University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Alternative medicine, computer science, electrical engineering
Study type: semester abroad
Flight & Arrival:
I booked my flight with Lufthansa 6 months in advance. The flight was therefore relatively cheap. So you should take care of it in time. The plane landed at LAX in Los Angeles 14 hours after departure from Frankfurt. Since I hadn’t booked any accommodation and my room in the dorm was only available in 10 days, this was the first thing I tackled. Without a doubt, LAX is a huge airport and I felt pretty lost at first. After a short orientation I found the so-called “Courtesy Phones”. These can be found in almost every terminal. These phones can be used to book hotels/hostels for free. I checked into the “Backpackers Hostel” (Century Blvd.). The hostel’s free shuttle service also picks you up at the airport (although the driver does expect a tip). The Backpackers Hostel offers excellent value for money. 4-bed room $29 including breakfast (muffin, coffee), dinner (small buffet) and internet (own laptop). The 10 or 20 bed rooms are not recommended. Not very hygienic and high risk of theft. It is advisable to book through Hostels.com before you arrive, as the prices are then even cheaper. The connection via public transport from the hostel in LA to the CSULB in Long Beach is available, but extremely bad. You also have to travel through some unsafe areas by bus, which is a real experience but not worth having. Check andyeducation.com to see University of California San Diego study abroad opportunities.
With the idea of finding conditions similar to those in a German student residence, I decided in favor of “on campus housing”. However, it was already clear in the first few days that these were two different worlds.
There is a strict ban on alcohol in the dormitory, regardless of age. That doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t drunk there, but the consequences are pretty severe if you get caught. There is no pub like in many German dormitories. There are common rooms, but they are mainly used as a study area or for meetings. There is no official party life, such as dormitory parties.
The main reason for this is that the average age in the dormitories is between 18 and 21. For many, the dormitory is the transitional phase between moving out with their parents and their own apartment. The freedoms that you are used to as a 25-year-old German are very limited. The university attaches great importance to security and order. All doors are secured with an electronic code lock that can only be opened with a valid ID card. By the way, the doors are always locked. In addition, the male residents’ ID cards only work for the part of the building where the male students are housed. In other words, you can’t move freely. Sometimes you get the impression that you are in a prison.
In addition, the costs for campus housing are definitely excessive. For one semester you have to reckon with about 5000$. The accommodations are also old and very small. If you still have a car, you have to reckon with additional costs for parking fees.
In addition to all these disadvantages, life on campus also has decisive advantages.
The university can be reached on foot in 5-10 minutes. Gym is also only 5 minutes away. A great advantage results from the catering in the dining halls. Depending on the meal plan, breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered there – “all you can eat”. Including drinks. In addition to typical American dishes, there is a salad, Italian and Asian bar. There are always special themed evenings (e.g. French Night, Christmas Dinner, Thanksgiving Dinner, etc.). The quality is excellent!
But the best thing about campus housing is living directly with the American students. The network that you can build up here and contacts that you can make there is probably priceless. In addition, you do not have to worry about things like furniture, internet or electricity.
The connection to the university via the public transport network is sufficient. Buses, which can be used free of charge, run regularly in all directions at intervals of around 20 minutes. Of course, you have to plan more time for this than with your own car. A trip to downtown LA takes about 1 ½ hours (one way).
Despite the advantages of campus housing, I would not choose it again. The restrictions associated with this would no longer be justifiable for me. I would opt for the off-campus housing at the Oakwood Apartments instead. The advantage is the direct proximity to the beach, large apartments, a complex with a pool, tennis courts and gym as well as access to party life.
During my semester I took two engineering courses and numerous physical education courses. The quality of the engineering courses (power electronics, web design) was rather mediocre. At least Power Electronics was unstructured and the professor mostly seemed unprepared. The lectures were extremely easy. Technically, I couldn’t derive any benefit from it. The lecture rooms are also quite old (of course I can only make this statement for the rooms I was in). The sports courses, on the other hand, were all excellent. The books for the lectures are quite expensive. Since there are no scripts, there is no getting around the purchase. You can sell the books again at the end of the semester, but for the money you would get for them,
My biggest criticism concerns the enrollment process for the courses. First you have to look around for a variety of alternative courses, since the probability is very high that many courses are already fully booked. Then you get official enrollment documents in the ALI office, which then have to be presented personally to the professors of the individual courses and signed by them. If the desired course is already taken, there is still the possibility of negotiating with the professor, but the probability of getting a place as a foreign student is rather low. The next way, after receiving the professor’s signature, leads to the so-called chairman of the department. Here you can then give the second signature. Possibly. you have to negotiate again for admission to the course. The course forms must then be taken to the registration office, where the actual enrollment ultimately takes place. Since the campus is very large and you usually have a large number of courses confirmed because it is never certain whether you will be admitted to one or the other course, the first two weeks are sheer horror. You rush from one building to the next, fighting with the professors and formalities. As a foreign student attending through the “Open University” program, for the money you pay, you are incredibly victimized through this process. American students, on the other hand, have the highest priority to conveniently enroll in the courses online.
As mentioned above, students can use public transportation (buses) in Long Beach for free. This offer is really excellent, especially if you don’t have a car. However, time for a trip must be calculated accordingly. A bicycle is definitely recommended. In the first few weeks I got a used racing bike from “craigslist.org”. However, you should be very careful with craigslist, since a lot of junk is sold here too.
A car is not essential, but it makes life in California so much easier. I didn’t have one that I would definitely never do again. One should not make the mistake of confusing the distances in California with those in Germany. A quick bike ride to go shopping or to the beach isn’t that easy – it’s often several miles. Especially if you want to go to the beach to surf. The next viable surf spot is at Sunset Beach. You need a car for that. If you want to go to Surfer’s Paradise in Huntington Beach anyway.
Of course, you can also rent cars from the numerous “car rentals”, but buying a used car is cheaper in the long run. The German driver’s license is recognized in California. You don’t need an international.
Travel & Sightseeing:
Anyone studying at CSULB has a pretty good starting point for this. Las Vegas is about a 4-hour drive away and should definitely be visited. San Diego with its numerous beaches is also recommended and about 2 hours away by car. Although San Francisco is a bit further away (9 hours by car), it is also recommended. Here you should definitely drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. The landscape and nature you get to see here is priceless.
Los Angeles itself is of course right on the doorstep. Catalina Island, an island just off Los Angeles, is recommended for divers. A number of diving trips are offered there.
The experience of my semester abroad at CSULB far outweighs the costs and inconveniences involved. The engineering courses could not convince me, but the sports courses, which are certainly worth a large part of the costs, even more so. As far as partying goes, though, I don’t give Uni and Long Beach high marks.