A Phoenix Manual for International Fellows

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Spending eight to 10 months in one of America’s most rapidly expanding urban hubs may seem brief for fully uncovering its treasures, yet it’s enough time to fall under its charms. There were places and possibilities in Phoenix that we, Humphrey Fellows, wished we knew about early on, but still enjoyed or found helpful as the year progressed.

Here is a short list of things we think you ought to see and do during your stay in the hottest (!) big city of the southwest.

Getting the vibe

Our very own Cronkite School and university not only has some of the best subject-matter experts in this part of the globe, it also has research centers and resources for whatever area of interest you’d wish to explore. There are events you can attend without having to submit a graded quiz at the First Amendment Forum. They usually feature top-tier journalists and thought leaders whose insights may inspire your next paper. Remember to RSVP so they can add you to the meal count, when that’s offered.

The library at University Center is a quiet place with reliable internet connection to snooze in spend hours studying in. When you’re feeling a bit homesick, shake hands with the corporately clad international student crowd at Thunderbird School and its top-floor Pub. Chances are you’ll find people from your part of the world who are also trying to make it through coursework in this darned second language, English.

On a slow Thursday or Friday morning, you can take a shuttle bus to ASU’s Tempe campus just right in front of the University Center. Walk around the hip university town while avoiding the sun under the palm trees. Check out the libraries and galleries. See whether there’s an upcoming show at Gammage or TCA you may want to catch.

Let the youthful campus energy rub off on you. You’ll need it.

Getting sustenance

One of the first acquaintances you’ll make in the city is a place you can source your daily bread–or rice or pasta or quinoa or other gluten-free carbs–from. Most likely, you will already have found Frys. While it is not the cheapest store to satisfy your wallet app, it is definitely most accessible for most of you living downtown.

The bagger tends to pack your goods in copious layers of plastic bags, so remember to ask for the paper bag versions so you can later on ace sustainable lifestyle surveys. Also, grab a handful of twist ties—those tiny pieces of wire with plastic coating—at the fruits section. You can organize your cables, seal snacks and garbage bags with them at home. Life hack!

When you have a bit more time, take a short bus ride to Los Altos Ranch Market. It has fresher and more reasonably priced perishables that will not make your budget perish as fast. Trader Joe’s, while a two-bus ride away, is a favorite for food, snacks and beverage. Just don’t expect to get your toilet paper and other supplies there.

Plan accordingly.

Getting around

For starters, you most likely have two feet. The downtown area is pedestrian friendly. Use them. 

You’ll be forgiven for not wanting to walk in the scorching summer months though. Arizona has some easy moped laws so an alternative I’d recommend is taking an electric kick scooter when you need to get somewhere a few blocks away at noontime. It’s fun and exhilarating, but take precautions and slow down on sidewalks. And don’t speed up at night. Trust me, I have the scars to convince you.

Phoenix is also one of the first few lucky cities where Waymo, the driverless taxi, operates. I’ve heard from enough people who regularly take it to say you’ll enjoy it, too. Waymo vehicles are usually white sedans with a whirling device on top of them. That’s a Lidar that maps surroundings and senses your presence but not your feelings.

For trips farther than usual, there are buses and there’s a metro. Google Maps will give you the timings and directions. But you oughta install the Metro Valley app linked to your Apple Pay or Google Pay to purchase the tickets. If you expect to commute regularly to school and work, there’s a student transportation card you can purchase that’s valid for a year at the University Center. The cost is upfront but savings are down the line.

Getting a life

The Burton Barr Library on Central Ave is the flagship Phoenix library and it might just be my favorite place to be in this desert city besides my bed. Getting a library card is free and easy. With it, you can borrow any book to complete your already excellent education and keep you company during silent weekends when other fellows are not dropping student life memes on your WhatsApp group.

Phoenix tends to have rather quiet downtown in the summer evenings with the exception of First Fridays on Roosevelt Ave when food trucks line the streets, amateur DJs blast Latino beats and dining places are lit and buzzing. You don’t need a map, just follow your heart to that next taco.

You’ll soak up the sun, sip pineapple juice and absorb your class readings, but you also have to soak in culture, too. You don’t have to spend a lot doing so. The Phoenix Art Museum is next to the Phoenix Theatre in the Arts District along Central Ave. Between those two establishments are fascinating exhibits you can access with a Culture Pass from the university library and shows you can see with a big student rush discount. Just don’t ask me why “Theatre” is spelled the British way, because I don’t have an answer for you. 

The Heard Museum is one of the first must-sees. Make sure you visit this gem in your first few months to learn about the Indian Country and tribal nations whose homelands everything you see is standing on. Exhibit feature artifacts and art spanning centuries of Native American culture and history and relax in the welcoming outdoor spaces of the complex. 

On your way there, you might notice a peculiar castle in the middle of the city. It’s the Irish Cultural Center and yes, it was constructed with authentic castle stones and wood shipped from Ireland where some Arizona residents hail from. They have tours on weekends you can book to see a copy of the famed Book of Kells and the complex that includes a rural cottage with a hearth where they used to cook potato stew in a copper pot–also shipped from Ireland. 

This manual, being a manual, is not automatic. You will have to follow it but it also leaves out spaces you can explore for yourself. A fellow’s life need not be boring or exhausting. Virtue stands in the middle, as Aristotle said. You only have around 250 days here, seize them.

About Camille Diola

Camille is the top editor at Philstar Global, publisher of two of the Philippines’ leading news sites Philstar.com and Interaksyon. She is currently based in Phoenix, AZ as a Fulbright-Hubert H. Humphrey fellow with a concentration on news sustainability and entrepreneurship.

View all posts by Camille Diola →