Perren (‘19) is majoring in Romance Languages and Comparative Literature… when he is not harnessing his potential to as a personal yoga instructor, personal chef and general personal wellness guru. Whilst Saturdays may be for the boys, Sundays are for going over to Perren’s for comfort in freshly baked goods that make the scaries a little less scary.
I always tell people that my favorite bakery is Rodin. In this environment, I feel as though cooking and baking is more of a niche hobby. I think it’s because it takes a lot of time, and here, we tend to think that time is an incredibly scarce resource. What inspires you to make this activity such a prominent part of your time?
I think becoming vegetarian and vegan had a large part to do with it. After making these dietary changes, I was looking at a bunch of recipes because I didn’t know how to make a vegetarian or vegan meal well. During the summer after freshman year, I was just on campus alone and ended up cooking a lot. After that, during sophomore year, I started meal prepping as well as experimenting by making kombucha and all these other fermented foods.
I mean, everyone here just does whatever they’re interested in doing with their free time. I am interested in food. Other people are interested in writing, finance, the arts, community service and so on. I think that food is surprisingly underrated in this environment, where it’s normal to just drink a Soylent and just keep going. We need to nourish our bodies because at the end of the day most of the human condition is physical, so take care of it!
I also know that you are a big proponent for wellness in general. Can you please speak a little more to that?
You have to take care of your spirit as well — even if you don’t believe your spirit is something real, you can consider your spirit as your energy… and we’re all energetic beings.
With spiritualism in general, it’s easy to automatically associate it with an institution, for example, the church — that’s only one type of spirituality. To me, spirituality is just a concern for your soul.
It’s interesting because if you look at the etymology behind spirit, it essentially means breath… like a strong breath. For example, if you inspire someone, you instil spirit into them and something expires, it no longer has breath. A lot of Eastern spiritual practices, such as Qigong, suggest that we move our energy with our breath. That’s also why the act of breathing is such a big deal.
Why did you want to learn multiple languages?
It’s just something I find fun. I started with learning Mandarin but then switched to French, which was so much easier in comparison From there onwards, I learnt Spanish… and then thought, why not Italian too?… and then, why not German?
I really appreciate the fact that I was able to experience the languages in their cultural context. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis basically states that the language you know informs the way you perceive the world. Some languages have many words for one specific thing: For example, there are many different ways to say ‘blue’ in Russian, ‘cheese’ in French and ‘ice’ in Inuktitut, which is spoken by Eskimos. It’s just interesting how people communicate with the world based on different languages. I find this interesting in the context of non-native speakers, immigrants, and especially the children of immigrants, who are raised with two different languages but one is exalted whereas the other is depreciated.
Of “The Four Agreements”, the first one is it be impeccable with your word and everything about it. What you say, and also what you think, informs your identity inadvertently, whether you want it to or not. It’s crazy because you’re just making vibrations in your throat, and this small action has the potential to mentally and emotionally scar someone.
I think that it’s pretty unique that you spent an entire year of college abroad. What inspired that decision?
Let’s see… I think I knew that I wanted to study overseas ever since high school, and so when I got to college it was definitely one of the things I wanted to pursue. Initially, I was trying to decide between going to a French-speaking country or a Spanish speaking country…but then, I thought, why not just do a semester in each?
During the start of my semester abroad in Paris, I felt homesick for the first time. Mostly, I just really missed my friends and family. At one point, I was very close to just not applying for my second semester abroad and just returning back to Penn. However, I ended up meeting this grad student who talked about how much she regretted not studying abroad the whole year. I had never heard someone say that before, and so I took it as a sign and decided to apply for the second semester in Argentina.
What was a key learning you took away from the whole experience?
I try not to regret my choices because I am just generally appreciative of experiences. Despite this, there were times where I found myself feeling really pessimistic towards the experience… feeling as though all the cities were the same and rather being somewhere with people I know and care about, rather than strangers. Six months is a long time to be away from your friends.
As someone who sometimes finds it easier talking to strangers than people I know, explain to me where the difficulty in trying to connect with these people originated from? Isn’t it nice being able to meet people who hold no preconceptions of you as a person?
I think it is because we subconsciously knew that there was no point in making a lot of long-lasting friendships because we essentially only had four months. I mean, this was perhaps less so the case with the other students from the US, but in terms of the local students, realistically, you may never see them again. I guess I just had to find this out the hard way.
If you had to recommend anything, to anyone… what would it be?
Hmmm, maybe to just please shut up? So much of what people have to say are just fillers and it is just a waste of breath. Before we speak, we should consider if what we are going to say is necessary and kind. This advice also pertains to me because honestly, I should shut up.
As a senior, and as someone who has been away from this place for a year, what is something you appreciate about Penn?
Honestly, the quality of the professors. The majority of them aren’t just super knowledgeable about their field, but they also come through and are very supportive. Penn should pay them more.
What is something you would like to change?
The fact that Penn is run like a business. What if we literally made education free and accessible to everyone? Give people financial aid, like god help us out!
Who should we talk to next, and why?
Nick Joyner because that kid is crazy and Becca Lambright because she really is doing the Most and I am so excited to see where she’s going.
P.s. thanks for the pumpkin bread.