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Learning to embrace the impractical and think more creatively

26 Jul

Ananya Grover, 15 and a high-school sophomore from Amity International School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, embarked two years ago on the journey of a competition called Odyssey of the Mind, which promotes creative problem-solving. The competition required Grover and her teammates to design structures and set designs, write and perform skits, and spontaneously come up with responses to seemingly strange prompts, all in the name of thinking more creatively. In this article, part of the KWHS Summer Essay Series, Grover talks about how her experience with Odyssey of the Mind, first at the regional round in New Delhi, India, and then in the international round at the Eurofest in Gdansk, Poland, helped her to become a more innovative thinker.

Image by Jeremy Thompson, used under CC license

Lesson 1: Don’t overthink, just do

Each year, Odyssey of the Mind brings out six new long-term problems under categories like drama, technical, and structure, among which teams can choose the one they like best.

This is not your typical problem-solving challenge. During one of our practice sessions leading up to the competition, our team decided to work on a unique hands-on task — a problem that involved us making something using biscuits, icing, Gems, and slices of bread (without actually cooking or baking) and weaving a story around it. As none of us were particularly experienced with food, we ended up with a rather unappetizing disaster. However, by thinking on our feet, we were able to salvage ourselves by spinning a riveting tale incorporating our creation, one with the moral that you should always check expiration dates and certification stamps on food items.

Once we reached Odyssey of the Mind, I remember feeling so overwhelmed the first time I read the structure-based problem my team had chosen to work on. The problem required us to design, build and test a structure made out of balsa (a kind of lightweight wood) weighing no more than 15 grams, stack weights upon it, unstack, restack, and make a performance around the stacking – all within eight minutes!

How were we going to do all of this?

Then, I chose not to think about everything that we had to do. We divided up the tasks and tackled small bits individually: while I wrote the draft script, another team-member worked on designing the structure, while others started working on props and costumes.

We broke and remade several structures, adapted and rewrote our script, learnt to do basic stitching, hacked together costumes, props, backdrops, and headgear, and managed within the meagre budget of $145 allocated to us. Hard as they sound, none of these things proved to be impossible. Eventually, by working together as a team, using resources available to us and with the guidance of our coach, we were able to do all of this and more. The key is to not just think and plan, but go ahead and start doing, gain feedback, and improve.

Image by McPig, used under CC license

Lesson 2: What’s up with the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

We also had spontaneous problem rounds where team members could be asked to do anything from building a propelling device from paper plates, plastic spoons and rulers, to coming up with five different reasons for the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s tilt, all within a couple of minutes.

I stood tongue-tied during one of the first few practice rounds because I couldn’t think of something, anything, to say. I racked my brain, and settled to give an easy answer that almost anyone could think of. Gradually, I got better at thinking faster and more broadly, bouncing off from the territory of the mundane to the unusual. Yet, not everything I said was witty. As long as you kept coming up with ideas, it was fine for some of them to be common.

One of my responses to the Leaning Tower challenge was an optical pun — “The tower’s non-conformist architect didn’t want his creation to align with the normal.” By the last round, I had resorted to something much longer and sillier: “The Leaning Tower is talking on a mobile phone that has poor reception and so has to bend its head towards the phone to listen.”

In OOTM, people offer silly responses, common ones, clever ones, humorous ones, and sometimes highly creative ones. But no answer is right or wrong, and no answer is treated as such.

Unlike problems given to us in school, Odyssey’s problems are such that there are no clear-cut solutions. Each team can respond differently to the challenge presented, and all the responses are considered valid.

This sentiment fosters an environment where the instinct isn’t to rule out the most impractical and outlandish ideas, but to actively hunt for them. The classes I attend at school rarely give me an opportunity to expand my mind this way, and even if they did, hardly any of us can confidently claim that we would grab them. This is because when we stand up in class and say something that could potentially be regarded as weird, we risk being laughed at or humiliated by our classmates. I figured out quickly that letting go of our fears and opening our minds to a spectrum of ideas can foster creativity. We have to let go of the concept of right or wrong and embrace the impractical, even the absurd, to become more innovative.

