When I thought there weren’t enough changes happening already, it turns out that week two is when real life really kicks in. It’s the week when you’re already out on your own – navigating the streets of Philly, signing a lease, moving into a new apartment, attending a new church, exploring different parks, trying different types of foods, starting a new job (tomorrow!), and attending class. The list could go on!
One way I’ve been looking to especially challenge myself is by walking into certain experiences alone. This could be a trip to the park to read on a bench, doing homework at a nearby coffeeshop, starting a conversation with the sushi chefs at the restaurant or meeting an older gentleman who is also contemplating buying some Luigi’s Italian Ice at the grocery store (it’s hot here!).
This past Sunday, I decided to visit a new church in the center of the city. Freedom Church is a nondenominational church that is held in a theater on Sunday’s. Walking up to the front door, the gentleman holding the door “greeted” me with a big hug as I entered the building. I was not expecting such immediate kindness–especially in the middle of a big city! I had arrived early and realized that I would have a lot of down time as I waited for the doors to open for the worship area.
Just as I began to feel the presence of discomfort being without any familiar faces, the same greeter approached me and was curious as to who I was, where I was from, and how I found the church. He led me over to sign up for a small group before the service started, and I’m now set up to meet weekly with a group of ladies in the Old City part of Philly. He introduced me to another recent newcomer, Michelle, and she and I ended up attending the service together. Worship was amazing, and I felt that here was where true community could be found.
When the service was over, I left feeling the confidence to enter into those uncomfortable, and sometimes awkward, situations. I knew I could have easily invited other people in my program, but I think that sometimes it’s important to open yourself up to meeting new people as it can be so easy to cling to those with us.
So far, The Philadelphia Semester has been a privilege. In two weeks, I’ve learned to take risks, to put myself out there, and to not be afraid of doing things independently. There have been great moments, and really really hard moments. Sometimes loneliness can even settle in. But no matter what, the team at The Philadelphia Center has our backs, and push us to maintain our open mindedness about learning and experiencing new things here!