Around three months ago, I stepped foot on the Temple University's main campus for freshman orientation and really spent my first night alone, not just on campus, but in Philadelphia in general. I did have friends with me though (people who I'd spoken with online before going to orientation), which made the transition much more comfortable and fun.
And it definitely was both of those things.
My friends and I danced, lost at air hockey, inhaled cookies from the infamous Insomnia Cookie, and played game shows (and almost won something). It was an all-around great two-day experience; however, it wasn't without its problems.
One night we were walking back to the orientation dorm building, which meant crossing a fairly large street. When we were crossing, I noticed some guy was walking in the opposite direction.
Then he saw us, turned around, and started walking in our direction.
My friends and I instantly noticed this, so we started walking faster. The dorm was still pretty far away and it was pitch black. There were some people around, but not nearly enough to calm my nerves.
Now, we're pretty short (same as our legs), so he managed to catch up with us pretty quickly. Just as I suspected, he started asking our names, if we went to Temple, and where we were going. We ignored him and finally he backed off.
I'm not going to lie, even though we made it inside within the minute and no lewd comments were made (that I had heard at least), we were on edge when we got inside.
I felt incredibly uncomfortable because of the whole situation. He knew we didn't want to be bothered, and it was clear that we were uncomfortable, yet he tried to follow anyway and get information out of us.
I'm so relieved that I had my friends with me at the time because the situation could have been so much worse had I been alone and didn't have strength in numbers. The next time we went out late like that, we walked with a larger group.
It's no secret that street harassment happens not only in Philadelphia but everywhere. It can switch from uncomfortable to horrific in a matter of seconds, practically anywhere at anytime
It was fortunate enough for us that we were together at the time, but that same night, I saw many students walking alone, often through darkly lit and underpopulated areas. For some people, it was their first time ever in Philadelphia too.
When I noticed this, I did warn them of my encounter with that creep, and that they should try to walk with a group.
Even if you don't know them that well, walking through the city at night can feel a lot more comfortable if you tag along with some friends or another group.
Not only will you feel a lot safer, but you just might make some new friends along the way!