University: California State University Northridge
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: psychology
Study type: semester abroad
All in all, the semester at California State University Northridge was a really great experience. The initially high level of organizational effort was definitely worth it and the semester abroad helped me to progress academically and personally. Check educationvv.com to see Thompson Rivers University Exchange Program.
Since I wanted to study at a university with my boyfriend, the only option for us was a “free mover” program and not an exchange program directly from our home universities. The organizational effort involved in applying for a semester abroad initially seemed like an insurmountable mountain. With the help of MicroEdu, however, we were able to overcome quite a few hurdles. Using the field of study filter, we found possible universities on the website and compared the location and prices. CSUN’s location, only half an hour from Hollywood, and the relatively low tuition fees for the USA ultimately convinced us. The application process for the CSUN was relatively uncomplicated and everything had to be done online.
A Toefl test (very expensive!) had to be submitted for the online application and all in all the application amounted to around $350.
In addition, the visa had to be applied for (directly at the consulate in Frankfurt, but it was quite uncomplicated), which with all the fees was around $400 again.
The flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles was $680 and the journey took around 20 hours with a stopover in Berlin. In addition, of course, there were also the $6800 tuition fees, which had to be paid in full in advance. So before you even landed in the US, you had already lost over $8,000, which of course is a lot of money for a student.
I was lucky enough to be entitled to an international student loan and after all I was reimbursed $4500 (for tuition fees, travel and health insurance).
We landed in Los Angeles on August 15th and classes started on August 27th. The almost two weeks were definitely enough to find your way around and to start looking for an apartment. Through Couchsurfing.org we met a student at CSUN who let us sleep on her couch for the first few days. This saved us the money for a hotel and we were lucky enough to have met someone there right away. In the first few days we looked at a few apartments via Craigslist and Internet ads, but they were too expensive for us or didn’t want to take anyone for just 4 months. But thanks to our couchsurfing acquaintance, we got the opportunity to stay privately in a guest house.
So for four months we were able to live in a fully furnished pool house with all the trimmings for a total of $800 ($400 per person) and only had a 10-minute walk to CSUN. So it couldn’t have been better.
We only found out a few days before which courses you were admitted to, but thanks to an introductory event for foreign students, we quickly found our way around the huge university. The courses themselves were quite simple by German standards and the process was more comparable to school than to a German university. We had to take an exam almost every two weeks and also hand in homework regularly, which we weren’t really used to from the university at home. But since you were always up to date and the course content and literature were simpler than in Germany, we were able to complete the semester very successfully.
You have to be prepared that life on campus is quite expensive. Despite the high tuition fees (twice as much as the local students!) we as foreign students had to pay extra for almost everything (student ID, use of the gym, a surcharge for trips with the Outdoor Club,..) even though the Americans students have it all inclusive. The materials for the university are also very expensive and a textbook for a course is around $150 (and that for all 4 courses!) and there is no library in the USA where you can borrow the books either.
Life in Los Angeles
Since we as foreign students could only attend 4 courses, we had quite a lot of free time and had enough opportunities to look around Los Angeles and explore California. Although Northridge is only a half-hour drive from Hollywood, getting there without a car has always been difficult. Los Angeles’ public transit system is very unreliable and buses are fairly infrequent. With several changes, you still need almost 2 hours from Northridge to the city center.
In order to be able to make further excursions we had to rent a car each time. For longer distances such as San Francisco or Las Vegas, the Greyhound bus is worthwhile, with which we came to Las Vegas overnight for $20.
The time in the USA was really great and the semester in California was a great experience. As a student, however, you have to do without the luxury you are used to from Germany if you want to experience a lot because of the high prices.