running and cycling Franklin Field, the stadium on 33rd and Spruce has a running track. It’s open at select hours, and you can do laps, or use the athletics facilities. There may be a lack of greenery in Philadelphia, but a great place for running or cycling is Fairmount Park. It’s the big green area along the Schuykill River (evident on any map of Philly) and on the weekends, the roads are closed to cars, making it pleasant for blading and picnicking too. It is also great to just run along the river on the Center City side from Walnut or Chestnut up past the Art Museum and the Boat Houses.
ice skating There’s a rink on Walnut at 32nd. Graduate student center often offers discounted prices.
watching sports There’s always SOMETHING to watch in Philly, be it the Philly baseball team, a college game, or a prestigious Flyers playoffs. First, some lingo:
Soccer: the UNION
Baseball: the PHILLIES
Football: the EAGLES
Basketball: the 76ers (the SIXERS)
Ice Hockey (known as “hockey” here): the FLYERS.
GAPSA/ISSS often offer discounted tickets – see their facebook pages for details, e.g $5 Phillies, $15 Flyers.
Some games are harder than others to get tickets for, but check out the local paper (Philly Inquirer or Metro) for details of games, which are often held in the Wachovia Center. It’s very easy to get to (take the subway Broad Street line South). More info at www.philly.com/mld/philly/sports.
There are games every weekend during term time for the various Penn sports teams. Read the Daily Pennsylvanian for info on what games are on, and when. A few big events include the Penn Relays (a long weekend of athletics in April with the best high school, college, and professional athletes competing in Franklin Field.) There are also a few important basketball games (which Penn is particularly good at) held at the Palestra. Info on Penn Athletic events is at www.pennathletics.ocsn.com
12| Health medical 1. Get your vaccinations done in the UK free to catch-up missing with SHS @ Penn, and make sure you bother with all the doctor’s signatures confirming you have the relevant vaccinations. Without this, you won’t be able to register for classes.
2. Get on line and sign up for Penn Health Insurance. It’s included in the Thouron scholarship, but you have to do it within a few weeks of the beginning of term. (www.upenn.edu/shs). If you don’t receive a health insurance card in the mail, print one off and carry it with you at all times.
3. If you get ill, go to Student Health. Call 215-746-3535 to make an appointment (both emergency and regular) or turn up and they may be able to see you. 36th and Market, 1st Floor 36th and Market, 1st Floor (in building with PNC and subway).
For Women’s Health, there are separate doctors: call the same number and you’ll be transferred to the relevant department.
If you need further health care or treatment, then it’s worth reading the entire blurb on the website (www.upenn.edu/shs). Alternatively go to Student Health to ask for help.
Student Health’s hours are: 8am to 7:30pm, Mon-Fri, and 11am to 4:30pm Sat/Sun.
Out of hours, call 215-746-3535 and ask for the provider on call.
dental Dental coverage isn’t provided by the Penn Health Care. If you need to see a dentist, you have to do it privately, or you can pay for the Penn Dental Cover. Ask around for recommendations, or at student health.
13| Keeping in Touch mobile phones (aka cell phones)
Cell phones are of course indispensable in the US. It’s easy to buy one online once you have a US bank account – probably the cheapest way of getting a better phone, although retailers offer them in discount packages too. UK phones operate on a different system and are non-transferable unless you’ve got a tri-band phone.
You have a choice of network providers: it doesn’t make much difference which one you choose, although coverage of some is better than others. Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T are popular in Philly and appear to have good coverage. As in the UK you choose a package of monthly minutes, but be aware that you get charged (or use up your minutes) for receiving as well as making calls!
Without a credit history contracts are hard to get and often require large deposits ($400 to $500), go with prepay or rolling contracts.
T-Mobile has recently got rid of all of its contracts, and you can opt for either a one month rolling pre-pay or post-pay plan, and are typically significantly less expensive than the other companies (though still more than the UK). The post-pay plan is slightly more hassle to get (you have to bring your visa for them to make a copy if you don’t have a SSN or credit history), but T-Mobile Simple Choice has the added advantage of free roaming to over 120 countries from $60 a month and comes highly recommended!
Try contacting current Thourons and see if you can club together on a family plan for cheaper rates.
