University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Continent: North America
Field of study: computer science
Study type: semester abroad
I spent a semester abroad at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) in Southern California from January to the end of May 2019 . I chose this university because it has a large number of students and therefore a large campus with many opportunities to meet new people. Around 37,000 students are currently enrolled there. In addition, the computer science department there offered a good selection of courses, also for master’s students. Finally, the tuition fees at this university were reasonable compared to other American ones colleges. The geographic location of the university was also favorable. With the metropolis of Los Angeles half an hour’s drive north of Long Beach and the beach 10 minutes’ drive from the campus, there were plenty of opportunities to spend your free time. Check andyeducation.com to see University of California Los Angeles study abroad opportunities.
MicroEdu was incredibly helpful with the CSULB application process. I was able to turn to the organization again and again with countless questions. Even with questions about the visa, I was always given competent information. Since the service is free, I can wholeheartedly recommend it!
The lectures differed greatly from those in Germany. I found the smaller course sizes to be pleasant. There were only 15 students in the smallest course, around 30 each in the other two courses. This made it much easier to reach the professor, even outside of lecture times. The lectures were designed to be much more interactive (more questions from the students allowed, sometimes questions from the professor to the students), which greatly contributed to the understanding of the material. I also had to work on a team project in each course, which was often very time-consuming, but also helps to get to know my fellow students better. Homework is the order of the day. In each course, the final grade consisted of several (one or two) midterms, graded homework, a project and a final. So I found the finals week much more relaxed than in Germany, since the exam often only accounted for 25 to 30 percent.
Since I was enrolled as a graduate student, I only had to take 9 units (= 3 courses), but I was also allowed to take up to 12 (since I had to pay the full tuition fees).
I had the courses:
- CECS 543 Advanced Software Engineering mit Dr. Hofmann
- CECS 445 Software Design and Architecture mit Hubert Huynh
- CECS 456 Machine Learning mit Wenlu Zhang
In the 4xx courses, the teachers had a fairly heavy Asian accent, which you get used to over time. The 456 course sounded very difficult at first (in the end only 15 people out of the initial 40 actually took the course), but despite the challenging content, the grading was generous. However, one should be fit in linear algebra, that is a requirement. It was also easy for me to finish with an “A” in the other courses. You have just as much effort as in Germany, but the level was much lower compared to my home university.
Contrary to what was previously announced, however, it was easier to get into graduate courses (5xx and 6xx courses) than into 4xx courses. The 4xx courses were often very full, while there were vacancies in the 5xx courses. My prerequisites (course requirements) were never really asked. I was initially told that getting into graduate level courses can be difficult, but it’s not (at least in computer science).
I also took an advanced volleyball course (1 unit) just for fun, because I had previously played in Germany for several years and it was good to meet new people there.
I got a place in an apartment on Park Avenue through a Facebook group. I lived there with five American students, whose sixth roommate spent a semester abroad in Thailand while I was there. Convenient for me as I didn’t have to buy furniture, kitchen equipment, etc. I shared the master bedroom with walk-in closet and attached bathroom and paid $520 (+ utilities). I got along with my roommates quite well, but we never did much together because everyone was very busy. Our apartment complex included a pool and free shuttle bus, which runs every 15 minutes (Mon-Thurs) and stops practically right outside the front door. I was very happy with my accommodation.
There are many nearby travel destinations: we have been to LA many times, to Huntington Beach or simply to Long Beach in the city and on the beach. It’s also worth driving to Santa Barbara or taking a weekend trip to San Francisco. Another highlight for me was a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Don’t miss Sequoia/Yosemite National Park either. Cheap long-distance buses go to Las Vegas for around $30 to $40 per ticket if you don’t have a car. We preferred to rent a car regularly rather than buying one as you really don’t need it during the weekdays in Long Beach. In spring break I did a round trip to Las Vegas/Bryce National Park/Zion National Park/Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend/Grand Canyon, where I saw an incredible amount. Valley of Fire, Death Valley and Red Rock Canyon (all from Las Vegas) is also highly recommended!
Another must-do is taking a surfing lesson in Huntington Beach. Unfortunately quite expensive (80 dollars for a group lesson), but especially recommended as a complete beginner to learn the basics at the beginning.
The campus is huge and beautiful! We often went bowling or played billiards in the University Student Union or watched a film in the cinema there. Other highlights are the regular sporting events in the pyramid, where there is always a great atmosphere. You should also visit the free fitness studio regularly with countless machines, a track, climbing wall, squash halls and many basketball, volleyball and soccer fields (depending on the day of the week).
I also took part in an internal university volleyball league (“Intramural sports”), which was a lot of fun. You can also book various hikes and camping trips in the fitness center via the “Rock and Outdoor” center for a small fee. There I met cool people and the nature of LA County at the same time.
The semester abroad was definitely the best time in my studies so far and I would choose it again at any time. I have never experienced and seen so much in such a short time. If you have the opportunity, then definitely do a semester abroad at the CSULB!