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Russian student at the University of Chicago - about studies, life in the USA and the difference in mentalities

Freshman at the University of Illinois at Chicago Ilya Andreev from St. Petersburg told the publication “Medusa”About the process of entering the American higher education institution, about the difference between Russians and Americans, about the Chicago winter and career plans.

Photos from the personal archive of Ilya Andreev

Decision to leave

I graduated from the 30th Physics and Mathematics Lyceum in St. Petersburg. Until the last moment, I had a choice of where to study - in Russia or in the States. Based on the Unified State Exam scores, I went to ITMO and St. Petersburg State University. But in the end he decided to enter the United States. It is there that the center of the technological world, with which I want to connect my destiny. Student startups are supported there. For example, there is Thiel fellowship - billionaire Peter Thiel distributes thousands of dollars to 100 students wishing to pursue their projects. This is a fairy tale! This is almost not in any country. Among those who received grants are Vitaly Buterin, the creator of the platform. Ethereum, and Ari Weinstein, creator of the app Workflow (recently bought it Apple).

In the lyceum we had a lot of mathematics, physics, programming. At some point I began to program a lot myself - on Javascript and go. I was fascinated by this, and I decided to enter the specialty “Mathematics and Computer Science” (Mathematics and Computer Science). Classmates took my decision to leave normally. Some even wanted to do with me (but did not work out). Both relatives and friends reacted without much approval, but without negative. That was my decision.

Admission process

I began to prepare for admission in about a year. For a start, figured out the deadlines at different stages of the application. The hardest thing was to figure out what exactly and in what order to do and which universities to apply for.

At the same time, I was preparing for an English exam (I took the TOEFL, but IELTS results are also being taken), and also for the American high school graduate exam, the SAT. Then it was necessary to write an essay on a specific topic - they differ in different universities. A good essay is very important, it is an indicator that you really know the language, and not just use a set of clichés. It was easy for me to combine preparation for the Unified State Examination with admission to the States - I managed to finish with filing documents in the USA four months before the Unified State Exam.

Then there was the sending of documents translated into English and certified by a notary, filling out long application forms. By the way, if you submit them to several universities, you can use the system The common application. All basic information is completed once and then automatically sent to selected universities.

University of Illinois at Chicago
Фото: Depositphotos

Studies

Here is an unusual system for Russians: you need to choose the items yourself. They are divided into three groups. One refers to your program. The second is the subjects from the category “general education”: there is art, world history and so on. The third group is subjects absolutely on any topic that is just interesting for you.

Each course is assigned a certain number of credits (credits). Their number depends on the hours allotted for the subject during the semester. For the bachelor’s degree you need to earn 120 credits and take a certain number of courses from all three groups. The order in which you listen to courses may vary. Most students try to choose general courses in the first two years of study, in order to focus on their specialty. As a freshman, I now have only one subject in my specialty. He is called - Mathematics and Computer Science.

It is interesting to study - you can listen to courses from a field that is not directly connected with your specialty. The choice is quite large: in world history, for example, you can type courses - from Japan in the XIX century to the Second World War, depending on what you like more. From subjects not in the specialty, I chose microeconomics, American literature and history. We also have obligatory pairs in academic writing, they really helped me to learn how to write works in English and to overcome the barrier in academic English. In general, I have no language barrier; the most difficult is probably slang. But even here you can quickly catch up to the general level, the main thing is not to be afraid to ask others what it means if you don't know it.

Couples themselves are of two types - lectures and discussions. The lectures can sit on the 300 people, there basically explain the theory. And for discussions, we are divided into groups of 15 people, with these pairs we solve problems or discuss the material covered in lectures. We do not have oral examinations, only written ones - and not only in all subjects. The complexity depends on the course. For one you need to prepare for the week, and for others it is enough to spend half an hour. In some subjects, such as academic writing, you just need to pass the project at the end of the semester.

Life in america

The first time I went abroad for so long. But before that, I visited many places with my parents, including in America. In this country, there is a surplus in everything. Even in a cultural sense, it’s difficult to discuss something with someone. Say, the list of best-selling books and TV shows is so big that everyone chooses something for themselves. As a result, finding a person with whom you can discuss your favorite book is very difficult. But still, when you leave, the outlook expands, you look at everything with different eyes. This is a positive experience that is worth a lot.

I try to communicate mainly with Americans, although there are also guys from the CIS and other countries at the university. It is more interesting to me with local ones: communication with them helps to learn more about America and about what people live here.

Chicago is divided into a small center with skyscrapers and bоmost of it is from one-story houses. There is the same cold here as in St. Petersburg. But with the same amount of snow here is always clean and no slush. I live just on the border between the districts. The university campus occupies a large area, and my hostel is right next to it, so I don’t need to go to the city.

Our hostel is very comfortable. Mainly freshmen and second year students live here. Senior students gather in groups of several people and rent houses nearby - this is considered more prestigious. Even in the hostel there are parties. One of the most popular entertainment is the birpong. This is an alcoholic game in which players throw a ping-pong ball across the table to get into a glass of beer - after each hit in the opponent's glass, he drinks. But I myself do not participate in such games: I do not drink.

In the USA - the cult of sport, although I myself am not particularly interested in this. This is the central part of high life. Universities have teams in various forms, matches are constantly held.

We should all learn from the simple attitude of Americans towards life. They believe that if you have no problems now, then everything is in order and you need to enjoy the moment. In Russia, it is customary to live with the problems of tomorrow. People are rarely happy, relaxed, calm - even during their holidays, a Russian is worried about the future.

Chicago.
Фото: Depositphotos

The choice of specialty and the future

It is difficult to say in which area I want to develop. Perhaps in cyber security. For example, this summer, when Roskomnadzor wanted to block Telegram, my friend and I created a free service that helps to bypass the blocking - @FastestProxyBot. Thousands of people from Iran, New Zealand and Russia took advantage of it. Now it develops into a more serious project. In general, cybersecurity is a fairly extensive, deep and interesting area that can be studied for a very long time.

Even the United States is an ideal country to do science. My university is a major research university, professors from all over the country come here. They are engaged in real research, and in parallel earn additionally, lecturing.

Each lecturer can be asked: “What are you working on right now?” - and he, most likely, will tell something interesting. You can go to the head of the direction and discuss which research project you can join. A list of such projects is sent to students approximately every six months. There are a lot of projects in our university, you can try yourself in any field. But I do not plan to go to science yet. I think I'm not smart enough for that.

I want to return to Russia with a unique experience, contacts, good knowledge of the English language. But when exactly to return is a difficult question, considering that for the time being I am learning only in the first year. Now I am trying to participate in as many projects as possible. Perhaps I will return to Russia immediately after the university. But there is still an idea to work first in Silicon Valley, and after that to make a decision.

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