University: Boston University
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
An information event at my university made me seriously consider studying abroad for a semester for the first time. After giving some thought to where I would like to study, I decided on the east coast of the USA, more precisely on Boston University. Talking to fellow students from higher semesters about their experiences abroad helped me in making this decision, but intensive discussions with friends and family were also important, and last but not least the information and experiences I received through MicroEdu. Check mcat-test-centers.com to see University of California Los Angeles.
Even during the first information event and in the many discussions, the high organizational effort was repeatedly discussed. In retrospect, I can only confirm this. You should give yourself about a year to plan. During the preparation period, but also in the first few weeks in Boston, there was a lot to coordinate: Early exam dates had to be coordinated with professors, since the semester times in Germany and the USA differ significantly, conditions for the application had to be clarified and Information about scholarships and foreign BAföG had to be obtained in order to name only the most important ones.
When applying to Boston University, the info pack and email contact with MicroEdu helped me a lot. After I knew roughly what the rough steps are, I started with the English test.
Boston University accepts both the IELTS and TOEFL tests as proof of adequate English proficiency. I chose the TOEFL test because there are more test dates for this test in my hometown. From what I’ve heard, both tests don’t differ much in terms of their requirements and the costs are about the same. I paid around €250 for the TOEFL test. To prepare for the TOEFL test, I borrowed the official preparatory reading from my library and worked through it in about 2 weeks in a relaxed manner. The TOEFL test consists of four sections – reading, writing, listening, speaking – each of which has the same weight. You have a certain amount of time for each section.
The test lasts 3 to 4 hours in total, with a 10-minute break after the first two sections. During the break you can go to the toilet and stretch your legs in a certain area, but we were not allowed to leave the building. If you need a break during one of the sections, unfortunately there is no way to freeze the time.
Looking back, I would prepare for the test like this again and not spend money on additional materials.
For the application process at Boston University, MicroEdu will put together a detailed package of documents and information for you. These must then be processed step by step. It is important that you always keep an eye on the application for a semester abroad at your university or college in Germany. Find out about application deadlines here in good time.
I partially financed my stay abroad with the Hin-und-Weg-Stipendium (HUW) and with a grant from the International BAföG Office. It is best to find out more about the HUW scholarship or other options from your International Office. The application for foreign BAföG was torture. If you are applying for domestic BAföG, you already know something about the documents, but there are also a lot of other details that have to be submitted. I therefore recommend submitting the application as early as possible. Many documents and information required by the office are not yet available to you. Then just let them know when they are likely to be available. It is also important here that you observe the deadlines. You usually have 4 weeks to submit documents.
MicroEdu will also provide you with a document with all the important information for the visa application. It’s been a while since I applied for the visa, but I’ll try to summarize what I know. First you need to register online at two US portals, one to apply for your SEVIS form, the other to apply for your F1 visa. For the SEVIS form you have to answer a questionnaire; that took some time. For the F1 you also have to answer a few questions and then make an appointment with one of the US consulates in Germany. For both forms you have to pay around $350 at this point, so it is best to have a credit card at this point ready.
I had my appointment at the US consulate in Berlin, as that was the closest thing to me. Depending on the time of your appointment, you may need to plan an overnight stay in the relevant city. Note, however, that you get next to NOTHING! take with you to the consulate. That means: no bags or backpacks, no handbags, no mobile phones or other electronic devices, no liquids, etc… If you have no place to stay overnight where you can leave your things, it is best to lock them at the main station, as it is in the consulates have no way of including or handing in anything (at least not in Berlin). For my visit I only had a bag with all the necessary documents and small change for the bus and train and no problems. Be there a little earlier (30min), than your actual appointment, as there is usually a queue at the security check. All in all, the visit lasted about two hours, which was very quick.
Finding a home in Boston was one of the most stressful parts of the prep. I started searching about two months before the semester started and searched until three days before the semester started and stayed at the hostel until then. In principle, however, you first have to decide whether you want to live on-campus or off-campus, i.e. whether you want to live in a dorm room at Boston University (on-campus) or whether you want to rent a room in a shared apartment on your own seeks. The prices and conditions for on-campus housing can be found on the BU website. The cheapest option for me would have been a dorm room for two to three people. Since most dorms do not have a kitchen, only a microwave and a fridge, you have to book a food plan, with which you can then eat in one of the three dining halls. There are also different versions of the food plans at corresponding prices. The cheapest combination would still have cost me $7,500.
