It’s easy to get nice and cozy in the little bubble that is University City. Admittedly, the beating heart of Drexel University’s main campus has had many years to grow and add new things to make it better catered for the students who live here. With the recent addition of the Giant Heirloom Market, all of the essential things that Drexel students need, such as a grocery store, pharmacy, gym, dining hall, library and bookstore, are easily accessible.
For a while, I was perfectly content staying within the main campus because I had no real reason to venture outside of it. All of my classes were here, all of my friends lived in that general area and the restaurants and stores had enough variety to keep me satisfied. Additionally, University of Pennsylvania’s campus is only a couple extra blocks away, so the amount of options are always plentiful.
Center City wasn’t a place that I journeyed into very often. Obviously, I knew that there was a lot going on in Center City, but it was extremely uncharted territory for me. Coming from a suburban lifestyle, being at Drexel was already enough of a culture shock, but venturing away from the main campus and my peers to the parts of the city that were completely unknown to me was an idea that I wasn’t particularly fond of. This is a boat that I wasn’t alone in. Many students moving to Philadelphia for college are unaccustomed to living in a city environment, and some students handle the transition better than others.
If you’re one of those students, the best piece of advice I can give you is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Obviously, there are some places that you’ll naturally want to avoid going to, so be smart and do some research before you start wandering around Center City; however, don’t get so rooted in University City that you never leave it.
To be honest, University City is great, but it’s a very different culture from Center City and rightfully so. University City is a concentrated area of college students, hence the name. On the other hand, Center City is a mixture of college students, the people who live and work in the city, tourists and businesses, among other things. Additionally, there are really fascinating museums, landmarks, historical locations and parks. Most of those things are within walking distances of each other, so you don’t have to walk for an hour just to see something interesting. I have also found walking in both University City and Center City to be rather enjoyable because the areas are not as congested with people, in contrast to places like New York City for example. So you can really take your time and appreciate all the parts of the city without having to deal with massive crowds.
However, you don’t necessarily need to go to a specific point of interest to enjoy the city. Just getting out of University City can sometimes be sufficient because you get a break from the academic atmosphere that permeates the area. A change of pace is mainly what I am trying to emphasize here because I find it to be extremely important and very easy to do. If you need a break from the college campus life, you can go to 30th Street Station and take a train home if you live somewhere nearby, or you can walk ten minutes across the Schuylkill River and experience a different part of Philly. The former is a safe option for some as you may know what to expect, but like I said earlier, it’s good to put yourself in uncomfortable situations because that’s how you discover new things. Sticking to the same stuff all the time may feel nice, but it can also be extremely boring and limiting if that’s all you do.
It’s a great opportunity to explore one of the most well-known and important cities in American history. If you think about it, we’re in a pretty unique position, as there aren’t many people who get to live just a few minutes away from Center City with the freedom to explore it just about whenever. So take advantage of living in Philly and do a bit of sight-seeing. You never know what you might find.