University: California State University San Marcos
City: San Marcos (CA)
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: communication sciences, social sciences
Study type: semester abroad
As my predecessors have already mentioned, the application process for a stay in the USA is very extensive. Above all, the visa application and the required documents take up some time and work. For the visa you have to go to the embassy in Frankfurt or Berlin. Unless you live just around the corner, this comes at a cost. Keep all papers in order and ready and DO NOT take a mobile phone with you, you will be sent away again. A little tip: At the subway station in Berlin you can leave your mobile phone at the kiosk for one euro. The famous “interview” hardly went well at all for me. The official only asked me how I would like to finance the semester abroad and that was it. On the other hand, I was punched at the airport upon arrival. For example, I was asked how I came up with the idea of studying in the USA and how I ended up at this university of all places. You should definitely be quick-witted and not seem insecure. It is also advisable to already have a residential address in the USA. Check ehuacom.com to see UAB study abroad opportunities.
Obtaining the documents for health care also takes some time if you do not yet have the required vaccinations. The tuberculosis test is also not carried out by every doctor, so I had to go to the health department. The costs for this are not covered by health insurance. I received the documents from my home university relatively quickly. The good thing about the Cal State San Marcos Semester Abroad program is that a TOEFL or ILTS is not mandatory. Alternatives are the on-site language test or a DAAD certificate. I’ve heard that the on-site test shouldn’t be that difficult, but it has the disadvantage that if you don’t do well in the ALCI English lessons, of the organizations supervising there and that you might then not get all the credits that are required for your home university. I opted for the DAAD certificate. This is usually offered free of charge at participating universities. I didn’t even have to take a test at my university for that. Passing the two English modules was enough and my lecturer gave me the certificate. So it’s worth asking! And besides, you can come a little later on the introductory day. Passing the two English modules was enough and my lecturer gave me the certificate. So it’s worth asking! And besides, you can come a little later on the introductory day. Passing the two English modules was enough and my lecturer gave me the certificate. So it’s worth asking! And besides, you can come a little later on the introductory day.
There are three options. You go to a student hall of residence, take advantage of “homestay” or rent an apartment together with other students. I put the idea of renting an apartment with others out of my head. For me personally, the effort is too high. You should be there first to find a suitable flat share. