And here we are: it’s been three weeks since the fall term started at Penn. Every “first” is exciting but difficult, and academic terms are not an exception to that. Nothing seems determined at the moment, and exploring all the course options can come off as a bit daunting. But just like moving into a new city (check out the previous blog post for reference), you will eventually get through it and there are so many resources out there that just can’t wait to help you through the process. What do IEDPers do during their first weeks at school? Here is a list of few:

Class Shopping

Even if you know exactly which courses you want, it’s a good idea to visit other classes I personally didn’t shop much because I was pretty set on my decisions, but during the first couple weeks, many students go to classes that they are interested but not yet sure if they want to register. For first year students, Basic Education in Developing Countries (EDU 514) and IEDP Proseminar (EDU 695) are mandatory for their first semester. So if you are graduating in a year and a half and taking 3.5 courses a term, most students are left with two electives. For those graduating in a year and taking 4.5 courses this term, there will be three electives to choose. A lot of students take either a quantitative or a qualitative method course, which is a program graduation requirement, as an elective and select one (or two) additional course of their interest.

A screenshot of a course schedule calendar.
My schedule after the add-drop period!

Academic Advisement Meeting

This is a one-on-one meeting between you and your academic advisor, where you talk about your specific interest area within international education development and your course selections for this semester. Every IEDP student is assigned with an academic advisor before arriving on campus, and this is the faculty member that will meet with you regularly to talk about academic and professional experiences at IEDP. I was extremely satisfied with my meeting as my advisor suggested creative ideas for course selection strategies to best prepare myself for positions in my interest area. It sure was one of the several moments in which I felt “this is exactly why I wanted to come to IEDP!”

General Housekeeping

A photo of a part of journal that shows the schedule for the month of October 2018
October will be a hectic month!

Once I was more or less set on my course decisions, I went through all the syllabus and marked the important due dates in my journal. That way, it’s easy to see which weeks throughout the semester will be especially busy and which weeks I could potentially plan my trip to other cities. Then, I read the assignments descriptions to make sure I understood them and if not, prepare some questions to bring to professors. For textbooks, rather than purchasing them, I first look up the library catalogue and get them through interlibrary loan or borrow direct if they are not available at Penn. Most professors upload PDF scans of the textbooks so it’s rare that one has to worry about buying bunch of pricey textbooks!

Coming from a college with quarter system, I felt like semester system at Penn gave plenty of time to adjust to new course schedules. With more time to learn about different options and prepare myself for the term, I feel more confident than before to embark my academic journey at IEDP! I feel almost impatient to see the ideas and perspectives that these courses will introduce.