University: California State University Los Angeles
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
When I look back, I remember the day of departure well, I felt a feeling I hadn’t experienced before. On the one hand I was overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness and excitement because I had to leave my familiar and ordinary surroundings and on the other hand I was overcome by feelings of anticipation and the “thirst for adventure” on the plane, which made me forget my initial fears. Check educationvv.com to see Riga Stradins University Exchange Program.
I will never forget my trip. But first things first.
Almost exactly a year ago, already in the first semester of my studies, lectures on possible semesters abroad were offered at my university. Anyone who has toyed with the idea or intends to go abroad should definitely listen to these lectures. I have almost all the merits of each country in Europe and the US heard. It was really difficult to decide. The main criterion for me was to travel to a country where English is the mother tongue, so my choice was limited. Unfortunately, it was not just me who followed this plan and it quickly became clear that there were not enough places for the large number of applicants in these countries. For this reason, I applied for a place at a university in the USA myself. With the help of MicroEdu, I was able to get excited about the STUDY IN LA program at California State University in Los Angeles.
The choice of course in America is somewhat unusual and must be planned in advance and agreed with the home university. Cal State LA is class crashing its courses for Study In LA students on-site. Class crashing is a procedure in which interested students have to discuss possible participation in the course with the professor on the first day of university. There is a risk that the professor will not let you participate in the course. It is therefore necessary to find at least three to four course alternatives at the foreign university for the actual courses in Germany, which can be recognized. The preparation of the course selection is an important basic building block in order to be able to act stress-free on site. Luckily I got a place in all the courses I needed.
The situation, which was initially described as an excited feeling, can be explained primarily by the fact that I had no accommodation for the entire time. Of course, you can also spend the night in the so-called dorms on campus beforehand. However, apart from the courses and university life, my priority was to explore the city.
With the help of the online platform AirBnB, I booked an apartment in South Pasadena, north of Los Angeles, for the first week in order to have a first point of contact after arrival. I recommend this step to everyone in order to be able to use the first few days as orientation.
Finding an apartment on site was a little easier, because I was able to get to know the city in general within the first week and quickly get an overview of where it is worth living. However, the Los Angeles housing market as such proved more difficult for non-US citizenship transition students than initially anticipated. A central location in the city (which is absolutely necessary if you don’t have a car in LA) is very expensive (at least €1500). In addition, most apartments are not offered for a contract of less than one year.
I finally found a place to stay for my time on site via AirBnB, but I had to accept significant restrictions. The initial situation, for example sharing a room with a stranger (American), was new to me, but in retrospect it actually brought me only advantages. Location-wise recommended neighborhoods in Los Angeles are those located on the red metro line. The red line starts in North Hollywood and runs to Union Station via Downtown. From there, the Cal State LA campus can be reached within 10 minutes by bus. In addition, the Union Station offers the possibility of almost all “typical” destinations in Los Angeles, but also trips such as to San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, etc., easily accessible by public transportation. Notable residential areas are: Downtown, Westlake, Koreantown, Los Feliz East Hollywood and Hollywood. These areas offer easy access to the Los Angeles metro system.
Studies at the host university
Studying in the USA, at least at my partner university, was very different for me than I know from my lectures in Germany.
On the one hand, the Fall Quarter semester is divided into two areas. There is the first part, i.e. from the first day to halftime, which is completed using a midterm, and there is the part from halftime to the end, where “finals” are written. Interestingly, the stuff that was relevant up until the midterms was no longer included in the finals. On the other hand, only multiple choice tasks are given. The biggest difference to a German university is that the level of knowledge is not checked at the end of the semester with open questions, but the semester is divided into two examination stages.
The working methods also revealed any differences. Midterm and final make up about 60-70 percent of the overall grade. The remaining percentages are made up of the third block, which represents an additional achievement in the form of group work. There you have the opportunity to submit a performance in writing or to create a PowerPoint presentation.
everyday life and free time
Cal State LA ‘s Fall Quarter sees three courses per quarterbefore. So I had three courses that took place over three days, Monday and Wednesday mornings and Thursday evenings. Although at least one test was written per course during the week, I still had more than enough free time. Los Angeles offers incredible sights such as the Walk of Fame, Venice Beach, Universal Studios, Disneyland and various other amusement parks, just to name a few typical attractions. In the end I was out every day. At first alone, but after a week at university with new friends who have accompanied me the whole time. I even went on bigger road trips and parties with them later on. For example, the legendary trip to Las Vegas after the completed finals could be mentioned here, but be careful: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”,
Perhaps an addendum to the possibility of exploring the city with the metro lines. As I said, it makes sense to live near the Redline. But you have to keep in mind that a weekly pass costs $25 and a 30-day pass costs $100. That’s okay, considering that you can use the card every day and also for bus trips. It’s just a pity, and I wish that were different in the future, Cal State LA also offers its own student ticket for $43 per 30 days. Unfortunately, the university works with the metro company, so the ticket takes at least 8-10 weeks to complete. I haven’t seen mine to this day. So that could be optimized.
It is not possible to reproduce all events and impressions that I have made and experienced on three pages. So much has happened in just under four months that you might even consider writing a book about it. I can and would like to recommend everyone to gain such an experience abroad if he/she has the opportunity.
In the conclusion itself one should actually also mention negative experiences. If I’m honest I really didn’t have any, in the end everything worked out the way I imagined. If I had to name something, it might be the size of the city, which initially pushed me to my limit. The distances are very long and sufficient time must be planned in advance for the routes to be completed. Over time I came to terms with the fact that campus was at least 45 minutes from my apartment and the nearest beach at least an hour, more like an hour and a half.
The most impressive experience that inspires me and makes me think anew every day is the hospitality in and around Los Angeles. Not only in the city, but also on campus, the people were friendly, helpful and very interested in me as a German exchange student. The best example of this is the group work already mentioned. While in Germany we would very likely and only in rare cases involve an exchange student in group work (according to the motto: “He’s a block on his leg, he can’t speak the language”) I was welcomed with open arms in Los Angeles. They were interested in me as a person and my culture. This experience encouraged me to be more open to unknown people and initially to only see the positive in them. The group work with my fellow students turned into solid friendships. I got to Mexican family celebrations on Thanksgiving invited and they planned a farewell party for me. On the day of departure from Los Angeles, I was overcome by the same feelings that I felt in the same way at the beginning of my experience abroad.