A jet- lagged hello from Philadelphia! Arrived on Sunday and staying in dorms over looking the city giving an amazing view from my 9th floor room. Excitement, excitement EXCITEMENT.
These Fulbright guys really don’t want us to pay for anything. Two days into Philadelphia we’ve already been given mobile phones, loaded with $30 credit, transport passes and all our meals covered. And next week we get a cheque for $750 for whatever other expenses we might have. This is good.
I don’t normally like to start the day with an offensive self- stereotype but having Lucky Charms for breakfast was too hard to resist, especially when someone actually tracked me down to show me them. Food here is all you can eat, which so far has entailed ‘more than you really should’, which I understand is an ancient American tradition.
Classes started today, general introductions all round. Worryingly for a physics student, it seems I’ll have to talk about my ‘feelings’ and other awful, unquantifiable stuff. We’ve essay and research based classes on American society which entail reading Why We Can’t Wait by MLK, Dreams From My Father by Obama and The Soloist by Steve Lopez plus going on cultural trips for ‘research’. This weekend that means heading up to New York to see the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero on Saturday, followed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday. This is also good.
We also have classes on ‘Social Issues in America’ which are part sociology, part service projects. Today we had a talk from the service head of the Penn Charter School who seems to have founded a hundred NGOs and tomorrow morning we’ll be helping out at a summer camp for disadvantaged youth at a YMCA in West Philadelphia (born and raised…). Most interestingly, we also have classes on public speaking by the most enthusiastic professor I’ve ever met. We’ll suffer the indignity of having our speaking filmed and played back to us. I tend to move my hands like a puppet on speed, so this should make for painful viewing.
Otherwise, this city is hot (with a capital HOT). I really don’t see how the first Irish immigrants coped without AC. Perhaps that explains the alcoholism (and, btw, I haven’t touched a drop of the stuff, despite spotting 5 Irish pubs so far). It’ll be very interesting to see the contrasts between the European and American outlooks. When in Sociology we Europeans were asked to state our religious beliefs, only two out of 17 were religious so it’ll be interesting to see how the YMCA find that.
Over and out.