University: California State University Los Angeles
City: Los Angeles
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Business Administration, Marketing
Study type: semester abroad
My application process began with a visit from the International Office at my university. Every university should have one and it’s a great resource for projects like this. MicroEdu’s website came up in the very first conversation, and I looked around right after the appointment. A very large selection of universities, which can be sorted well with a lot of filters. It was clear to me from the start that it should go to the USA and that it should fit in with my course of study. After a lot of consideration, course comparisons and sorting out, the decision finally fell on Cal State LA. Check educationvv.com to see University of California Berkeley Exchange Program.
Thanks to the application package provided by MicroEdu, it quickly became clear what had to be included in the application. By comparing possible courses beforehand, I already knew what I would write on my course wish list and the remaining required forms were also filled out or obtained very quickly. What caused some problems was the financial proof, which the university wants to know and have proven that you have sufficient financial resources to pay for the entire project. This can be done with official bank balance receipts or evidence from sponsors (e.g. scholarships or BAföG ) make. It doesn’t matter whether you end up paying with these funds, the university just wants to see that you can somehow get the funds together at the time of the application. Luckily for me, my grandmother’s savings account was well stocked. In the end I didn’t pay with grandma’s money, but it was good and uncomplicated for proof.
The completed application package was then sent back to MicroEdu for the final check and they also forwarded it to the university. If I remember correctly, the confirmation of acceptance came about four weeks after the application was sent – also first as an email from MicroEdu and then a few days later by post with all the acceptance documents.
With the official acceptance form, the I-20, you can then also start with the visa application start. This involves a lot of digital paperwork on the Homeland Security website and an in-person interview at the nearest embassy. All no real problem. The paperwork is hard work and the interview isn’t really an interview either. In advance you always hear “take a few hours for the appointment at the embassy, it can take a while and prepare yourself well for the interview with these questions”. I had my appointment at the embassy in Frankfurt and after the security check at the entrance I spent about 30 minutes in the embassy, of which 25 minutes were standing around and waiting. The interview was conducted at a counter and consisted of four questions that the officer on the other side of the glass asked me, each of which I was able to answer with one sentence. I got my passport with visa back five days later in the mail. So that was done too.
Enroll in courses
I was now admitted, visa in my pocket, but before I could start my studies in LA, I still had to get into my preferred courses. The students who graduate from the university naturally have priority when it comes to course selection and enrollment, which is why as a semester student you have to see which courses still have space. This sounds dramatic now, but each course is usually offered several times a semester, which is why the chances are relatively good.
In addition, many professors are very helpful to foreign students. The course crashing method is also half as wild. My advice is to look up or request the e-mail address of the course professor online and before you arrive for the first course meeting, write him or her a quick friendly e-mail, introducing yourself and explaining your situation so that the professor isn’t completely off you will be surprised. Try this even if the course is already showing as full online, because many American students first enroll in courses but don’t take part in them afterwards and there is space for you again. One of my professors also had the policy that he always accepts five students from the waiting list.
If the professors get in the way, you can also talk to the contact person, Becky Bishop, she can usually open a few more doors for you. With the consent of the professors, you will then receive their signatures, which you have to take to the respective department office for the department stamp and then you can go to the International Office and you will be enrolled in the courses. This whole process will be explained to you in great detail by Becky at the introductory event, so don’t worry.
Enrolled in everything, you can then start your studies. And studying at Cal State LA was pretty much how I imagined it would be. A huge campus with various faculties and buildings and about 28,500 students. It was about a 20 minute walk from the north end of campus to the south end. The university is not the best in Los Angeles, but it is always in the top 5 in the ranking of California State Universities.
The students are culturally and demographically very diverse and colorful, which makes socializing really fun and interesting. And all people in Los Angeles, including the students, are very open and conversations are very easy to start, which makes getting to know each other very easy. Since you sit in the courses with the local students and do a lot of group work, you inevitably get to know new people, which makes studying much more interesting.
Courses taken at the host university
I’m studying design management and project management in Germany, so it was clear to me that I would find my courses in the management, marketing and arts departments. I had two courses credited as compulsory subjects in Germany, so I had to check these very carefully to ensure that they fit into my curriculum and had my German university sign me that I would definitely get credit for them. The other two courses were supposed to be electives, so 100% agreement wasn’t that important and I picked courses here that I found most interesting.
The courses I ended up taking and completing are:
- MGMT 4103 – Managing Innovation
- MGMT 4503 – Total Quality Management
- MKT 3800 – Intro to Social Media Marketing and
- ART 2370—The History of Design.
If you have any questions about these courses, I’m happy to answer them, but I’d like to be more general in this report.
The courses at Cal State LA consist of 2.5 weekly hours of lectures or similar, which are in one block with a 15-minute break or divided into two days of 1 hour and 15 minutes each. The courses on a day are also divided into time slots, with the first in the morning at 7: 30 a.m. and the last in the evening at 7: 15 p.m. The courses can therefore be spread over the whole day. I was lucky and my earliest class started at 12pm. Although I had two courses, which went from 6 to 8: 45 p.m. in the evening, which is also completely feasible. In these courses, the lecturer is also happy to end a little earlier.
