University of Pennsylvania Sotong Guide

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Club Singapore Sotong 101 06/18/06

Unofficial Sotong Guide for Freshmen, Class of 2010

SOTONG GUIDE PART 1: Pre-Departure

First and foremost, congratulations on making an excellent decision to join our ranks. But this is only the first step in a long and stressful process to settle all sorts of admission matters. Follow this guide religiously and it will greatly ease the process. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact the Club Singapore executive committee at or your helpful upper-classmen buddies.

A) Advance Registration

Advance registration is not very important, because you will have a chance to register for your classes again when you arrive in fall. Of course, places are not guaranteed, and especially if you have already decided on a major, this should give you an idea of where you can start. And if you have further doubts, ask your buddies / advisors, they’ll get you the answer.

A good guide is as follows:

1) 1-2 courses for major pre-requisites or major related courses. 2) 1-2 courses for other prospective majors or schools that you may be interested in. 3) 1-2 courses just for fun!!!

You also have a few weeks before the “ADD”/”DROP” dates – the “ADD” date is the last date you can add a course, and the “DROP” date is the last date you can drop a course, so you generally can go course shopping for the first week or so. For some courses, you can drop them after the results of the first midterm come out (if they come out poorly, that is) as long as the “DROP” date hasn’t passed.

You can also withdraw from a course at any date before finals, but there will be a Withdrawal grade marked on your transcript, which looks ugly. It is not unheard of to withdraw from a certain course, say, 3 or 4 times.

Generally, you cannot take more than 5 courses in your first semester, and not more than 6 courses in your second semester, because Penn loves you and doesn’t want you to die, even though you hate yourself and want to lock yourself in the room and study everyday.

Most importantly, check out the Penn Course Review (Accessible from Penn Portal). Essential info about every course offered!!!! You should also check out the Penn Course Register for any updates on course schedules.

Recommended Courses

College • ECON 001 • PSYC 001 o Take BFS version if possible; last semester to take the course with renowned Prof. Shatte, who is probably the main reason why so many people like PSYC 001 • PSCI 001 • Freshman Seminar o A select group of small seminars (i.e. <15 students) only admitting freshmen. Usually quite interesting, relatively easy, discussion-based, and freshman year is your only chance to take them.

Wharton • ECON 001 (see above) • MATH 104 / 114 (see above) • Writing course (see above) • STAT 101 / 430 o Wharton Core requirement, 101 is relatively easier than 430 since 430 is the honors equivalent) • MGMT 100 o Wharton Core compulsory for Wharton freshmen. A lot of politicking and team dynamics involved.

Alternatively (assuming you have econ/math) • CHIN 381 – Commercial Chinese I o Fulfils Global Environment and Language/Arts/Culture o Very very easy course with very nice teacher. Meet a lot of other Asians. • CHIN 382 – Commercial Chinese II o Fulfils Global Environment, Language/Arts/Culture o Same very nice teacher, a little bit harder, but actual potential of learning something • MKTG 101 o Wharton Core requirement, quite easy course. Has an honors section. o You could also do MGMT 101, which has a rather heavy workload. The new MGMT 101 syllabus encompasses group work as well, so it’s probably not advisable to do MGMT 101 together with MGMT 100: too much group work will drive you crazy with out-of-class meetings and trying to handle lazy group members. o Try not to touch FNCE and ACCT until second semester, and if you want to do OPIM, do it with a bunch of other people for group work.)

