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A "Gothic wonderland" dream come true: Studying at Duke University in the USA

Two recent Bavarian International School (BIS) alumni are fulfilling their dream: Maya Yelle and Max Holsman (class of 2020) are studying at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Founded in 1838, the private university with 13,000 students and around 2,500 professors is consistently ranked among the most elite US universities. 

Starting their new chapter in life in the midst of the Corona pandemic was not easy. For 18-year-old Max, it meant his first months of his Freshman year were spent in distance learning, from Munich. In the meantime, both have settled in, as best they can, on campus at Duke. Maya, a 19-year-old American, is doing a double-major in neuroscience and psychology. Max is studying engineering, but is also very interested in medicine. He plans to get involved in medical research at Duke and do a medical observership.

It’s Duke’s unique school spirit that sets it apart from the other top 10 universities in the United States, says Maya. Maya wasted no time in getting involved in campus life, working as a student tour guide, and participating in various groups, like "Nurses for Mental Health Awareness" and "Cognitive Neuroscience and Law Focus Group". 

"What I love most about Duke is the diversity of the students, whether that be academic interests, extracurricular passions, or ethnicity. I have yet to meet someone from whom I have not learned something new," said Maya, whose mother Lynda also attended Duke. 

Duke students often refer to the campus as a "Gothic wonderland," which highlights the 38 square kilometers of neo-Gothic architectural style and the striking Duke Chapel, the Nasher Museum of Modern Art, Duke Forest and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. 

Duke is well-known for its basketball team, one of the best in the country. Tickets are usually sold out months in advance. When team sports and competitions are allowed again, Max also plays on a Duke club intermural basketball team.   

Both BIS alumni appreciate the university's exemplary handling of COVID-19 situation. "Duke is handling the situation very well,” said Max. “It was one of the very few top US universities that didn't move their entire fall semester to only remote learning. Being a top medical school, they also set up a rigorous testing and monitoring system, including pool testing, daily symptom monitoring, quarantine procedures and an online COVID-19 tracker.” Maya adds that the strict mask-wearing policy has been part of the pandemic response since the beginning. 

Maya and Max hope for a return to normal college life soon, so they can have the full Duke experience, and truly have a dream come true. 

This would mean better maintaining contact with BIS alumni from the Class of 2020 in a more personal way – in Corona times, a lot happens via social media. Speaking of BIS, what are the most important learnings the two have taken away from their school for their studies and life? Maya: "BIS and the IB really prepared me for the rigors of university. The changing daily schedule and juggling of several projects taught me to plan my time, which has been invaluable in this context."

And Max adds: "I feel many teachers at BIS have sparked a desire in me to fully understand the world around me and probe into what I don’t yet understand. This desire has accompanied me through my university experience so far, and I expect it will continue to do so into my future."