Your Philly Family

20141110_193810By Korby Reed

Entering college you are placed in a scenario where you build a new family that you can call your own. Coming to Philadelphia prompts you to once again to take on the adventure of building a new family. Your Philly family goes beyond being classmates; you experience life as adult in a new city. The perspectives you bring into your Philly semester carry into your new family and everyone’s on board to start something new.

20141116_014304There are some pros and cons to building your family here in Philadelphia:

  • PRO – You always have someone to hang out with. Do not worry about being alone for too long because there is always someone who will want to busy your time and make you feel like the only girl in the world… or boy, I believe in equal opportunity.
  • CON – You can get stretched thin. Like with any family, it’s a give and take relationship and sometimes you can feel overwhelmed with your constant dialogue and family-friendly festivities. Just remember to take some time for yourself!
  • PRO – You can be weird together. Philadelphia has a lot of places for you to explore together and that means more places to be a little weird, with your weird family. College life sponsors breaking out of your shell, Philadelphia gives you a platform to do so.
  • CON – They encourage your bad behaviors. These bad behaviors include: binging on your favorite shows, sharing Buzzfeed stories, and constant group selfies. If you guys are not out exploring, you want to curl up on the couch, make your grandma’s guacamole recipe, and watch every episode of 30 Rock… actually, that does not sound too bad.
  • PRO – You all are new to everything. There’s something special about being among just a few students experiencing the Philadelphia journey at once. At college you know there are 1,000+ other students going through the newness, but your little Philly family gets to experience the city, the internships, and the classes together, exclusively.
  • CON – There is not enough time. Despite a semester sounding like a long time, it’s not enough time to spend with your Philly family. Don’t pass up the opportunity to spend your days with them because you will have to separate eventually, though the good thing is you can keep in touch with those Buzzfeed quizzes and guilt-free spoiler talks about TV shows over Facebook.
  • PRO – They know your struggles. People back home will not understand you when you talk about your Learning Plan or Portfolio. They do not understand these things, but your Philly family does and they want to bask in your struggles as well.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

20141019_123058By Korby Reed

A change of scenery is always refreshing and welcomed. When asked about the reasons TPC students picked this particular program, they will sometimes answer because it was a “change of pace”. Philly breathes a distinct air and it’s a great representation of an east coast city. My small college town is a completely different experience from what Philly is and I really like that difference. There’s a lot to see and do that I would not normally have available in my college town. Philadelphia is wonderful in many ways, including being located in a very convenient area, in relation to other cities. You have the time, and optimistically the budget, to explore so hopefully you can branch out of this city and explore the east coast.20141122_130036

Washington D.C. is a few hours away, but the city is so inspiring. There’s something about being surrounding by so much American pride, the kind that promotes rights, that makes you feel all giddy and inspired. There is so much history there and it’s nice to take a long stroll around to enjoy it. On the way down, stop by Baltimore as well. Atlantic City in New Jersey is a great place to go if you are a fan of gambling, the beach, or just a Boardwalk Empire groupie. This place is just a couple of hours away and will surely be a fun place to spend the day with some friends. Lastly, going to New York City is an absolute must. Just two hours away, NYC is a great place to shop or experience the diversity away from Philadelphia. Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Museum of Modern Art are all places, among the many, that you should try to visit while you are there.

There are many other places near Philadelphia you should try to visit while you are here. You not limited to being in one place for too long and you should take advantage of it. So pack a day bag, grab a roommate or two and explore the east coast, it’s only a bus or train ticket away!

It’s okay, I Won

By Mindze Mbala-Nkanga

And so the semester comes to a close. It’s so strange for me to think that this is the end of my time here in Philly! I remember how stressful the whole application process was for me, and preparing for the trip, and then finally arriving here. There was so much mental, physical, and financial preparation involved in getting and living in Philadelphia and to think that all the preparation has come and gone along with the trip brings a twinge of nostalgia. There’s that, and there’s also the portfolio that I am currently working on as my final project for the semester that is causing me to be nostalgic. For this portfolio I have to review several types of learning that I have been able to improve upon, or learned in the semester that I have been here for. Trust me, if you come to Philadelphia you will find that there is a lot of stuff to write about; there are a lot of things that you will learn while you’re here. I guarantee it.

