💼 Bachelor: Interactive Media Arts
⏳ Aug 2015 — May 2019
✅ Student Visa
🌏 50% International
Funding and scholarships
I was born and raised in Tula, Russia, and I was accepted into NYU Shanghai at the age of 16. During that period, it was quite common for international students from less affluent countries to receive full-ride scholarships to NYU Shanghai. My 2019 graduating class was only the third at NYUSH, as they were still promoting their brand-new campus and location. They did an excellent job attracting international students with generous scholarships and the exciting admitted students weekend. In fact, at that time (and perhaps this is still a common practice), NYUSH invited all admitted students to Shanghai for an all-expenses-paid trip. The aim was to ensure that all admitted students fell in love with NYUSH and fully committed to the university. As an Early Decision applicant, I didn't actually need to think hard about whether or not NYUSH was the right university for me. Applying ED meant two things at that time:
I had a significantly higher chance of receiving a substantial scholarship
If admitted, I was obligated to commit to the school
Nevertheless, I was still invited to Shanghai to explore freely. It was one of those moments when I thought, "How is this even possible?"
The scholarship that I and many others received covered everything: tuition, room and board, airfare, books, top-tier health insurance at the best clinics in Shanghai, food, and all other miscellaneous activities. There was no need to write any additional essays to apply for it. All one needed to do was fill out the CSS application, which is a financial form that requires information about your family's income, savings, expenses, and so forth.
Unlike NYU Abu Dhabi, we didn't have meal plans. After all direct costs were deducted from my exceedingly generous 61k scholarship (the cost of attendance at that time was 60k, amusingly), the remainder of the scholarship funds was transferred to my Chinese bank account. I had the freedom to use this money as I saw fit. The funds were more than sufficient! Not only did I graduate debt-free, but I had also managed to save around 5k USD by the end of my senior year. I worked on campus in some assistant capacity, and off-campus as an English tutor (which, although technically illegal, was a common practice at the time), so I had even more money available. I traveled extensively, ordered takeout twice daily, frequently indulged in liters of bubble tea, and went out whenever I wished. While I wasn't rich, I could afford a very comfortable lifestyle where I didn't need to worry about money. During my freshman and sophomore years, I saved any excess funds for a study-abroad year at NYU New York (housing was more expensive in NYC and my scholarship didn't fully cover it), and I eventually made the trip.
Generally, as a student in Shanghai, you don't need more than 2500RMB per month to have a comfortable life. The costs do increase if you frequent bars, dine at pricey restaurants, or make numerous purchases. However, if you're like me - someone who prefers staying at home with a good book and occasionally enjoys bubble tea - you'll manage just fine.
Unfortunately, as the university gained more prestige and popularity, it reduced its funding and stopped offering the full-ride scholarships that my 2019 class had been fortunate to receive. It seems that there are free things in this world, but they all have an expiration date. If you're considering applying now, bear in mind that the university won't offer more than 50k a year, which is a considerable sum, but still not enough to cover the exorbitant cost of attendance, now around 70k per year. Unlike most European countries, off-campus work is not allowed in China (unless you opt to teach illegally as we did back then). If you work on campus, the wages, about 15RMB per hour back then, won't be sufficient to cover your living expenses.
My major in Interactive Media Arts
As you may already know, it's quite common for students at most liberal arts colleges to postpone declaring their major until as late as the end of their sophomore year. This approach affords students the flexibility to explore different fields, take classes from various majors, and generally adopt a more relaxed attitude toward "finding their true self". However, at the time, there weren't as many majors from which to choose. Nevertheless, I was fortunate to select what I consider the best major of all - Interactive Media Arts. I declared my major immediately, as I knew IMA was the perfect fit for me. And yes, it's as sophisticated as it sounds.
Essentially, this major was an intersection of computer science and art. We learned coding, engaged in graphic and web design, created VR experiences, conducted 3D modeling, along with countless other tasks that I'm too lethargic to keep pursuing at the moment. I gained such extensive knowledge about digital technologies and emerging media that I decided to fully immerse myself in VR and 3D. However, everything was fun and games until I identified a significant drawback: we didn't get to concentrate properly on ONE thing. Sure, it was enjoyable dabbling in different animation and coding classes, but in the real world, you need to specialize in a specific area. I quickly realized the difficulty of having a precise focus within the IMA major. There simply weren't enough classes to satisfy my growing interest in immersive experiences and 3D art. I enrolled in all the classes relevant to my interests, but there were times when it felt insufficient. Bear in mind, ours was only the third class, so the university was understandably still adapting to the students' needs. I believe there are now various pathways within IMA that one can pursue.
