Deny it all you like, but food is a crucial part of the college decision process and the college experience as a whole.
During my freshman year at Wharton, I became increasingly aware of how greatly I valued lunch. I firmly came to believe in a rule: “never turn down lunch.” Lunch on Penn’s campus isn’t only to-die-for food trucks; it’s a global perspective on everything from health care to wealth management to gender equality. The communities on campus are some of the most interesting, thoughtful groups I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of, and they often offer lunch. Any chance to share food and opinions is priceless.
Wharton apparently shares my perspective, as they fund a “Lunch and Learn Program,” in which students and professors can go to lunch on campus with Wharton picking up the tab. Since lunch with my peers is one of my most enriching experiences, I imagined that getting lunch with my professors would be even more incredible. Thus, I’ve used the Lunch and Learn Program three times this year, and with each delicious course came a sweeter lesson:
FIRST: My first Lunch and Learn was with a professor from a class with a large-sized lecture. Coming from a small high school, I figured that I would be lucky to even catch eye contact with her; I couldn’t have been more wrong! Not only did she agree to have lunch with me, but she turned out to be extremely personable.
Our lunch was on the day after the first midterm, but rather than pumping me for feedback, she was genuinely interested in how I was adjusting to college. The minutes flew by as we talked about friends, family and life. Of course, I sprinkled in a few questions about her work (I would be crazy not to), but what will always stick out in my mind is how she listened to my story. She proceeded to greet me by name during class and ask how my family was doing back in Ohio.
On an academic level, befriending this professor was a great way to further my interest in her area of expertise. On a personal level, it made Penn immediately feel like home.
LESSON: Professors are people.
SECOND: My second Lunch and Learn experienced some logistical difficulties. My professor was employed in Center City the week we had selected. Rather than reschedule, he invited me downtown for lunch. This doesn’t sound like much, but here’s the kicker: Because he couldn’t make one of the restaurants approved by Wharton’s Lunch and Learn Program, he was willing to (pardon the pun) eat the cost to meet his students over lunch. He bent over backwards to ensure that we were well fed and, more importantly, that we had the chance to connect with him.
LESSON: Professors are caring people.
THIRD: My most recent Lunch and Learn lasted much longer than one meal. True, I was with my professor from noon to one, but he set me up with almost a week’s worth of subsequent lunches. Upon hearing what I was interested in, he immediately pulled out his phone. He connected me with a senior working on a related project, set up a meeting with a professor with a related expertise and gave me the number of an MBA student to be a mentor.
Professors at Wharton look to see what you’re passionate about, and when they find it, there is nothing they love more than giving you the tools to chase it down.
LESSON: Professors are caring, helpful people.
Editor’s note: This blog originally appeared on the Wharton Undergraduate Program’s Student Voices blog on May 30, 2014.