The Philadelphia Program – Experiential Learning at Its Finest

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“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”  – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

If you are considering studying off-campus to gain valuable ‘real world’ experience while also earning credits towards your degree, The Philadelphia Center could be perfect program for you! Students have the opportunity to do an internship, live in the “City of Brotherly Love,” earn sixteen credits, and gain a better understanding of how to transition from college life to the professional world.

Dr. Annie Dandavati is the current executive director of The Philadelphia Center. She taught at Hope College for 24 years serving as the director of Women’s Studies, International Studies, and most recently, the chair of the Political Science department. She graciously gave us an opportunity to interview her, and she offered us some insightful information about The Philadelphia Center.

What drew me to The Philadelphia Center was the program’s ability to offer a liberal arts curriculum while also giving students the opportunity for experiential learning in an urban environment. The students get to engage in a more diverse and cultural experience, all within the borders of the United States. The entire experience with The Philadelphia Center provides a place to discern what your calling is and what career path you should follow.

The program offers a series of internships, which is a practical way of experiencing and applying what students have learned in the classroom to professional settings.  There are over 800 internships that are currently available in the program. Within those internships, students can find something in almost any major of the liberal arts curriculum.

Once you arrive at the Center, you get the opportunity to prepare a customized learning plan in consultation with a faculty adviser to explore available internships. You go through a process where you (the student), faculty adviser, and supervisors all decide which internship is best for you. You would then interview at three different internships, providing you with essential interview experience. Students may not get their first pick, but an internship is guaranteed to every student in the program.

2017 will be the program’s 50th anniversary, which allows students to have a large alumni base. There are typically about 40 students that are accepted into the program, hailing from a range of 90 different liberal arts schools. This gives students the opportunity to not only experience a new city, but to meet new people from different backgrounds and academic institutions as well.

Exploring housing options is another aspect of the program that helps students practice their ‘real life’ transitions. They are assisted in looking for housing by working closely with the Center staff who interim rent residential spaces.

The Philadelphia Center also offers a summer program. It is two months long and gives each student eight credits. Five are for the internship and three are for the class. The housing is provided by the University of Pennsylvania.

Many students have remarked that this is a life changing program. It is an opportunity that facilitates making the transition between college and the real world a bit smoother.

This is a great opportunity to gain experiential learning! If you are interested in exploring this beneficial program heck out The Philadelphia Center’s website for more information!

Philadelphia Fun

Interested in studying off-campus for a semester while getting a taste of independence in a big city? The Philadelphia Center offers an awesome program that does just that! Hope College senior and Career Advisor Jaclyn Van Dyk writes about her experience in the program:

Jaclyn enjoying a sunny day in Philly!
Jaclyn enjoying a sunny day in Philly!

“I had the opportunity to spend the past fall semester on the East Coast at The Philadelphia Center in which I took part in an off-campus, experiential learning program that was made available through Hope. My time in Philly consisted of working 32 hours a week at my internship, taking two classes, and exploring the city and surrounding areas. Experiential learning is at the heart of this program as you dive right into finding housing upon arrival to the city and securing an internship the following week. My internship took place at The SHARE Food Program, a non-profit in North Philadelphia that offered various programs that would promote affordable access to healthy food. I was able to gain incredible experience at my internship by bringing on of SHARE’s food package programs into four schools within the city.

My experiences went far beyond my internship as one day a week I had my city-seminar class in one of the Philadelphia County Prisons with half of the students being from our program and half being inmates. Outside of classes and internship hours I was busy exploring the city of brotherly love, the historic sites of Independence Hall, Penn’s Landing, The Liberty Bell, visiting museums such as The Franklin Institute, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the infamous Art Museum and Rocky steps. Outside of being an everyday tourist, I was able to get involved in a local church, visit the many neighborhoods of the city, attend improv shows, theater performances, grocery shop at the Italian Market, and take in all the art, culture, and history the city has to offer.

My semester in Philly was the most incredible experience. The forced independence allowed me to try new things, be pushed out of my comfort zone, and develop a great appreciation for all places, spaces, and people. To check out more about the program visit The Philadelphia Center.”

If you have any interest in learning how to fit the Philly program into your time at Hope, stop by the Career Development Office and we’d be happy to discuss possibilities with you. Experience the City of Brotherly Love!