We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Philadelphia is close and so much fun! Read on for a sampling of what I’ve done in the city this semester. Continue reading
Here is a list of just a few of my favorite activities. I hope they give you a sense of some of the great things you can do on and off campus while living at Haverford.
1. Volunteering as an after-school tutor in Philadelphia
As an education minor, I love working as a tutor! I spend two days a week volunteering at Southwark School in South Philadelphia helping 1st and 2nd graders with their homework. It’s nice to get off campus to volunteer in the city. Through my volunteer work, I’ve learned so much about Philadelphia and the neighborhood surrounding Southwark School.
2. Working indepedently in Chemistry lab
Now that I’m a Junior chemistry major, I’m spending more and more hours working in the lab. I love running complex reactions on my own. I’m glad that undergraduates at Haverford have so much responsibility and independence.
Coming into my final year at Haverford, I anticipated feeling a bit of denial and overwhelming nostalgia. While not an untrue statement, the transition to this transitional year has been smooth and natural. Dare I say it? I’m relishing being a senior and the productive, exciting opportunities it affords.
My thesis proposal is in, approved, and awaiting remarks from my newly minted thesis adviser. I’m going to be working with Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and exploring construction of character through geographic and mental spaces, as well as time and memory. This thesis topic draws on my established interests in perspectivalism and temporality, and allows me to reflect further on theories of identity in relationship to place, which I cultivated during my extensive travels during my semester abroad. The senior thesis experience is a space for culmination and reflection, as well looking forward within the discipline. Continue reading
Summer is awesome. The weather is beautiful, nectarines are in season, and the fireflies are enchanting. These lovely months also demand employment though; I’ve been lucky enough that my summer has been a trifecta of engaging work, great food, and regular firefly sightings (thunderstorms have unfortunately impeded on the weather requirement).
This summer I am working as an intern at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook through a Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) grant. I’m essentially working as a reporter, covering the… dynamic, let’s say… state of Philadelphia public education. I’ve covered community meetings regarding charter expansion, hunger strikes, and profiled laid off teachers. Needless to say, there is a ton going on right now in the Philly ed world, and I am really in the thick of it.
Let me back up about the CPGC quickly. The CPGC is one of three academic centers at Haverford, alongside the Hurford Center for Arts and Humanities and the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. All three of them are wonderful funding wells for Haverford students, and students use that money for research, student-led seminars, art productions, and more.
The CPGC, specifically, provides students with funding for both international and domestic projects related to social justice; projects can be either self-designed or take advantage of an existing relationship between the CPGC and an institution. Defining “social justice” is really difficult. And it should be, because the phrase means something a little bit different to everyone. That means that students have a ton of agency in deciding what sorts of projects they would like to present to the CPGC, and the possibilities really are limitless. I have had friends teach English in Ghana, conduct medical anthropology thesis research in Brazil, and film documentaries with professors.
All of these projects are fully funded. CPGC grants include: travel and transportation costs, food stipends, and housing costs. If you are on financial aid, they also cover your summer earnings expectation, so you can get the most out of your internship without worrying about making money on the side. Also, when a place doesn’t have to pay you to work for them, getting hired at incredible places becomes much more feasible.
Quick recap of a lot of information: CPGC has a lot of money and they fully fund Haverford students to have incredible internships related to social justice anywhere in the world. This is awesome.
With my CPGC grant, I am living in West Philadelphia, just off of the University of Pennsylvania campus, with two friends from Haverford. The commute to work is simple – just a regional rail ride away. I’ve enjoyed indulging in the excellent taco shop and popsicle joint in my neighborhood, and exploring different nooks of the city. My favorite adventures have been noshing at a food truck festival, and perusing the Barnes Foundation and its beautiful artwork.
