The day began for the ILC girls with breakfast at Cosi, the breakfast café next to Urban Outfitters located about 5 minutes away from the quad. UPenn doesn’t provide us with any meals on Saturday, and we all wanted to be well fed before our long bus ride. The ride itself was uneventful; I enjoyed looking at the countryside as we sped by, especially the tracts of forest and big green fields. The fields looked like agricultural something or other, but I have no idea what exactly was growing.
Our first stop was Columbia University, where we roamed along Broadway next to campus. I was a little surprised to find that we weren’t taking an official tour, but it was an interesting experience to wander campus on our own. The rest of the cohort and I explored the area near the UPenn meeting point a little, visiting a student center to use the bathroom and climbing up the steps to the Columbia library, which was unfortunately closed.
|Chloe poses on the steps of the Columbia library|
|Resting at the top of the stairs|
We also walked to a diner called Tom’s Restaurant, a place that was recommended to us by a friend of Chloe’s who attends Columbia. Fun fact–parts of Seinfeld were filmed there. Clara and I ordered milkshakes, and although it felt a little weird to consume such rich food without having lunch first, they were well worth it. On the way back to the meeting point, we passed a branch of the New York City public library. About a block after the library, I asked everyone if we could turn around so I could peek inside.
|Me at the library!|
Although I was the first one who wanted to see the library, once we were inside everyone enjoyed perusing the shelves. It makes sense that everyone in the ILC would like books. The library wasn’t the main branch; it wasn’t extraordinarily beautiful or huge, but I like libraries for what they represent. Every time I walk into a library my mood just brightens at the thought of so many books and so much knowledge in one place. Libraries are somehow simultaneously exciting and comforting to me, so I couldn’t resist the chance to say that I’d been inside a New York library. Call it a personal quirk.
|The Penn Team browses the shelves|
Times Square was spectacular. I somehow didn’t translate watching the ball drop on New Year’s into reality, so I imagined Times Square as this enormous open courtyard surrounded by stores. As a result, when I asked, “When will we get to Times Square?” Clara responded, “We’re already in Times Square.” Oops… Simply walking the streets of the Times Square area was an amazing experience–there were so many people bustling along the sidewalks and so many fancy advertisement screens. I saw a McDonald’s restaurant with an elaborate neon canopy, the kind that I have only ever imagined on a casino, and yet there it was attached to a fast food restaurant! The city reminded me of Tokyo and Beijing, in that there was so much technology, stores, and people, but also street vendors and bad smells. Probably all big cities have this incredibly vibrant feel to them, but I haven’t yet been to enough cities to back up this theory.
|The Penn Team across the street from the crazy McDonald's overhang|
I had somehow formed the opinion over the past few years that I wouldn’t want to go to an inner-city university, but after seeing Chicago and New York City I’m left wondering just how I decided that I didn’t like city life. I still love to go out into spectacular natural environments (think the Grand Canyon or the Olympic Peninsula rainforests) and stand there, just thinking about life. I still love to curl up on a rainy day and read book after book, even if I have too much homework for that to be a real possibility anymore. That part of myself hasn’t changed a bit, but I’m beginning to realize that I can still be myself and enjoy a college experience in the city.