I’ve Lived on Both Coasts: Here’s Why I Moved Back to Pennsylvania
"It was time to prioritize my family, my long-term career growth and my future, while still having an incredible new city to explore."
Growing up in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, Eva Wasko attended a performing arts charter school in Bethlehem, which is nicknamed “Christmas City” because of its storybook holiday celebrations. Then, she majored in theater at nearby Kutztown University.
Cut to the next scene, and, post-graduation, Wasko moved to New York City to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in a “big city” and launching her career in public relations. She spent two and a half years in NYC, before moving to the West Coast, where she lived for the next three and a half years soaking up Los Angeles’ Vitamin D and continuing her career in consumer and entertainment public relations.
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While Wasko says she loved living and working on both coasts, she and her now-husband decided in 2016 they wanted to move back to Pennsylvania so that they could be closer to their families and launch into the next chapter of their careers. Even though Wasko grew up near Philly, she hadn’t spent much time in the city. She took a job as a public relations director at Allen & Gerritsen (A&G) in Center Center, which is in the heart of Philadelphia and is equally defined by modern skyscrapers and historic sites like the Liberty Bell.
"After spending most of my 20s in the two largest cities in the country, it was time to prioritize my family, my long-term career growth and my future, while still having an incredible new city to explore,” Wasko says. “I’m happy to report that Philly was absolutely the right place to transition to the next phase of my life and career."
Here, Wasko tells us what it’s like to rediscover her home state as a young professional.
Tell us about your experience at Kutztown University.
I absolutely loved my college years and was very busy in the theatre department, but I’m really glad I made it a priority to get involved in a lot of different activities beyond my major, too. I served as a tour guide, I was on my university’s Council of Trustees and anchored our student-run news organization. I met a lot of different people (including my husband!) and learned so much. Those are still four of the best years of my life. College is also where I started developing an interest and passion for public relations, and I had the best mentor and internship that set my career goals into motion.
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Tell me about your career. What does your company specialize in?
I now work at an integrated marketing and advertising agency, A&G, which has offices in Philadelphia and Boston. Coming from PR-focused agencies, I was really excited to have an opportunity to work under the same roof as strategists, copywriters and designers and to be a part of a truly integrated team. I also love that A&G isn’t a specialty shop — we work with brands spanning dozens of categories and have gotten to flex our creativity in so many different and unexpected ways. One day we’re flying aerial billboards above the Barclays Center for the NBA Draft, and the next day we’re working with an Emmy Award-winning foley artist talking about a health condition called tinnitus for the Today Show. Our team is scrappy, smart and wildly creative and I like to think that we specialize in helping brands create breakthrough moments in unexpected and memorable ways.
What’s something that you appreciate about being a young professional in Pennsylvania?
To be honest, Philadelphia is never where I expected to end up and it’s pretty surreal and cool to know my career has brought me back home. At first, Philly felt small, especially coming from cities like NYC and LA. But planting roots in this city has allowed me to focus on building a professional network and take more control over my career, where I want to go and how I want to grow. I also have the opportunity to work closely with companies based right here in Philly, which has allowed me to get valuable and consistent face-to-face time with clients that I didn’t have in my previous roles.
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Describe the perfect Saturday in Philadelphia (when we’re not in quarantine).
My perfect Saturday is a mix of productivity and relaxation. I like to start the weekend with a dance fitness class, catch up with a friend over brunch, take a long walk throughout the city, and depending on the weekend, going out with friends to dinner and a bar or catching a movie at a Philadelphia Film Society venue. My husband was also an actor and we’re obsessed with all things film.
"At first, Philly felt small, especially coming from cities like NYC and LA. But planting roots in this city has allowed me to focus on building a professional network and take more control over my career, where I want to go and how I want to grow."
What’s something that surprised you about Philly?
How much there is to do here and how much friends from all over the country are really excited to visit and explore when they get here. Also, I had an initial fear that my career would be stunted moving to a smaller market. I thought you had to be in a city like NYC or LA to have exciting opportunities and to grow in major ways, but in reality the past few years have been the most significant in my career growth.
What’s something you love about your neighborhood?
I knew even before I moved to Philly that I’d want to live in Rittenhouse Square. I love the park, walking Delancey Street, and I definitely love the plethora of restaurants nearby.
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Very important question for a young professional: best happy hour spot in Philly?
Mission Taqueria is one of my favorites and it’s conveniently located close to my office. The spicy margaritas and food are delicious, and it’s a really fun, colorful vibe. They also have the best tacos I’ve had since LA. They hosted a drag show on New Year’s, and it was awesome. But I also love all of the known favorites: wine at Tria and $4 pizzas at Giuseppe & Sons.
Best spot for a client meeting?
My last client meeting was at the JG Skyhigh lounge in the Four Seasons, which is new in Center City. It's located on the 60th floor and the views are stunning, and you can't help but feel special sitting there. And I hope my clients do, too!
Favorite outdoor space?
My building's roof deck because I can see the whole city, from the skyline to the Ben Franklin Bridge, and it reminds me how big the city is.
Favorite place to be inspired creatively?
Walking or biking along the Schuylkill River. I’m in touch with nature without leaving the city.
This article was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.