Since I like to cook, prefer my own room and wanted to spend as little money as possible, I decided to look for a room in a shared flat. Unfortunately, this option is not cheap either. Boston is a very expensive city in general and especially to live inis expensive. I ended up lucky and found a room for $650 a month. However, the room was in Cambridge, so I had a fair amount of walking to do every day. By bus and train between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours, depending on traffic and time. A room for $650 is extremely cheap though! On average, I would say a rent of $800 per month plus utilities (between $50-150 depending on the time of year) is realistic. However, be prepared for an intensive search. I’ve made many friends who have paid $1000+ for their room.
So if you decide to look for your own room, there are several online portals you can look at. First of all, I recommend the BU’s off-campus housing portal. There, BU students offer their rooms for takeover or interim rent. The chances of finding a room with the right dates are high. Since rental contracts in the USA last at least one year, many internationals or transfer students are looking for new tenants here.
Independent of the BU, I also regularly searched four other portals: craigslist.com, roommates.com, easyroommate.com and roomster.com. Searching on these portals takes some time, but craigslist.com in particular has many offers. Watch out for fake offers when searching! Don’t settle for paying a security deposit in advance if you haven’t seen the room beforehand or you haven’t been given any seriously trustworthy documents.
Another option you should use is Facebook groups. There are plenty of housing groups, whether for Boston in general or for BU students specifically. I ended up finding my room through Craigslist, but not until I was in Boston. As I said, I was very stressed about looking for an apartment and you will probably feel the same way, but you can be sure that you will find something in the end, even if you have not yet received a room confirmation at the time of your departure. In an emergency, you can also rent a room in the ESL Townhouse. However, these are very expensive ($450 per week).
The semester abroad
Boston is a very beautiful city, characterized by many old brick buildings. However, you can’t compare it with European cities or New York. The city of Boston has a little over 600,000 inhabitants, if you include the neighboring city of Cambridge and the region, you come to over a million. Since my semester started in January, I took the cold months in Boston with me. Even if my winter was comparatively mild, the temperature can easily drop to minus 20 degrees and snow a lot. The cold period begins in October/November, similar to ours, and lasts until April. Nevertheless, the winter in Boston is very nice, very cold but comparatively much sunshine. The summer, on the other hand, is a little warmer than in Germany.
In my five months, Boston seemed rather conservative to me, for example clubs, bars and pubs have to close at 2 a.m. by law. Despite the many universities and a high percentage of students, I missed the student influence on the city, which may be due to the fact that students and the rest of the population are very focused on their studies or their job. But don’t worry, depending on what you’re looking for, you can also spend your time here at house parties or just throw yourself into your studies.
Even if youth culture in Boston is not very pronounced, the city has a lot to offer when it comes to art. The Museum of Fine Arts is definitely worth a visit and admission is free for BU students. I personally really liked the Isabell Steward Gardner Museum. If you arrive a few days or weeks before the start of the semester, which I would highly recommend, the Freedome Trail, a city tour along the historical sights, offers a great chance to get to know the city. Boston Common and the Public Garden, both downtown parks, are worth a visit any time of the year. I also really enjoyed spending time in the Beacon Hill and South End neighborhoods or along the Charles River.
The public transport network is relatively well developed by American standards. At the beginning of the semester I ordered the semester ticket (T-Pass) from the BU. The ticket costs around $260 and is valid from February to the end of May. However, this is only worthwhile if you have to take the train every day. A regular monthly pass is also only $80 as far as I remember.
As already mentioned, Boston is rather an expensive city. I budgeted $600 a month for food and other things (excluding rent and T-pass) and that pretty much got me there, but I also lived frugally and cooked at home a lot. Eating out starts at around $10 per meal, a cappuccino in a café costs $4-5 and groceries in the supermarket often cost double what we are used to. If you want to buy fruit and vegetables very cheaply, you should go to the Haymarket on Fridays or Saturdays.
