Congratulations on being awarded a Thouron Scholarship!

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Congratulations on being awarded a

Thouron Scholarship!
Based on the experiences and recommendations of previous Thouron Scholars*, this guide has been created to help you prepare for, survive, and enjoy life at the University of Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia.
For the history buff, Philadelphia conjures up images of the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence and Benjamin Franklin. For the film enthusiast, the images of Sylvester Stallone running up the steps of the Art Museum as Rocky and Tom Hanks in the eponymous film are inextricably linked. For the gastronomically inclined, the Philly Cheesesteak, a mass of thinly sliced beef, topped with fried onions and gooey melted cheese served in a soft warm white bread roll comes indigestibly to mind. Whatever your view of the second biggest city on America’s east coast, Philadelphia has much to offer. From its world-class restaurants, trendy club scene and cutting edge contemporary arts to its many outdoor opportunities, the city will satisfy even the most demanding of Thouron Scholars.
the university of pennsylvania

Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania was the first university in the United States of America. Innovatively established with an aim of providing practical skills for future generations to make a living, the University’s focus was initially business and public service. Today this Ivy League university boasts 10,000 graduate students and 10,000 undergraduates in 12 schools: the Annenberg School for Communication, Education, Design, Law, Arts & Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering & Applied Science, Medicine, Nursing, Social Work, Veterinary Medicine and Wharton Business School.

* Faye Allard, Vijay Chauhan, John Connor, Tim Cooke-Hurle, Tom Cowell, Ed Cumming, Daniel Simon, Natacha Simon; updated by Tom Watkins, Rossa O’Keeffe-O’Donovan and Ben Partridge.


  1. Before You Arrive – p 4

  2. Arriving in Philadelphia/Orientation – p 6

  3. Philadelphia Transportation – p 6

  4. Accommodation – p 10

  5. Your First Days at Penn – p 13

  6. Finances – p 14

  7. Academics – p 16

  8. Dining – p 17

  9. Shopping – p 20

  10. Services – p 23

  11. Sports – p 25

  12. Health – p 27

  13. Keeping in Touch – p 27

  14. Computing – p 29

  15. Life on Campus – p 31

  16. Night Life & Entertainment – p 33

  17. Tourism – p 37

  18. Contact Information – p 44

1| Before You Arrive
checklist – essentials

  • Make sure your passport is still valid

  • Obtain a Visa

    • You should get a mail from Penn Global – International Student and Scholar services (ISSS) at Penn soon after you gain admittance to the University. This should tell you what to do to obtain a visa. As visa requirements change frequently, we offer here only the most general advice.

    • Apply early! Leave at least 3 months from the moment you send your first letter to ISSS before you fly and even longer if you have visited the Middle East or any other ‘axis of evil’ countries.

    • Do not book flights before you have your visa unless they can easily be changed. Do not fly without your visa and all your other documents; if you arrive in the US without the required documentation you will spend up to a day at the airport and you may be sent straight home.

    • Help is at hand. The visa application process changes from year to year, therefore do not rely on the advice of old Thourons or friends to give you up-to-the minute information. Contact ISSS ( They are extremely knowledgeable and will almost always point you in the right direction. Another useful website is the US embassy in the UK website ( and follow the link for Visa Services in the bottom left of the screen).

    • Please note that if you have dual-nationality then the visa application process may be different. Contact the OIP or look at the US embassy website (

  • Buy plane tickets. British Airways and US Airways fly direct to Philadelphia from London. Newark is 80 minutes way by train (Amtrak or NJ Transit) and is often cheaper. If taking Amtrak from Newark it is advisable to book train tickets well in advance – it is very expensive on the day. You can buy NJ transit tickets to 30th St Station Philadelphia for only $26 on the day, though you have to change at Trenton.

  • Accommodation

    • If you decide to live on campus you should apply for housing as early as possible (around April).

    • If you choose to live off campus you can check out off campus housing at It is useful to have a list of places to look at before you get here.

  • Money

    • It takes a while to set up a working US bank account so make sure you bring plenty of money (at least $200 or possibly more in cash and a debit card to access more should you need it).

    • PNC bank can open an account for you when you pick up a Penn card (your university ID). Other options include TD, Citizens and Penn’s SFCU.

    • You should also be able to use major credit and debit cards in the US.

    • Prepaid travel cards might be useful for large sums (e.g. ICE’s Travelcard, see

  • Health Insurance

    • The Thouron Scholarship provides Penn health insurance, so unless you would rather have your own, or you arrive early, this is provided for.

    • Follow Penn instructions on how to sign up for this.

    • Dental is not included and is extra, there is a student plan at Penn which costs approximately $350 a year.

  • Vaccinations
    • To attend Penn you will be expected to be up to date with a staggering array of vaccinations.

    • You will receive a form to fill out; it is worth submitting this to your GP in good time to establish those you’ve had to-date.

    • To ensure that you fully comply, consider whether to receive remaining injections at home or in the US. Some are free in the UK. Insurance should cover those received in the US.

  • Set up your email account

    • Follow instructions from the school you are attending.

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