ISOIS ▸ Final reports

Host country:
Host institution:
Mobility type:
Program:
Faculty:
Ac. year:
Semesters:
Study level:
Language filled in:

Middle Tennessee State University

USA 2018/2019 ISEP Exchange

Personal data
Mobility type:
study

Faculty at MU:
Faculty of Social Studies

Field of study:
Psychology / Psychology

Level of study during period of placement:
Master

Language used:
English

Summer/winter school?:
no

Period of studies:
autumn 2018

Period of placement (from-to):
2018-08-20 - 2018-12-13

Number of months:
4.00

Activities before my departure abroad
Where can information be found about courses taught at the foreign school?:
At the website of the university - mtsu.edu. There is a section for undergraduate and graduate courses and all the fields of studies, so every student has to find their own program and courses.

Which documents were needed for acceptance at the foreign university?:
I was asked for documents only about my health and immunization history (mainly vaccination for MMR, tuberculosis, chicken pox and other illnesses), graduate application (stating where and what I studied at my home university and my contact information) and on campus housing information (which kind of housing I preferred, consent with campus housing policy) and they sent me all those documents to fill as soon as I got accepted. I do not know if the host university asked for some documents I needed to apply at my home university (a letter of recommendation, CV, a letter of motivation etc.).

How far ahead did you have to organise your acceptance?:
I applied for the stay in December 2017, passed an interview at my home university, passed a Toefl language certificate at the beginning of January 2018, I got accepted for the stay at Middle Tennessee State University at the beginning of April and then I started to organize my courses. I obtained materials for my visa in May, so I applied for my visa and payed for travel insurance in June, bought a flight ticket then and started to communicate with my buddy from the university about details of my arrival and with the Education Abroad office about my courses. I flew at the end of August for my fall semester.

Did you need a visa?:
yes

Documents and materials needed for a visa:
Passport with at least 6 months’ validity past the program end date
2x2 inch photograph
DS-160 form (completed online at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv)
Original DS-2019 form (issued by ISEP)
J-1 No Objection Letter (included with DS-2019)
SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt
Visa (MRV) fee payment receipt
Proof of ISEP health insurance enrollment (including health insurance for any dependents)

Length of wait for visa:
They state a month on their website, it took them about two weeks to issue and send the visa. However I had to wait about two to three weeks for an appointment at the embassy.

Fee for the visa:
3 680 CZK

Studies
Did you have a Learning Agreement signed before your departure?:
yes

If not, why not?:

Before your departure did you know how your courses would be recognised by your home faculty?:
Yes, I talked about it with our faculty coordinator and it was stated on the Learning Agreement.

During your stay did you change your Learning Agreement?:
Yes I did, I did not like all of my courses and I was not eligible to register some of them.

When and how did course registration take place? Are there any restrictions? Possibilities of making changes?:
The registration started during summer, at the beginning of July in their online system and we had to make the same requirements as American students to be eligible to register for certain subjects (the same or very similar prerequisities), so I was not able to register for a number of subjects due to lack of these subjects. Otherwise there were no restrictions. Of course I had to register for subjects in psychology and in my specialization - clinical psychology. Changes were possible till the second week of school and I made one.

Did you take any examinations at the foreign school?:
A lot of it. We wrote at least three tests during the semester in each subject plus final tests at the end of the semester and half of the courses had a small quiz at the beginning of each lesson to test knowledge from a required chapter in a handbook and to make sure students did prepare for discussions.

Does the school use the ECTS system?:
no

If not then explain how the credits there were recalculated into ECTS:
We used a webpage comparing credit hours (American equivalent of credits) to credits and stated the number of credits in the Learning Agreement.

Describe the teaching methods (theory, practical and projects) and assessment of students:
Teachers usually said (wrote to the syllabus) certain chapters or a chapter of handbooks we were required to read for a lesson, so that we could discuss it during the lessons and study the topic deeply. In other courses were the teachers more lecturing like here and chapters in handbooks were required to read for a test. Presentation in PowerPoint were therefore rather omitted.
The assessment was based on tests and seminar papers/essays. We did not write group projects, though they might be present in other subjects, but the emphasis was definitely on individual work and effort.

Quality of teaching in comparison with home school:
Teachers seemed to me quite comparable to home school teachers. The difference is in attendance. I attend the school here at maximum every week, sometimes once in two weeks, whereas I attended the school in the U.S. twice a week, so the teachers there had much more time to pass the knowledge to us.

How did you receive study materials?:
Some of them were in the information system of the university, some books were in the library and I had to buy a few books.

