34th and Walnut Street crosswalk at night

Penn Admissions Blog

Escaping the Penn Bubble
Miles | December 5, 2018

Hi, I’m Miles! I’m a freshman in the College studying Urban Studies, and I’m obsessed with public transportation. As a secondary goal to actual, you know, academics, I want to ride every mile of SEPTA (Philadelphia’s public transportation system) by the time I graduate. Although the goal is ultimately to ride as many buses and trains as possible, my adventures have one side effect that has led to some fantastic experiences: getting out of the Penn bubble and getting to explore Philadelphia.

No one can deny that there’s a ton of stuff to do on Penn’s campus. There is a seemingly never-ending supply of shows, sports games, and events to visit, and they’re all amazing. Indeed, Penn has so many amazing shows, sports games, and events that it’s really easy to forget that we’re living in the sixth-most populous city in the country.

I know plenty of people who rarely, if ever, leave Penn’s campus, and that’s completely understandable. Again, there’s no denying that there’s a ton to do here, and Philly is so big that it’s hard to know where to start. Plus, having to pay two bucks for each SEPTA ride seems like a lot for us college students.

But without making a few sacrifices, there’s no way to experience the weird and wonderful things Philly has to offer! I’ll give one example: during Family Weekend, my parents and I went to the eastern side of the South Street neighborhood for dinner. After having a great meal at a hole-in-the-wall diner playing 80s music over its speakers, we walked down the street to see what else the neighborhood had to offer.

Amidst the small businesses selling everything you could possibly imagine, we came across two guys with a telescope. “We’re helping people expand their knowledge of the universe by showing them the moon,” one of them said. “Would you like to take a look?” While the other guy read off random moon facts from a book, we all gazed in, and yup: it was the moon, all right, looking absolutely huge through the telescope lens. To add another random, though philanthropic, element to their act, this was all to raise money for an AIDs foundation. What that has to do with the moon, I have no idea, but it got my whole family to throw in money. My dad still refers to South Street as “the place with the moon guys,” because it was such an odd experience!

I’ve been to many cities in my life, but that seemed uniquely Philadelphia: one of many experiences this city has to offer. Unlike many other cities in the northeast, the city of brotherly love isn’t uptight in the slightest. It’s weird, it’s crazy, and it’s not afraid to take you out of your comfort zone. While Penn has so many opportunities within it, it feels wrong to reside in a city and not take advantage of it. Why not go and see the Liberty Bell, have a Philly cheesesteak at Pat’s or Geno’s (or both), or window shop in Rittenhouse Square? Someone once asked me, “Do you think if I did one interesting thing in Philly every day, I would ever run out of stuff to do?” My response? “Absolutely not.” So it wouldn’t hurt to at least do a couple.

About the author

Hi, I’m Miles! I’m from Boston majoring in Urban Studies, and I’m excited to share my Penn experiences with you. I have a huge passion for public transportation, and one of my goals before I graduate is to ride every mile of SEPTA, documenting it on my blog “Miles in Transit”. I also play the tuba in the Penn Band.

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