Alone in the 5th Largest City in the Country

By Justin Duchene

For someone who is in love with the glamour of the big city, I am always quite shocked that I ended up at a small liberal arts college in the middle of no-wheres-ville, Michigan. Albion has been absolutely amazing to me, giving me lifelong friends, great relationships with professors, and parties I wish I could remember. However, I decided it was time for me to experience the kind of life I thought I had always wanted, so I applied to The Philadelphia Center’s PHL:EXP.

Upon coming to Philly, I was under the impression that I would be one of the few students attending from Albion. It was quite a surprise when I realized I was the only one…  I’m not going to lie; it threw me for a loop. In the beginning introductions, I decided to just put myself out there in an attempt to make some immediate friends. Thank goodness I did. This program is so unique because of the whole housing placement. Within the first few days, you have to learn to be comfortable enough with people to live with them for the next three months.

Even though I am the only student here from Albion, I do not feel alone in this process. I have four amazing new roommates and nearly 50 new friends. This program was a ginormous leap for me. I could have stayed back at Albion and swam on the swim team, gone to the same two restaurants, and attend the same old fraternity parties, but I decided it was time to live my dream. And let me tell you, I am only two weeks into this program and it has by far exceeded my expectations. And the food is so damn delicious.

I Left My Home in the Cornfields (#Indiana) and Made a New One in Philly!

Editor’s Note: TPC Welcomes the Fall 2014 students to PHL:EXP, the Philly Off-Campus Experience. Students arrived on August 23 and have been busy finding apartments, researching and interviewing for internships, starting classes, and exploring Philadelphia.

By Jacob Bedel

Have you ever been on an airplane before, and stared out of the windows only to see miles and miles and miles and miles of cornfields? Whether or not you nodded your head in agreement, you probably passed over my place of birth. Not the cornfields themselves, mind you, but Indiana (pretty much the same thing). I was born on the south-eastern ‘heel’ of the state (think Italy, but less chic), and the biggest city I’ve ever been too was Indianapolis, home of the corn royalty (just kidding, Pacers), and even then, our capital had nothing on the size of Philly. When I arrived in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, I had no idea what to expect. Would my luggage be stolen in a cheap remake of Liam Neeson’s Taken? Would a lei of cheesesteaks be adorned around my neck upon arrival? Would the perfection that is Google Maps finally falter and betray me?

Surprisingly, only one of those things happened.

In Indiana, if you got lost, you drove to a gas station to ask for a directions. It’s our version of having a Starbucks on every corner (and just as expensive.) If you meandered too far in the wrong direction in Philly (CURSE YOU GOOGLE MAPS), you just stick your body out into oncoming traffic and hail a taxi[1][2]. If you get hungry in Indiana, you have to drive 15 minutes to get pizza. If you get hungry in Philly, you snap your fingers and a lei of cheesesteaks will appear at your front door! Philly really does have everything. You want to go to a concert? Check the electrical pole thing-a-ma-bobber on the end of your street, and you’ll find dates for local bands. If you dare to walk, you’ll keep finding more and more tours. Or just head on over to The Mann for some big shows. Want to go shopping? Try Center City. Want to go vintage shopping? Try Retrospect Vintage in South Philly. Want to go watch some awesome documentaries in parks? Try West Philly. Want to go cave-exploring? Try a THREE-STORY WALGREENS. Want to have a cheesesteak? Throw a stick out of your apartment window and you’ll find one.

And what do you call a place that has everything, including brotherly love and sisterly affection?

You call it Philly.

You call it home.


[2] Only a little.

It’s a Beautiful World, Experience It

Editor’s Note: TPC Welcomes the Fall 2014 students to PHL:EXP, the Philly Off-Campus Experience. Students arrived on August 23 and have been busy finding apartments, researching and interviewing for internships, starting classes, and exploring Philadelphia.

By Rachel Walcott


We live in the age of technology, and what a wonderful age it is! We can text, talk, tweet, post, vine, insta, tumbl, search, snap, hop, pin, tinder, connect, meetup and even yelp! With all of these wonderful technologies, there’s a lot of potential for awesome things to happen. You could find an affinity group and meetup to have Spanish conversation hours at the local Cosi, or you could ask urban spoon to locate the COOLEST cafés in all of Philly. You could even tweet about your favorite local spot and become eligible to win big prizes! Lots of exciting whatnots can happen with all of this crazy technology so readily available.

I, myself, am a user of all of the aforementioned means of information transmission. So, when I tell you that in the first week alone, I managed to take nearly 300 pictures (and seven videos), you won’t be surprised in the slightest; however, I feel the need to warn you of the dangers of our beloved iProducts and Android technologies (and I’m sure at least one of you still has an ancient flip phone Nokia. No shame!)

I just want to tell you about a few things that have happened to me here in my first week that you might find valuable. Take it or leave it, but from now on, I’m gonna’ side more toward the technology-as-a-last-resort methodology while in Philly (at least for the first couple weeks for sure.)

I am the kind of person that LOVES taking photos. As I said, I took almost 50 a day in my first week! But let me tell you what was going on while I was taking these photos. While I was busy snapping shots of good ole Penn up there on his tall tower, I missed a beautiful display of lights that set all the buildings of Broad street aglow. While I was meticulously framing a shot of an inflatable rat representing a protest of something or other, I neglected a woman who looked like she could have used some help across the street. While I was trying to capture the complete humor of a mural painted on a bathroom stall, I was missing (what I have been told) is the most interesting story about the sub-context of The Lion King I will ever (not get the chance to) hear in my life. I was missing Philadelphia while I was trying so hard to capture it on camera.

Same goes with texting and tweeting and even blogging (which I am guilty of doing while walking down the street. Oops.) You miss SO much with your head down that you don’t even realize. Turn the sound off, lock the screen, try not to think about your constant notifications while you are just getting to know the city. It’s a beautiful world out there, so take a second to see it before you snap that shot.

Week One: I Wish I’d Known…

Editor’s Note: TPC Welcomes the Fall 2014 students to PHL:EXP, the Philly Off-Campus Experience. Students arrived on August 23 and have been busy finding apartments, researching and interviewing for internships, starting classes, and exploring Philadelphia.

By Rachel Walcott
Written August 29, 2014

As I’m nearing my one week mark in Philadelphia, I am reflecting back on all of the crazy situations in which I have found myself. My time here thus far has been an absolute whirlwind of fun and inner-struggle and comfortable-being-uncomfortableness, and I have loved every second of it! (Okay, maybe not EVERY second of it, but pretty darn close.) Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a few thoughts I’ve had in the last couple of days or so now that housing is settled, I’ve started my classes, and I am really beginning to get a feel for the city. 

First of all, when they say bring tennis shoes, they MEAN bring tennis shoes! Now, for me, when I heard that, I assumed that meant slippers in the morning during breakfast, flats to walk to the center, tennis shoes to take a stroll around Philly, sandals to relax at the pool, black heels to hit up the clubs at night, and overly sized socks to put on when I’m ready for bed…and if you’re like me, and have entirely too many pairs of shoes, that might seem logical to you. But…IT’S NOT!

I could have literally worn tennis shoes every day, in every setting, all the time and been perfectly content. With the exception of maybe a nice pair of flats for the more fancy restaurants, I really think you could get by with tennis shoes. Besides, how many pairs of shoes do you really need in 7 days? (Hint: the answer is not 6.)

Secondly, I wanna talk money. Yeah, yeah, money is a sticky subject- but if you don’t want to feel like you are literally BLEEDING money by day 7, I have a few pieces of wisdom I have acquired personally over this week.

1.) Keep track of every dollar you spend from day one. You will want to know just how far your cash (or card) is going, and what you are buying. Be sure to also write down the names of the places you visit, because you might want to share your knowledge some day, or even visit again!

2.) As appealing as it may be, try not to buy anything other than food or drinks in the first week. You’re in a new city! Who knows if that super great deal is actually super great or not? You could end up in a thrift shop on 5th and south and find the exact same thing for 1/3 of the price! (Seriously happened to me… *facepalm*.) I promise, there will be a time and place to buy things, and that time is not now.

3.) While I know that this will be hard, I also know it will really help in the long run. Mapquest local grocery stores and find the cheapest one. Get some basic groceries to tide you over for lunch for the week. I know it may seem like there are so many cool places to eat and you just HAVE to try them all, but just like with the non-food items, they will still be there in a week. The hotel has a little fridge. Grab some bread and lunch meat (or hummus and carrots if you are vegetarian/gluten-free). I know it’s not glamorous, but it will save you lunch money for 7 days, and that amounts to a lot (like $42 a lot, and that’s if you are averaging a $6 lunch). AND you can still eat out for dinner with all of your new friends!

Lastly, I just want to encourage you to talk to every single person in the TPC program. Students, professors, interns, the lovely people who work in the TPC building. You never know what interesting connections you can make! And ESPECIALLY make sure to talk to people you haven’t met yet if you feel like you have already found a group you really *click* with. Cause everybody deserves to be included, no matter what.

So, guys, in a nutshell, that’s what I wish I would have known before my first week in Philly. Reconsider the shoe excess, be money conscious, and be open to communication.

Christmas in July (It’s sort of like the Fourth of July, Right?)

By Marie Zill
[Editor’s Note: Our summer program, Learning Work, ended on Saturday, July 19. We wish our student bloggers and all of our summer students the best of luck!]

The weekend of Independence Day deserves its own blog because it was such an experience!  There was so much going on that I can’t even begin to explain how many activities there were!  Old City definitely “owned” the Fourth of July! There were speakers, hoagies, all-you-can-eat ice cream, free admission into the Constitution Museum, a very long line to see the Liberty Bell, fireworks every night from Tuesday to Sunday, a very long parade, the largest concert in America, reenactments, face painting, family games, and so much more!  I have never experienced so much in one Independence Day and I would recommend everyone visit Philly at least once for the Fourth. There were no barbeques, just patriotism. Many of the tourists, including myself, took the day as an opportunity to learn more about our country. (I also learned that you could actually see the Liberty Bell through a window rather than waiting in the long line to see the whole thing!)

IMG_5268The parade was a type of parade I have never been to…  it was SO long, there was no candy, but there were “men in black” searching the crowd and rooftops for trouble as the mayor passed through. They did give out necklaces and Wawa stuffed animals though!  Although the parade was nothing that I expected it to be, it was very intriguing. It was great to see all of the cultures represented in the parade. I did wonder if some of the groups/companies volunteered to be in the parade because they wanted to celebrate America or if it was more of a marketing/business reason. Parades are interesting when you think about it…I wonder how the first one ever started and how different the purpose of that parade would be compared to today’s purpose.

IMG_5389After the parade, my boyfriend and I went to Jim’s for a Philly Cheesesteak. This was my second time here and I promised I was going to try cheese whiz but it looked a little freaky so I backed out at the last second! After lunch we got ready to go to the largest concert in America and the fireworks at the Art Museum. We are so lucky to live only two miles away from the Art museum…it was a beautiful walk down the Schuylkill River. Before reaching the concert, we stopped to watch the skateboarders at the skate park. I’ve never actually seen a skate park, except in Rocket Power. Boy, these people are incredible, it must take so much practice and it sure does get my nerves going when they fall!

IMG_5304There were so many people at the concert it was a little overwhelming but, once again, such and experience. It was a lot of standing around but great opportunities for people watching! After the concert we were able to walk closer to the museum and sit on the grass and watch the children play with sparklers until the fireworks were beautifully displayed over the Art museum. This event brought people of all ages and all kinds… it was very interesting to see how they interacted. Some were open to strangers, some were hostile, some were obnoxious, some were stinky, some were enjoying their family, some were thankful for the free concert and some were not.

I had such an incredible week with my boyfriend here! Aside from the Fourth of July festivities we did so much! We went to the Philadelphia Zoo (Awesome!), he came to work with me and worked really hard, we tried Pat’s Cheesesteaks (I got cheese whiz!), went to the dog park, went shopping, ate pizza (because we have when we’re together), and so much more!

This past week has really made me feel ready for real life. It has reminded me of my desires in life and reminded me who my true self is. It has also sent me on a kick of learning and reading up on all sorts of topics. I am hesitant to return to the bubble where there is so little culture compared to Philly, but as my friends have reassured me, I can bring back what I have learned to the bubble and share my knowledge with others. More on culture and the things I have learned in my next blog! IMG_5382

A few of the countless moments of happiness:

  • Cheese whiz
  • Little children
  • Long walks with someone special
  • Silliness
  • Cooler days… one day this week felt like the desert!
  • Fireworks!


Learning, Bite by Messy Bite

By Garrett Van Schaick

[Editor’s Note: Our summer program, Learning Work, ended on Saturday, July 19. We wish our student bloggers and all of our summer students the best of luck!]visitors in philly

Who doesn’t like to show off a little bit? For me, showing off can have two very different faces.  One face is narcissistic and easily jealous.  Those who have this face portray their accolades for the sole purpose of letting people see how great they are.  An example could be an artist that refuses to portray their process of creation and instead tells their spectators how long it took, the funds required to make it, or how much it should sell for.  Another example would be when you describe the beach, restaurants, and concerts you went to for vacation.  The friend you are talking to won’t ask any questions about what you thought or how you felt about the places you went to.  Instead, they focus on the vacation they had and try to one-up you for everything you say: “Oh you went to a Myrtle Beach? I landed there after skydiving from 8,000 feet once.”  We have all met these people before.  No one should want to show off like this because you’re not contributing to anything or educating anyone about what you’ve experienced.  In a way, you’re not showing anything at all.  Someone who does this merely tells.  Fortunately, there exists a way to show off that can actually be productive to the listener and the shower.

