Don’t Be Afraid to Say Yes!

by elena 

There are a lot of things that I will miss about Philadelphia. When I went home for Thanksgiving I started to realize what a unique and weirdo place the city is, and how it has shaped me over the past couple of months. It’s all happening so fast! The end of the semester is this week. Soon I’ll be turning in my portfolio to my adviser, Diana, and saying my final goodbyes to “Conversations on Constructions of Race.” Soon I’ll be walking up those three flights of stairs to get to work one last time, and powering down my computer for good. Soon I’ll be packing up my apartment, bidding farewell to the rickety wooden stairs and the first floor of our old refurbished church. It’s happening so fast, but it also seems right, like the next logical step in the gigantic story of my college life. As I leave Philadelphia, I wanted to share some of the things that made my experience here special, some secret insider tips for navigating the city of brotherly love.

Don’t be afraid to say yes: “Yes” was the watchword in our apartment. “Hey, do you want to go to this experimental theater show in the basement of a building bordered by generators?” “Yes!” “Hey, do you want to go see a movie in this old burlesque house?” “Yes!” “Hey, do you want to go to this coffee shop that has an alien theme?” “Yes!” …This is how my semester went. I think it’s the main reason I had so much fun and did such diverse things: I wasn’t afraid of saying “yes” to new and foreign concepts. That’s how I found out about Mugshots, my favorite coffee shop. That’s how I found out about the secret basement kids section of the Free Library of Philadelphia. That’s how I found out what “Spanish fries” were (for the record, they’re delicious). That’s how I got involved in grassroots organizing, in editing web content for my job, in finding the best hamburgers in the city. Saying “yes” didn’t just help me have fun, it helped me in my workplace. Although some of the tasks they asked me to do I had little or no experience with, I learned quickly and wasn’t afraid to ask clarifying questions. Now I can confidently say that I know how to format and edit magazine content for the web…a skill I didn’t have at the beginning of the semester. “Yes” is the most powerful word in the English language, and I used it to the fullest.

Make things feel like home: Homesickness overtook everyone at The Center at one point or another in the semester. I was lucky enough that my mom came down to visit for my birthday, and that I could go home for Thanksgiving, but not everyone had the luxury of being close to home. How my roommates and I combated homesickness is by making things in Philadelphia feel like home. The ice-cream shop Philly Flavors that we all went to the first week of the program became “our place,” and we’d go there together to have a laugh and eat birthday cake ice-cream. The delicious pizza-and-panini place a block away from us called Colosseo’s became “our place” as well, and we’d eat there and talk about our days. We’d watch TV shows together, make big meals together, swing on the swings in a school playground down the street. We made traditions and routines that built us up as a group as well as familiarized us with the city. Now I feel like when I’m leaving the city I’m leaving home, and it’s bittersweet.

Behind every great woman is a great…group of friends: The people at The Philadelphia Center are what made this program great; not only the students who I came in contact with, but the staff. Every member of the staff truly cared about us, and they showed it by helping us our first week and congratulating us on our last. It’s a homey, family atmosphere at TPC, and although this semester has been challenging, it’s that warmth that has encouraged me to keep going. I couldn’t finish this post without thanking my roommates, Sarah, Nichole and Jessica, for making the semester so memorable. Thanks for eating my cookies, cleaning the dishes, almost burning the apartment down three times (gas stoves are tough), and complaining about our obnoxiously loud upstairs neighbors who somehow always seemed to be moving their furniture and jumping. Even though we slept on the floor for a week at the start of the semester, I think we turned out all right.

Philadelphia became my city for a semester, and I hope it remembers me. I know I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

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About The Philadelphia Center

The Philadelphia Center offers undergraduate students the opportunity to thrive through experiential education with PHL:EXP, the Philly Off-Campus Experience. Each term we help students secure professional, accredited internships and independent housing throughout the vibrant and diverse city of Philadelphia. Students explore career paths through real-world applications and rigorous, seminar-style courses. We provide our students with the opportunity to gain independence while learning in a safe and supportive environment. Our students leave Philadelphia with a strong sense of their abilities, social and professional aspirations, and a plan for their future.

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