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Anglo-American University: An International Relations Program in Prague, Czechia

           Hey everyone! My name is Hunter Vaughan and I am a new Beyond the States Ambassador for Anglo-American University (AAU) in Prague, Czechia. I’m originally from Roxboro, North Carolina and started at AAU a little over  a year ago in January 2021 where I am now a second year International Relations major with a concentration in Human Rights. AAU is the oldest private university in the Czech Republic, being founded just in 1990. Just because the school is so new does not mean the academics aren’t stellar. The school has gained many new students over the past two years, in large part thanks to fellow BTS and AAU alum, Liza Miezejeski’s viral TikTok series on how she moved to Prague to complete her college education. While many Europeans would consider AAU’s tuition to be expensive, it is relatively inexpensive by American standards, especially when you realize that AAU’s bachelor’s programs are only 3 years in length compared to the standard 4 years in America. Tuition for any of AAU’s bachelor programs comes out to $4,283 per semester or around $25,700 for the entire degree. This is much less than most private universities and even some public school’s in-state tuition in the US. This not does not include rent which can range from $400-500+/month and living costs which can entirely depend on the person. Overall, Prague is one of the most affordable cities for university students.

When I first arrived in Prague last year, I was staying in the student housing that AAU recommends, Zeitraum. While it is not on campus housing, many other AAU students were living there, as AAU has a contract with the housing company and it is also very easy to arrange in advance and get your confirmation of accommodation that you will need when applying for your Czech student visa. I would recommend to anyone considering AAU,  though,  to book rooms directly through Zeitraum’s website instead of through AAU as they are much cheaper that way. While Zeitraum was a perfect way to start off at university, especially by meeting most of my now-closest friends, you eventually want a bigger space and a kitchen that you don’t have to share with an entire floor, so most people moved out after their first or second semester. In Prague it is a lot easier to find apartments on Facebook as there are many groups and that way you don’t have to pay realtor and commission fees.

In regards to the program structure at AAU, I am currently in the school of International Relations and have a concentration in Human Rights. The way bachelor’s programs at AAU work is you can either choose to have an extended major, concentration, or minor. For example, you could simply have an International Relations degree with the extended major and you get to choose 5 IR electives yourself whereas having a concentration in an area such as Global Affairs or Human Rights, those IR electives are selected for you. My Human Rights Concentration Classes include:

  • Human Rights
  • History of Racism and Anti-Semitism
  • Moot Court
  • Humanitarian Law and Criminal Justice
  • Gender Equality in Politics
  • Business Ethics
  • Race and Civil Rights in Modern America

In place of both of those you could also choose to minor in another subject including business, journalism, and humanities. With AAU’s three year degree program, getting a choice in classes other than electives is difficult to accomplish. Within the IR major, it is also highly recommended to take a language class of either Spanish, French, German, or Russian.

Regardless of your major at AAU, students are required to complete both an internship and a senior thesis to graduate. For your internship, you can either take the internship course at AAU where the Career Center will help to place you in an internship during the semester or you could do an internship in your own time over the summer or winter break. You will be required to write a detailed paper about what your internship was and what you did. During your final year fall semester at AAU you will be placed into a Thesis Seminar course in which you have the opportunity to do a lot of research, select a thesis advisor, and submit a thesis proposal at the end of the semester. This course will make completing your thesis in the Spring much less daunting.

One of the biggest reasons a lot of students choose AAU is because the school offers both an EU and US accredited degree, meaning you will graduate with a degree valid in both countries. However, there is a catch. Every student is automatically enrolled in the US degree however to be eligible for the Czech degree, you must go through a process called nostrification in which the Czech government decides if your high school education is equivalent to the Czech education. If they find it is not, which has been the case for many AAU students (myself included), you will have to take oral exams in subjects ranging from Computer Information Systems, Geography, Physics, Biology, etc. These exams are conducted in Czech high schools and you will need an interpreter to bring with you. If you pass the exams, you will get your nostrification certificate and if you are like myself and do not pass, you will have to withdraw from the Czech degree  at AAU and just stick with the American path. Personally, I do not mind not being in the Czech program as I plan to get a masters degree in Europe anyway and will get my EU degree that way. However if it is extremely important for you to get the Czech degree the nostrification process could be a big hurdle. I have many friends who have passed their exams and I also have friends who decided to not even attempt theirs. It is truly up to you what you want to do. I will say that even without nostrification, being AAU is an amazing experience and the education you get will still be great.

If you are interested in applying to Anglo-American University please check out the admissions requirements on their website: aauni.edu . I have personally loved my time in Prague and would not change it for anything. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @huntervaughann . I wish you the best of luck on your European college search!

 

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Student Life: Kyle, International Business, RUAS, Netherland

Hi, I’m Kyle, I’m from Kennett Square, PA, and currently live in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where I study International Business at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (RUAS). As someone who lived in the United States my whole life, deciding to leave everything behind and move to Europe took every ounce of courage I had, but it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Below, I’ll walk you through the basics for my study program.

At RUAS, commonly referred to as Hogeschool Rotterdam, students in the IB (International Business) program have the opportunity to study two separate learning lines: the Business and Personal and Academic Skills (PAS) learning lines. This entails a portion of your classes involving all aspects of business, from finance, to accounting to marketing and more. On the other learning line, you can take classes such as intercultural competency and critical thinking. What I enjoy about this method of learning is that each class, regardless of which learning line they’re part of, tie into each other, and your final projects tend to incorporate everything you learned in the block.

This brings me to my next point: the block schedule. In the US, many universities operate on a semester system. While this allows more time to become comfortable with the material you’re learning, you have much more to study when it comes time for exams. At RUAS, we operate with 4 blocks, with a week break in-between the blocks (who doesn’t like extra time off?). I enjoy this form of study because I know that I have 7/8 weeks of hard work ahead, and that after that period, I have some down time to enjoy my hobbies outside of school before diving back into a new group of interesting classes.

My favorite cla ss so far might have been Intercultural Competency (IC). IC is a class that gives students a way to be more open minded about other cultures outside of their own (if you’re unsure about school in Europe, this class would surely make you excited about the prospect). They teach students the 6 steps of becoming interculturally competent, meaning that students who were at one point closed off to other cultures and their ideals, slowly but surely can shift to become people excited about traveling the world and experiencing everything it offers.

At my university, we have both normal classes and lectures. These lectures are small groups of 25 students learning as a class with a teacher who makes the content easy to understand. Being in a small group like this is much more favorable as the teacher is there to help people individually. These are weekly, depending on the class, and cover most of the content you need for your end of block exams. Additionally, you also have regular classes (similar group size and the same content). These classes are used for you and your group mates to work on the all-encompassing group projects that are also due at the end of the block. I enjoy this setup because if you use your class time wisely, you can get your project done easily and this allows you to allocate your last week or two of the block studying for your exams.

University is challenging no matter where you are, but I strongly encourage everyone considering school in Europe to take a chance, and to be challenged in a new environment like the Netherlands.

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ESCP: Management Program in Three Countries

Hey there! My name is Anya, and you may already know me from the podcast and video blog I’ve done with Beyond the States. I’m from Boulder, Colorado, and am currently in my third and final year at ESCP Business School in their BSc in Management program. This is a very unique program, which allows us to study in three different countries, moving each year to a different campus they have around Europe. The school itself was founded in Paris, France, and is one of the oldest business schools in Europe. It’s well known for its masters programs, which are for the most part taught in English, and within the past few years has started gaining recognition for their English-taught bachelor. It is a private school, meaning higher tuition than most universities you’ll find through Beyond the States. Since I hold dual American-Austrian citizenship through my parents, I pay the European tuition (around 13k Eur per year), whereas international students will likely pay more (Current tuition is around $24,650 per year. – Ed.). This is excluding housing and living costs, so factoring in everything, I pay about as much as I would for out-of-state university, and around $25k more than what I would pay for an in-state school. However, I finish in 3 years, and I get a double degree (French and German), but more on that later.

I attended my first year on their London campus, which is in the quaint area of West Hampstead, about a 30 minute underground ride to London center. Though ESCP doesn’t provide housing, in each city there’s always student housing options and of course the option to share an apartment with other students or with locals. I chose to live in a student accommodation my first year, so I could meet other students and ease into living on my own. This was a popular choice by ESCP students, which I knew from the beginning, so that made my choice easier. I lived with 7 other people whom I shared the kitchen and living area with, and then I had my own small bedroom and bathroom. Beside the housing, I was able to get to know my fellow classmates through induction day, Whatsapp groupchats, and student-proposed meet ups at the accommodation or within the city (this was all pre-pandemic).

In the bachelor program, the classes are pre-set and we don’t get to choose what we take until third year when we have some electives options. During the year in London, we had many introductory classes such as accounting, psychology, microeconomics, presentation and rhetoric skills, world history, mathematics, law, statistics, and computer skills (Microsoft Office). We also had a credit called ‘collective project’ in which we had the liberty to choose our group and a business project, as long as it followed certain guidelines. Some people created charity companies, others a ‘running dinner’ club, and my group decided to do a podcast called ‘Name It’, where we discussed a wide range of topics and had some of our classmates join special episodes.

My second year took place on the Paris campus, the headquarters and biggest campus of ESCP. I lived with two of my best friends in a shared apartment, which we rented through Airbnb. It was a two minute walk from campus, which made it easy for when we had in-person classes. Our courses in the second year were mostly building upon first year’s classes and

consisted of marketing, macroeconomics, taxation and e-commerce law, contract law, finance and accounting, Python coding, statistics 2, and intercultural skills. Since I was in Paris, my tax and e-commerce law classes were taught in French. In Madrid, different classes of theirs were in Spanish, and in Turin everything was English. To go to Paris or Madrid during our second year, we were required to have a certain level (B2) in French or Spanish. Like the first year, we had another credit of collective project, in which the school collaborated with the ChangeNOW Summit and each group researched sustainable initiatives and companies in certain industries (carbon capture, urban farming, fashion, audiovisual industry, etc).

Each year we also take language classes, usually corresponding to the campuses we attend (except English, no English classes are taught since there’s an English requirement for program entry). For me, that was French and German, since my third and current year is in Berlin, Germany. This is the year we are able to choose elective classes each semester, split into two parts – management elective and liberal arts elective. The management elective is split into ‘tracks’, with each track consisting of two classes. When you choose a track, you have to take both classes it offers, you can’t pick two different classes from two different tracks. The tracks offered were marketing, finance, management, and digitalization/entrepreneurship. The liberal arts elective is just a single class we can each choose, usually centered around humanities, such as negotiations, international relations, big data, conscious leadership, and others. This is also the year we complete a bachelor’s thesis on a topic of our choice. We chose our topic and thesis advisor in the fall, and the spring semester is the time where we really have to crack down and write it out. Based on a blockchain class I took in the digitalization elective, I decided to focus my thesis on how smart contracts (on the blockchain) would disrupt the real estate transaction process (now that’s a mouthful!). I learned that with such a general management degree, there is no right or wrong thesis, and the topics I heard people chose are so varied, from corporate volunteering, to sustainable finance, to NFTs, to luxury marketing, and so on.

Going back to what I said at the beginning, about a double degree – since ESCP has its primary campus and founding in France, but many students graduate from the Berlin campus, those students may be eligible to receive both degrees! The French one is called a Diplôme Visé BAC+3, while the German is the classic BSc in Management that is based on the American standards, however they both mean the same thing and are equivalent. I do want to point out though, to those considering going to ESCP, that in order to get the German BSc (the more recognizable title, but no difference in value!), you would have to a) graduate from the Berlin campus (i.e., it needs to be your third year campus), and b) meet the same requirements that a classic German high school student would meet – so start planning ahead! For me, these requirements looked similar to the following:

                • At least 16 “academic units” in the last 4 years of high school
                • 4 English units
                • 2 foreign language units
                • 3 social studies units
                • 2 or 3 math units and 2 or 3 science units (to make a total of 5)

Alongside those, there are also AP requirements – 4 AP exams with minimum grade of 3:

  • English
  • Foreign language
  • Math or science
  • Additional (can be humanities, comp sci, etc)

Of course, requirements change and I know that they are constantly revamping admissions and even the program outline and campus options, so be sure to check with the admissions officer about what the requirements look like. It’s been a wonderful ride at ESCP, and to hear more about student life and information I wasn’t able to include here, check out the blog and podcast linked above!

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Maastricht Science Program

The Maastricht Science Program

Hey guys it’s Izzy Waszkiewicz again! In this post I wanted to talk to you guys about my program, the Maastricht Science Program. More specifically, I will delve into its offered subjects/directions, its unique student-chosen curriculum, and lastly, how its academic year is laid out.

As I have mentioned before, I am a third (and final) year student studying in the South of the Netherlands in a city called Maastricht. I study in the Maastricht Science Program (MSP), and it is part of Maastricht University (UM). This program is one of the newer programs at UM and teaches the many different aspects of science.

Map of Netherlands. (n.d.). Vectorstock. photograph. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from https://cdn5.vectorstock.com/i/1000×1000/23/24/map-netherlands-with-road-sign-maastricht-vector-35962324.jpg .