Overall, the courses were very easy to master and I was able to complete all of them with very good grades. The overall level of difficulty of the courses compared to Germany is also slightly easier. You don’t learn everything for an exam at the end of the semester, but there are at least two exams, mid-term and final, and usually there are tasks, assignments and group projects in between, with which you also collect points for the final grade. Attendance at the lectures is also weighted in the final grade. In addition to all this, in most courses you have the option of collecting extra credits to push your grade a little further. If you stick to it, a good grade in the courses is very easy to achieve.
The contact person for you is the previously mentioned Becky Bishop, program coordinator for the study abroad program at Cal State LA, “Study in LA”. Simply put, Becky is probably the loveliest and most caring person on this planet. At the introductory event, which I held a week before the course started, you will get to know her personally for the first time and she will go through everything you need to know with the entire group of semester abroad students, which in our case mainly consisted of Germans, Norwegians and French. During the semester you can come to her office with any concern, problem, question or just to chat and she takes the time to help as best as she can. Her office staff are no less helpful and if Becky is unable to attend, they can also be approached with any concerns. The letter of acceptance that you receive with your acceptance is written by Becky and from that point on she is the first and best person who can and will help you with questions.As is the case throughout LA, virtually every person on campus is open and supportive.
It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to live on campus in campus housing, because for me it was simply part of the experience. The housing accommodations on campus are four or eight-person apartments in which two people, sometimes three people, share a room. A nice mix of dorm hallway and shared apartment. The apartment buildings are all in the north-east of the campus and you can be in the middle of the campus in 5 minutes. The campus housing forms its own small community with a community centerwith a computer and games room, a dining hall with three meals a day, a larger room for community events and a basketball and volleyball court. About 1000 students live in the housing. The apartments are furnished with the bare minimum, you have to bring the rest yourself, but here you can get in touch with your roommates to see who gets what. The cost is slightly higher than other housing options near campus.
Due to the proximity to the campus, the size of the apartment and the community right in front of the door, this is a small surcharge, which I was happy to pay. In the apartments you can cook for yourself or buy a meal plan for the time, with which you can eat 10, 12 or 17 times a week in the dining hall. There are three meals a day during the week, brunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. A hot menu is available at every meal, including a vegetarian/vegan option, a salad bar, cereal, bread, bagels, and a waffle station. You can certainly cook for yourself a little cheaper, but with the large selection and the all-you-can-eat buffet style, such a meal plan is definitely worth it. Especially since the nearest supermarket is about a 30-minute walk away. With the Uber about 6 dollars each way.
Leisure and excursion possibilities
Of course you also want to have fun while studying and explore the city and the surrounding area, and if you are a little smart about choosing a course, you will have enough time to do so. There isn’t much to do directly on and around the campus, but the campus is a 15-minute bus ride from Union Station, LA’s main train station, and downtown, and a 10-minute Uber ride. And from there everything is open to you. Downtown there is already a lot to see and like in many major American cities, every few blocks a new district begins downtown , which is then something different and offers new things to explore. From downtown, you can also quickly get to Hollywood or Beverly Hills by subway. The metro and bus are the best means of getting around LA as they are fairly reliable and have stops pretty much everywhere. To keep track of things, I can recommend the “Citymapper” app.
The beaches of Santa Monica and Venice are a little further from the campus and about an hour’s drive by bus and train. However, it is also more than worth the travel time. There is something for every taste in the seemingly endless expanse of Los Angeles. Now that sounds like bad travel TV, but it really is. From skyscrapers in the noisy city center to the quiet mountain hiking trail, everything is there. But if you want to go further away, you are also in good hands. And once you’re in America, you should use what you can. The FlixBus stop is at Union Station and there is also a shuttle from Union Station to LAX Airport. In close proximity to explore are San Diego (FlixBus approx. 3 hours) and Las Vegas (FlixBus approx. 5 hours). Both destinations are a must during the time there. Tijuana is also a short drive from San Diego. A little further away, but definitely worth the drive, is San Francisco (FlixBus approx. 9 hours -> flight recommended).
Renting a car for a trip like this and going on a road trip is always a lot of fun in America. The scenery in every direction out of Los Angeles is indescribable and the American road layout makes it difficult to get lost. For example, to Las Vegas, a 4 to 5 hour drive, enter I-15 in Los Angeles and exit in Las Vegas. A road trip to Utah and Arizona is also recommended. Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon are highly recommended destinations. And much nicer to explore with your own car. On the way back you can also stop in Las Vegas. For those of you who want to go even further, I can highly recommend Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Also a good trip east are the three cities of Dallas, Houston and Austin. In Austin, I can warmly recommend Sixth Street in particular. If that’s still too close, my Thanksgiving trip to Miami Beach and Key West was also a good recommendation.
But in the end everyone does what they like best. All I can say to that is, take enough time for yourself before and after the actual semester, preferably more than enough, to travel around. Because during the semester there is usually only little space for longer trips.