Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: Why I Started Her Campus @ UPenn

McDonald’s or Burger King?

McDonald’s.

Winter or summer?

Summer.

High School Musical 1 or 3?

Pass.

Read or write?

Both...why not both?

2:57 AM. It has been a long day, but a seemingly even longer night as I have been trying to fall asleep for half an hour. This may not seem like too long of a time, but I am someone who falls asleep the second a strand of my hair touches the pillow. After all, I am a champion sleeper (I have a throw pillow that says “Good at Naps” just to prove it). In fact, included on my resume is the ability to take four hour naps in a desk chair, nod off while standing in the shower (they’re so relaxing and sleep-inducing!), and also somehow manage to doze off while making my bed (feet still planted on the floor and everything). So, sleeping under the covers like a normal human being should not be too difficult, right? Wrong.

Counting sheep did not work, so I resorted to a fun little game of 20 Questions - one in which only one player was needed. Perhaps not the best activity to do when attempting to enter the mystic dream world, but might as well keep myself preoccupied till I feel myself on the verge of a trancelike state.

But that last question really stumped me. I am a self-proclaimed lover of literature and the arts; the skills of reading and writing themselves have been so crucial in helping me determine my proficiency (and undoubtedly, my self-perception) as a former English as a Second Language (ESL) student. I even hope to major in English! Yet, I have not joined any of the numerous school organizations that are just as devoted to the written word as I am. Perhaps this is because as a freshman, I was distracted by all the other opportunities Penn has to offer that I almost lost a sense of myself in this process of self-discovery.

As I laid in bed ruminating such a thought, my mind began to wander. What if I created my own club? As soon as this thought invaded my mind, my eyes popped out of their sockets and I violently shook my head in an effort to expel it from my body. What an impractical idea, I thought. I am just a little freshman in her little freshman world having little freshman ambitions. I refused to surrender to the naivety of typical first-year students, who practically get through campus by bouncing on fluffy, pink cotton clouds. My goal was to simply survive my first semester in college, not try to be a Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur at the mere age of eighteen (no shade to any aspiring Wharton kids out there).

Still, what was first just a lone invader became a battalion of armed soldiers as I was soon swarmed with new and innovative ideas about starting a club. My nights became longer and longer as I would lie awake, thinking about what the mission of my supposed publication would be and who exactly would be my target audience. I pondered over which groups on campus would benefit from having their voice heard and what void I could potentially fill with my totally-not-going-to-happen club.

Soon, I arrived at the overlooked female population who despite being a majority on campus numbers-wise, are still reduced to being a minority both inside and outside of the classroom. Yet, I did not want my almost-certainly-will-not-happen publication to practice any form of exclusion either. I wanted it to be a space where all are welcome and where an intersection of identities would be celebrated. This would be especially significant for women of color and LGBTQIA+, gender non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals who often feel neglected from campus culture.

Indeed, the campus culture curated by many educational institutions can be toxic. Many students in the Ivy League, including those at Penn, often feel the need to prove themselves and their worth to others. Students put on masquerades as they walk around campus hoping that others notice that they belong at such a prestigious institution. The pre-professional atmosphere of colleges pushes students to attempt to outperform others, whether it be on exams, writing assignments, or even discussions inside the classroom.

I did not want to mirror this kind of environment within my like-seriously-it’s-never-going-to-happen club. Extracurriculars are meant to be a space to explore one’s passions, not an opportunity for excessive demands and expectations to be placed on the already-hunched backs of college students. I did not want members to feel that they must write to impress. I want them to write simply because they want to write. Thus, in considering what type of publication I would like to create, I had my very own eureka moment: a magazine.

However, I was not ready to make the commitment to leading my very own club - that too, one I have to independently establish from the ground up. The task seemed too daunting, but it was also too late - I have already constructed an imaginary publication in my head that I have somehow become heavily invested in.

Nevertheless, I continued to make attempts to erase such thoughts from my mind, hoping that they would not make an imprint on my memory as then these treacherous ideas would inevitably reemerge. I have been caught in this endless cycle for two weeks by the time finals week rolled around.

I was getting ready for bed one night and turned on my series of ten alarms, hoping that the discordant symphony to erupt the following morning would at some point wake me up. Just as I heard the shutter-like sound of my phone turning off, I felt the switch in my brain turn on. I stared blankly at my phone’s empty black screen, debating what I should do. Finally, with a sigh of defeat, I pulled out the chair that was neatly tucked under my desk and took a seat. I unlocked my phone and opened Safari, anxiously waiting in anticipation as my fingers quickly tapped the virtual keyboard on Google.

That was almost two months ago and I still cannot believe what all has happened in this very short time span. I went from stumbling upon the words “Her Campus” on another, completely different and now forgotten website to fine-tuning my application over winter break and eventually hand-selecting the board members and staff writers of this now-totally-existing club. I no longer have to bottle my enthusiasm for a publication that has now finally come to fruition and I sincerely cannot wait for you all to hear the amazing and distinct voices of our wonderfully talented writers. So, whether you need guidance on how to navigate your professional prospects, want the latest gossip on all your favorite celebrities, or wish to read about today’s relevant news through a feminist and millennial perspective, we got you covered. Welcome to Her Campus @ UPenn!

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I have made my decision. High School Musical 2 is the best.