Image by Ilias Bartolini, used under CC license

Lesson 3: Innovation is a team sport

Each member of the total seven in our Odyssey of the Mind team had their own strengths, weaknesses and skill sets. While one played the flute, the other programmed robots, and another was a national Rubik’s Cube player. This diversity helped us break up tasks and incorporate a diversity of ideas and talents into our skit. I realized the benefits of many creative minds working toward a solution. Different perspectives often strengthen the outcome.

But teamwork can also be tricky. The cardinal rule of OOTM is that if one member of the team is stuck, the whole team is stuck. And when teams get stuck, for whatsoever reason, they respond by blaming each other. Our coach helped us overcome personal fights to a large extent by making us sit together and have honest conversations. Moreover, the rules ensured that when it came to working together, we had to keep our grudges aside.

While competing at the international level at the Eurofest at Poland, we had yet another level of challenging teamwork. This time we were grouped together in a mixed team consisting of teams from three different countries. Along with our teammates from Poland and Russia, we had to overcome language barriers to create an entirely new performance within two days. I had to come up with an unusual persona combining different personalities. For this, I wore a cape crafted out of a garbage bag, a tribal belt and a sword from our pre-existing props, and a headpiece in which we stuck a miniature ship my teammate had bought as a souvenir from Gdansk — it was a colorful and exciting collaboration.

By Raphaël Labbé, used under CC license

Lesson 4: Celebrate creativity

Odyssey of the Mind celebrates the power of thinking differently. It was exciting to see high-school kids donning eccentric costumes, enthusiastically assembling vehicles without wheels or backgrounds made of PVC pipes as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Building things from scratch and defying people’s perceptions of practicality taught me how to live in the moment and accept the beauty and strength of all ideas, no matter how offbeat. To think creatively, we need to open our hearts and minds to all the possibilities, not just the ones that sound achievable or that we know others will accept.

The competition left me with a changed perception of what it means to be creative. I’ve learned that being creative can sometimes mean being weird or silly, but most importantly it comes with being uninhibited and non-judgmental. I’ve also accepted that I won’t feel equally creative all the time, yet this doesn’t mean I have to sit around waiting for the spark of inspiration to hit. When I’m idle, I give myself Odyssey-like prompts to imagine and come up with stories and theories behind things around me. I also try to watch and read as much as I can about other people and their creative work. I am now able to consciously push my mind to look at problems through different viewpoints.

Conversation Starters
What are three takeaways from this article that might help you think more creatively?

Ananya says, “When teams get stuck, for whatsoever reason, they respond by blaming each other.” Do you agree with this statement? Why do you think this is the case? Have you experienced challenging team dynamics?

Have you competed in the Odyssey of the Mind? If so, share your own insights about creativity in the Comment section of this article.

Ananya Grover participated in the 2017 Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. The above article was first published here, and is reproduced here with permission.

Why I worry about President Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement

15 Jun

It is no secret that the global environment scenario faced a massive setback earlier in June. Apparently, the US president thinks that his responsibility as a leader doesn’t extend beyond the boundaries of his own nation. While talking about his decision to go against international well-being for “national good” President Trump said, “I am the representative of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Trump believes that getting jobs back for coal miners is a better way of securing the future of his nation than investing in resources for global environmental protection, even though his own country is one of the worst affected. One is not surprised by the Republican Party’s conservative approach on most subjects, but when a Grand Old Party (GoP) panelist goes on record to say that “extinction and global warming is all fanaticism by the left,” I think that there is a lot to be worried about.

The Paris Agreement has been a part of the United Nation’s attempt to curb global warming by controlling greenhouse emissions in member states. The problem which arises now is that the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world has just backed out from the most extensive treaty to help keep the environment alive.

And that’s not where the problem ends. Just a couple of months back Scott Pruitt said that he was “not convinced that Carbon dioxide is a main driver of climate change” and that the US Congress should weigh in on whether Carbon dioxide emissions should be regulated. Yes, that is the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency; basically, the body keeping a check on environmental pollution in the US.

So, what is happening is that GoP representatives, in an effort to lobby multibillion-dollar oil companies, and secure votes from the working class (consisting of a huge majority of miners and manufacturing sector workers), have mostly advocated against recognizing Carbon emissions as a threat. Now, the majority party is working to keep up with its unrealistic job security promises while turning its back on the population’s basic right to clean air and water.

President Trump’s main argument for exiting from the Paris agreement is that it would cost the US job market ‘billions of dollars’. The truth, however, is that the job market he is talking about revolves around miners and oil production, and the ‘billions of dollars’ is the backing his party would lose from big oil, if the government cuts on emissions. Trump’s administration justifies this stance by, in the words of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology administration, “cherry picking MIT’s stats”. It all points toward the same thing, the US had no solid reason to leave accords at a time when the doomsday clock is ticking 59.

It helps no one and is nothing more or less than power play and corruption.

It was surprising that Trump announced the US exit from the accord which had been signed by more than 190 nations. In fact, only two countries have not signed the agreement so far; one is Syria, which is suffering from ongoing civil war, while the other is Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the world.

And that’s sad, how one of the greatest counties in the world doesn’t stand for anything it used to; how the pioneers of international alliances and global well-being have fallen into traps of self-centered misery.


By Aniketh Khutia

The author is a student of DPS, Ruby Park, Kolkata, and participated in the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy, 2016. The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own.

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Advice from a girl who worked hard and got to choose between an Ivy League offer and a full scholarship

5 May

I remember bringing home my grade sheets when I was 12, and seeing the disappointment on my parents’ faces. They never explicitly said that they wanted me to achieve higher results, yet I could tell. They wouldn’t congratulate me, or smile and say ‘well done!’ I knew I wasn’t the best in my grade, and I knew I was only doing the bare minimum to pass. If someone had told me then that I would get into an Ivy League school and receive a full scholarship at USC, I would have thought it was a joke.

My counsellor at school would constantly tell me, “Next year, the grade sheets will be sent to college, so do your best.” I never replied, but that idea stuck in my head. I kept thinking, “I have to work harder next year.” I did.

I enrolled myself in the International Baccalaureate. I tried juggling my social, academic, and extracurricular life. I still knew that I had to get started on my standardized tests if I wanted to take them at the start of the first year of the IB, but I could never get myself to actually start. I’d tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll start”, and that tomorrow never came. I would postpone it to next month, and I just saw time pass by. I wasn’t being lazy, really; I was just overwhelmed with academic work from school.

I finally started the process of preparing for the ACT. I spent two months studying for it with a tutor: no improvements. What I needed was someone who would explain to me the theory behind the test. I changed tutors, spent three months with him: still no improvement.

I started to get nervous, as the second year of the IB was starting, and I had just wasted five months. I finally chose ArborBridge, and we made the trick: I prioritized the ACT over the IB. I would wake up extremely early every Saturday and Sunday to have lessons and take a full practice test. I sacrificed going out with my friends, to study. I stayed up late trying to manage both courses.

Overall, it was a stressful period: I questioned myself constantly, and by the end I was just plain exhausted. I was trying to maintain a grade above 40 on the IB, whilst at the same time doing standardized tests.

By the end of the semester, I was physically exhausted, as I have always been a big believer in pushing myself beyond the limit of what is expected. However, I still had to apply to the universities and think about personal statements, alongside college supplements. I thought to myself, “I’ll push myself one last time.”

It was the Christmas holidays, and I remember sitting down during my vacation in NYC, and just having to write my essays, whilst my family was enjoying the city. I was focused though – I committed myself to the deadline, and I knew I had to keep it.

Two months later, I was coming home from an interview at Brown University, and I received a package from DHL. I thought a friend of mine had sent me something from the US. I opened it and found it was from the University of Southern California (USC), telling me I had got in, and that I was a Trustee (full scholarship) finalist.

One month later, the famous ‘Ivy day’ arrived – I was accepted at Dartmouth College, alongside officially receiving a full scholarship at USC.

