For the Class of 2024, every student remembers where they were when they saw the news—the bleak headlines of the COVID–19 era were the backdrop for the beginning of their undergraduate careers. These memories play through the minds of this year’s graduating class when they reflect on their first year at Penn. 

This year’s Penn 10 features a unique class of students whose college years underwent a significant pivot in their academic, personal, or professional trajectories because of the pandemic. Freshman year could’ve been spent trotting down Locust from classes to clubs but it soon turned to 8 am Zoom seminars. Recruiting interviews were conducted from childhood bedrooms and the new daily uniform became formal wear on top with pajamas on the bottom.

 But amid the loss of a traditional freshman year, an opportunity to tread off the beaten path emerged. The pandemic took our Penn 10 graduates thousands of miles from Penn’s campus on cross–country road trips or to research in Japan. Even if they didn’t leave their childhood bedrooms, the personal journeys our Penn 10 class took were transformative. While all roads led back to Penn, the pandemic left an indelible mark on the development of the Class of 2024’s undergraduate experience.