Thursday, June 30, 2016

Getting to Know Philly

We woke up bright and early (though not as early as yesterday), to meet in the lobby at nine. We planned on getting that sit-down breakfast that we didn't get the opportunity to have yesterday. On the way, Mr. Hillyer explained how the subway system in Philadelphia works. There are two lines, one running north to south and one running east to west, and a single token will take you anywhere you need to go. 

Independence Hall, where our Founding Fathers created our
modern system of government
We ate at Sabrina's Cafe, which Dyana So recommended to us. After the meal, we took the subway to 2nd street in order to see some of Philly's famous tourist spots. My first subway experience went smoothly, and it didn't feel very different from just taking BART. We emerged into Old City Philadelphia, close to the Delaware River. Mr. Hillyer walked us through the historical sites there, and there were a lot. We saw Independence Hall, where the Constitution was drafted. Across the way, we also glimpsed the Liberty Bell (through a window). There was a lot of Benjamin Franklin interwoven throughout the morning, from his grave to where his house used to be to an impersonator who answered questions about him. As that impersonator told us, Philly was his city.
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In the afternoon we headed back to the UPenn campus for an official tour and info session. During the info session, which was held in the beautiful Irvine auditorium, we were shown a video about UPenn and then spoken to by an admissions counselor. She told us about why UPenn was a great school, and then broke down the application process for us, including what and what not to do. I liked the way she phrased her advice, and how she describes her and other admissions counselors's goal made applying to college seem a bit less intimidating. She said that the biggest challenge we had to overcome was being ourselves, and that ultimately admissions counselors were just trying to create a community through each class that would make UPenn a stronger institution. She also advised us to find something that we are excited about at UPenn and look for something similar at other, perhaps less selective, universities. I thought that that was very practical and useful advice, and I will definitely be using that strategy to finalize the list of schools that I want to apply to.

Our tour guide, Wendy, answering one of our questions
Our tour guide's name was Wendy, a rising junior at UPenn. The tour started off in front of College Hall, the first building that was built on UPenn's west Philly campus. In the same area were the headquarters of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the nation's first student union. Wendy took us around to the engineering quad, the green, Lotus Walk and Wharton School of Business. Along the way, she talked to us about a lot of different aspects of being a student at UPenn, including the different types of projects that are a part of some programs and Greek life. We lost the rest of the group for a short while, so we missed a part of it, but Wendy also talked about residential life at UPenn. She did this right outside of the dorm building where we will be staying for our summer program.

On the way back to the hotel to take a quick rest, we stopped at Wawa for a snack. Wawa is like 7/11, but nicer. Up in our room, us girls took some time to rest and work on the blogs. Then Kamillah and I went down to the bookstore to look at some more merchandise, and we found the nearest Starbucks to our hotel. By the time we got back, it was almost time to leave again, so we packed up our stuff and met everyone else in the lobby. I had requested that we have Philly Cheesesteaks for dinner, so Mr. Hillyer took us back downtown to a place that he knew. It was called Sonny's Famous Cheesesteaks, and it was great because you got to customize your own sandwich. I have to say, Philadelphia's most famous dish lived up to the hype. 

After we finished eating, we went down to the waterfront, where we saw the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The atmosphere down by the water was really chill, and I liked it a lot. Further down Penn Landing, the area right by the water, we saw an outdoor concert being held in park with a lot of food trucks and hammocks around. There were a lot of locals just hanging out there, and Mr. Hillyer explained to us how the summertime culture on the east coast was different than in California because they learn to appreciate warm weather more, since they have to deal with snow in the winter. As a result, everyone spends a lot of time outside in the summer months.
We got pretty close to the Ben Franklin bridge, which reminds me a bit of the Golden Gate back home
Next we strolled through an area where Philadelphia's elite used to live in the early nineteenth century. The street was lined with the beautiful brick buildings that used to be their homes, and a few even had plaques about the people who used to live there. If it wasn't clear before, this showed how rich Philadelphia's history truly is. We also walked through Washington Square Park, which is essentially a burial ground for Revolutionary War soldiers who died in battle, and a place to honor their memory.

By the time we stood waiting for a train to take us back to the hotel, we were all drained. Needing some time to relax and unwind, the ILCers all went up to the rooftop pool for a few minutes. That pretty much tied up the day's activities. Now, we have all made our way back upstairs. We have a jam packed schedule ahead of us for the next few days, but today it was nice to just explore together and get acquainted with the city where we'll be spending the next three weeks.

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