Arriving at UPenn – by Fahima

I have started to settle in to UPenn and have been enjoying my experience so far. On arriving to Penn, I was in awe as to how beautiful the campus is. It is everything and more than I imagined it would be. Straight away, there was a huge buzz and excitement around the whole campus as new students (freshman’s) started moving in to. It had finally sunk into me that I am studying abroad in a country that I had never visited before.

Before I arrived, I had forgotten to bring an important document (DS-2019) which caused me a small problem and preventable stress. Also, as I had been living at home during my time at Queen Mary, I was unaware of the fact that I had to provide everything for myself, from a pillow to a kettle. This resulted in me running around looking for necessities. Its fair to say I slept like baby on my first day!


My second day is when I started to meet other exchange students and learn more about the university and campus. As I explored more of the campus, the more beautiful it became. The weather in Pennsylvania has been amazing (averaging 30 degrees Celsius) and being on the 16th floor, the view from my window has been great. I have met all 3 of my roommates, and they have all been great and very welcoming. I have found everyone here to be very kind and excited to meet other people (especially Brits).

img_0877Fresher’s week is referred to as new student orientation (NSO) and it is jam-packed with many events, from visits to Walmart to frat parties. There were many events to meet other exchange students from all around the world and make friends. It was a great experience full of fun and new experiences. I met many people who were lovely and friendly, and I am pleased to say I have already made some great friends!

One of the tasks I had been looking forward to for months was visiting Walmart! I had heard about and have had to research about it during my A-Levels, so when I went with my roommates, I was very excited. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed, Tesco is much better!


It has been two weeks since I came to Penn and my classes have started. I have already been given three homework sets (that count towards my final grade) and have midterms starting from next week (15th Sept). One of the main differences I have noticed regarding teaching methods is that at Penn, there is a much shorter adjustment period and many midterms and quizzes throughout the term. You are constantly tested to make sure you are on track, whereas in Queen Mary, you get a mid-term during half term and before Christmas. Class and lecture sizes are smaller, and there is a lot of student-teacher interaction. Many courses consider student participation as a component of grades, which is not as daunting as sounds. It has been challenging to change the way I work, but I’m hopeful this will help me with my revision method for when I go back to Queen Mary.

I have started to explore Philadelphia and have visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where Rocky was filmed) and the city centre. I am planning to explore Philadelphia more when I get the time and am hoping to go to New York for a weekend soon. Philadelphia has been a pleasant surprise and I am very excited to continue with my experience at Penn!



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