Even if there is an element of luck during the application process, you simply have to give it your all, and this is the best advice I could give you. I am not asking you to pull all-nighters and give up on your friends – just do your best, because in the end (and this may seem cliché) it will be worth it. I say this from experience. Receiving the acceptance letters and wait-list letters was proof: I did it.

Sometimes you may doubt yourself, and wonder if it is truly worth it. It is. Dive in, head and heart, and submerge yourself during your high school years, as they will determine your college years.

As I am about to graduate and say goodbye to my friends, I look back and I can assure you, it will be worth it. One last piece of advice: cherish your experiences – they can’t be lived twice. Congratulations to the Class of 2017 – we did it!

A few tips:

1. Write your essays to the best of your abilities. They are a huge factor in your application process.

2. Start early on the standardized tests, and choose the one that suits you the most: ACT or SAT.

3. Get high grades in high school – they will strengthen your application.

4. If people tell you you’re studying too much, don’t listen. I heard it constantly, and in the end things worked out. Do what is best for YOU and not them.

5. Talk to older people who already got in to college and ask for their help. Trust me, they will help you.

6. When choosing universities, don’t go purely by ranking.

7. Be proactive and do what you’re passionate about during the summer. Don’t just binge-watch Netflix. Choose an activity that suits you, and you can write about it.

8. Get involved with outside-the-box activities – they will set you apart from other applicants.

By Marina Rauter

Marina studied at St Paul’s School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She will start college on a full scholarship at the University of Southern California in Fall 2017. In 2016, she attended the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.


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What makes studying at United World College a wonderful experience

15 Dec

I had never even changed school before.

All my life I had studied at one place. So, it was difficult leaving DPS Ruby Park: friends, memories, even teachers and the school itself. It was not just about school though. I was leaving my city, where I had lived all my life; I was leaving my country; and lastly, my family. It was very difficult. Being an emotional person didn’t help either.

But, I arrived with a smile! 🙂

I was looking forward to coming to a new city, meeting new people, exploring cultures; and fair to say, it has been worth it! I’m loving the United World College experience.

I remember reaching the United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) campus on 8th of August, getting out of the car, and seeing the smiling face of a guy who turned out to be my roommate! Everyone was so welcoming and nice. The first week was orientation and just getting to know each other. And boy, did I make so many friends! I met people from places I had never imagined I would meet. That is the thing about UWC – it is a truly global school.

At UWC, we are one big peaceful and diverse community. I love it! I have amazing roommates, who are crazy in their own way! You have to be a boarder to truly feel like a UWC student. You won’t get bored here because you will always be occupied with something or the other. Extracurricular activities are a big part of student life, and our school focuses on the theme of service. It is mandatory for us to go and volunteer once a week. I love working with children, hence I go to a primary school, and spend time with the little kids. It doesn’t end there though. Every other week, we have an event or fair, and I try to be a part of it in one way or the other.

While everything else is amazing, we can’t forget academics! I was really worried about the change from CBSE to IB. My first day of school was great, but a bit weird. Ah, the differences! While we were 40 people in one class in my old school; the maximum number here is around 12-14. Of course, it’s much more relaxed as well. But, I’m glad to have studied in India for a long time. The strict education there has helped shape who I am. While, the way of teaching here is so different from what I was used to, my time at the Wharton summer program helped me to adjust. I’m so glad I went there.


Winning the Marshmallow challenge – an exercise in teamwork, at the Wharton Summer program. Naman is standing at the extreme left.

While all subjects are taught differently here, English is the one subject that seems radically new. Back home, English was about reading stories and answering questions.  It’s nothing like that here. Here, English is about understanding, analysing, evaluating, and commenting on the text. It took me a while to adjust, but I’m glad I could, as I enjoy it more. IB is challenging, but it has been a wonderful experience so far. The subject choices, the freedom to mix and match, to choose what you want to study, is what makes it so much better.

