Trinity student on US scholarship: ‘It’s like living on a different planet’

Each summer, a newly graduated Trinity student sets off for Virginia to study commerce on a Master’s programme that includes a three-week immersion in a foreign culture.

The Lenox-Conyngham Scholarship covers fees, maintenance and travel for a Trinity student heading to the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, and for an American student to come to Trinity.

Last year that Trinity student was Xavier Bisits, who studied Human, Social and Political Science at Cambridge. He had not considered postgraduate study, especially in the US, due to the costs. ‘However, I am very glad that I have. The scholarship has been such a blessing,’ he said.

The learning and the teaching is a huge contrast to what I experienced at Trinity, while still of the same high quality. Group projects and presentations constitute most of what we work on, and rather than lectures we discuss case studies in class.

There is also a technical side I was never exposed to as an HSPS student, including corporate finance and the use of various software packages for analytics.

Intended for a Trinity arts and humanities graduate to learn about the business world, and for a McIntire graduate to be immersed in the arts, the exchange programme is enabled by the Anton E B Schefer Foundation. The Lenox-Conynghams are an Ulster Scots and Anglo-Irish family whose association with Cambridge University began in the late nineteenth century.

xavier-at-uva
Xavier (third from right) at the University of Virginia

For Xavier, the contrasting subjects and styles of tuition offered at Trinity and the McIntire School have proved very rewarding. His Cambridge degree taught him to read deeply, write well and think originally, he says.

‘At McIntire, I’ve been able to build on them with a very different sets of skills relevant to the workplace: technical abilities, knowledge of accounting and finance, and a very heavy degree of interaction with other people in the line of coursework. For example, right now my group is preparing a report for a luxury hotel group conducting due diligence on possible locations for expansion in Europe.’

In addition to academic learning, the programme enables scholars to experience life and culture on both sides of the Atlantic – and forge lasting friendships. Lenox-Conyngham Scholars have their own alumni group.

The cultural contrast could hardly be greater, says Xavier.

It’s like living on a different planet. Students at the University of Virginia are a lot more outgoing and relaxed, and have radically different interests. There isn’t so much of a bubble effect and you feel very in touch with broader American life.

Asked about the three most important things he has gained from his time in Virginia, Xavier said:

First, I’ve had a great time, in spite of working very hard. Wahoos (nickname for the UVA’s sports teams) are great to be around, and it’s a very diverse, as well as tolerant, community. I’d choose Beer Olympics over pennying any day and an American football game is about as good as The Boat Race.

Second, a job: McIntire has fantastic industry connections and does an excellent job at guiding us through recruitment season. I was able to secure job offers from two of the ‘Big Three’ consultancies in Washington DC.

Finally, he said, it’s a wonderful opportunity to live in America for a bit.

To be considered for the scholarship for the academic year 2017-18, Trinity students must have completed the Principles of Accounting, Statistics and Principles of Economics. Two of these prerequisites can be achieved via summer courses at the University of Virginia, prior to beginning the Master’s programme.

Applicants should submit their CV, a letter outlining their interests in the programme (including how at least one of the prerequisites has been met), and a letter of support from the candidate’s Tutor. Applications should be sent by 11 November 2016 to the Senior Tutor, Professor Catherine Barnard, via awards@trin.cam.ac.uk

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