Although Penn had always been her "dream school," Wharton sophomore Leanna Resseguie was not elated when she first learned that she had been accepted to the University.
"I knew Penn was a great school, but I just wasn't sure if it was worth coming 4,000 miles for," the native Alaskan said.
But despite her initial ambivalence, her insecurities dissipated only minutes after setting foot on Penn's urban campus.
"Philadelphia is really what did it for me," Resseguie said. "The opportunity to live in such a great city and experience such a different lifestyle for four years ultimately convinced me to come so far for school."
But while the city's myriad of tourist attractions are frequently one of the strongest magnets that initially attract students, many find that once they actually arrive on campus, they do little to take advantage of these opportunities.
Despite the mere 35 blocks which separate Penn's campus from the tourist attractions of the historic Old City area, for most students, famed sites such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross House seem a world away as they become trapped in what has become known on campus as the "Penn bubble."
"I haven't really had time to go to any of Philly's tourist sites yet," College freshman Iris Kim said. "I have a lot of work and there's so much to do on campus that I just get wrapped up in my life here."
Kim's situation is typical of many Penn students -- especially freshmen -- who often become so immersed in work and campus activities that they remain in the area between 34th and 40th streets, neglecting much of the vibrant city around them.
"Philadelphia is a truly remarkable city," said Interim Provost Peter Conn, who conducts his own walking tours for students each semester. "Many of our students do take advantage of the cultural, music and entertainment opportunities but they could definitely do even more. I think a lot of times students forget what a valuable resource Philadelphia is."
In recent years, the University has adopted a number of measures to lure students away from campus and encourage them to take advantage of what Philadelphia has to offer, but the initiatives have worked with somewhat limited success.
These various tactics include partially subsidized tickets for artistic and sporting events, free SEPTA tokens to reduce transportation costs and the more direct approach of offering walking tours of downtown areas to students.
Poor Richard's Walking Tours, led by Ph.D. candidates of the History Department, are a prime example of this initiative. Over the past few years, the tours have exposed a variety of Penn groups -- ranging from freshmen at New Student Orientation to Wharton MBA students -- to many of the city's tourist sites that are usually overlooked by students.
"Most Penn students really don't get out into the city enough," said Kyle Farley, a History Ph.D. candidate who helped to start Poor Richard's Walking Tours in 1998. "Penn's great, but so is the rest of Philadelphia, and our tours try to give students an appreciation for their city's past and present."
These types of University efforts to encourage students to interact more intimately with their environment appear to be more effective for upperclassmen, as evidenced by their increased participation in cultural and tourism opportunities.
"My freshman year I didn't go downtown a lot because I was intimidated to go to an area I really didn't know very much about," College sophomore Allison Strouse said. "Sophomore year has been different, though -- I'm a lot more comfortable with my surroundings so I've started taking older students' advice and venturing downtown a lot more."
Farley thinks Strouse's situation is typical.
"Seniors realize that they are about to leave, so they are really eager to take advantage of everything the city has to offer," Farley said. "They are least susceptible to getting caught in the 'Penn bubble.'"
Penn utilizes a variety of approaches to encourage student immersion in Philadelphia. Below are some of the most prominent examples: Subsidies: Penn partially subsidizes students' cultural and sporting event tickets, such as those to 76ers and Eagles games, to encourage attendance at local attractions. Transportation: Easy -- and sometimes free -- access to SEPTA tokens, which can reduce students' traveling expenses in the city and surrounding area. Walking tours: Penn-sponsored excursions allow students to discover different Philadelphia neighborhoods and attractions in a guided setting.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.