"I don’t know how Emily does all of that shit." If you talk to any one of Emily Huynh’s (C '24) friends about her, that's a phrase you're bound to hear within the first few minutes of conversation. And after speaking with her for less than an hour, I was wondering the exact same thing.
Imagine this: Emily's alarm goes off at 6 a.m., and from that moment, she’s off and running—both literally and figuratively. Whether she's pedaling through the streets of Philly on her trusty bike, shoulder–pressing at Pottruck, handling the logistics of the next Bloomers show, “owning her gayness” with the Carriage crew, tackling the healthcare system, or throwing epic parties, Emily navigates her world with unapologetic authenticity.
Name: Emily Huynh
Major: Health and Societies
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
You're the head of business at Bloomers. Can you share what initially inspired you to join and what standout lessons or experiences you gained along the way?
I was looking for a community that could serve as a creative outlet and that was also not men—Bloomers is for ABCDs (Anyone But Cis Dudes). I knew that joining Bloomers would be a good avenue for creativity and for social life. The reason I joined Biz specifically is because I have a lot of experience with logistics, project management, and finance. An example of the kind of thing I do for Bloomers was the marketing for the free show we had at the beginning of the school year. I worked with my other co–business managers to create graphics for flyers, print those out, and put them around campus. I’d say that some standout lessons from Bloomers are how to work with other people, how to get around the Penn bureaucracy when it comes to getting funding, and how to ensure diversity in a performing arts group.
In a comedy group like Bloomers, I’m guessing humor is part of both onstage and offstage life. What was the funniest offstage moment that had everyone in Bloomers laughing uncontrollably?
At the beginning of the school year, during the heat wave, I ate some sugar–free gummies because I had been eating too much sugar. And the thing is, that instead of sugar, they have this chemical that is super high in fiber, right? I ate those on a Friday night, and I went to sleep. I woke up at 2 a.m. in the worst pain of my life. I'm bloated. I feel like I need to shit. I'm in the worst pain I've ever had. I finally go back to sleep. I wake up in the morning, and I realize I have to put the flyers up for the free show—and mind you, it's 90 degrees outside. I had just recovered from like six hours of sleep eating these fucked–up–healthy gummies.
And then all of a sudden, at 1 o’clock in the goddamn afternoon, I throw up in front of Allegros. So basically, the story is that I'm just so committed to this club that I ate some gummies, threw up, and continued to do my job.
What role does Carriage Society play at Penn, and why do you believe it's crucial to have cultural centers like it within our community?
Carriage is a very fun social network of people that are just like really gay, and they own their gayness. We are a group of gay people who like to party. It’s also a leadership thing where you’re involved in the gay community. It's brought people together that I wouldn't generally hang out with, but that I would hang out with if I had a reason to. Right now, we are throwing Swalloween. Swalloween is an open party for all gay Penn students. We do it every year. It's like the largest gay event that’s not hosted by the LGBT Center. It's a nice place to meet people and honestly just party. It's nice to be in a place where I can just exist freely and know that I won't be judged by just existing, because I feel like I don't really have a space at frat parties. I just don't feel like I belong there.
When I’m at Carriage, we just exist, support each other, and just hang out. It’s a social outlet and a good place to showcase the skills I’ve developed at Bloomers: marketing, logistics, project management, and finance. I'm also the social chair, so I get to reach out to other social chairs and plan mixers. We just did one with Oracle and Bell. We also recently had a senior party called Fairy Forest, and I did a whole marketing campaign for that. So it's been a nice creative outlet for me individually, but holistically, it's just nice to connect with people that have similar interests.
If I’m being completely honest, I was super intimidated stepping into Pottruck for the first time. That "fitness bro" culture was definitely palpable. As part of Women Who Lift, what advice would you offer to girls who are interested in getting into lifting but feel intimidated by this gym atmosphere?
I feel like the social weight of being in the gym and being perceived by other people—especially gym bros—is scary for no reason. It just doesn’t exist. I hate to dismiss the stigma that comes with being new to the weight room. It's very real. But it's very easy to overcome by just doing it. It's like riding a bike. Once you know how to push the pedals, you can go anywhere. There might be a bunch of scary sweaty dudes, but everybody tends to mind their business.
Speaking of that, when did you start biking around campus and why?
I've been biking since I grew up in the 'burbs, but it became a big thing for me during my freshman year. It was right when COVID–19 hit, and we were all stuck at home. Everyone started biking because of the pandemic. My best friend's ex–boyfriend, who also happened to be a bike mechanic, had an extra bike. He let me have it, and it was a really nice mountain bike that someone rich had abandoned at the shop.