Taking a break from the learning plan, and the portfolio, and my activities of learning, I have decided to work on a little thing in which I describe to you all the different things I have learned it’s okay to do (or not to do) since coming to Philly:

It’s okay to not be okay

I think this is something that I had started to understand in the time that I’d been in college, but my understanding of this concept grow exponentially in the time that I’ve been here. I’m referring to matters like being offended by a comment, or simply being homesick. I think it’s very easy to make the assumption that because this is such a great program, every moment that you’re here has to be great (or at least, that’s how I saw it), and I felt that if I wasn’t okay, it meant that I just wasn’t experiencing Philly right, or I wasn’t taking advantage or recognizing all of the things that were being offered to me. Looking back, and moving forward, I’ve recognized that sometimes I’m just not going to be okay. I’m going to feel down in the dumps, and this is okay. No one expects me to always be happy. No one expects my time in Philly to be one none-stop party-fest adventures. And this is okay.

 It’s okay to have an opinion

121314_americanjustice (1)This applies to Ferguson, it applies to the incarceration system, it applies to different aspects of the mental health system, and the medical health system. I think for me, for a long time I felt that certain topics were only really meant to be handled and worried about by the big dogs; the “overly-opinionated” people who could actually make a change in this society, the opinionated Facebook commentators, and students in class who always seemed to have something to say about every topic. These past few months have and continue to teach me that it’s okay for me to have an opinion as well. That even if I do not yet feel ready to go out and be the change, I can have an opinion. I can listen to different viewpoints, formulate my own opinion and that is okay, I don’t need to feel bad about not agreeing with someone else’s standpoint. I don’t need to feel bad about having an opinion that may be different from what everyone else might expect me to have. And that I shouldn’t be afraid that be one of those people who could actually make a change in this society, because honestly, we’re all those people if let ourselves be.

It’s okay to wear red nail polish

12314)nanowrimoI write red nail polish because that has always been something that I’ve thought was out of my depth, but I also mean this in a more general sense about my style. I think I’ve become less afraid to show on the outside what I feel like on the inside. If I’m feeling like putting on make-up, I shouldn’t be afraid to do so, I should just do it! If I’m feeling like the maturity, and sass of red nail polish, I should go for it. I went through a change during the middle of the term where I took my hair out of braids, and went natural, which was very intimidating at first, because keeping my hair natural has never been my strong suit, but I’ve been doing it anyway, and I’m finding that it’s not as daunting as I’d feared, and it’s inspired me to stop being afraid of trying things I’ve wanted to try but always been afraid to do in the past.

It’s okay to ask questions

I am pursuing a career in which, many times I feel like I have to be the best of the best to get to where I want to be. As a result, for the longest time I felt like I needed to know everything, whether that be knowing how to ride a subway (even when I’d never ridden one before), or knowing what a loop ileostomy is (it’s colon surgery, I warn you don’t look it up unless the idea of surgery doesn’t make you queasy). I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask questions, and that rarely ever does this actually make a person look stupid (which had always been my fear and reasoning for not asking questions) in fact, often times, it’ll make me look less ridiculous than I otherwise would have if I’d tried to figure it out on my own.

It’s okay to want to do things on your own

121314_americanjustice (2)I’ve heard from several of the TPC faculty that this semester’s TPC group is one of the closest they’ve had in a while. We make an effort to stay connected and be inclusive, which is great! But toward the beginning, I felt like I had to do every activity, I had FOMO (fear of missing out), bad. The problem with this being that I am naturally more introverted, and sometimes at these events would not have as much fun as I might have. I was a hard lesson to learn, but eventually I understand that it’s completely okay to want to be alone, and I think I started having more fun when I finally understood this.

