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Philadelphia: A Trip to Remember

Students Explore Culture of a New City

UMass Lowell Image by Liron Asher
UMass Lowell students traveled to Philadelphia for a cultural immersion trip with the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Photo by Liron Asher.

By Julia Gavin

When the Office of Multicultural Affairs leads a cultural immersion trip, the seats fill up fast and students make memories and friends to last a lifetime. The 2012 weekend trip to Philadelphia, following last year’s visit to Washington, D.C., let students explore history, culture and unexpected connections with their traveling companions.

Jimmy Ortiz, a psychology major from Lawrence, said seeing the Liberty Bell and other historical artifacts were highlights of his first trip to the city.

“The bell was smaller than I thought, but it was interesting to learn more about what it stood for,” says Ortiz.

Sophia DeAraujo, a first-year student from Framingham, said making the trip with international students from several countries made the experience even more worthwhile.

“For us, seeing the first American flag and other pieces of history was interesting, but they were really fascinated,“ says DeAraujo. “They asked us questions about everything, like why we did or said something a certain way. Getting to know students from other countries was the most important thing to me.”

After touring the Liberty Bell area, the students were able to explore the city on their own.

Giselle Colon, a criminal justice major from Boston, said the city’s fashion and slang intrigued her.

“Going north or south just one state can really make a difference in the culture you experience,” says Colon. “People dressed differently, almost more European, and the slang was different. Everyone was really nice and we got to talk to a lot of people living in the city.”

As is only right when visiting Philadelphia, most of the students tried a few cheese steaks, exploring the city’s food culture. DeAraujo said a non-traditional choice was her favorite: chicken with fried onions, ketchup and mayonnaise.

David Jones, director of the office, said that Philadelphia was a bit different than their trip to Washington, D.C. Jones isn’t as familiar with the city as he is with the nation’s capital, so he learned more with the students this time.

“This is a good time of year for a trip because it’s not too cold in the areas we pick,” says Jones. “It’s early enough in the year that students can connect and then have new friends for the rest of the year.”

Those new friendships are important to the students who made new connections with unexpected friends. Many overcame misconceptions and nerves to meet new people and said they’re thankful for the chance.

“I spoke to people I never thought I’d be friends with and now we are,” says DeAraujo. “I want to touch down in every major city in the country and this is another on the list. You don’t often get opportunities like this, so we have to take them.”

To see pictures from their trip, visit the photo gallery.