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Hurricane Sandy: Over “Phil” ing Philadelphia with Damage and Creating Reflection at Home

As I write this, I am not at a computer. I am not at the library. I am not at Kalamazoo College. And, I am not in Philadelphia, the place where I have been studying away for the last several months. Instead, I am sitting at a beach on the coast of Florida as I visit family for the weekend. My new home in Philadelphia is being put through vast amounts of destruction. New York City is out of Power, and the New Jersey shore is en route to mass annihilation of buildings of the wrath of Hurricane Sandy; Philadelphia is next. Though this is uncommon to the Midwest-born study away-er in Philadelphia, to me, a Florida native, this is far from the atypical. I’ve lost power for several days, and as a child, I have also been out of grade school for weeks. This time around, I am experiencing a different effect from the Hurricane. I am home in Florida, away from the storm and reflecting upon my experiences thus far from studying away in Philadelphia. I have acquired new knowledge in my major, discovered my true pathway in a career, and learned how to live in the “real city world.” All of these experiences on study away have truly shaped who I am today.

To begin, I have acquired new knowledge in my major. I am a Psychology major, and I have not yet truly had the chance to experience psychology in a job setting, until now. I was under the impression that psychology was only a clinical field with information only being able to be obtained in such settings. To my surprise, I was wrong. At my research internship, I sit in on psychological and psychiatric clinics, administer clinical battery to patients, and analyze data from research on psychiatric illness—all directly related to the field. I now know firsthand all of the disorders diagnosed in the DSM-IV. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) This breadth in information in the field of psychology has led to me discover a true love for research and discovery within the discipline.

Next, I have had the opportunity to discover my true career pathway. For a majority of my academic career thus far at K and also in high school, I was unsure of the occupation I desired for my future; I was interested in a wide range of subjects: sociology, political science, and psychology. Though, now, after taking a “leap of faith,” I have been fascinated by the subject of Psychology, and I hope to trail toward a career in the field. I would be interested in research and academia, two vocational subfields I never believed would strike me as fascinating.

Finally, I learned how to live a “real city world” lifestyle. I live in the center of the city in Philadelphia while I study away; I work ten miles from this home. This means I have to take the mass transportation subway system or as Philadelphia has deemed it “SEPTA” (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) to work. Contrary to popular belief, taking SEPTA every morning and evening to and from work, respectively, is not the typical experience; the subway has several homeless people that stay there daily, and additionally it is not reliable as the subway is rather mercurial in showing up on time. Also, I work nine o’clock in the morning to six or seven o’clock in the evening every day. Weekends are used for relaxation from the intense work week. This is abnormal to a student at Kalamazoo College, however, to a “real city” study away-er that I have become, it is instead the norm.

As I sit here on the beach, enjoying the waves and the sand Hurricane Sandy has positively brought to Florida, I can’t help but think about the chaos it is bringing to Philadelphia. It is interesting how I have juxtaposed my experience to Florida and how every experience can be viewed differently. I highly encourage those interested in studying away to come with an open mind to great experiences just like this has done to me; it has shaped me for the better. Although Hurricane Sandy is over “phil” ing Philadelphia with destruction and rain, it is over “phil” ing me, a student from Kalamazoo College, with great experience, enjoyment, and reflection.

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About Mara Richman ’15

Mara is from Florida and a psychology major. She is very involved in Psychology research and works in the admissions office as both a tour guide and student worker. She recently studied away in Philadelphia, through the program Kalamazoo College offers. Read her blog!