaroli (C ‘21) already has some thoughts about Penn students.
“What I’ve noticed about Penn is that people are so passionate about what they are doing” she says.
Sophia is certainly one of these students. Although as a junior transfer student Sophia’s time at Penn has been relatively short, she wasted no time in following her passions on campus.
On top of pursuing a political science major and a chemistry minor, Sophia is involved with the Transfer Student Organization, the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES), and is the Education Chair of Lambda Alliance—Penn’s undergraduate LGBTQ+ advocacy coalition.
Sophia made the decision to transfer to Penn for its academic opportunities and a stronger sense of community.
“One of the reasons I transferred was that I was looking for a more established queer community: for people that were talking and advocating for the community. I think that was really missing from my school before,” Sophia explains.
As the Education Chair of the Lambda Alliance, Sophia has been able to implement programs to educate undergraduate students about the resources and opportunities that are available at Penn for the LGBTQ community, help people get more involved, and connect students to the vast alumni network for support and networking.
She notes her favorite part of being involved in Lambda is “having the comfortability and support of other people who share a similar passion and love for my community.”
Now Sophia is bringing this sense of community to an even wider audience through her own “LGBTQ+ friendly” YouTube channel that she started in December.
“I wanted to do it to advocate and normalize my own sexuality and help other people feel comfortable with themselves and navigate their own sexualities. It can be easier when you have people to look up to in the community,” she explains.
Although this is Sophia’s first experience creating a YouTube channel, she has already has some success. Her first video titled “Coming Out // Q&A” has nearly two thousand views and the feedback she has received has been overwhelmingly positive.
In the days after posting the video, Sophia recounts receiving about “60 messages on my phone, from not just other people who identified as LGBT but also people who were allies and supportive of me.”
For Sophia, YouTubing is more than just views and likes, but about the viewers themselves.
“At the end of the day, I want people to feel free to be who they are. Being who they are is a beautiful thing and at times it might not feel like that, but it’s so important to be true to yourself,” she explains. “Hearing that I am able to make a difference in a person’s life—that alone really fulfills why I made this channel.”
Despite her early successes, Sophia's not concerned about seeing the view counter rise as long as she believes her videos are having an impact.
“I feel like I’m making a difference," she says. "If it’s through one video with 200 views, [I’m] still able to impact those 200 people.”
As Sophia continues through her busy semesters at Penn she wants to keep YouTube a consistent part of her life, publishing videos every few weeks. She hopes to continue to create content focused on sharing advice with members of the LGBTQ community by answering viewers’ questions. Tailoring her videos to her audience, Sophia plans to “bring more people onto the channel and bring more perspectives and ideas to the table.”
In addition to sharing her perspective as a member of the LGBTQ community, Sophia also foresees creating content that provides helpful information about her experience as a transfer student.
Beyond the impact that Sophia is making on-campus and through her YouTube channel she hopes to go to law school, and is particularly interested in human rights law with a focus on LGBTQ advocacy. Before heading to law school, she wants to take at least two gap years to join the Peace Corps and to work at Disney Land, admitting that she’s a “huge Disney fan.”
Sophia has lots of big plans for her YouTube channel, and for her long–term future. For now, though, she's just focused on getting the most out of her two years at Penn.
“One of the big reasons I transferred was because I was looking for a place that I could feel like myself and feel confident in my sexuality," she says. "The environment at Penn has really fostered that for me, so I’m really grateful for that and that transferring has lived up to that expectation that I had of Penn.”