Don’t forget whatsapp, skype, viber on your smartphone for keeping in touch with people back home.
landlines A landline is an alternative way of staying in touch with the UK, because you can receive calls for free, and make them for as little as 3 cents per minute. There are lots of companies that offer cheap international calls. You’ll have to set up the land line with Verizon (Call 800 660 2215 to get connected. Or connect through www.verizon.com – do it 21 days before coming to Philadelphia). Local area calls are free.
You can choose your international provider, but the best option is not to use Verizon for international calls but to find a good provider on the Internet. Typically you register (for free) then call a code, such as 141430, before dialing an international number. (With 1010987, you don’t even need to register.) Calls abroad are then much cheaper. However, watch out for a MINIMUM charge, or charging by increments of a minute or more. This can stitch you up, as short calls end up being very expensive. Some also charge a monthly fee for using their service. So read the small print!
phone cards Another option for calling abroad is phone cards. You can buy them at news stalls, in supermarkets, at CVS and online. You dial a free phone number into a public phone box, or your landline, and then type in a pin number (shown on the card) that gives you a certain amount of credit to call abroad. They are useful for calling from phone boxes. CVS has quite good deals, especially for UK mobiles, which are more expensive than land lines to call. Also good is the Penn Red Card. Calls to UK landlines are typically <2c/minute.
voice over internet protocol If you’ve not heard of VoIP you soon will. Companies are springing up offering internet telephony and it is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of calling abroad, if not free. All you need is your laptop and broadband. A headset with a mike helps ($15 from Staples).
www.vonage.com is one such service, with a monthly subscription fee.
www.skype.com is totally free to download. If other friends download Skype you can call each other for free. Otherwise, pay upfront for an on-line Euro phone card and you can call any land line, anywhere in the world, for 1.7 Euro cents/minutes. Mobiles are more expensive – again read the small print. Line quality is generally excellent, dependent more on your own bandwidth than anything else. Try it!
internet The entirety of Penn is on wireless so installing a wireless card, if you don’t have one, is a must. There are also plans to make Philadelphia an entirely wireless covered city. In the meantime, you might also want to think about broadband access at home. By no means essential but it soon seems to be.
Email is available everywhere on campus. You’ll need to set up your Penn ID and password, so you can access the computers - some departments such as Wharton are only for members of that department, but the libraries and lots of other places have computers available for a quick email check.
Mobile phones can be connected to “AirPennNet-Device”, but need to be set up by computer services which is at 224 Sansom Place West (3650 Chestnut).
newspapers There are free FTs in Wharton (Huntsman Hall-get there early) and the Daily Pennsylvanian, the local University newspaper is available free all over campus. In the GSC, you can read a range of newspapers for free. You’ll also find around town the City Paper, which is held in brightly colored metal boxes on street corners. There are two different papers released on different days that contain local info on what’s on, cinema and restaurant info, local festivals etc. Good for ideas of things to do in the city. UK newspapers are available from news stalls, Avril 50 (3400 block of Sansom), and the Penn Bookstore, as well as online.
14| Computing setting up, using email Penn provides you with an email account and has an extensive website (www.upenn.edu) with loads of information on campus life. PennPortal is the university’s personal information portal, where you can register for courses, pay your bills, order transcripts and so on. It is accessible through the ‘current students’ link on the main Penn site. Under the ‘Registration & Academic Info’ section on Penn Portal, select ‘computing’ to get options that will lead you to the computing help and requirements sections of your particular school.
Online shopping is highly sophisticated in the USA and is especially useful when you do not have a car. If you are brave, try eBay, but note that you can often get cheap goods from the web versions of high street stores. Free Ground Shipping is often included (5-15 days) but expect to pay a supplement for expedited shipping (depends on weight and speed, but factor in about $15 for a small package to be delivered within 2 days). Academic textbooks cost a fortune in the US – if there are no used books at the Penn Bookstore try half.com or consider buying books in the UK and having them shipped over. $120 US textbooks cost around £35 at home! Renting online is probably the better option. There are often free trials of Amazon Prime available for full time students.