The beauty of this program is that it encompasses almost all the aspects of science a student might be interested in such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, and even technical/scientific computing classes. Each of these aspects of science also include their own various paths within them. For example, when studying biology, one could delve into human biology-based courses such as cellular biology and molecular biology, or environmental biology-based studies such as ecology or ecophysiology. So, all of these types of courses are offered through MSP, and requests can even be made for the formation of new courses or topics if enough students are interested.

Not only does MSP offer an extremely wide variety of courses, but all the courses you study over the span of your 3 years at MSP are chosen by the student herself. This was one of the most important aspects of MSP that really stood out to me as I was most interested in human biology, but I also wanted to try a few environmental biology courses to see if those interested me more. Thanks to the student-chosen schedules at MSP I was able to not only try both, but also a few basic chemistry courses and neuroscience courses to improve my curriculum. By taking courses in all of these directions I find that I have not only been able to expand my knowledge on various scientific fields, but also have learned how to combine information from these different fields to one another.

Another characteristic of MSP that makes my program so unique is the setup of the academic year. My academic year begins in early September and is split into 2 semesters which have 3 periods within each semester. Moreover, periods 1, 2, 4 and 5 are normal periods in which a student is required to take 2 courses and a skills lab (unless they have fulfilled their ECT requirements or need to take an additional course).

Skills labs are offered in all the different directions at MSP at a specific lab facility close to camps that is stocked with excellent equipment for students to use. Personally, I have been able to take practicals in molecular biology, genetics, applied cell biology, nanobiology and even a few field skills practicals in which I have been able to go into the land surrounding Maastricht and collect life samples. These practicals and lab days have allowed me to learn and strengthen my hands on skills and taught me various techniques I hope to be able to utilize in research in my future. Below are some pictures from various practical/lab days I have experienced. (The picture on the right was taken on an outdoor excursion to a natural park in Northern Limburg while the other 3 images were taken at our lab facilities.)

The other periods, periods 3 and 6, are considered project periods in which students partake in research projects in groups of between 4 to sometimes 10 students on a given topic. During the project period the students have an advisor/supervisor who aids when complications or questions about the project arise, but otherwise do not intervene too much. These projects require us students to (usually in higher project levels) come up with their own specific research question, methods to address the question, and to finally create a research paper with their methods, results, and discussions/findings.

During these project periods I have, for example, been able to conduct research into invasive species in and around the natural parks in Limburg, specifically in the Grensmaas region of the Netherlands. Not only have I written reports, but this last academic year (around June of 2021), my project period team and I created a documentary video about the nature reserve in our city to help spread awareness, and we even got the video published and shared by various organizations in Maastricht. Below are some pictures taken during our many excursions for gathering data and shots of the park!

Since the teachers and staff allow us as students to choose our own academic paths, and advising us along the way, we are given the opportunity to study whatever (within science) we want and even try out courses we might not realize we will enjoy. Ultimately, I personally recommend programs like MSP which allow students to find which topics truly interest us, and let you explore your future opportunities while teaching you necessary skills.

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Central European University

soros You have likely heard of George Soros, the American billionaire, who was born in Hungary. While there are many newsworthy stories about him, one that I find fascinating pertains to his involvement with Central European University (CEU). Soros founded CEU in 1991 to develop future generations that could build and maintain open and democratic societies. The recent fall of communism, Soros’ financial backing, and master’s degree programs that were accredited by both Hungary and the US proved a successful combination for the school. It was considered Hungary’s most prestigious graduate school, training presidents, diplomats, and leaders in major institutions.

But Viktor Orban (the right wing Prime Minster of Hungary) had issues with Soros’ political views, and “has long viewed the school as a bastion of liberalism, presenting a threat to his vision of creating an “illiberal democracy,”. So in 2017, the Orban administration introduced new rules aimed to render CEU illegal in Hungary. CEU administrators and others, including seventeen Nobel Prize winners, 80,000 protesters, and numerous universities around the world, rallied against the government’s move, but to no avail. Since they couldn’t lawfully continue teaching their US accredited programs in Hungary, they moved the university to Austria in 2019.

My previous trips to Budapest and Vienna didn’t align with a visit to CEU, but after seeing signs of their growth and how they have flourished since their move – in particular with the addition of bachelor’s degrees – I knew I had to get over there!

CEU Austria I was told ahead of time that I would need to provide proof of my COVID vaccination or a negative quick test when I arrived for the visit.  Security in the lobby was checking this for all who entered. I was struck by how orderly and friendly this process was, which is not the case everywhere. My next impression was around the remarkable facilities. Even though they are building a new, large, American style campus in another part of Vienna, they really went above and beyond with this temporary facility.  Had I not been informed about the new campus, I would have assumed that this was a permanent facility. In fact, they invested millions in the remodel of the historic building that was previously a bank. The building holds classrooms with modern technology, computer labs, a large library, an auditorium, a cafe, and many student areas (kitchen areas, meeting spaces, study spaces), and faculty/staff offices.

There are 1300 students at CEU, almost all are international students (meaning not Austrian), and there is not one dominant culture – so English is widely spoken outside the classrooms as well. Can you imagine the perspectives brought to the classroom discussions and social events? The 370 faculty members provide an incredible faculty to student ratio and professors are quite accessible to students. In fact, their offices were intentionally integrated near classrooms and student spaces to facilitate their accessibility.

There are also 395 permanent staff members who provide a large array of resources and services. These include a Community Engagement Office, Student Life Office, Research Centers, a Press office, Counseling Services, a Medical Center, and a very robust Career Service department.

Another thing the school handles is first year housing, which is required. All first-year students live in shared student housing in a nearby district of Vienna with easy access to the metro and city center. The apartments are modern and furnished with a full kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms. In addition, the building includes a gym, laundry facilities, and a study lounge for meeting with other students or finding a quiet space to work.

As noted, the three bachelor’s degree programs are new. Two began in 2020, and one began this year. Each are incredibly multidisciplinary, with specializations chosen in the second year. Students in the Culture, Politics, and Society program can major in Cultural Heritage, Environmental Studies, Gender Studies, History, Human Rights, International Relations, Medieval Studies, Nationalism Studies, Philosophy, Political Science or Sociology/Social Anthropology.  The Philosophy, Politics and Economics majors are, of course, Philosophy, Politics, or Economics.  Lastly, the new Quantitative Social Science program includes two areas of focus, with choices of Sociology, Economics, Environmental Science, Political Science, and Data Science. Students can take electives from the other programs as well. The degree programs can be completed in three years for an Austrian degree, or 4 years to receive both the Austrian and American degree.  The third year includes the thesis and the fourth includes a capstone project. Students are encouraged to study abroad and partner universities include Sciences Po (Paris), Università Bocconi (Milan), London School of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden) and Bard College (US).

Admissions is competitive. After reviewing grades, recommendations, a motivation letter, essay, CV, andactivities, the top sixty students per program are invited to an interview. This interview includes a discussion with a panel about a chart or text that the student is given an hour before the meeting. The thirty candidates (per program) who rank highest in the interview are accepted.

The Master’s degree options warrant their own blog as the number and scope are vast and incredibly interesting!  I will certainly be putting this school on Sam’s radar when he starts exploring grad school!

A bachelor’s degree from  CEU offers a global perspective on some of the world’s most important issues and the skills to work on them. It aims to develop the ability to read and think critically, analyze, write well, and express yourself effectively – skills transferrable to a wide variety of careers.

CEU is hosting a virtual open day on November 19th, 2021. Learn more about the event here.

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School Visit to Cork, Ireland

My weekends as a preteen in the mid-80s often involved trips to Blockbuster with friends.  If we weren’t renting Mask (with Cher) for the millionth time, then a National Lampoon movie was a likely pick. Say what you will, but European Vacation remains one of my favorites of the series.  I can’t even count how many times Sam, Ellie, and I have said “Look kids, Big Ben” as Tom struggled with traffic circle exits in various countries.

Anyhow, you might recall the bicyclist from the movie.  Chevy Chase continually causes all sort of accidents that injure this character, but each time the cyclist responds with kindness, friendliness, and unnecessary apologies. Though this part of the movie took place in London, I thought of it often while we were in Ireland.

As an introvert, I am not someone who enjoys small talk with strangers. By this, I mean strangers who will stay strangers-like the person sitting next to me on the plane. Small talk exhausts me, so expending that energy with someone I will likely not see again doesn’t appeal to me. Every single person I met in Ireland was just so genuinely friendly, that conversations didn’t feel like small talk with a stranger. It was really remarkable. I was talking to an administrator from University College Dublin, who is also American and a self-proclaimed introvert like me, and he noted that it’s really hard to truly explain or understand until you experience it.  We lived in North Carolina for many years, so friendliness from strangers is something I’m familiar with, but this is something beyond that.

We started our trip in Cork, which was a three-hour train ride from Dublin.  I was particularly excited about this part of the trip, as Cork is known as a great food destination. And it did not disappoint!  The cheeses were particularly amazing, though the emphasis on local food was prevalent in many places around the city. I walked past more than one kebab shop that advertised using only local Irish lamb. I also like that it’s a smaller city, which made getting around and exploring quite easy. Though not evident in the summer, it’s a university city, with about 17% students included in their population of 210,000.

This trip was different than others I’ve been on. Though Irish universities plan to open in the fall, most are still closed with employees working from home. In most cases, I walked around campuses to get a feel and then had zoom calls with administrators who answered my questions.  The exception was University College Cork, as much of the staff in the International Office continued on campus work through the summer. Due to this, I was able to have an in-person meeting.

Surprisingly, there was only one rainy day on our entire trip. Of course, this happened to be the day of my meeting at UCC so after seeing the forecast I decided to check out the campus a day early. As you may know, centralized campuses are rare in Europe. Usually the different department buildings are scattered around the city. Though there are some beautiful university buildings, they aren’t generally all in one place.  The UCC campus dates back to 1845 with incredible landscaping and Gothic architecture. Even some of the newer buildings are built into original structures, which provides a striking contrast. I have to say, this must be the most beautiful campus in Europe that I have visited.

UCC has 76 bachelor’s and more than 100 masters.  This is comparable to the number offered at the other Irish universities. So how does a student choose between schools in Ireland if they are looking for a program that is offered at many of the traditional universities (as opposed to the technological instituted, which is a topic we will explore in a future post)?

A student might like UCC because of the beautiful facilities, the commitment to a green campus, the focus on sustainability and green campus, the career services offerings, the breadth of student associations, or the incredible English Market (ok that one is me…). While there are a number of aspects students could look at, one that I think is important is international student experience.

There are some aspects of the international student experience that will be common at most Irish universities.  Most of the traditional universities offer an Arts program, which is similar to liberal arts and provides a level of curricular flexibility. Housing for first year international students is (basically) guaranteed at most universities too.  Adjusting to the first year can also be easier in Ireland. I’ve been told that the friendliness and inclusiveness I experienced extends to international students. Further, since the language in Ireland is English, international students are able to access all the various clubs and associations (as opposed to only those in English as is the case in non-anglophone countries).

There are factors around the international student experience, though, that are directly affected by the international student resources in place. This was just one area in which UCC impressed me tremendously.  These supports start with the admissions process. International students apply directly to the international student office who work with the applicant to answer questions and assist with the process.  Application decisions are turned around quickly, generally within 4 weeks or so.  These supports continue after acceptance and before starting at campus.  What struck me were the ways in which the international office team goes above and beyond the help their students during this time. Before they even arrive on campus!  One example of this is the email that was sent to students this summer. It was friendly and informative without being overwhelming. They provided information about arrival, orientation, events and more as well a number of ways for students to connect through Facebook groups and such before arrival. Sam was a first year student at two different Dutch universities and the difference in this before arrival support and what he received is dramatic.

The support from this office continues after arrival and through graduation.  In addition to the orientation that is integrated with the non-international students, the international office hosts four “Essential Information” sessions for international students.  These include sessions on immigration matters, how to access various supports and resources at UCC, practical tips, and issues around culture and transition. Like the summer email, I like that the information is partialized and presented in a way as to not overwhelm the students. The staff really seemed to care about the students and their overall well-being. During covid times, they sent out regular emails, with ways to connect that were aligned with restrictions on movement and provided the students with an online hub to access supports around wellbeing.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that we added Ireland! Though more expensive than most of the offerings in continental Europe, they are still less expensive than private universities in the United States.  All the traditional universities have FAFSA numbers and accept direct federal student loans (not the Pell Grant) and some have scholarship options for international students. Of course, many of are pursuing higher education in Europe in order to avoid debt for ourselves or our children…That said, many of our members are exploring options in Europe due to other benefits around international education and/or have been saving according to US tuition rates.  If your budget includes options in the12-20k per year range, I highly suggest exploring the options in Ireland.

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Isabell in Maastricht

Hey guys, my name is Isabel Waszkiewicz. I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin which I will address as “MKE” for the rest of this blog post. In this blog I am going to tell you guys about my experience moving from MKE to a smaller Dutch city.

In high school, when junior year rolled around in 2018, I was hit with an immense dilemma: Do I want to stay in the USA for my college life, or look farther from home, like in Europe. I decided to apply to schools in Europe and applied also to backup schools in Wisconsin in case I changed my mind. I ended up choosing numerous schools in the Netherlands as I wanted to focus my studies on biology, mainly human biology, and I wanted to study in an all-English course. Therefore, thorough using Beyond the States, I was able to find numerous courses fitting my needs and wants, in numerous countries. The course that best fit me and provided me with a wide variety of biology courses proved to be a program called the Maastricht Science Program (MSP). I ended up applying here, and mid-senior year I got my acceptance letter. I was beyond thrilled.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years, and I am now about to start my third and final year of university at MSP. MSP is a Liberal Arts and Sciences program based in a smaller, Southern city in the Netherlands: Maastricht. Leaving to come to Maastricht was a big change for me, not only because I didn’t know anyone, but because the city was smaller compared to the MKE I was used to, and the culture was so different.

Specifically speaking, Maastricht is slightly larger than 60 square kilometers, and has a population of about 122,400 people. Compared to Milwaukee, which is over 250 square kilometers and has a population a

lmost 5 times larger than that of Maastricht with 594,600 people. I was in for a big change. However, I could not be happier with my decision.

Personally, I find studying in a smaller city like Maastricht extremely nice and comforting. You can get to know the city, and all of its hidden spots, whereas in much larger cities I feel you can still feel a bit lost after even years of studying there. I also find since you know more areas well, there is also a greater feeling of safety in smaller cities. In large cities there commonly are areas that may not be the safest to walk through at night perhaps, but in smaller cities like Maastricht I find there are little to no unsafe areas, and if there are areas best not travelled alone at night, you know about them well due to their scarcity.

In addition, not only do you get to know the city better, but the people living there as well. In smaller cities you are very likely to get to know local people from your favorite restaurants or small stores extremely well and make connections that are scarce in larger cities. Besides locals, you are easily able to meet up with friends you meet from university whenever since almost everything is less than a 20-30 minute bike ride away. I cannot express how nice it is to run into friends on the streets, especially when you are so far from home. Almost every time I leave my house, I am able to run into, or spot someone I know. I personally find this extremely comforting as I get homesick sometimes and miss friends from back in the US, and these interactions allow relationships to grow in your new hometown.

Lastly, in smaller cities like Maastricht, commuting to class, work, or even to friend’s places is extremely easy. In fact, since the Dutch bike everywhere, I can bike to my friend’s place on the complete opposite side of the city, in under 30 minutes in Maastricht. Most places are reachable by foot, but biking provides a greater ease.

With tight schedules, this proximity helps greatly, as if you are running late, you are usually 5-10 minutes away from work even with traffic. This makes moving places, commuting to work, getting home at night, and even grocery shopping so much easier and faster.

Overall, I know moving to another country across the ocean is already a huge change and causes stress, trust me I’ve been there. I just hope this blog post takes a little bit of that stress away if you are currently worried you applied to a smaller university or will be living in a smaller city. All change is going to be somewhat stressful at first, whether that is good or ba

d stress. In the end however, you just need to realize that you are human, you will adapt, and wherever you end up will bring so many new and amazing opportunities. Take it from me, moving to a much smaller Dutch city from the US was one of, if not the best decision I have made yet in my life.

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Geneva, Switzerland School Visit

Ellie and I just got back from a week in Geneva. It was my first time in Switzerland and, I have to tell you, Geneva is now at the very top of my “Favorite Cities in Europe” list.  It had everything I love about Paris (language, culture, incredible food, beautiful architecture) but cleaner, friendlier, and with the addition of the incredible views with the lake and the Alps. Further, it’s compact, easy to navigate, and with a great public transportation system.  Did I pay $10 for Band-Aids? Yes. And $9 for blackberries at the farmer’s market? Also, yes. But other things, like our hotel, Swiss wines, and local public transportation were surprisingly affordable.  I spent the first few days visiting schools and then we had four days of exploring the city, eating tons of cheese and chocolate, and making a day

trip to Lausanne.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t love every school I visit. In fact, I had enough concerns about one of the schools I visited during our trip to Geneva that I took it out of the database and sent an email to our members about my concerns.  And then I visited a school on the other end of the spectrum. One that I could not wait to let you all know about. This school is the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.

Where do I even start?

