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How to move to New York with a child, enroll in an American university and get a new profession

How to move to New York with a child, enroll in an American university and get a new profession. Alina Lishmanova received two higher educations in her native Tomsk, worked for more than five years as a translator, and in 2019 decided to enroll in an American university and learn a new profession. In this article, she talks about how she chose a university (spoiler: Repafi experts helped) and prepared documents. Alina also describes what it’s like to study and live in America during a pandemic. Read to the end and look for a promotional code for consultation on higher education in the USA.

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I was born in Tomsk – a student city in Siberia, where there are a large number of universities and research institutes. She received her higher education at Tomsk Polytechnic University. I studied to become a linguist-translator from English and French, but from the third year I also took up the specialty “national economics”. I studied there in the evening. She received her first diploma in 2009, the second in 2010.

Immediately after graduation, I worked as a translator in the medical field: I translated the Siberian Medical Journal and worked at the Research Institute of Cardiology of the TSC SB RAS, where I did oral, written and simultaneous translations. I worked there for five years, and then went freelance and took on translations, but in other areas. At the time of entering the US master’s program in May 2019, I already had two higher education degrees and decent work experience.

Why did you want to study in the USA?

I have long wanted to move to the USA, my family lives there: my brother left many years ago, now he has American citizenship, and my parents moved three years ago. But I couldn’t just go to them and stay there. I wouldn’t surprise anyone in the USA with my diploma as an English translator, so I decided to get an up-to-date education so that I could work officially. I like the way higher education is structured in the United States, and I admire the level of training at American universities.

I was already familiar with American education. In the 9th grade, I was selected for the FLEX exchange program and went to study for a year in the USA in the city of Pocatello in Idaho. The program is fully funded by the US State Department, and selected high school students study for free at an American school for one academic year and live with a host family.

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I would like to clarify that FLEX is a cultural exchange program, not a language exchange program. I was assigned to a Mormon host family, and throughout my stay I had to follow their rules, such as going to church three times a week or praying before meals. This part was the hardest. This is not a critical circumstance, but you need to understand that you are going to study the culture of another country with all its elements.

The exchange was a cool experience. And by the end of the year the language was fluent, and many foreign friends appeared. We are friends with my host family on Facebook, we congratulate each other on holidays, but we do not contact each other in person.

About choosing a university with Repafi

I was advised to contact Repafi by a friend who, through this company, went to California for language courses . She gave good recommendations, and I decided to sign up for a 40-minute Skype consultation with Repafi higher education specialists to assess my options for entering an American university. I wanted to get a sought-after specialty in the USA that I could study without previous technical education. The guys from Repafi talked about STEM programs , which include specialties in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are in demand among US employers. Upon completion of this course, you can work in the United States for three years on a study visa. This was a good option.

Initially, I wanted to find a suitable program in Florida, where my brother lives. But nothing suitable was found. The Repafi consultant offered several options in New York, so I chose Pace University and the specialty Enterprise Analytics , which is part of STEM. I didn’t apply to any other universities; I had one goal.

Main entrance to Pace University .

About preparing for admission

I decided to apply suddenly, so I only had a couple of months to prepare and collect documents. Repafi specialists helped us quickly assemble and prepare everything. I entered in May-June 2019 and started studying in September of the same year.

Admission required the evaluation of a Russian diploma to an American standard from an accredited agency. I already had it because I did it in advance because I had been thinking about studying abroad for a long time. I contacted the American company ERES (Educational Records Evaluation Service) and paid about $600 (44,100 rubles). I had my school certificate evaluated, both diplomas and a translator certificate. The process took about five weeks.

Then I collected two letters of recommendation and wrote a Personal Statement . One letter of recommendation was from the scientific supervisor of Tomsk Polytechnic University, and the second was from the Director of the Research Institute of Cardiology. I translated one letter into English, but I didn’t have time to translate the second, and Repafi specialists translated it for me. I didn’t need help with the Personal Statement; I wrote it myself.

How to write motivational and recommendation letters, personal references and essays for admission to a foreign college or university, we tell you in our guide “Write – Apply” .

About English

When I entered the American university, my English was at the Proficiency level . I studied at a gymnasium with in-depth study of foreign languages; we taught English from the first grade. Then I studied it at the university as a linguist, and then worked as a translator for more than five years. I traveled to the US a lot to visit family and practiced English with native speakers.

To enter the master’s program, I needed to pass the TOEFL with 80 points or higher. I have already taken this exam, but more than two years ago. And its shelf life is two years. Therefore, I had to retake it.

I took a couple of weeks to prepare to remember everything. Still, there are many nuances in TOEFL that you just need to know in order to pass successfully. I prepared myself using textbooks and materials available on the Internet. As a result, I passed the TOEFL with 105 points.

My TOEFL results .

We tell you how to pass the TOEFL with the highest score in our articles “Preparing for the TOEFL: exam structure and tips” and “Typical mistakes in the TOEFL” . 

