Because M&T students have such wide varieties of academic and extracurricular interests which the activity-filled environment at Penn enables us to explore to the utmost, it is always hard to coordinate schedules to do things together in large groups of M&Ts. Therefore, many of us jumped at the opportunity to sync up with fellow M&T seniors to visit the offerings of Philadelphia First Friday last semester.
First Friday (http://www.visitphilly.com/events/philadelphia/first-friday/) is a monthly open house for art gallieries in Philadelphia which transforms into a larger cultural phenomenon awash with arts & crafts stalls and lively street performances. Held on the first Friday of every month, this a favorite cultural pastime for locals and tourists alike. The M&T senior First Friday trip organized by the M&T Student Board was my first trip downtown ever for the First Friday festivities, and I am sure it was for several of my peers on the excursion. The fact that campus consumes so much of our time both academically and extra-curricularly is both a blessing and curse – we get to engage in many classes and activities on campus that we love on a daily basis, but often also miss out on experiencing the liveliness the broader Philadelphia community has to offer. I think as seniors, as soon as we were back on campus, the sinking and wistful realization that this is the last year on campus and in Philadelphia as students really began to hit. So, the first Friday Trip was a fantastic way to catch up with friends and share a truly memorable experience cherishing Philadelphia’s cultural best.
Nine senior M&Ts made our way to 2nd and 3rd Streets right by Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River. The M&T Student Board generously provided us with SEPTA transit tokens so getting downtown was smooth. Traveling with us was the beloved dog Zoey who is now officially the M&T mascot! In the sweltering Philadelphia summer heat, we quickly rushed into the first Gallery we saw – taking refuge indoors and looking in amazement at the displays of contemporary art – intricate geometries and colorful palettes. Who says Engineers and Business types cannot appreciate works of beauty?! Over the course of couple hours we ventured into a variety of galleries ranging from focuses on African cultural themes to vivid photographs of nature and thought provocative expositions on gender and sexuality. Many of the galleries provided much welcomed snacks and beverages for consumption at the request of small donation that we all willingly made. In between our entries into the world of imagination, we criss-crossed around the South Philly visiting crowd, marvelling alike at Brazilian Capoeira martial arts dancers as well as a young elementary school aged boy drawing caricatures. Throughout the trip, Zoey was a marvellous companion, at her best behavior and garnishing loving attention from everyone around.
After having our fill of the cultural and artistic wonders, the nine of us parted ways, heading back into the reality of club dinners, project meetings, and other campus commitments. First Friday gave all of us a much needed excursion to experience Philadelphia on a finer level and was the perfect excuse to get out of the campus bubble for a few hours with friends.