A week ago two of my close college friends came to visit me in Philly.  One of them, Cal, invited three more people he knew in New York to come stay.  Thursday evening, the apartment contained only my roommate and I.  Come Friday afternoon, I had a total of five guests, which made a cozy apartment of seven high-energy men and women who all were foreign to Philadelphia.  I was soon declared the tour guide and immediately felt a glow of pride for showing off my new city.   This is the kind of showing off that all can enjoy.  Rather than having my friends sit down and watch a PowerPoint, I illustrated the city through their own experiences by hosting an unofficial interactive tour of Philly.

Some could consider this the lazy route.  Instead of putting forth the effort of finding the perfect adjectives and comparisons for a cheesesteak, I made them all experience for themselves the sticky whiz cheese, the messy bites, and the snappy cooks and cashiers.

Why trust myself with the role of describing the largest structure made out of recyclable material?  I could not easily or accurately relay the call for advocating a greener planet.  So I played it safe and took my visitors to the magic gardens where they could count the thousands of protruding glass bottles.  For their own sake, they could rub the rust from decaying bicycle spokes between their fingers and avoid the reaching glass shards while navigating through a sparkling cavern of trash.

How could I, a suburb boy who attends a small university in Ohio, do any justice to Philadelphia’s legacy of the best beer-drinking city in the nation?  It would take hours to prepare a presentation.  To say the least, I wasn’t feeling very scholarly with my friends in Center City.  I gave up and introduced them to a wide variety of pubs, each offering their own unique selections of cold foamy brews.

When showing off, this kind of face allows the shower to give time and memories instead of taking up the air and filling the listener’s ear with facts that will be forgotten as soon as the shower shuts up.  This face invites the listeners to draw their own conclusions rather than posting pictures accompanied by a plain description on a glass partition between the shower and listener.  Most important about this face is how the sharer shares without worry of losing the power of being the only one to describe, in this case, the great city of Philadelphia.  In this way, I united my friends with my new city.  It’s like if you told someone about your new dog or cat.  Do you stand there and describe all of the adorable things it does? If you’re lazy enough, you say “Yeah! Come on over and see all of the awesomeness for yourself!”


By Garrett Van Schaick
(July 1, 2014)mcgilligans

Running through muggy 90 degree weather in a pair blue khakis that might be too tight for my strides, a button-down shirt, and backpack rarely has never had a better reward than being able to view the U.S.A. play Belgium at Philadelphia’s oldest bar, McGilligan’s.  I hardly felt alone while doing my business casual wind-sprints.  The men and women of Philly were all scurrying inside.  However, I would like to believe the heat to not be the antecedent eliciting their inspiring hustle.  In my mind, these people were modeling the relentless pace seen from Michael Bradley who is the United States’ prized center midfielder.  For those of you who missed out on the World Cup, Bradley made a name for himself by running almost equivalent to a marathon in four soccer matches. image-3

Anyway, I reach McGilligan’s and find my friends Andrea and Marie.  A local, hoppy beer was well within reach of every patron.  Framed by American spirit, fried onion rings and hot dogs occupied the center of every glossy stained table.  The masses spared not one square foot on two floors.  Men in summer ties and powerful suit coats shared tables with body-painted die-hards.  Geeky techies rubbed elbows with tattooed musclemen.  The citizens of Philly put aside aesthetic differences and salary gaps to undeniably and fanatically support our nation’s best futbol players on their path to glory.  Every man and woman assembled under one label, a U.S.A soccer fan. image-6

The small town and university from which I originated never provided me with the context for instant camaraderie between such a wide array of people.  Merely the presence of all those tightly squeezed fans captivated me.  The cries of joy when our goalie saved a shot pushed me to the edge my seat while I sat, with dry, wide-open eyes watching our boys.  The frustrated heckling when a referee failed to call a “blatant” penalty was contagious.  Every one invited themselves to chime into the conversation about referees presumed personality or personal life.  Overall, however, we kept the comments positive and upbeat for literally anyone affiliated with America.  We cheered for the coach when he took a sip of water, we clapped when a player tied his shoe, we took a sip when the cameras focused on America’s fans in Brazil, and above all we rioted and celebrated extensively once Julian Greene became the youngest American to score in the World Cup.  I have never hugged so many strangers or received harder high fives. micgilly 2

Even though America lost to Belgium 2-1, that game made it clear to me the amplification the city environment has on every event.  The cheers and groans enthralled me and were shared by every fan cramped into the tension filled World Cup climate.  You can’t get that sitting on your couch with some friends.  The city gave me a new identity that day.  The salience of experiencing the same emotions and sharing the same vision of an American World Cup victory gave me a new sense of pride for being a piece of something much bigger than myself.  I am resident of Philadelphia.  I am a supporter of American soccer.  I am a citizen of the United States. image-4