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A conversation on Houston, health, and home

in Campus Journal by
Phoenix P


Before last week, Patrick Houston ‘16 only dreamed that he would someday meet the President. However, the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 13, found Houston standing at a podium in Eakins Park, praising Barack Obama’s moral judgment and courage in leadership. The crowd roared at Houston’s words, and then, the President himself emerged, shook Houston’s hand, and began to speak.

“It was definitely unbelievable. Obama’s been this huge role model for me on so many levels, and in the past, I’ve told myself, sometime in my life, I’m going to meet this guy. I thought it was going to be 20 years from now!” Houston laughed.

Last Friday, Houston was contacted by fellow student Nate Urban, who told him about the opportunity to introduce Obama in Philadelphia. The White House spent the weekend vetting him, and on Sunday, approved Houston to speak. They only gave Houston a few guidelines: keep your speech one to two minutes, introduce the president, discuss the Affordable Care Act, and tell your story — and what a story that is.

Houston, who grew up in North Philadelphia, was raised by his eleven siblings from a young age after the death of his parents. His family did not have healthcare, and he attended a small, Christian school, at which every student in his school was also a member of his Church.

“The education … had to be aligned with the doctrine of the Church, which was a really fundamental Christian Church. Because of that, my education in high school was really limited, but it wasn’t only the education. It was also the exposure to things beyond that environment,” Houston said. “Because the church and, thusly, the school discouraged essentially fellowship outside that community. They discouraged going to college. They discouraged watching television, listening to radio.”

After high school, however, Houston enrolled at the Community College of Philadelphia , and believes that the classes he took, especially those in philosophy, religion, and sociology, completely changed his life.

“I was exposed to topics I never would have chosen to take. That really transformed me on an academic basis, intellectually … and put the first 18 years into perspective,” he said.

Along with enrolling at CCP, another event greatly impacted Houston — the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“Not only did I not have healthcare before, but the Church that I grew up in, we believed in divine healing, so no medicine, you don’t go to the doctor. If you get sick, you pray,” Houston said.” [After the ACA came into effect],  first off, it was learning what healthcare was, period, and then, it was learning specifically what provisions the Affordable Care Act has,” Houston said.

Houston transferred to Swarthmore in 2015. In his speech, Houston spoke about the importance of moral judgment and leadership, and he believes that his experiences at the college have helped him understand good leadership. He especially touts a class called Ethics and Public Policy, taught by now-retired political science Professor Cynthia Halpert, as teaching him about the importance of theories and practice.

In fact, his understanding of Obama’s leadership was developing even less than a week before his speech.

“Four days before the speech, for my international politics class, we read the Obama Doctrine, and it talked about Obama’s approach to foreign policy … It talked a lot about Obama’s approach with the conflict in Syria — it was there that I was able to apply a more specific example where I see that emphasis and that pressure on sound moral judgment, where a lot of lives are in your hands,” Houston said.

However, Houston doesn’t think good judgment is important only at the national scale.

“When I said leaders with sound moral judgment, I was building up to Obama, but it doesn’t have to be a leader of the entire country. [It’s just] where you recognize the value of people who carefully make informed decisions and carefully apply theories into practice.”

On the day of his speech, Houston felt both the privilege and the responsibility of speaking in the city he calls home.

“In a way it was intimate, and in another way it wasn’t … I guess this feeds into this responsibility that I had, where it’s like okay, I’m right out of the heart of North Philadelphia, and I get to rep my city, and I gotta do it right.”

Swatties Led by Mountain Justice Protest Dakota Pipeline in Philadelphia

in Around Campus/News by

Swarthmore Mountain Justice took to the streets of Philadelphia on Saturday to join the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). With a turnout of 84 Swatties, spanning across all class years, the student organization joined over 800 people marching in solidarity to denounce the project, which the Sioux say is an imminent threat to the wellbeing of their tribe.

