Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty Years of Service to the Student

Food Beat

An Assistant Chef’s Experience in Philadelphia

(Katherine Rapin / Index)

During fall quarter 2013, I drove a stranger’s Mercedes Benz, shot a confetti gun while dressed up as an alien in a major production, and saw Beyoncé live for free. I also walked for six hours to find the perfect apartment, worked at an Iron Chef contestant’s Foundation, and set the groundwork for my post-grad plans.

I chose to study away in Philadelphia during my junior year. The magical adventures were only the icing on the hearty cake I made of practical independent city living and professional job experience. If you’re a freshman or sophomore looking for an opportunity to catalyze your growth as an engaged, critical, self-assured adult, check out the Philadelphia program—the due date for applications is coming up.

The Philadelphia Center provides an interdisciplinary program: Students reflect on their internship work and urban living experience in academic seminars. “It’s such an elegant design in terms of experiential learning,” said Professor Marin Heinritz, Philadelphia Center faculty liaison.

During my four-month internship in Philadelphia, I rode my bike to an elementary school in North Philly every Friday, donned a Vetri Foundation apron, and helped Chef Maria make lunch from-scratch for 100 kids. I sat with them each week and heard the impact of the Eatiquette program first-hand. The kids dared each other to try the “yellow stuff” (roasted zucchini) and exclaimed that it was “actually good!”

I was able to work with each of the six staff members on projects varying from grant writing to recipe development. I reflected on my internship placement through critical essays in my Power and Authority seminar, and I gained a deeper understanding of professional workplace dynamics and how to operate successfully within them.

Michelle Escobar ’16 and Mindze Mbala-Nkanja ’16 studied in Philly last fall. Escobar worked in rehabilitation for mentally challenged adults at the Community Mental Health and Retardation’s center (COMHAR), volunteered for an organization supporting breast cancer patients, and spent a lot of time exploring the city by foot. She felt she grew as a student and professional through the “real-world experience of having a job from nine to five,” she said. “I feel like I’m a well-rounded person after the Philly Program.”

Mbala-Nkanja worked in the Cardiac Research Department at UPenn. She was excited to be in an environment where she could “do the whole thing.” She gained professional experience in her field while being engaged in the social sciences through her city seminar. She felt empowered by the independence the program allowed her. “It was something I could say, ‘I did this on my own,’” she said. ““I feel I’m more settled in who I am and what I want to do.”

Enamored with the city and what it did for me, I’m planning to move back to Philadelphia in August. I applied for my first Philly job last week and I know the network of professional contacts and friends I established there will make for a smooth transition.

Check out tpc.edu for more information, and submit your applications to the CIP by 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 17.

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An Assistant Chef’s Experience in Philadelphia