Ultimately, I could not have asked for a better summer job. As an English major, Sociology and Education double-minor, this internship presents opportunities to engage with all of my disciplines. I’ve interviewed major players in the Philly ed world, from district officials, to councilmen, to CEOs of charter schools. I’ve also talked with community members, and met with high school students who have formed their own student activism groups. I’ve been able to think and rethink about my own views of public education — the field in which I would ultimately like to work — on a daily basis, and expand my own network of possible professional endeavors.
And, when I come home from a long day of writing and interviewing, I can grab a nectarine, sit out on my porch, and watch the fireflies dance.
My thesis project examines Bayard Rustin, perhaps most notable for serving as the deputy director of the 1963 March on Washington. Yet, he led a lifelong commitment to civil and human rights in America and abroad. A pacifist, Rustin modeled nonviolent action (as a reflection of his belief in Gandhian principle) as a means to bring about social change. Raised by his Quaker grandmother, Rustin went on to become a Friend* himself. Scholarly discourse regards Rustin primarily for his Civil Rights era contributions, leaving his lifelong career largely unexamined. That is, aside from biographical texts and collections of his writings. I remain interested in how his Quaker background influenced his commitment to and actions toward social justice in America and abroad.
Having poured through the seminal and subsequent Rustin biographies, I decided that I would take advantage of my prime location in the Philadelphia region to travel to Washington D.C., where the Library of Congress holds the Bayard Rustin papers, a vast collection of Rustin’s speeches, letters, memos, photographs, and other materials. The first half of this blog post I wrote while in the Madison Reading Room. Now, I write to you from Union Station’s Starbucks (with the bar seating, that is!) where I have begun chugging a dirty vanilla chai to renew a bit of my energy.
To recap, I departed Tritton Hall, where I live on campus this year, at 6:30am. Before heading to the Haverford train station an 8 minute walk away (if you’re speed walking), I swung by Bruegger’s bagels to devour a rosemary olive oil bagel. A DC (Dining Center) banana proved to be a nice snack on the 20-minute train ride to 30th street station where I quickly made my way to the MegaBus departure location. The 3-hour bus ride was the perfect time to read a short story (and watch its film adaptation) for my Japanese Literature and Film course before taking a half-hour nap. Surprisingly, Google Maps led me in the appropriate direction to the Library of Congress building, at which point I went on a wild goose chase to receive researcher authorization from several bureaucratic centers. In the end, I was able to spend 4.5 solid hours in the reading room with a cornucopia of Rustin papers, some of which will be invaluable to the future of my thesis.
Now an hour away from Philadelphia, I think I’ll make this post final. Here’s a photograph I captured of Union Station as I made my way back from the Library of Congress. How nice the 58 degree weather (F) was!
Even with my Christmas Pandora station playing, it hasn’t quite felt like the holidays for me just yet. Maybe it’s because finals loom, or because it’s 62 degrees today. Or probably, it’s because my family is 3 time zones away, and getting a Skype view of the Christmas tree isn’t quite the same as smelling the pine in person. All that Debbie Downer stuff being said, I just had a wonderful weekend in the city; this outing might just become my own holiday tradition.
My friend and recent alum, Juliana, just moved into South Philly, so she’s just a few dollars and half hour train and/or bus ride away. She had been meaning to try pho (rhymes with “huh”), the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup, for some time, so having spent significant times in Viet Nam myself, we ventured to the Vietnamese district. Our lunch soon arrived, with giant bowls of noodles, beef, and delicious broth steaming. Pho is a Giebel family dinner outing staple, and I hadn’t had it since August, so I reveled in nostalgia and happiness as we slurped.
