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Stress at Penn shouldn’t be a competition | But if it is, I'm winning.


Lulu Wang | Design Associate

It feels as though my time at Penn has been shaped by many competing priorities. I have tried to balance friends, jobs and schoolwork, all while keeping my future goals in mind. 

Unsurprisingly, stress has been one of the biggest influences in my time at Penn. And not just because I am stressed, but because everyone is. The stressful culture at Penn is all-consuming. Since New Student Orientation of freshman year, I have felt the overwhelming pressure from my peers to quantify and compare my levels of stress. And I am tired of this mindless behavior. It is time to end these harmful competitions about who is the most stressed because, as I will discuss, it is a waste of all of our energy, and, additionally, it is clear that I am most stressed. So, it's kind of a moot point.

Imagine what our community could accomplish if we stopped idolizing stress as if it were a prize to be won? Imagine how content everyone on campus would be! I mean, if stress were a prize, I’d be by far the most notable alumnus from Penn. By far! I truly have the most on my plate, so if I am saying that we should end this competition, you know it’s important. 

Hear me out: everyone at Penn seems to constantly be down to the wire on something, accomplishing something, but only at the last minute.

"Have you finished the homework?"

"No, I have two hours to do my pset!"

"Have you written your essay?"

"I wish. I stayed up all night and only finished half of it."

"Have you finished your Chem lab, done your policy analysis for Political Science 271, and written your senior thesis a year early on the linguistic variations within Russian dialects because you’re doing an uncoordinated triple degree program between Wharton, Engineering, and Nursing that’s really hard but knowing you you’ll get it done, because you're always on that grind?" Oh shoot, wait, that’s a me-specific question lmao, why’d I put that in this op-ed? Probably because I’m super busy and didn’t have time to edit this, haha, sorry.

At Penn, midterm season goes on forever, and with most tests on a curve, it’s as if the University is intentionally cultivating a hypercompetitive atmosphere. Why should we be adding an extra layer of competition to our lives? Can’t we all just take a step back and support each other where we're at? If it would help motivate people to stop these “Stress Olympics,” I can just award myself gold right now and call it a day. Seriously, I don’t mind.

Trust me when I say that I wish you didn’t have two essays and a midterm this week. My fight to end our stress-ridden culture is not meant to belittle your experience. Honestly, your stress level must be through the roof. I have literally been living in complete solitude in a cave that I dug underneath the Quad for the past two months, cramming for my eight finals that are all happening consecutively this Friday. So I am with you. See, everyone is so stressed, so let's go out with a bang and have this be the last time we ever compare experiences. I can already feel our school becoming healthier now that we both had an equal opportunity to vent and feel heard. Both of our stressful situations were equally acknowledged and now we can move on and start a new chapter.  

I am excited to help shape the supportive university culture on the horizon, but, yikes, not this week because I'm swamped.