Iceland: A Captivating Land of Contrasts

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Photography and Text by Angela Pan

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Iceland is a small and beautiful country of contrasts. It has a population of only 323,002 people, over 60% of whom live in its capital city, Reykjavik. Much of Reykjavik’s charm comes from the fact that it is stuck between being a small city and a large village. Its streets are peppered with colourful townhouses that are a relief to the eye during the cold, sleet-filled days that are all-too common in Iceland.

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One of the most striking landmarks in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja Church, which was constructed over a period of 41 years from 1945 to 1986. Said to resemble the lava flows that are common in Iceland’s landscape, the church towers over the majority of the city and can be seen from almost any place in Reykjavik.

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From afar, the building is commonly likened to a spaceship. Yet from below, Hallgrimskirkja takes a very different form.

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Reykjavik’s colour palette is dominantly blue, silver, brown and black. The weather in Iceland is extraordinarily bipolar: in early March, most days are filled with a combination of rain, sleet, and hail. In the rare moments where the skies clear, however, Reykjavik can be striking.

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The colours of Iceland’s countryside are a unique mesh of ash grey, straw yellow, and moss green due to its volcanically-active terrain. Outside of Iceland’s capital city is an entirely different world.

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Three hours from Reykjavik lies the famed “Golden Circle” scenic area, which features some of Iceland’s most famous sights. The landscape of the Golden Circle is highly geothermal, and is peppered with beautiful mountains and valleys. The famous Geysers erupt every 5-10 minutes, and flocks of tourists descend upon them each year to capture their beauty.

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These striking contrasts between Reykjavik and the highlands that surround it are what make Iceland such a captivating and unique travel destination.

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Photography and Text by Angela Pan, Copyright 2016.

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Portrait of Angela Pan by Yujia “Alice” Qiu

About The Author: Angela Pan is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania.  Class of 2016

Zoe Yun Zou: A Woman? An Engineer?

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Posted on April 12, 2016 by Zoe Yun Zou

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A Woman? An Engineer? 

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People often ask one question, “who are you?” Well, my name is Danyu. I an international student from China. I am a woman engineer. Honestly, I am not sure. Sometimes, I don’t know if I am a woman first or an engineer first. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what do I really want. I just do not know.

One thing I do know is that it is not easy to be a woman engineer. I could still remember the first day of my internship at a robotics research center. My boss came to me directly after work, “Danyu, maybe you can wear something casual tomorrow? That little black dress is lovely but may not be convenient.” She is right. To be a woman engineer, you need to know how to be a man first. You cannot wear high heels to a machine shop. You need to forgot that you are a girl. It is just not convenient.

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I love being an engineer, the excitement of solving problems and the sense of satisfaction when projects are done. But I do hate becoming sloppy after staying up for days in the lab. That space full of pizzas, chips, takeout and soda makes me scared. I am a woman, a lady. Why cannot I dress up nicely everyday and work in a place where I can have a cup of latte in ceramic cup instead of soda?

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When I was little, my Dad wished me to become his little princess. I had a collection of perfume that he bought for me as birthday presents in my room. My favorite one is Chance Eau Fraice from Chanel. It has the fresh, soft and feminine fragrance. I kept all the bottles even when the perfume inside is replenished. They remind me of something I may have lost.

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I love perfume, high heels, dresses, beautiful lip colors and jewelry just as every girl do. But I do love coding, testing robotics and constructing circular boards. I don’t know how to choose between the two lifestyles.

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But why cannot I be both? Maybe I can be an engineer for workday and an elegant lady for the weekend? Maybe I do not need to care what other people say? Maybe I can stronger so no one can stop me from wearing dresses to the lab?

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Maybe I am a woman and I am an engineer. Maybe I just need to be stronger. Maybe I just have to accept who I am.

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Photography and Text by Zoe Yun Zou, Copyright 2016

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About The Author: Zoe Yun Zou, is a Junior enrolled the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017.

Zhewei Feng: Dreams

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Posted on April 5, 2016 by Zhewei Feng

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Panda is a student from the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. Although she is studying in the top business school in the country, she is not happy about her life. When she was a child, her dream was to become a dancer in the future.  She started to learn about dancing since childhood, but unfortunately she didn’t become a professional dancer because of her family. Just like any other ordinary girl from an Asian middle class family, her parents were hoping for her to get into a top business school, and make more money in the future. Simple and straight forward, and also cruel for her at the same time. She did a good job, successfully got into the best school, but she can never feel the true happiness she seeks besides when she’s dancing. Her college life begins, and she doesn’t want to give up what she loves. She joined the universities dance club immediately. However, top schools always give students the heaviest workload and the most pressure. She can hardly spend time on dancing and therefore she feels helpless. She struggled on making the decisions to  almost a collapse. Finally one day, she walked straight to the dancing studio with no hesitation. Nothing else was important at that moment. She just wanted to hide, and there is no better place than the dance studio. Euphoria came soon after she put on her makeup and dancewear. Sha laughed happily and relaxed, just like a child.

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Photography and Text by Zhewei Feng, Copyright 2016.

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Portrait of Zhewei Feng by Kelly Hu, Copyright 2016

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About The Author: Zhewei Feng is a graduate student enrolled in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania.

Jacob Bennett: Gramercy Park

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Photography and Text by Jacob Bennett

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GRAMERCY PARK

New York, New York, the city that never sleeps, a bustling playground for those with boundless energy and arguably the metropolitan Mecca of the world. In its most populous borough, Manhattan, there are almost 70,000 people per square mile, which might make one think it would be impossible to find any area of peace and quiet, let alone a two acre oasis of pristine green space, which has remained entirely behind closed doors since its creation in 1831.

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However, such a location does indeed exist, almost entirely unchanged, other than the addition of a few pieces of art (including a 30ft Calder mobile), for all of its 184-year history. This urban refuge is Gramercy Park, New Yorks second, and only surviving private park, consistently accessible to a mere 383 people in the entire world. The Park has always served as an enticing draw to property buyers, who have continually been willing to pay a handsome premium for any abode that came equipped with one of the treasured keys.

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For those who already have access, the park is treasured for its secluded beauty, a space to read quietly, take an early morning walk (not on the grass of course), or simply sit and reflect on a spring day on one of the ornate benches. However, in recent years the park has become a focus point of reverse-gentrification controversy.

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Now, many outsiders, and even some residents, have begun arguing that Gramercy Park should begin opening its doors to the general public. One resident in particular, Aldon James, president of The National Arts Club, has caused quite a stir on a number occasions after breaking several of the parks laws, including exceeding a limit of guests set at 5 people and breaking into the park during scheduled maintenance.

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During one of his outbursts, James was observed defiantly marching in with 20 students from a nearby school, who were subsequently escorted out by police, after they were called by the Park Association. This somewhat comic first-world scuffle became even more caricatured as James and the parents of the children sued the Association. When asked about the Park welcoming outside guests, the head of the board of trustees commented that it was at least “open on Christmas Eve”.

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Though this microcosmic struggle in the heart of New York might seem trivial to most, it does play into the larger story of New Yorks evolving neighborhoods and the potential loss of tradition and charm in some of the cities most iconic locations. For now, the residents of the park can rest easy as the black iron gates remain firmly locked, but changing times may see a more open atmosphere in the upper-class heart of Gramercy.

Photography and Text by Jacob Bennett, Copyright 2015

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About The Author: Jacob Bennett is an Architecture major and senior at the University of Pennsylvania. Class of 2016. To read additional articles by Jacob Bennett, go to the search bar at the bottom of the page, type in author’s name: click the search icon.