It’s like The Hit Girls, Easy A or another typical American college film: a few days before the start of the school year there is a brick house on a residential street in north New York, decorated with white and blue balloons, station wagons and SUVs pass by in front of it , driven by dads and moms in tracksuits, and out of which come impatient students with huge suitcases.
The last week of August is Housing Day at Columbia University, a prestigious American university in north Manhattan. Huge boxes full of notebooks, clothes, frying pans and toasters then circulate between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue until the prospective students are finally placed in their assigned dorm.
“70,000 euros for the master’s year”
A dream comeback for many young French people, as the attraction to New York remains strong. But the dream comes at a price: After earning his bachelor’s degree from ESSEC, 23-year-old Milan managed to snag a master’s degree in public affairs from Columbia. Motivated, he prepared four to six months for the selection tests a year before this school year started: “Columbia University, New York, it made me dream! My goal is to work in the humanitarian field, why not at the United Nations, and this university has many partnerships that should allow me to do that after my degree.”
Studying in the USA outside of a partnership cost him very high tuition fees: two years at 70,000 euros, a total of 140,000 euros. However, the university awarded him a merit grant of 30,000 euros per year “without my asking for it!” ‘, and he hopes to get an assistant professorship next year for 20,000 euros, but he remains on his expense, 60,000 euros, ‘just for tuition’.
And you will also have to pay for accommodation, food, books, health insurance and plane tickets to return to France. After many difficulties and disappointments, the young Frenchman finally found an apartment in south Harlem, which he shares with 3 other students, one American and two Germans. Amount of his rent: 1,500 euros, for a single room and a communal kitchen, which the boys had to completely set up and equip. A month and a half after his arrival, Milan estimates his monthly budget, excluding tuition, excursions and extras, to be at least 2000 euros in a city where a simple donut costs 5 euros.
Because his parents cannot pay for his studies, Milan took out a very large loan from his bank: 150,000 euros. “I had already taken out a student loan for my bachelor’s degree, which I was able to repay thanks to my student trainee contract. I’m aware that these studies in New York represent a very large budget, but I think it’s an investment that will pay off. My classes are exciting, there is a lot of work, the other students on my Masters are very committed, I have no regrets.”
Integrate sport into the city
Like Milan, Victor dreamed of America. At the end of August 2021 he landed on the other side of the Atlantic to spend the last 2 years of his double degree Sciences-po Paris – Columbia. A year later, the 21-year-old student estimates his monthly budget at 2,400 euros, without abusing excursions too much, cooking as much as possible and never buying red meat. Added to this are his tuition fees, around 40,000 euros per year.
But the cost of living isn’t the only hurdle for the French arriving in New York: “It’s a city that’s easy to lose your footing in because it’s big, it may seem cliched but it takes time to get used to it.” to get a grip, measure it, says Victor. Arriving alone last year, I quickly realized that I had to find places where I felt comfortable to avoid being eaten up by the city, which can be very oppressive. »
The solution for the young man came from running. There the student acquired the “Big Apple” and its different parts of the city through running and sport. To complete his integration, the neo-New Yorker has also joined two associations, another essential step in North American student life: one that offers business advice, like French junior companies, and another that publishes an art magazine. “It took me a semester to find my place, but today I’m good at it,” Victor sums up.
Aim for courses in partnership
An expensive, dizzying city, not always as welcoming as expected, with prestigious universities that are overpriced by French standards: New York has to be earned. But for those who still dream of studying there, there are solutions. First of all, the scholarship system, very developed in the United States from the master’s level, can sometimes allow tuition fees to be halved, as is the case in Milan.
Then many French universities have exchange partnerships with American universities, especially with New York universities: spending a semester there without losing blood is obviously the ideal solution. For example, Colombia accepts two students from the Panthéon Sorbonne for one semester each year, who only pay the tuition fees of their French university (170 euros per year).
Another solution: get a scholarship that covers all costs, possible from the doctorate onwards. At 22, Justine is a graduate student at City University of New York (CUNY) after earning a master’s degree in history from EHESS. Before her five years to study religious minorities in 17th and 18th century America. “I submitted my applications to 7 different American universities in December 2021 for a start in August 2022, it was very tedious and time-consuming, the doctoral student recalls, I was also surprised by the allocation of space in the application documents on the personal history of the students, in In my case, the fact that I spent my childhood in the Caribbean. Eventually, three universities offered me interviews remotely and it was CUNY, a public university, that accepted me.”
Micefa, a good plan for Parisian students
MICEFA (Mission Inter-universitaire de Coordination des Échanges Franco-Américains) is a partnership program between 18 Paris and Ile-de-France universities and 65 North American universities in the United States and Canada. Including 5 New York institutions that can only be accessed by paying the French registration fees: State University of New York, City University of New York, Manhattan College, Pace University, St Francis College.
Big bonus: All of Justine’s expenses are covered by the university. Tuition, health insurance (considerable budget in the US, up to several thousand euros per year), but also room and board, because Justine lives in a boarding house, on Manhattan, a 15-minute walk from her university and the New York Public Library.
She also receives 750 euros a month to buy books and fund her trips to the United States to consult archives and further her research. In return, she works as a research assistant and will teach first and second year students next year: “It prepares me for the apprenticeship, even if I don’t know exactly what I will be doing in 5 years”. Archivist, curator, the field of possibilities is still very open for Justine. The only certainty is that she won’t be returning to France any time soon.