People and places at Penn

In anticipation of the return to campus, undergraduates introduce their favorite spots.

people and places story
Clockwise from top left: Morgan Bacon, Ariana Jiménez, Francisco Barrera, Quinn Gruber, Lucas Monroe, and Steven Chen introduce their favorite places at Penn.

For many students, attending college marks the first time away from home, the first time managing a budget, even the first time doing laundry. New spaces, new classes, new friends, new routines. This year, it’s not just new for the freshmen. For many, late August will mark their first return to campus since March 2020. In anticipation of Move-In, Penn Today asked six undergraduate students in the Philadelphia area this summer to divulge their favorite spots. 

Ariana Jiménez found her niche on an exploratory walk, while Steven Chen and Quinn Gruber found theirs through special interests, and Lucas Monroe gravitates to athletic history. Francisco Barrera chose a study space—and where he goes to decompress. Dorms, libraries, and outside spaces are all on the list. Morgan Bacon is most looking forward to Hey Day to kick off this semester. “It’s nerve-wracking to be declared a senior, but also very exciting. I’ve enjoyed my time at Penn so much,” she says. “I can't wait to reconnect with my friends and just hang out on the grass.”

Steven Chen

stephen chen in front of lgbt center
The LGBT Center is “inclusive of everybody,” with fun, hosted events, says Steven Chen.

Steven Chen’s first engagement with Penn was through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and as a Penn Program for Public Service intern, the biology major from Warminster, Pennsylvania now works through Netter Center’s OurSpace to host weekly meetings with a group of West Philadelphia and Penn students at the LGBT Center, one of his favorite campus spots. “It’s a very accepting space,” Chen says, “a place for them to have fun and express themselves.”

steven chen working on a laptop
side view of steven chen working at a table

The sophomore is currently collaborating with the LGBT Center and the Netter Center to develop a queer sexual health education program that utilizes peer-assisted learning. A pre-med student, Chen is interested in providing health care access to queer people and people of color. “You have to be healthy to pursue your other dreams,” he says. “Health is the foundation.”

Ariana Jiménez

ariana jimenez sitting on a bench
Ariana Jiménez, a sophomore, looks forward to exploring New College House West after moving in this fall.

“I like a good puzzle or challenge,” says Ariana Jiménez, who plans to investigate white-collar crime as an FBI agent. This requires business-industry experience, so the sophomore from Plainfield, Illinois is enrolled in the Wharton School, concentrating on finance and social impact. 

ariana jimenez sitting on a bench with bikes
ariana jimenez walking

She passed the benches in the engineering quad on a walk one day, and which has since become a favorite place to “chill and listen to music,” Jiménez says. “Currently I’m bingeing Taylor Swift before her new album comes out.”

Jiménez is looking forward to “having the opportunity to engage with people face-to-face” this fall, she says. She’s also looking forward to living in New College House West. “You already know I’m going to be exploring that as soon as I get in there,” she says. While on routine walks, “I’m always trying to look in to see if it looks cool,” Jiménez says. “And it does look cool.”

Francisco Barrera

francisco berrera on a beach volleyball court
“The best part about Penn has been being surrounded by people who are similarly hard-working, motivated, and driven,” says senior Francisco Barrera. To relax, he heads to the beach volleyball court, which has been “huge to decompress.”

Francisco Barrera of Miami, Florida is “really interested in the energy problem.” Barrera wants to part of the solution, so he applied to Penn’s Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, where the senior is studying engineering and physics. Barrera spent his summer doing research with Deep Jariwala of the Device Research and Engineering Laboratory, “looking into new materials and new configurations for maximizing light absorbance and efficiency for the next generation of solar cells,” he says. 

Barrera’s favorite place to study is the Fisher Fine Arts Library. “I’m always surrounded by STEM. The Fine Arts Library is a little bit of an escape from that,” he says. “I was always totally inspired by how beautiful the inside was. It’s so quiet compared to other study spaces.”

francisco barrera at a table in fisher fine arts
francisco barrera in fisher fine arts

When not working, Barrera heads to the beach volleyball court, “a great stress reliever,” he says, especially during freshman year when the Miami student was adjusting to college life. The sandy court “makes it more fun and athletic,” Barrera says, “I’m more willing to throw myself down” to dive for a ball. 

Quinn Gruber

quinn gruber at kelly writers house
For Quinn Gruber, arts and culture reign.

A double major in English and Italian from Cortlandt Manor, New York, Quinn Gruber loves the Student Projects Space at the Kelly Writers House. The space is “special for me because it’s the home of the Zine Library, a student-run collection of zines (small, self-published books/pamphlets/print objects) that I’ve helped curate for three years now, with Alyson del Pino (C’21) and now Victoria Garcia (C’23),” says Gruber, currently a senior. “I love hanging out on the green beanbag with a hot cup of tea and reading the amazing zines that we have in the library, and appreciate the space as a great resource for students who make art, since we have supplies, books, and printing available for everybody.”

quinn gruber looking at music manuscript
quinn gruber sitting in writers house lounge
quinn gruber in the library stacks

Gruber also plays violin in a Penn Chamber Quartet, “an important reprieve from the pressures of work and school,” they say. Gruber enjoys visiting the Eugene Ormandy Music & Media Center to “borrow whatever piece I’m working on, whether for Chamber or myself, and to discover new music by just wandering through the stacks,” they say. 

Morgan Bacon

morgan back sitting at lauder college house
“Oh my god, I think I can see myself here,” Morgan Bacon said as a prospective student. Local to Philadelphia, Bacon enrolled at Penn Nursing, hoping to work in pediatric nutrition. “You can build healthier habits at a young age,” she says.

“I was always really passionate about nutrition, and more specifically childhood nutrition,” says Morgan Bacon. Growing up in Philadelphia, Bacon was acutely aware of food deserts, and began working with the Food Trust. Along with social determinants, she “realized how big of a role nutrition played” in heath, and applied to Penn Nursing.

morgan bacon sitting in courtyard reading
morgan sitting in the courtyard at a table

The Annenberg Center is one of Bacon’s favorite places, because the senior attended a performing arts camp here as a child, which “piqued my interest in college,” she says. “It all seemed like a glamorous life.”

Once on campus, Bacon spent two years living at Lauder College House. “I just loved it so much,” she says. “The courtyard area was a space where the house could come together.”

Lucas Monroe

lucas monroe sitting at the palestra
“Even when I work out in the summer, people will come in to take a picture” at the Palestra, says Lucas Monroe. “It’s pretty cool.”

“I’m on the basketball team, so that’s an easy choice for me,” says Lucas Monroe of Abington, Pennsylvania, of why he chose the Palestra as one of his favorite campus spots. “But I’m also a huge basketball nerd and the Palestra is the cathedral. It’s Mecca. More games have been played there than in any other college arena, and that’s why it’s so historic. I like to sit at the top,” he says. “I’ll do homework up there; I’ll read up there.” 

lucas monroe sitting on a bench reading
lucas monroe sitting on a bench smiling

Monroe, a junior majoring in political science with a minor in Africana Studies, also likes to work on the hill outside of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. It’s a peaceful spot, he says, but also one that’s good for people watching. “You have the library to the left of you, College Hall diagonal. The Franklin statue and the Button are all right there; there’s a lot of cool things you can look at.”

Homepage image: Clockwise from top left: Morgan Bacon, Ariana Jiménez, Francisco Barrera, Quinn Gruber, Lucas Monroe, and Stephen Chen introduce their favorite places at Penn.