The DAPL is a proposed 1,172 mile pipeline that will span across North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois to transport over 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day to the Gulf of Mexico. Already, 300 oil spills have occurred over the past two years in North Dakota alone, and this serves as an indicator of the possible further environmental degradation and warrants necessary scrutiny due to the scale and nature of this endeavor. Because the pipeline runs under both the Missouri River at Lake Oahe and the Ogallala Aquifer, even the slightest spill would be environmentally and economically catastrophic. Such a threat would not only affect the Sioux, but over 18 million Americans who depend on the waters from both sources. On top of this, the pipeline passes through burial grounds and other sacred areas of cultural and spiritual significance to the Sioux. The tribe maintains, then, that the construction of the DAPL is another violation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, which the Tribe signed with the U.S. government in 1868.

Jason Coppola, a journalist who has been covering the protests since well before August 2016, explained the importance of the treaty.

“The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 guaranteed complete and total access, undisturbed access, [of the land] to the Great Sioux Nation of the Oceti Sakowin [Seven Council Fires].  But that treaty has not been respected…[t]o this day, ownership of the Black Hills remains the subject of a legal dispute between the U.S. government and the Sioux.”

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II spoke on the behalf of his people to the United Nations in Geneva and mentioned this injustice.

“The oil companies and government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights,” he said. “ [The] Dakota Access wants to build an oil pipeline under the river that is the source of our nation’s drinking water. This pipeline threatens our communities, the river and the earth. Our nation is working to protect our waters and our sacred places for the benefit of our children not yet born.”

The concerns surrounding this project range from feasibility to issues of morality. Overall, protesters are in agreement of the injustices being done and some Swarthmore students shared many of the same sentiments, including Mountain Justice.

The campus climate justice group, whose main focus is to push the college to divest their endowment from fossil fuel companies, lent their numerous voices to the cause. In supporting the protest of the DAPL, the group uses it as an example as to why they believe Swarthmore, an institution with a huge emphasis on social responsibility and champions against collusion, should end their support both politically and financially.

Swarthmore students spanning across all class years participated in the march, all of them expressing interest in the subjects of environmental justice and human rights.

Shayla Smith ’20 assisted in tabling for the event and spoke on the necessity for transparency in the realm of environmental justice.

“We need to start seeing the bigger picture here. There should be no tolerance for environmental racism, no tolerance for supporting the big companies profiting off the suffering of others … water is a human right. This?” she said referencing the DAPL, “This isn’t right.”

The protest focused on stopping at TD Banks throughout the city, as the company is one of the major funders of the DAPL. Protesters shouted such phrases as ‘People over pipelines, people over profits’ and ‘Water is life’ during the protest. Pedestrians and drivers alike were all in spectacle of the movement, a few of them actually joining the protest after watching from the sidelines.

“Oil and water don’t mix,” one man explained, when asked why he spontaneously joined the march.

Mountain Justice was born with the divestment movement in 2011. In fact, the first iteration of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign was on Swarthmore’s campus, whence the movement spread nationwide. The group was most active in the fall of 2014, during which they held a 32 day sit-in protest in Parrish calling for the college board of directors to support divestment and boasted a 200 student participation. At the height of the movement, the organization garnered over 2,400 signatures from students and alumni on a petition supporting divestment.

Protests against the DAPL are still ongoing throughout the country. The Sioux are still pushing for a complete shutdown of construction. As for Mountain Justice and its next actions on campus, they will be having an event tomorrow, September 23rd, to discuss further plans of actions.

Swarthmore Student Patrick Houston Introduces President Obama

in Around Campus/News by

On Tuesday, September 13, Patrick Houston ‘17 introduced President Barack Obama at a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton in Center City Philadelphia. He began his speech with the clause, “I’m especially thrilled to be here because so much about my story says I should not be here today.”

Houston is a special major in political science and environmental policy at the college and a member of Swatties for Hillary, an officially recognized group under the Clinton Campaign. He spoke throughout his speech about the many obstacles he has overcome to make it to this point in his life, mentioning the loss of his parents and the struggles of being low-income alongside his eleven siblings. He also spoke of his experiences attending both the Community College of Philadelphia and Swarthmore College as hugely impactful on his life.

Vinita Davey ‘17, a close friend of Houston’s, attested to the amazing personal character and achievements that lead him to the podium and to shake hands with the President of the United States.