Honestly, the list of things I’ve learned its okay to do could go on for quite a while, but I think this is a pretty good list. It’s important to note, though, that this is my list. These are the things that I have learned about myself, there were people who came to this program already knowing the things I have learned, and others who may not even agree with some of the things I’ve learned/ Everyone coming to TPC will have their own adventures, will learn their own sets of skills, and will make their own memories; that’s part of what makes the program special. So for those of you coming to Philadelphia in the coming semesters, or years, be prepared for change, both in your surrounding and in yourself. And don’t be afraid to get on board; the ride will be worth it.

12314)nanowrimoP.S. For any of you who were curious about my previous post about NaNoWriMo, I won! The novel is called Charlotte and Emerson and although it’s not yet finished, I reached the word goal, so that was exciting.

Thanksgiving

cup of teaBy Mindze Mbala-Nkanga

At this moment, many of my K College friends who are still on campus are in a state of panic and excitement. It’s the end of the trimester; they get to go home just in time for Thanksgiving, and won’t need to worry about the stress of school again for another 7 weeks!

In some ways, I’m sad that I’m missing this. It had become a part of my regimen to stress over my finals week and then be able to crash once I arrived home just in time for a big thanksgiving meal, and a warming event with close family and friends. This is not to say that there aren’t things to stress me out in the time I have left here, nor does it mean I will not be surrounded by great people around this time.

My roommates and I have decided to have our own Thanksgiving dinner away from home, which I’m pretty excited about. We’ve already bought our turkey, and it’s hanging out in the back of our freezer, and we’ve already begun planning the dishes we’d like to prepare. The largest dilemma around the Thanksgiving festivities is there are so many foods to be made, and so little space in the oven (not to mention how long it takes for a turkey to cook to completion).church

Even though I am not at home, and my term is not yet ending, I too have become a small bundle of emotions at the thought of all of the things I have left to do. I am currently experiencing three main emotions at the prospect of the nearing of the end of the term:

Excitement: Excitement? What? What is there to be excited about? Well, for one, there is Thanksgiving that’s coming up, which means nice little food comas and days off from work – which, as much as I love what I do in the lab, is always a good thing. There is also the prospect of the term coming to an end. As much as I’ve loved the time I’ve had to spend here in Philly, and as much as I fully intend to return some day, I feel that I am ready to go home for a little while. At the end of the day, I am still a college student, and I know of very few college students (or people in general, really) who don’t get a little excited about the idea of taking a bit of time off of work, whether that work is school, or an actual job. It’ll be nice to get back to my home for a little bit (although, with all the reports of snow, I’m sure I won’t be doing much exploring of my own city).

Sadness:This semester has truly been an adventure for me, and I know I’m going to miss it when it’s over. I’ve made a nice group of friends here, and I’ve discovered a city all on my own. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and where I want to be, and the city played a big part in that. It’s going to be very sad for me to leave it all behind. I know, I’ve said several times in many other blogs that I will be back in Philly after the term is off, but coming back will not be the same. The communities I have built while I’m here will not necessarily be here when I get back, and this makes me sad.

Stressed: Okay, so I have to admit that I am not on the same intensive schedule that I am on when I am at school, but now that we’re coming down to the wire there are so many things that are due! I have to create a portfolio highlighting my accomplishments and the things I learned while here, I have a paper due for my Inside Out class, and I have a presentation that I need to have prepared for my last week in the lab. There is simply a lot going on. While some of the assignments, such as the Inside Out paper, I believe will be much easier to handle, there are other assignments, like the portfolio, which require a lot of time and energy, and considering how much of my grade depends on the outcomes of this portfolio, there’s just a bit to be stressed out about. My presentation is something that I have been reading articles about, and studying up on for just over the past month, and I have to present my findings to my entire lab, which is just a bit nerve-racking.

breadAnother side project of mine that I’m participating in is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is an event in which I have to try to write 50,000 words of a novel in the course of one month, and it’s coming down to the wire for that as well. So many papers to do, it’s no surprise I’m so stressed!

