University: California State University Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: English / American Studies
Study type: semester abroad
Application and preparation phase
It was already clear to me before I started my studies that I would do a semester abroad. The USA has always been my dream destination. I found out about the agency “MicroEdu” through an acquaintance and in my fifth semester I decided to apply to California State University, Long Beach in January 2015. A two-page letter of motivation in English, proof of English ( DAAD test ), proof of ability, a list of desired courses and an overview of grades with an overall average of no worse than 2.5. I was able to take the test for the English certificate at my university. My professor tested speaking, reading, listening and writing. Since California State University, Long Beach is not a partner university of my home university, I initially had to pay the tuition fees myself. But fortunately I got a part reimbursed through my BAföG application. Check andyeducation.com to see Hawaii Pacific University study abroad opportunities.
As soon as I got the offer, I looked around for accommodation. I had the choice between on-campus, that is, in a student residence on campus, or off-campus. When I inquired about the costs for on-campus housing, I decided against it. There are five halls of residence, also called dorms. It is certainly easier to make contact with other American and international students in a dorm. However, you have to share a room with another student for about 1000 US dollars per month.
For these reasons, I decided to look for a room in a shared flat on my own. There are some apartment complexes near the university, such as Beverly Plaza or Park Avenue. A lot of international students live there, but since the apartments are unfurnished, I decided against it. Depending on the number of people per apartment, you pay between 550 and 800 US dollars per month. Fortunately, there are various groups on Facebook such as CSULB Study Abroad @ the Beach and CSULB International Students. In these groups, ads are posted every semester by private people renting their rooms to international students. That’s how I met an American woman in her mid-30s. I have for my room, which I did not have to share, paid 500 US dollars per month. I didn’t have to buy furniture or pay extra for electricity, water or internet. I also lived on the beautiful island of Naples. I would recommend everyone to stay with Americans, since there are a lot of Germans living in the apartments, which means that you don’t speak as much English as a result. I also had the opportunity to participate in American culture such as Thanksgiving.
Before I flew to Long Beach, I read through various testimonials. It reported that the buses were very late and not running according to schedule. Since I lived in Naples, I only had to take line 121. This always came on time. You can check the travel times on the internet. The bus ran every 20 minutes in both directions, to the university or downtown. Public transportation is free for students within Long Beach. During the day you can easily travel to Los Angeles by subway. As soon as it gets dark, you shouldn’t take them, as it can become dangerous later in the day. That’s why we often use the Uber app. I was also skeptical at first because you have to enter your credit card number in this app. But this app is very secure and the “Taxi” will come within five minutes. Then you can rate the drivers and most importantly, Uber is half the price of a real taxi.
Before the university started, I wrote down about 15 courses that are recognized at my home university, which, as mentioned above, you have to submit with your application. Unfortunately, we international students could not register for a course in advance. In other words, we had to crash the courses in the first week. I was advised to write to the lecturer in advance, but I do not recommend it. Most lecturers and professors do not respond to the emails. In the first week of lectures I moved from one course to another and had to ask the professors if there was still a place available for me. Luckily, I got my first four desired courses straight away. I wanted to take a fifth course, but since I only paid tuition for four courses, I would have had to pay $300 per credit. So I decided against it, which was a good thing in retrospect, because the workload per course is very high. A course takes place twice a week, either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, with a lesson of 75 minutes.
The way of teaching reminds me more of a school as homework and weekly tests are the rule rather than the exception. There are also two intermediate exams per course, the midterms, and one final exam, the final. Furthermore, projects, presentations and homework, the so-called papers, often have to be prepared during the semester. It’s a lot of work during the semester, but you get a lot of grades that are added up at the end. The classes consist of about 20 students. Attendance and participation are very important. Depending on the course, one or two absences are allowed. If you are absent more often, this will be deducted from the final grade.
The professors are very friendly and try to get in touch with the exchange students. The relationship between student and professor can almost be described as friendly, whereas in Germany it is mostly hierarchical. If you have problems, they look for solutions together with you.
Unfortunately, many professors require you to buy a lot of expensive books. You can borrow the required literature from the bookstore, but this is also quite expensive. I was able to borrow some books cheaper from Amazon.
I was glad that I explored the campus before everyday university life began. The campus is like a small town, which initially seems very confusing. I recommend running the rooms where you have to crash the courses at the beginning.
There are many “restaurants” on campus, from Panda Express to Subway to Carl’s Jr. Unfortunately, there is almost only fast food. Since there are also microwaves, it is advisable to bring your own healthier food and heat it up. There are also cafes like Starbucks on campus.
Unfortunately, the gym, which is located near the pyramid, is not free for international students. You pay around 35 US dollars a month, but it’s worth the money. It has every imaginable device. In addition, this gym consists of basketball courts, a climbing wall, a pool, a jacuzzi, a dedicated running track on the second floor, etc. Fitness classes are also offered every hour.
There is also a giant pyramid on campus that is used for sporting events such as basketball or volleyball games. There I watched a basketball game of our team a few times. Cheerleaders, music groups and the famous Kiss Cam were a part of the events.
I recommend ordering a SIM card in advance on the simlystore.com website. Although you pay about 40 euros a month, you have the advantage of being able to get the card in Germany. I’m very glad I had the card in advance as my flight to America was 2.5 hours late. So I only had 30 minutes to catch my connecting flight, but without internet I wouldn’t have known where to go. So I was able to put the card into operation in the USA immediately and call my roommate in California, who then guided me.
The first days in Long Beach
As mentioned above, my arrival was very chaotic, I only had 30 minutes to catch my connecting flight in a first-time country.
I got a real culture shock when I arrived in Long Beach. Almost everything is different than in Germany, especially bigger: the apartments, supermarkets, motorways, cars, etc. You also have to be prepared for the food. Fresh ingredients are more expensive than fast food. You have to be prepared for hefty prices. With the membership card at Ralph’s or Rite Aid you can get certain foods cheaper, but compared to Germany it is still expensive. Since you can’t always live from certain offers and fast food, I’ve often treated myself to something more expensive and healthier.
Orientation week at California State University started a week after my arrival. This week was helpful to get to know many international students. In addition, the exchange coordinators gave us many useful tips regarding university and private life. They were contactable at all times. But I only made friends during the semester.
Leisure and travel
I tried to travel a bit while studying. Since my week at university ended on Thursday, I had the opportunity to travel from Friday to Sunday. We didn’t have a car, but we rented one or used the Greyhound bus. With this we drove overnight to San Francisco and to San Diego. Since Long Beach is very well located, day trips are also worthwhile. We also spent a day in Mexico. While it is discouraged and caution should be exercised, it is very safe during the day. Of course we used the Thanksgiving break to explore California for a few days.
I didn’t travel that much compared to other international students because I knew I had a month to travel after graduation and I wanted to experience college life more. A lot was done spontaneously at the weekend, and there was also a party bus that drove to Hollywood from time to time. Otherwise there were also spontaneous house parties in the apartments.
After finishing my semester, I used the last month and traveled all over the west coast, as well as Nevada and Arizona.
I am very happy that I took the risk and went to America alone. I recommend everyone to take this step alone, because this is the only way to become more independent and, above all, more self-confident. My English has improved significantly. Even though I was homesick at first, I liked it so much in Long Beach that I could hardly imagine going back to Germany. I would have loved to have stayed another semester. I am very happy that I was offered the opportunity to spend a semester in the USA to study. In the beginning I was very well advised and supported by Anja Heinz from the agency. This support made it a lot easier for me to go to America on my own. As already mentioned, I was also very well advised by the international coordinators during the semester.
I haven’t regretted a second. It is an experience that every student should experience once. It was not easy for me to say goodbye to California State University, Long Beach, to my friends and to the USA.