Can you recommend an interesting course/subject/teacher?:
I really liked Behavioral Change with C. Gordon because we discussed a range of topics about behavioral change and how to promote a change in behavior to patients or clients the best way possible and on top of that, we came up with our own health project and we were trying to pursue our own health related goal throughout the semester with feedback from the professor.

How well is the school library equipped?:
It is very well technically equipped - there are tens of computers, there are scanners, printers, copy machines, 3D printer, lasers and other things. However I needed quite a lot of books which were not in the library and especially handbooks for certain courses, because the university probably wanted the students to buy their own books.

Availability of computers, internet access, level of software needed, requirements on notebook:
There are no requirements on notebooks and the university IT technicians can fix Windows, Mac or Linux notebook without problems. Internet was available on the whole campus, however the wifi was not stable all the time and quite slow.

Options from printing and copying:
The library was well equipped for printing, copying and scanning.

Does the foreign school/student organisation arrange special events for exchange students?:
yes

If yes then what?:
There is the orientation week for all new and especially foreign students at the beginning of each semester and the International office plans events for exchange students each month ranging from barbeque on campus to organized trips to the capital city or to certain events.

How would you assess your integration with the local students (evaluation like in school from 1 to 5 with 1 as highest):
3

or describe in your own words:
It was not a catastrophe, but I am used to much closer and deeper integration with students at my home university and I quite expected psychology students to do similar things in the U.S., which they did not. No integration camps for new students at the same department, no trips or pubs together.. so I had to be really active in integration process. I also integrated a lot with my roommate and Americans from the host university buddy program.

Practical questions on your placement
Where did you live?:
Housing on campus - shared room with another girl (I asked for a shared room).

Cost of accommodation - monthly:
500 USD

Additional comments to the price of accommodation (as to what the price includes):
The price included a place in a room with a few peaces of furniture and a shared bathroom, toilet, washing machine, dryer and kitchen downstairs with a shared fridge, freezer and cooker with a stove. Single rooms were more expensive.

Describe the equipment. Tips for future students – what should they bring with them?:
The room was equipped with a bad with a mattress, a table with a lamp, a chair, a cabinet and a drawer. So students should bring (or rather buy) sheets, pillows, pillow cases, duvets, covers, detergent, decorations (if they would like to decorate the room) and anything for cooking. However MTSU has a lot of things left by previous (mainly exchange) students, so there is usually not a need to buy cookware, beddings and other things.

How and how far ahead should accommodation be organised?:
I stated what my preferencies about accommodation were in a document they sent me with documents about vaccination and other things in May 2018 and then they assigned me to a room according to my preferencies, I did not have to organize anything on my own. I received information about the number of my room a few weeks before my flight to the U.S. in August 2018.

What are the catering options?:
The universtiy has a few dinigh halls were students can buy either a specific number of all-you-can-eat meals or a meal plan for the whole semester (3 meals a day in 5 or 7 days a week, it costs 2 000 dollars for a semester). Or they can order a single meal which costs 10 dollars. Appart from dining halls there is a lot of restaurants and caffees on campus where they serve food ranging from fast-food (Chick-Fill-A, Subway, Panda Express, Stake-n-Shake,..) to some healthier options such as Happy Tomato or Starbucks. And there is a lot of restaurants off campus or students can cook in the kitchens in their housing.

What are the rough costs of groceries (compare with Czech prices):
Food is definitely more expensive than in Czechia, roughly twice as expensive. It depends on the state - California is much more expensive than Tennessee where I stayed. A meal in a restaurant in Tennessee starts usually at 15 dollars in total (taxes and tips are not included in the prices on the menu, they are added before payment, it is expected to give 15-20% tip) without drinks.

Transport to location of placement:
The main mean of transportation is the car. Everybody in the U.S. has a car. Public transportation usually does not work very well (if there is anything like public transportation), buses are expensive, trains are even more expensive (and rare), Uber is very expensive. However the universtiy has it´s own 3 bus routes through campus so that students can travel from place to place easily and for free.
To the location: everybody can take Uber, which is the quickest way or there are buses going from Nashvill to Murfreesboro.

Rough prices for transportation:
A student ticket from Murfreesboro (where the university is) to Nashville (the capital) with a shuttle costs 2 dollars and it takes around 80 minutes (around 50 minutes by a car, the bus stops all the time), but this bus operates only Monday to Friday. The same journey with a usual bus or during weekends costs 15-20 dollars. The same journey by Uber costs around 50 dollars, so when there are more people going the same way, Uber is sometimes the cheapest. The best option is always to ask an American friend with a car and then buy him or her a glass of beer or share the gass money.