Bioengineering • BE lab (compulsory) • BE 200 or BE 100 o freshmen take 100, Singaporeans take 200 • MATH 240

Huntsman • HIST 107 o compulsory Huntsman freshman course, fulfils Hist/Tradition *and* International Studies • Language course (start off on your target language) • MGMT 100 (see above) • ECON 1 (see above) • STAT 101 / 430 or MKTG 101 (see above)

Some other recommended classes to take

Humanities Economics classes are good general knowledge for anyone. Penn English department is excellent for modern work. Languages French, German, Spanish and Japanese are popular, there are many others too. Writing Fulfill your writing requirement early to get the most out of it, and prepare you for future classes that involve prose. There are many different options. Fun Classes Fine Arts classes like Photography, Pottery, and Drawing are popular

Advance Credits

Although it is not guaranteed, Penn usually recognizes credit for the ‘A’ level subjects as such. Arts subjects are also not as clear-cut as the sciences, and may take some haggling. There has been a major crackdown in terms of credit distribution, especially for Math and Econ. Check the respective departmental websites for updates as policies change every year.

To get Advance Credit, go to the Office of Transfer Admissions at College Hall with a certified copy of you’re a Level cert. The nice lady there will take care of the rest, although some haggling may be required.

Math C gives MATH 104 (but only with a Merit for Math S) No credit. Retrocredit for MATH104 will be awarded for completion of MATH240 Physics PH93,94,50,51, (the equivalent of PHYS 150 and 151, (3 cus) Chemistry CHEM 094 (???)No credits given. Waiver for chem lab will be given after your lab report has been evaluated by the chem. department Biology BIOL 091 (allows you to take 123 instead of the 101-2/121-2 tracks) Computing NIL (but it sure does help in CSE) Economics waiver for ECON 001 and 002 (Note: waiver =/= credit, you still need to fulfill your Society requirement) Literature ENG 100 and ENG 101 (fulfils the Arts General Req, and your Writing Req) History 2 General History Courses. One fulfils Distribution for Hist & Tradition Req for College, the other fulfils Free Elective. Geography NIL (you may be able to fight for something, no guarantees)

To claim your credit, go to the Office of Transfer Credit in College Hall with a copy of your A-level transcript, and you will receive a transfer credit form which you will need to bring to the relevant departments to sign, and then bring back to the Office of Transfer Credit. Try to do this before the end of the semester, as they get rather bitchy about late transfer credit.

If you want to place out for credit, contact the relevant departments for the dates of placement tests. (These usually occur before and/or during the first week of school, so be prepared to come early) Commonly, placement tests are taken for Math, Chem and Bio.

National Service Deferment

Penn is familiar with the situation of Singaporean males, and will willingly grant a two-year deferment of studies. Here is a step-by-step guide of the process, from the point you receive your acceptance letter and yourself accept the place.

1. You can mail to the Admissions Office about your request for deferment of studies. 2. Admissions will send you a mail (I got a snail mail) explaining the situation. This is what I got: a. ”We have received your letter requesting a two year postponement of your admission to the University from September, 1999 to September, 2001. While it is very difficult for us to guarantee admission a full year in advance, the University recognizes your country’s national service mandatory assignment. We are therefore, willing to make an early commitment to those students who have definitely decided to matriculate at the University of Pennsylvania but who wish to delay admission.” 3. There are certain conditions though: a. You should not be pursuing full-time study with the intention of accruing credit during the interim period. b. All academic work during the deferral period will not be awarded more than one semester’s worth of advanced standing. c. If you wish to receive a full year’s credit, please reapply as a transfer student. 4. These conditions are largely meaningless, if you ask me, because they don’t apply to NS. So if you are agreeable, write back a second time to confirm your definite intention to matriculate at Penn 2 years later. If you’re not agreeable, then you’ll have to lose your current place in Penn and reapply 2 years later against the general competition. 5. The Admissions Office will then reply to your confirmation. This is what I got: a. ”Your request for delayed matriculation has been granted and your application has been placed in holdover status. We will look forward to receiving a progress report from you during the ensuing year, and you can expect to receive in April a confirmation letter of your acceptance and matriculation information for September, 2001.” 6. Progress report: send around April-August of next year. There’s no real deadline per se, but finish it fast and you can just forget about the whole thing. Simply state what you’ve done, your experiences in NS, what you’ve learnt etc.

