Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is ISO?

ISO is the International Student Orientation. It is a series of events that allow you to interact with your fellow international students and familiarize yourself with Penn’s campus.

2. When is ISO?

ISO will start on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 and lasts throughout New Student Orientation (NSO). All international students can and are encouraged to move in on Tuesday. In case you have extenuating circumstances, please reach out to the NSO office for details about moving in on Monday, August 21, 2017.

3. Is ISO (and NSO) mandatory?

Not all events are mandatory. Those that are mandatory will be clearly marked on the schedule you will receive when you arrive, but all events are encouraged. It is a good way to meet other students, get to know the school better, and have some fun. There are many events, and it is difficult to attend every single one of them, but keep in mind that you will only be an incoming freshman once, so make the most of it!

4. Which dorm should I choose to live in?

There are 12 campus houses for you to choose from. You should visit the housing services website and browse through your options before making a decision. You may find some residences more favorable. You can also talk to your peer and international mentors about their experiences if it will help you with your decision.

5. What are residential programs?

Residential programs are programs offered in different residences that students can apply to. These programs each have themes that students can choose based on their interests. It is not mandatory to be part of a residential program.

6. Do I need a meal plan?

It is mandatory for all incoming first year students to have a meal plan. There are some options to choose from and they can be found here.

7. What campus dining is available to me?

There are several dining options available on campus. The campus dining website offers some information about dining options and meal plans. Houston Hall, 1920 Commons, Hill College House, King’s Court College House, New College House and Hillel are the dining halls on campus. There are also cafes in various buildings around campus. As part of your meal plan, you will also receive Dining Dollars that can be used in several locations on campus for groceries or food.

8. I keep Kosher. What options are available to me?

Falk Dining Commons (often referred to as Hillel) offers wonderful kosher meals. Weekly Shabbat services are also held here. Meat is served on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, while dairy is served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes both options are served (dairy and meat) in which case the dining hall is split into two. For students who keep Halal, the dining hall in Kings Court English House offers halal meals on request.

9. What are pre-orientation programs?

These are orientation programs that students can apply for. They begin before orientation. They are a great way to get acquainted with your new school and meet some of your peers with similar interests.

10. When should I arrive on campus?

You should arrive on campus in time for New Student Orientation, but if you would like to familiarize yourself with the environment before orientation, early move-in is available. August 21st is the suggested move-in date for international students.

11. Is there an early move-in fee?

Early Move-In is offered to Sponsored Students, including Sponsored Freshmen, e.g. Athletes, Pre-Orientation Programs, School Peer Advisors, Move-In and NSO Leaders. Dates are determined by the sponsor. If you are not a sponsored student, early move-in fees apply. Please get in touch with housing services for more info as early move-in may not be guaranteed otherwise.

12. If I arrive early, where can I eat?

There are many restaurants on or close to the campus. You can explore your options. 40th street is a good place to start. There are a wide variety of restaurants to choose from.

Some restaurants within walking distance include:

Chinese food: Beijing: 3714 Spruce Street (directly beside the upper quad)

Indian food: New Delhi: 4004 Chestnut Street or Sitar: 60 South 38th Street

Greek food: Greek Lady: 224 South 40th Street

Thai food: Pattaya: 4006 Chestnut Street

Burgers: Bobby’s Burger Palace: 3925 Walnut Street

Mediterranean food: Hummus: 3925 Walnut Street

Mexican food: Chipotle: 3925 Walnut Street

Grubhub offers a large variety of delivery options.

13. Do my parents need to travel to campus with me?

No, your parents do not need to travel with you, but they are welcome to come with you, of course! There will be events catered towards parents occurring on the first day of NSO.

14. What should I bring with me to campus?

You will need linens for your bed, clothes, and other basic necessities. Keep in mind that you can travel lighter and buy almost all of these things when you get here, or order them online beforehand. During ISO, there is a trip to Target to help you purchase your necessities. You should bring anything you think you will need or things you will miss. You will be here for quite some time, so make sure you will be comfortable.

