University: California State University Los Angeles
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Civil Engineering
Study type: semester abroad
- Selection of the university and application
The most important thing before planning a semester abroad is to know exactly what you want in terms of university and free time. Once California has been chosen, MicroEdu ‘s excellent offerings leave plenty of opportunities for colleges across the state. It helped me the most in advance to read many reports on my experiences in order to get a more precise picture of the university and especially the area. Personally, I chose CSULA because I really wanted to live in Los Angeles. A city that offers almost everythingwhat I could wish for in such a stay abroad made the decision relatively easy for me. In addition to CSULA, there are also many other Cal State Universities such as Cal State Northridge, Cal State Dominguez Hills or Cal State Fullerton, which are located in or near LA. Check educationvv.com to see University of California Santa Barbara Exchange Program.
Hence my tip : Check out all the universities in terms of courses and locations in order to then find the right one for you. For me, for example, the location of the universities mentioned was not ideal for what I wanted, compared to the CSULA.
The application itself is quite easy thanks to the help of the planning masters from MicroEdu, as it is explained in great detail on the homepage and is also super quick. The best thing to do is simply go through the MicroEdu checklist and write/call the friendly staff if you have any questions.
In addition to working through the checklist, I also had to plan my travel. Since I was in New York and Las Vegas for 2 weeks before the start of the semester, I looked for apartments there via Airbnb. Especially if you are there in the fall semester, I would strongly advise you to fly there as early as possible. This gives you more of the summer and destinations like New York are more fun. I’m on August 1st. arrived and only had to postpone one or two exams to next year, but you don’t do a semester like that every day In addition to the good time in these 2 weeks before the start of the semester, I was also able to develop an easy language routine, which later helped me when I was in LA when viewing apartments. Before I found the apartment where I later spent the semester, I also lived for a week in a four-bed room, which I found on Airbnb.
As for packing, I advise everyone to take as little as possible! You buy something there anyway in the outlet and you can save on winter clothes anyway;-) Especially the girls in my semester would have liked to have had a third suitcase…
For my first week in LA, I lived in a quad room in Koreatown. Thanks to the good location and train connections, I was able to explore the city and look at apartments. I would lean towards the advice that it is better to choose an apartment locally. The reason for this is that you get a much better overall impression than when booking from Germany. For example, Camohousing promised three of my fellow students a “student atmosphere” that they never experienced. That is to say, they were promised to live among students in Hollywood, even though they ended up being the only students in the building complex. Nevertheless, the apartment was nice and they certainly didn’t go wrong.
I ended up being happier with my craigslist search because I lived with an American physics student. The same applies here: do I want to live with Germans or not? I also wanted to practice English at home, which I managed to do. In addition to craigslist, Airbnb is of course recommended.
In terms of property location, Hollywood, Downtown, Alhambra, South Pasadena, and Monterey Park are probably the best. Areas towards Hollywood tend to be more expensive and further away from the university, but score points for being close to places where you would like to spend your free time. In addition to the places mentioned, I can also recommend El Monte because I lived there very happily for 5 months.
Since I learned a lot about El Monte, here are some tips: There is a major train station where the Silver Line departs, which takes only 8 minutes to get to the university. That’s because it’s an express bus that travels over the freeway on FastLane. Very practical in the rush hours because you are not affected by the daily traffic jam. At the same time, this means that you should at least live within walking or cycling distance of “El Monte Station”. I had the bike distance and then got a cheap bike through “OfferUp”. Important for the Silver Line: In El Monte, as a student, you can get a monthly ticket for $30, which is even cheaper than the student ticket for the metro. And even better: you don’t have to wait four weeks like with the metro, you get it directly on site. Of course, El Monte also scores with low rents. I had my own room in a relatively new house and paid only $500 a month. Also, my roommate was so nice and gave me some furniture so I didn’t have to worry about anything
I should probably also say something about the dorms. A friend I met in LA lived there, which gave me some insight. Unfortunately, big parties or similar are not allowed in the dorms, just like alcohol, which is a bit different compared to Germany. Still, it’s good for meeting students and maybe doing things with them.
In America, “you get what you pay for” often applies, and I would argue that it also applies to universities. Unfortunately, CSULA cannot keep up with very renowned universities such as UCLA or USC. In my civil engineering degree, the university was relatively good compared to the other Californian universities, since the students did well on average in the final test, the so-called “Fundamental Engineering Test”. Nevertheless, the level in most subjects was far below what I know from Germany. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn anything and that the courses weren’t fun! I liked the choice of courses mix things up and try different things. I chose Statics, Civil Engineering Design, Ethics for Engineers and Economics for Engineers. I sent the syllaby to MicroEdu so that you can read about it if you ask.
In addition, I can highly recommend planning a sports course in your credits, because that way you can also get to know a few people. I wanted to do an American sport, so I took a basketball class.
What I should also mention is that the universities in America have a lot more schools than in Germany. In other words, there is usually homework for the next hour, which is then partially graded.
My next tip is that you spread your courses over as few days as possible. After all, you want to get something out of life there, that’s clear. Unfortunately, I had 4 days when I had to go to the university, and some Master’s students even got by with 2. It all depends on planning and luck.
As a last tip for the university, I would like to bring the orientation week to heart. There, the student associations recruit new members, which is why many stands are set up on the street. Of course you won’t get in touch for a semester, but it’s still worth talking to people. I chatted with almost every connection for the first week and got invited to a couple of parties, which were terrific ! I met new people there, etc. What I’m trying to say is that just because there’s less going on compared to UCLA or USC doesn’t mean there’s very little like some others write in their testimonials. I think it’s just important to keep your eyes and ears open to see what’s going on around you. It’s worth it, especially at the beginning of the semester.
- Free time
I think there are some tips here too. If you’re interested in theme parks like Six Flags Park and Universal Studios, student discount tickets are available direct from the uni! Universal Studios in particular is highly recommended for Halloween, as it hosts the legendary Halloween Horror Nights.
In addition to classics like Santa Monica and Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach are also recommended because I think they are simply nicer beaches. However, my favorite spot for a sunset on the west coast is Mt. Hollywood, as it offers the best view ever!
If you ‘re interested in NBA basketball, just look for midweek games, sometimes you can get really cheap tickets there. We got to see the Clippers for a whopping $11 a ticket.
Road trips are certainly recommended on normal and especially long weekends, as there is so much to see. My highlights were the Big Sur route to San Francisco, a drive through Orange County to San Diego, Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon. Horseshoe Bend and Zion National Park also have a lot to offer. Just take a look at tripadvisor, there are always helpful tips there.
To make it short: In principle, I would have done everything the same way again, which is why I think that my tips can be quite useful. What I would like to emphasize is that you can get the most out of your semester abroad if you leave your everyday comfort zone, which you might have in Germany. That means simply addressing the people you meet. no matter whether fellow students or other people at a party or something similar. For example, I ate my lunch next to a different person on campus every day of tuition to converse in English. Actually, every conversation was interesting and you could just get to know new people.
What I would like to say is that for me personally it was a good experience to travel alone and start the semester. In this way it quickly becomes an adventure and a challenge for yourself, which I think has helped me enormously. Despite all the skepticism at the beginning, I was never really alone and got to know more people than ever before in such a short period of time.