Speaking with Cynthia Gu (C ‘23), it’s clear that she’s dedicated to grabbing every opportunity available to her. Even while juggling a double major and a minor, along with being a member of a sorority and acting as a research assistant for two labs on campus, she somehow manages to find time to enjoy herself and relax. Her bright personality shines, even through the FaceTime screen. 

Name: Cynthia Gu

Hometown: Fairfax County, Va.

Major: Double major in computational cognitive science and linguistics with a minor in design

Activities: Member of AOE (Alpha Omega Epsilon), RA for language and cognition lab and for child language lab

What is your favorite thing about Penn? 

The reason I initially wanted to apply to Penn was the amount of academic options and the opportunity to do interdisciplinary stuff. And that I think is still one of my favorite things about Penn. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a freshman, and even now, CogSci is a super interdisciplinary major. You take a lot of classes in math, computer science, neuroscience, but also linguistics, psychology, philosophy, and there are lots of other cool programs like that at Penn where you can explore. 

Can you tell me more about your involvement in AOE? 

AOE is a social and professional sorority for women in stem. I feel like people are usually kind of surprised to find out that I’m in a sorority, probably because I don’t give off sorority girl vibes. But I joined over quarantine, and it was mainly because I was looking for a sort of community at Penn because my freshman year got cut off by getting kicked out of our dorms and having to move out. I’m more of an introverted person but I went out of my comfort zone and I met everyone and everyone was really genuine, really nice, and I’ve had a really great experience. 

What about your work as a research assistant in labs here on campus?

I honestly just think the intersection of language and cognition is super cool which is why I’m doing this double major. If you think about it, the human capacity to learn and use language is pretty insane, like our brains are built for that. I don’t think the academic life is for me—I don’t plan on pursuing research—but it’s been a really great experience getting to work at the labs. I learned a lot about how science is done and I’ve been able to help with that. [It’s been a] really valuable experience. 

How does design work into your interests? 

I’ve always liked design. I did a lot of design back in high school and kind of wanted to keep doing it. 

Do you have any advice for students about managing their time while pursuing their interests? 

One thing I would say is, at least for me, when I was a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do at first. I considered CIS and DMD and even being pre–med, and eventually I realized ‘this is what I like’ and I settled on that. I think that it can be hard to sit with that uncertainty of not knowing what you want to do but if you stay true to yourself and think about your goals and priorities and interests, and if you’re doing the things that you love, even if it’s a lot, it’ll be worth it. Also, actually taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep, because I know a lot of people here don’t do that. 

Is there one thing over your time at Penn that stands out to you as a monumental moment?

My sophomore fall I was taking CIS 121, and I was really struggling to decide whether I wanted to drop it or continue with it, because if I dropped I wasn’t going to be able to go into CIS. I did a lot of thinking about, “What do I actually enjoy?” and “What do I actually care about?” and, “What do I want to do?” And so making that decision changed the way the rest of my Penn experience went. 

What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time? 

I like to crochet a lot. I started knitting actually after I graduated high school and over quarantine I got into crocheting.

Can you tell me about this temperature blanket you’re crocheting?

It’s an idea that I’ve seen floating around online. Basically the concept is: You do a row of the blanket every single day, and the color of the row you do corresponds to a certain temperature. Red might be 90 degrees, and at the end of the year you end up with a huge blanket with 365 rows of different colors and it shows the temperature pattern of the year. 

What’s next for you after Penn?  

I’ll probably just be working. I did an internship this past summer in UX research and I’m thinking about continuing down the path of UI/UX since I think that’s a good mix of my interests.

Lightning Round:

No–skip album: Red (Taylor’s Version)

Favorite movie: Ghibli movies in general

Current hot take: My friends think I’m really weird for this, but I think peanut butter tastes better when it’s cold and I keep mine in the fridge. 

Early bird or night owl? Night owl, 100 percent

Favorite place in Philly: Chinatown 

There are two types of people at Penn… The people who post anonymously on Piazza and the people who don’t. 

And you are? Definitely anonymous