Exchange at Penn Adapting to Life@Penn Part II

February 5, 2024
By Waseem Faheem, Sawiris Penn Scholars Exchange Program

Waseemone of the Exchange at Penn Correspondents, shares his experience abroad during the Fall 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

Missed me, fellow alien? Well, time for the second part of your orientation! To invade Earth, you’ll have to collect as much intel as possible about their technological advancements, hence, the second phase will commence, preparing you for the Academic life at Penn! (Corny as ever, aren’t I?)

As the semester starts, you’ll find some similarities and/or differences to what your academic life was. The experience will change from one person to the other according to how indifferent their old academic life was compared to that of Penn, so I will go through the important things that one should keep in mind before the start of the semester.

First of all, you are kind of in a situation where you have to hit the ground running. While not particularly difficult, the classes at Penn have somewhat of a fast pace to them. Moreover, most depend on past classes, so you have to start at a faster pace than what you are used to, if you end up pretty fast, slow down, and if you end up slower than needed, well kiddo, you have to catch that train.


Moreover, most of the assignments have you work on your own to figure them out – which isn’t half bad, I find it better to work yourself off first to get into the gist of things and to feel more comfortable with exams and quizzes. But that may not be the case for all students, and some – including myself – had recitations for solving problem sets, which isn’t something that you’ll find for most classes, so prepare to get your hands dirty.

However, an upside is office hours, where you can go to either your professor or your TA and have a little chat on whatever is bugging you in your assignment or even if you are bugged out because of a lecture or something. As someone who didn’t make use of office hours, I can see now how useful they were when I was stuck on some stuff before the finals – yeah, I did good without them, but I would’ve done better if I made use of them. So, be a good alien and listen to your seniors, would you?

waseemAdditionally, remember to be always on alert for events and seminars that can be on something in your major or even if it’s something you’re remotely interested in. It wouldn’t turn out to be anything bad, the worst that can happen is to get bored, which rarely happens, and most of them turn out to be really cool and informative – psst sometimes they have free food too!

All in all, the academic experience at Penn is fun as it is educational, and to me, learning is having fun at the end of the day. So, have fun! Meet professors and TAs, talk to them, build connections, improve your knowledge, et cetera. 

And at the end of your orientation fellow alien, I’d wish you luck on your great endeavor at Penn, and conquering Earth, waiting to meet you soon enough at the New Student Welcome (wink wink), and Happy Hunting!

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The Exchange at Penn (EAP) program offers students from Penn's international exchange partners the opportunity to make Penn a part of their undergraduate education. Students take classes and have access to internationally renowned undergraduate-level teaching and research programs while living on a cosmopolitan university campus in the birthplace of the United States - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.