My Exchange Trip to University of Pennsylvania, USA
*SPECIAL THANKS TO FACULTIES*
I would like to express my genuine gratitude to Professor Andrew Junker, who shared with me memories about Philadelphia, his hometown, and invited me to visit his parents’ home and their neighborhood. The care and hospitality they lovingly offered made me feel at home in a foreign land. I also want to thank Professor Tony Tam, my mentor at our department, who encouraged me to set aside intuitive discomfort and “observe like a sociologist” when I emailed him about the confusing moments I had in a seminar course on race.
It is a pleasure to share about my four-month exchange journey at University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, USA) in the spring of 2022. At UPenn, I had an immersed experience of academic life in an “Ivy League” university. I was inspired, and honestly, a little “pushed” at first by the strong intellectual motivation of my teachers and classmates. They taught me a lot, not least to recognize and cherish everyone’s perspectives and never hesitate to ask for help. Over time I got more used to the interactive class culture and started to actively contribute.
I also made sure I stepped out of the classroom to see and feel the American society. I witnessed street protests and night gatherings, sat in Sunday worships of three different religious denominations, and volunteered in canvassing at a Vietnamese/Asian neighborhood. Protests were not all furious but sometimes quite celebrative; Church could be a carnival of color, music, and dance, or on the other extreme, silent except occasional, spontaneous verbal sharing. Fascinated by just how diverse the civil and spiritual life can be in this city, I tried to further understand and share the angers, joys, and vulnerabilities of the people behind.
A few class activities allowed for my deeper engagement with the local community. Guided tours to different immigrant neighborhoods in an urban studies course brought life to us the continuous history of exclusion and marginalization of new-comers and minorities that came with the diversity, while also connected us to people in the communities organized in their own ways to combat institutional barriers and reclaim their identity. In a service-learning course on education, we worked with students from a local high school every week on their college application, from learning college terminologies to figuring out their own passion and drafting a personal essay. Typical of an under-resourced, racially segregated urban public school, the problems were real, and tangible. The students, on the other hand, educated us a lot with their shining characters, diverse life goals, and the sensitivity to social plight.
Of course there were other memorable things about Penn and Philly—daring squirrels sniffing around, formidable fraternity parties, skiing by the Delaware River, drift stores that always surprise you, Wissahickon hikes, a spring snap in a gardenish cemetery, etc. I wish I could stay longer to make friends and explore more about the place!
Xinting Li, Undergraduate (2019/20 entry)
Pictures I took
Me with one of the Franklins at Penn
Class photo at the high school we visited weekly
Class trip to Upper Darby, home to a mixture of immigrant communities
Protestors against the Israeli occupation of Palestine days after Shereen Abu Aqleh was shot
A screening event organized by Penn neighbors fighting against Penn’s new development project that would displace members of the disadvantaged community in West Philadelphia
Worshippers singing and dancing at a Pentecostal Church in a Ghanaian neighborhood
The meeting house of the Quakers’ Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting just after a Sunday assembly
Fountains in front of the city hall
Sunset at Penn’s Landing
Penn squirrel enjoying MY chocolate brownie