Learning in New York: “It took me a semester to seek out my place, however in the present day I really feel good there”

It’s like being in The Hit Girls, Easy A or another all-American college movie: a few days before the start of the school year, on a residential street in upstate New York, a brick house decorated with white and blue balloons, in front of where vans and SUVs parade, driven by fathers and mothers in warm clothes, and from where impatient students emerge, dragging huge suitcases behind them.

The last week of August is “housing” day at Columbia University, a prestigious American university located in northern Manhattan. Huge boxes full of notebooks, clothes, frying pans and toasters then circulate between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, until the future students are finally installed in the residence assigned to them.

“70,000 euros for the master’s year”

A dream comeback for many young French people, as New York’s lure remains strong. But the dream has a price: after earning a bachelor’s degree at ESSEC, Milan, 23, got a place at Columbia’s master’s in public relations. Motivated, he spent four to six months preparing for the selection tests, a year before the beginning of the school year: “Columbia University, in New York, made me dream! My goal is to work in the humanitarian field, why not in the United Nations, and this university has many partnerships that should allow me to do so, after my degree”.

Going to study in the United States without any partnership cost him a lot in tuition fees: two years at 70,000 euros each, or 140,000 in total. Admittedly, the university awarded him a merit scholarship of 30,000 euros a year, “without my even asking!” “, And he hopes to get a job as an assistant professor next year for 20,000 euros, but he will stay at his expense, 60,000 euros,“ just for tuition fees ”.

And you also have to pay for accommodation, food, books, health insurance, plane tickets to return to France. After many difficulties and disappointments, the young Frenchman ended up finding an apartment in the south of Harlem, which he shares with 3 other students, one American and two Germans. Value of your share of the rent: 1,500 euros, for a single room and a shared kitchen that the boys had to fully furnish and equip. A month and a half after his arrival, Milan estimate his monthly budget without fees at a minimum of 2000 euros, without outings and extras, in a city where a simple donut costs 5 euros.

Since his parents cannot pay for his studies, Milan took out a very large loan from his bank: 150,000 euros. “I had already taken out a student loan for my bachelor’s degree, which I was able to pay off thanks to my work and study contract. I am aware that these studies in New York represent a very large budget, but I think it is an investment that will pay off. My classes are fascinating, there is a lot of work, the other students in my Master’s are very involved, I have no regrets”.

Sport to integrate in the city

Like Milan, Victor dreamed of America. At the end of August 2021, he landed on the other side of the Atlantic, to spend the last 2 years of his Sciences-po Paris-Columbia double degree. Looking back a year, the 21-year-old student estimates his monthly budget at 2,400 euros, without going out too much, cooking as much as possible and never buying red meat. To this must be added the fees, around 40,000 euros per year.

But the cost of living is not the only hurdle to overcome for the French arriving in New York: “It’s a city that you can quickly lose your footing in because it’s big, it may sound cliché, but it takes time. -o, says Victor. When I arrived last year, alone, I quickly realized that I would need to find places where I felt good, so as not to be devoured by the city, which can be very oppressive. »

The solution for the young man came from running. It was by running and practicing sports there that the student appropriated the “Big Apple” and its various neighborhoods. To complete his integration, the New Yorker also joined two associations, another essential stage in North American student life: one that offers management consultancy, similar to French junior companies, and another that edits a magazine of art. “It took me a semester to find my place, but today I’m good at it”, summarizes Victor.

Aiming for courses in partnership

An expensive, dizzying city, not always as welcoming as expected, with prestigious higher education establishments, but overpriced compared to French standards: New York has to be conquered, therefore. But for those who still dream of going there to study, there are solutions. To begin with, the scholarship system, which is very developed in the United States from master’s level onwards, can sometimes allow tuition fees to be cut in half, as is the case in Milan.

So, many French higher education establishments have exchange partnerships with American universities and, in particular, with universities in New York: it is obviously the ideal solution to spend a semester there without bleeding. Thus, Columbia receives two Panthéon Sorbonne students per year, for one semester, who only pay the tuition fees of their French university (170 euros per year).

Another solution: to get a grant that covers all possible costs of the doctorate. At the age of 22, after a master’s degree in history from EHESS, Justine is a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York (CUNY). Ahead of her were five years to study religious minorities in 17th and 18th century America. “I submitted my applications in December 2021 to start in August 2022 at 7 different American universities, it was very tedious and time consuming, remembers the PhD student, I was also surprised by the place given in the application files. history of the students, in my case the fact that I spent my childhood in the Caribbean. Finally, three universities offered me interviews, remotely, and it was CUNY, a public university, that accepted me”.

Micefa, a good plan for Parisian students

MICEFA (Mission Inter-universitaire de Coordination des Échanges Franco-Américains) is a partnership program between 18 Parisian and Ile-de-France universities and 65 North American universities in the United States and Canada. Among them, 5 New York establishments, accessible by paying only French registration fees: State University of New York, City University of New York, Manhattan College, Pace University, St Francis College.

Huge bonus: all of Justine’s expenses are covered by the university. Tuition fees, health insurance (substantial budget in the United States, up to several thousand euros a year), but also accommodation and meals, as Justine is housed in a boarding house in Manhattan, a 15-minute walk from her university and the New York Public Library.

She also receives 750 euros a month to buy books and finance her trips to the United States to consult archives and advance her research work. In exchange, she works as a research assistant and next year she will teach 1st and 2nd year students: “It prepares me for teaching, even if I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do in 5 years”. Archivist, curator, the field of possibilities is still wide open for Justine. The only certainty: she probably won’t be returning to France anytime soon.

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