Exchange at Penn Spring Break?!

April 1, 2024
By Kevin Park, University of Sydney

Kevin, one of the Exchange at Penn Correspondents, shares his experience at Penn during the Spring 2024 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

KevinOn a beautiful February morning, a big quarter life crisis crumbled upon me.

Not because I was lonely, homesick or anxious – rather, I didn’t have any spring break plans.

Seemingly, the only whispers that came through my ears were ice cold mocktail with the perfect blend of pineapple, coconut and the cherry on top and the sounds of waves crashing into the seas of Cancún.

Living down under in Australia meant that my knowledge in American spring break traditions was very limited and the tropical Caribbean weather resonated with the warm and humid
weather back home.

So, when another EAP student asked if I wanted to tag along to Puerto Rico, I found that question to be very silly. Of course I was coming.


Even from the beginning, it was full of action. Disorganisation meant that some of us didn’t check in and of course, the flight was overbooked. Sorting that hurdle, we realised public transport at Puerto Rico is less than ideal, so rental car it is – only if we could find rental companies who would rent for under 21s. Following that hurdle, we realised cash is still king in Puerto Rico. Chaos after chaos, we started our expedition for the best Piña Colada in San Juan.

The frustrations of the initial hiccups were long bygones by the time we stepped foot on the boiling sands and tapped our feet on the waves. The shackles of academic stresses faded away and we
were ready to embrace the week of serenity.

As with any other expeditions, we also came across other notable sights. Bushes, forests and green things must have appealed to the Spaniards who grew up seeing Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, but they were discouraging signs for me. Because that’s where mozzies lived. Needless to say, we lost the war with the mozzies.

But the vibe remained strong, especially at dinner with dangerous games of truth or truth(??) coinflips and some mysterious games. Apparently, I was the most likely to end up bankrupt. Lovely insight.

KevinThe expedition sailed onto El Yunque national forest (I was lost somewhere here for two hours), ferries to Culebra and Vieques islands peaked day by day. We ticked all the boxes in Puerto Rico and they were amazing.

When the pouts from the professor reminding us of the assignment deadline came about, my fairytale was cut a day short. However, this was a blessing in disguise as Spirit being Spirit, cancelled the flights for everyone else on the following day. The expedition diverted to Baltimore instead. I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant.

But as with any fairytales, it always is a wholesome happy ending. I look back and without doubt, it was one of the happiest and most adventurous moments of my life. My competency in Spanish went beyond gracias. (Como estas hermano?) I spent a week with people who I never seen in my life and the laughs and the giggles I had with them were quite memorable, but too explicit to be mentioned here. I recall, if I didn’t take the opportunity to tag along, I would’ve enjoyed some free Five Guys hosted by the college houses, but not Piña Coladas. So if you’re reading this, this is a sign for you to trot to Puerto Rico.

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The Exchange at Penn (EAP) program offers students from Penn's international exchange partners the opportunity to make Penn a part of their undergraduate education. Students take classes and have access to internationally renowned undergraduate-level teaching and research programs while living on a cosmopolitan university campus in the birthplace of the United States - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.