Russian Student Feedback
It is always great to hear from Russian students who are currently studying at U.S. schools. Last week I wrote a letter to EducationUSA programs alumni requesting them to answer several questions I took those questions at the Princeton Review site (https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/questions-to-ask-on-a-college-tour). That site offered a list of questions as a tool to use during college tours to actively communicate with current students in order to learn as much as possible about target schools. I found the questions very interesting as they touched on academics, study, life, and student diversity issues and could be a good supplement to provide important information and advice about studying in the U.S. for our outgoing students as well newcomers.
I was happy that two students immediately responded to my request. Those were Maria Mukhanova from Drexel University and Daria Prosolova from University of Colorado at Boulder. Let us hear from them now and learn about their experience.

Where did you study? What is the name of your school? Were you happy at your school?
Maria: “I am currently studying at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. It is my third year, and I really enjoy attending classes and learning from intelligent and interesting people here!”
Daria: “The school I am currently studying at is called the University of Colorado at Boulder, CU Boulder for short. It is a part of the Association of American Universities which has 62 of the best research schools across the United States. CU receives more NASA funding than any other public university in the country. It is located in a small town called Boulder with a population of an estimated 110,000 people. The city is picturesque with the beautiful mountains around as a major part of the landscape.

What was your favorite class?
Daria: “I took a span of courses over the year of studying. They went all way from the sciences to humanities. Amazing lectures, passionate teachers and friendly students make the college experience as good as one could only dream of. My favorite class was Communication Strategy, mostly because of personal interest in the subject and the teacher herself. We had real-time clients working with us which made the process of learning more fun and knowledgeable.”

Were most of your classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
Maria: “Lectures are typically taught by professors, whereas recitations and labs are taught by TAs.”
Daria: “All of my classes were taught by professors, but we had teaching assistants (aka TAs) as well. TAs are a great source of help when you need it. They help you catch up on the information if the professor is going too fast without distracting other students. Both professors and TAs have office hours that they encourage to attend and so do I.  Whenever I needed something to be explained to me in details or just extra help with homework, I would request to meet with one of the TAs and get a whole new level of understanding the subject.”

Were your classes lecture-based or discussion-based?
Maria: “Classes are mostly lecture-based if you take general classes of large size (ones that many people from different majors have to take as a part of their degree requirement), such as basic cell biology, and discussion-based if you take specialized classes of small sizes, such as the biology of aging.”
Daria: “Some of my classes were lecture-based, while some others were mostly driven by in-class discussions. It depends fully on the teacher’s preferences, and I can’t say if one is better than the other. They both have good and bad sides, so it is something that one would find for themselves on their own.”

How much reading and writing is required in your courses?
Maria: “I am a biology major, and classes I take usually require more reading than writing. There are bio writing-intensive courses that mainly constitute labs for which you must write long lab reports. Readings are typically not too time-consuming in bio classes; if you attend all the lectures and pay attention to what your professor emphasizes, you typically do not have to use textbooks to do well on the exams.”
Daria: “I’d say a lot of time I spent writing papers. Essays, research papers, opinions, reviews, and all other types. My best advice would be, read more and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. At my school, I could even ask for an appointment with a librarian and get a very intelligent person to navigate me through.”

How big were your classes?
Maria: “Size of the classes varies and largely depends on the type of class. Classes in the department of biology are usually big because a lot of people are interested in taking them.”
Daria: “My classes varied from small rooms to big lecture halls. For example, something as economics was taught in the room with about 120 people while the writing class had only 15 students in it.”

Were professors available for research with students?
Maria: “Absolutely! I myself have been working in two research labs at Drexel so far under the direct supervision of professors I had bio classes with. Just reach out to the professor you are interested in working with, and they will be happy to have you!”

How was the workload?
Daria: “I spent around 2-4 hours of studying per day. Sometimes it was less than that, other times it was more, depending on the workload of a particular day. The time increased to 5-8hrs during finals week which is a week when a student is passing all of the exams.”

What do you do on the weekends and holidays?
Maria: “I dedicate part of the weekend to studying but also find time to hang out with friends (e.g. go to the Art Museum together) or/and do things for myself (e.g. learn a new song on the guitar).”
Daria: “CU Boulder is a big party school and Greek life is a huge part of the community. Holiday, whether they were major ones like Halloween, Christmas or St. Patrick’s day had celebrations go on for as long as an entire weekend each.”

How was the food?
Maria: “Food is good! There are plenty of various food options for people on specific diets or/and with certain food preferences (e.g. meat-based, plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, Asian, lactose-free, gluten-free, etc.).”
Daria: “The food was at a very decent level. We had several places to grab food from and they all had a huge variety of choices. The one I went to the most is called Center for Community(aka C4C) and had a choice of Mexican, Kosher, Italian, Asian, Vegan, Persian and American food.”

How were the dorms?
Maria: “Dorms are overall clean, cozy and nice to live in. RAs I had in the past were always very supportive, helpful and friendly.”
Daria: “The dorm I stayed in was an old one but the location was the best. As I said, it was right by the big field which is pretty much in the center of all campus so any building could easily be walked to from there.”

What was your favorite place on campus?
Maria: “My favorite place was and still is the Drexel library where I can get any desired book to read (whether I need it for school or personal business) and tune myself to complete the homework assignments and study for the exams. I feel less distracted and disturbed, and more relaxed and focused on the work there.”
Daria: “My favorite place on campus was definitely Farrand Field which is a big and beautiful field right outside of my dorm. A lot of people gathered there when it was warm, had picnics, studied, played sports or just hang out with friends.”

Did you have enough time to take part in extra-curricular activities?
Maria: “Yes! I am a part of the TriBeta Honor Society and Maya Magazine which arrange a lot of fun events, and they are very interesting and not too time-consuming. It is possible to find time for everything if you put a little bit of effort in planning and managing things.”
Daria: “The time left for extracurricular activities was more than enough. That is why I could and did go to the gym twice per week on average and so did my friends. Most of the students plan their schedule in the way that they would only study 4 days a week, and then leave for a 3-day skiing session with a big group of friends at a ski resort.”

How would you describe your fellow students? Were the students friendly?
Maria: “Everyone is amazingly smart, curious and interesting! My fellow students are hungry for knowledge, and I always find out something new, even intriguing from them.”
Daria: “Everyone is super friendly and supportive, so do not be afraid of asking people for help and advice — they are willing to give both and more!”

Are there many students from other countries?
Maria: “I know a lot of students from Russia (we often gather together for shashliky!) and other different countries, such as China, India, Australia, Germany, Poland, Nepal, and so on.”

Do students of different races and classes interact easily?
Maria: “Yes, people are accepting, promoting tolerance and fighting against biases, stereotypes, and discrimination, so I feel like home here.”
Daria: “CU Boulder has a great community where students and faculty are very supportive of each other. There is no discrimination that I’ve noticed over the year based on ethnicity, race, gender, etc. All my fellow students also agreed that people in CU are very welcoming and always. Ready to help whether it’s a school issue or someone doesn’t feel well at the party. “The university takes affirmative action to increase ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity; to employ qualified disabled individuals, and to provide equal opportunity to all students and employees.” (Data analytics, CU Boulder)

References
THE INFORMATION IN THE PARAGRAPHS IS OPINIONATED AND MIGHT INCLUDE BIAS. IT WAS GATHERED FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF STUDYING IN CU BOULDER AND DISCUSSIONS WITH OTHER STUDENTS.
Princeton Review
Bhardwa, S. (2017). The 10 most beautiful universities in the US. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/best-universities/10-most-beautiful-universities-us#survey-answer
University of Colorado Boulder website. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.colorado.edu/oda/institutional-research/student-data/diversity
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