Tessa Kilcourse: Day in the Life as an IEDPer

Hello! My name is Tessa Kilcourse I am a first-year International Educational Development Program (IEDP) student at Penn GSE. In conjunction with our “a day in the life” as an IEDP’er I will be blogging about what I tend to do as a graduate student at UPenn during the COVID-19 era.

As many have said before me online graduate school during COVID has been a unique experience. Unlike our second year peers, my cohort members and I started our GSE journey completely virtual. In fact, many of us have yet to set foot in a GSE building or even on Penn’s campus! I’ll admit that screen time is rough on the eyes and different time-zones have wreaked havoc on sleep schedules, but regardless, our IEDP family is as strong as ever. By utilizing Zoom, Whatsapp, and a plethora of other platforms we have generated a close-knit supportive community. I treasure the friendships I’ve forged online, and can’t wait to meet my cohort members in-person some day soon!

Day in the Life:

           Though I live in Philadelphia I’m not as close to campus as some of my peers. My boyfriend and I live in West Mt. Airy, which Dr. Alec Gershberg will firmly attest, is not a suburb of the city but rather the Western most tip of our sprawling Philadelphian landscape. I do have the opportunity to drive into University City and study on campus, but I am not yet fully vaccinated and seeing as my partner is a health care worker I thought it best to stay put as much as possible for now.

Today I will be taking you along with me as I venture out of my apartment to get my first COVID-19 vaccination and complete some of my weekly errands – hope you enjoy!

6:00am-8:00am EST

On any given day I am usually up and out of bed by around 6am (a habit I picked up in high school and haven’t been able to shake). After showering and getting dressed I head out to the kitchen to whip up some breakfast and do some morning journaling. I try to do morning yoga or mindfulness at least three time a week, but I saw that it was going to rain all afternoon so I skipped yoga and opted to make an indulgent breakfast and take a walk outside instead before the storm. Today I enjoyed avocado toast with Trader Joe’s everything seasoning, sliced cucumber, tomato and an oat milk cappuccino with whipped honey and cinnamon. I still have about two hours before my first class starts, so I took my breakfast to the office and started reviewing my work schedule for the day.


With breakfast done and my schedule set I head back into the kitchen to wash my dishes along with any from last night (cleaning = boring but necessary). I tidy up the living room and dining area as well because I still have some time, plus my errands will have me running around today and I don’t want to feel too groggy to fold laundry after my vaccine haha. My google calendar alerts me that it is nearly time to go to class, so I finish up with vacuuming around 8:45 and head into the office for today’s class!


It’s a Thursday so my first class is Global Citizenship (EDUC503) with Dr. Kathleen Hall. It is one of my favorite classes this semester and today is our last day so we are presenting our finals and discussing how much we will miss each other! The professors at Penn are some of the most amazing and kind individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet (virtually). Usually I would have classes back-to-back (which means quickly grabbing a cup of tea or a piece of fruit before settling back down into my office chair for International Education Development Proseminar (EDUC734) with Dr. Alec Gershberg), however, today is the CIES conference so we don’t have formal class. Instead, I will be logging into the conference to cheer on my cohort members who are presenting posters and working research papers.


I’d love to learn about the CIES projects all day, but I do have to start getting ready for my COVID-19 shot (I hate needles so my partner had to drag me away from my laptop haha). My appointment isn’t until 1pm so i’m off to do errands prior to heading to my local CVS HealthHub. First, I walked down to the local co-op Weavers Way to pick up some groceries and laundry detergent, then I ran across the street to drop off a brides maids dress at Greene Dry Cleaning before driving to H20 laundry mat to do a few loads of laundry. I made sure to grab a snack at the grocery store because I won’t be home to cook lunch until after my appointment (I decided on some hummus and pretzels and locally brewed Kombucha – this one is the ‘Foxy Lady’ flavor and I’m obsessed).


Had to wait 30 min. after vaccination to ensure I didn’t have a reaction – luckily I brought the new book I’ve been reading along with me! After my timer rings I head home to finally make some lunch and get started on some of my assignments for the coming week. I only have a few assignments left, but they are rather time intense and take a lot of planning to successfully complete. Today’s goal is to complete a formal outline of a policy brief and a code book for a qualitative psychology study. I grabbed a chai tea from Starbucks on the way home as a much-needed energy boost. (The CDC recommends staying hydrated after both vaccinations so I also have my hydro-flask full of water).


Lunchtime! Today I made some falafel and yellow rice topped with seasoned cucumber and tomato. After lunch I am back in the office and getting ready to work. I ended up journaling for about an hour and had multiple family members call me to ask how my day is going and to see how I am feeling after my vaccine.

The code book comes first so I am clustering themes that I gathered from my 6-week qualitative study on diet and blood pressure. When I decided that I’ve had enough abstract thinking for the day to switch gears to a policy brief outline. The structured nature of the policy brief is a good balance to the psychology themes. I am able to complete a good portion of it before heading back to the kitchen to make dinner for myself and my partner.

I’ve learned over this year that it is important for me to remind myself to take breaks (I tend to get wrapped up in an assignment and work on it for hours at a time). So, to counter this, every hour I get up and stretch or grab some water before sitting back down and continuing my work.


The sky has opened up after a pretty muggy day and cooling rain is coming down in sheets. This does mean that I won’t be going outside to grill any veggies tonight, so instead, I opted to support one of my favorite Indian chains Tiffin and grabbed some baingan bharta, papadam and vegetable samosas in their new reusable containers! I topped mine with onion and mint chutney. Meals in hand my partner and I settled down on the couch to watch a movie – tonight was The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.


Dinner is done and we take a moment to talk and check in with each other. I don’t like leaving dishes out, so the dishwasher is loaded up and turned on as I head off to the power room to wash my face and change into pj’s. I usually head to bed around 9:30/10pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends depending on how tired I am. Tonight I was feeling a bit groggy from my vaccine, so I decided to finish up my journal entry for the day and tuck into bed early.

Hope you enjoyed following along with me today! If you are interested in learning more about the IED program at Penn feel free to reach out! Email: tessa.kilcourse@gmail.com

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