Exchange at Penn Finding a Home 9,576 Miles Away from Home

October 17, 2022
By Grace Low, Singapore Management University

Grace in one of the EAP Correspondents writing and sharing her experience at Penn during the Fall 2022 semester. You can also follow along with Grace and our other students on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

It has been exactly 61 days since I touched down in the States. Just years ago, I would be horrified to be sentenced to anything more than a five-hour plane ride, but here I was, disembarking from the world’s longest flight – a 19-hour journey (and nap) from Singapore to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

A couple of days later, I found myself savouring Beiler's Doughnuts in Philly, a charming city hidden away from the hustle and bustle of NYC. I fell more and more in love with her history, her people, and of course, Penn – the place I would call Home for the rest of the 2022.

Coming to Penn was like becoming a freshman once again – joining new student orientation, adjusting to life on campus, trying out dining plans, and so on. The biggest challenge that I faced (and probably also for most international students), would be finding a new community and feeling at home in a completely new country. Grace and club members Building close friendships abroad was much tougher than I had originally expected, but I’ve learnt to be patient with myself because relationships really do take time.

Joining clubs at Penn had also really helped with finding a community. From a plethora of different clubs, I had finally decided to join two of them – the Penn Figure Skating Club, and Wharton Asia Exchange. This allowed me to meet likeminded peers who love the same things that I do. Last but not least – classes! The classes that I am in are enthusiastic advocates of teamwork, and I’m grateful for the friendships formed by persevering through weekly cases and assignments together.

The farewell gift from Grace's closest friends back in Singapore

When I first moved into my room at Sansom St., I unwrapped a farewell gift from my closest friends back in Singapore. They called it a “Memory Kit”, which contained photographs, clothing pegs, fairy lights, and heartfelt messages that I could read when I missed home. I would admit that I did not assemble the product and hang the photos up on my wall, but every time I missed my loved ones back in Singapore, I would look at these photos and immediately feel their love again.

After spending 61 days 9,576 miles away from home, I have learnt how to carry my loved ones close to my heart and find a new community abroad too. Though my stay here is temporary, Penn and the wonderful people I have met thus far already holds a special place in my heart.

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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.