yahoo groups Yahoogroups and other similar sites are a useful way of sharing information. The Law School, for example has a site that contains course-outlines where students can share course notes from previous years (www.pennlawoutlines.com). To stay in touch with the folks back home, use MSN messenger (easily downloadable via yahoo or hotmail). This allows you to live chat with other people online, to use webcam, and even to have voice conversations through the audio function.
using and buying a computer/laptop If you already have a UK laptop there is no need to change to a US one. Penn requires that all laptop users register their laptops with the university (though there is airpennnet guest which you can connect with your pennkey alone). When you arrive at your school, the IT Services unit will give you software to download that will provide your computer with the necessary programs to access the Penn Intranet. Note that a wireless card is highly desirable – most new laptops come with the wireless card installed, but it is relatively simple to install one. The school requires that you delete your existing virus software and replace it with their preferred version of Symantec Anti-Virus.
Deals on new laptops for Penn Students are available at an on-campus shop. Judge for yourself the deals at www.business-services.upenn.edu/computerstore. Note that some of the best deals are at the beginning of the fall semester. This is also a good place to buy all your computer toys, such as printers and scanners.
where to use university computers
Nearly every public space on campus is now wireless, allowing you to access the Internet without having to physically plug into any network. For more information, check out www.upenn.edu/computing/wireless. This webpage has map coverage of wireless availability on campus and information on how to configure your computer to access the wireless network.
Many people choose to add an Internet connection to their telephone or cable contract in their residence in Philadelphia. When it is fifteen degrees below zero in February, you’ll be glad that you don’t have to ‘pop’ down to your school to send off that essay!
15| Life on Campus 1. Your best resource for grad life is the Graduate Student Center, located at 3615 Locust Walk. It’s a great place for information, free coffee, newspapers, internet access, comfy sofas and meeting people. Look for the booklet Graduate and Professional Resource Guide 2003-2004. GSC hours are:
Sat, 12 noon-6pm
Sun, 12 noon-9pm
2. Each school of the University has diverse clubs and societies that you may wish to join. Click on ‘More Arts and Entertainment’ in the Penn Portal page for University information on: student performing arts; art exhibitions and events at the Annenberg Center, Arthur Ross Gallery, and the Institute of Contemporary Art; Kelly Writers House (where students can mingle with famous writers in residence); and many other links to cinemas, fine arts, music and life in Philly.
3. Locust Walk is a good source of activities and events. A saunter up it during the day often results in a flurry of flyers about various undergrad events.
4. Community Work: Be a tutor of kids in West Philly: dolphin.upenn.edu/~wptp
In addition, lots of different projects are undertaken by Civic House: www.upenn.edu/civichouse
5. Music: The Annenberg Center and Irvine Auditorium often have great events. Check out their websites, and the boards outside Annenberg at 37th/ Walnut www.pennpresents.org
Practice your languages! The GSC has weekly language chats in almost all the mainstream languages. Turn up to chat with learners and native speakers. See the GSC for times and days.
useful resources on campus African American Resource Center
Muslim Students Association
101 Williams Hall
Newman Center for Roman Catholic Students
3720 Chestnut St
3643 Locust Walk
16| Night Life and Entertainment Good news! Philadelphia is a great city for nightlife. It has a huge number of bars, restaurants, sporting events, music venues and everything else you can imagine to suit just about every budget and taste. A big plus point is that most of the city’s nightlife is spread over a relatively small area and is easily accessible by taxis (which are pretty cheap, especially when you are sharing a cab with friends) or public transport. Nightlife in Philly starts later than it does in Britain so be prepared to be setting out when you would normally consider coming home! Many people in Philly engage in what’s called ‘pre-gaming,’ which is not an exercise warm up, but instead involves getting a few early tasty beverages in, usually with friends at home before heading out. Often pre-gaming can be as fun as the night out itself. I would recommend getting your hands on a Philadelphia Weekly, at the grand cost of totally nothing, which will serve as your bible to events for your week ahead. In the meantime, here is a basic guide to what’s on offer (tried and tested by various Thourons). This guide is divided into six sections; bars, clubs, sporting events, live music, and miscellaneous other fun things.
bars Bars are probably the most popular form of nightlife in Philly, and there is a wide range of bars available in the city. You can roughly divide bars into three distinct categories; the sports bar, the see and be seen bars, and the chilled out bars.