So there they are! My top three emotions at the moment. As you can see, there’s a lot to worry about now that the semester is coming to a close. I make sure to find comfort in the little things; the cups of tea as I study, the relaxation that comes with baking a loaf of bread, or the peace that comes from a Sunday morning church service.

Learning to Hold the Light

By Molly Greenfield

vigil2It’s getting to that point in the semester where I am beginning to reflect on what this semester has meant to me. When I think about my professional learning, I am floored with gratitude. When you begin your internship, you will craft a learning plan that talks about what you hope to do and learn. It is important to find areas where you can contribute to the ongoing work of an organization (and you will, with the help of your advisor and your supervisor, find these places). However what is equally important, and what I have found to be priceless, is the opportunity to learn from giants in your field. vigil1

As I have previously mentioned, I am lucky enough to be an intern at Juntos, an organization that teaches me daily what social justice in action looks like. I get to be an ally to a community mobilizing to demand a new social paradigm. As we all anxiously anticipate the president’s executive action decision on immigration over the next couple of days, I feel proud to be interning at an organization that has put it the hard work on the ground that has led us to this point.

vigil3It was a candlelit vigil that Juntos organized with the community leaders and members where I came to an important realization. The vigil was before any of this executive action talk was really circulating and it was in honor of two fathers and husbands in the community who have been detained by immigration since April. Fighting individual deportation cases through advocacy and pressure is a big part of the work that Juntos does. These cases are hard, and success rates are low (if we are judging success on people being released from deportation to fight their case from home).

The vigil was on a cold and windy night, so the press presence was pretty nonexistent. Yet regardless the conditions and the lack of press, the community took the streets to light a candle and stand in solidarity with these men and with all of those who are being detained. And that’s when I realized that most days aren’t really about the big executive action moments. Most days, social justice looks a lot more like trying to keep your flickering flame going on dark and windy nights. The big wins, don’t get me wrong, they’re big. But they are also ephemeral, and when they pass, there is more work to be done. Though no one knows exactly what the president’s order will be, we can be sure that half of the Juntos community will not be eligible for deportation protection. That means there are more dark and windy nights ahead.

So as cool as it is to be interning at an organization that is at the forefront of this historical event, it is even cooler to be at an organization that puts in the work when the cameras aren’t pointed and the people aren’t so interested. What does it look to stand on the shoulders of giants? Well I think it looks a lot like what I am doing right now. And let me tell you, the view from up here is pretty spectacular.

 

Worth Fighting For

By Korby Reed

111014_AmericanJustice (2)I’m taking the Inside-Out city seminar while in Philadelphia. The class is a completely new and refreshing change of pace from the class structure you usually have in the conventional college classroom. Fifteen of us ‘outside’ students are immersed, with varying, thought-provoking, topics, among fifteen or so ‘inside’ students within a prison to engage with the internal system. Every week is a new perspective intertwined with new experiences and thoughts presented by the very people living with mass incarceration and a seemingly corrupt justice system.

Recently our class took a day away from our inside class to attend the #AmericanJustice Summit in New York. This was an experience with an impact that can hardly be measured. The massive amount of information I gained from this occasion has allowed me to reevaluate how I feel and look at the justice system.

I’m declaring my new-found love for fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves – those, for example, who are in the justice system. Though I think it will take a lot to become the guy who stands in the freezing cold with a sign, chanting, I can become someone who takes the opportunity to not only voice my thoughts but follow through with them. I’m done being the idle pedestrian, I want to make a difference and it just takes an idea. This idea does not have to be mine, it could be anyone’s, but it’s an idea that will help me go to a place I need to go to. Philadelphia is a beautiful city but it has its flaws and the justice system is one of them. This is my chance to shed light on the flaws and help others see them too. 111014_americanjustice (3)

You are here for a short time and it would be almost disheartening if you did not try to make a difference or at least support those are trying to. If it’s not the justice system you want to fight for, find a cause that you find compelling, whether it’s homelessness or cleaning up the streets. Give back to the community while you’re here because it’ll being giving back to you.