Penn Preview starts tomorrow! We are all so excited to meet you and to show you how great Penn Med is! But we also hope to give you a little taste of what it is like to live in Philly. In addition to a panel tomorrow on living in Philly (and of course the numerous conversations you will likely have with current students) we have a great piece today written by an MS4 on her experience living in this wonderful city.
As someone who had spent a few years between undergrad and medical school, one of the things that I looked for when I was applying to medical school was one where most of the students lived off campus and not in a dorm. While living in one big building with classmates is probably fun and convenient (…college anyone?!), I was ready to put the days of common bathrooms (bringing keys with me to take a shower) and kitchens (mystery gunk in shared kitchenware) behind me.
Penn Med is a place where some students opt to live on campus as residential advisors to undergraduates, but the vast majority live in the West Philadelphia or Center City area, in apartments or houses that they find on their own. The initial process of finding a place can be tough, as it always is when moving to a new city (or even within the same city!), but once everyone is settled in, it’s a really wonderful culture.
Philly is a very navigable city. A lot of my friends use buses and trolleys; I ride my bike, or I walk. Nearly all my classmates and friends live so close to me, popping by for dinner or meeting up for a study session is extremely easy: my local cafe is also their local cafe (not to mention the five other local cafes as well), and no one’s house is more than a 15-minute bike ride away, max (usually a 5-10 minute walk). I also love that even though I live across the river from the school, when I walk in my neighborhood, I’m bound to run into a familiar face.
Living close to each other but off campus means that most of us need to commute to school. I live about a 25-minute walk from the main campus, and I usually cycled to class and hospital rotations during my time here. Even when I was slogging up the South Street Bridge hill in the early mornings to head into the wards, I would inevitably be joined by classmates also going into work, which brightened those dark commutes ever so slightly. There are a few important things I learned over the last four years: camaraderie is a powerful consolation at 6:30am…or 4:30am. And an hour later, the most powerful consolation is coffee. Lately I’ve started walking to and from school more, and I’ve found that it’s the perfect way to catch up with friends, while also getting to see the stunning clouds above the Philadelphia skyline — not a bad way to start or end the day.
My sense of home and community reaches beyond the boundaries of the school campus, and as someone who moved to Philadelphia without any friends or family here at first, this environment has been one of the most enriching aspects of my med school experience.
Kay Negishi is an MS4, originally from northern New Jersey. She graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a degree in Biology. You can usually find her plodding along the Schuylkill River trail in running gear or drinking coffee while watching clips of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show.