Tips for purchasing cheap tickets and other recommendations:
Mega Bus or Greyhound are usually the cheapest bus companies, tickets are possible to buy online (prices vary so it is good to buy tickets in advance), price of flight tickets vary a lot.

What are the local transport options (public transport, cycling, on foot, rough prices):
Transport on campus is organized via buses from the university which are free. Local students usually part their cars on the edge of campus and then use their skateboards, people living on campus usually use a bicycle or a skateboard to move on campus or walk on foot.
Transport off campus is largely dependent on cars or Ubers if you do not have friends with cars or they do not have time. There are buses also, but you usually need a car to get to the station. Walking on foot is not usual and the infrastructure is not designed for pedestrians (with exception of big cities like New York) - there are usually pavements and crossroads missing completely and some roads are almost impossible to cross without a car because the traffic is heavy and there are no lights for pedestrians. The roads are more suitable for cars, I would be afraid to cycle there usually.

What kind of formalities have to be arranged before arrival, for example residence permit?:
You have to have a valid visa and passport.

What health insurance did you use? (rough price, advantages, disadvantages, is it necessary to arrange insurance at the university other than your home (Czech) insurance?):
I used ISEP health insurance, so I did not have to (and could not) organize anything by myself. It cost me 7 857 CZK.

Did you have any experience with medical treatment abroad?:
Luckily I did not.

Did you work during your studies?:
No I did not.

What are the conditions for working for MU students?:
It is possible to work up to 20 hours a week but only on campus due to formalities associated with J-1 visa all exchange students had. However it takes some time (I heard 3-4 weeks) to receive all permisions from authorities (a social card and other things) to be allowed to work in the U.S. so the part-time job should be arranged as soon as possible after the arrival or even prior to arrival, there is a list of jobs on the websites of the university.

Tips for free-time activities:
The Recreational center of the university offers a variety of sports, mostly for free, and gourp fitness classes, which is really cool. Besides the university organises outdoor trips, culture trips (to events in Nashville for example), you can join a social or sport club and there is always somethins going on on campus ranging from a (usually free) ice cream somewhere to a concert or a sport match from MTSU students. There is also a lot going on in the cities around.

Financial support and expenses
Total grant from Centre for International Cooperation:
80000 CZK

Monthly grant in CZK:
20000 CZK

Number of supported months:
4

Total number of months:
4

What other sources did you make use of to finance your placement?:
My own money from my job and part-time jobs and my family helped me a little.

If you received another grant, state which and how much in CZK:

 
Total fees associated with enrolment at the university:
50500 CZK

a/ amount of enrolment fee:
2000 CZK

b/ amount of tuition fees:
0 CZK

c/ amount of other fees (which):
48500 CZK

 
What was your average monthly expenditure?:
17000 CZK

a/ of which for accommodation:
0 USD

b/ of which for catering:
2000 CZK

c/ travel and recreation:
14000 CZK

Any comments to the average monthly expenditure:

Recognition of foreign studies at the home faculty
How many credits did you gain during your studies (in the system of the foreign school)?:
12

How many ECTS credits were recognised at MU?:
20

Did you know in advance which of your courses would be recognised by your home faculty?:
Yes

What problems did you have with recognition?:
I had no problems with recognition, everything went smoothly and my courses were recognised in a few days after I submited the request.

Overall assessment
Assessment of personal benefit (1 = excellent):
2

Assessment of academic benefit (1 = excellent):
3

Evaluate the information and support provided by the foreign school (1 = excellent):
2

Did you encounter any serious problems during your stay:
Luckily not.

What would you recommend to take with you:
Some small things suitable as farewell presents to friends or as universal presents, that is always useful and also something regional such as typical food or clothing, the locals usually like to see or experience these things.

What most surprised you at the partner university in a positive way:
How positive the people were. I know that not every smile was true and honest and a lot of people were shallow, but it was wonderful to meet complete strangers smiling on the street asking where those amazing shoes/ear rings/tatoo/whatever were from and then wished you a great day. Meeting smiling people is probably the only thing I really miss after coming back from the U.S. I knew they smile a lot and small talks are normal even with strangers but I was really surprised how much it made me feel positive too, although I am usually a very positive person.

What most surprised you at the partner university in a negative way:
How much things were wasted by the locals ranging from food to furniture, there was a huge disrespect towards things and resources like that and it was almost impossible to recycle trash, which made me feel very uncomfortable and sometimes angry with the people.

Further comments: