Monday, July 13, 2015

My First Fourth of July in the U.S.

By Mengying Bi
Student Ambassador, University of Pennsylvania

I was so excited to celebrate my first Independence Day in the U.S this year. On top of that, I was in Philadelphia: the birthplace of the nation. What follows is an hour-by-hour breakdown on my first Fourth of July in the U.S.A., complete with parades, parties and fireworks. Come along and see what a real American Independence Day is all about!

The Celebration of Freedom Ceremony
10-11 a.m. at the steps of Independence Hall

The Celebration of Freedom Ceremony kicked off a series of inspirational, free events for the day. Yes, you heard me right: all free. The whole city was an ongoing party, and everyone was invited. Stars and stripes were everywhere – on a girl’s hairclip, in a little boy’s hands, on an old lady’s umbrella. During the ceremony, Michael Nutter delivered his last July Fourth address as the mayor of Philadelphia. “Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter,” he said.

Independence Day Parade
11 a.m.-1 p.m. throughout historic Philadelphia

The Independence Day Parade featured thousands of participants from around the country. The parade was the epitome of the U.S. as a melting pot. People of all races showed they were proud to be American. Bands played patriotic favorites, and military groups and various performance teams all received genuine applause from the crowd. Diversity alone would not suffice to describe the U.S. Equality is what truly makes it great.

Party on the Parkway
1-7 p.m. on Benjamin Franklin Parkway

After the parade, I joined the massive daylong festival on the parkway. Aside from food, live entertainment, and exciting activities and games, there was laughter and chatting in a range of English accents. I participated in my first outdoor beer pong game with a group of students from Drexel University. And I let someone draw an American flag on my cheek.

Philly 4th of July Jam and Grand Finale Fireworks
7-11 p.m. on Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The Philly 4th of July Jam is said to be the "largest free concert in America” and one of the most anticipated events of the year. Immediately following the concert, incredible fireworks lit up the sky over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Friends and families were hugging each other. On the curb next to me, an old man started to perform the National Anthem on his saxophone. More and more people started singing along: “And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave; o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Isn’t that the same reason that we all worked so hard for the opportunity to study in the U.S.? To establish independence from our family. To enjoy the equality of education and the freedom of making one’s own choices. To be brave and to take the responsibility that follows.

When you are here, you know all your efforts are worth it. This may not be your destination for life, but it surely is an amazing place to cultivate commitment and start reaching your dreams.

Mengying Bi will earn a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2016. She focuses specifically on education, culture and society. Mengying is from China. 

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