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

Alina Lishmanova received two higher educations in her native Tomsk, worked as a translator for more than five years, and in 2019 she decided to enter an American university and learn a new profession. In this article, she tells how she chose a university (spoiler: LinguaTrip experts helped) and prepared documents. Alina also describes what it is like to study and live in America during a pandemic. Read to the end and look for a promo code for a consultation on higher education in the USA.

I was born in Tomsk, a student city in Siberia, where a large number of universities and research institutes are located. She received her higher education at the Tomsk Polytechnic University. She studied as a linguist-translator from English and French, but from the third year she also went to the specialty “national economy”. 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 Tomsk Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where I did oral, written and simultaneous translations. I worked there for five years, and then went freelance and took translations, but in other areas. At the time of entering the US master’s program in May 2019, I already had two higher educations and decent work experience.

Why I wanted to study in the USA

I have wanted to move to the USA for a long time, 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 a translator from English, so I decided to get an up-to-date education so that I could work officially. I like the way higher education is organized in the USA, and I admire the level of training of specialists in American universities.

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

I want to clarify that FLEX is a cultural exchange program, not a language exchange program. I was assigned to a Mormon host family, and throughout the time 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 great experience. And the language was free by the end of the year, and many foreign friends appeared. We are friends with my host family on Facebook, we congratulate each other on holidays, but we do not have live contact.

About choosing a university with LinguaTrip

I was advised to contact LinguaTrip 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 LinguaTrip higher education specialists to assess my chances of applying to an American university. I wanted to get in the USA a profession that was in demand, where I could study without a previous technical education. The guys from LinguaTrip talked about STEM-programs, which includes specialties in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that are in demand among US employers. Upon completion of such a course, you can work in the United States for three years on a study visa. It was a good option.

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

Pace University Main Entrance.

Admission Preparation

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

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

Then I collected two recommendations and wrote a Personal Statement (personal characteristic). One letter of recommendation was from the scientific director of the Tomsk Polytechnic University, and the second was from the Director of the Research Institute of Cardiology. I translated one letter into English, but I did not have time to translate the second, and LinguaTrip specialists translated it for me. I didn’t need any 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 in our guide “Write – act”.

About English

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

For admission to the master’s program, I had to pass the TOEFL with 80 and above points. I already took this exam, but more than two years ago. And its shelf life is two years. So I had to retake.

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

My TOEFL scores.

How to pass the TOEFL with the highest score, we tell in our articles “Preparing for TOEFL: exam structure and tips” and ” Typical mistakes in TOEFL».

About obtaining an American visa

About three to four weeks after submitting the documents to the university, an invitation came from the university, and I began to collect documents for an American student visa. I had a good visa history: I already had several US tourist visas in my passport and there were no violations. I always filled out all the visa applications myself, but this time I was running out of time, I was afraid of making mistakes, so I used the services of visa support LinguaTrip. Very comfortable and no headaches.

Visa support includes an appointment for an interview at the American Embassy in Moscow and the preparation of all documents. The LinguaTrip visa consultants helped fill out the visa application form and booked me on the right date for the interview. I filled out the necessary bank statements, paid the SEVIS fee of $350 (25,700 ₽) and flew to Moscow to the embassy. A week later, the visa was in hand.

Need help getting your US visa? Our visa specialists will assess your chances and help you get the coveted document.

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 the search for an apartment and adaptation at first, but in everyday life there were many difficulties with the placement of 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 relatives there, I probably wouldn’t have risked moving.

About studies and scholarships

I study for a fee, education costs about $25,000 (1,838,200 ₽) per year. The first semester of each year is more expensive than the second. The cost of the first semester includes medical 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 ₽) per year, which goes towards tuition fees. Apparently, I wrote a Personal Statement well. 🙂

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

Much of the graduate students in the US are international students, mostly from India and China.

Teaching itself is distinguished by a large amount of independent work, colossal participation and assistance from professors. There is a feeling that the amount of knowledge that you will receive depends on you, but at the same time, you will always be helped and prompted.

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

List of Enterprise Analytics subjects.

What I liked about learning

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 is arranged, and told about the frequent difficulties that one might encounter. They set a very positive attitude. The university provides information and explanations on everything that foreigners may encounter, from buying a SIM card and opening a bank account to information about places not to go to.

No one has yet judged English or paid attention to mistakes. This did not apply to subjects where the language itself was assessed. My final program included writing the Capstone project (final project), where both language, sentence construction, and use of required vocabulary were evaluated.

I was also struck by the participation of the university in the adaptation of students upon arrival: we had at our disposal a huge amount of resources, checklists, organizations for every taste: by sports, interests, countries. Movie nights, various master classes, intellectual games, etc. were constantly arranged. I have never seen anything like this in Russian universities.

About studying during a pandemic

It has become more difficult to study during the pandemic. With personal presence and questions, you get answers faster, and at lectures it is easier to adapt to a new subject. We still study three times a week, but all classes are held online on Zoom and Blackboard (a learning platform for universities in the US). At first, the load was tangible – a new specialty, a new format of education. There were many things I had to learn on my own. It’s good that there are many free resources with help for students, there are free tutors from the university. They help everyone and with great pleasure.

I have the last semester left to study, but I only need to pass one subject. It happened because in the summer, instead of going home, I took two subjects intensively 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. It takes about two hours one way to get to the university. She did not consider housing on campus, as she moved to the USA with her daughter. Looked for options on and It was easier for me, since my parents have a Social Security Number (social security number), and renting a house with it is much easier. For a two-bedroom apartment, I pay $2,460 (180,390 ₽) per month, including utilities. The complex also has a swimming pool and a gym.

If you go without children, you can find cheaper options. Many live in student residences: there are free fitness centers, access to various sections and circles, and student events are organized. Others rent a room in a large apartment with other students, it’s somewhere between $800-1500 (58900-110500 ₽) per month depending on the location.

My I-20 (Acceptance Document) states that the minimum amount for tuition, food, lodging, and personal expenses is $55,000 (4,053 600 ₽) per year. That’s about how much I got, if you count only one for me. But I live with my daughter, and it’s much more expensive than traveling alone.

About plans after school

After graduating from university, I want to stay to work in my specialty and live in the USA closer to my family. The university helps with job searches: it constantly sends new vacancies and notifications about employers’ fairs, helps with resume writing. But now it’s 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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