Up at dawn for the train into Philadelphia from D.C. Constance walked me there and even packed me a breakfast! Which is great, because I found out this morning that I left all my Clifbars in my other bag in D.C. On the train, I ate my breakfast and read about some law schools in the Princeton Review Top 167.
Once in Philadelphia, while it would have been nice to drop off my pack before exploring, I discovered that the hostel I was staying at was situated in the worst possible place relative to my days plans. So, I lugged all of my belongings around with me until 5 or so when I worked my way over to the hostel.
The best-situated stop was UPenn Law, so I made a meandering b-line to it. For a couple of blocks, the first verse of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” ran through my head over and over. I could certainly see how someone could get into a little fight.
After a while, though, things got… good. It’s all marked out as “University City” on the map I have and that’s such a very accurate description. It is a city unto itself. There’s shopping and restaurants in the same rows as university buildings belonging to Drexel as well as UPenn. And a ton of Catholic churches.
I took this as my first “sign.” Well, no, I take that back.
Sign #1: It was, in fact, sunny in Philadelphia.
And as I realized later that day, my two favorite shows of all time are set in Pennsylvania.
Sign #2: It looked a lot like Caen.
So, right. I’m not saying that Catholic churches are a good thing because I’m Catholic or anything, but in taking a tour around the University City, on cobblestone walkways, in front of little rows of non-commercial bistros, cafes, and pubs with attractive storefronts and little tables and chairs set out or a huge, Gothic church that had been re-purposed as a community theater… I loved walking down to city center every day when I stayed in Caen, and I loved walking in Paris period when I could get there. The setting itself seemed like it would be good for my spirit.
As Gayle advised after my last law school visit, and as I’ve discussed with a lot of people to varying degrees, I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of sense in scrutinizing school stats and professors ad nauseam. And this is probably true for a lot of people who are considering multiple law schools in various locations. If you’re searching across state lines, you’re probably limiting your search (to some extent) to schools of similar caliber. (Say, +/- 15 ranks on USNWR.) So you can agonize over the rankings themselves (which probably isn’t a good idea, stay tuned for a post), or you can break those rankings apart and use the data that goes into that type of metric (student satisfaction, employment rates…). But even there you’re dealing with averages, not probabilities, as students are bound to (erroneously) view them. Suffice it to say (for now), many of the colleges that students are looking at are comparable in most respects. There are hardly ever wrong decisions because the LSAT/GPA matrix is going to pair students to similar schools. So, how to decide?
All that to say, for this visit, I decided to take what I’m going to call the “signs and wonders” approach.
Sign #3: It was also pretty warm.
Sign #4: There is an Indian restaurant right next to the school.
Sign #5: The first thing I saw at UPenn Law was a student in her professor’s office discussing something that looked important.
This one is slightly more serious, as between the UVa visit and the Georgetown visit, one source of concern for me personally has been the city mouse, country mouse trade off: do I have to go to a smaller town (Durham, Charlottesville) with less amenities (and perhaps opportunities?) than a larger town (D.C.) to get my professors to pay attention to me? This sign seemed to point to “no.”
Sign #6: The building.
Okay, so, I think it’s ridiculous that the building weighs heavily in rankings, blah blah blah. But this one spoke to me.
That door on the left in the black and white photo? Still looks like that. It is, as I explained later, a cathedral of reason and dedicated to the law. But, hold on…
Renovations to the building are sleek, modern and environmentally friendly? As I also explained it later, I don’t want to be too poetic about a building, but it really just seems like a vivid, physical representation of two attitudes: historical reverence and forward momentum. I mean, I feel like that’s what law should be. Right?
I went to the admissions office to ask for a tour and they gave it to me: it was a packet of paper with directions and blurbs. Luckily, I’ve completed a walk-through or two in my time. And it wasn’t back
Sign #7: Normandy.
There was a plaque in the hallway I liked, dedicating it to a soldier fallen on D-Day in Normandy, confirming that everything did remind me of France.
After the tour, I went back by the admissions office, but the Dean was in some meeting and it wasn’t possible for me to sit in on a class because they’re reserved for admitted students in the spring. So, I headed to the Reading Terminal Market, which I found on TripAdvisor.
Sign #8: A girl that I saw on the walk had a knit hat with the word Cusco on it. That’s where Constance stayed in Peru. I like Constance.
Some of these are reaching but I don’t care.
Sign #9: Philadelphia is tall.
