Geographically, I like to believe that Swarthmore is the best of both worlds — the serene beauty of the gorgeous arboretum and the proximity of several major cities. As we are all aware, Swarthmore’s population is home to a plethora of backgrounds, too. It is home to people who have grown up eating different foods, celebrating different cultures, and engaging in a multitude of activities that the “Swat bubble” is unable to fully provide. Many of us have grown up in large cities, and miss the sense of dynamism the city exudes, and sometimes we forget that in our own vicinity there are so many places to go and things to see — that surprisingly make us feel completely at home.
I am a Kenyan national, with South Asian roots, and spent my whole life growing up in Dubai. I chose to write this column because Swarthmore’s proximity really aided my transition to college. It surprised me that when I first got to campus as a freshman and asked a few others around me what they would recommend in the area, there were little to no responses. I took the initiative and spent a significant portion of my first year exploring the region, dragging friends along with me, whether it was to a South Asian restaurant that provided me with the closest thing I would get to a home cooked meal, or finding a Middle Eastern restaurant or lounge that culturally made me feel like I was back in Dubai for the night. Along the way, we found some incredible hole-in-the-wall restaurants, karaoke lounges, salsa bars and more. Whatever we wanted to do or try was right there, we just had to find it.
Aside from offering a sense of homelike comfort — wherever that may be — the cities around us have so much more to offer: the incredible cosmopolitanism, people, restaurants, scenic views, parks and much more. Venture out and meet other students from neighboring colleges and universities through a mutual interest, and create new experiences. Explore and cross something off your bucket list. I truly believe that new experiences instill a new sense of appreciation for life, the things we enjoy, and a never-ending curiosity for everything we have yet to see and do. Ultimately, these experiences will affect the way in which we view and understand things. I urge all Swarthmore students to escape the somewhat repetitive social scene once in awhile, try something new, and explore the area around us. We are incredibly fortunate to be in the northeast, and it is up to us to really make the most of where we are.
After exploring and ultimately falling in love with the region, I am now taking it upon myself to recommend a few places to go around the area. I will be writing about restaurants, concerts, activities, events, museums, parks, historic monuments, and even some networking events. Many of these will be some of my personal favorites, along with recommendations given to me by others.
It is tough transitioning to a new ‘home’, but the little things you can do by getting off campus can keep you connected to your home and culture, as well as expose you to new ones. Get together with friends and go out and enjoy a meal that one of you misses eating at home, or engage in an activity you have always wanted to try. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and travel around, whether it is a mere 15 minutes into Philadelphia or further. Even travel itself provides time to think and observe new things such as culture, food, and history, ultimately giving rise to an incredibly enriching experience.