Julian Handel

Class Year: 

Hometown: San Francisco, California, USA


Lowell High School


I have a lot on my plate, but as clichéd as it sounds, I try to stay true to the Penn mantra of ‘work hard, play hard’ – I have fun in life. I find time to really enjoy myself and I’m not very stressed out by school or anything like that. The reason I’m taking a lot of classes is that I’m really curious about a lot of stuff.

Student Background

Before coming to college, Julian had lived in the same apartment in San Francisco his entire life. His parents, however, had exposed him to different cultures from a young age. From Kindergarten through eighth grade, he attended the French American International School, which was fully bilingual and offered class trips to France in the fifth and eighth grades. Julian also travelled to Europe with his parents during summer vacations.  "My dad wishes he was Italian," says Julian with a smirk.

For high school, Julian attended a large public school. There were 650 students in each grade, but he graduated with the highest gpa in his class. During the summer after eleventh grade, he spent a month in Florence, learning Italian. "So," he says, "I had always been peripherally interested in international stuff, but Penn wasn't even on my radar until November of my senior year." A friend told Julian about the Huntsman Program. He knew that at a liberal arts school he would have majored in economics or mathematics, "so business lined up with that."

Julian says that even the application process for the Program was appealing to him. "I enjoyed writing the essay for Penn, which was very different from the other schools I applied to." Julian's Huntsman essay dealt with opium in Afghanistan. "I had fun putting my own spin on it," said Julian. "I didn't think I would get in, so I told everyone my first choice was Yale," he recalls. But when he found out he'd been admitted to the Huntsman Program, it was an easy decision to make.

Exploring Diverse Interests

Julian's chosen Wharton concentrations in Finance and Statistics, and in the College, he's earning a major in Mathematics in addition to his International Studies major. Clearly at home with numbers, Julian particularly enjoyed Finance 103, an economics course. Though he had already studied economics, he found the course to be enlightening. "Bill Whitney is a genius," he says of the professor.

Another one of Julian's top picks is a course in the marketing department, "Applied Probability Models and Forecasting" with Professor Peter Fader. The class turned conventional wisdom on its head and taught Julian a totally different way of analyzing trends in consumer behavior. Julian learned so much in that class that he opted to spend his sophomore summer working on a research project with Professor Fader.

Though he is very focused on quantitative fields in his coursework, Julian is certainly not single-minded. He also plays the guitar and is a brother at an off-campus fraternity.

A World of Opportunities

With some help from a Huntsman Summer Study Grant, Julian spent the summer after his freshman year in Tours, France, brushing up on his language skills. One of his professors on the Penn-in-Tours program, Melanie Peron, was also his teacher back on campus during sophomore year. He calls her one of the three or four best teachers he's ever had. During the language program, Julian also took part in cultural outings and even some wine tastings!

After his classes were finished, Julian spent a week in the south of France as a "couchsurfer." Julian crashed on the couches of three different people in La Rochelle, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, and he spent Bastille Day in Nice. "I was just travelling without any idea of what I'd be doing in two days," says Julian. "It was very fun."

For his junior year semester abroad, Julian will be studying at Paris7 (l'Université Paris Diderot). He chose the school for its reputation in mathematics, and when asked why he chose the city, he says simply, "Paris is Paris."