After living in Pennsylvania for eight years I have recently moved and officially became a resident of New Jersey. Yes, there are numerous jokes about New Jersey and its residents, but I do like it here. However, I did live in some pretty cool (and some not-so-cool) places in PA.
I lived in Harrisburg, PA for six years, 2004-2010. Many people jokingly describe Pennsylvania as being composed of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Pennsyltucky in between. Although, this may be true to an extent, there are many small towns in Central Pennsylvania (especially Dauphin & Cumberland counties) which are far from country. I loved living in Harrisburg. It is a small city full of gentrification and life. Over the six years I lived there I witnessed a rebirth of art galleries, small businesses, restaurants, and coffee shops. The riverfront park on the Susquehanna River offered a spot for many festivals, concerts, and art shows. I have lots of memories in this city. The city is overwhelmingly dog-friendly. There were times I’d stop at a cafe for a bite to eat or coffee and was subsequently offered a little bowl of water for my dog. This is where I started college. I began at Harrisburg Area Community College, taking only a few classes at a time while I worked full time. I transferred to Penn State Harrisburg but was only there for one semester before transferring to Millersville University where I eventually graduated with my Bachelors degree. I used to volunteer in the archaeology lab of the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg and the last few trips I’ve made to to city have been to visit the lab. Favorite hangouts: Zembies, Cafe Di Luna, Midtown Scholar, Midtown Cinema, and Breads n’ Spreads. I definitely miss this city.
I moved to Lancaster during the summer of 2010 in order to move closer to where I was going to school. I had been driving an hour each way from Harrisburg to Lancaster to take classes at Millersville University. Immediately after moving to this city I fell in love with it. Downtown Lancaster has even more small shops, restaurants, and cafes than Harrisburg does. Several universities are in the city making it quite the college town.
Surrounding Lancaster city is vast tracks of farmlands. Horse & buggies, rows of corn, silos, and farm houses with lines of laundry strung up are a common scenes when traveling through Lancaster County. The Amish are often just as mysterious to those ‘English’ who live within the county as they are to everyone else, which says a lot about the divisions between the mainstream and the small cultural Amish enclaves. Living in Lancaster County was certainly a unique experience.
I had the opportunity to show my parents around Lancaster City. It was the first time they came to visit me in Pennsylvania since I usually went to Florida to visit them. Obtaining my Bachelor’s degree is recent milestone in my life and thus going to school in Lancaster is an very strong and happy memory for me. Favorite hangouts: The Brickyard, Prince Street Cafe, George Street Cafe, and the Lancaster Public Library on Duke Street.
In the fall of 2011 due to continuous roommate issues I decided to move to Philadelphia. I had visited Philly many times and loved it. I convinced myself that the long drive to Lancaster was only short-term (just a few months) until I graduated. Philadelphia is amazing. I truly do love this city. Universities, museums, cultural centers, etc.
However, I did not move to the Philly that I love. I moved to West Philly. For those unfamiliar with the city, just know that it is divided into zones and each has a very different “feel” to it.
In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
And all shootin some b-ball outside of school
When a couple of guys
Who were up to no good
Startin making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said ‘You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air’ – Fresh Prince of Bel Air
West Philly is very dirty. There is trash all over the streets and no street cleaning offered. Filthy Philly at its finest. Due to the dirty atmosphere people generally stayed to themselves (although those neighbors I did meet were nice) and thus I did not find many local restaurants, shops, or cafes in my neighborhood. However, it was a short distance drive to the parts of town that I could relate with more. The public transportation within the city is better than any in Harrisburg or Lancaster, making it quite easy to get around. While, I do still love Philly, I will be very particular on where I live if I ever move back into the city. Most likely I never will and Philly will remain my day trip destination. I lived in Philly for about 8 months until I just could not stand it anymore. My apartment was falling apart and the landlord did not take complaints seriously, the backyard became an overgrown jungle full of stray cats that I couldn’t see (but only hear), and when one of my roommates was accused of stealing mail and refused to pay rent that is when I decided to move to Trenton.
Although I return often to Philly, it became too far away (and I became too busy with school) to continue the volunteer position that I kept for the several months I lived within the city at the National Constitution Center’s archaeology lab. This is what I miss most since I’ve moved out of state.
Although people have their jokes about New Jersey, it was certainly wonderful to me after living in West Philly. Although I actually moved here in July, 2012 I had been coming to the city almost every weekend for going on two years prior. Initially it was only my weekends spent in NJ but eventually I was spending more and more time at my boyfriend’s (current fiance’s) house. With being very unhappy with my apartment in Philly, exacerbated by the fact that I was paying rent on a place that I spent little time at because I did not want to be there, I made the move to Trenton last summer. It has been a great economic decision for me and has made me much happier being in a better environment. Arcadia University, which I attend for graduate school, is just north of Philly and is only about a 30 minute drive from Trenton.
New Jersey is a very small and densely populated state compared to Pennsylvania. I have been able to explore many of the regions of NJ. I think many people have an inaccurate image of North Jersey in their minds when they think about the state. ‘The Sopranos’, ‘Real House Wives of NJ’, and ‘Mob Wives’ TV shows have painted a picture of NJ as a mini New York City. Most of the state is not like this. The only place I’ve been that I would call “dirty Jersey” is north Jersey with its industrial plant pollution.
The “Garden State” is a lot greener than often shown in the media. I don’t recall ever seeing imagery of NJ’s farmlands, rivers, or state parks prior to coming here. The only aspect of nature portrayed is the shore, which again is polluted with TV shows like the ‘Jersey Shore’. In the past week I have exchanged my old Pennsylvania drivers license for one from New Jersey and have officially become a resident of the state. I really enjoy living in New Jersey and do not see myself leaving in the near future unless I get a good job offer elsewhere once I’ve added the M.A. after my name.