Sometimes your life can change in ways you least expect it. Mine changed nearly four years ago, while sitting with my uncle and brother in a guesthouse near the Galilee in northern Israel.
I had taken the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) earlier in the spring and while my performance was not exceptional, it was well above average. With strong grades from my undergraduate studies, I figured I had a good chance at acceptance at a prestigious law school. But an e-mail arrived from a law school in Philadelphia I had never heard of and I nearly deleted it without reading it before I noticed it was specifically addressed to me. I had not even begun the fall application process and already had received an unsolicited offer to study for nearly free at the Drexel University School of Law! Not quite the Ivy League campus I had my heart on, but the price tag was right. Furthermore, I could start next month—saving me a whole year of waiting.
Consequently (and not more than two weeks later) I began law school in Philadelphia, on a whim. It’s funny the things you remember—I remember flying to Baltimore with my father on United (so we could get an upgrade to first, then using e500 stickers, and enjoying a terrific steak salad with tomato soup), then taking Amtrak up to Philadelphia, arriving at 30th St Station on Amtrak and walking out into the sticky summer heat.
It was my third time in Philadelphia, but the first time I really took account of my surroundings. School soon began and I found myself wrapped up in the studious lifestyle of a 1L. But I hated it, I really hated it—it all seemed so time-consuming yet counterproductive.
This was before I began blogging and well before Award Expert, so I would occupy my time lifting weights, studying, and studying some more. I became disenchanted, concluded I was wasting my time, and began looking for other ventures.
For years I had my eye on a position at Star Alliance and had applied on several occasions before, never making it past the first interview. Now a law school student, I noticed an opening in the legal/sourcing division and applied at the end of my first year of law school.
This time, I received a call back quickly and an interview was set up. The interview went well and I was invited to Germany for a second interview, though we ended up conducting it over Skype. I got the job, and left Philadelphia in late 2010, thinking I would never return.
The year in Frankfurt went well—extremely well. I traveled to over 40 countries in 2011 for work and play and fell in love with many things in Germany. But as the year drew to a close and my contract was nearing completion, I had a choice to make: stay in Frankfurt doing the work that I loved, or return to Philadelphia and finish my law degree.
Without a law degree, my promotion potential within the company was limited—surely a degree was not necessary to make a perfectly good living in Germany working for a company that I loved, but I had this uneasy feeling that if I did not complete my degree, I would be limiting my potential. Sadly, most people judge you first based on your credentials and only later on your personality and actual abilities. I needed the credentials.
I finally decided that I would give up the job that I loved and return to Philadelphia…at least for a couple days per week. It was tough getting back into the academic frame of mind after a year off and I struggled to keep focus, especially because I was now busy blogging and providing award consultation.
Don’t take this as a knock on law school—I love education and being exposed to various areas of the law was consequential in my legal development and ability to think more critically. But my heart was out of it—I just wanted to finish and get on with things. I squeezed all my classes into two days per week so I could travel on Wednesdays and return on Sundays or Mondays. I took as many writing classes as I could. While most of my colleagues hate term papers, I much preferred them to the traditional, albeit easier, issue-spotting law school exam. Writing dozens of papers, from pinpointed briefs to complex research assignments, has helped me write, analyze, and edit better, which hopefully has been borne out in this blog.
I had my own apartment the first year—a clean and spacious apartment just a few blocks from campus—but opted for an “animal house” the last two years not because I like booze and drugs—I most certainty do not—but due to the location and price. Why pay for a fancy apartment when you are only in town for three days each week (tops)? My animal house was so close to school and Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station that it made my commute just a short walk down the street and the cost-savings paid for my weekend travel.
And now, as I leave Philadelphia for good, in a way it feels like I’ve never actually lived there. I know my way around, can point you to do the good (and bad) restaurants in town, have stayed in most of the city’s finer hotels, and set foot in many of the historical churches and buildings that played a substantial role in America’s early history. I rode the subway and took the bus, fought off homeless people and spent several afternoons sitting in Rittenhouse Square eating a sandwich from Di Bruno Brothers.
But can you really call home a place you live in 2-3 days per week? Los Angeles is my home, and Los Angeles is where I will return. Germany may be on the horizon at some future point, but for the summer at least, outside of the several trips I have planned , I will be staying in LA and taking the California Bar Exam.
I’ll have more on my future plans in a subsequent post, but the future looks bright and I as said goodbye to a few old United friends at Philadelphia International Airport yesterday afternoon, I could not help to think that Philadelphia was not that bad of an exile. But still an exile…
So long Philadelphia!