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

Going Through the Motions

By Marie Zill

IMG_5127With only a few weeks left, I find myself getting into a routine and in a way, stuck in it.  Wake up at 7:41, get out of the shower at 7:52, leave by 8:20, get out of work, nap, eat dinner, relax and go to bed.  Now, don’t get me wrong, so many great things have been happening at work!  I’m getting closer with my supervisor, the school makeover is finally coming together, and everyday my want to teach in that kind of school grows stronger!  It’s more about the transition into adult life that I’ve been caught up in.  So, this week I decided it was time for a little bit of a change!  I started waking up in the morning to run three days a week and work out the other two after work as well as get in tune with the little beauties of Philly again.  It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday events that we don’t take a step back and look at the big picture.  I owe a little shout out to my boyfriend because whether he knows it or not, he has inspired me to get up and do the things that may not sound appealing when I’m about to fall asleep on the couch after work but feel so good after I suck it up and do them! IMG_5153

Last Tuesday in class we had a great speaker come in and talk to us about positivity and how important it is.  She gave us activity where we had to write an “elevator speech” and it was not easy!  But it forced me to recognize my strengths and capitalize on them… I’ve been trying to grow up a little bit rather than running away from some things that bother me!

Okay, I know this blog is totally all over the place but everyday I encounter something awesome that is worth sharing!  I’ve decided if I ever live in Philly I would live in Old City… it is beautiful over there: trees, parks, cobblestone, and old buildings. Plus, they just opened a new pop-up park, Harbor Park, which I am so excited to visit!  But then, in my head I struggle with, “…could I really live over there?”  The past month I have been here I have been, maybe, “annoyed” — I can’t quite wrap my head around the most appropriate adjective — by the difference in Center City compared to where I work a few miles north.  Center City appears fake to me.  I know it’s a little harsh and I need to figure out the correct wording, but where I work life is so different and I’m drawn towards it.  Not because I feel the desire to help them as if the community is a charity case, but I want to be a part of the community, I want to know more about the people who live in that community because in North Philly life isn’t hidden behind a business suit.  The community is based on loyalty and respect and I want a life like that rather than materialistic things.  I wonder what would happen if we genuinely asked questions to others?  Or if life wasn’t a constant battle to “get to the top?”  Would I like it?  Would it even work?  What if everyone could recognize their individual strengths and what makes them happy?  What if there were still “levels” but those “levels” could interact and work as a team?  I’ll ponder on this more and let you know where I stand at the end of this trip… I cannot believe there are only a few days left L

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The sweet smell of summer
  • Random strangers genuinely smiling at each other
  • The beautiful trees in Old City
  • My boyfriend’s visit!!!
  • Trying to walk on a tightrope thingy this weekend
  • The first sip of coffee in the morning
  • Laughter J

The Crew

62314friendsBy Marie Zill

After being here a month I couldn’t even begin to explain the fun I have had with the other interns here! I have found myself hanging out consistently with a certain few, but every single student here has a unique opinion to offer and I love listening to them all. Especially because none of them have the same major as me so it is great to see different perspectives on certain topics.


Although the weekends and class time have been opportunities to get to know a lot of the interns, Tuesdays with “The Crew” (we only call ourselves this because we are the group that hang out on Tuesdays!) have created a lot of lifetime memories! We have explored a lot of Philly on our weekdays off!  We experienced The Franklin Institute, many happy hours, Pride Parade, Magic Gardens, the Eastern State Penitentiary, and very long walks!  I would highly recommend visiting all of those places if you are ever in Philly. But, you probably don’t want to hear what I did on what day… you probably want to know what I have learned!


At the beginning of this experience I was really missing my friends because I wanted to share all of these new discoveries with them but these Tuesdays have become truly special to me (even though I would love for my friends to be here). The relationship I share with The Crew and the other interns is so unique. I will never see many of these individuals again. Of course, I would absolutely love to but distance is a tricky thing.  This unique relationship has allowed an outside perspective on my life and sparked many intricate conversations that have assisted me in learning more about myself as a person.

I’m learning a lot about myself here and evaluating what is and is not important to me. I believe you can only analyze your life so much, but I am trying to direct my learning to understanding what others may stereotype about me. I must develop the ability to “prove them wrong.” I can’t thank The Crew and others enough for assisting me in this because I can feel myself maturing. I don’t get cheesy that often but they do truly hold a special place in my heart!

There are still many days that I love to be alone and explore; but lately, a lot of my exploring and spontaneous decisions have been with the other interns. Those that were merely acquaintances just a short month ago are definitely my friends now!

