Dec 1, 2016

The founding principle of all the activities of Zdenek and Michaela Bakala is, truly, the courage, which must, according to their belief, always go hand in hand with responsibility.
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Mathias Van den Heuvel - report


August 2014 – December 2014 (5 months)


 Yale University


Yale Economics Department/Yale Law School



My overall impressions were very positive. I was thrilled to meet so many talented and ambitious individuals in my everyday life. Going out in a pub and remaking the world was a weekly occurrence. The interesting stories and profiles of my fellow students at Yale made up for the dullness of the city I was in, New Haven. Unlike Harvard, which is so close to the amazing city of Boston, Yale was founded in a rather plain city, more reputed for its high crime rate than its thriving social life. The campus in itself however is beautiful, much better than Harvard’s! One soothing balm was the fact that New Haven is located in the beautiful region of New England, which I have had the pleasure to visit during my stay. Finally, courses at Yale ranged from the amazing to the boring while being on average better than what I was used to until then. I really enjoyed the proximity students in the United States can have vis-a-vis their professors. I have been able to chat with some world experts in my field and made very interesting contacts. I have also played basketball with a renowned economic professor without even knowing it. Studying at Yale has fulfilled this lifelong dream of mine to experience the « American-campus » lifestyle, and overall I greatly enjoyed it. 


Going to the United States does not require an insurmountable amount of preparation. The only two elements that might be a bit tedious are acquiring the visa and finding a flat. The first requires oneself to follow a few administrative steps and go to Berne. The second was, in my case, rendered much easier by the fact that I knew someone who did an exchange at Yale and gave me the contact information of his former landlord. 


I had planned to take one of the last trains from New York’s Grand Central Station to New Haven but a storm in London made me miss my connecting flight. I arrived too late in New York and had to take a taxi-shuttle from JFK to New Haven. It cost me an arm and a leg. Morale of the story: always plan for the unknown. 


As mentioned above, I had my flat before arriving in the United States. It was not possible for me to stay in the Graduate Dorms as they only have year-long contracts, and I was staying one semester. I recommend future students at Yale to reside in the neighbourhood of East Rock, where most students and professors live. It also has the added perks of being relatively safe. 


I took only three classes at Yale. An amazing class with Professor Daniel Esty at the Law School about International Trade. Every class was an interesting session of debate between students and professor. On top of that, I learned how to write proper memo, which will be very valuable for my future career. This class is the best I have ever attended and by itself made the whole exchange worth it (academically). Another class about the Global Financial Crisis given by Andrew Metrick was really good and I have had the chance to attend lectures given by the former secretary of treasury Timothy Geithner. Finally, my class about Behavioural and Institutional Economics by Nobel Prize Winner Robert Shiller was underwhelming. The content was interesting but not the professor.


Additionally, Yale makes it very easy to study. They have amazing libraries, where you can find most of the books you will ever need. And if they do not have it, they will buy it. Going to Yale is going into a place of academic wonders, made possible by its immense endowment. 


The officials in Yale only knew of my arrival when I applied online. My welcoming and the overall exchange program was the only cloud on the horizon. There were a few animations for international students but I was not included in any exchange program activities. My roommate and I have met nearly no other exchange students, which was a pity as they often have the same workload and goals. In the end it was not such a big deal as I met many people through other means. However, meeting people in Yale takes some commitment, as everybody is very busy and already part of their own groups. So join as many sports clubs as possible (or any club really).

I have also taken the opportunity to visit a region I am unlikely to go back any time soon. New England is really beautiful, especially in fall. Watching the foliage of its massive forest turning to a beautiful orange/red was an amazing experience. New Haven is also really close to New York and Boston, both very interesting and fun cities. I have also travelled in Canada and enjoyed the famous the accent from Quebec.

Overall this exchange was incredible, fulfilling from a social and academic point of view. 



Mathias Van den Heuvel - photos


© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala