In the green room of Jazz at Lincoln Center, I slowly realized my past experience speaking to 200 high schoolers during a Model United Nations simulation was not the same as speaking in front of almost 1,000 Penn alumni. Between photographs and microphone tests, I could feel myself getting more nervous. Before I knew it, I was on stage waiting to be introduced by none other than University of Pennsylvania President Dr.
It was during Fall Break this past semester that I had the opportunity to address these Penn alumni in New York City. I was invited as part of the “Our Penn” series – a discussion series among Penn students and Dr. Gutmann, specifically for our alumni. “Our Penn” highlights what makes Penn great – not only in the talent of Penn students but the dedication of Penn alumni as well.
I was chosen as one of three students to have a conversation with Dr. Gutmann about my Penn experience and what Penn has given me. After being asked to participate, I had two thoughts: first – who will I be speaking with? – and second – who in their right mind would want me to go up on stage and talk about my Penn experience?
The other two Penn students I spoke with are awesome – plain and simple. Huge shout-out to Liz and Sandra for being the best co-speakers a guy could ask for. Talking with them showed me the many paths a Penn student can take with his or her education.
In answer to my second thought: I quickly understood that I had a story to tell – a story of a real Penn experience. I have tried out for (and not gotten) positions in acting clubs, mentored freshman on their way through Wharton, beaten fellow dual degree students in kickball (twice), and much more. I have been humbled, pleasantly surprised, and awestruck in my time at Penn.
And while this has all happened, my academic pursuits have always been my focus. As a student in the Management and Technology (M&T) Program, I am fully committed to my learning – even when it’s really, really, (really!) hard. In some ways, I think the difficult times in the Program (and at Penn) have shaped me into who I am today. That, I hope, is the root of why I was asked to speak at “Our Penn” New York.
Back in Jazz at Lincoln Center, “Our Penn” was one of the best experiences of my time at this university. It was amazing to speak with Dr. Gutmann and really showcase how Penn has benefited me, and so many others, in immeasurable ways. My experience in the M&T Program and throughout Penn has been better than I imagined.
After the conversation finished, and before the post-stage mingling started, I was celebrating with Liz, Sandra and the “Our Penn” coordinators who made the entire event possible. While we were talking I realized something: I had been on the Jazz at Lincoln Center stage before – for my high school graduation. What a ride it’s been since then.
Eric Helfgott (M&T ’18) is a Bioengineering major concentrating in Finance, who recently served as VP for the M&T Student Board. As an M&T, Eric most appreciates the office space as a great hang out with friends that also offers free printing!