To be honest, thinking of negatives is really difficult. Boarding is wonderful, and if you live boarding life the proper way, it will be the best time of your life. But you do need to be wary of the people you’re with! I’m glad I’m not into anything questionable.

Being a boarder has sometimes been a challenge. While the people here are so nice and friendly, there have been times when I’ve been down for one reason or another; but I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it, as I didn’t know them well. Times when I really wished I had my close friends and family by my side. But, I’m happy knowing that they are always there for me (and I have their photos next to my bed!). Shout out to my friends who stayed with me while I went through this transition (you know who you are). I am incredibly thankful. Another upside is that I have become really organized over the past few months here.

I am at UWC to learn, and I feel really privileged to be here. I’ve loved meeting people from other countries. We are a family now. One big and diverse family. I am so proud to represent India here. I’ve got what I wanted from enrolling in a global school and couldn’t have asked for more.

The smile that I arrived with is not leaving my face anytime soon 🙂


By: Naman Dugar


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

A Program Close to My Heart

30 Aug

Sofia and Philadelphia: 4805 miles and 7733 km apart, 7 hours’ difference, situated on different continents, an ocean and a few countries in between. The journey I was taking got me thinking: I was for sure out of my comfort zone. This was one of the reasons why I decided to attend the Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS) Global Young Leaders Academy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In addition, I wanted to meet new people, to understand what it is to study in an Ivy League school, to gain knowledge in fields that have always interested me, and to go back to the country where I spent my childhood. For 9 years I was torn between two places; although I was physically in Bulgaria, my mind was in the United States, and I often thought about going back to the place that I used to call home.


At the beginning of the program, I felt homesick; I missed Sofia, but after a couple of days something changed in me. My room started radiating the warm feeling that a home does. My roommate no longer felt like an assigned person with whom I had to share a room – she felt like family. The daily walk to the Class of 1920 Commons, where we gathered for breakfast, felt like something I had done all my life. The contagious smile of the woman who took my coupon for breakfast was an essential part of my day. The pancakes/ French toast with bacon and ginger ale not only alleviated my hunger but also provoked in me a familiar feeling of satisfaction. The slogan “Wharton; University of Pennsylvania” in Huntsman Hall triggered in me a feeling of eagerness to enter Classroom G50 and gain knowledge in subjects that I am highly interested in. The evening campus walk with my friends was crucial for my high level of happiness.


All these little details made me feel like I was home. However, I am missing out on something: the warm feeling which I associate with Philadelphia and Penn today is mainly due to the friends I made there. I found friends that are always willing to help me, friends who will always try to make me smile if I am in a bad mood and friends who will always be there for me and will always hear me out.

I believe that the friends I made in the program are for life. Every time I start missing them, I wonder whether one day our paths will cross again. I really hope they do. The daily routine that I mentioned above was what we experienced together and this is why it is so special. One of the reasons why I took this journey was to reunite with the place to which I said goodbye 9 years ago. However, I found a better home and I understood that home is not only a place; it is the people in it and the way they make you feel.


By: Ana-Elena Karlova (17 years old, student at American College of Sofia, Bulgaria)


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy – An Incredible Experience

21 Jul

So yesterday someone asked me to describe my experience in the KWHS Wharton Summer School. My reply was “extraordinary”, but now contemplating my reply, I realize that it cannot possibly be summarized in one word.

Yes, the experience of staying in University of Pennsylvania and studying in the Jon Huntsman Wharton Building would be overwhelmingly amazing for any student but that’s not it.

From learning the Time Value of money from the Director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute at Penn – Prof. Mauro Guillen, to being the CFO of PolyAqua, the team that won the KWHS Business plan competition. . . this journey was amazing.

Mauro Guillen

Professor Mauro Guillen teaching us in Room 240 of the Jon M. Hunstman Hall at UPenn.

Even though winning the competition was a highlight and would add a lot to my achievements as a student, but still, I believe that the journey itself and the acquaintances I made were the most important things. The way in which strangers became family within two weeks was elating. Because, with them, staying up till 3 AM working on business plan, and then managing to reach the class on time at 8 AM seemed like nothing.