Toiletries: There are two CVS pharmacies on campus. One is on 34th and Walnut Street. The second one can be found at 39th and Walnut Street.

Furniture and linens: Ikea: 2206 South Christopher Columbus Boulevard

Department store: Target: 1 Mifflin St # 79, Philadelphia, K-Mart: 11th and Market.

15. I need to get a phone and bank account. Will I have time to do that and are these places easily accessible?

While orientation can be busy, there will be time for you to go and get your phones, accounts and all other necessities. There are banks, cells phone providers, convenient shops and grocery stores on or very close to campus. Banks and phone providers will also attend the Student Services Expo on Tuesday 8/22 and Wednesday 8/23.

16. I need a bank account. Are there banks close to campus?

There are several banks on campus. See the list with locations below:

TD Bank: 3735 Walnut Street

PNC: 3535 Market Street or 200 South 40th Street

Bank of America: 3925 Walnut Street

Citizen’s Bank: 134 South 34th Street

Wells Fargo: 3431 Chestnut Street

UPenn SFCU: 3401 Walnut Street

When going to get your bank account, you should bring your passport, Penn ID, I-20, and acceptance letter with you.

17. Where can I get a cell phone?

There are several cell phone providers on campus. See the list below:

Verizon wireless: 3631 Walnut St

AT&T: 3741 Walnut St

T-mobile: 3441 Chestnut St

Note that without a social security number, you may need to provide a deposit in order to get a phone plan. You can also choose a pre-paid plan.

18. Where can I get groceries?

There is a grocery store on Campus.

Fresh Grocer is located at 40th and Walnut Street.

Trader Joe’s is located at 2121 Market St.

19. What is a PennCard and where can I get one?

A PennCard is the student ID card. It is required for entry into some building on campus, particularly residences. It also gives you swipe access to most buildings after working hours. It is possible to make arrangements for your card before arriving on campus by visiting the Campus Express website. You may also get your card when you get to campus at the PennCard Center or Houston Hall, depending on the day you arrive on Campus. That information will be made available to you when you arrive.

20. Do I need health insurance?

Students are required to have health insurance. Information about insurance is available here. All full-time students are charged a Student Health Services fee. Student Health services is found at 3535 Market Street, suite 100. Outpatient care is offered there. In the case of an emergency, you should go to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania or call 911.

21. Do I need to get a visa? How do I go about getting one?

The International Students and Scholars Services Office (ISSS) will provide you with visa information. Visa policies differ from country to country, so it is important to get correct information. You may also ask your international mentor about the process. ISSS’s website has information about the application process.

22. How do I get to campus from the airport?

The campus is about 20 minutes away from the airport (PHL). There are shuttles and taxis available at the airport. Lady Liberty is a good shuttle option. Public transport via SEPTA from the airport to 30th street is also available. A taxi ride from PHL to University City costs a flat rate of $28.50 (not including tax and tip). On Wednesday 8/19 and Thursday 8/20, PHINS (students who lead orientation) will be at the airport to guide you; updates will soon be sent to you about this!

23. How do I get information about course selection?

All students are assigned peer mentors and advisors. It is important to email them with questions regarding academics. You will need to speak to your advisor before registering for courses. At that point in time, it is important to ask questions to make sure that you are well informed. Requirements differ from school to school and program to program, so having the right information is essential to having a great start to your college career.

24. What academic resources are available to me?

Weingarten Center offers academic support to students. Workshops are available through out the academic year. Students can also walk in or make appointments to get assistance. It is located at 3715 Woodland Walk in Stouffer Commons, directly beside upper quad. It is a very useful resource students should take advantage of.

25. When should I start looking for a work-study job?

You can start looking for a work-study job after you have arrived on campus and have attended one of the visa/immigration workshops. Job listings can be found on the Student Employment Services website. When you are ready and you have time to work, you can begin your job search. You can discuss this with you academic advisor and peer advisor.

Visit the Student Financial Services website to get more information about your student bills and financial aid. Information about eligibility to work can be found here.

You will all need a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to work. Detailed information on getting a SSN can be found here.