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Prospective Students

We would like to extend a very warm welcome to all the new students joining the Penn community this Fall 2018. We have been in your shoes and understand that even little things can be a cause of worry when you are to leave home and walk into foreign land, full of dreams and aspirations. This is a small effort on our part, to give you as much information as we can to help you have a smooth transition into life here at Penn.

There are many things to consider. It is important to prioritize and act accordingly. We would like to share our experience in helping you do so. Let us know, if you still have any doubts.


Checklist

  1. Accept your offer of admission
    Follow the directions in your decision letter for how to officially accept your offer.
  2. Set up your Penn Key
    Your PennKey gives you access to a Penn email account and many other essential online services. You will receive a Penn Key Set-Up Code in the mail or e-mail. Register your PennKey as soon as you receive the set-up code. This step is critical because your PennKey will allow you to complete most of the remaining tasks on this checklist.
  3. Find a place to live
    Housing around Penn (and in Philadelphia, in general) is at a premium, so get started early. If you will arrive on or before June 1, begin your housing search no later than March. If you will arrive July 1-September 1, begin your housing search at least 90 days before your move-in date (the earlier, the better). Check out on-campus housing at Sansom Place (application period begins April 1) or Penn's Off-Campus Services to help you find off-campus housing.
  4. Apply for Financial Aid
    Student Financial Services can assist with your financial aid; there are different deadlines depending on the school to which you have been accepted. Most deadlines fall between March 1 and May 1.
  5. Set up your e-mail address
    Log onto Campus Express with your PennKey to set up your e-mail address. Campus Express also provides information on transportation and parking, dining, and PennCard (Penn ID cards).
  6. Set up Penn.Pay for student bills
    Your first bill will arrive in July, so be sure to set up Penn.Pay by the end of June. Go to Penn InTouch and select "Student Billing Account," then "Paying Your Bill/Penn.Pay."
  7. International Students
    Be sure you complete all the necessary tasks before you arrive; see the International Students & Scholars Pre-arrival Checklist. Also, don't forget to check in with the International Students & Scholar Services (ISSS) at 3701 Chestnut Street, Suite 1W, as soon as you arrive at Penn. In the spring, you can also participate in Online Information Sessions for Incoming International Students.
  8. Complete immunization requirements
    Complete the necessary immunization requirements by June 1 if you are attending summer session classes, or by July 1 if you are attending fall semester classes.
  9. Enroll in or waive Student Health Insurance
    You must sign up for Student Health Insurance, or show proof of acceptable alternate insurance, by the deadline of August 31. If you miss this deadline, you will automatically be enrolled (and billed for) student health insurance.
  10. Get your Penn ID Card
    A PennCard gives you access to University buildings and services. You can have your card pre-made before arriving on campus through Campus Express. Or visit the PennCard Center at 3451 Walnut Street, 150 Franklin Building or the Penn Bookstore at 3601 Walnut Street, after you arrive on campus.
  11. Check-in with your department
    When you arrive on campus make sure you stop by your academic department office and introduce yourself.
  12. Sign up for Direct Deposit
    Direct Deposit is the safest and easiest way to get any Student Account Refunds and Payroll you may receive. Go to Penn InTouch and select "Student Billing Account," then "Enroll in Direct Deposit." You will need a U.S. bank account; see a list of banks close to campus.
  13. Register for courses
    In most academic programs, students should consult with an advisor before registering for courses. Once you set up your PennKey and talk to your advisor, visit Penn InTouch to register for classes.
  14. Update your personal information
    Update your address information, emergency contacts, and profile on Penn InTouch . Carefully review your billing, local, and permanent addresses so that communication from your school will be sent to the correct address. Periodically review your profile to make sure everything is correct.
  15. Attend New Graduate & Professional Student Orientation
    Your school will provide an academic orientation, and the Graduate Student Center offers activities to get you oriented to the University and Philadelphia. Be sure to attend both!

Source: Graduate Student Center


Health Insurance

The details of Upenn's Insurance Compliance and important deadlines can be found at the Student Health Services website.

You have two options:

  • UPenn's Student health insurance plan - PSIP
  • Alternate Health Insurance from India or US

The plan that works the best is PSIP - though very expensive, in the rare case that you will need to avail healthcare in US, there will be no hassles whatsoever. If you plan to actively take part in sports or any similar physical activity, we sincerely suggest you to opt for PSIP, as the consulting expenses can be way more than the PSIP premium.

In case you look for alternate health insurance from India, you would want to look for Overseas Student Travel Insurance plans. The policies commonly bought by current students and accepted by Penn:


Loans

Almost every Indian bank offers student loan for higher education in the US. Every bank has different requirement for collateral and offers different interest rates.

Another option is to look for loans in US. Awarded loans for Aided Students are only made by Penn as part of a student's financial aid package. These loans are repayable by the student after completion of his/her education or withdrawal from school. The loans are subsidized, meaning that no interest accrues, or needs to be repaid during your in-school or grace periods. Examples of these loans include Perkins, Health Professions, and Nursing Student Loans.

In case of international students, you can get loans if you have a sponsor or a nominee who can show his credit history for you to get a loan. Also based on his credit history the interest rates may vary.

Also if you are admitted in LPS , then don't forget to look at its checklist for loans.


Immunizations

PAY ATTENTION TO IMMUNISATIONS NOW TO ENSURE YOU COMPLETE MOST OF THE REQUIRED DOSAGE BEFORE LEAVING INDIA, which just makes things easier and less expensive.

The details of Upenn's Immunisation Compliance can be found at the Student Health Services website. If you do not comply with the requirements, you will be put on hold for registration to classes (which is a problem!).

  • For MMR, Hepatitis B, Chicken Pox etc. if you have already taken the required vaccination, you will need to submit a copy of the original records or a blood test reporting you are immunized against these specific conditions.
  • In case you are not sure whether you have completed the dosage, the best course of action would be to just take the vaccinations now.
  • Do take a letter or some form of record signed by a registered doctor, that you have been immunized as per the University requirements.
  • Hepatitis B vaccination dosage takes a total of 5 months to complete if you are beginning now. The first and second doses are a month apart, while the third needs to be taken 4 months from the second. If you cannot complete the third dose in India, it is fine. You can get it done here later during the fall semester; you just need to specify when it is due in the doctor's letter.
  • TB test
    1. If you choose to do these tests in India, make sure it is a QUANTITATIVE BLOOD TEST, as Upenn does not skin tests taken anywhere other than Penn SHS.
    2. Most people in India will be detected with the TB pathogen at low levels. As long as your report clearly states that any detected levels are not within the reference range, you are good. STRONGLY SUGGEST you request the diagnostic centre to include the exact detected value to avoid confusion.
    Known Diagnostic centers that perform the Quantiferon test:
    1. Metropolis
    2. SRL Diagnostics
    The best way would be to contact a good hospital in your locality, which can collect your blood samples and send it over to a recognized diagnostic centre.

    Below is an example of the TB Quantiferon Gold test result. In this case, the Diagnostic centre was requested to include the quantitative results in the report.
    TB test
    Another example is as follows. If the report is as below, you might require a chest X-ray and a doctor's letter to support it.
    TB test
    The best thing to do would be to request the diagnostic centre to include the quantitative results in the report. If there is a need to do the X-ray, best get it done in India as there will issues with Insurance here unless you opt for Penn's Insurance plan-PSIP.


Visa

The best place to get details about the application procedure, documents needed is the US consulate website: US Consulate website in India

WE URGE YOU TO FOLLOW UP THE PROCEDURE AND EXACT REQUIREMENTS DIRECTLY THROUGH THE CONSULATE WEBSITE.

Do not worry too much, you have got an admit to UPenn, you will get your visa as well.


Roommate Search

Yes, searching for roommates is tricky and more important than finding a place to live! Finalising roommates makes it much easier to look for a apartment later. We recommend you finalise your roommates while you are back home. You do not want to fall into a situation where you have an apartment but end up without anyone to share the place and rent!

Having said this, do not panic! This is only to make you realise this is one of the things you would want to begin to consider as soon as possible. Find like-minded people, they will be your family when you are here!

And regarding housing search, you could start looking online in May. We do not recommend using sites like Craigslist as it is filled with online scamsters. Sites like Sulekha can be a good starting point.

The best way to look for houses is to come here and do some on-site work! We suggest at least one of your potential roommates reach Philly early, at least about 3-4 weeks before the start of the term, to make your job easier.


Travel

If you are looking for apartments online, look out for the start date of your lease before making travel plans. Make sure your apartment lease starts within one week of your arrival. Sub-letting or staying in hotels can be expensive and moving around with your luggage will be difficult.

If you don't have an apartment and would prefer looking at the apartment before leasing it, we would suggest one of your potential roommates to come comfortably in advance before the start of classes to search for an apartment.

The earlier you book, the more economical are the air tickets. We suggest you to travel in groups. This kills two birds in one shot-

  • you will have company and not get bored in flight ;-)
  • you could get discounts for bigger groups

You would want to pay close attention to the luggage allowances in different airlines along with the prices, when booking. Please have a detailed look on the airlines website regarding travel luggage allowances before booking your tickets. Further, it is sometimes noted that online booking websites like MakeMyTrip, Kayak, Priceline, StudentUniverse, etc. offer better rates than directly booking from the airline website. Lastly, since this is a hot season for students travelling to US sometimes major airline carriers have a special student offer or student discount during this season. They normally are not visible on their websites but a simple Google search can give you the link.


On-Campus Jobs

Most of us got on-campus jobs after coming here at Penn. There is a diverse variety of part-time jobs at Penn. Programming jobs for CIS majors, opportunities in the lab for other majors, library jobs, etc. Most of the emails we sent while we were in India went unanswered, you can try your luck as well but don't feel disappointed if you don't get positive replies if at all you get replies. The best place to look for part time jobs is here. Most of you who will be here on an F1 visa are eligible to apply for only non-work study jobs. The most effective way seems to come here and approach the various libraries, labs, etc. personally. References from seniors can improve your chances of securing the job.


TA/RA Opportunities

There are ample opportunities with active research going on in all the fields. You can obtain specific information about your interests online or from your department seniors.

The best way to go about RA opportunities is to present yourself well, be clear about your research interests and have a casual discussion with the Professor. One important thing to note is not to write huge mails to Professors about wanting to do this, do that, and your life story of what you have done in your undergrad. The Professors do not have enough time to read your long mails. A concise mail with your research interests and an appointment to have a discussion should suffice. Keep in mind the following points:

  • Be clear about the area of research where you want to work
  • Do the background check of the Professors carefully and mark out relevant projects and areas where he/she has worked or working
  • Do not hesitate to resend mails to Professors if they do not reply back. They might have been busy and accidently skipped. All Professors here are quite friendly and they want to give equal opportunities to all deserving students.

Regarding TA, there are also sufficient opportunities. They might be a little difficult to get in your first semester as the Professor prefers students who already has completed the course. Though there are many undergraduate courses where you might be able to get TA, you would need to send out emails to Professors after browsing through the courses in Penn InTouch. There are also positions available for Graders which are relatively easy to get, where you would need to grade weekly assignments and Exams. TA positions are not just limited to your departments only, you can even apply for TAships from other departments (You just needed to have completed those courses in your undergrad.) For some Departments, they display available positions in their website. More detailed information can be obtained by contacting seniors from your specific departments and enquiring.


Housing Search

Suggesting that the best approach to finding a house is to come to Philly atleast two weeks before the start of the term and personally look for one. So, the approach should be:

  1. All potential roommates should come to some understanding with regards to how much rent are you willing to pay, whether you want to share rooms, location of the house etc.
  2. Contact the realtors/landlords for available houses and finalise on one.

