Graduate School in Philly
Pros, Cons, Cheesesteaks and Boyz II Men
by Stephanie Small
Published December 16, 2010
When it comes to choosing graduate schools, location is important for a number of reasons. Consider that you’ll be spending anywhere from two to eight years of your life at this institution of higher education. During the three hours per week that you’re not in class, doing class work, working or sleeping, you may want to take a stroll along the fair streets of your adopted town, drown your sorrows in one of its establishments of ill repute, or relax along its grassy knolls / riverbanks / smog-infested highways. And unless you don’t like talking to people, you’re going to make an enormous amount of professional connections during graduate school, paving the way for post-graduate employment. In many cases, it makes sense to choose a school located in an area where you think you might like to stay for a while.
It’s good practice, therefore, to choose a school not only based upon its reputation, “fit” with your personal beliefs and goals, and affordability, but also one that’s in an area that you enjoy. And this article highlights a city that has perhaps not received its fair share of attention: Philadelphia.
I know when you think “hub of education” you might not think “Philadelphia”, but let’s consider its benefits, aside from cheesesteaks, Boyz II Men and the Liberty Bell. Sixth most populous city in the United States. 80 miles from NYC. Translated, from Greek, as “City of Brotherly Love” (adelphos + philos). More public art than any other American city, per Wikipedia, and home to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC fame. It's a great spot for history buffs, architects and sports freaks alike.
Live and direct from Philly town, several current and recent graduates wax enthusiastic about their city experience. “Lots of fun places to explore and go out with friends after class!” says Mirian Lexie, a graduate student at the Clinical and Counseling Psychology program at Chestnut Hill College. Eric Spencer, who attended University of Pennsylvania for Architecture, agrees. “It was…experiencing a bit of a renaissance while I was there with new restaurants, shops and entertainment venues opening in different areas,” he says, “and the museums there are really first rate.” Will Hayes, another U Penn architect, states “The city's restaurant scene is great and underappreciated by many students.” He also valued the “low cost of living.”
Water Runs Dry
If the thought of being landlocked makes you feel claustrophobic, you might be interested in the Philadelphia waterfront, which received enthusiastic mention from Lexie. “You can walk all the way down the city and run into this big, lovely bay. It's a nice place to sit and take in the sunset. At night they run cruises and party-boats up and down it, all lit-up, or you can eat dinner on the docked boats along the edge. "Spirit of Philadelphia" is the most famous party boat that makes its way up and down this part of the Delaware River,” she shares. Sounds romantic!
I'll Make Love to You
And speaking of romance, at least one interviewee found time for love between classes. Keith Kovatch, who attended Chestnut Hill College, announces that “the best thing that has come out of moving to Philly is meeting my girlfriend”. And while Lexie didn't meet her current boyfriend in Philly, she acknowledges that “there's a wide pool of excellent single individuals,” and claims she “did have a great time being a swingin' single while it was that phase of my life.”
The End of the Road
If you’re considering moving to Philly, you may want to leave your car behind. “The roads are terribly maintained, and driving overall is really bad,” says Kovatch. Looks like you won’t be using the public transit either: “The subway and taxi fee structure can be annoying. They do not often sweep the streets,” Spencer shares. “It’s a walking city.”
Uh oh. Several interviewees referenced the “dirtiness” of the city. Kovatch also described the crime rate as “very high” and stated he “hears about car jackings and muggings all the time.” But Lexie was careful to explain that “in actuality there are very good parts of the city - you just have to ask people which places to avoid!”
...and all the Philly steaks you can eat...
Let’s settle the question of the cheesesteak. Where do you find the best? “I am a fan of Pat's Steaks. Jim's and Gino's are inferior and only jerks eat there,” cautions Spencer. Kovatch’s advice? “The best cheesesteaks are not found at the typical commercial Pats and Ginos type places, rather they are found in smaller local restaurants.”
Stephanie Small is a Boulder-based psychotherapist, holistic nutritionist, and writer with a BA in English from Yale University and an MSW from the Smith College School for Social Work.