Saturday, July 2, 2011

Our First Glimpse of the Place We Will Call Home

My day began at 6:00 this morning. Brian and I were able to finish packing our things before 6:15, the time that we had designated to leave our hotel in Georgetown, and head for the train station. We arrived at Union Station with plenty of time to spare so we grabbed a quick breakfast from the Starbucks, which for me consisted of a bagel and hot chocolate, in the station. After a brief period of waiting to board the train, we were off to Philadelphia.

The train ride was only about an hour and a half long. For about the first twenty minutes, Mr. Miranda and I discussed innovations in learning that have been developed in recent years. This led to a conversation about the age gap between his generation and my own in which we analyzed the benefits and trade-offs of having technology that fosters a constant desire for instant gratification. I enjoy talking to Mr. Miranda very much. He is extremely intelligent and seems like a bit of a renaissance man because he is so knowledgeable about so many different things. We are very fortunate to have him as our chaperone. It is kind of saddening to think that we will be departing his company (for the most part) in just a few days. After my conversations with Mr. Miranda, I began listening to music and gazing upon the beautiful countryside and occasional towns that we passed on our smooth train ride to Philadelphia. Before I knew it, we had arrived in the City of Brotherly Love.

We took taxis to our hotel for early check-in so we could drop off our bags before the information session at Penn. It turns out that our hotel is adjacent to the campus (if not actually within, we cannot quite discern Penn’s boundaries yet). Before today, I only had a vague sense of what it meant for a college to have an urban campus. I had never imagined that it would mean such complete integration into the city. You truly cannot tell where the campus boundaries end and the city streets of Philadelphia begin. I’m still deciding whether I find this appealing or not. After check-in, we took a taxi as close to College Hall (the Penn Admissions Building) as we could. We had to walk the rest of the way, but that certainly is not a complaint because Penn’s campus can be easily appreciated for its ascetics. Upon our arrival at College Hall, we discovered that every person in the Admissions Office left early for the Fourth of July weekend!

Since there were no Penn faculty members, there was neither an information session to attend nor a campus tour to be taken on. Although we were slightly discouraged at first, we decided to take our own campus tour around parts of the campus. Although we were not able to get any of the history of the school or detailed information about what each building housed, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves by taking in Penn’s beautiful architecture, wildlife, and serene inner campus. I think my favorite part about the campus thus far is the architecture. Most of the buildings are either made completely out of stone or bricks, and most are very ornate. Every building seemed to be unique in its own way and it made the campus feel like a living thing that was in no way uniform. After taking our own personal tour, I am very excited to learn more about Penn and am even more anxious to move in on Monday.

Following our self-guided tour, we made a brief stop into the Penn Student Store and then grabbed lunch at a restaurant called Cosi that specialized in dishes involving flatbread. I forgot to snap some pictures, but I enjoyed a flavorful pesto chicken sandwich and a small bowl of creamy, rich tomato basil soup. I will definitely eat at Cosi again at some point this month, after I experiment with the other restaurants Penn’s campus and the surrounding city have to offer of course.

We finally had our first opportunity to relax this afternoon. The past two days have been rather hectic and it was nice to be able to slow down for a moment. Since we planned to do our tour of Philadelphia tomorrow, we decided to take the afternoon off. From about 1:30 to 5:15 we reclined in our respective hotel rooms. Brian and I spent the first couple of hours just hanging out and having some laughs. Then he left to take a run in the fitness center of the hotel and I decided to pay back some more of my sleep debt by taking a short nap. After I awoke refreshed, I got dressed for our dinner at the Butcher and Singer Restaurant with Ms. June Chu and Ms. Margaret Wang.

We left the hotel around 6:00 and taxied to the restaurant. The ride took less time than we thought and we arrived a good thirty-five minutes early. We took the opportunity to walk down to the massive and ornate Philadelphia City Hall. This mammoth building was made almost completely of stone and had dozens of statues and other artistic carvings adorning its exterior. I will have to take pictures from a distance during tomorrow’s sight-seeing so that I can capture it in all of its glory. After a twenty-minute walk, we had returned to the restaurant and were soon seated.

Dinner was fantastic and I am proud of myself for organizing the occasion (thanks for your assistance and suggestions Mr. Ramsey!). Ms. Chu, a Pre-Major Advisor from Penn, and Ms. Wang were both excellent company and very thorough whenever we had questions about the school. It was evident that they both loved the school very much and were happy with their decisions to work and attend, respectively, this university. Over the course of dinner, Ms. Chu was able to inform us about how intertwined the lives of the faculty and the students are and also the numerous pros of attending Penn. Margaret was also able to give us all kinds of inside information like excellent places to eat, fun classes to take (if we apply and get into Penn), and why she decided to go to Penn. Not only did we have excellent company, but also amazing food. The entrees were rather large and the sides were served family style. I enjoyed a tender piece of veal that was charred to perfection. We all shared dishes of mashed potatoes, green beans, mushrooms and onions, stuffed hash browns, and creamed spinach. Each of these dishes brought something exciting to the meal and my plate was a wonderful medley of flavors. For desert I decided to partake in some delectable New York Cheesecake with blackberries and nice blackberry sauce. The contrast of the sweet and bitter made for an excellent dessert. Dinner left me very satisfied, both in terms of my curiosity regarding Penn and in terms of the meal.

Today was a fairly relaxed day, and a welcome one at that. I continue to cherish the time I spend with my cohort because they are all fun people and we’ve really become a tightly-knit family over the past few days. I look forward to sight-seeing tomorrow and spending my Independence Day with our Penn cohort. With that, I am signing off.

Our new hotel room.

A glorious Philadelphia horizon.

A gigantic Penn crest.

Penn wildlife.

Wooden hands are surprisingly comfortable to sit on...

The six of us at Butcher and Singer.

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