Exchange at Penn Highlights of Exchange

March 28, 2024
By Celia Ngoga, Queen Mary University of London

Celia, one of the Exchange at Penn Correspondents, shares her experience at Penn during the Spring 2024 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

8th August 2023, waiting for my flight to Philadelphia, overwhelmed by thoughts. Did I make the right decision moving away from my family and friends? Will I thrive in a new environment? These doubts did not deter me from starting a new journey. A few days later, amidst the jet lag, I was already exploring the city, and keen on discovering the hidden gems.

Penn Sports23rd August 2023, I have fully settled on campus and orientation week has begun. It was my first time living on campus, in London I always lived off-campus and would commute 35 minutes to my classes. Therefore, I often felt like I was missing out on certain experiences. My friends and I were also very thrilled to witness aspects we had only seen in movies. As silly as it sounds, seeing yellow school buses had us all cheering and filming.

29th August 2023, I have officially started my first day of class, I am excited and nervous. I am taking social psychology, law, Africana studies and criminology. Different from my political science focus. I had to get used to active participation, group work, quizzes, midterms. Seeing everything I learned and how lucky I am to study in such a prestigious institution, subjects that have always interested me.


Outside of classes, I started to practice reflection journalism and started to write about goals and identity. I made a promise to myself to keep an open mind, even if it means being uncomfortable and doing things I think I dislike. The aim is to try and get out of my comfort zone . I started going on hikes at Wissahickon, even though I was not the most nature person because of insects and the habit of busy cities. I gave another chance to foods I disliked such as (oysters, mushrooms, avocado). This was also a way to try the different food scenes of Philly. I also tried to blend in with sports culture even if my knowledge of sports is limited to Messi.

Celia30th September 2023, I modeled for the school magazine, even though I had no previous modeling experience. After a casting selection, a group of 4 students and I modeled together based on a fashion theme. It was an empowering yet challenging experience. I had previously only seen modeling through final projects. I did not think about all the work, time, setting, makeup, styling and planning behind the scene for a photoshoot. I enjoyed the process and shared my experience through an interview for a video production. This was just a tiny portion of all the opportunities that I was offered at Penn. Along with the networking and guest speakers I was honored to meet, the extra-curricular activities I was able to participate in (such as the Christmas Village or a day trip to Atlantic City with my club).


12th October 2023, fall break has begun and I embarked on my first group trip to Orlando, Florida. My inner child was pleased to visit the two biggest theme parks (Disney World and Universal Studios). At first, I was hesitant to go, because of the cost and the fear of rollercoasters. But I made the right decision on attending.

March 2nd 2024, I have gone on two solo trips (Boston and New York City). Although I moved to this country and London on my own, I am still in disbelief as younger me faced difficulties visiting places by myself.

It has now been 8 months at Penn, I am so glad I came here, I have grown and learned immensely.

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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.