B) Visa Application

There are 2 types of US Student Visas available: F-1 and J-1

• Make sure you opt for the F-1 visa even if you are on a government scholarship. • There is a 2-year no stay clause for the J-1 which means you can’t get a job in the US for 2 years after graduation

Getting the Visa: • The US embassy in Singapore is a big grey ugly building opposite Gleneagles Hospital along Napier Rd. • Full information on the visa application procedure can be found online at


After slogging through a pile of college applications and essays, sweating through the “they want me, they want me not” anxieties, you finally chose to come to the University of Pennsylvania. First off, let us at Club Singapore congratulate you on your choice! Now before you face “the pat on the back, weep on the shoulders, kiss on the cheeks” departure scene, we would like to give you some advice on packing and preparing yourself for life at Penn.

Section 1: Flying to the US

There are no direct flights from Singapore to Philadelphia. However the following options are the best available:

Airline Route Flying Time Price Singapore Airlines SIN - FRANKFURT - JFK (New York) 21 hrs $$$$ SIN - NEWARK (New York) 18 hrs $$$$$ British Airways SIN - LONDON - PHILADELPHIA 25 hrs $$$$ Northwest SIN- TOKYO – DETROIT - PHILADELPHIA 35 hrs $$$ Also check STA travel for student fares

Our recommendation for first timers is to take BA because it brings you directly into Philadelphia. From the Philadelphia airport, the taxi ride to the university should cost no more than US$25 (including tip); alternatively call for a Lady Liberty Shuttle at the airport which will also bring you right to your doorstep – this should cost about $8 one way. The number is 215-724-8888.

To get to Philadelphia from JFK or Newark airports you need to take a shuttle bus (2.5 hrs) or train (1 hr to Newark, 3.5 hrs to JFK). From JFK or Newark, call for Dave’s Limousine at the Arrival Hall Transportation Counter. Price is $50 one-way, delivers to doorstep, subject to availability, 2-3 hours depending on number of other passengers.

To take a train from JFK 1. Take the Airtrain to either branch of the NY subway connected to JFK 2. Take the subway to NY’s Penn Station ($2, 40 min). 3. One of two options a. Purchase an Amtrak ticket from Penn Station to Philadelphia’s 30th St Station ($50-$60, 1h). b. Take the cheaper NJ Transit from NY’s Penn Station, which involves i. taking the NJ Transit NE Corridor Line to Trenton ($15?, 2h) ii. Transferring to SEPTA Regional Rail at Trenton ($7, 1h 30 min) to get to 30th St Station (the main train station in Philly) 4. Take a cab from 30th St Station to your dorm ($4-5, 5 min)

To take a train from Newark 1. Exactly the same as from JFK, just skip Step 2 (you can purchase AMTRAK or NJ transit tickets at the end of the Airtrain)


Most people invest in good sturdy luggage, either hard-shell or soft-shell. There are arguments for and against either type of luggage but really either will suffice. As well a backpack to carry essentials like books (to while away the time), water and important documents is also recommended.

Baggage allowance (for flights from SIN-US and for airlines that don't fly direct, through connections to the US from another city.)

For Economy class, in General: 2 pieces, EACH not exceeding 32kg Dimensions (L, W, H) max 158 cm

Section 2: Settling in


In our opinion, textbooks should not be brought when you first fly to Penn. You will have enough to carry on your first trip there. More likely than not, you'll not have confirmed your classes, so it might not be worth the while to buy all your books beforehand for the first semester. Also, many classes might have pre-printed "bulk packs" instead of textbooks (these are usually Wharton and College courses, Engineering courses rarely have bulk packs). Do bring a Chinese dictionary if you intend to take Chinese courses to fulfill requirements (English-Chinese is useful if you’re lazy)

However, if you know what courses you are going to take, e-mail the Prof for the list of texts and you may find them at far cheaper prices (about 25% of the price) at Clementi Bookstore or the NUS Co-op.

Later on, it's always a good idea to get textbooks in Singapore, not only because they're much cheaper, but because they're less bulky (being paperback bound). However, the downside to this is that the professor might change his/her mind about using that textbook, or a newer edition might have been published in the US. Then you'll be saddled with something that may not even have any 2nd hand value. The middle ground is to buy 2nd hand books over the Internet newsgroups in the States (try eBay, Amazon, and is a search engine that trawls the major book websites for the cheapest prices. Usually the cheapest prices are on Amazon marketplace or

If you’re in a serious emergency, buy your textbook from the Penn Bookstore, and prepare to be ripped off like an American tourist in China.


Stationery is generally cheaper in Singapore. Do not bring foolscap or files from Singapore – the size is smaller and there are 3 holes instead of 2. Staplers are also different and use different bullets, so if you are bringing your own stapler please get refills. Everything else is more or less available in the US, but in different brands. Bring your JC calculator as well, unless you want to buy a clunky Texas Instruments calculator over here (the programmable kind that you’ve been banned from using your whole life).


Try not to bring heavy electronic equipment to the US on your first trip – carrying and customs can be a pain. Just bring your small personal items (MP3 player, hairdryer) and adapters to fit the US wall sockets. If your device doesn’t run on 120V, you have to get a 240V to 120V transformer as well. US plugs have 2 flat vertical pins and some have an optional third round pin (see pic on right).

Rice cookers are not necessary if you are living in a dorm with a kitchen, and they are available in Chinatown anyway. If you’re getting your cell phone in Singapore, make sure with your vendor that it’s tri-band and programmed to work in the United States.


Most people like to purchase a laptop for the convenience and versatility. The cheapest option is to purchase one through a friend from NUS; their educational deals for PC notebooks are cheaper than Penn’s. Penn only offers IBM (reliable) and Dell (cheap and shitty). If you’re interested in moving to Apple, Penn has better educational deals than in Singapore for Apple desktops and laptops. Finally, if you intend to use a desktop for the sheer gaming power, the cheapest option is to assemble one yourself with parts from online (, and other such websites are cheaper than even Sim Lim once you factor in cheap shipping to US).

Essential electronic items to bring

• A large hard drive containing all your pictures, music, documents, porn etc if you are not bringing a laptop from Singapore. • Webcam with optional mic/headset: cheap communication with family using Skype or MSN. • a USB flash drive: extremely convenient, has replaced floppy disks as the primary tool of carrying information around. • your Windows XP, Office, antivirus and other important installation CDs including their registration keys, if you are bringing a laptop from Singapore. (There are no pirated software stores in Philly, so do your prep.)


The weather here in Philly in early fall (when you will be arriving) is very warm, so don’t just pack winter clothes but take along some light cool clothes like T-shirts, jeans and shorts. In fact, it is recommended that you bring minimal winter clothes are they are cheap and pretty in Philly and you have lots of time to get them before winter sets in. If you intend to do some outdoor exercise like jogging, a tracksuit or a pair of track pants is advisable. Also pack along a pair of slippers or sandals to walk around the dorms in and bring SOCKS (you will need them).

Also, make sure you have one or two "nice", formal things for dinners out or semiformals. A set or two of business attire will not hurt either (it’s more expensive to buy such things here, and formal wear is necessary for Wharton students, who have to do “professional” presentations in MGMT 100). A swimsuit, ski suit or Halloween costume is entirely optional, but Penn does have swimming pools that are free for students on campus and the ski slopes are about 2 hrs by bus away. Toiletries

America IS a civilized country and they do have most of the brands (Head & Shoulders, Clairol, etc) that are familiar to you. So you can buy most of what you want here. However you should bring a travel kit of essentials just in case you get stuck somewhere, but that's about it.


It is not necessary to bring much up the first time. You'll soon find out what you miss or have a craving for after a few months there, and then you can bug your parents to send stuff to you, or go scouting around in Chinatown for your Ribena or bak kua. However please be aware that you may have to declare certain food stuffs at the customs (check with immigration to be sure). Also food is heavy.


This is something you might want to think seriously about. It is a good idea to go your family doctor and ask him to give you some medicines to cover common ailments like the flu, diarrhea, motion-sickness, coughs, fevers, etc. Bring Panadol, cough drops and Handiplasts. Western medical supplies are *EXTREMELY* pricey here. Chinese medicines are not that easy to find here so if you cannot do without your feng you or po chai or Tiger Balm or whatever, bring a supply.


Things that you should bring are EDUCATIONAL CERTS (photocopies not accepted), resume (if you have one) and acceptance letter or documents the admissions office sent you. A passport with Visa, I-20 and other immigration documents is usually a good idea to get if you want to leave the airport. (Photocopies of all of the above are useful in case of emergencies.) Optional things are an International Student Identity Card (quite useless in the US) and an international calling card (you can get it from Singapore Post) for emergencies. Do bring your IC/11B, any additional form of Photo ID you can get is initially useful; although you will 90% be unable to use it to get into clubs.

Penn Stuff

You should bring most of the stuff Penn sent to you. Among which should be a map of Penn, so you know your way around the first day, as well as your room or dorm information.

Personal thingamajigs

This is up to you but most people bring some photos of family, boyfriend or girlfriend, dog (if you have one) and school friends (if you like them) to liven up the dorm. They also make good conversation topics for people who visit your room, and will keep you from missing your loved ones too much.


Buy a handy CD carrier and bring all your fave albums. You don't have to bring your WHOLE collection though, because you'll probably get into the mp3 craze there and start a whole collection of those for your listening pleasure (by the way, it is illegal to keep an mp3 file on your computer for more than 24hrs if you don’t own the original CD). Penn also offers a USD $179 rebate on iPods if you buy an Apple computer through the campus deal.


Please don’t bring too much hard cash on you, for one thing there is a limit on how much cash someone can bring into the US (check with immigration for exact amount) ($10,000, we believe) and another thing is that it is frankly not that safe to have so much on a person. However, if you are bringing some amount of money, perhaps a good investment is a money pouch to keep the money. Also a supplementary card is a good idea to cover emergencies (MASTERCARD, VISA and AMEX are very widely accepted here). A good idea is to bring a bank draft to deposit into your bank account – safe and only verifiable by you. Inquire at your local bank as to how to get one. It will clear within a week, so bring enough cash to survive till then. Alternatively you can open the account first and then get your parents to TT cash over, which is slightly more expensive.

Accommodation for parents

Some of you might have parents coming with you to help you settle in. The recommended hotels that are nearest to Penn are the Sheraton (nearest to KCEH, Hill), the “Inn at Penn” (near to KCEH, Hill), and the Penn Tower (nearest to Quad). To guarantee a room, you should book VERY EARLY in advance. Otherwise, they are other good hotels downtown in center city which is about 15 mins away.


A good attitude is a great way to start on your new journey into the wild unknown. Be cool, but don't try too hard. Have the positive Singapore pride and a willingness to share your culture (get one of those little flags at NDP and display it on your desk!). A word of warning though, coming here you may have to explain countless times that yes, most people do speak English in Singapore, and no, Singapore is not only about not being allowed to chew gum and being caned for vandalizing. Have patience; they are just trying to learn about Singapore just as you are here to learn their culture. Also have an open mind and an adventurous spirit to try everything from new classes to new food to new clubs to new kinds of people. Don't stereotype the Americans; most are very nice. Don't be prejudiced. Be tolerant. If your roommate is a rowdy frat boy, an unbelievable geek, or someone you have nothing in common with, just try to be nice, grin and bear it, and stay out of his/her way. But just to reassure you, a quick poll shows that for most Singaporeans that their roommates are actually quite nice people, some still hangout with the Singaporeans even when they are no longer roommates.

SOTONG GUIDE PART 3: Arriving at Penn

Moving in • If your buddy is around, coax him/her in to helping you move in • Come in the day time as Penn students are hired to help you move in • Get your dorm keys from the front desk of your respective dorms • Contact your RA (Residential Advisor) and/or GA (Graduate advisor) if you have any questions – they’re paid to help you, make use of them.