“Patrick has worked incredibly hard to not only be here at Swat, but to have been on that stage today. Behind the scenes, Patrick puts in more dedication and passion to everything he does than anyone I know,” she said.

“It’s amazing — I see him in Sharples on Monday, he’s bear-hugging the president on Tuesday,” said Nate Urban ’18, a board member of Swatties for Hillary.

When asked how he was feeling in the wake of the big day, Houston was filled with nothing but relief and gratitude.

Houston said that meeting President Obama on stage at the rally was particularly fulfilling for him.

“… I had just given my speech [when I met him onstage] but beyond that, I felt like i had that opportunity to pay some tribute to him. I was able to have that opportunity to do the least I could to pay tribute that all that he’s done for me, the role model he’s been for me, and beyond that the role model he’s been for various different people around the country and around the world,” Houston said.

Hating Swarthmore, and loving it

in Columns/Opinions by

I’m from Philadelphia. As a rule, Philadelphians hate Philadelphia. We hate that SEPTA buses always smell faintly of piss and hopelessness. We hate that our public schools are approaching Dickensian levels of dysfunction. We hate that our most iconic tourist attractions are a cracked bell that doesn’t ring right and a statue of a fictional boxer. We hate our politicians, our sports teams, Comcast, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the School Reform Commission, Wilson Goode, South Philadelphians who save their parking spots with traffic cones, public masturbators, the “With Love, Philadelphia” tourism campaign; really we hate pretty much the whole damned city.

Yet Philadelphians are proud, aggressively, even rudely so. God help the out-of-towner who corrects our pronunciation of “wudder ice” or points out that “water ice,” even correctly pronounced, is a stupid name. Philadelphia pride largely originates from common incredulity: we know that this city should not work, and yet it does. Every day in which the earth does not swallow it up is a sort of miracle. When we hear talk about how the city’s up-and-coming, how it has a future as a Manhattan-lite metropolis, we can’t help but feel like we’re somehow swindling the world. To misquote Sarah Palin, you can put lipstick on a cheese steak, but it’s still a cheese steak.

As is the case with most identities I claim, I’m not much of a Philadelphian. I say “wadder” instead of “wudder”; I went to high school on the Main Line; I grew up hating cheese steaks and the mummers. The gritty, no-nonsense, borderline self-loathing tough Philadelphian persona I’ve assumed in the last two paragraphs is largely an affectation. Yet, inauthentic as it may be, right now my understanding of the love-hate relationship between Philadelphian and Philadelphia is crucial to my thinking through of another contentious relationship: the one between Swattie and Swarthmore.

On the surface, Swarthmore and Philadelphia don’t seem to have much in common. The college would make a good stand-in for Arcadia: richly green, sun-loved, only lightly speckled with the traces of civilization; Philadelphia, on the other hand, is Philadelphia. But if we look beyond the obvious differences—Swarthmore’s endowed billions vs. Philadelphia’s perpetual budget crisis, our insufficient enthusiasm for Yuengling—we see that there’s a fundamental similarity: in the same way that all Philadelphians hate Philadelphia, we at Swarthmore all hate the college.

Swatties’ loathing of Swarthmore can take many forms. My own loathing focuses on a few points: our cultivation of stress as a point of pride, our constant controversy mongering, and the myopic self-righteousness of our political climate. These are far from the only discontents I feel towards the college, nor are my discontents universal. What is universal among Swarthmore students, or nearly so, is a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are done here. Since the end of the first semester of my freshman year, I don’t think I’ve gone a day on this campus without either hearing or expressing a complaint about some collegiate injustice, from the major (circa 2013: our shamefully insufficient response to campus sexual assault) to the incredibly petty (today: oh no, I didn’t show up in time to vote for commencement speaker, the senior class officers must have fixed the election, oh woe is me). Perhaps this has more to do with the student body than the college itself: we tend to be the type of people who think it’s their sacred duty to expose the unfairness of the world in new and interesting ways. But whatever its source, this displeasure is part of the core of our idea of what makes a Swathmore student.

