• Campus Basics
    • Campus Basics

Almost everything you need from the University can be found on the University of Pennsylvania webpage. Offices are listed alphabetically in the Penn A to Z section.

  • Penn Identification Card
  • All students and scholars must have a University identification card, called a PennCard, which permits access to University buildings and allows you to use other University services, such as the Shuttle Escort. You should carry your PennCard with you at all times.

    Some students may arrange for their PennCard before arrival through Campus Express. Students and scholars can also obtain their PennCard upon arrival on campus at the PennCard Center.

  • Applying for a Social Security Number
  • All international students and scholars who have secured legitimate employment are eligible to apply for a US Social Security Number (SSN). You will need this number to be employed (but not necessarily to begin working), to file your annual tax return, and often to apply for a credit card. The number assigned to you by the University (e.g., 949-00-9999) is not a Social Security Number; it is a Penn ID number used only for university-related business.

    For Social Security Number application instructions, please see SSN page. For additional information, visit the US Social Security Administration (SSA) web site.

  • Electronic Mail
  • Most Penn students, faculty, and staff have electronic mail (email) access. Email is the most commonly used communication system on campus. For this reason, it is very important for you to have an email account and check it regularly. Email accounts are arranged by the individual schools. To set up your account, please consult with your academic department or visit the Penn Computing web site.

    ISSS uses both email and its web site to inform you about various programs, immigration updates, and other timely information. Please read the email messages sent out by ISSS carefully and check the ISSS homepage at least once a month.

  • Banking
  • One of the first things you may want to do after arriving in Philadelphia is to open an account at a local bank. Investigate various banks before choosing which one you wish to use, as all banks have different charges and fees for services.  You should read the small print carefully before signing up with any bank.

    See United States Banking Services for more information about local banks and accounts.

  • Shopping
  • Prices in American stores and supermarkets are fixed and not negotiable. Bargaining for a lower price for your items is not an option unless you are at yard sales, some secondhand stores, or street markets at the end of the day when food sellers are anxious to sell their fresh produce. Find directions from your location to these stores by entering the address on Google Maps.

    Food Shopping: Area Supermarkets and Convenience Stores

    Fresh Grocer                                                 
    40th and Walnut St.

    Supreme Shop-n-Bag                                     
    4301 Walnut St.

    South Square Market
    2221 South St.

    3021 Gray's Ferry Ave.

    46th and Market St.

    42nd and Walnut Sts.

    Trader Joe's
    21st and Market Sts..

    Wawa Food Markets
    2000 Chestnut St.
    3604 Chestnut St.
    3417 Spruce St.
    3744 Spruce St.


    Food Shopping: Selected International Stores

    Asian American Market                               
    4421 Chestnut St.
    Tel: 215-386-1254

    Italian Market                                                      
    9th St. between
    Wharton and Christian Sts.

    Bayon Oriental and American Food
    4612 Walnut St.
    Predominately Korean

    International Store
    4203 Walnut St.
    Predominately Indian

    Between Market and Vine Sts.
    and 8th and 11th Sts.

    Makkah Market
    4249 Walnut St.
    Predominately Middle Eastern
    Tel: 215-382-0909

    Dong Dae Moon Oriental Supermarket
    4734-40 Spruce St.
    Predominately Korean and Japanese

    Midori Mart
    2104 Chestnut St.
    Predominately Japanese and Korean
    Tel: 215-569-3381

    El Nayarit
    610 S. Union St.
    Kennett Square, PA
    Tel: 610-444-3412
    Predominately Mexican

    P & P Grocery
    4307 Locust
    Predominately Thai
    Tel: 215-387-3509

    El Sombrero
    422 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41)
    Arondale, PA
    Tel: 610-268-3553

    Reading Terminal Market
    12th and Arch St.
    Fresh farm produce and prepared food

    Discount Stores

    424 Oregon Ave.
    The Gallery at Market East,
    10th and Market Sts.

    1 Mifflin St.

    1601 S. Columbus Blvd.

    2206 S. Columbus Blvd.

    Secondhand Stores

    Second Mile Center                                    
    414 S. 45th St.
    (between Walnut and Locust)
    Books, clothing, furniture,
    cookware, jewelry, shoes, and more

    Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles                             
    1220 Spruce St. (between 12th and 13th Sts.)
    Used furniture

    Shopping Centers

    Franklin Mills Mall (Discount Stores)         
    1455 Franklin Mills Circle
    Tel: 800-336-MALL
    Take SEPTA bus #20, #67, or #84

    The Plaza and the Court at King of Prussia  
    160 N. Gulph Rd. King of Prussia, PA
    Tel: 610-265-5727/ 610-337-1210
    Take SEPTA bus #124 or #125

    The Gallery at Market East
    9th and Market Sts.
    Take SEPTA Subway Market St. Line

    The Shops at Liberty Place
    16th and Chestnut Sts.

  • Housing
  • International students and scholars have several options with respect to long-term accommodations. Most undergraduate, and almost all first-year students, live in university residences. Some graduate students and scholars live on campus in graduate residence halls, while others rent apartments off campus. See the pre-arrival section on Housing.

  • Eating On Campus
  • Penn Dining offers several meal plans at five different locations. A wide variety of hot and cold foods, including vegetarian, are served and a nutrition specialist is available to discuss your particular dietary needs. A Kosher dining hall is also available.

    You do not have to sign up for a meal plan to eat well on campus. There are many excellent food trucks and restaurants around campus which offer nutritious meals from around the world at reasonable prices.

    For information on local restaurants, take-out and delivery services, see Campusfood.com.

  • Transportation
  • Penn Transit Services
    Penn Transit provides a comprehensive transportation system on and around campus within specific boundaries.

    The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) web site has information on public transportation including commuter rail trains, buses, subways, and LUCY (the Loop through University City).

    Taxi companies are listed in the Yellow Pages phone book. A trip from campus to Center City by taxi costs between $8 to $13 and you should tip the driver 15%. It is a good idea to take a taxi if you must travel late at night and your route does not fall within the boundaries of Penn Transit.

    Transportation to New York City, Washington, DC and Beyond
    One way to travel to New York City is by SEPTA and New Jersey Transit. Take SEPTA's Trentine Line regional rail train to Trenton. Change to New Jersey Transit to New York Penn Station. You can also explore other options like Bolt Bus and Chinatown buses.  Check travel time and cost in advance.

    See the Travel and pre-arrival transportation sections of the ISSS website for more information about domestic and international travel.

    Pennsylvania Driver's License/State ID Card
    If you plan to be in Philadelphia for more than a year, you may consider applying for a Pennsylvania Driver's License or State ID card. Both documents are good alternatives to carrying your passport for identification purposes and the Driver's License will also allow you to drive in the United States.

    The state of Pennsylvania honors a valid foreign driver's license with an International Driving Permit for a period of up to one year. When the foreign license or International Permit expires, you must apply to PennDOT for a Pennsylvania license in order to continue to drive. If you have moved from another state in the United States, even if you hold a valid driver's license from that state, you must get a Pennsylvania driver's license within 60 days after moving to Pennsylvania.

    All cars in Pennsylvania must be insured, and car insurance can be extremely expensive. Be sure to explore the options for car insurance before buying a car. Annual car insurance rates in the city are a minimum of $2,000 to $3,000. Car thefts and thefts from cars are common in the University City and Center City areas. If you own a car, it is advisable to use a steering wheel lock (also known as a "club") and never to leave valuables in a parked car.
    You must have a valid driver’s license in order to rent a car in the United States.

    Please see Obtaining a Pennsylvania Driver's License and ID Card for more information.