I remember the first time I stepped into the historic campus, which has shaped geniuses across the world in each and every economic sector, the campus which has produced the likes of Warren Buffet and Sundhar Pichai, I was overwhelmed.

What first seemed to be an amazing program panned out to be both more amazing and harder than I thought it would be. The experience was that of a frog coming out of the well in which it had been living for years. The pool of knowledge I had immersed myself in was ‘FUN’ only because of the amazing professors of Wharton. We toiled day in and day out during the week days, sometimes studying for as much as 11 hours, and only breaking for lunch and dinner. We had a lot of FUN going around the campus, going to Washington DC, SIX FLAGS and various museums on the weekends.Volunteering at Philabundance to provide food for the homeless was my way of showing Philly some brotherly love.

Outside the Class of 1920 Commons, with the boys.

Outside the Class of 1920 Commons, with the boys

From the moment I landed in New York “alone”, to the moment when PolyAqua won the business competition and my team celebrated in a frenzy of shrieks, this was a journey that I can’t possibly forget. And I’ve made friends I would never leave.

Signing off;
This was Aniketh Khutia,
CFO, PolyAqua;
Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

Two Unforgettable Weeks at the KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy

13 Jul

It’s not every day that one gets to meet the author of a New York Times bestseller (who also happens to be a Marketing professor at one of the best business schools in the world), attend his obviously incredible lecture, and get a signed copy of his bestselling book!

Sounds unreal, right?


Campus tour of the University of Pennsylvania

Thanks to Knowledge@Wharton at High School and BrainGain Magazine, meeting Professor Jonah Berger, and getting a copy of ‘Contagious’ was just one of the extraordinary things that we, a group of high schoolers, experienced at the KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy.

We all fell in love with the programme from the very first day when, after a particularly long and tiring journey from the airport, we were offered pizzas to help restore our energy. But this programme was so much more than just the delicious food we had every single day (though that was a very important aspect too)!

The classes we had were beyond amazing! Each one, sprinkled with numerous activities and discussions, required us to think on our feet. From Jaime Potter’s lecture on Behavioural Science to Professor Laura Huang’s talk on Entrepreneurship, from Professor Arthur Benedict’s masterclass on Public Speaking and Presentation Skills to Megan De Lena’s workshop on Business and Finance (she even brought candy for us in every class), from Andrea Contigiani’s class on Start Ups to Professor Alan Kerzner’s sessions on Marketing Strategies, from Professors Tyler Wry and Katherine Milkman’s pointers on Unlocking Innovation to Professor Mauro Guillen’s insight into how money works, and finally, Andrew Wakelee’s assistance in helping us build our business plans for the final presentation. It was a remarkable fortnight to put our little grey cells to the best use possible.

The only dissatisfaction we have? We wanted to spend more time with each and every teacher! If it was an hour-long class, we wanted two; instead of a two-hour class, a three-hour one would have been better! What’s more, we even got the opportunity to visit an actual start-up on campus, Weiss Tech House, and see for ourselves how things are run.

A number of group activities were organized, to infuse the spirit of teamwork within us. While the scavenger hunt helped all of us get to know the campus better than probably many students of UPenn itself (Google Maps, without thee we would be so lost!), the Marshmallow Challenge brought out our creative and artistic side.

And just when one thought the entire experience couldn’t get any better, the field and day trips came in! We had a quick Philadelphia city tour and a baseball game on a weekday. Then, the first Saturday was spent in Washington, DC, walking around the Capitol and marveling at the White House. On Sunday we went to Six Flags amusement park, and it was such a fun-filled and exciting day!

The Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and Fifth Avenue were on our itinerary for the next weekend. Yes, we also visited the Big Apple.

Volunteering at Philabundance

Volunteering at Philabundance

Overall, this programme helped us gain a lot of knowledge, made us realize the value of teamwork, and most importantly, taught us to be independent. All in a short span of two weeks! We made some friends whom we will cherish forever and learnt things that will remain with us. To call it an unforgettable experience would be a gross understatement.

