Every Monday sophomore Elizabeth Monachello rides the Elkins Park shuttle from her night class to Main Campus. Occasionally she’ll meet someone new on the shuttle, strike up conversation and introduce herself – and that’s when she gets the strange look.
“There are some people who are like, ‘Wait, what are you again?'” she said.
So what is she? Monachello is a student at Messiah College, but for the fall semester, she’s also a Temple student.
While most students don’t know it, Main Campus is home to more than just Temple. Messiah College students have studied and lived on Temple’s campus through the school’s Urban Semester program since 1968.
Monachello is one of about 80 students at the Messiah-Philadelphia campus. She lives, learns and performs service in an urban environment that is starkly different from Messiah’s campus in Grantham, Pa. – a small, rural town about 10 miles outside of Harrisburg, Pa. Many students intern while in Philadelphia and take advantage of the university’s extensive courses to fulfill general education or major requirements.
Monachello chose to move from the rural hamlet to a bustling city to pursue her interests in urban service work.
“I used to do mission trips in Philly, and I just love the city of Philadelphia. I’d always wanted to know more and be on the inside scoop of things going on,” she said. “That’s been really awesome … doing all these things [that I can’t do at Messiah].”
Messiah is a small, private Christian college with affiliations rooted in the Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan Christian traditions. It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Temple.
Monachello, who said she didn’t know many people in the program before coming to Temple, felt an immediate difference between the Messiah and Temple campuses.
“The first few days here I felt so tiny,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone, but at Messiah, you pretty much know everyone. You’re always saying ‘hi’ to people and asking how people are doing.”
Since her first days at Temple, things have changed for Monachello – now she’s practically a full-time Temple student.
She participates with the Christian student organization Crosswalk, performs community service in the city with other Messiah students and runs in Fairmount Park to keep in shape for the spring track season.
Monachello enrolled at Messiah because she wanted a Christian environment after receiving a public education at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pa.
“I was lacking that Christian community. I was a Christian, but I was like an independent Christian,” she said. “I never really felt a yearning for that, I guess, but when I came to Messiah I saw the Christian experience that I want.”
Messiah students live in the seven brownstone row homes that line Broad Street next to the BP-Amoco gas station. Every Monday night students dine in the buildings’ cafeteria and worship together in their own chapel.
Students also are required to choose one of five faith-based courses in urban studies to take while at Temple. These classes are held in a classroom in one of the row houses and taught by Messiah professors living at Temple.
Inside the brownstones, the Messiah community lives strong. It is on campus that students begin to notice a change.
“I’m in class and I’m assuming that a professor is a Christian, and then he’ll do something or say something and I’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m not at Messiah anymore,'” Monachello said.
Some Messiah students choose to stay at Temple for more than one semester. According to program director Timothy Peterson, 30 current Temple-Messiah students will continue as students here next semester.
Monachello will return to Messiah this spring, but not without having learned more about her faith through her experience at Temple first.
“I think that when you go to college you’re confronted with many more views. I hear students talking like, ‘Oh, what’s your background?’ and it makes you think of your own background too,” she said. “[being at Temple] really forced me to branch out and forced me to get involved. I’ve met a lot of people.”
Sammy Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.