Okay, maybe not a sign, but something I like. I don’t know why. I’ve explained to some people that I have unrequited dreams of living in New York City and hailing cabs and what not from my high school days. So, going to college in a college town might have helped to build up the allure of “city livin’.” But, it’s not just the thought. It’s the feeling of getting swallowed up by buildings. And, again, at the risk of sounding too poetic or fanciful or whatever… I feel like, in a city like that, it’s easier to keep things in perspective. At some point, maybe one would become numb to it, but for me, when I walk up from a subway or a train station and I’m standing on a sidewalk and I have to do a back-bend to see the tops of the buildings all around me, it’s such a present and vivid reminder of the fact that we’re all so small, and our problems so insignificant. That no person’s life or belief or feelings or experience take precedence over another’s… blah blah blah. Also, the town hall is off the chain, and another type of classic-meets-modern, like I was saying before.
The Central Terminal Market was very cool. I didn’t realize that it was just a complicated food court, but it was the biggest and there were a ton of people and a lot of cool things. I got Indian food. It was okay. The falafel was dry and a little too sweet? I ate all my side dishes, though.
Next, I walked back across town, a couple streets southern to get a different look at the city. I ended up passing through the commercial district and seeing one of each store that I like, as well as a really sweet looking thrift shop (which would be all that I could afford anyway). I was on my way to the Mutter.
It was pretty cool and I especially enjoyed the cell phone audio tour on how to identify remains. I spent an hour or two there, but when I got downstairs to the fetuses it started to get a little depressing, I started to think about how I was totally gonna die one day, and I decided to bounce. It was even cloudy and sad when I came back outside. (It subsided after a couple blocks.)
At that point I decided to check into the hostel and set my bags down before I saw anything else. I cannot say enough good things about Apple Hostels. And, hosteling is definitely a pro-tip for students trying to do a law-schools trip, or a must for any American student that won’t have the opportunity to go abroad before graduation. Go on a cheap trip, to a major city (D.C., I imagine, but Philadelphia and New York, certainly) and stay at a hostel. If you go to Philadelphia, stay at Apple Hostels. Hell, it might be the only choice, but it’s the cleanest, most-well-stocked, most accommodating hostel I’ve ever stayed in, for something like $40/night. (They also have a discount for ISIC card-holders, if you have been abroad, but I never used that stupid thing for anything so I didn’t know.)
At the hostel, I signed up for a “$2 Ghost Tour” with the pushy (friendly) guy at the desk (probably because he said there was free beer afterwards). I went up to my room, made my bed, and got comfortable listening to SCOTUS arguments from yesterday. I was also getting more and more anxious about hanging out with strangers. So I went downstairs and crossed my name off the list.
After arguments, I went to Jim’s, where I was told, for a Philly Cheesesteak. They were cash only and the line was out the door, which seemed like good signs, but I got it with Provolone (instead of Cheezwhiz or “Whiz”) which may be why I thought it was okay. (Sorry, Elliot.) I talked on the phone with my dad and then I called Lee and talked with him before bed.
Day 10: (today) I got up “early” for Independence Hall, but I didn’t get to the line soon enough. Admission being free, I thought I’d just walk on in, but apparently you’re supposed to get a ticket across the park and then walk back, and by the time I’d gotten there they’d given out all the tickets up until 11:40 or something, at which time I’d need to catch my train to NYC. So, let that be a lesson to allyuns.
Sign #10: In order to live in a city, you can’t have seen any of the tourist-y things, anyway.
I caught my train, started this blog, and met Neil before class. It was pretty interesting. We then went and got food at an Indian place (I like Indian) and walked around talking about law school admissions. Oh, he also gave me the worst tour ever.
Tonight: Neil and I go to a bar. That is all.
Tomorrow: NYU audio tour, because Neil did a terrible job. Central Park and the Public Library (both free). Go have lunch at one of Justin’s suggested hot-spots: pizza, Italian, Chinese, deli, or “Asian fusion,” whatever that is. (Did I mention I just had Ethiopian food for the first time? Neil was shocked. I promise I’m really quite adventurous, I just live in the south.) Maybe text Mark and see if he wants to get lunch on Friday?
At tail-end of my trip, I’m realizing three more full days is quite a lot (I am so beat) if I don’t have a whole lot to spend and I’ve already seen a lot of things. I wanted to walk up the Statue of Liberty, but she is closed. Do we have suggestions?