Caroline Milgram (C ‘24) shows up to Stommons in a brown T–shirt and biker shorts. “I don’t do well in the heat,” she explains, referencing the cute dresses everyone else seems to be wearing as the weather reaches above eighty in mid–April. Her affinity for the cold is what helped her to survive the harsh Chicago winter of her first year. “I love the cold. People hated it, but I loved that it snowed every day for three weeks.” A smile plants itself on her face as she recounts those frozen days, ones that Philadelphia much more rarely sees.

As a Philly native, Caroline yearned to expand beyond the stomping grounds of her youth. Northwestern University and the city of Chicago were, theoretically, going to provide just that. In practice, an unforeseen global pandemic put a slight damper on her plan. 

“Two days before I was moving in, they closed the dorms because of COVID–19,” she says. “And I decided to move to Chicago anyway—which was crazy.” Moving to a new city in the midst of the pandemic is, as Caroline admits, crazy. But, this was only the beginning of Caroline’s college career and the spontaneity that would define it. Her four years in college, including that first year in Chicago, were strung together by her totally uninhibited decision–making—to varying degrees of success, but never with regret. 

Caroline is quick to discuss the reality of her experience in Chicago. “When you move to a new city, you’re like ‘Oh, I want to explore, I want to find new things, new coffee shops,’ and you really couldn’t do that,” Caroline says. “It was just very isolating, because I was kind of sitting in an apartment by myself every day.” 

So, as the snow melted and spring of 2021 reared its freshly green head, it was time to say goodbye to the windy city and come back home for a bit. In the spring of her first year, Caroline decided to transfer to Penn and start anew in the city that raised her. Her great Chicagoan experiment, however, was far from a failure; she learned the city to the best of her ability, developing a hope to one day return, and, of course, became a deep–dish aficionado.  

“I feel like Chicago deep–dish is not a meal, it’s an event,” she explains. “When you go, you have to be prepared to eat a lot, a lot of cheese. You probably don’t feel well after, so I feel like it is an event that you have to mark off a night for. It’s not like ‘Oh let’s grab pizza.’” This was clearly an event with which she was well–acquainted. 

Caroline started her college journey in an entirely different place than where she’s ending it, literally and figuratively. Along the cross–country return back to Philly, she also dropped her original neuroscience major for something that lied far outside of the STEM scope. 

“When I transferred, I wanted to have a reason for transferring,” she says, beginning to explain her major switch. “Secondly, because I’m a little indecisive, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.” So Caroline opted for PPE, which felt unique at Penn and cast a wide net of subjects, giving her both a justification and a chance for exploration. But, Caroline would end up broadening her horizons even further, pursuing a business economics and public policy minor through the Wharton School. 

But a total academic 180 was not the only life change Caroline experienced. Her college career is chock–full of non–sequiturs in the pursuit of discovering fun and passion. A large part of that feat was using misfortune as means of changing her future. At least, that’s how she got into tap dancing.

“My second night at Penn, I slipped on the stairs and I fell,” she says. “I basically couldn’t walk for a while. I knew I wanted to audition for a dance group and the only thing I could do was move my feet. And so, I auditioned for [Soundworks Tap Factory].” The rest—multiple performances, meeting her best friend, and two semesters as president of the group—was history. But Caroline’s time on the stage was far from just the clicks and clacks of tap shoes.

A theater–kid throughout high school with charmingly naive childhood dreams of Broadway, Caroline decided to try her hand at theater in college, too. After participating in Cabaret in the fall of her junior year, she was sure she was one and done. But, rather impulsively, she decided that she wanted to do it all over again her final semester at Penn.

So there Caroline found herself, in her final weeks of her senior year of college, imitating the lives of ‘80s high school students. As part of the ensemble cast of Quadramics Theatre Company’s Heathers: The Musical, she played a student council member, one of the many stereotypical roles that define the satirical show. 

But an ensemble part in Heathers wasn’t the only last–minute excursion Caroline embarked upon. “Everyone has this opinion that second semester of senior year, you should wind down and have fun. And I was like ‘It’s still a semester!’” she laughs. This mentality led to a successful run for Undergraduate Assembly and over a hundred new Beli ratings.

“A mission of mine is to try as many coffee shops as possible. And I feel like there’s so many restaurants I’ve written down like ‘Oh, I want to go here,’’’ she says. “I feel like now that I’m leaving, I’ve made it a mission to try them all.” Her latest recommendation? “Mr. Rabbit. That’s my new obsession.”

Caroline’s sprint to the finish line ends at a future in New York City—a future of dollar pizza slices and Broadway show raffles. Once a pre–law hopeful, Caroline has ditched the pre–professional track. Maybe she’ll go to law school in a few years, if for nothing else than to pursue an interest in restorative justice. Or, she’ll get into climate policy. Perhaps, even, she’ll finally fulfill her childhood dream and star on Broadway … or take an understated role in the ensemble. Regardless, she’s looking forward to exploring another new city and the many avenues she has left to pursue in her journey. Nothing has stopped her before — Caroline knows she has plenty of time to figure it out. .