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Penn Promoting Gap Year for International Students "Just so They Know It's There"


Graphic by Felicity Yick / The Daily Pennsylvanian

As the public deems this summer “closed,” students are concerned that school might remain online in the fall. Penn, like many other universities, has yet to announce its four-months-away response to the rapidly evolving pandemic with new information daily. Despite this, Penn Dean of Admissions, Eric “swearing at the Eagles” Furda (C '87) sent an email to newly-admitted international students this past week promoting gap year options “just so they know they are there.”

The email was accidentally addressed to “the class of 2025” and read, “We really want you here at Penn, however, we are scared that you might be from an area with high rates of COVID-19. On an unrelated note, attached is a list of gap year options just so you know they are here. No pressure or anything. Gap years are good. Just in case. Nothing wrong with gap years.”

Nadia Hadad, one of the future students who received the email, noted a few other things that seemed strange about the email. “I couldn’t help but notice that the phrase “gap year” appeared no less than 263 times in the 700-word email.” While she admitted at first, the reason behind the frequency of the phrase was puzzling, she later realized, “that’s just the diligence of a place like Penn.” Additionally, Hadad mentioned that the phrase “gap year” was consistently bolded throughout the email. “I guess Dean Furda really wanted to make sure that the students who asked about gap year options found what they were looking for,” reasoned Hadad.

Furda ended his email with an uplifting message saying, “While we can hope that the pandemic will be successfully managed by the fall, there is no guarantee. Even if things open up again, maybe you would want to stay home for a gap year with your family to celebrate your survival. Sometimes I wish I had taken a gap year to travel the world (something many students choose to do with their gap year). Seeing as the ability to travel widely on your gap year seems unlikely, maybe you would like to spend your gap year taking in the sights of your home town instead.”

Future students were confused by the email and were relieved when they received an email reply from Dean Furda less than five minutes after the email was sent. Expecting corrections to the earlier email, students opened it to find the message, “Sorry! Forgot the attachment with the gap year options!” along with the attachment. When asked to comment on this follow-up, Hadad responded, “The emails from Dean Furda really show how much Penn cares about its international students. But as much as Penn sounds like a great place and I can’t wait to go, I’m seriously considering taking a gap year just to hang around my home town — or maybe just transferring to Cornell.