You have an option of living in University City or Center City - both are a similar distance from campus. Most Indian graduate students live in University city between 39th and 44th streets; some popular areas being 39th Pine, 39th Walnut (Astor Apts), 42nd Pine (Surrey Hall Apts), 41st spruce, 42nd Locust (Fairfax Apts) and 44th Walnut. Campus area extends from 32nd street to 40th street.

Most Realtors here would provide you with tours for about 2-3 apartments of your choice, on prior notice. This is why we encourage you come here and see the apartments for yourself before making your decision. You will need to email/call/visit the realtors' office to make an appointment for such a tour. You can always also post in Rangoli Facebook group for finding roommates. On a side note, Penn also has a portal for sublets called Pennlets.

So here is the deal. As a general rule, the farther you move from campus the more economical the monthly rent gets, the houses are more spacious. But considering safety and convenience to commute to campus everyday, you would not want to go beyond 44th street. The preferred limits would be upto 40th on Baltimore street, 42nd on Pine and Spruce streets, upto 44th on Locust and Walnut streets, and upto 40th on Chestnut street. It is not advisable to live south of Baltimore or north of Market street.

Here is the list of some realtors you could explore:

  1. Campus Apartments (CA)
  2. University City Associates (UCA)
  3. University City Housing (UCH)
  4. Realty World Properties
  5. Oren's Brothers (have properties around 44th Walnut street)

The above list is not comprehensive. There are a lot of other rental agencies. Do a google street view of the area around Penn and you can find boards of other rental agencies with their phone number or other mode of communication. They do not always have a website but have good properties at great locations!
Don't always trust the photos uploaded by realtors. Make sure you do a Skype call or FaceTime video to have a virtual tour of your apartment and the surrounding area.
You can also negotiate on the rent. Some have tried and succeeded!

Before you make a decision about housing, be sure to consult your seniors about the place and the apartment. Make note of the amenities your landlord or rental agency promises on the website and double check if those are actually included in the rent agreement. For example: Greenzang Properties are known to promise free Wifi and heat to every apartment on their website but they do not include it in the rent agreement. A decent WiFi plan from Comcast, Verizon or Charter Communications costs close to $70-$80 a month. Heat is most important during the winters. For a 2BHK apartment, if heating appliances and cooking stove is powered by electricity and electricity is not included in rent, the bill can reach close to $200-$250 a month during winters and close to $60-$80 a month during summers.

Lastly, know your rights. We recommend you to go through Philadelphia's policy on renting. A comprehensive guide is available at Property, lots & housing, City of Philadelphia, Fair housing commision. Last year, major fire broke out in one of the apartments of Greenzang properties and the tenants were forced to evict the apartment in the last week of December without providing any compensation. In their other building, they cutoff the heat in the beginning of November and replaced it with small room heaters which caused the main power supply to the apartment to trip off. They did not solve it for two months. So tenants virtually had no heat during the months of November and December.

Because of the shabby conditions of the apartments, unresponsive and rude behavior of the management, we would not recommend you leasing from Greenzang Properties.


Courses

For all academic purposes, PennInTouch would be the first and the most important stop- whether be course registration, grades, transcripts. You would need your Pennkey to sign in to your account. Course Search section in PennInTouch gives information about courses that are offered each semester.

A list of all the courses offered is also given on the Registrar's website.

One thing to keep in mind is that any courses that are discontinued are not reflected here. Be sure to always confirm in PennInTouch.

For each term, the first two weeks (course selection period) allow you to sit through classes you might be interested in and register for courses after obtaining the necessary permits (including advisor sign-off, instructor and department permits). Then follow about another two weeks when you are allowed to drop a course (fees refunded) but cannot register for any more. You could still drop out of a course after this period, however, your fee would not be refunded after this date. The Penn academic calendar gives details of the above for each semester.

