Theoretically, looking at my class schedule, I have loads of free time.

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I mean, ending by 4 PM? No class on Fridays? For those of us coming from a 9-5 (or more likely, a 9 – who knows how long) job, one of your first thoughts as a grad student might be “how will I fill all those empty hours?” Well, it would be very optimistic to call them empty, but here’s a sneak peek at some of the favorite activities of the IEDP cohort, and how we fill all those “free hours” in the day!

Scouting out free food: If I was an economist, I would probably have to admit that given how much time we spend talking about, thinking about, and looking for free food, we may have been better off buying groceries – we probably average 200+ WhatsApp messages a week informing each other where there is free food on campus. But the opportunity cost definitely seems worth it, when you’re on a grad school budget.

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Disclaimer: this picture was taken at the Baltimore Ave Dollar Stroll and those pizza slices weren’t actually free – they cost $1. BUT I think it accurately sums up our mantra: “Food for Life.” And our unofficial mantra: “hold on to your pizza, or someone else might eat it.”

Being social: Fun is important to keeping your sanity! The IEDP cohort excels at coming up with fun activities. Two of my classmates recently hosted a housewarming party that featured a mouthwatering assortment of chips and dip and some Latin dancing. (I only participated in the chips and dip part.) We’ve done happy hours, cultural events, movies…a bunch of us even just took advantage of Free Week at Philly’s Magic Gardens. If you’re looking for built-in friends to explore with, you’re going to find them at IEDP.

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Reading: Ok, this may not fall in the “favorite” activity bucket but…it has to be said. We read. A LOT. But we make it fun! Get yourself a carrel and you will feel like you deserve a PhD just for being there. Create a reading group to discuss the readings. (Pro-tip: this also ensures that you have something intellectual to say in class.) Go to the Graduate Study Center and you will find at least 2 other IEDP students reading and you can motivate each other. When it’s nice out, switch things up and read outside!

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Scoping out events on campus: THERE ARE SO MANY EVENTS AT PENN. Seriously. In my overly-ambitious first week here I subscribed to about eight different newslettters, and every week I am amazed at how many different talks and panels and discussions are happening. I could easily not go to class and still have a full day. (But I would never do that, Dr. GK!) These events are a great way to stretch your mind even further. (Not to mention there is usually free food…)

So, what’s the takeaway? Grad school is actually pretty time-consuming (read: very time-consuming), but you get to fill your days doing so many fun and interesting things – having stimulating discussions in class, doing readings you actually find interesting, going to a talk on something that you know nothing about…and ending it all with a happy hour at Howl at the Moon. 10/10 would highly recommend.