About obtaining an American visa

About three to four weeks after submitting documents to the university, I received an invitation from the university, and I began collecting documents for an American student visa. My visa history was good: my passport already had several US tourist visas and there were no violations. I always filled out all visa applications myself, but this time I was running out of time, I was afraid of making mistakes, so I used the visa support services of Repafi . Very comfortable and doesn’t give me a headache.

Visa support includes scheduling an interview at the American Embassy in Moscow and preparing all documents. Repafi visa consultants helped me fill out the visa application form and scheduled me for the right date for the interview. I prepared the necessary bank statements, paid the SEVIS fee of $350 (25,700 rubles) and flew to Moscow to the embassy. A week later the visa was in hand.

Need help obtaining a US visa? Our visa specialists will assess your chances and help you obtain the coveted document. 

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About moving to the USA

My move to the USA was complicated by the fact that I was traveling not alone, but with my seven-year-old daughter. Family and friends helped with finding an apartment and adaptation at first, but in everyday life there were many difficulties with placing my daughter in an American school and her additional education. However, it was easier for me because I was not alone. If I didn’t have friends and family there, I probably wouldn’t have risked moving.

About studies and scholarships

I study for free, tuition costs about $25,000 (RUB 1,838,200) per year. The first semester of each year is more expensive than the second. The cost of the first semester includes health insurance, which is mandatory for all international students.

For my achievements in studying in Russia, the university provided me with a scholarship of $6,000 (440,100 rubles) per year, which goes towards tuition fees. Apparently I wrote my Personal Statement well. 🙂

Before the pandemic, studies took place three times a week in the evenings from 18:00–21:00, so that it was convenient for students to combine work with work. There are three subjects per week, each three hours long. There are new people in every subject; there is no concept of a “group” here, as in Russia, when the guys study together for 5–6 years. There are a lot of foreigners.

The majority of graduate students in the United States are foreigners, mainly from India and China.

The training itself is characterized by a large amount of independent work, enormous participation and assistance from professors. There is a feeling that the amount of knowledge you receive depends on you, but at the same time, you will always be helped and advised.

Exams are held twice a semester – in the middle and at the end. They come in both multiple choice questions format (questions with a choice of answer options) and in the form of detailed answers to the question. It depends on the subject. The exam can also take place in the program in which they worked in pairs all semester. Then you need to know how to correctly write codes, algorithms, etc.

List of subjects in the Enterprise Analytics major .

What did you like about the training?

I did not expect such a friendly attitude towards students from other countries. On the first day, at the general meeting, all foreign students were explained how the training works and were told about the frequent difficulties that can be encountered. They set a very positive attitude. The university provides information and explanations on everything foreigners might encounter, from buying a SIM card and opening a bank account to information on places not to go.

No one has ever condemned someone for speaking English or paid attention to mistakes. This did not apply to subjects where the language itself was assessed. My final program included writing a Capstone project ( final project ), where language, sentence construction, and the use of necessary vocabulary were assessed.

I was also struck by the university’s participation in the adaptation of students upon arrival: we had at our disposal a huge amount of resources, checklists, organizations for every taste: by sport, interest, country. There were always movie nights, various master classes, intellectual games, etc. I have never seen anything like this in Russian universities.

About studying during a pandemic

Studying has become more difficult during the pandemic. When you are present in person, you get answers to questions faster, and during lectures it is easier to adapt to a new subject. We still study three times a week, but all classes are held online via Zoom and Blackboard ( a learning platform for universities in the United States ). At first the load was noticeable – a new specialty, a new format of training. I had to study a lot on my own. It’s good that there are many free resources to help students, there are free tutors from the university. They help everyone and with great pleasure.

I have my last semester left to study, but I only need to pass one subject. This happened because in the summer, instead of going home, I took two intensive courses and passed them in the summer session.

About housing and personal expenses

I rent an apartment in Stamford, Connecticut. It’s a 50-minute train ride to Grand Central Station in New York City. The journey to the university takes about two hours one way. I didn’t consider housing on campus because I was moving to the USA with my daughter. I looked for options on apartments.com and zillow.com . It was easier for me, since my parents have a Social Security Number, and renting a house with it is much easier. For a two-bedroom apartment, I pay $2,460 (RUB 180,390) per month including utilities. The complex also has a swimming pool and a gym.

If you travel without children, you can find cheaper options. Many live in student residences: there are free fitness centers, access to various sections and clubs, and student events are organized. Others rent a room in a large apartment with other students, this is somewhere around $800–1500 (58900–110500 RUR) per month depending on the location.

My I-20 form states that the minimum amount for tuition, food, accommodation and personal expenses is $55,000 per year . I got about that much, if you count just me alone. But I live with my daughter, and it’s much more expensive than traveling alone.

About plans after studying

After graduating from university, I want to stay working in my specialty and live in the USA closer to my family. The university helps with the job search: it constantly sends new vacancies and notifications about employer fairs, and helps with writing a resume. But now everything is difficult because of the pandemic. There are offers for remote work, for example, as a personal assistant, assistant, developer, analyst, software tester. I plan to review them. Let’s see what happens in the end.

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