Spring is usually a hectic semester for IEDPers and I am not the exception. This semester has been super busy due to the fact that I am taking four courses (one of which is our capstone class) and I am working/volunteering around twenty hours a week. These commitments have limited the time I have to write my own blog posts, but I am happy that others classmates have had the opportunity to share their journey to the IEDP as well as their experience within the program.
As there are only three more weeks left in my role as Graduate Assistant, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience living in Philadelphia, which a lot of prospective students have asked me about. It has been almost four months since I moved here from Houston, where I had spent the entire first semester of the program. The weather in Philadelphia is much better now. I get to see the sun more often and spend more time outside. Also, I am happy to say that I am fully vaccinated now, which has allowed me to feel much safer around other people while still following CDC guidelines and getting tested (for free!) on campus frequently.
While I have not had much time to explore the center of Philadelphia as much as I would like, I still have found ways to have fun and relax around University City, West Philadelphia, where most of the IEDPers currently live. There are plenty of food places around, my favorite being Taco Taco (where I usually get a steak or sweet potato burrito depending on my mood) and Pattaya Thai Cuisine (Pad See Ew with beef is my favorite dish there). On the days that I buy food, I try to bring it to campus, where there are tables set up for me to enjoy my meal, get some sun, and listen to the news or a podcast before going back to my apartment to focus on school work.
During stressful weeks, I have pushed myself to spend time outside my apartment and relax a bit. A couple of weeks ago, some classmates and I met up to enjoy Beiler’s donuts (the mocha one is AMAZING) and drink chai (thanks Aanchal and Sanjana). One of my favorite memories this semester was the time that these same friends and I went on a walk and took pictures in the colorful scenery found in University City. March and April are great months for photo sessions because this is the time when cherry blossoms bloom. Also, a couple of days ago, some IEDPers and I had the opportunity to meet Dr. GK outdoors and enjoy free coffee and muffins made by a classmate.
Another thing I have been asked about is transportation. Like many of the IEDPers in Philadelphia, I mostly walk everywhere. There are a few grocery stores in University City, like Aldi and Acme, that work for my needs. While I do not leave the area often, some classmates have shared how easy it is to use the bus or subway to go to the center of the city for shopping or eating out. Also, the university has a free ride service that operates in the evenings and you can request from an app. While having your car is always an option, very few of us do, and despite the limitations walking or using public transportation is doable!
So far, I have really enjoyed living within walking distance to the university and other classmates, and have the opportunity to have fun and relax while enduring these challenging times. With the semester coming to an end, I look forward to having more time to explore other areas of Philadelphia in the summer as I know that the city has much more to offer.