Mild Adventures in America

Yoav Magid (’06) :::

I have now lived in the United States of America for a good year and a half. Still, as I’m writing this, I’m on a bus to Toronto – the driver of which is completely lost, no less – leaving the US during the most American weekend of the year: that of Super Bowl Sunday. Apparently, I’m not that American yet.

I graduated from UCU in 2006 (which makes me feel quite old), worked in Holland as a debating instructor for a few years, but then felt the urge to go back to school and be intellectually stimulated again. So now I am a Master’s Student in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, specializing in Persuasion and Social Influence. Yes, I am learning how to manipulate people, but I am planning to use it only for good. I also get to teach ‘Critical Thinking and Speaking’ to fifty undergrads per semester, which is not only one of the most fun things I do here, but has also enabled me to get a full tuition remission and stipend for my two years here!

Studying in the US has felt like a really fun extended study abroad program so far. I have met lots of new people, made friends, traveled a whole lot, and even learnt a few things along the way. The big difference between this and my original study abroad program (Sydney, 2005), however, is the amount of stuff I have needed to arrange myself, as opposed to the UU’s well-organized exchange programs.

I know I’m not the first UCU graduate to come to the US for graduate school, nor will I be the last. The US is a great place to be, academically as well as socially and adventurously, so for those people who want to join the ranks of UCU-ers who have gone on to The States, let me put a few pieces of advice out there:

(1) If you are coming here for graduate school, find a good program rather than a good school. For instance, if you are in the field of Communication, the University of Maryland or Michigan State University have much better programs than, say, Harvard or Yale. And even if you are not coming here to work with a specific professor, you should certainly familiarize yourself with the faculty’s work of the places you are applying to!

(2) Going to school here can be extremely expensive, so you might want to find a program that offers you a teaching or research assistantship and/or a stipend – I was lucky to find one that offers both. Alternatively, you might save money by living with your parents while working full time for the three years prior to coming here – I did that as well.

(3) Find a good location! Depending on whether you’re only getting a Master’s degree or you’re also considering a Ph.D., you could be spending 2 – 7 years of your life here! The difference between Dallas, TX, San Francisco, CA and New York, NY is much bigger than, say, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, or even Maastricht. Another part of finding a good location, by the way, is finding the right balance between living close to campus and living in a great neighborhood. I live in College Park, MD (5 minutes from campus), but am still trying to find something in Washington, DC (40 minutes from campus, but totally worth it).

(4) Remember that the US is a really big place. Being here sometimes feels like a big extended vacation, because I can easily go to a different part of the country at least once or twice a month. As a matter of fact, I am writing this piece from the $1 bus to Toronto! This is also a good reason to stay in touch with your UCU friends: I’ve stayed with former classmates in Baltimore, Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more.

(5) Make sure to get your paperwork done as early as you possibly can. Your university won’t pay you without a social security number, and you will have to go to court and pay exorbitant fines if you drive on a Dutch license without getting a US license for too long. Yes, I speak from experience. Also, before you even apply, make sure you do your TOEFL / GRE / GMAT / etc. well before time. These things can take ages to process, and a university might not accept you merely based on the absence of your TOEFL score.

(6) One last bit of advice from personal experience: make absolutely sure that you have good health coverage! This is not The Netherlands. I was in an accident last year, and if I hadn’t been on the Maryland State employees’ health insurance, it could have ended up costing me well over ten thousand dollars.

I’ll be graduating in two months (as of the time of this writing), so I need to get back to writing my thesis, but if you have any questions about coming to the US to study, or if you ever need a place in (or close to) Washington, DC, feel free to contact me!

God Bless America 🙂

 

Yoav Magid (’06) went on to work for the Nederlands Debat Instituut (Dutch Debate Institute). During his time as a debating instructor he worked towards being accepted into an American Grad School Program and in 2009 he started his MA in marketing and persuasion at the University of Maryland. He has now finished this program and as his LinkedIn profile states is “a persuasion scholar”. He’s working in Public Health Research in DC.