Naeun “Kelly” Ha: Dismantling the Penn Face

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Photography and Text by Naeun “Kelly” Ha, Copyright 2016.


Dismantling the Penn Face


“Penn Face”- what does it really mean? For me, it is the phenomenon of Penn students putting forth an image of themselves that is unflawed, put-together, unstressed, and perfect. Walking around campus, one sees a student body that appears collected and cool on the surface, but underneath festers problems of extreme stress, low self worth, and grief.

My sophomore year, I had my own carefully crafted Penn Face. To others, I was a happy, involved student with lots of friends and a boyfriend I loved. However, I was struggling with so much more. I didn’t have a major declared, which made me feel inadequate and lost. There were problems in my family, and I was also experiencing a crisis of faith with the religion I had been raised in. I became deeply depressed and anxious. I would spend hours in my dorm crying, then wipe the tears away when it was time to meet friends for dinner. When the depression was at its worst, I was paralyzed by my sadness. I started wishing that I would get a terminal illness or that a car would hit me one day while walking to class.

These words are difficult to write, not only because it was a dark and painful time of my life, but because so many other students here experience the same thing. This project is part of a movement to create a more honest and open environment here at the University of Pennsylvania. I am grateful to these brave women, some of them who are dear friends, who took the time and have the courage to show a side of themselves that is usually hidden to the world.


About The Author: Naeun “Kelly” Ha is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2016. To read more articles by “Kelly”, go here:

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