To maintain your F1 student visa status, you need to be registered for a minimum number of courses, a requirement that varies from school to school.

There is also an advanced registration period that allows you to put in a request for registration for courses for the following term. You would receive an email from the University with more details prior to the opening up of registration.

For all Engineering majors, you would initially communicate with your academic coordinator (administrative office) till you are assigned an advisor. Each student is assigned a professor who would be your guide for course selection throughout your masters. You could meet with your advisor after arriving at Penn. You would also need a sign-off from your advisor to permit you to register.

In case of Biotechnology, the course coordinator is the one who you will communicate with for approval and permission for course registration. You will need to do so by filling out the Academic Planning Worksheet through PennInTouch. You will receive a mail soon from the coordinator with instructions for the same.


Billing & Payments

Please refer to the Penn.Pay page for details on fee payment options (under the section MAKING PAYMENTS). The most common mode of fee payment, initially, is by wire transfer of funds directly to the University account. Later, once you have an account in a local bank, you could consider payment online or by cheque.

Begin with creating a Penn.Pay account using your Pennkey.

There was a recent mail from SFS (Student Financial Services) regarding a change in the wire transfer details starting July. However, the same will be posted on this website.


Carrying Money

You are allowed to carry a maximum of $10,000 in any combination. If the amount exceeds this limit, you would need to declare to the customs office. There are several options in the mode for carrying USD:

  1. Cash
  2. Travel Card
  3. Travel Cheque

Things you might need immediate access to USD once you arrive here are listed below. You should consider these to decide how much to carry. We would suggest carrying around $2,500-3,000 should suffice initially. This is not including things like laptop etc. you may wish to buy here.

  1. Lease - You would have to pay first month and last month rent plus a security deposit to realtors upon signing the lease.
  2. Mobile plan - For prepaid connection, you would be charged an installation fee plus the charge amount (maximum $50) upfront when you initiate your plan. If you wish to take postpaid contract connection (monthly cost approximately $60-65 for AT&T) , you would need additional amount for the cost of the phone (maximum $200) . In case anyone wishes to take an IPhone, you might need an additional $500 as deposit, which would be returned to you in a year's time.
  3. Furniture and home supplies - you may choose to buy furniture from IKEA or Walmart, or may buy second-hand from seniors and would need about $150-200 for the same.

Money Matters by Udit Mathur

According to Customs rule, an individual is allowed to carry not more than $10000 with him/her while travelling to USA.

Out of the allowed $10000, the individual may carry not more than $3000 as cash and the rest $7000 in the form of TCs or Forex Card.

Our advice -

  • Carry $3000 as cash
    You could carry less as well and later on when you open an account in PNC, get it wire transferred to the account. Make sure you buy the currency from an authorized forex agent and have receipts handy to be produced at customs, if need be. Also, if you have someone you know really well working in a bank, ask them for their agents and try to bargain on the rate. Start observing closely the $ vs Rupee rate so that you have a fair idea as to when you should purchase the currency.
  • Carry another $3000 - $4000 in the form of Forex card
    These can be obtained from banks or authorized agents. In case you don't know what this means, a Forex Card is a prepaid card (like a debit card) which is loaded with US$. You can load/reload the amount anytime depending upon the conversion rate. Every time you swipe or do an online payment, the US$ amount gets deducted saving you from paying conversion charges on every transaction.
  • Other things
    1. When transferring money from India to your account in US, the max permissible amount is $5000 to avoid any RBI issues. P.S this is the max amount when transferring money to a personal account in USA. However there is no restriction on transferring money to the University for tuition fee or a hospital (in case of major surgery).
    2. Make sure you have all denomination notes (esp. $1 and $5).
    3. Make sure you choose the "right" Indian bank to do all your foreign transactions because some of them have high conversion rates and service charges.
      "right" would be the one wherein you have some acquaintance working at the bank who can guide you correctly and inform you about all hidden charges.
    4. Wire transfer tuition fee to UPenn directly. The details for Swift transfer are given on Penn SFS website. Make sure you fill the papers of the Indian bank which you would be using to transfer the money to UPenn or your personal account before you leave for USA (all the more necessary if your parents are accompanying you to the States)


Dates & Deadlines

Here is link to the academic calendar giving important dates and deadlines for term beginning and end, course registration, breaks, major holidays, etc. Do plan your spring and fall breaks well in advance as it becomes costly to make arrangements later.


