Exchange – Week 1 (Part 1)

Wow! What a hectic week it has been! My first week living out of home, and to make it just that little bit harder, on the other side of the world!

This is the first part of my blog for the week between August 23 and August 28.

Part 2 of the Week 1 blog can be found here.


After my flight being delayed by a day, and after saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, I embarked on my thirteen hour flight to Los Angeles on the 23rd of August.

Even though I was in economy, it felt like I was in business class! Because the flight from the previous day was cancelled, I overheard that our plane had only 70 passengers, an amount significantly smaller than the maximum capacity of around 350 seats. I hit the jackpot! I was in an aisle seat, with no row in front of me, and no person sitting next to me. There was plenty of leg room!

After finally landing in Las Angeles, I moved off to my next flight to Philadelphia. LA was very confusing, and I struggled to find the terminal for the next leg of my flight. I almost caught a bus which would have taken me to some mystery location – that would have been real bad! My advice for anyone in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to ask questions to those around you. You may feel uncomfortable, or may worry you’re about to ask a really sill question; but whatever your worry, it pails in comparison to being stranded in an unknown place of a foreign country!

Arriving To UPenn

Tired, I finally arrived in Philly, all safe and sound! The airport is a bit out from the university, so I caught a taxi to get to my accomodation in Harrison College House.

After paying the taxi fare, and walking to my accomodation, I felt this weird feeling in my gut. I wasn’t sure where my wallet was, so I quickly looked through my backpack to find it. It was nowhere to be found, but I imagined it may have been lost in some crevice of my bag. Anyway, after getting my room key and entering the room for the first time, I rapidly looked through my bag, not to find my wallet anywhere!

It was a terrible feeling. Most importantly, my wallet contained my visa cards and $45 USD. Without it, I only had $20 USD to my name, with no means of making electronic payments after freezing my lost cards. Panicking, and in tears, I called my Dad for help.

Now, it might seem a bit weird to include this in my first ever exchange blog. You may think it’s weird to depict myself as emotional and lost. But, by writing about these less than ideal experiences, hopefully others will be encouraged, and know that if I got through an experience like this, then they can too. I’m no special person, I’m just an ordinary human too.

Anyway, to put things in perspective, I had just travelled around 18 hours in flight, had landed in a foreign place in the world at 11pm, was very tired, and was a long way from home. To make things worse, I now had essentially no money.

When things like this happen, the mind circles and everything feels hard. Everything feels rough. You feel incredibly lost, and also alone. The first thing to do, as I did – call someone! Calling Dad helped me rationalise what had happened, and he operated as almost a part of my own consciousness, helping me process my thoughts.

Dad helped me convert intrusive and unhelpful thoughts into actionable steps of recovery. The first step was to freeze my card, which I had already done. Then I went to check if I could find my wallet near where the taxi had dropped me off. I still couldn’t find it, but checking was definitely the right move, a move which was far better than staying in my room, frozen in indecision.

The next thing I found helpful, was to rationalise the situation. From my own experience of anxiety, when you get anxious, you start to catastrophize. This means that you start to exaggerate the worst possibilities of the situation you’re in.

I’d lost my wallet, and so if I catastrophized this, as an example, I’d be thinking, “I’m going to be stuck in a different country without any money, and so I won’t be able to buy things I need.” The reality was far from this.

I had a good friend here with a bank card, who could loan me money if I desperately needed it. On doing reserach, my parents could easily send me money through Western Union. Clearly, my catastrophized thinking was fundamentally flawed, and even more so, it was causing unnecessary stress.

This unnecessary stress is so crippling, as it consumes your thoughts and energy, preventing you from taking steps to resolve your underlying issue. If you’re ever stuck in a situation where you start to get consumed my catastrophizing, take a step back, and take some deep breathes. Then, think of some practical steps you can take. If you’re struggling, maybe talk to someone you trust, who could offer some advice.

Now, I know I could have handled this entire situation better. I did catastrophize in the early stages, which was wasted energy as it turned out it was really easy to set up a new Visa card on Apple Pay. However, on the bright side, this whole experience helped build my resilience, which was something I was hoping I’d develop on exchange!

Day Out In Philly

On the 26th of August, I joined some mates for a walk towards the heart of Philadelphia. It’s summer in the US at the moment, meaning it was a very hot walk!

Wanting to immerse ourselves in all Philly has to offer, we stopped at an eatery named Cleaver’s, where we were excited to try a renowned Philly Cheesesteak!

First things first – it was huge! I really struggled to finish it! My order was a BBQ Cheesesteak. For some reason, it had a cut up onion ring on the top… In turns of flavour, I didn’t mind it, but I wasn’t a huge fan… Doesn’t matter though, I’m here to try new things

Afterwards, we went to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University which has many scientific exhibits, much to my delight! There was lots of cool stuff, including old taxidermied American animals, dinosaur skeletons, and live animals! But my favourite exhibit was a bee hive contained in glass, with a pipe leading through the window so the bees could still get out and mind there own beeze-wax!

We then finished the day with a beautiful fountain!

An Evening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This was pretty special! As part of the new student orientation, UPenn rents out the ENTIRE Philadelphia Museum of Art. This place is huge! Photos don’t really do it justice, but here is an attempt at showing just how big this place is…

Inside the museum we had some food, but of course, we were allowed to roam the gallery, and look at all that was to offer! In particular, I enjoyed looking at the Christian artworks, most of which were very old, some being from the 1500s! Here is a collage of some photos from the night!

Part 2

Click here to view part two of the Week 1 blog, where I recount my trip to New York!

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