Exchange at Penn When Time Is Not on My Side

December 20, 2022
By Grace Low, Singapore Management University

Grace in one of the EAP Correspondents writing and sharing her experience at Penn during the Fall 2022 semester. You can also follow along with Grace and our other students on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

When time is not on our side, we learn how to fully treasure every moment.

Spending my whole life in Singapore, it always felt like I had all the time in the world. If it was a busy month, we could always meet the next month. If the rain was too heavy today, we would meet tomorrow when the weather was sunny. Everything remains status quo – so we could just do it another time. Even as I departed from home, I didn’t have to say goodbye to everyone – I will be back soon regardless.

There is, however, something so special about recognizing one only has a short amount of time left. First came realisation, followed by acceptance, and then a decision on how I should spend my last few days at Penn.

Winter at Penn is filled with goodbyes, farewell dinners, and not to forget – final assessments. It was easy to occupy our time with the rigour of academic activities, but there came a point where we had to make a personal choice to set aside time for what really mattered – the people in our lives. Grace holding a cup in Center City Philadelphia

The first week of December was a hectic one. Amid final presentations, case submissions, and classes, the Penn figure skating team was preparing hard for our Winter show – Nutcracker on Ice. We had midnight practices, dress rehearsals, and sound checks. The next morning, we would have classes and presentations. I survived on fleeting sleep and a little more sugar and caffeine. However, what really got me through was the people. During the late-night cases with my study groups and show preparation with the Figure Skating Club, every team member made sacrifices to give the team their best. We had each other and that mattered the most.

On my second last day at Penn, I was gifted with a cold, rainy day. The weather made me want to stay indoors all day, but there was an urgency in knowing that I only had two days left. I rushed down to Rittenhouse Square to say goodbye to my friend, Jenn. We strolled through the holiday market with blissful warm cups of mulled wine dispelling the chill of the rain. After that, I had a farewell dinner with some of the Exchange at Penn students. We found joy in the sadness – leaving but only temporarily, looking forward to the next time we will see each other again.

When time is not on our side, we seize the moment, focus on what truly matters, and look forward to a greater future.

Grace with friends at dinner eating pasta.
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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.

Niamh in front of the Huntsman building at Penn.
Exchange at Penn
by Niamh Field, Queen Mary University of London