A Small-Town Girl Takes on Philly

I am probably the least city-savvy person you’ve ever met. I come from a rural small town and before coming to Swarthmore, I had never navigated a bustling city by myself. So the prospect of venturing into nearby Philadelphia as a brand-new Swarthmore student was both exciting and daunting. I’m thankful that my art history professor gave me a reason to go and made it super easy!

My first trip into the city was to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) for a project for my Western Art History course. A group of friends and I left campus Saturday morning (Philly is a 22-minute ride from the Swarthmore train station), spent the day exploring the PMA, and then went to Chinatown for dinner at a cute ramen restaurant. It was so much fun to explore the city with friends who actually knew what they were doing; in just a few hours I saw so many new things and had so many new experiences! Also, not only did the art history department provide me with an all-day local transportation pass, my art history professor also wrote out detailed directions for how to get to the PMA, which made our travels a lot easier!

My second and third trips to Philly were also related to my art history class; this time I visited another art museum, the Barnes Foundation. On both occasions, I went with one other friend to work together on our final project for that class. For our project, we chose to make a news report style video about the Barnes Foundation. On our first trip to the Barnes, we explored the whole museum and planned what we wanted to focus our video on. We were even able to meet with one of the museum’s curators to do an interview to include in our video. It’s amazing the access that comes with telling someone you’re a Swarthmore College student! After we finished at the Barnes for the day, I met with another group of friends who came into the city for Friday night dinner. We went to a fancy pizza restaurant which was delicious – none of us had eaten a good slice of pizza in months since this was before Swarthmore’s then newly opened Dining Center fired up their new pizza oven! Then in my third trip to Philly, my art history partner and I actually filmed our video inside of the Barnes. It was a lot of work and required a lot of takes, but we ended up with a final product that totally exceeded our expectations and a whole lot of fun Philly memories to go with it! 

Next year, Swarthmore is piloting a new program where each Swarthmore student gets a free SEPTA pass for the academic year which will make traveling into and around the city even easier. I already can’t wait to explore more next year – making memories with friends over plates of yummy food and broadening my horizons by visiting even more interesting places in Philly!