Facilities and opportunities at the university
Overall, the university had everything a simple girl from Russia could dream of: an academic resource center where I could walk in and receive free tutoring help for any of my classes, a state-of-the-art gym, a cafeteria, various student clubs (I was part of the dance team), complimentary dance and other sports classes, a therapist for free consultations, an academic advisor (although I never found much value in mine), an impressive science lab (which I never used, but was aware of its existence), multiple computer labs, ample space for studying, a library, and probably many other features that I've neglected to mention. I was so enamored with the school that it often moved me to tears of joy.
However, some American students often expressed dissatisfaction, as the university was still small and understandably lacked some amenities that are commonplace at larger US universities, such as a football pitch, professional sports teams, a swimming pool, sororities/fraternities, etc. I never quite understood these complaints, as these students knew what they were signing up for: a brand-new school that was still in the process of expansion and development.
The university organized numerous events with free food and drinks. I was well-known for RSVPing to events that offered free bubble tea. Other students would only attend events and conferences if pizza was provided. The most entertaining activity for me was the so-called Halo night, where students would congregate in a computer lab and play the famous shooter game Halo throughout the night. In short, I would rate the facilities and activities at NYUSH a solid 9 out of 10.
Additionally, one of the great advantages of NYU is its study abroad system. NYU has 13 campuses around the globe, which you can opt to attend for a semester or two during your junior and senior years. In all seriousness, no other university in the world offers a comparable program. I had classmates who spent semesters in Buenos Aires, Accra, Florence, London, Paris, and Sydney. This is evidently a significant perk that isn't available at any other school worldwide.
Regarding the application process, it was relatively straightforward. I wasn't a straight-A student; in fact, I had a C on my transcript. To this day, I continue to wonder why they chose me. Before I began working on the actual application, I participated in a "nomination process". This process is something that applicants for NYU Abu Dhabi typically go through, and since I initially considered NYU Abu Dhabi as my first choice, I followed suit. In essence, this nomination process involved writing an additional essay on a specific topic, as well as having your school write a recommendation for you. That's pretty much all there is to it.
Subsequently, I had to fill out the common application, which is a standard procedure when applying to colleges in the US It's a centralized system that allows you to apply to multiple schools at once. Moreover, since I was applying during my senior year's fall semester, I didn't have my state exam results yet. Thus, I had to provide my "predicted" scores, which was essentially just a document stating, "Olesia Ermilova is expected to score 99 out of 100 in all subjects". I wrote several essays, included all of my extracurriculars, requested recommendation letters from two teachers, and submitted my almost perfect 7.0 IELTS score. This was the second and most laborious part of the process.
Finally, if they liked your application, they would invite you to an online interview, as was the case with me. The interview was surprisingly simple. To be honest, I almost considered skipping it because I felt my chances of acceptance were slim (I'm grateful that I didn't follow through with that idea). Regardless, the interview only lasted 30 minutes and consisted of basic questions like, "What are your interests?" and "Why NYU?". I wasn't fazed by this part at all. I had just returned from watching a movie and was completely relaxed. I smiled, cracked a few jokes, tried to be myself, and didn't fret excessively over my responses. My aim was to be as genuine and true to myself as possible.
Overall, the application process could have been far worse. The most time-consuming aspect isn't even writing the essays, but rather gathering all the required certificates and documents, and then dealing with the tedious translation process. At times, it was challenging to stay on top of the never-ending to-do list associated with the application process.
Being an NYU graduate is a tremendous honor. I will always treasure my student years in Shanghai and New York, as well as the incredible scholarship I received. However, if you need a full-ride scholarship, consider applying to NYU Abu Dhabi instead, as it's the only NYU campus that continues to offer generous financial aid. NYU Shanghai is an exciting and distinctive place to be if you have sufficient funds for it. While it's significantly less expensive than NYU New York, it's not as generous as NYU Abu Dhabi.
Now, I work as a UX/UI Designer in Germany, where I also earned a graduate degree. You're welcome to watch videos on my Youtube channel, where I extensively discuss my experiences at NYU in the Russian language. Nowadays, my content primarily revolves around self-development, spirituality, and sports, but I still use Shorts to talk about global opportunities. I also maintain a lifestyle Instagram account, where I post in both Russian and English. Additionally, I have two TikTok pages, one in English and another in Russian, where I discuss working and studying abroad. I feel deeply connected to this topic because it has profoundly transformed my life.