Banking

Opening a Bank account is the most important thing after collecting your Penn card when you reach here. It is very easy to do all payments here by Debit cards or by Credit cards through online banking. The banks I would suggest which are really closeby to the campus are:

  1. Bank of America
    (IT IS A PRIVATE BANK AND NOT A NATIONALIZED BANK) Opening an account in this bank is advisable because it is spread all over US wherever you go. You will find lot of Bank of America ATM's in every state. It just requires minimal documents to open an account in BofA (Passport, I20, Penn card, University Admit letter). You will get a temporary card when you open an account and the permanent card will be shipped to your address within a week. The minimum balance that should be there in the account for not to receive any notifications is $25.
  2. PNC bank
    Along with Bank of America it is very much advisable to open an account in PNC bank as this is an affiliated bank with the University. If you want to withdraw fast cash from anywhere in the campus you will find PNC bank ATM's within a 2 mile radius (link to on-campus branch: here) and even in some libraries which makes our lives easier. Also another advantage of opening an account in PNC bank is that for students they allow one free wire transfer every month.(Note: 50$ is deducted at the New York Exchange during international wire transfer) This is exclusively for students and allows your parents to transfer money to you via wire transfer from India whenever if required. The documents required are the same as BofA. You are not required to keep any minimum balance in the account as it is a student account. You can also link your Penn Card with PNC bank so that you can use your Penn Card to withdraw cash from ATM if anytime you have forgotten your PNC Debit card at home or something.
  3. Wells Fargo
    It is one of the biggest banks in the US with ATMs almost everywhere.
  4. TD Bank
    Major bank in the US. Another convenient banking option around campus.

The above opening of accounts in Banks will provide you debit cards for free and do not charge anything. BofA allows you to use the Temporary card till you are issued a permanent card by post. The most convenient thing in both banks is you can deposit cash at the ATM very easily after you have got a Debit card.

Every bank offers the following similar options for banking:

  1. Checking account:
    This is the spend account, as in when you swipe your card or make any online payments the amount gets debited from this account. So if you are going to use your debit card or online payments very often, make sure that you have more and most of your money in Checking account.
  2. Savings account:
    This is a typical savings account as in India but with extremely low interest rates. These accounts generally have a limited number of transactions in a month (e.g. only 6 transactions) after which you will be charged additional fees for subsequent transactions.
    *If a transaction exceeds the balance in the Checking it is generally taken from the Savings.

You can pay your friends free of charge through apps like Venmo (a PayPal service). Think of it as PayTm in India. Another popular option is Zelle. It is integrated with almost all bank accounts and you can transfer money directly to your friends account without any charge.

For Credit Cards:

  1. Importance of a good Credit history in US is very important and which can be built by using credit cards for Bill payments (Phone bills, electricity bill, Internet bill etc.). And the most important, the timely payment of credit card bill is very important for maintaining a good credit history.
  2. To apply for a credit card you need to have a SSN (Social Security Number) card, which you can apply for and get only if you get an on campus job when you arrive and enrolled for Fall semester. So if you get an on campus job, the first and foremost thing to do is to apply for a SSN, which is very important for your Payroll from respective jobs.
  3. For credit cards, CITIBANK is the one to approach first, as it provides Credit cards without any deposit from you unlike other banks like Bank of America and PNC as they charge deposit fee when you go to apply, if you do not have any income or your income from home is not much. But Citibank for students gives Credit Card without any deposit being paid is simpler than other two banks to get a Credit Card.
  4. As for Bank of America and PNC Credit card(if you want) is advisable to apply after couple of months when you make some transactions using debit cards or Payroll income from your part time or wire transfer funds from family back home.
  5. Another very popular credit card is by DISCOVER. The advantage is that the student referring other student gets a $50 bonus.

