Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Impression

It was another early start today; we arrived at Union Station at about 6:45AM. The sheer size of the building was enough to wake me up a little. Compared to the Amtrak stations in the Bay Area, Union Station was a marble palace. It's obvious that trains are a much more widely used form of transportation here on the east coast than back at home. I now wish we had such easily accessible and exquisitely furnished train stations, the trip to Philadelphia was very pleasant. The seats were comfortable and the view out the window of the Maryland and Delaware lakes and greenery were quite beautiful.
Within about two hours, we were checking into our hotel in the exquisite city of Philadelphia. Immediately, the first thing I noticed when I arrived (after the scorching heat) was how very friendly and chatty the people we met were. Compared to the suit-clad brief-case-carrying commuters of D.C., the people in Philly seemed very personable. The trend continued throughout the day.

Before lunch, we strolled to the University of Pennsylvania campus hoping to catch the 11:00 information session and tour. Unfortunately, all the buildings were closed and most of the faculty had gone home for the Fourth of July long weekend. So instead, we showed ourselves around campus. Armed with a map, we found our way around all the amazing arcatectre of the stone and brick buildings that towered high above our heads.

As we explored the campus, I got more and more excited for the start of classes on Tuesday. Not only were the buildings, landscape work and walkways all very pleasant, I also got the feeling that when the campus wasn't deserted, it would be even more impressive and very lively.

On our stroll, we stumbled across a small, tranquil park. Complete with a coy fish pond that housed a multitude of turtles and ducks, a waterfall, and a winding path that passed by many secluded benches. We spent a long time in the shade of the trees taking in the wildlife. We met a very nice couple there who told us a little bit about the pond and how the animals survive during the winter when it freezes over, pointed out the biggest and oldest coy fish, nicknamed "Big Red", and recommended a very good restaurant to eat lunch.

We took their advice and found that the food was, in fact, quite good. They served flat bread that they baked in a huge oven right in front of us, it was pretty amazing.

After lunch we returned to the hotel for a few hours of downtime (an Ivy League Connection first) before hitting the city streets for a short stroll around the town before dinner. We walked past the very impressive city hall, the giant clothes pin, and countless shops and restaurant that all seemed very exciting.

I found myself enjoying the wide sidewalks and sky-high buildings of Philly. The city is great for walking in, an the uniform street layout made it easy to get around. I look forward to exploring it with my fellow ILCers whenever I can this month.

When we sat down to eat dinner, I must admit I was a little nervous. Tonight was the night we were meeting with June Y. Chu, an academic counselor at UPenn and Margaret Wang, a current student. As soon as the two showed up, I was immediately put at ease. Both of them were extremely friendly and quite funny. Margaret shared some valuable information with us about what it's like being a science major at Penn. She also told us which restaurants in the area she thought were good; it was quite a long list. In fact, When Ms. Chu asked her which restaurants she didn't like, Margaret was at a loss.

Ms. Chu also had a wealth of knowledge about the university. It was interesting to hear from her about what she thought set Penn apart from other Ivy Leagues, specifically that Penn makes a point to empower students and be as flexible with their individual ideas as possible. It was an overall very valuable experience and she very generously offered to answer any follow up questions we had once our program started via e-mail.

After wandering the campus and speaking with Margaret and Ms. Chu, I feel very confidant that this program is something that will challenge me as a student and a person, but that if I feel at all lost or confused I have a number of resources that I can turn too thanks to the Ivy League Connection.

No comments:

Post a Comment