By chance I was made aware of the concept of the Summer Sessions and after a few internet searches I quickly landed on MicroEDU. There is a large selection of partner universities, but it was clear to me from the start that I wanted to go to the United States. Since I was planning to start studying medicine in autumn 2015, I was particularly interested in the science courses and after I set my search filters, Boston University (BU) kept appearing. The BU is a private university and has a huge range of courses during the summer with over 600 courses! No wonder I only had matches. Learn more about Boston University on andyeducation.
In the end, after a lot of back and forth, I decided to take a biology course (I had voted out bio in 10th grade despite my medical preference) and an introductory psychology course, simply because I was incredibly interested in the field. It is best to check right at the beginning whether the courses do not overlap in terms of the lecture times, this saves tedious exchanges later.
First of all: An unbelievably large pile of papers is coming up to you that needs to be signed and filled out, visas that have to be applied for and and and! But it has to be said very clearly that with the help of MicroEDU it can be done really well. You will receive incredibly detailed and easily explained instructions for all the documents that the university would like you to have, so that you can be sure to enter the correct one in the boxes. In addition, I still have what feels like 100 emails to my advisor Tanja who was so patient and helpful that I was delighted with the great support every time. So, don’t be put off, at the end of the day there is a great stay abroad and that the Americans thoroughly examine anyone who wants to stay with them for a longer period of time was already known.
What you should definitely check in advance: Do you have all the important vaccinations? Is your passport still valid long enough? Such processes, especially vaccination boosts, can sometimes take a lot of time that you may not have later. The sooner you apply to MicroEDU after the registration starts, the faster you can forward the documents to the university and, of course, the faster they will come back. Because to the student visa also includes a short interview at the US embassy in either Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt and the appointment must first be requested again. As you can see: A lot of organization, so plan enough time. The interview itself is really a joke, by the way. In the end, I stood in front of the Berlin embassy for a longer period of time and needed it for the security checks than even having an “interview” with anyone. Two questions and that in German and my visa was approved. So here too, don’t panic!
My biology course consisted of two units. A lecture unit with a nice but demanding professor who managed to teach us the material from almost two years of high school biology in 6 weeks. Of course, some of them also fell by the wayside, but if you try not to switch off all the information and have at least part of the estimated reading workload, the course is easy to manage. In general, you will always receive a so-called syllabus the week before the start of the course, which lists every lecture hour in small steps with the topic and recommended reading preparation. And you really shouldn’t underestimate the reading workload! At some point I only read or reread the most important things, because if you also want to have free time, it is difficult to do everything. But maybe it was me Lab course. This was the practical implementation of the theoretical lecture and costs you another $ 200 extra. In itself, however, it was really cool to still have this part of the course, as you understood the subject so much better and had it explained by someone other than the professor. Although the weighting was 30% / 70% in terms of Lab / Lecture, most of the work in the Lab course came towards me. At every hour there were Prelab quizzes online and Postlab assignments, the latter including two mini technical papers. There was also reading material here that did not always overlap with the lecture. So it felt like two more full-fledged courses alongside my psychology course.
I know it all sounds very daunting and it wasn’t easy either, but you get incredible support from the professors or teaching fellows. You really want to come to your office hours, because you have to be in your office at these times anyway to be asked questions. It is really a great facility and I have often used it! Of course, you can just as easily form study groups. I wrote two midterms and 1 final in the lecture part (all multiple choice) and a midterm and 1 final each in the lab course, which in turn had practical parts (microscopy, pipetting…) and was structured in a similar way to German school exams.
My psychology course was once again very different from my biology course. While at least in the lecture part you had the feeling of the typical “lecture university”, psychology was more like school lessons. The professor also gave a lecture here, but a lot of emphasis was placed on discussion. However, you can already guess what type of course you will have, as the online course overview always includes a kind of three-digit letter code, such as “IND” for Independent Study, under which my psychology course was listed. A good overview, in case these abbreviations are confusing, can be found at the University of Minnesota (https://onestop.umn.edu/registration/prepare/abbreviations/section_abbrviations.html).
In addition, part of the credits in the psychology course consisted of participation in a study of your choice (alternatively you could have written an essay). However, it was once very exciting to be an “experimental subject” and this is how you ultimately help higher psychology semesters to reach the number of participants. In addition, I have of course also written exams here, namely 2 midterms and 1 cumulative final, all in multiple choice form.
What else is important in relation to the university: First wait with the books. You will get a recommended list of books before you start university, but you should wait until the first lesson and ask the professor how important the book is.
It also made a lot of sense for me to be in town a week before university started. I’ve already checked off a few important things there (like reporting to the ISSO, getting my university ID relaxed, looking for my rooms or at least a building – the BU is really long, etc.).
The Summer Term is also very well organized by the BU: From information events for international students with small gifts, a huge barbecue, discounted Boston Red Sox tickets, an organized shopping trip and other small events, everything is included!
I decided against on-campus housing, solely because I didn’t want to pay for the mandatory meal plan. A good tip for women is the Bayridge Residence, which I then decided on. This is a non-profit, Catholic institution (but all faiths are welcome, I am also a Protestant) for female students in Boston – that is, there you meet BU students as well as Harvard, MIT, Northeastern or Berklee students. The location couldn’t be better in relation to the BU either, as Bayridge is also on Commonwealth Avenue. My walk was only 10-15 minutes, which saved me some subway costs (called the “T” in Boston). However, there is always the free option of the BU shuttle, which can also be used to get to the individual campus sections.
Boston itself is a beautiful city. Actually, you can leave it that way, because Boston is anything but a “typical” American city with skyscraper over skyscraper. Sure, these can also be found in the Financial District, but the beautiful historic Back Bay district (near the BU) with the main shopping street Newbury Street alone is a marvel. In addition, Boston is the go-to place for American history, which is impressively demonstrated with the 4 km long Freedom Trail across the city.
I tried to take both the typical and the atypical from the city. The former includes the mandatory visit to a Red Sox game at Fenway Baseball Park, the Freedom Trail and typical tourist stops at Harvard, MIT and Quincy Market for delicious food and public performances. However, Boston is still a big city, which means that you can’t do everything in such a short time. On the other hand, you have a wealth of unknown corners and tips, some of which you can either google online (for example, how cool is an exclusive sneaker shop that is disguised as an old, rancid bodega shop with a secret door?) Or from which you can learns from other BU students. It’s also always good to see if one of your favorite bands is currently playing in Boston – you can be lucky. For example, I watched the The Script concert in a small location last minute, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my stay. And don’t forget, it’s summer and Boston offers two wonderful opportunities to relax, the Ocean and the Charles River.
So again: Boston is beautiful, you shouldn’t miss this unique city !! Just as little as the opportunity to get to know American campus life. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and this was definitely not my last visit to Boston and possibly not my last stay abroad that I organize with MicroEDU!