Candice Baroux & Pauline Delubac, graduate students from GEM, share their experience at the Duke University in Durham NC, USA.
The two most important things to do before leaving are to get a visa and find an accommodation. Candice Aldrich, our academic advisor, will give you all the information you need for the process of getting your visa. We have to warn you that the process to get it is quite annoying and expensive (around 300€, and you have to go to Paris for that…). You have a lot of administrative paperwork to fill in, which turned out to be time consuming. We advise you to fill in everything as soon as you have all the information so that you can get your visa faster.
Concerning the housing, there are several possible options. A lot of Fuquans (as students from Fuqua call themselves), are living at Station Nine which is a very nice place but quite expensive and far from the school (around 35 minutes walking) so you would probably take the bus, a bike or drive a car. You should subscribe to the International House mailing list where a lot of people sublease apartments which are generally furnished; otherwise, be aware that the residences provide unfurnished apartments.
Pauline describes the place she found and lives in: I live at the Belmont, which is a very nice residence with a gym, and a lake (I have a lake view from my place). I am subleasing somebody else’s apartment. I am living with a very nice student from the law school. The place is safe and really clean, I pay around $650/month including utilities. I found this thanks to a Google docs sent by Candice Aldrich. My roommate was already there so I just had to fill in some paperwork and send the deposit. It was easier than I expected.
Candice then describes her own experience of housing hunting: Duke requires its students to live on campus for the first three years of undergraduate life. Unfortunately, as we are considered as MBA students, we can’t live on campus, which would be easier to get around. Finding an accommodation in advance was a bit tricky, as we didn’t know where were the best areas to live in, and how to commute to the campus every day. I found my room through a post on the Exchange Student Group on Facebook. A really good deal: I’m sharing a flat with two other exchange students, we are just 15min walk away from the campus, and the rent is only $270. However, there are some downsides: the area is not the safest one and I’m sharing my flat with more roommate than I thought: a nice family of bugs! Yet, this last point is not specific to my place. Indeed, Durham is classified as a humid subtropical climate, a good climate for cockroaches apparently! Apart from this detail, another thing which was tough at the beginning was the distance. Everything is pretty far away, which is quite annoying when you don’t have a car. We never had to walk so much than since we’re here. It is good for the muscles but you lose so much time… So, as soon as you come at Duke, buy a bike with gears and good brakes – Durham has a lot of uphill and downhill roads.
I really wanted to study in the US to live the “American Dream” and try to get rid of my French accent while speaking in Shakespeare’s language, explains Candice. So, I decided to apply for American universities where I can study there for a whole year. However, last year, GEM got a new exchange university partnership with Duke University (Fuqua Business School) but for one semester only. I was soon convinced that spending one semester among the 10th top-ranked U.S. business schools was better than studying one year in another university. Moreover, as I’m really passionate about dance, as soon as I discovered that Duke offers a Dance Program, I knew that it was the best choice I could ever make. Pauline, as for her, reveals that she really wanted to live as an American student. All you can see on TV, she says, makes you think how amazing it would be to study in an American University. Duke university is one of the best in the US, and since I had the opportunity to spend one semester there, I did not hesitate a second. The first thing I noticed is that the campus looks exactly the same as what you can see on TV. The facilities are incredible, we have a huge gym with many different classes everyday. The library at Fuqua is open from 7am to 12am almost everyday. The quality of the food at the cafeteria is really good (and we say that as French people!). I would advise anybody to go there. We are really spending the best time ever.
At first, we were really amazed by the facilities of Duke University. Everything is big and new. Forget about the plastic chairs in Gem, here you will have office armchairs! The campus, divided in two parts East/West, is really lovely with buildings in the Neo-Gothic style and Georgian architecture style. One of the most amazing thing for us is the Wilson Recreation Center which allows you unlimited access to almost every sport you want to practice. The center even houses a swimming pool and a climbing wall! Doing some sport helps us to eliminate Fuqua Friday’s excess. What is Fuqua Friday? A great way to do networking! Every Friday around 5.30pm, on the campus of Fuqua’s, free great food (what about a Polynesian Pineapple Chicken & Rice!?) and open wine/beer are provided while you can enjoy your time with others Fuqua’s students. As you might know the Blue Devils is the famous Duke basketball team. We had the chance to attend to one of their game and it was incredible how people were involved: everyone was wearing Duke and Blue Devils outfit, shouting, singing and dancing during the whole game. The teachers are also amazing. You should definitely choose the top-ranked classes. The students who will be with you do not necessarily have business degrees so you can take whatever class you want. Hence, you will be able to understand everything and pass. The managerial accounting class (and teacher) is amazing, you have to work hard but then you will enjoy the class as never before. It is a really interactive one.
Regarding the things you can do around Durham, we will probably be able to tell you a bit more about it in a couple of weeks from now. Indeed, even if we don’t have a lot of classes (4 classes per week, which represents only 8 hours a week), we have a lot of readings to do beforehand and assignments to give back. So the time is flying here, and we didn’t travel a lot yet. But Springbreak is coming soon and we will have two weeks to discover the country a little bit more. If you plan your weekend a bit in advance, it can be really cheap to travel. For instance, a bus ticket to Washington DC (5 hours ride from Durham) costs around $30 round trip. The weather here changes every day. It is quite annoying since you need to check the weather forecast every morning. At the moment (February) it is relatively cold. You should take some warm clothes, and people at Fuqua are relaxed and do not really pay attention to the way you are dressed (you can forget about wearing dresses and high heels to go to class, you’d better take your sneakers and your backpack). We have already experienced a tornado, and three snow storm alerts, classes were postponed and we had them on Saturday and Sunday instead of Thursday and Friday.
Finally, we were really surprised about the quality of the food. We thought we were going to eat only junk food but actually, we can find not only a lot of vegetables and fruits, but also a lot of products you could find in France. You can even find bread, and I mean REAL bread, as well as cheese such as Camembert or Brie.