University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Intercultural communication
Study type: Academic gap year
Long before my Abitur was in sight, I was nagging my parents about going abroad and living there, at least for a limited time. I considered many other options, such as going to another family as an au pair, starting work and travel or doing voluntary service, but ultimately decided on an academic gap year. In this way, I was able to try out what I wanted to study, I couldn’t completely get out of the learning rhythm and was still able to enjoy a lot of free time and experience new people, cultures and places. Check andyeducation.com to see University of California Irvine study abroad opportunities.
The organization of my study abroad went very well. With the help of MicroEdu, I was able to fill out and submit my application documents quickly and easily. I was always supported by friendly advisors who were always able to provide answers to questions about housing and life in the States. The only aspect that involves a lot of hassle is obtaining an F1 visa, for which I had to appear personally at the embassy in Frankfurt for an interview. The most important thing when planning is getting there. You should think about where you will spend the first night if you arrive a little earlier to do errands, and find out about the transport options (mainly UBER). Although my accommodation was furnished, I had to get furnishings such as blankets, pillows, towels and cleaning supplies myself in advance. If possible, these aspects should be planned in advance in Germany in order to save time and money on arrival.
The university is very modern, there is free WiFi almost everywhere on campus, most of the buildings are very modern and the library also offers a wide range of resources. Since I didn’t have any specifications regarding my courses (I was free to choose any course because I wasn’t enrolled at a university in Germany at that time and I don’t plan to complete my studies at the CSULB), I was able to take a wide variety of courses, mainly with one Focus on communication studies (COMM 130: Essential Public Speaking, COMM132: Small Group Discussion, COMM330: Intercultural Communication), which were all very interesting and feasible in terms of effort. Although this was my first semester, I had no problem getting along in these courses, my impression of the courses is that as long as you consistently complete the assignments and exams on time, you can also get very good grades. In addition, I decided to take three sports courses (KIN124A: Surfing, KIN125A: Swimming I, KIN125A: Swimming Conditioning ), which turned out to be one of the best decisions. I really enjoyed these courses and were a welcome change from academic subjects.However, it must be mentioned here that I have always loved water sports and it was therefore a great opportunity for me personally to integrate this into my everyday university life. However, I also noticed from other students that they also perceived other sports courses (kinesiology) as very positive overall.
Unlike many students who do a semester abroad as part of their studies, I have chosen to stay on campus in the dorm (specifically in the so-called “International House”). This had many advantages: I made a lot of international friends there, but also a lot of American friends I wouldn’t want to be without, with whom I spent almost all my free time and from whom I was able to learn a lot; Even in the evenings after the courses there was always something going on in my dorm, so many nights turned out to be shorter than planned. Because you are forced to have at least ten meals in the canteen (Dining Hall), there is also little need to worry about catering, and there is no need to worry about buying furniture, etc. either. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that the rooms and the buildings are anything but pretty and even the dining hall can no longer offer any variety after a while. For a semester, it’s fantastic to get into American university life to be involved, but you have to accept that you have to share a small room with another student and that living is borderline expensive. In retrospect, I am very happy about the great people I got to know in this way, but if I had stayed longer, I would definitely have moved into a shared flat from which you can easily reach the university by bike.
The free time was the best part of the semester; Because I was able to plan my courses so that I only had classes and lectures from Monday to Thursday, I was able to make good use of the free time on the weekends. Most of the time I drove to the surrounding towns with my friends or explored California. Although I didn’t buy a car and because of my age (18) I couldn’t rent a car, I always made friends who either owned a car or who could rent a car. The location of Long Beach is also great, you can usually reach Los Angeles within 30 to 40 minutes or longer to Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco or San Diego drive. One thing that comes highly recommended is exploring national parks, especially camping with friends is a wonderful memory to make during my semester. I also often used the time between my courses during the week to go to the beach or have a coffee in Seal Beach and study there. I can also advise everyone to go out to eat as often as possible in the evening and try out a wide variety of restaurants. There are numerous, relatively inexpensive restaurants with different cultural specialties within a radius of one to ten kilometers around the university, which are hard to find in Germany find there. Of course, it’s also a good idea to surf as much as possible in your free time, as the beaches are all suitable for beginners and live up to SoCal’s reputation!
Overall, I can safely say that the semester abroad in LA was one of the best times of my life. Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful for all the new experiences I’ve had and for the friends that I hope will be with me for the rest of my life (plans to visit each other are already in place!). Despite the intermittent bouts of homesickness that are part of the experience, willy-nilly, I wouldn’t want to change a day. In these four months I learned a lot about myself and at the same time I was able to realize what I actually want to study further.Starting from scratch in another country without friends and family around can be extremely scary, but it’s definitely worth it and as cliche as it may sound, it makes you realize what’s important to you in your life Life is and what you can and should work on.