It’s not that I don’t love the college. I am immensely grateful to have spent the last four years here. I love this place for kicking my ass, for challenging me to be a better student, a better thinker, a better person. I care deeply about the people I’ve met here, and genuinely believe that we constitute a worthwhile community—a community that at times threatens to destroy itself from the inside, but a community nonetheless. The changes that Swarthmore has wrought on my character are indelible and incalculable. But my love of Swarthmore isn’t separable from my dissatisfaction with it. The love doesn’t cancel out the dissatisfaction; it accentuates it. I can’t conceive of Swarthmore as a place of unbridled happiness. Indeed, I don’t know if I could believe in it if it wasn’t a deeply flawed place. Swarthmore teaches us to be critical; if we couldn’t turn that critical faculty back on our own home, could we really trust it?

My aim here isn’t to valorize this relationship. Love mixed with hate isn’t sexy. Most of the time, it’s abusive. But as I prepare to leave this place, this failed utopia, I can’t help but acknowledge that my feelings towards it are mired in contradiction, contradiction that I’ll never fully settle. What’s more Swattie than that?

Celebrating the cuisine of Philly women

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

As most of you know by now, my favorite thing to do is restaurant hop and exploring different cuisines, and today we are going to celebrate two women who are both business and life partners and have significantly contributed to Philadelphia’s restaurant scene: Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. 

These women are responsible for some of Philly’s most eclectic restaurants including spots like Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s and Lolita. Although slightly on the pricier side, all three of these restaurants will allow for a gastronomical experience that will showcase the intricate flavors mastered by Turney. Safran handles front-of-house, and Turney masterminds their menus. These two have helped transform their once isolated neighborhood into one that is vibrant and chic.



Barbuzzo is a Mediterranean kitchen and bar, and definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. The restaurant is relatively small, but has a great ambiance, and is not overcrowded. You can choose to sit on a table or at the kitchen bar where you can see the chef prepare your meal. I would highly recommend the pan seared gnocchi and the and the sheep’s milk ricotta, which I’ve ordered twice now and is one of my favorite dishes.The food is well paired, as the ricotta is served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crispy bread, which go well with the creamy and rich cheese. Barbuzzo is also known for its famous Budino dessert that is tasty but incredibly rich. I do not have an incredible sweet tooth, but for dessert-lovers, it is a fantastic option.

Little Nonna’s

To eat at Little Nonna’s, you must make a reservation ahead of time otherwise you may get a shared table, or get turned away entirely. They have a decent lunch tasting menu – 3 items (appetizer, entree, and dessert) for $20 – essentially a restaurant week special all year long. The restaurant is cozy and charming, with rustic ornaments and European teacups as decorations. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner or intimate meal with close friends. Like at Barbuzzo, sitting at the counter allows you to watch the chefs perform their magic. Everything looks delicious and it is tempting to order much more than you can actually eat. Again, the pan seared gnocchi is a huge hit, along with the stracciatella, meatballs and lasagna.


This restaurant is number one on my bucket list for places to eat in Philadelphia. Delicious dishes inspired by Mexican street food paired with reasonably priced drinks, though in a tight space seated very close to other people. The cucumber jalapeno margarita is a huge hit, and for dessert the Tres leches cake seems to be a good option. I have walked past Lolita a number of times, and forever seems full but with a great vibe. The location is prime and their menu seems ideal: varied yet not too large so that you are lost with what to order. It seems like the chefs dip, tostadas and tacos are quite popular dishes, but the whole menu is so appealing that I feel like whatever you are in the mood for should be a good option.


Living the alt music dream at olde club

in Campus Journal/Columns/Swassip Girl by
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I grew up in Miami, Florida. The music scene, if you can even call it that, is uninspired. Nothing in Miami exists that is analogous to the underground house show scenes of Philly or Brooklyn or Portland or some other hip American breeding ground. A dismal public transportation system demands dependence on personal vehicles (so lame!) and honestly, I can’t really conceive of an area in Miami dingy and indie-cool enough to support a hypothetical music culture. So, with no means of travelling to music venues that don’t exist, I was robbed during my upbringing of any opportunity to stand in dark rooms and nod my head along to skinny guys playing the guitar. So in my high school days, I reassured myself that college, for sure, would be rife with head-nodding opportunities.