Sports bars | The typical sports bar in Philly is loud, informal, and has many, many TVs. These types of bars generally constitute the bars found on and around campus, where they attract many undergrads and some locals. Generally, people dress down; jeans are a staple as is ‘lager,’ which translates as Yuengling, the local beer. Most sports bars serve pretty decent bar food, usually at an equally decent price with classics such as wings, nachos, cheese fries and mozzarella sticks by the truckload – not exactly the healthiest options, but certainly the tastiest. Sports bars generally have multiple TVs with all the evening’s main sports events on. Unless there is an Eagles game, generally people are not too distracted by the TVs, though witnessing an Eagles win in a sports bar is quite something. Sports bars also tend to house “Quizzo,” a weekly bar quiz with cash or booze prizes. This can be a great night out, and also a really good way to get to meet new people. Also, look for the ‘megatouch’ machines that sit on most bar tops. A quarter buys you one of a multitude of games. Philadelphia’s favorite is “erotic photo hunt,” which is spot the difference with a twist, namely that all the pictures are girls with big boobs in bikinis. Strangely addictive stuff. Some bars have pool tables; remember that Americans have slightly different rules than us Brits though. You can have a pretty good night out in a sports bar for relatively little money – look out for the drinks specials!
On campus: New Deck Tavern, Cavanaugh’s and Blarney Stone
Off campus: Roosevelt’s, Fergies, Fox & Hound
See-and-be-seen bars | Philadelphia has some very swanky and sophisticated bars where you are unlikely to see the staple sports bar ambience (i.e., undergrads, TVs, baggy jeans and T-shirts and cheap booze). Some of Philadelphia’s best nightlife can be found at the bars housed in some of the more chic restaurants. These bars offer the same vibe as the restaurant without the dent in your pocket from having a full meal. The hands-down king of the swanky bar-restaurant combo is Steven Starr, who owns a number of great establishments throughout Philadelphia, including Jones, Tangerine, El Vez, Morimoto and the campus’s own Pod. Starr’s bars don’t come cheap, but the cocktails are to die for; they are a good way to meet people outside grad school; and all Starr establishments seem to have an improbably high percentage of gorgeous people working in them. Be warned, however, some of these places are very busy at the weekend and the chances of sitting down are slim to none, but this is all worth it for the buzz. Another see- and-be-seen classic is Old City’s Cuba Libre which is great for killer mojitos and, if you are feeling brave (or have had one too many of those killer mojitos), salsa dancing. Bump is a very swanky gay bar, and serves great cocktails and well worth a visit be you gay or straight.
On campus: Pod, Marbar (watch out for the undergrads)
Off campus: Continental (Midtown and Old City), Buddakan, Loie, Rouge.
Chilled-out Bars | Somewhere in between the see-and-be-seen bars and the sports bars are what probably are most akin to the good old British pub. Don’t get your hopes up too high for an authentic British pub – it simply doesn’t exist in America, but Philadelphia certainly offers some good alternatives. These bars are laid back; no one is going to mind you taking your time with your beer; the music isn’t overbearing; and you don’t have to be Gucci clad to enter. Most Brits seem to end up at The Black Sheep at some point, which is a no-nonsense bar and a great place to eat, drink and chat, or all three if you so wish. Another personal favorite is Chaucer’s pub, which has large wooden tables and booths and friendly staff (watch out for the crazy barmaid who’ll inevitably forget one of your drinks and then spend five minutes explaining why she forgot it, only to forget it again – just go and see). Just round the corner is Ten Stone, which is another nice relaxed alternative with plenty of tables and space. On campus, La Terrasse is laid back, although the main bar area is narrow and long and tends to get busy. However, the recently opened café area is a great place to chill out with friends and not be hurried. La Terrasse also is home to the biggest bargain on campus; superb bar food for under $10 – well worth a visit for that alone. Sisters is a very chilled out lesbian bar; try Thursdays night for lots of karaoke fun and a magical 8 drinks for $8! If you want to go a little further a field, take the El (the above-ground “subway”) to Spring Garden Street and head to Northern Liberties, an up-and-coming area filled with great bars and restaurants full of cool, interesting people. Highlights in Northern Liberties include the Standard Tap, which contrary to its name, is anything but standard with a huge range of beers on tap and N3rd, which also has very decent food also try out Barcade and Frankford Hall.
