Surviving the USA

This page is for all Italian students interested in studying in America through the EAGLES program.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you too much about UCONN because I have never studied there. The best thing you can do is contact UCONN directly for information.

DREXEL:

What are the residences at Drexel like?
What is Philadelphia like?
Is it easy to travel?
Common American Quirks
What are classes like?
What are the exams like?


What are the residences at Drexel like?

This really depends upon the residence you are living in. All the residences are completely different and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I have either lived in or had friends that lived in every single residence, so if you would like more information please contact me and I can tell you more about the residences.

What is Philadelphia like?

Fun! There is so much to do. But Philadelphia can also be very dangerous. I am not trying to scare you, but you should be aware of the dangers of the city. The Drexel campus is actually pretty safe. We have our own police force that is actually authorized to carry guns and arrest people in addition to Drexel public safety, which is basically an escorting service. So if you are out late and you feel uncomfortable or having been drinking more than you should, you can call Drexel safety to escort you home. There are blue poles all around campus that have an emergency button you can press if you are in trouble and Drexel Safety will come save you. If you can try to avoid being out on the streets between 11pm and 3am because this is when most of the bad stuff(shootings, muggings, etc.) happens. Obviously this is not always possible, so just be aware of your surroundings and if you feel in danger at all call public safety to come get you. Also North Philadelphia is known for being very dangerous so try not to go up that way. You can always ask other students or contact me to tell you the areas in Philly to avoid. With that being said there are a lot of positives about the city.

Philadelphia is broken up into districts. Drexel is located in what people call “University City”. UPENN is literally across the street from Drexel so you can wander around both campuses. Then there is center city which is very close to Drexel and is mostly businesses but has some great food(check out the travel tips section for my restaurant suggestions). Then moving east, there is the Rittenhouse square district, which is beautiful. This is where all the rich people in Philadelphia live and is very close to 17th street shopping, which is the upscale shopping district(you can find designer brands here). But there are reasonably priced stores and it’s a really nice place to wander around. The historic district has a lot of sightseeing and fun things to do. You will be able to find the Liberty bell, Independence hall, and a bunch of other famous American landmarks. Then there’s South street which is kind of the red light district of Philadelphia and has a lot of very interesting shops. But also has some of the best food in Philly and is definitely worth visiting. Penn’s landing is in what we call “Old City” where you can find cobblestone streets and a really cool nightlife. To learn more about stuff to do in Philly visit the Tips for Travel section.

Is it easy to travel?

Yes and no. It is pretty easy to travel around Philadelphia itself, but Amercica is not as easy to travel as Europe. Flights and trains are very expensive. Buses are cheaper and I would definitely suggest taking the bus to travel, especially if you want to go to NYC. Visit the Tips for travel section to learn more about this. There are certain clubs that takes trips. For example, CAB(the Drexel Campus activities board) is the one that runs all the cool activities in and around Drexel and they have set up trips to Six Flags(an amusement park in New Jersey) as well as some really cool on campus activities like Spring Jam(when we get musicians to come play for the students for free!)

Common American Quirks

All Americans are different and different areas of the country, like different areas in Italy, have very different kinds of people. This is a list of American quirks that TV shows may not have prepared you for so you can try to avoid awkward situations and some of the culture shock that comes with living in a new country.

1. Be sensitive of people of other races and colors. America is very multicultural and using derogatory(mean or offensive) words to describe people of other colors or races can get you into a lot of trouble. I have found that certain words are acceptable in Europe that are completely offensive in America. If you don’t know which words I am talking about you can contact me to ask. Sometimes people make racist or crude jokes on American TV shows, but you never know how people will react to those types of comments in real life and so please just be careful about what you say.

2. Philadelphia has a large homeless population. They will ask you for money, but don’t feel obligated to pay them. There is no need to be rude to them though. If you just smile and say I’m sorry I don’t have anything many times they will thank you and leave you alone. A lot of these people are completely harmless and some of them are super nice, but other have severe mental disorders and can be violent. Don’t get upset if one of them yells at you for not giving them money, just walk away and if you need to, call public safety or the Drexel police if you feel threatened by them.

3. Much like Milan, people in Philadelphia are pretty busy and can sometimes be very rude if you are asking for help on the street. try to look for older people because they tend to be more friendly, but don’t get upset if you approach someone and they are rude or ignore you. Sometimes they don’t even mean to do it they are just in a rush or are afraid you are going to ask them for money or something.

4. People are more competitive in America and are not as supportive in classes. At Drexel, many classes curve the grades, meaning your grade depends on everyone else’s. If everyone fails, the professor will often just take the highest grades as A’s and then the lower the number of points you got, the lower the grade. For example say you have a class of four people and one gets 30 out of 100, another get 25 out of 100, another gets 10 out of 100 and the last one gets 5 out of 100, the first one will get an A, the second a B, the third a C and the last one will probably fail. Your friends will definitely help you out, but some people are only out to help themselves so don’t be offended if someone refuses to help you, just get help from the professor or ask another (hopefully nicer) student.

What are classes like?

Classes move a lot faster at Drexel than they do in Italy. Because we have quarters(four terms each year) instead of semesters(like in Italy) the classes move very fast. Also there tends to be more work throughout the quarter to guide your studying and prepare you for the exam. For example, you will probably have homework, projects and/or papers, but each professor is different.

Most professors at Drexel are very approachable so if you having any trouble in your classes, go talk to them or the teaching assistant(if there is one for the class) to get help. Other students may be able to help you but it’s always better to talk directly to the person who determines your grade or someone who knows the material really well or has taken the course before.

What are exams like?

You can only take exams ONCE and there is no oral exam to bring up your grade.  In Italy, I realize that you get multiple dates and chances to take the exams, but in America you get one shot and the professor tells you the date and time and unless there is a family or medical emergency, you have to take the exam in that time slot. Also, classes are usually based on more than just the final exam grade. There is usually a midterm and sometimes there are homeworks, projects or papers that are part of your grade, so make sure you do well on those so you won’t be so stressed about the final.

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