Obviously, I’m in college now, but unfortunately, I’m far less interested than I was in high school in being someone who cares about local bands. The entire city of Philadelphia (the best punk rock scene in America, says Vice) is at my disposal, but last night I was too lazy to even plug in my phone to keep listening to Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” on repeat. I’d be really hard pressed to actually leave campus in search of DIY basement shows and PBR-sipping camaraderie. Luckily, however, my indifference to seeking out bands has been a matter of little importance — Olde Club brings live music to me anyway.

Swarthmore’s Olde Club, an all-purpose space located in what used to be a frat house, functions most regularly as an intimate music venue for Swattie and non-Swattie performers alike. The space is ideal: its narrow room, dark floors, and vague patina of dirt lend themselves easily to the facilitation of a cozy moodiness, perfect for toe-tapping, chitchatting, headbanging, swaying, or whatever else it is people do to music these days. The main room is sparse but for a stage usually covered in cables and monitor speakers and cute people holding instruments. The only wall adornment besides some drafty windows is a hyperactive flashing light grid thing that distracts me when I’m drunk. The staircase creaks, the bathroom sink sprays water everywhere, and the basement is boarded up, but Olde Club feels worn-in, not run-down. Nestled into the well-groomed bastion of academia that is Swarthmore College, Olde Club stands as a testament to the clumsy, the sweaty, the loud.

While upperclassmen love to tell me Olde Club “used to be so cool” before the 2014 alcohol and party policy changes, before the renovations and the sealing off of the fabled basement, I have no barometer besides my own enjoyment for what makes a music space cool to begin with. Prior to college, I’d never been to a venue smaller than The Fillmore Miami Beach — a big, bureaucratic, 3000-seat theater with plush chairs and chandeliers where I once saw Vampire Weekend in ninth grade and hated it because people kept squishing me in the pit. While I get the sense that people more deeply entrenched than myself in the classification of “cool” and “uncool” music venues might be less interested in playing a dinky stage for a meager-ish audience of kids destined for grad school, Olde Club is the closest I get to my high school-era hipster daydream.

Though the policy changes and interior renovations were certainly speed bumps last year, students have been working hard this fall to revive some of Olde Club’s lost energy. So far this year, Olde Club has already hosted two student band performances, an open mic, and most recently, a line-up of non-Swattie acts: Joy Again, Shakai Mondai, and Furnsss. A WSRN Hip Hop Showcase is set for this upcoming Friday and the rap duo EarthGang is slated to perform the Saturday after. In addition to stage performances, the space has been used for parties thrown by student organizations: RnM, SASS, SOLIS, and SQU just this semester. Unlike the beer-sticky darkness of the frats, and the cutesy dance party tone of Paces, Olde Club boasts a coolness and versatility that allows a variety student efforts to, both literally and figuratively, take center stage.

Honey Pickup, Modern Rhombus, Altair, and SIDENAIL make up the bulk of the college’s music scene and gave strong performances at both student band shows this fall. While any of our bands, by my assessment, could hold their own on some off-campus stage, part of Olde Club’s appeal, I think, is that the band members are so often familiar faces. My extended friend group crowds near the front to, duh, listen to some sick tunes, but also to dance in support of our other friends on stage. Olde Club gives me the space to simultaneously be both the alt music dream girl I never could be in Miami and a proud Swattie who gets psyched about watching her schoolmates kill it on stage.

The low-key cigarettes-and-standing-around vibe of an Olde Club show offers a very different scene from the frats or Pub Nite. Instead of bracing myself for a high energy night of Top-40 tunes and bearing witness to dance floor make outs, I can feel assured that enjoying Olde Club will require little of me. I can socialize outside by the WRC, mosh by the stage, or stand alone and stare at the performance. The mood changes with the genre of  music, with the ebb and flow of the audience, with the steady intake of beer. After chitchatting with friends about the bands’ sets, the night usually ends for me with a mild buzz and pizza delivery. While Olde Club’s edgy talent show feel only inches me slightly closer to the local music connoisseurship I dreamed about, I’m always looking forward to its next event.


