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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Sophie Kolberg 2015 - report


 August - December 2015


 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)


Sloan School of Management 


Boston, as well as Cambridge, is a very green city with its characteristics red brick buildings and well-established public transport infrastructure giving it a European touch.

MIT has a beautiful campus combining a variety of classical and modern buildings, like e.g. the Great Dome next to the fancy looking Stata Center. Numerous rabbits populate the green areas. The location of MIT in Cambridge is perfect, just next to the Charles River with wiew to the Boston skyline. It is the only top-tiered school that even has a sailing facility on campus.

It was not only my classes but also the whole ambience at MIT that made my stay such an enriching experience. Its culture is open-minded and welcoming with a great sense of humor as the fabulous "MIT hacks" (creative anonymous pranks) prove. And throughout Cambridge, there is an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that is reflected in talks, workshops and startup companies.


A lot of time consuming paperwork needed to be done before I could finally head to the US - visa, medical report, vaccinations, health insurance, housing, just to name a few. Since I received the letter of my admission to MIT in the beginning of June and had to leave in August already, I was worried there might not be enough time to complete everything. My major concerns were to get the US visa in time and I was glad that the entire application process was very efficient. I received I-20 form from MIT within a week after submitting all necessary documents and got an appointment at the US embassy just a few days later. All in all, I managed to organize everything within one month.


Also my arrival turned out to be easier and more convenient than expected. After passing the immigration fast and without problems, I took the free silver line bus from Logan airport to South Station and then the red line to Cambridge. Since I arrived in the later afternoon, I could go for a first walk around MIT and pick up my Charlie Card for public transpot services the same day. The next morning and throughout the week, compulsory and optional orientation events were offered, which were a good opportunity to get familiar with MIT and meet other students.


While still in Switzerland, I searched craigslist and diverse facebook groups to find a furbished room for the semester. This was actually the most difficult part of my preparation. All of the places I found were very expensive and for some of them, it was hard to tell whether they were serious or just scam. MIT listed some off-campus housing options and there, I came up with the idea of looking for a homestay. A simple email to "At home in Boston" turned out to be the start of the best housing solution I could have thought of. With the agency's kind support, I ended up in a great host family living only 10 minutes from MIT. Having my own room and bathroom, I was independent while I could use the living room and kitchen whenever I liked to. This also allowed me to get a deeper insight into the daily life of an American family, e.g., for Thanksgiving we cooked and celebrated together.


Two of my three MIT courses were jointly offered by the Sloan School of Management together with another department, i.e. the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Center for Real Estate. The practical orientation of these courses allowed me to apply my prior knowledge to the respective fields while gaining deeper insights into these industries. Through cross-registration, I was also able to enroll in a course about social and economic networks at Harvard University's Department of Economics.

The teaching style differed in particular in two aspects from what I was used to at ETH and UZH. First, all of the classes were very lively. Instead of just being taught, the lectures usually involved discussions. The professors were approachable and at eye level with their students, many of whom already had a couple of years working experience. In general, the classes were rather informal and everyone was called by their first name. Second, there was a constant level of workload throughout the semester. Back home, I was used to work hard during midterm and final examination period while the first weeks of the semester were calmer. In Cambridge, the first due dates were already in the very first week. Handing in assignements and homework for almost every lecture led to a steady workload.



MIT offers its students a vast number of activities on a daily basis that range from brunch, BBQ, and cultural dinners, to guided tours, art exhibitions on campus, and all kind of student organizations, to discounted tickets for musicals and concerts. Especially during my first weeks in Cambridge, these were great opportunities to meet new people, network, and cultivate friendships. Also, I made use of the on-campus sailing facilities and took a two-month beginner course at the MIT Sailing Pavilion.

Furthermore, Cambridge and Boston have plenty of activities to offer. I made some friends that I am still in touch with and together, we attended a Red Sox game, went to a musical, listened to a concert of the Boston Pops and spent many evenings together.



Sophie Kollberg gallery

MIT Sailing Pavilion 01
Killian Court and Great Dome
Stata Center

© Fondation Zdenek et Michaela Bakala