Man, Freshman year is scary. It’s something you’ll hear from a lot of people. You’re (possibly) moving to a new city, making (possibly) new friends, and (again, possibly) finding yourself in ways you’ve never imagined. I’ve been lucky enough to hit all those possibilities. Thankfully, I found myself in a loving community, welcomed with open arms into the warmest bunch of people I think I’ve met at Penn.

I found PEER.

Maybe things went my way for a reason I can’t tell. But I counted myself lucky, to not have my first case of Penn Rejection, to solidify a spot in an Asian American group, and to have the opportunity to have a mentor throughout my first year. As with everything at this magical university, it turned out to be so much more than I expected it to be. I found a space not physical, but transcendent of any atmosphere I had found myself in previous, where I could be myself, where I could express my truest feelings, and where I could be happy to be with people I chose to be with. I found a group--no, a family--where I was truly accepted, not as half white and half Viet, but as myself. As Casey Austin Le Wilbanks. My friends back home, they stereotyped and put their focus on how Asian I was compared to them. My family, scattered throughout the world, they called me the white one because I wasn’t as Asian as they were, by blood or by culture. I came to realize, here at Penn, with an Asian American community I called my own, that I am not lesser than either but that I am myself, and I’m happy to be me. And, of course, I was granted a mentor. A mentor whose name I couldn’t say at first. Seung-Hyun Chung. An English major, whose prodding questions annoyed me, but who I couldn’t keep away from. After many of his shows, pho dates, and times where we gathered to just talk, I knew that he was one of the best things to come out of my freshman year. His insight made me pensive, his questions gave me insight. Of all the questions he ever asked me, “Why do you think you feel that way?” may have been the most provocative.

I can answer it, in this moment, for this situation. I’m not so scared, because I found PEER. And I love PEER. Its my family, and they’ll keep on being my family.