This past weekend, I graduated.
It’s a strange feeling. As I wore my M&T stole with pride, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the past four years, and what being a part of this program has taught me.
Shattering Perceptions at Quaker Days
Four years ago, during Quaker Days, I visited Penn’s campus for the first time. I came in with a perception of Penn and Philadelphia as, to quote my 18-year-old self, “an industrial wasteland”. I had a certain, specific, picture of college life in my mind. I would read books in some beautiful idyllic college town nestled among mountains, surrounded by forest and river, miles away from everything; a town steeped in nothing but higher education and learning. Then I got into M&T, a dream and a reach I never expected, and my plans turned upside down.
The first day of Quaker Days day dawned, a perfectly sunny April spring day. As I walked through Penn’s campus, I was amazed at how it was nothing like the industrial wasteland I imagined. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, students were lazing around on college green, and the campus was truly at its finest. Thus began my four-year love affair with Penn and the city of Philadelphia.
Navigating Responsibilities and Reality
It wasn’t easy. My four years at Penn were fraught with difficulty. Academically, I was overwhelmed by the course load at times. Socially, I would feel I had to make sacrifices to keep up with the rigor of M&T. “Me time” was not easy to find.
Through this, I learned how to prioritize. I learned what made me tick and what I needed from myself and from my friendships. I learned I’m my best self with eight hours of sleep and that isn’t something I wanted to compromise on (yes, M&T’s, you CAN sleep 8 hours a night!). I learned sometimes schoolwork takes a backseat to an incredible night with a friend. And I learned to be okay with sometimes missing out on typical college experiences because they just weren’t as important to me (you’ve all heard of FOMO, but have you heard of JOMO?). Only through difficulty can you learn, grow, and change. My four years weren’t easy but they were immensely rewarding.
A common topic among hikers, backpackers, and outdoors(wo)men is the Fun Scale. Type 1 fun is something that’s fun when it’s happening: things like traveling, a nice dinner, or a concert. Type 2 fun is something that isn’t that fun while it’s happening but an incredible experience in retrospect, something you would do again in a heartbeat: things like running a marathon, working on a difficult problem set, or starting a company. Type 3 fun is something that’s miserable while it’s happening and something that you never want to do again. The most growth and valuable experiences come from Type 2 fun. M&T was four years of Type 2 fun mixed with Type 1 and a sprinkle of Type 3 thrown in.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Sharing Wisdom (Looking at You, Class of 2022!)
Before I sign off, I’ll leave the underclassmen and incoming M&T’s with a few pieces of advice to navigate your time at Penn.
- Don’t close your mind off to anyone or any experience. You never know where it will take you. The extracurriculars that ended up shaping my interests were not ones I planned on joining. But, I took the opportunities that presented themselves, met the most interesting people, and made the unlikeliest of friends.
- If you want something, make it happen. I didn’t think I could go abroad, but I wanted to so badly. I rearranged courses, took summer classes, and planned it a year in advance in order to make it happen. And it was the best decision I made at Penn.
- Get a bike! Philly is an incredible place to spend four years. If you ask any senior, their biggest regret is that they didn’t explore Philly enough. Don’t be that senior! Biking around Philly is the easiest way to prevent that from being your biggest regret.
- Have gratitude. Even when M&T is hard and it feels like everything sucks. Even when you have to make sacrifices with your time. Even when it seems like nothing is going as planned, be so eternally grateful that you are in this Program, surrounded by incredible people who are struggling with you and rooting for you. You’re all going to make it out alive, and be so much better for it.
The picture above in front of the Love statue was taken on M&T day four years ago. The girl in the middle has no idea what the next four years will hold! She has no idea that one of the other girls in that picture will become a fast friend, a roommate in NYC for a summer, and fellow explorer. She has no idea that another will become her senior design teammate, take a bus to NYC to see a Broadway show for her birthday, be a shoulder to cry on, and become her best friend.
Thank you Penn. Thank you M&T. I hope I’ll make you proud.
Manjari Ganti (M&T ’18) holds a BSE in Bioengineering and a BS in Economics, Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, she will work for boutique growth and innovation strategy consulting firm Treacy & Company. Her favorite thing about the M&T Community are the new things you learn about people you’ve known for years – “they constantly amaze and inspire me!”