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Is The City My Home?

Samantha Plate's picture

Samantha Plate

Play In The City


Is The City My Home?

When asked where I live I often tell people “I live just outside of Philly.” Philadelphia is a well-known city and it is easier to pinpoint than my small town of Holland. But in reality, I have no real claim to Philadelphia. I feel like a tourist in my own “home town”. In fact, my friends and I took a sight-seeing trip to Philadelphia this summer. We did all the touristy things: we took the Big Bus Tour, ran up the Rocky steps, visited the LOVE statue and went to museums. It was then that I realized I had only been to Philadelphia a few times in my life and I had never really experienced it. I couldn’t really call this city my home.

According to Google Maps it takes forty-one minutes to drive from my home address to Philadelphia’s City Hall. However, I rarely ever make the short drive to the wonderful metropolis. My experience with the city is one that is depicted perfectly by the picture below. The city is always there, off in the distance, but I rarely interact with it. It is this ever-present figure off in the background. The hustle and bustle of my everyday suburban life has made me forget the wonderful opportunities just a few steps (and a forty minute car ride) outside my door. In the picture you can see the city in the background, but it is distant and opaque in comparison to the neighborhood that is in the forefront. Unless it is for a vacation or special occasion, I rarely go far away from my own home town. I have driven right past Philadelphia countless times on my journeys elsewhere; but, in all the times I’ve seen the big ship at Penn’s landing draped with the bright blue lights, this summer was this first time I’ve actually eaten at the restaurant there.

In fact, when we did attempt to go to Moshulu, the restaurant, this summer, we got lost. Multiple times. As we walked all over the city that day we had to consult maps, the internet, and people on the street to find landmarks that many people who don’t even live near Philly know how to get to. I felt like a wanderer walking down the sidewalk with people brushing past me in both directions. They had such a sense of purpose and direction it made me feel so insignificant for walking aimlessly hoping to end up in the right place. When we took the Big Bus tour I learned so much about my city’s history and was introduced to places I didn’t even know existed. My own naïveté shocked me, and made me question why I am so unconnected with the city. 

My distance with the city, rather than physical, is emotional and mental. As an only child growing up in a middle class suburb, I was very sheltered. Before I left for college my parents still had me texting them every time I arrived or departed somewhere. I have never driven anywhere farther than twenty minutes away from my home. I was taught that the city could be dangerous and to always travel in groups, preferably with an adult. But now I am an adult. My parents can no longer track my every move and I am integrating myself into a more independent and diverse environment. This is why I chose Play In The City as my Emily Balch Seminar. I want to learn how to become more independent and I do not want to be afraid of the city any more. I want to be able to take advantage of events happening in the city. And do this without worrying about finding a large group to go with and needing one of my parents to drive me. By slowly integrating myself into the city culture and learning my way around Philadelphia through this Emily Balch Seminar, I think I will quickly become much more independent and comfortable in Philadelphia and life in general. I have always been a very timid and cautious person, but I think that this semester will help me to grow up and become the adult that I legally am.

Philadelphia offers so many amazing things to do and see, I just have yet to take advantage of them. However, by changing my mind set about the city and by experiencing it through this course, I hope to be able to become more acquainted with Philadelphia. By the end of the semester I want to be able to honestly call the city of Philadelphia my home.


Picture Source:

Suburban Houses in Neighborhood and Big City. Digital image. Shutterstock. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2013.                 <>.