Social security waiver • In the past, social security numbers are needed to start a credit history, so that you can get bank accounts, mobile phone plans, credit cards… • Starting from 2005, you cannot get a social security number UNLESS you work • Instead of getting a social security number, from 2005, you should get a social security waiver instead • Use this waiver to get bank accounts, mobile phone plans, drivers license, and maybe credit cards (we’re not sure, haven’t experienced yet)… • Location to get waiver: 40th and Market (“The Market” building, 2nd floor)

Recommended bank accounts to get • PNC (PNC reps will be present during orientation) o Penncard can be linked to be used as a PNC ATM card o Most number of ATMS in Philly, good number on campus • SFCU (similarly they will be present during orientation) o Most ATMS on campus, but not Philly • Citibank (get online) o Best interest rates o Very few ATMs on campus • Commerce Bank o Best customer service, decent interest rates o Few ATMs on campus (but one right opposite Huntsman Hall)

Collecting your pre-ordered computers • Collect from ice skating rink at 33rd and Walnut • If you go too late, they will move it to Computer Connection, which is behind the Upenn bookstore

Cell phones • If you want to reuse your SIM phone, get AT&T, T-mobile or Cingular plans • A good plan to use would be ~ 1000 mins/month for $40 • Verizon does not support SIM yet, they only have CDMA phones, but reception is better than AT&T or T-mobile • T-mobile has free talktime for T-mobile to T-mobile phones (basically Singaporeans to Singaporeans) for an additional $7. Good value! • There is less of an SMS culture here so usually there is an additional charge for adding a SMS quota to the account, take note to see what suits you. • A $600 deposit is required (refundable after 1 yr) as we are international residents (alternatively you can pool your resources to buy a family plan between a few of you – slightly cheaper per month, cheaper to talk to your “family members”, and you split the deposit.) • Locations o T-mobile @ 40th n Chestnut o Cingular @ 38th and Walnut (opening Fall ’06) • You could buy phone with plan for ‘free’ and then sell it • Also, offers amazing plans, check them out • Get your fav senior to ‘refer’ you to earn $25 credit

Necessities for your Dorm • Power adapters/extensions • Standing Fan for those without A/C o crucial for first month, then can throw away/sell. • Clothes hangers • Pillows and pillow case • Bed Sheets o buy twin size o Penn dorm beds are strangely sized and may not fit your regular twin. • Water filter o Philly water is definitely not the cleanest out there) • Printer o Remember to buy cheap ink from o Don’t believe marketing bullshit about 3rd party ink spoiling your printer, please.) • Land phone o If you have a roommate, check with him/her who will buy o Not completely necessary if you have a hand phone and a lot of minutes. • Lights/lamps • Calling card o o

Note: The above necessities with the exception of the calling card can be purchased at K Mart in Center City. However, if you want a greater variety in lights / lamps you can make a trip down to IKEA in S. Columbus Boulevard. Calling cards can be purchased from Chinatown (cheapest.)

Things Not To Bring • 240V appliances unless absolutely needed • Writing or Printing Paper (different size) • Files and hole punchers (3 holes here) • Hangers (they take up too much luggage space and are cheap in US) • LAN Ethernet cables (tons for free from your ITAs) • Rice cooker

Language Waiver Exams • For pure engineers and Huntsman students, IGNORE THIS • For the rest (College/Wharton), check out the schedules • Test schedules will be announced during orientation by OIP • If not, check out EALC department at Williams Hall.

Placement Exams • Test schedules will be announced during orientation by OIP • If not, check out respective department websites • Consult buddy for more information • You might want to bring a copy of the A Level syllabus to convince some professors to give you a credit/waiver.

Getting Transfer Credits (for ‘A’ Levels/IB/IEB) • Go to Office of Transfer Credit @ ground floor of College Hall • Bring your original exams certificates

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