I hadn't biked seriously before, but during my freshman year, my girlfriend of two and a half years broke up with me. It was my first heartbreak, and I thought I was going to die. She was my first love, bro, and she shattered my heart. So, to prove something to myself, I decided to bike 50 miles. I kept going and didn't stop. At that time, I was out of shape and dealing with a lot of depression, but I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. That's when I first got into biking during my freshman year.
I brought my bike with me to campus, and it was always with me. Philly is a great city for biking, and I had a mountain bike, so it was fun to jump over potholes and explore. One day, though, my first love bike got stolen. I got a new bike and started biking 20 miles every morning to help clear my mind. I'd put my head down, go for the ride, and come back.
But I felt the need to do something even crazier. The distances I'd been covering just weren't enough. So, this past summer, my friend's ex–boyfriend, who's also a bike mechanic, and I decided to bike from Pittsburgh to D.C. I found a skinny bike at a thrift shop and upgraded it for the trip. The journey took an entire week, and I think we biked a total of 400 miles. We camped out every night, and the temperature dropped to around 35 degrees. We were just in a tent in the middle of nowhere, and I seriously thought I was going to die. It was the toughest ride I've ever done, but guess what? We're doing it again.
You clearly do a ton. How has your involvement in all of these communities impacted your Penn experience and how do you juggle everything?
I feel like freshman, sophomore, and junior years I was everywhere. I didn't know what to do with myself. I had my footing in so many different things. I guess I did a lot of dabbling. After I realized what I liked and what type of social circles I wanted to include myself in, I was able to snip–snap the things that I wasn't really committed to. I stay involved in Women Who Lift, Bloomers, and Carriage, because I feel like they are spaces where I can exist freely. I can contribute to something greater. At Bloomers, we have distinct goals every semester, and it’s my explicit job is to run the business. I feel like I'm actively contributing to making sure that this goal is being accomplished.
With Women Who Lift, we're helping new people get into the gym. With Carriage, I get to exist as a gay person and be social. I feel the key to juggling extracurriculars is experimenting first and then just honing down on what I really cared about. What’s actually helped recently is that I got a job offer for post–grad, and because of that, I felt like I didn't have to put up this pre–professional front anymore. There were a lot of things I did in the past to look good—I thought I needed to be in a certain club to have networking opportunities. But given that my future is kind of sorted out, I am now just doing what I truly care about. Even if there isn't a distinct professional reason to be a part of them.
Tell me more about your job offer!
I’m a HSOC major so I was looking for a job that's healthcare management oriented. After grad, I'm moving to Pittsburgh to work for this blended health organization. I’ll be a financial analyst in a rotational program, where I’ll work throughout the different parts of the company.
What led you to study HSOC?
I was an arts kid in high school, and I applied to Penn because of its Visual Studies program, which is one of the smallest majors here. It's a mix of neuroscience, fine arts, and art history, which was so interesting because it's so interdisciplinary. Senior year of high school, I got really sick. There was just no way I could physically or mentally go to college, so I ended up taking a gap year. During my gap year, I was isolated as heck. COVID–19 hit, so I spent the second semester of my gap year at home, doing nothing, right? I just read a bunch of books, and mind you, I'm dealing with a lot of health issues right now. So many of the books I'm reading are about the American healthcare system. I learned so much about how messed up the American healthcare system is and how much work can be done to fix it. On top of that, during my gap year, I felt like I lost my creative spark. That's when I switched from Visual Studies to HSOC. I finished all the requirements junior year, so I've been exploring other avenues of academics.
I'm also an English minor. I'm working on a cinema minor, because I'm really interested in film. My creative spark is back. I think the reason why I'm making more art now is that I don't have to worry about putting my energy towards recruiting, interviewing, practicing, and studying. For example, at Bloomers last year, I was strictly finance. But now I have an expanded role where I am allowed to dip my toes in editing videos and design.
Which building on Penn's campus would you turn into a comedy club and what would you name it? Definitely Williams Cafe and keep the name as is.
Favorite place to bike around campus? Locust Walk at rush hour because it's fun to bike through people and see who's walking.
Favorite lift? Shoulder press.
If Women Who Lift had a team anthem, what would it be? "You Know How We Do It" by Ice Cube.
Thrifting advice? Don't be afraid to tailor your stuff.
There are two kinds of people at Penn…Those who rally and those who don't.
You are? I rally.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.