We have another guest post this week! Xuning Zhang is an IEDP student, originally from Beijing, who completed her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt last year. Xuning is interested in early childhood development.

If you are a regular reader of the IEDP blog, you’ll know how close our cohort is. Not only do we take classes together, we also explore restaurants, go to on-campus events, and travel to conferences together. Even though I love spending time with my peers, I also make an effort to balance my IEDP life with my life outside of the program. Over the past year, I’ve made an effort to find activities outside of IEDP that make me very happy and relaxed. Here’s a few of my favorite things to do, to show you what opportunities are available for life at Penn beyond IEDP.

Joining a student organization.

One of the best ways to meet new friends is to join a student organization. During the first week of school, I found out about an opportunity to serve on the advisory board for international students at Penn (ISSS-ISAB). Being an international student from China, I was immediately interested in the position and the possibility to serve the international community. Twice a month, I meet up with international representatives from both undergraduate and graduate/professional schools to discuss new initiatives around campus, and ways that Penn can better serve international students. I’ve gotten the chance to meet many different school administrators and learn about the work they do. This experience has also allowed me to form relationships with friends from Turkey, Ethiopia, Sweden, and many other countries. I have been able to see the changes happening on campus because of our work (for example, career fairs geared towards international students), which gives me a great sense of belonging and satisfaction. Penn often hosts a student organization fair along Locust Walk at the beginning of fall semester, so don’t forget to check it out!

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Talking walks and photos around Philadelphia.

As Dr. Thapa often says, life is beautiful. What’s a better way to capture the beauty of life than taking photos of our campus and the great city of Philadelphia? Whenever I’m free, I walk around the city to appreciate the green spaces, historical architecture and the vibrant colors of Philadelphia. One of my favorite places to go is the Schuylkill River Trail. It’s only 6 blocks away from where I live and is a good place to just relax and clear my head. Recently, a new trail has been opened to the public so I go there often in the afternoon to enjoy the reflection of sunsets and the beautiful warm weather. Another place I like to go often is the Cira Green Rooftop Park, where you can see the view of the Schuylkill River from the 12th floor. On a beautiful day, I enjoy having lunch with my friends on the open green lawn with great views behind me.

Exploring new restaurants.

As a big foodie, I spent a lot of time exploring food options in Philadelphia. Even though I cook my own meals during the week, I always try out new restaurants with my friends on the weekend. Some of the best places I’ve found are located in Chinatown, which is a 15 minute subway ride from campus. I especially love the dessert options there, including A La Mousse, a French Chinese fusion dessert place, and the many cheap but high-quality bakeries. Philadelphia Center City also hosts a Restaurant Week event twice a year, where over 120 restaurants offer three-course, prix-fixe meals at discounted prices. My friends and I took advantage of this opportunity and ate at a Spanish restaurant called Tinto. The food was amazing and so was the service. Between the three of us, we got to try 12 different dishes and were all really full after the meal. Finally, don’t forget to check out some of the most amazing food trucks around the city. (Check out some of our favorites in one of our other posts!)

Of course, the things I listed above are only a fraction of many amazing things you can do in Philadelphia and outside of IEDP. Hope you enjoy Penn and Philadelphia as much as I do!