Jannik Felbier of Germany is pursuing an MBA in general management at UT in Florida.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I think American degrees are very well seen in Europe. I also came here to improve my English skills (which I did a lot) and to grow from this opportunity. Moving to a different country with a different language and culture shows your future employer some characteristics about yourself, it might actually become an advantage in future job applications.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
I have been to Tampa twice before, so I knew the area, the weather etc. Tampa is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. It’s incredibly beautiful and it’s basically warm all year. I guess that plays a big role to many people who come to University of Tampa (UT). For me, it was also important to move to a sports city. With the Buccaneers, the Lightning, the Rays and the Rowdies, Tampa has a lot to offer to me.
Why I came to UT? The school is listed in several rankings. Especially the MBA program is probably their flagship program, which was really important to me. I also love the size of the school. With around 10,000 students, UT is not too big and not too small. On top of that, the campus is just breathtaking. It’s right in downtown, next to the river. Lots of palm trees and an incredible architecture of the buildings. A new gym and a new swimming pool are some of the nice little extras UT offers too. The whole package is just perfect!
What do you like best about your program or university?
The MBA program really focuses on personal improvement. Several courses are designed so I am able to develop my hard and soft skills. It covers many different interests or it even helps you identify your future career goals. Professors are extremely helpful while they still keep the program challenging.
Lastly, I love how many international students there are at UT and in the MBA program. I met students (and became friends with them) from all over the world, which is incredibly cool. While you experience the American culture, you also get to know so many other cultures.
What do you miss most about home?
Obviously, my friends and family but also German food. I miss good German bread every single morning! And beer. German beer is definitely not comparable to American beer.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
I got to admit that I was shocked about the prices for basically everything here. Everything is much more expensive than at home, especially groceries, apartment rents, and car insurances.
Education-wise I was surprised that we have exams, assignments, presentations, and even homework basically every week. In Germany, you just have one exam at the end of the semester and that’s going to give you your final grade. It’s a very different approach here, which I had to get used to. I wish I knew that before I got the U.S., but now I actually like it.
... your biggest disappointment?
Especially at the graduate level, you have to deal with many people that already work full-time. So I was a little bit disappointed that people would not meet a lot during the week. If you make friends, you usually only meet them on the weekend. In Germany, I met my friends probably every other day, but I was also an undergraduate then. I assume with undergrads here it will be different since they are younger and usually don’t do full time jobs yet. I started my MBA program when I was 22 and at that time I was mostly the youngest.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
In the beginning, I just tried to smile and nod when I didn’t understand something. Then, I started asking questions if I didn’t understand something, and I also told people to correct my grammar if I made a mistake. That helped! Now, I probably get most of the things. If not, I made the experience that it’s not a problem to ask again. People understand that it is not your first language.
You probably need somehow a financial supporter, which I had through my parents, but I also got offered a Graduate Assistantship at UT. They waived around 60% of tuition with a little scholarship on top. In exchange, I worked 20 hours a week for them. I worked in the Office for Graduate and Continuing Studies, which was an awesome experience. Now in my last semester, I started a paid internship at a super interesting AI-powered company. So as you can see, there are many ways to receive financial support.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
It probably took me a whole semester to get used to it. First, my grades were alright but not the best. But the more I got used to it, the better my grades got. For example, last semester I finished with straight A’s. There was definitely continuous improvement, just stay patient and committed. Adjusting to a different educational system is not easy at all, so downturns or even failures are absolutely OK. You will learn from it.
What are your activities?
I became a member of the board at UT GOLD (Graduate Organization for Leadership and Development). At UT GOLD, we provide many activities for graduate students like networking events with fellow graduate students or regional employers but also casual events like sport events and bar visits. This is completely voluntary but it gives me a great opportunity to lead people and to take over responsibility.
Outside of UT, I started playing semi-professional soccer at a soccer club here in Tampa. We compete with teams all over Florida. Met some great people there and it was an awesome way to stay active and make friends outside of UT.
Lastly, my hobby has always been traveling paired with visits of sport events. I kept doing that here in the U.S. since I am also a big Buffalo Bills fan (American football). During my 2 years, I traveled to over 6 different cities in 5 different states to see a game of them, but I also traveled to other destinations like Las Vegas, Key West, and the Bahamas.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
Most of my friends are fellow international students. For me it has never really been a problem to make friends, but I do not have a lot of American friends to be honest. You automatically make friends with your roommates or classmates, and since there are lots of international students, I felt it was easier to connect with them in the beginning. But I also have some American friends that I mainly met outside of UT as I am playing soccer in a club.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I want to work in sales, more specifically as a key account manager. My education here is actually very important for that since this will give me great knowledge about general business handling, and it will also assure that I will be fluent with future international customers. Being fluent in a different language will make me look a little bit more professional and hopefully convincing. I can also see myself living in other countries, not necessarily my home country Germany, and therefore it’s already a great experience in order to adapt faster next time.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
Do it! If you have the resources for it, it should not even be a question anymore. You will thank yourself so much for that. I really have the best time of my life right now while I get prepared for the “real life.” After your time in the U.S., you will be a totally different person. You will be mature and you will be ready to start adult life. You will be independent and will have a place that you can proudly call your second home. It is worth it!
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