University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: psychology
Study type: semester abroad
On August 3rd, 2017 I went from Düsseldorf via London to Los Angeles to start my semester abroad at California State University Fullerton (CSUF). At that time I was in the third master’s semester of my psychology studies with a focus on personnel and business psychology . At CSUF I took courses in Cognitive Processes, Theories of Personality and Research Design. The examination period lasted until December 17th, 2017, so I returned to Germany shortly before Christmas after a stopover in New York. Check jibin123.com to see Semester Abroad In Brock University.
Fullerton is a city of approximately 140,000 people and is located southeast of Los Angeles. Downtown LA is 30 miles away. However, since the area from Fullerton to LA is continuously populated, it feels more like living in a huge, sprawling city. However, the 50 km distance corresponds to a drive of up to two hours, since the transport system in LA is absolutely catastrophic. It even takes up to five hours by public transport. In Germany, the route would be feasible in a good half hour. The funny at first sight and sad at second glance explanation for this disastrous transit system is that when they started building a subway system in LA, a large auto industry group bought up the entire subway industry in the area and then scrapped it in order to be able to sell more cars. Otherwise, Fullerton is a right quint essential American town in California with palm trees, consistently good weather and private pools as far as the eye can see.
California State University Fullerton
The CSUF is a classic American college as you would imagine it from movies and television. Founded in 1957, the university is home to 37,700 Titans, as all students are known there. The campus is gigantic by European standards and equipped with large baseball, soccer and football stadiums. There are numerous clubs that are open to international students to join. Even a bowling alley, pool tables, game consoles and a gym with a pool are available for free time between lectures. The tuition fees are comparatively low at around €5,000.
Planning my project abroad
I was supported in planning my semester abroad by the organization MicroEdu, which arranges semesters abroad for German students at numerous partner universities worldwide. On the website you will not only find all partner universities, but you can also search for countries of interest. With 180 universities in 30 countries, there is a high probability of finding a university that suits your own ideas. Advice is free and, unless you live in Frankfurt, where MicroEdu’s new headquarters are located, is mostly via email and phone. The contacts at MicroEdu have a lot of experience with organizing semesters abroad and were able to answer almost all of my questions competently and within a very short time.
What I was missing was making recommendations, for example when it came to choosing a university. Based on the large number of students we look after and their experience reports, MicroEdu should, in my opinion, be able to make a recommendation, for example between two universities. Another downside is that the information on MicroEdu’s website is not always completely accurate. I got comprehensive information about the individual universities on the MicroEdu website and in some cases already put together application documents before realizing that my degree program was not offered to international students at the respective university and that the information on the homepage was incorrect. Therefore, you should clarify with a contact person from MicroEdu whether you can actually apply with your degree program before you start compiling the application documents. However, you also have to consider that researching and applying to foreign universities independently and without any help from an organization will take a lot of time and also some disappointments, so that MicroEdu is recommended for me despite minor weaknesses.
Planning steps and tips
I slowly started planning my project abroad in December 2016, about eight months before I finally left for LA. After a MicroEdu information event, I contacted a counselor directly.
In January 2017 I passed the DAAD language test. It is important to find out in advance which language test and which language level is accepted at the university you are aiming for. In my case, a DAAD language certificate at C1 level was specified as the minimum requirement by the CSUF. The DAAD language test is recommended because it can be taken free of charge at most universities or for a small fee (in my case just under €30). The TOEFL test is recognized by more universities, but as far as I know it is almost ten times more expensive. If the university of your choice abroad accepts the DAAD test, I would recommend it.
After I received the positive results of my language test, I started to compile all the necessary documents for applying to CSUF. Since most American universities charge application fees starting at €300, I decided to apply exclusively to CSUF. Of course, it would have been nice to have had a second iron in the fire, but according to MicroEdu, the vast majority of applications, provided they are complete and meet the formal requirements, go through.
I found it particularly difficult to provide proof of financial means of $15,000, which should prove that I have enough financial reserves to study in the USA for one semester. This was required by the CSUF, but is also helpful for the visa application. Since I didn’t have enough savings myself, I went to his bank with my father. At first it was believed that it was not possible to issue such a certificate. Especially not in English, after all we are in Germany. That is quite astonishing for a bank that has the words Consumer Bank in its name in Germany and advertises with the slogan BestCredit. After about three weeks and a total of €120 processing fee, I was able to receive the certificate after all. However, unfortunately not in duplicate as requested, so that I then had to commission a notary to certify it. Later than expected but still within my personal deadline (end of March), I handed in my complete application documents to MicroEdu on March 31, 2017. On April 11th, 2017 I received the confirmation from the CSUF. I was kindly informed that I was the very last applicant and the first to be accepted. Nevertheless, the example with my father’s bank shows that sufficient buffer time should be allowed for when organizing a semester abroad (and that he should change his bank). Eight months lead time should allow for a fairly stress-free preparation for a semester abroad. If you’re running late, I think it’s still feasible with a lead time of four to five months. Anything below that is going to be very tight.
I then applied for my visa online and was invited to a personal interview at the American Embassy in Frankfurt. However, this essentially consisted of the questions of whether I would stay for one or two semesters and which university I would go to.
