Moving to a new place is hard because you don't know where things are. Moving to a new country is hard because things don't usually work the way you are used to. Here you can find out some of the basics you will need to know for daily life.
Students in the Undergraduate Day School must live on-campus in the dorms for their Freshman and Sophomore years. After these first two years you may choose to remain on-campus or move off-campus. Graduate and University College students cannot live on-campus and therefore must find local apartments or rooms - most share an apartment with other SJU students. The Off-Campus Housing Office maintains lists of area apartments available to students. Their website also has helpful information on signing a rental agreement, handling disputes with your landlord, finding furnishing, and utility companies for water, gas, electricity, telephone service and cable TV. If you are looking for off-campus housing you can also contact the Global Hawks for help being placed with other international students, or if you have a space in your apartment that needs to be filled.
No matter where you live you should keep several emergency phone numbers handy.
Utilities and Services
Living off-campus, you may need to arrange for some utilities in your apartment, house or room. Check with your landlord to see what is provided in your lease and what you must set up on your own. These companies represent the major providers in the area but not the only ones and this list is not an endorsement; you can do a little research on your own for alternatives. Typically, PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) provides electrical service, PGW (Philadelphia Gas Works) provides gas service, Verizon is the area's long-standing telephone company, and Comcast Cable is the cable provider for this section of Philadelphia. The Off-Campus Housing Office has a list companies that provide furniture, moving, and storage. All mail is processed by the US Postal Service.
Assuming you will be a student in the United States for more than a few months, it makes sense for you to open a bank account so that you can have easier access to money. You do not want to leave large sums of money in your apartment or dorm room, nor is it safe to carry the money around with you.
There are many large and small banks in Philadelphia. The larger banks include Citizen's Bank, PNC Bank, Sovereign Bank and Wachovia Bank. You could open an account with any of these and find locations throughout the area. While Saint Joseph's does not maintain an official partnership with any bank, there is a money access machine operated by Wachovia on-campus in the cafeteria. Wachovia also has a branch close to SJU on City Avenue and a representative from this bank comes to our International Student Orientations to open student accounts, making this is a convenient choice of banks, at least in the beginning.
When you open a checking account you will usually receive checks and a bank card linked to your account. The checks can be used to pay bills, since you should never send cash through the mail. If you are not used to using checks, you should ask someone at the bank to explain how to fill one out. You can also open a savings account, if you would like, which will earn you interest on the money you keep in it.
At ATMs (Automated Teller Machines, also referred to as MAC machines in Philadelphia) you can use your bank card to withdraw money from your account without going into a bank. If you use an ATM operated by your bank it is usually free. If the ATM is not run by your bank, then you will likely incur a charge both from the bank that owns the machine and from your own bank.
Your bank card may also be a debit card if it has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. You can use a debit card anywhere you use a credit card, however, the money will be taken out of your bank account. It is not a credit card but it allows you to make purchases without carrying around large sums of money.
As a large city, Philadelphia has its own airport and public transportation system. Bus lines run from Philly to other nearby destinations of interest, and the Amtrak train network passes through Downtown. There are many ways to get around the city and travel to other US locations.
Our local international airport is named, conveniently enough, Philadelphia International Airport. It is abbreviated "PHL". This is the airport you should fly into when you first come to Philadelphia. It is not convenient to land somewhere else and try to get ground transportation to St. Joe's. Along with domestic and international flights, Philly International has restaurants and shops to keep you occupied while you wait.
SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, provides public transportation for Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs using buses, trolleys, street cars, a subway system and trains called Regional Rails. Schedules and costs for all modes of SEPTA transportation can be found on their website.
Buses: Buses can take you just about anywhere in and around Philadelphia. Bus routes of interest to you as Saint Joseph's students are:
- Route 44: Takes you from 54th and City Ave. to Center City Philadelphia
- Route 52: Takes you from St. Joe's through the downtown area via 52nd street
- Route 65: Takes you to Germantown or to 69th street
You must have exact change for entrance to buses and most subway stations, which means you will not receive money back if you pay more than you need to. If you want to transfer to a second bus line or subway, you must purchase a transfer when you board the bus or enter the subway. A transfer is a small piece of paper which you must hold on to and use as a ticket when changing to the second mode of transportation.
Tokens are coins sold by SEPTA, each worth one ride. Tokens are less expensive than paying the base fare. They are also very convenient because you do not have to worry about having exact change. SEPTA tokens are sold on-campus in the SJU Bookstore and at various SEPTA locations. Special tickets and passes are also available from SEPTA for a day, week, or month.
Trains: There is a comprehensive Regional Rail system which services the Philadelphia area, surrounding suburbs and parts of New Jersey. The train station closest to Saint Joseph's is the Overbrook Station. Train lines you may be interested in are:
- R5 Paoli/Thorndale: This train will carry you between Overbrook Station and Center City Philadelphia
- R1 Airport Line: You can connect to the R1 at 30th Street Station and it will take you to all terminals at the Philadelphia International Airport
The cost of the Regional Rail varies depending on where you get on and off, and what time of day you are riding. All of the stops are broken down into zones and you are charged by zone. You will pay more for riding during peak travel times (the beginning and end of the work day) than less busy times. Some train stations have ticket counters or machines where you can purchase your ticket before boarding the train. You can always purchase your ticket from an agent on the train but if you get on at a stop where tickets are sold you will be charged a small service fee. Bus tokens cannot be used to pay for train rides on the Regional Rail lines.
Since Philadelphia is centrally located in the Northeast United States, it's fairly easy to travel to other cities and places of interest. The largest bus lines are Greyhound and Peter Pan. There is also a Chintatown Bus Line that operates discounted routes from Philadelphia.
The major train line in the U.S. is called Amtrak. Prices are more expensive than taking the bus but it is usually faster.
Living in a new place requires lots of appliances and gadgets to get by and decorations to make the space feel like home. Some good stores for household items are K-mart, Target, Wal-Mart, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Linens 'n Things. Any department store will also have things for the home. You can find inexpensive furniture at Ikea.
A good place to find lots of stores together are any of the many malls in the Philadelphia area. You can go to King of Prussia, Suburban Square, or The Gallery. If you are feeling adventurous or need a bargain, Franklin Mills is an outlet mall just outside Philly.
News, Radio and Television
The major newspaper for the Philadelphia region is The Philadelphia Inquirer. You can read it online or subscribe to have it delivered to your home. The main radio station for news is KYW News Radio 1060 AM.
There are hundreds of Cable Television channels available, which do vary somewhat depending on what cable provider you have. The major national TV broadcasters are NBC (locally Channel 10), ABC (locally Channel 6), CBS (locally Channel 3) and Fox (varies locally). They usually show news in the morning from 6-8am, at noon, from 5-7pm, and at 11pm. Entertainment is programmed for the rest of the day.
During the winter, the University occasionally has to close or delay opening due to snow storms. You can either check SJU's homepage to confirm classes, call the Snow Emergency Number at 610-660-3333, or listen to KYW 1060 AM for an announcement (they will announce closings or delays by number - 216 is the school number for the day program and 2104 is the school number for graduate programs and the University College).