Eating green and dancing quietly in Philadelphia

in Columns/Philly Beat by
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Philadelphia and creativity are inextricably bound. After moving to the U.S. from Dubai, my greatest appreciation for Philadelphia was its quirky character, distinguished by the immense creativity that seems to reign all over the city. For example, The Magic Gardens, where household items are put together to form a stunning, intricate outdoor art installation, perfectly illustrates Philly’s unique spirit. From vintage thrift stores to South Street to Fishtown, creativity in Philadelphia is so abundant that it makes it hard to narrow it down to just a few recommendations. I am going to explore three very different examples of thrilling experiences you can have in Philly, including a unique, eco-friendly and vegan restaurant known as HipCityVeg, a great night out as a silent disco where you are able to pick your own music or have a conversation at any time you choose, and last, an ‘Art After 5’ cabaret, dinner, and drinks hosted by Philadelphia’s very own Museum of Art.

Many of Philadelphia’s restaurants have creative conceptual foundations, and HipCityVeg is certainly one of them. Personally, I have never been a huge fan of veggies and greens, and I seldom go a meal without eating meat. Coming from a family of huge ‘foodies’, I had always assumed that vegan food would be bland and lack the vibrant flavors that I had grown to thoroughly enjoy. So, as you can imagine, when a friend dragged me along to HipCityVeg, I wasn’t too thrilled. But to my surprise, it has become one of my favorite places to eat, and has impressed me more consistently than many other restaurants I have tried. The menu includes dynamic flavors in a fast-food style setting, and the creation of the flavorful dishes challenged my misconceptions about vegan food. I definitely recommend the Buffalo Bella along with the sweet potato fries and the arugula taco salad. The Buffalo Bella is rich and flavorful with a giant portobello mushroom that is crisp yet soft on the inside, and is perfect paired with the sweet potato fries that are a HipCityVeg signature, which improve almost any dish. The arugula taco salad is an excellent combination of a light, healthy yet delicious and satisfying lunch. I personally love to ask the people who work at HipCityVeg what their recommendations are, and they never disappoint.

 Located in University City and Rittenhouse Square, HipCityVeg has a plant based and eco-friendly philosophy unlike any other. As their website notes, HipCityVeg is “about health and compassion for living things and the earth, but the food is about tasting good. It’s as simple as that.” They do their deliveries by bicycle, are 100% plant based, compost all packaging and kitchen scraps, and the interior of the restaurant is composed of energy efficient and recycled materials. I would recommend the Groothie specifically for a detox or for its health benefits, but realistically, I would eat here at any time of the year — on and off a diet.

After a great meal at HipCityVeg or really anywhere in Philly, a night out away from the typical Swat social scene can be much needed. The problem is that at any party or club, everyone at some point experiences two things: 1) you are not a fan of the current song playing, and 2) you would like to have a conversation with someone, but this proves to be close to impossible over the blaring music. Those two scenarios are a little too familiar to most of us, and at a Silent Disco both of these issues are overcome.  Besides this, the Silent Disco provides a club experience like no other, and it’s worth trying at least once.

The concept of the Silent Disco is simple, yet genius. When you walk into the Silent Disco they hand you a pair of wireless headphones, and have three different DJ’s playing at the same time. You simply press a button on your headphones that light up blue, green, or red — each featuring a different DJ. Walking into this silent disco is somewhat bizarre, as you walk into an almost silent room, and still witness people dancing the night away, with the singing entirely out-of-sync as each person chooses to sing along to their favorite channel. Meeting someone new and getting to know them in a loud environment is always hard, but here you just take off the headphones and engage. If the conversation dies out or becomes relatively awkward (don’t worry, I got you covered, Swatties), then simply put the headphones back on and zone out back into your happy place. Tickets for upcoming events can be found on silentphilly.com

In my last piece, I briefly wrote about the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their pay-as-you-go option. The museum happens to be even more versatile than you probably thought. Rather than solely engaging in the everyday self or guided tours, visitors to the Museum of Art on Friday evenings can attend an event called “Art After 5.” From five to around nine every Friday evening, the Great Stair Hall becomes a unique cabaret, featuring different artists, music, and themes every weekend. Enjoy the live entertainment and the light food options available as well as the bar. Admission to the “Art After 5” performances and even guided tours are free during this time after you pay the standard museum admission. Admire the art on the walls along with art performances by some of the most creative minds. Upcoming events include Diwali Party, Holiday Jazz, Hanukkah Party, and Feliz Navidad. Stop by any of these events for a guaranteed great time! Philly has so much creativity to offer, much more than I could possibly cover in this column, but HipCityVeg, the Silent Disco, and Art After 5 are definitely three of my favorite unique go-to spots.

