Good Bye Seoul, Hello Philadelphia!

I’m Sunny, 21, from Seoul, South Korea to Drexel in Phila, PA

On December 29th, 2022 I got on the plane to Philadelphia after teary goodbye to my friends at Incheon International Airport. After about 21 hours of travel, I arrived at my new apartment in Philly. The Uber driver was kind enough to help me with my two big carriers to the front door, and I could remember to tip the driver for his excellent help at the last moment. Tipping is not a very common culture in Korea, so I had to constantly remind myself that many services here should be accompanied by my tips.

The second day in Philly started with grocery shopping since I did not have anything to eat for breakfast. Before going to the grocery store, I walked around the neighborhood for a while. To be honest, many people I’ve met before coming to Philly have told me that Philadelphia isn’t necessarily the safest city in the US. I have been given several pieces of advice on living in Philly, like “don’t walk around holding your phone in your hand, because someone might snatch it away” or “don’t hang your bags on the door when using the public restroom because people will steal it.” Also, the emails from Drexel University about ‘gunshots near University City’ or ‘attempted robbery near dormitory’ always frightened me. Because of that, I was a bit worried about my safety and wanted to see what the atmosphere was like near my apartment.

To my relief, the neighborhood looked very neat and the people I crossed by were all very nice. A lady walking the dog who saw me stare at the cute little doggie asked me if I wanted to pat her dog. A passenger who saw me suffering with the septa key kiosk offered me his three-day pass. A kind lady at the bookstore asked me where I was from and hearing that I am from South Korea, said hello to me in Korean – which was very impressive by the way. Loving Philadelphia already, I finished my first grocery shopping in Philly.

Speaking of Septa Keys, learning how to ride the Septa bus was a big task for me during the first week. Although Philly is a pretty walkable city according to the others, coming from a relatively small country and a city where you can go pretty much anywhere within a 5 to 10 minutes walk, I desperately needed transportation to go further.

Septa, a transportation authority in Philadelphia, was the easiest transit I could access. Frankly speaking, an underground trolley in Philly was not the best option. Only by approaching the stairways could I smell the not-so-good sewer-like scent. Not every station was like that, but the station near my house smelled so bad that I never try to use it anymore. So I went to the nearest Septa Fare Kiosk and purchased a 1-month pass. The Septa payment system was kind of new to me since I could just use my credit or check card to ride on public transportation in South Korea. But for Septa, you either need to pay the exact fee with cash or need the septa key. Also, requesting stops was a fresh new method for me here as you need to pull the yellow strings hanging alongside the windows, which I think is a very good way as it is very easy for everyone to reach the string. Now that I became an expert on Septa, I’m planning to travel all over the city with it.

I feel like Philadelphia is ‘my city’ already and cannot wait to discover every detail about Philly. I am so excited about the upcoming school life and journeys in Philadelphia.