By the time you read this, I will already be back home in my beloved Seattle, happily sleeping in a real bed, cuddling my cat, and adjusting to the 3-hour time change. Though I’ve only been gone three and a half months, it feels feels both like the blink of an eye and a lifetime. I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts–to condense everything I’ve done and learned into a short blog post, but that seems too reductive, too simple. If it were that easy to sum up my time in Philly into a few hundred words, would it really be the kind of life-altering experience that I believe it to be?
Nevertheless, here I am, and I’ll make the attempt to share bits and pieces of all the thoughts swirling around in my head at the moment. One of them came to me yesterday as I was reading the fascinating posts of my fellow Whitman OCS bloggers, particularly that of my dear friend Lizzy (who is currently at Oxford). I was amazed, and a little envious, reading about all the adventures my fellow Whitties are having abroad in places I have never been and possibly may never see. Having never been out of North America, I’ve always dreamed of visiting other cities around the world, but just don’t yet have the resources to get there. I started to feel a little regretful–should I have gone abroad? Was Philly too close to home? I questioned whether I had really challenged myself, and whether I would come back home as ‘changed’ as my peers.
And that’s when I realized something: that it doesn’t really matter. I chose Philadelphia for a reason. Not only was it more financially doable, but it was outside of my comfort zone to go to a city all the way across the country, far from my friends, family, or anything else familiar. It was out of my comfort zone to show up in this place not knowing where I would live, who I would live with, what my classes would be like, where I would work, etc… But I did it. If I could go back and tell 18-year-old me just moving into the Whitman dorms that I would eventually spend a semester in Philadelphia, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But I pushed myself and took that leap, and I am so thankful and proud that I did.
When I try to describe my feelings after my experience in Philly, the best word that comes to mind is empowered. I feel empowered to travel. I feel empowered to move to a new and unfamiliar place. I feel empowered to find a job and pursue a career after college. I feel empowered to make friends and build relationships wherever I go. I feel stronger, more independent, more capable, and more aware of myself than ever before. I feel prepared — and more importantly, excited — to take on new challenges in my life ahead.
As I leave Philly behind for the next chapter of my life, I know that what I will miss most are the all the relationships I’ve built here. So, before I wrap up this final blog post, I wanted to say some thank-yous to all the people that truly made this a life-changing experience:
To my roommates and friends, Liz, Aaron, and Emma: Thank you for snatching me up that first week in Philadelphia! You will never know how grateful and relieved I was to have you all there as we went through the stressful weeks of transition. You made me laugh, think, and look at the world and myself through new eyes. I hope that our friendship, even if long-distance, will last for many years to come.
To the TPC staff, especially Mark and Ilene: Thank you for being my support throughout this entire experience. You are so good at what you do, and it is you who really make the Philadelphia Center the unique and amazing place that it is. You really got to know me as me, never just another anonymous student. You made me feel so proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished, and for that I can’t thank you enough.
To my supervisor Reyna: Thank you for being an amazing mentor in just the short time we spent together. I knew from our first meeting that you were someone I would love to work with and learn from, and I was not disappointed. I always looked forward to seeing you and Megan at our Friday morning meetings, and I’ll miss seeing you both in person even though I’m glad we will still be able to work together from opposite coasts.
And to everyone else I’ve missed, thank you for being a part of my time in Philly. The memories I’ve made here will stay with me for a long, long time.
Thanks for reading.