Going beyond Google Maps and Yelp to explore Philly

in Campus Journal/Columns/Philly Beat by

It is unbelievable how quickly technology develops for our convenience, making travel faster, cheaper, and more enjoyable. Think about it —  when was the last time you went somewhere and had to carry a map? iPhone and Android apps such as Google Maps, Opentable, Yelp, Uber, Lyft, and Expedia have made our travels significantly more efficient, putting all this information at our fingertips.

Out of every travel-enhancing app I have ever used, Citymapper is definitely the most informative, helping users to navigate major cities as efficiently as possible. Type in a starting point and a final destination, and Citymapper will compile all the different routes using public transportation (usually between 7 and 8), a car or cab, biking and walking. The app will then give a relatively accurate approximation of the time, distance, and even how many calories you would burn through each form of transportation. In my own Citymapper experience, I have rarely found inaccurate data or an estimate more than a few minutes off the approximated value.

Two weeks ago on a pleasant day in Philly, the thought of biking around the city was incredibly appealing. Through my exact location, Citymapper was able to determine the closest station for bike rentals (Bike Share), the number of bikes available at the respective station, as well as the closest bike parking station to my destination. Once I had finished exploring the city on the bike, I put in Swarthmore as my destination, and Citymapper proceeded to tell me the weather there. It seems that Citymapper is a transport app unlike any other, functioning on all forms of transportation, taking all instances into account such as weather, traffic, and road blocks. Available in 29 cities throughout the USA as well as internationally, Citymapper allows you to maximize your time exploring cities by recommending the most efficient and enjoyable travel methods.

With Swarthmore’s small student body, finding people who actually grew up in Philadelphia can prove challenging, especially when in need of a good recommendation. If suggestions from others do not seem appealing or you are looking for something more specific, Yelp is the way to go. Whatever you need —  from a shoe-repair shop to the closest frozen yogurt joint, Yelp will give you an overall customer star rating for each locale, the exact distance in miles, hours of operation, and customer reviews. Although Yelp can be used for almost anything, its most prominent use seems to be for dining services. For all of you foodies out there, Yelp will give you lists and categories of absolutely any type of cuisine: from the top 10 Mexican restaurants to the best cheap dinner options in Philadelphia. I definitely recommend exploring the latter, they all have amazing reviews and the ones I have tried have far exceeded expectations.

Again for the foodies, Eater should be permanently bookmarked for the duration of your time in the Philadelphia area. With articles such as ‘Epic Philly Sandwiches to Eat Before You Die’, ‘Philly Cheap Eats 2015’ and ‘The 38 Essential Philadelphia Restaurants,’ Eater features reviews and recommendations by some of Philly’s best critics. Currently my favorite app, Eater has a mapping option that will pull up a series of pinpoints around your location, specific to what you are looking for, whether that’s just a sandwich or the best french fries in the city

Last week when heading out for fall break, I found myself around 30th Street Station significantly earlier than I needed to be. It was around brunch time, and using Eater’s map of ‘The 13 Hottest Brunches in Philly,’ I found a highly recommended place in the area called ‘Tria Fitler Square’. Eater’s synopsis included a recommendation of brioche french toast with candied hazelnut butter which ended up being a gastronomical experience beyond my expectations. The convenience of the maps as well as the quality of recommendations from true Philadelphia natives will give you an experience far above par, with incredible restaurants that otherwise may have escaped your knowledge. Make the most of your time anywhere in Philadelphia with Citymapper and simultaneously satisfy your culinary cravings using Eater Philly. Download both of these apps and venture out into the city for an incredible outing!

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