Our only complaint? Instead of two, the programme should have been for three weeks!


Diotima Roy
Class 11
DPS, Ruby Park, Kolkata


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!


Word Nerd: The many meanings of Philadelphia

30 May

This week kicked off with the first of three sessions of the Knowledge@Wharton High School (KWHS) summer program. As we speak, 23 students are at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. Another 76 will head there for two more sessions, to be held in June and July. That got us wondering about all the possible meanings of the name Philadelphia.

Above: Philadelphia skyline – view from South Street Bridge (photo by Jordan Staub, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

Above: Philadelphia skyline – view from South Street Bridge (photo by Jordan Staub, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

Founded in 1682, Philadelphia is perhaps the most historic city in the US – home of the country’s first library (1731), first hospital (1751), and first medical school (the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School, founded 1765). It was the country’s capital from 1790 to 1800. It was also an early industrial hub, and home to the first US stock exchange (1790) and first business school (1881 – Wharton, of course). It’s also the birthplace of the US Marine Corps, and was a prime destination for the Great Migration (1910-1970), or the movement of some 6 million African-Americans from the rural South to urban areas in the North and Midwest (African-Americans now make up more than 40% of the city’s population).

Above: The ‘Love Statue’ in JFK Plaza is one of Philadelphia’s best known landmarks. The fountain is dyed pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (photo by nakashi, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

Above: The ‘Love Statue’ in JFK Plaza is one of Philadelphia’s best known landmarks. The fountain is dyed pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (photo by nakashi, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

But what kind of name is Philadelphia? How did the city get it? In Greek, phileo means ‘love’, and adelphos means ‘brother’. So Philadelphia means ‘brotherly love’. The city’s founder, William Penn, was an English Quaker, and knew firsthand what religious persecution was like. He wanted his city to be one where all people could worship freely.

Today, the city’s name is associated worldwide with a famous brand of cream cheese. But the cheese is not from Philadelphia – it was invented in New York, and named ‘Philadelphia’ after the city renowned for the quality of its food.


Above: Philadelphia’s reputation for quality helped brand this New York cream cheese. These boxes are for sale in Lima, Peru (photo by David Berkowitz, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

The term ‘Philadelphia lawyer’ once meant a competent and expert lawyer. But in a litigious country like the US, where lawyers are popular but not well-loved, the term now carries a negative connotation, and refers to shrewd lawyers who exploit technicalities.

The city also lends its name to an abnormality – the ‘Philadelphia chromosome’ – found in patients suffering from leukemia, because the lab where it was first noted is in this city.

Before William Penn founded his city, though, there were other Philadelphias. Among the most ancient of them was the Turkish city that is now known as Alaşehir. The New Testament Book of Revelation mentions it as one of the seven churches of Asia.

What is today Amman, the capital of Jordan, was also once known as Philadelphia. The site of one of the largest ancient settlements in western Asia, which goes back to 7,250 BCE, it was previously known as ‘Ain Ghazal and Rabbath Ammon. In the wake of the conquest by Alexander the Great, the area was heavily influenced by Greek culture. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Macedonian ruler of Egypt, occupied and rebuilt Amman, and named it Philadelphia after himself.

There are Philadelphias around the world, including in Germany, South Africa, and the UK. There are about a dozen Philadelphias in the US itself.

Check out this video of a song that The Boss wrote for the 1993 film Philadelphia. It was one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia.

And we leave you with this delightful 2012 photo of a young visitor to the White House, named Jacob Philadelphia, who wondered if US President Barack Obama’s hair felt the same as his own.

Above: Little Jacob Philadelphia asked if US President Barack Obama’s hair felt like his own, to which Obama replied, “Touch it, dude!”(photo by Pete Souza for the White House)

Above: Little Jacob Philadelphia asked if US President Barack Obama’s hair felt like his own, to which Obama replied, “Touch it, dude!”(photo by Pete Souza for the White House)

By: Uma Asher

5 Fascinating Firsts of the University of Pennsylvania

23 Jun

UPenn University of Pennsylvania

We all know UPenn is one of the best. Here are five facts about the trailblazing university’s fascinating firsts – from opening schools of business to relay races. Read more below!