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies was founded in 1927. It’s technically a private, not-for profit institution, but also get 40% of their funding from the state as they are seen as providing a service of public utility. They previously housed their facilities in a historic villa on Lake Geneva but built a new campus that opened in 2013.

I just need to take a minute to tell you about their facilities, as they are truly breathtaking.  They are located just around the corner from the UN. The six buildings, which are located just around the corner from the UN Headquarters, are referred to as petals due to their shape.  The school facilities are in the first building while the expansive and impressive library extends into the second petal as well.  The campus includes a conference space, where the Dali Llama recently spoke, and offices in the other buildings are rented out to organizations and NGOs with similar missions. For this reason, the entire facility is referred to as the Campus of Peace. The value of sustainability was incorporated into the structure. The building uses geothermal heating and cooling and also has a weather center on top to detect when shutters need to be shut and open.  There is housing in viewing distance with 260 beds, and another newly built with 600 beds just 15 minutes by foot from campus.  Rooms costs 700 CHF+ (convert to US dollars) per month.

There are only 1077 students, so the robust facilities are especially impressive. That said, in recognizing that students may also desire the student life opportunities provided by a larger university, they have an arrangement with the University of Geneva that allows students to utilize their facilities and services. This includes things like sports clubs and facilities, medical, student associations, study spaces and just about anything else you can think of!

The school has six master’s degree programs.  The one I want to tell you about today is the interdisciplinary International and Development Studies program.  All students in this two year program take the same core classes, which include Stats, Research Methods, and choices from core classes like Gender and International Affairs and Development, Global Governance and Regulation, and Extraction, Poverty, and Inequality. Students also take electives from the five disciplinary program, which are Anthropology and Sociology, International Economics, International History and Politics, International Law, and International Relations/Political Science . The rest of the courses are primarily centered around the student’s specialization. Students are required to chose one specialization, with the option of two from:

  • Conflict, Peace and Security
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Gender, Race, and Diversity
  • Global Health
  • Mobilities, Migrations, and Boundaries
  • Sustainable Trade and Finance
  • Human Rights and Humanitarianism

Skills based workshops are also a mandatory part of the curriculum and help students with career related skills, Skills based workshops are also a mandatory part of the curriculum and help students with career related skills, be it public speaking, digital platforms, or how to work as a consultant. The third semester includes either a study abroad opportunity or the capstone project, an applied research project in which students work in groups to work on real research mandates from NGOs and other international organizations. The fourth semester is focused on the dissertation.

The reputation of the school, location, strong career services department, relationships formed with organizations, and active alumni association help in the employability of graduates from this program as well as others. 90% of students find relevant work within 4 months of graduating. 37% work in the public sector, 27.5% work for non for profit, 21.6% work in the private sector and 13.9% in academia.  About half of the graduates stay in Switzerland and the other half take positions

Did I mention that Kofi Annan is an alum?

I often talk about the value of the international exposure that is provided by having friends and classmates from around the world.  85-90% of the students at this school are international-from over 100 countries-so there is not one dominate culture. This can be challenging, but also incredibly mind expanding.  The administrator I met with, explained it in a way that gave me goose bumps.  She said….

Imagine that you are in a class with 20 people from 20 different countries.  The school doesn’t teach topics like chemistry-which have one universal truth.  You may be talking about something like WWII. You have the “facts” that you were taught through your textbooks at school as well as the cultural narratives you have learned about it through media, family, etc.  You may have classmates from Germany, China, Uganda, Angola, Canada, and more-all of whom had different textbooks and cultural narratives.  These different points of view include topics pertaining to values, culture, and politics. Having what you saw as “facts” challenged can be uncomfortable, but this is where incredible learning occurs.

She spoke of how Switzerland is a neutral country, it’s an appropriate safe place for students to have this discussion. The safe place does not, in this context, mean avoiding the difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It means creating an environment where different points of view can be expressed and heard in a way that leads to growth, learning, and perspective shifts.

Since the programs at the Graduate Institute are focused on the problems of the world, they are developing students with the know knowledge, skills, and global perspective that is required to truly make an impact. And now I have goosebumps again.

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Adam Housing

Adam submitted this video for us a few months ago and I immediately sent it to Sam in order to light a fire under his housing search-and it worked!  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Adam through our student ambassador program and recently interviewed him for our upcoming podcast relaunch.  He had really interesting experiences to share around playing baseball in the Netherlands, his academic experiences, and his upcoming semester abroad in South Korea!