Now that the visa was in place, I booked the flights about six weeks in advance with the travel agency STA Travel. The advice is competent and the prices are designed for students. Since I had little experience with long-term flights and also planned a stopover in New York, I valued personal advice. I can definitely recommend making a stopover on at least one of the two flights, provided there is enough time. The prices for flights with a stopover are hardly more expensive and sometimes you even save money.
The apartment search I started from Germany. However, it turned out to be quite difficult. Initially, I decided against on-campus housing and the University House. Both housing opportunities are student residences offered directly by CSUF and offer the opportunity to live on campus or in the immediate vicinity. Theoretically, these living arrangements would have been perfect, but they hit around $1100-1200 per month for rooms that you would also have to share with another student. I finally got lucky on a Facebook group for apartments in Fullerton and met a very nice American named James who became my gym buddy and good friend during my time in California. He offered me his apartment in the Homestead Apartments complex, which was also recommended by the university. In the end it didn’t all work out as James was fired and left by his girlfriend on the same day, so he needed his own apartment. However, he continued to help me and I was able to reserve an apartment in the same complex from Germany. The payment was still a problem at first, since international credit cards were not accepted, but in the end everything worked out. I shared this apartment with my girlfriend. However, we still paid around $900 per person per month for rent including internet, water and electricity. Incidentally, food prices are also much more expensive in California. You should at least reckon with double the prices compared to Germany. If you want to go to California The cost of living will become very expensive and that the funding from the Studienstiftung will probably not be able to cover all costs.
In general, I would recommend that you arrive at least two weeks before the start of the orientation when looking for an apartment. This has a number of advantages. Firstly, the risk of being ripped off is minimized by the requirement of many landlords to transfer the first rent and deposit from Germany. Secondly, you can personally convince yourself of the apartment and location on site. And thirdly, you will find more and also significantly cheaper offers. With some searching and a room in a shared flat, I think it’s realistic to find a place to stay for $550-$650 a month.
In my first master’s year at my home university, I preferred as many courses as possible to avoid problems with recognition issues. That’s why I only allow one of my three courses from abroad to be credited in Germany. However, the crediting went without any problems, so that it is not absolutely necessary to bring courses in Germany forward if you can find equivalent courses abroad. At least the University of Münster seems to be very accommodating when it comes to these crediting issues. As already mentioned, I took the three courses Cognitive Processes, Theories of Personality, and Research Designat CSUF. Attending at least three courses is a prerequisite for being considered a full-time student in the Master’s and important for keeping your visa. The courses I attended were all interesting and very different from my psychology courses in Germany in terms of both content and structure.
Looking at the course titles, I have already taken all three courses in one way or another in Germany. Therefore, I was very surprised at the different content taught and how different the focus is set in the two countries. In Theories of Personality we only talked about personality theories from the 20th century, which in Germany are at best mentioned as “historically significant” and marginally. In Cognitive Processes, an estimated 30-40% of the teaching was carried out via video lectures from the Internet, which were watched together in the course. Research Design was my best didactic course. Among others, we worked with the City of Fullerton and surveyed youth in after-school care programs about their opinions about these services to analyze the reasons for a decreased interest in these programs.
The insight into an American college was very exciting. In particular, I’m happy to have a different perspective on psychology to have met. Nevertheless, in my opinion, teaching at CSUF is rather disappointing overall. There were numerous reading assignments, quizzes and essays each week. In addition, two to three term papers and two to three exams were written in each seminar. While I was almost overwhelmed quantitatively, I was rather underwhelmed qualitatively. A nice example that illustrates the teaching methods at CSUF is that in Theories of Personality you got extra points for the final grade if you brought food to a small food fest in class. There were even more points for homemade food. That would be hard to imagine, at least at my home university in Germany. In another course I received an A+ with 103.5% as a final assessment,
Overall, the workload was high, but it was much easier than in Germany to get a very good grade on a submission. Technically, I benefited less from the specific content taught and more from the meta-knowledge of how psychology is taught in another country. I also consider the improvement in my English language skills to be an important professional gain. After a semester abroad, I am not an English pro, but it is now much easier for me to converse spontaneously and quite fluently in English on various topics. In particular, reading and writing English texts is now noticeably easier for me and requires little more mental effort than with German texts.
There are many benefits of a semester abroad and I can only recommend everyone to seize the opportunity to go abroad with a grant from the Studienstiftung. In my opinion, the greatest gain at the end is the further development of one’s own personality. I’ve become significantly more self-confident. Due to the entire organization, numerous calls and inquiries and the need to quickly find my way around in a strange environment, I got into many unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable situations. However, successfully coping with them has led to a rise in my self-confidence. For example, after the numerous presentations in English, presenting in German now seems child’s play. Not to be forgotten, of course, are the worldwide friendships, which one builds up, like mine to James. It’s nice to know that I now have a place to go and a place to sleep if I ever end up in California again. Ultimately, a major reason for my decision to do this semester abroad was that almost all of my friends who were abroad said it was the best time of their lives. I found it hard to believe that this was actually the case for just about everyone. I figured it might as well backfire. But now that I’m sitting by the fireplace with my parents at home in cold, rainy Germany, I’ll join in: Thanks MicroEdu, thanks California, thanks LA, thanks Hollywood Hills, thanks James – that was the greatest time of my life.