Next up, a quick walk over to the giant Asian market (fun fact: I wrote my college essay on ethnic markets and multiculturalism). Memories from Viet Nam continued to flood, as mangosteen, rambutans, and dragon fruit greeted Juliana and me. See if you can spot all three in the photo below:
Mangosteen is my absolute favorite fruit; if you ever stumble upon some, it’s worth the probably exorbitant price (it was $7.99 a pound when I was there)! Whole roasted ducks hung a few aisles down, and I contemplated purchasing one and reincarnating a Christmas tradition from my mom’s side of the family. As tempting as that was, Juliana and I opted to recreate my family’s other Christmas recipe: homemade pot stickers/in Chinese, jiaozi. I won’t divulge the full family recipe, but some combination of napa cabbage, garlic chives, pork, ginger, soy, sesame, and TLC summate to the filling; the wrapping entails some carefully cultivated folding techniques.
This is normally a huge family production: my aunt will roll out the dough, my uncle and grandma will make the filling, and my mom, cousins, and I are responsible for folding. It’s a process I associate deeply with family and holiday. I still feel that way, but I joked that I felt like I was completing a rite of passage, gaining ownership over a tradition that’s been passed through my family. I feel so fortunate to have been able to share this tradition with members of this collegiate community; it really is cultural fusion — of my familial culture with my emerging independent one — embodied in a tidy little dumpling.
Happy Holidays to all; I hope everyone is reveling in and sharing their own familial traditions, whether they’re currently together or not!
I can confidently say (read:type) I’m an expert at traveling from Haverford to Bryn Mawr to Swarthmore to the University of Pennsylvania. Our four institutions form the Quaker Consortium, schools all founded by the Religious Society of Friends, once upon a time. I have a course at each institution this semester and am thoroughly enjoying the experience, in and out of the classroom. The time I spend gazing outside at the passing ‘burbs and city streets on the Blue Bus, Tri-Co Van, and SEPTA train make me appreciate how small and intimate our 220-acre campus is. At the same time, I consider myself privileged to see so much of the Philadelphia area, especially as I have memorized the street signs and unconventional placement markers (e.g. Wendy’s).
Before you and I get too hungry, I may also say (read:type) how much I enjoy eating at Bryn Mawr by swiping my OneCard (the same gateway for eating at Haverford) and at Swarthmore by passing along a voucher I procured from the Haverford Dining Center Office. When in Philadelphia, I go frolicking for gelato at my favorite spot, Capogiro. As a student receiving financial aid, I appreciate Haverford’s policy of covering transportation to and from University of Pennsylvania to erase the cost of commuting to class. I sometimes rationalize that the money I might have earned in order to pay for my transportation can instead be invested in gelato…
Stay tuned for future info and photos documenting my Quaker Consortium travels!
Summer has once again manifested that achingly wonderful temporal twirl; the days are slow and simple, but we find ourselves on the cusp of August, less than a month from the inception of a new Customs Week and school year. In keeping with the time-twist, my recollections of this summer have centered on Bachelorette happenings (one-f-Jef?!) and memorable meals.
I’m a huge foodie. I feel supremely at home in the kitchen, experimenting with and crafting formal and imagined recipes, and going out to dinner at some delectable eatery is always my choice excursion. These past few weeks have been a foodie’s dream; here are some highlights:
A couple weeks ago, I met my dear friend and former blogger, Franklyn Cantor, in the city for a belated birthday meal. I hopped on the Paoli/Thorndale SEPTA train-line (there are two stops just a few minutes off campus) and 20 minutes later, Franklyn and I were standing outside Banana Leaf, a Malaysian restaurant and our dining venue for the evening. Our friend Juliana joined us with a friend from her abroad adventures along with a couple orders of roti, a crispy Malaysian pancake with a rich curry dipping sauce, Malaysian style spare ribs, spicy water spinach, and beef chow fun. Supremely delicious and inexpensive, Banana Leaf embodied both elements of my ideal dining experience. Ignoring our burgeoning bellies, Franklyn recommended/ensured a trip to The Franklin Fountain (all vanity aside, he made sure to emphasize) for the best ice cream in the city. We ordered the Mt. Vesuvius:
“A mountain of CHOCOLATE or VANILLA ice cream ERUPTING with chocolate brownie pieces, CASCADING with hot fudge and BLANKETED in malt powder. A dollop of whipped cream indicates her smoking signal.”
Get it. It’s so good. As we were walking back to the train station, some belated fireworks erupted. Happy bellies, lovely company, and a free light show – what a magical night.
Juliana’s mom came to visit the other week, so I had the absolute pleasure and honor of joining them for dinner. We walked to Verdad, a “Latin-influenced tapas” style restaurant in neighboring Bryn Mawr (also the college locale), and indulged in strawberry, habañero guacamole (the exact right balance of heat, sweetness, salt, and hints of acidity) and the most incredible paella. Mounded in a massive wok, perfectly golden brown, and literally swimming with chorizo and maritime goodies, this paella is as beautiful as it is delicious. And a whole lobster chills on top. Juliana and her mother were wonderful company and our evening together was one of my favorites of the summer.
As part of a CPGC internship (see www.haverford.edu/CPGC/ for more information on the CPGC’s mission and offerings), my friend Stuart has been dutifully tending to the HCA garden. The garden has very kindly spared me much produce shopping, as fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, herbs, and more have been spilling out throughout the summer. I’ve enjoyed many a delicious stir-fry, salad, and pasta dish courtesy of the produce. My favorite has been homemade tabouli salad – cous cous, onions, cucumbers, peppers, tomato, feta, garlic oil, lemon, and fresh mint. Eat. It is good and good for you too!
Food locales — ranging from urban escapes, to suburban strolls, to my literal backyard — are also a wonderful representation of the urban-suburban balance here at Haverford. It’s perfectly easy to stay in the immediate area and sate cultural and culinary cravings, but Philadelphia offers an urban jolt whenever necessary. Beyond food, being able to take advantage of Philadelphia’s vast offerings while maintaining a suburban home has been one of my favorite aspects of my Haverford experience.
The summer’s close is coming hard and fast, but I intend to soak up as many rays of the sun and indulge in as many further food indulgences as possible. And then it’s back to Seattle for salmon!
This song has been in my head recently. So many perfect lines: Time for you to go out into the world. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. It seems somehow all too fitting for the end of college. (I won’t even get into “It’s the End of the World As We Know It“, which is also true).
So it’s been quite the few weeks since I last wrote. I’m sorry for my absence, but maybe after reading, you’ll choose to forgive me. Here are some of the highlights that I can remember right now:
- -The Librarian of the College cleaned my clock in our all-school skeeball tournament. (Well, she scored a 300 and I got a 250).
- I turned in my thesis on April 20. It finished at 33,000 words and 114 pages.
This was the largest reason that I wasn’t capable of doing anything else. It was a huge project and I’m very proud of how it turned out, but sometimes it felt as physically exhausting as the runs I did to take a break from writing!
- During one of those frantic I-need-a-break-from-writing runs, I completed my fastest loop of campus (1.7 miles in 13:50 for a sub-8:00 mile pace).
- I attended my last college class (math, fittingly enough) and handed in my last college assignment (a political science paper, of course).
- My friends and I rang Founders’ Bell, a senior tradition.
- And yesterday, I competed in a four-hour Philadelphia scavenger hunt, coming in third!
Somehow I managed to continue with everyday life (job applications and interviews, tours and other work in admission, homework besides thesis, making it to the gym every day…) but as I look back I’m not 100% sure where the time went.
Actually, take that sentence, and multiply it by four, and that’s how I feel about my college career. This is one of my last days at school, and I’m trying to think back on four years, and it’s very hard. The best analogy I’ve got is this: If you’ve ever embarked on a weight lifting program, you’ll know that you have to start small. Maybe you’re only benching 30 pounds when you start. But sure enough, you can move to 40, then 50, then 60. But each time you bump up, you know it because you’re using larger weights and you’re sore the next day!
Somehow, through college, I’ve become someone capable of benching a lot, but it sort of snuck up on me! Each paper you write, each guest speaker you hear, each article you dissect, you become a better student, better thinker, better scholar…but you don’t notice until you step back and look at the whole picture. In more ways than I can count, I’ve gained SO much from these four years. It’s not just about academics, though that was undeniably the center of my experience. It’s about all those corny things too: self-understanding and self-awareness and personal growth and transformation and blah blah blah. (I’m not usually good at the sentimental, so this was actually a pretty good paragraph for me).
There are so many posts I wanted to write and never did. There will be so much I’ll want to say that I can’t. There was much I wanted to do but couldn’t. But, in the end, I can’t, rationally, have any regrets: I got so much out of my Haverford years and I’ll always be grateful for my time here. I don’t know how I’ll cope with leaving, but everyone seems to manage, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
My friends and I were talking recently about what we might like to say, given the chance, to sum up our Haverford experience. I’ve attached my thoughts at the end of this post because I feel strongly about what I said there.
I did want to close by saying that one way in which I’d like to stay connected to the Haverford community is by always being a resource for anyone considering the college. Please feel free to reach out anytime that you discover this blog (hi future readers!). You can reach me at h.solomonstrauss (at) gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you, no matter the content of your email! (I really truly mean that, more seriously than I’ll be able to convince you, so just shoot me a note and see for yourself!)
Thanks for reading this year! And thanks, Haverford, for everything.
My final thoughts:
When we graduated high school, we probably all heard the same advice. ‘College will be the most important years of your life. You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time to get serious, because this time, it’s the real world.’ Clearly, those speakers didn’t know we were headed to Haverford. So before we take the next step, maybe we should think for a moment about the world we’re leaving, the world of Haverford College.
The “real world” works very differently here. Driving on to campus, you pass a sign at the entrance that reads, “Private Property.” But then, beneath that, and in larger letters, it says, “Visitors Welcome.” When we pulled up outside the dorms on move-in day, our cars were swarmed by Customs People in brightly colored shirts, telling us how excited they were that we’d arrived, and carrying our things to our rooms. Rule Number One: no one moves themselves into Haverford. Right away, you have a family, one that never really goes away as long as you’re here.
We all have stories about unlocked bikes or laptops left unattended for hours, or the simple kindness of classmates who seek us out to return lost belongings. When people ask, “How are you?”, they care about the answer. The arboretum uses the all-campus email list to tell us how the trees are doing. Sometimes we’re late for class after an unexpectedly long lunch where we debated the DC workers about the prowess of our respective intramural basketball teams. Have you ever turned a corner, spotted a tree in full bloom, and found yourself stopping to stare? What about that first nice day in the spring, when the pinwheels appear on Founders Green, glinting in the sunlight?
Think about the time since move-in day: all those experiments you ran, all those hours in SuperLab. Think of your thesis, and of all the research you put into it. But our time here isn’t just measured by specific milestones, it’s everything put together. We juggled school, sports, committees, friends, fun, even sleep–sometimes, it wasn’t clear how everything was going to get done. But it always did, and that feeling of accomplishment was the surest sign we were growing into Haverford.
Our education here was not meant to be comfortable; it was meant to provoke, to stretch, to enrich. In class, we heard points of view we had never before considered, and so the conversation continued at the gym, on the green, and late into the night in common rooms. We owe more than we can say to the incredible professors who have challenged and inspired us. If you finish at Haverford after four years with the same ideas, same opinions, and same skills that you had during your first week, then it didn’t work, did it? But whether measured by academic enrichment, athletic achievement, or any other standard, Haverford has ‘worked’ for all of us.
And so we spent four years in not-quite-the-real-world, and it’s time for us to give the real, real world a try. But for the rest of our lives, “Haverford Class of 2012” is going to be one of the most accurate descriptors of our approaches to problems and solutions, to challenges and understanding, to learning, to community, to the world, to life. We will be taking a lot with us from this place– and, frankly, the real world out there could use a little more ‘trust, concern, respect.’ They say that “home is not where you live, but where they understand you,” and I can’t think of any group for whom that is more accurate. You get a family on day one, and no matter where you go from here, Haverford will always be home.
But because this is Haverford, I can’t end on a sentiment like that. Yes, hard work got us here, and that deserves to be recognized, but we had a lot of fun along the way. Haverford has always been about knowing how to not take ourselves too seriously. So I’d like finish by dedicating a poem to the class of 2012. It’s a poem of hope and uncertainty, of the future and the past, of confidence and self-questioning. It was written by someone whose great literary works, which reflect a keen understanding of the real world, are taught a little earlier than the freshman writing seminar. I mean Dr. Seuss, of course.
“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang, and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because sometimes you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups will happen to you.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! 98 and three-quarters percent guaranteed.”
As we take our next step into the world, remember how real this world has been, and remember that here at Haverford, you’ll always have a home.
These days on campus, we’ve been making a huge deal about two things: the unexpected snowfall and our incredibly successful fall sports teams. All of the excitement and clamor about our playoff-bound teams, though, mirrors the way many students feel about professional or other collegiate teams which they follow passionately!
Students come to Haverford from all over the country and the world, and I’m always reminded of that when I compare athletic allegiances. As a relatively local student, I am naturally a Phillies, Flyers, Eagles, and Sixers fan (in that order), but there’s a wrinkle in my affinities. My entire family is from the greater New York area going way back, so I was raised on Yankee baseball – and continue to be a huge fan. This dual loyalty made the 2009 world series both a win-win and a lose-lose, but I really was just the luckiest baseball fan ever! My team affinities are on proud display in my room – instead of posters and wall hangings, I mostly hang up different jerseys or t-shirts, which makes for a surprisingly colorful and well-decorated room (in my opinion).
But what I most enjoy is talking, watching, and debating sports with other people on campus. It’s not exactly the largest school, so if you go to the same places to watch your team’s games, you learn quickly who the other fans are. There is a pretty good contingent of Philadelphia fans, and I can count on seeing them in the Coop or in Ryan Student Center for any big game, but the people I want to dedicate this post to are the more isolated ones who make their voices heard.
So much of the freshman Customs experience is about learning your hallmates’ interests, hobbies, and discussing pretty much any topic. Well I learned right away in my first year that one of my hallmates just loved Melky Cabrera, the former Yankee and current Royal, no matter how poorly the MelkMan played. Another friend was a devout follower of advanced sabermetrics, and greeted any Ryan Howard home run or Raul Ibanez double I celebrated with a snarky but knowledgable comment about the player’s awfully low WAR (Wins Above Replacement player – essentially, how many wins the player earns his team above average) was, and how embarrassingly overpaid he was.
I’ve cheered and jeered loudly against friends of mine who come from all over the US – Cleveland, Buffalo, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and Boston, just to name the ones that come to mind – in the name of friendly competition and team spirit. And let’s be honest – there’s nothing in the Honor Code that prevents some friendly trash talk. In fact, the way I think about it, it provides a comfortable space to properly disparage the other team, without causing anyone to take the slings and barbs personally. My friends who are Mets fans never hear the end of it from me.
Additionally, I am part of the events planning group on campus Fords’ Against Boredom (FAB), and we do our best to get students together for big sports games, and to take them down to Philadelphia to see the Phillies, Flyers, or 76ers (when the NBA is not in a lockout). Every year, we plan an event for 200+ students to get together, watch the Super Bowl, Final Four, etc., eat food, and judge the best/worst commercials. It makes for a really fun experience – while some people could watch the game in their room on a TV or the internet, the sense of community at Haverford drives people to come to our events, socialize, and enjoy the game!
Tonight, I have a lot of sports watching to look forward to: our women’s soccer team at 3, field hockey at 7, and then the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30!