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The City of Brotherly Love

March 29, 2018

Dear Admitted Students,

Congratulations, once again, on your admittance to Penn Law. It’s a special place, and I am sure you have heard plenty about all the amazing resources and opportunities that our school has to offer. That being said, I understand that not only does it matter where you will go to school for the next three years, but where you will live for the next three years. That’s right, I am talking about Philadelphia.

Before getting started, a little more background about me: I am a 2L at Penn Law, originally born and raised in rural Wisconsin. Since then, I have lived in Madison, Chicago, Connecticut, London, New York, and of course, Philadelphia. Not only that, but I will be living in Boston this summer for work. I felt before going into everything I love about Philadelphia, I should give you a sense of the sample size I am working with. Here are five reasons why I chose not only Penn Law but also Philadelphia, and why I couldn’t be happier with that decision:

Size

Philadelphia is the sixth largest city in the nation. Think about it – that’s huge! Only New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix are larger by population. This means that Philadelphia has everything you could ever want from a big city: a major airport, public transportation, plenty of options for dining and nightlife, shopping, sports, unique neighborhoods, and more. Both the biggest names in music and politics come to the city to either perform their latest album or speak on the most pressing issues facing society, respectively. The city’s size lends itself to boundless opportunities for pro bono legal work and ways to get involved with the community. All of this, and you get it at a fraction of the cost when compared with many other US cities, which brings me to my next point …

Cost of Living

Philadelphia is so much more affordable than other major cities in the United States.  I, of course, can only directly speak to the other cities I’ve lived. As a quick comparison, the rents in New York and London are much higher than those in Philadelphia. Because the higher rent prices apply to businesses too, this means that those costs are passed onto customers and make everything more expensive—including grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and even Chipotle! And while Philadelphia and Chicago have perhaps comparable housing costs, Chicago has the highest sales tax of any city in the country. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much to love about these other cities—I had a wonderful time living in all of them. But, when considering that this was a three-year period where I would be unemployed and paying to attend graduate school, cost of living definitely played into my decision. It almost functions like additional scholarship dollars, when you consider you would have to pay more out of pocket or take out additional loans to cover the living expenses that come along with more expensive cities. Win!

Quality of Life

Now, the question is: “Does a decreased cost of living translate into a decreased quality of life?” The answer is an emphatic no! In fact, I use the money I save from being in Philadelphia and put it toward doing more things that make me happy, whatever that may be. Additionally, Philadelphia has the nicest weather of any city I have ever lived. The city has all four seasons, but is predominantly temperate during the school year. The winter still brings some snow, although it melts much sooner than any of the more northern cities/regions, and after living in Wisconsin, I barely notice it. Not only is the weather quite nice here, but the people are very nice too. Coming from Wisconsin, it was important for me to live somewhere people were friendly and kind to one another. I grew up making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store or the person next to me on the bus, and moving to Philadelphia hasn’t stopped me. While there are plenty of differences between northern Wisconsin and Philly, the people in both places have made me feel welcome and, perhaps most importantly, safe.

Sports

As an avid sports fan, I felt it necessary to include a section devoted to the Philadelphia sports scene. While I may be a diehard Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, I will always respect a good game. On the pro side, I have attended match-ups for the Phillies (baseball), Sixers (basketball), Flyers (hockey), and the Philadelphia Union (soccer). And, even though I haven’t yet made it to a football game, I did attend the post-Super Bowl celebrations—for which, Bud Light literally provided free beer to the entire city (yes, everyone). Beyond pro sports, Philly also has a very robust collegiate sports scene. Both Penn and Villanova made the 2018 March Madness Tournament, and as of today, Villanova will be competing in the Final Four for a spot in the National Championship. Furthermore, these college teams attract competition from across the country—this means that your non-regional alma mater may play here from time to time. As an example, I went to Temple’s at-home opener against the Wisconsin Badgers last December, and even though we lost, there was something fun about cheering on my team in “enemy territory.”

Beyond Philly

While Philadelphia has so much to offer in terms of size, cost of living, quality of life, and beyond, perhaps the best thing about this city is it can take you anywhere. You can go everywhere from here. Currently, my classmates participate in externships in New York and Washington, taking advantage of Philadelphia’s central location between the two major cities. After graduation, my classmates and I are going to cities all over the country, from New York to Washington, San Francisco to Houston, Philadelphia to Chicago, and Los Angeles to Boston. Penn Law makes it easy to enjoy this wonderful city for three years and, while you are welcome to stay, Philadelphia can also be a stepping-stone to take you wherever your dreams may lead. I’ve already said it, but it’s worth repeating: you can go anywhere from here.

Hope to see you this fall. If you have any questions for me or simply want to chat about my experience at Penn Law or in Philadelphia, please do not hesitate to reach out at: stowers@pennlaw.upenn.edu.

Sincerely,
Samantha Stowers L’19

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