#1 Founded by Benjamin Franklin, UPenn hosted the first school of medicine, the first student union, and is the first collegiate business school in the United States.

#2 UPenn is the first American college to have been founded on strictly secular principles.

#3 Industrialist Joseph Wharton established the first collegiate school of business in the world at the University of Pennsylvania In 1881.

#4 The Penn Relays, hosted annually, is the oldest and largest track and field event in the United States – it started in 1895. The event is held in April each year and attracts hundreds of participants.

#5 Where was the first computer made? You guessed it right – Upenn! The first general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) was made in 1946 at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.

Compiled by Jai Dang

7 Things You Need to Know About High School Summer Programs

20 Jan

What comes to your mind first when you think of high school summer programs? Probably endlessly boring lectures on stuff you hardly care about, bespectacled professors reminding you of what’s coming and how you need to brace yourselves, and you sulking and cursing your fate. Should I start preparing for college before college even starts, you ask. As much as you hate the idea of leaving all the summer fun behind, taking up a high school program this summer might just be the best decision of your life. So, before you leave things at sixes and sevens, here is a list of things you need to know about high school summer programs:


Contrary to popular belief, high school summer programs aren’t military camps camouflaged in rainbows. There is a fair amount of learning involved, but that’s just one facet of it. There is a lot more to these programs than what your friends just told you (so you could go to the beach with them instead). For instance, the 2-week summer program being offered by Knowledge@Wharton High School comprehensively packs academia and amusement. So, picture engaging leadership sessions, guided tours, community service, cultural and social events, people, food, campus life; I suggest you bring your friends along, or leave them green with envy.




My feeling about seeing the world is that it is going to change you necessarily, just the very fact of being out there and meeting people from different cultures and different ways of life.” – Ewan McGregor Not only does travelling open up new worlds, it also makes you more understanding and tolerant towards other cultures and people. If understanding the American culture is what interests you, I suggest you enroll for the summer program being offered by Knowledge@Wharton HS Global young Leaders Academy. With Philadelphia visits and east coast tours lined up for students, this program will ensure you get a chance to experience the American Dream up close and personal.




CC image source: brillianthues


What’s the best part about visiting new countries? Undoubtedly, food. And people too. But most importantly, food. There is a whole new dimension of culinary experience waiting to be explored as you decide to opt for a high school summer program this season. And while you connect with students from different countries and make new friends, drive your taste buds crazy with all the food.



Don’t be alarmed.

Resumes are something that land you jobs, or in your case, your dream college. One mention of the fact that you took a high school summer program (say, from Wharton), and you come out as somebody who is serious about things. Bingo!



Come on, it’s a high school summer program after all. The one Wharton’s offering covers the topic of financial literacy, something that all business school aspirants should know about. It’s not rocket science, folks! So while you are there, exploring the livelier side of the itinerary, give academia a go!


Since you were smart enough to take a high school summer program, you will have experienced the campus life in first person. You, my friend, will now be a league apart. And once you are in college, you no longer have to try extra hard to fit in. You have an edge over all the other freshmen at college. You know exactly how it works and how things roll.



While a high school summer program such as one being offered by Knowledge@Wharton High School, doesn’t guarantee you a seat in an Ivy League school of your choice, it does give you the right kind of experience so you can prepare well for that campus life you always dreamed of. And one fine day, when you stand in the sunny boulevard of your choice alma mater, look back and thank this post for convincing you to take that leap of faith.


*Thank you Tumblr for all the amazing gifs.

Featured Image credits: CC Flickr by Wesley Fryer


What are your plans this summer? If you are in the age group of 15-18, and are considering business studies as your college major, we recommend the Wharton summer program. KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy is a two-week intensive, summer leadership program conducted at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It is designed for a select group of high school students and combines business studies and hands-on workshops, with organized field trips and socio-cultural activities.

Learn All About KWHS