University: California State University Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: journalism
Study type: semester abroad
My girlfriend did a semester abroad in San Diego a year ago and was constantly posting photos of the beautiful landscapes and beaches of California. After following her social networks with pictures and reports for five months, I got the urge to go abroad again because I became more and more aware: it’s now or never. Having previously only been to the US as a tourist, but having many friends who lived there for a limited period of time, I wanted to see the land of “unlimited opportunity” for myself. It quickly became clear to me that I didn’t want to go anywhere: it should be California with sun, sand and sea. Check andyeducation.com to see University of California Riverside study abroad opportunities.
The first preparations
So I started by researching general information about a semester abroad in the Golden State. “MicroEdu” was very helpful to me here, as it provides a very practical search engine with which you can explicitly see which degree program you can attend which university in the USA with this organization. I was in constant email contact with MicroEdu and everyone was very helpful and tried to answer any questions I had as accurately as possible.
Since I knew from my girlfriend that a semester abroad can be funded by the foreign BAföG office, but that it has to be applied for well in advance, this was my first task. I started collecting the documents for the office about ten months earlier (in March) and even when the first documents have been submitted, the office still needs a lot of papers, some of which can only be submitted during the stay abroad (e.g. the foreign matriculation certificate)..
Now it was also time to take care of the visa, to apply for it (you should allow time to fill out the forms here too) and finally to drive to the US Embassy in Berlin for a short interview in November. The F1 visa for students is very expensive and is around 250 euros. These costs should be taken into account for financial planning.
Other things I had to take care of were:
- Finding an apartment in the USA: turns out to be difficult from Germany. I was lucky that a German student from the previous semester wrote to me who had rooms to rent because her roommates had finished their semester abroad. Living off campus is a lot cheaper, although a room in California typically costs around $700 a month
- International health insurance: You should definitely take out additional international health insurance in Germany, even if the university has insurance, this is only partial insurance
- Sublet your own apartment
Studies in the USA
After all the organizational stress, things started for me on January 11th. As soon as we arrived, the program of “Study Abroad @ the Beach”, the international office there, started. Excursions were made, barbecues were made and the campus was shown to us. In the first week we had information events and courses to be well prepared for everything. We had good opportunities to meet other international students and make friends.
In the second week, the “Internationals” said: Courses “crash” because Americans have priority. They can select their desired courses several months in advance via an online system, which was to our disadvantage. The “internationals” must therefore attend the first lecture of the desired course and ask the professor to enroll him in the course.
It quickly became clear to me that the learning system at American universities is very different, because there is not just one exam, as in Germany, but two. In addition, there are “assignments”, “quizzes”, tests, presentations, group tasks, homework, essays and usually other additional tasks that can improve the grade. As a result, I always had a lot to do and I hardly had any free time during the week because my friends and I “worked in advance” so that we could take “off” at the weekend to do something. Even though the university was extremely demanding and stressful, it contributed enormously to my improvement in English and prevented me from getting bored. I was generally very fascinated by campus life in America because the students spend most of their time, including their free time,
Life in the host country
I quickly settled into America because, even though many things are very different, many things are very similar to the European lifestyle and system. However, what bothered me the most was the high cost of living. Not only housing, groceries, university costs, medical care and other things that you need to live are extremely expensive, especially in California, but I constantly had to pay high costs that I had not expected.
Nevertheless, the great scenery in California, which we were able to admire on excursions, the summery weather and the good humor and friendliness of the Americans made up for everything. We’ve always been very active outside of campus, renting a car to see as much of the area as possible and hanging out with other international students from all over the world and with Americans.
The semester was even better than I imagined, it was a unique experience that I will never forget. I will mourn the time for a long time but I also know that one should go when it is most beautiful and will never forget the experience and adventures. That’s why I can only recommend anyone who somehow has the opportunity to spend another semester abroad during their studies, whether it’s a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You find friends who share the same thing with you, which makes the time so unforgettable.