Each semester, Bachelor and Master students have an opportunity to go an exchange semester to one of the GSOM SPbU partner universities. Ekaterina Nefedovich, 2nd year student of the MiM program, has returned after a semester at Babson College, USA. We talked with Ekaterina and found out how useful the experience of studying in the USA is, how much life and accomodation cost there, and whether travel and study can be combined.
Please, tell us what would be useful to know before the trip?
There were GSOM Bachelor students at Babson, but I found out about that only a few weeks before the end of the semester. The university interacted with Masters separately and there was therefore no contact between exchange students from the Bachelor and Master programs. There were eight people from Master program, so from the point of view of communication, in my opinion, it would be convenient to know people from Bachelor program too.
Also I consider that it is better not live in Wellsley, where the college is located, but closer to Boston. It is very inconvenient to get to the university from anywhere you live, but living closer to Boston is more convenient for planning leisure activities, as well as saving money — you won’t have to pay $ 8 per one way for the electric train from Wellsley to Boston.
In December, the Winter Prom (a winter graduation party) is held for all master's programs with a fancy dress code. If we knew about this, the outfit could be taken in advance from home and not bought there.
Ideally, you need to have car license. Then you can go somewhere nearby, for example, to shops, or travel by car.
You can take a container for food in advance and take food in the dining room, where you pay the entrance fee and eat as much as you want, but also, sure, you can buy it already on the spot.
What documents and certificates are needed?
Officially, Babson College requires:
- any international certificate confirming the language level;
- confirmation of the availability of finance — about $ 15,000 in the account (the dynamics of the account in my year was not asked, I just had a balance);
- vaccination certificate: a large list of vaccines that must be made no later than a certain time (each vaccine has its own time limit). One vaccine from the list is not given in Russia, but it was already given to me in the USA.
If you do not submit all the documents on time, the registration for courses can be blocked.
What can you say about your welcome week?
There was no Welcome week. There was one welcome event that I could not attend. But despite missing it, I did not experience any further discomfort — there was no special specific information there.
What did you understand about America and its inhabitants? Was there a cultural shock or personal insights? What did you like and dislike in communication with the locals?
People in America are very friendly. They always want to help and take initiative where you have not even requested it. After a while, in the company of Americans, you begin to apologize for everything, wish everyone a good day and become as friendly as possible. For me it was the most noticeable contrast with Russia.
At the same time, there was a persistent feeling that the process of building close relations with the Americans would definitely take a lot of time. They like to talk about personal things, but they will not be able to conduct emotional conversations on abstract topics, like with Russian people.
A big plus is that everywhere, especially at the university, there are a lot of non-native Americans. In general, communication with locals can go in different ways — depending on which culture you come across.
Tell us about the infrastructure of the university where you studied, the organization of communication with students.
The university is well equipped, it has everything you need: a swimming pool, a gym, a library, places for classes, a health service, and very good free psychological assistance. There is a very convenient online booking system for classrooms. There are cafes with different cuisines and a large selection.
There is a campus in the center of Boston. There are a lot of different cafes around. The interaction with students from the university is very understandable, they respond quickly to emails. Student can always come to a specific office and ask their questions. But there were no university exchange events for students.
What is about accomodation for exchange students? Are there dorms from the University, is it easy to find rental rooms or apartments?
There is a University dorm, but it is not given to Master students on exchange. It is quite difficult to find accomodation, no one rents out for a short time. But there are alternatives — renting an apartment or room on Airbnb. I chose this option. So many exchange students found good accomodation after they had arrived, but these rooms and flats were more expensive than mine.
The main problem is the remoteness of the university from public transport. Transport almost does not go on weekends, especially in the morning and in the evening, so it is very difficult to find accomodation with a convenient location.
Tell a little about studying, was it difficult? Were there lots of new courses?
Studying is not very difficult, but it depends on the number of courses, their subjects and on how much the student is aiming for good grades. In general, student need to learn quite a lot, but it’s almost impossible not to pass the subject.
The courses are mainly everything for MBA, practical oriented. Lecturers are business managers, not scientists. Professors always talk about how the studied material can be applied to specific companies and situations.
The new courses that I liked the most were Leading Sustainable Innovations, Impact Investing, Investment Banking, BI (R Programming), Marketing High-Tech Products. It should be borne in mind that each GSOM course is 6 ECTS, the maximum rate in the USA is 5 ECTS or less. Therefore, for each GSOM course I had to take two courses in the USA. A total I had 8 subjects.
For those who are going to America for an exchange semester, tell us how much on average do you need money for a living?
I will count in dollars.
- Accomodation. My accomodation costs $ 815 for the entire period of stay in the USA, but the average costs is $ 1000-1200.
- Food. Lunch costs an average of $ 15-20 (probably 20), for groceries in the supermarket were enough $ 60-80 for two weeks.
- Transport. $ 2.75 - one trip by subway or bus.
- Insurance required from the university $ 1295.
Total minimum monthly expenses were about $ 600-700.
- Traveling is highly dependent on where you are going by bus or flying. You can go to New York for $ 5-20 one way by bus. There for 3-4 days it is impossible to spend less than $ 500, including accomodation. Most likely this amount will be much larger. Flights will cost approximately more than $ 800.
For four months, I spent $ 15,000. You can spend much less if you travel less or travel to closer places.
Did you travel during the exchange?
Yes, I traveled a lot. I visited Los Angeles, Washington, Disneyland in Orlando and many times New York. Traveling during the semester is quite tedious, but it can be combined with deadlines. The truth is sometimes intense courses are on Fridays and Saturdays. Around Boston there are a lot of interesting things, but you can hardly get there without a car.
What was the most memorable during the exchange?
A very interesting study with interesting discussions and thoughts about post-capitalism were the most memorable. And New York, of course.