On Campus: Distrito, Baby Blues BBQ, New Deck, City Tap
Off Campus: Black Sheep, Chaucer’s Pub, Standard Tap, Fado, Sugarmom’s, McGillin’s, The Bard and Monk’s, Bob and Barabara’s
Notable Others | If you are looking for meat markets, then the huge bar at the Plough and Stars in Old City is your place. On campus you may want to check out Smokey Joe's, which is mainly full of drunk, happy undergrads. One of the best-kept secrets in Philadelphia is the American Legion bar, which is a members-only after hours, super cheap dive. Not for the faint-hearted, and you have to know someone in the US armed forces, pay membership or be blonde to get in.
Philly plays host to quite a few nightclubs, which seem to be less popular than the bar scene, but still a good night out. There is some blurring of the lines, as in Britain, between those bars that have space to dance (such as Loie, Bar Noir, Cuba Libre, Marbar) and out-and-out nightclubs, but there are definitely a number of indisputable clubs. One of the most well known is 5 Spot, which mainly plays RnB and hip-hop and is often packed at the weekends. Cover charges are not that expensive, though just like Britain drinks are overpriced, so if you are smart, do as the Philadelphians do: pre-game. During the week 5 Spot often has cool DJs, which often prove to be just as much fun as the weekend events, since the cover charges are cheaper and the place isn’t as heaving. Envy resembles something like a cheesy European club, playing euro dance accompanied by cheesy dancing and even cheesier chat up lines… fun if you have pre-gamed very well. If the 80s are your bag, then check out Polyesthers, which is a likeably cheesy club with a great atmosphere – the people are all very friendly and the music is bona fide '80s kitsch. Along the Delaware River there are a number of clubs, Egypt being the most well known and popular. Check in Philadelphia Weekly to see what’s on in these bigger clubs.
For the gay club scene, check out Pure on Friday nights, or if you're looking for a club to remind you of clubbing in London, Manchester, Leeds, or Birmingham Shampoo (also on Friday nights). Also, try the lesbian monthly club night called Elevate at Key West (look out for the air hockey!) and Fabric (for trendy girls and guys) at Dragonfly.
sporting events Philadelphia has several professional sports teams: the 76ers (basketball), the Eagles (American football), the very originally named Phillies (baseball), and the Flyers (ice hockey). I would advise memorizing these so you don’t look “stuuu-pid” in front of the locals (see the end of this section for reasons why). Ticket prices vary but don’t tend to come too cheap. For a cheaper deal, check out the college teams, which quite often pull hefty crowds in. Nearly all the major sporting arenas/stadiums are accessible via public transport, and these events are really a spectacle to be seen and worth going to at least once. At big sporting and live music events you can also witness the truly American tradition of ‘tailgating,’ which takes place in the car parks of stadiums. People fill their cars with beer and BBQs and party sometimes up to three hours before an event (that old pre-gaming again). It’s worth arriving early and checking out the tailgating parties– you’ll witness some very cunning party tactics (remember it’s illegal to drink outside and you’d be surprised at the amount of gourmet food cooked on BBQs), as well as meet some very interesting (and drunk) people. If you are tailgating at a sporting event, make sure you state you are cheering for the right team, otherwise you might find yourself in a bit of trouble – Philadelphia fans are not known for their patience (they once famously pelted a referee with snowballs after a decision they didn’t like).
The great thing about Philly is that there is a wide range of music on offer year round. A good start for seeking out live music is, as always, a copy of the totally free, yet totally great Philadelphia Weekly. In here all the smaller and some of the larger venues advertise their events. (It also details restaurants, museums and other goings on and is invaluable in the search for fun). A good small venue is the Theatre of Living Arts (TLA), which plays house to many smaller, yet sometimes quite acclaimed, bands. Keep your eye open especially for British bands who are trying to break into the American market as you’ll get really cheap tickets at a really intimate venue. (I got great tickets for Supergrass and the Coral for a mere $15.) Another good independent and smaller venue is the Electric Factory, which is a bit of a pain to get to but is a fabulous building with great acoustics. Ticket prices vary but are not usually that expensive. Check out the Khyber bar if you want local, relatively unknown talent and cheap shows. This bar also has some good club nights too. Closer to campus try World Café Live.