The Credit Limit you get generally is about $1000 but you can call and get it increased after some time. And for students you need not to pay any interest for an year and just pay for that you spend using Credit Card.

The payment of Credit Cards are also easy. You can either transfer or pay from your bank account directly or you can also pay your credit card directly from other Bank account also (e.g. if you want to pay your CITIBANK credit card, you can pay it through your Bank of America account).


Mobile Plans

Many of you would be wondering if you should bring an international calling card when you come to the US. You may want to call home once you land or reach out to your seniors who are picking you up. International calling cards like Matrix can be a good option for the first month. You could also recharge your Indian number with sufficient balance to call your parents once you land. You can then use airport WiFi to reach out to the seniors who are picking you up. You can henceforth use their phones to make emergency calls until you get a sim in the US.

Getting a new phone connection is fairly easy and you can go to the nearest mobile store as soon as possible and register for a sim card. But for this you may need a Penncard to produce as your student Id and some carriers like AT&T provide student discount on Penn Id. Major carriers in the US are AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and Verizon.

Mobile plans are very costly in the US. Therefore, people prefer a family plan as it is much cheaper than paying individually. You can share family plan with your roommates or your friends. Almost all plans include free calling and text anywhere in the US. The amount of data you get varies with the plan. Check the carriers' websites to find the best family plan which suits you and your friends.

Another option is Lycamobile although its reception is very bad (as of 2018). It is based on T-mobile network but is cheaper. Plans start at $19 including free calls and sms and 1 GB 4G LTE in US. $29 plan includes unlimited international calls too.

Other options include AT&T and Verizon. Google provides a service called Project Fi upon purchase of a Google phone. Although the phone is bound to the service, you are free to discontinue after a month and pick a different provider. The advantage of Project Fi is that it picks up the strongest network service provider in an area and uses that to route the calls. Hence, it has very good network coverage. The monthly bills are roughly the same as T-mobile.

Since you will be surrounded by wifi networks mostly - Skype, Whatsapp audio and video, Facebook Messenger audio and video, FaceTime audio and video, and Google Duo are better options for calls to India. Rebtel and Vonage are other options also.


US Economy and Taxation

United States is a capitalist country; even the railways are privatised. Prices of food and products are high and are not much regulated. Almost every student is in for a shock when she/he goes for shopping the first time and when she/he goes out to eat. We advise you to know about the economy in the US and how it is different from India before you come. There is no concept of MRP and every place has different price for the same product.

Get to know about the US tax laws and how they vary for every state. Briefly, there are two types of taxes: Sales tax and income tax.

Sales tax is charged on almost all items which you purchase. Pennsylvania has a sales tax of 6% and an additional 2% tax for Philadelphia, totalling to 8%.

Income tax is segregated into Federal income tax and state income tax. There are well defined brackets for each of the taxes. Additionally, there are Social security taxes and medicare taxes which are exempt for students.


Driving License

We recommend you to apply for a US driving license as soon as possible.

United States has a lot of places to visit but there is no public transport anywhere in the US. Even major cities do not have any concept of public transport. Philadelphia has a good subway system but it is limited to the city. Although, you may use an Indian driving license for a year in the US, the car rental price is huge for people holding an international license. Further, the earlier you get a US driving license the cheaper is the insurance when you first purchase your car.


Packing

A useful list compiled by a senior.


Pickup

Please register here.


Temporary Accommodation

Please register here. Please note that temporary accomodations are provided for one week only. Kindly make your own arrangements within that time.


Images courtesy: UPenn Flickr Feed, Stock.XCHNG