Exchange at Penn The World in Front of Us, That We Never Noticed
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October 30, 2023
Waseem Faheem, Sawiris Penn Scholars Exchange Program
Waseem, one of the Exchange at Penn Correspondents, shares his experience abroad during the Spring 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.
Let’s take a step back for a little bit, and try to see the world from a different point of view. The world is so different, yet so similar. Living at Penn made me realize that, even though I’m living over 5,000 miles away from my home, life itself hasn't changed much, and it feels like I am where I was two months ago, just with different colors and sounds.
That’d make you stop and think about the little things that really make a difference, the little daily interactions you have with your environment around you - both the people, and the places.
The United States, at its core, is a country built on diversity and inclusivity, since it's a center for nearly everything the world has to offer: Science and Art, Fashion, Music and Film, Food, Business, etc. So, it’s not surprising to see people of all colors coming from all over the world to visit a specific place. I saw this when I visited Times Square in New York City. As overwhelming as it was - with all the blinding lights, bright colors, loud music, and commuting masses -, it felt as a celebration of humanity. You’d see groups of different people talking together, taking pictures, dancing, and living a carefree life full of fun and joy. One thing that particularly stuck with me was food trucks, you’d see food trucks of different cuisines making food from different spots of the globe and playing their authentic music. What’s funny was that while I was taking some pictures of the Square, I heard a voice calling “Habibi!” (My Friend, in Egyptian Arabic), from one of the food trucks standing on one of the corners of the street that was apparently blasting Egyptian Shaabi Music at full volume without me even noticing. And going back to the hotel, it turned out that every corner had one of these food trucks with the same radio channel on, playing Egyptian Music. It felt like home for a moment.
Similarly, life at Penn has been also so familiar, yet so different. I still wake up early in the morning, slack a little on my bed, get up, attend my lectures - and maybe a seminar every other week -, get back home, and then get ready to do the same thing the next day.
However, the community itself makes it worthwhile. In the week of the New Student Orientation alone, I got to meet people from almost all of Europe and parts of Asia and in the weeks that came after - well, I guess I covered the whole globe. I’ve met all sorts of interesting people: CERN Interns, Military Personnel, Egyptian History Enthusiasts, and Weebs who actually know something about Japan. And it’s not only about the people attending class with me, the professors also make it worthwhile, they’re passionate, charismatic, and outgoing - they make attending their lectures fun! Not to mention the other student communities that you come across every now and then who are always happy to show you around and have a little chat.
Frankly, I was intimidated at the beginning of all of this, the idea itself is overwhelming! And at its core, That’s why I became an EAP Correspondent in the first place, to be able to share my experiences with other upcoming students, either exchange or or those who will stay, and maybe show them how exciting living at Penn actually is. And just when you think you’ve had it all, you remember that you’ve been here for just a month, so even I still have that underlying feeling of excitement whenever I interact with someone new or try something I’ve never tried before.
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.