Just over the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey, is the enormous half inside/half outside Tweeter Center arena. Here you can see big names, such as Britney Spears, Bon Jovi and the like. Prices tend to be steep, but it’s a great place to see a band on a summer evening (bring a blanket!). You can get to the Tweeter Center via public transport to. Arrive early to catch the tailgating action (see sport section for more details on this). You can sign up online for the free ticketmaster updates which let you know who is playing there in advance so you can get tickets in time (concerts often sell out very fast). For those into classical music, take a trip to the newly opened Kimmel Center; it’s a fabulous building and you can hear all types of music there from operas, to the Philadelphia Orchestra, to fun sing-along Christmas themed concerts. On campus, the Irvine Auditorium often also has great live music, and is especially good for world music. For the Jazz aficionados, Zanzibar Blue has got to be the swankiest venue of them all; combining good food, a great bar and a live blues/jazz band – just make sure you reserve tables as it is often packed out.
miscellaneous other fun nights out Of course the nightlife in Philadelphia does not stop here. There are many cinemas, the nearest on campus being Rave Cinemas, which shows mainly blockbusters and hails itself as a cinema deluxe, and charges deluxe prices too. Present your Penn card to most cinemas to get a weekday discount. If y
ou are looking for independent films, then head downtown to the Ritz theaters, where you can catch such sleeper hits as Garden State and other gems. Be prepared to book well in advance because the Ritz cinemas are small and are well loved by locals so they tend to sell out quickly.
There are also several comedy clubs in Philadelphia. One of my favorites is Dave and Busters, a giant arcade with the most pool tables you’ll ever see under one roof, as well as a huge restaurant, several bars and literally hundreds of video games (including Philly favorites like ski-ball and shooting hoop machines). I recommend having a go on the raft or horse riding machines – or better still, watching someone on these – it’s as funny as a night at a comedy club. You can easily spend a whole evening here, and it’s within walking distance of the El. Recently opened on campus is a bowling alley, a truly American night out, and there are a multitude of other lanes a short drive away. Philadelphia has many theaters where you can catch a play or a show – they are nearly all located on or around the “Avenue of the Arts” otherwise known as Broad Street, where the Philadelphia Opera and Kimmel Center, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, are also located. Students can get cheap concert tickets for $8 half an hour before the music starts. If you are a classical music buff, also worth checking out is the world-renowned Curtis Institute, with regular, and often free, concerts.
So now you have absolutely no excuse to have loads of great nights out in Philadelphia!
17| Tourism Philadelphia seems to have become quite suddenly and very recently “cool”. I am sure that the word of many of the locals is right when they say this has more than something to do with former Mayor Ed Rendell, now governor of Pennsylvania, who transformed the city from bankruptcy in the early '90s to an exciting and modern city. His promotion of the city as a marginally forgotten treasure sandwiched by New York and Washington hasn’t solved every problem the city has, but it has made Center City a supremely beautiful and livable urban center and enhanced the treasures around the rest of the city. Here is just a sample of some of the things for tourists to do in and around Philadelphia.
For a quick tour you can take the Phlash for just $2: www.visitphilly.com/tours/philadelphia/phlash/ which covers most of the main sties in a fairly short loop and allows hop-on, hop-off.
city neighborhoods Philadelphia is divided into a number of neighborhoods. Most of those worth going out of your way to visit are sited in or around Center City, the 2-square-mile town that William Penn planned in the 17th century. Here, especially in and around the Independence Historical Park, you can find all the revolutionary-era history you could ever wish for. It’s within this area that you can find the city’s two Premier League attractions: the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, a world heritage site. Once this area was the heart of U.S. government, when Philadelphia was the U.S. capital. Today it is the center of Philly tourism.
independence visitor center
This center at 6th and Market Street gives an excellent overview of the park itself as well as great information on Philadelphia, Bucks County, and Lancaster County. Inside, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau can help you with whatever your requests might be. Elsewhere a desk for park rangers can answer questions about and give you information on the Park’s special events. This is where you can pick up tickets for the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Todd House, and Bishop White House.