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The amount of doggies at the Dollar Stroll
  • My ability to cook!
  • Increasing love for squirrels
  • The strength in a long distance relationship
  • I am so blessed to work around the people I do

Critique of the Week

By Marie Zill

It’s official!  Three people have asked me for directions around the city… I must be turning into a city girl… I’m beginning to “fit in.”  Since I touched on “fitting into” the city in my last blog, I think I’ll discuss “fitting in” as it pertains to our class this summer.

6_12_14blueskyEvery Tuesday we’ve been analyzing and critiquing why certain words/phrases are chosen and placed in certain contexts.  I love this portion of the class because it’s relatable to my education classes at Alma but, I’m not an expert.  Critiquing is never easy.  I have noticed myself looking at the big picture rather than being nitpicky and looking at individual words.  Since this class is only eight weeks, our feedback is efficient and fast-paced.  Our professor, Dr. Clark, has done a great job of returning out papers with a lot of feedback it and making himself available for individual meetings.  A new guest speaker also comes in every week to break up our class time with Dr. Clark.  I feel like I am on information overload with the amount that I have learned about myself, the other interns, and society!  This blog seems to be a nice way to relax my thoughts and begin to critique them (the golden word of the week).

Throughout the week I have tried to strengthen my critiquing skills by questioning people’s actions or simply asking myself the “why” of certain things.  To be completely honest, asking myself why things happen has sent my brain wandering a few times this week.  Whether it be getting frustrated at society, feeling sorry for the cute little mice that live in the subway, hoping they don’t get squashed and torn away from their little families, or simply what if someone just chose to use that word because that’s how their brain thinks.  But then I get to thinking, if a person chooses a certain word “just because” there must be some background as to why the word was chosen or a subconscious decision made to place one thing before another.  As a future teacher, the why, what, and how is so important to me.

Children, and adults for that matter, can learn to be self-sufficient by asking these questions and showing curiosity.  I’m beginning to think that this may be one of the reasons I enjoy exploring alone because I can ask questions and find the answers that I believe in all by myself.  My next step is to collaborate with my new friends and learn what their “why, what, and how” is.  Wait until my next blog to learn about the awesome new people I have met!! 6_12_14squirrelsnack

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The cute baby mice that chase each other in the subway
  • feeling comfortable enough to share and to get closer with the other interns
  • The man who was new to the city that bought me a token this morning because I’d lost my monthly pass and the SEPTA doesn’t give change. The best part of it all: I found my pass in my pocket when I got to work!
  • The squirrel that took my apple core into his tree then dropped it and brought it back up to his place
  • Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was 2 for $7 at CVS this week!

Compasses and Forks

By Garret Van Schaick6_12_14GarrettBen

The chance for two people to have all the same experiences does not exist.  What our experiences create is our unique pile of idiosyncrasies: preferences, opinions, doubts, dislikes, passions, values, etc..  When viewed altogether, this combination creates the moral compass we all use to guide our steps through life.  So far, every one of my steps in Philadelphia has yet to be a source of regret.

Neglecting to reference our compass at a fork disables us from leading our own life and thus, as a result of our oversight, we become a follower of a life led by another.  Every step 6_12_14witdalocalsthereafter could be your biggest regret and the time you’ll spend to retrace your steps will only bring you back to the starting line.

Attending The Philadelphia Center has provided me with an enormous amount of opportunity.  I have been in the city for two weeks now and everyday I am faced with more choices than I hope to consider.  From music festivals to museums to bars and restaurants to parades the city of brotherly love offers something for every boy and girl.

tony magicBut time would be wasted if I closed my eyes and picked one out a hat.  I have come to a point in my life where settling for anything instead of nothing won’t yield a profit but rather consume some of the precious little time I have in Philly.  Who I am is whom I love.  Deviating from that and 6_12_14nightmuralrunning against my own grain for the sake of others does not interest me.  I am not saying that I despise trying new things; I love to explore.  Specifically, I love to dive deeper into the things I know stimulates my mind (food, science, beer, art, and people) regardless of what others may say about me.  Charging forward with your compass and without looking back is how you grow and expand as an individual

I came from Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts school located in the small Ohio city of Delaware.  After arriving in Philly and meeting a few handfuls of people, I heard statements beginning with “Oh, you need to check out…” enough times to make several bucket lists.  With so many possibilities, only the suggestions that resonated with me were the ones I pursued.  I came to Philly to explore, and I haven’t stopped since.