The Boston University campus stretches two miles along Commonwealth Avenue. The university is divided into 12 colleges for the disciplines. Depending on whether your home university has a partner agreement with the BU, you can either choose freely from the courses offered by the BU or be restricted to courses from a specific college. You will find an incredible number of sports and leisure activities on campus, about which you can best inform yourself on the BU website. You will also get the most important information at the introductory event at the beginning of the semester. Here I briefly list the buildings on campus that I have used the most. I spent most of the semester in the Mugar Library, like most other international students. Mugar is the BU’s main library. It is located relatively in the middle of the campus. Right next to Mugar is GSU, a BU food mall. If you haven’t booked a food plan and don’t go home to cook for lunch, you’ll probably eat there. GSU offers nine stands with different dishes. You can get sushi, burgers, salads, sandwiches, Asian, soups and other stuff here. Typically, a meal costs between $6 and $10. The BU also offers you a fitness center that you can use free of charge. For this you have to go to the FitRec (Fitness & Recreation Center) and register there on one of the computers. You can then use the full range of FitRec. This includes the fitness center, a climbing wall, two swimming pools, a 400m indoor track, several basketball courts and halls for other sports. Also several basketball courts and halls for other sports. Also several basketball courts and halls for other sports. Alsothe offer for outdoor sports is enormous, such as a rowing and sailing boathouse. However, since I was there in the winter, I only used the fitness center.
Since my university is not a partner university of the BU, I was only allowed to choose courses from the Metropolitan (MET) College. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what requirements your university has to meet in order to be able to choose freely at the other colleges. The MET was actually set up to give working people the opportunity to take courses on the side or to catch up on a degree. In addition, the lectures are filled with international students. As a result, there is relatively little contact with American students. In retrospect, it didn’t particularly bother me because I really enjoyed the time with the international students. Regardless of the course allocation, I would describe the cohesion between internationals as very strong, since everyone faces the same problems that American students do not face.
However, I often had the feeling that I was getting a rather second-rate apprenticeship at the MET. This has been repeatedly confirmed by some students who previously studied at the Questrom School of Business (BU Business College). In general, it has been my experience, both personally at the MET and from stories told by students at other BU faculties, or by my roommates who attended Harvard, Columbia, and Duke, that the scholarly aspirations and associated scholarly rigor go a long way is lower than at European universities and colleges. On the one hand, this is reflected in the depth of the content of the lectures, whereby it was more often a question of discussing as many aspects as possible than of questioning and understanding complex models. On the other hand, this can be seen in the design of the lectures. For example, these are less well thought out or are only planned based on the specifications of a book; Discussions are shorter and, above all, the grading is largely arbitrary and subjective. But don’t worry, by that I mean a strong tendency to get good grades.
Even if the scientific claim is lower, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do anything. You can expect homework, such as chores, presentations or reading and processing information, every week. It is up to you how intensively you carry out these tasks and how much time you spend on them. At this point, I would recommend paying close attention to what the professor expects from you for the assessments, i.e. the exams in between, and preparing myself specifically for them. If you want to complete all tasks in the usual quality, you will quickly spend more than 40 hours in the library. I made this mistake and even after realizing it, I had trouble doing the tasks less neatly, so I sometimes spent twice as much time in the library as some of my fellow students. However, there were also a few who felt the same way as I did, so I quickly made friends who shared my everyday library life with me.
As described above, I had to take my courses at the MET. Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to this. I worked my way through what the MET had to offer beforehand and compared the courses to those I still had to take at my home university so that I could then count the credits could let. Sometimes this is not so easy, as the BU website only has very brief descriptions of the respective courses. I then had the syllabi sent to me via MicroEdu for a shortlist. This went without any problems and very quickly. The syllabi were then checked individually by the professors at my university. With the courses offered at the BU, you first have to rely on what was available in the previous spring or fall semester. Which courses will actually take place at which times will only be announced a few weeks before the start of the semester, so you may have to make some changes because courses are not taking place or are running parallel. Since the MET is also for evening students, most courses take place between 6: 00 p.m. and 9: 00 p.m. This often leads to overlaps. There are usually 4 American credits for the courses at the BU, which were credited at my university for 8 ECTS. It is best to find out beforehand at your International Office how many ECTS you get for an American credit and how many courses or credits you have to take at least. However, you can still change your selection at the BU in the first few weeks of the semester. Please note, however, that you will of course have to catch up on the missed material.
I then decided on the following four courses following the process described above:
MET MG 410 Entrepreneurial Management – Istvan Bonyhay
I didn’t take this course for long. I didn’t visit him after the second or third lecture, mainly because I couldn’t get along with the professor’s methods. Unfortunately, I also had the lecturer in another class that I couldn’t deselect, and it turned out that the professor was actually very bad. So that you can form your own opinion, I will briefly describe the situation that ultimately caused me to opt out of the course: In the second lecture, we talked about psychological theories of human personality. In doing so, the professor had a clear opinion on the correctness of a certain group of theories and strictly rejected the other theories. I dealt intensively with the theories he rejected in the previous semester in the personnel psychology course, so that a difference of opinion developed at this point. Unfortunately, the professor didn’t allow for any alternative opinions or explanations, cutting off my argument mid-sentence on the grounds that it was wrong…no further explanation from him. This behavior continued in this and the next lecture. Opinions or approaches that did not follow the lecture material were not admitted and discussions were quickly interrupted. To me, this reflects the opposite of what I understand by learning at a university. The content of the course may be interesting, but I cannot recommend any event with this professor.
MET MG 520 International Business Management – Istvan Bonyhay
As already described, I was unfortunately not able to deselect this course. I can anticipate that I would not recommend this course if taught by Istvan either. The professor is actually a neurologist and works as a researcher at Harvard Hospital in Boston. He earned his Masters in Business from the MET, but otherwise only has medical degrees and, to my knowledge, has never worked in business. How to get started with this resume as a Professor of International Business Management can be adjusted is a mystery to me to this day. Unfortunately, I wasn’t pleasantly surprised in the lectures either. The professor could only show patchy knowledge, apart from what the book deals with. This also made it clear to me why further discussions were quickly broken off. About half of the lectures were about monetary policy, the foreign exchange market and economically related aspects. The remaining aspects of international business were clearly neglected, or in some cases were not dealt with at all. I already have two semesters of economics proven, so that I quickly noticed that for the most part only one of many theories on certain topics was discussed. The professor was also not confident in handling the material taught. He often had to correct statements in the subsequent lectures that he had previously explained incorrectly or did not notice fundamental mistakes. After I tried to discuss some of the models and bring up other theories on the same topic in a lecture, he admonished me at the end of the lecture in front of the whole class, saying please do not criticize or question the content of the lecture should, as long as I’m not an absolute expert in the field. For me, part of a university education is asking critical questions and stimulating discussions.
In addition, the evaluation framework specified in the syllabus was not adhered to. The professor had random unannounced pop-up quizzes written and only shared the composition of the overall grade from the various assessments after the last exam.
Despite the shortcomings in terms of content and organization, I always had an above-average amount to do for this course. The two planned quizzes and the final exam each consisted of around 150 multiple-choice questions and 20-30 short-answer questions and lasted two to three hours. In conclusion: a bad course in terms of content, organization and pedagogy, which takes up a lot of time and is therefore not recommended. Surprisingly, I got a relatively good grade (A-), but didn’t take much with me.
MET MG 530 Business Strategy—Walter Sylvia
This was by far the best course I have taken. Walter Sylvia has gained an incredible amount of practical experience. In his course, he conveys these experiences to the students in a very application-oriented manner. Precisely because Walter has a lot of knowledge to offer Sylvia, he expects his students to do the right work and tends to be authoritarian in his dealings. The course is very time-consuming, as a particularly large number of reports and presentations have to be prepared in individual and group work. If you are willing to invest a corresponding amount of work, you can learn a lot in this course. I would definitely recommend Business Strategy.
MET MG 550 International Business Law and Regulation – Robert Barry
Robert Barry is a very laid back teacher. At the BU he is known for causing his students particularly little stress and for wanting to have particularly little stress himself. However, I acquired most of my knowledge from the book, as the lecture is very dry and you switch off very quickly. This is definitely a course to get a good grade with little effort. The learning load is rather low.
I have tried to present my experiences, especially the negative ones, as objectively as possible. However, a certain degree of subjectivity is unavoidable.
In conclusion, I can say that it was not the experience that others talk about when they return from a semester abroad. It was a very important and good experience, but also one with ups and downs. I think everyone planning a project like this should be prepared for that. Nevertheless, I would recommend everyone to gain experience abroad. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether in the USA and at the BU.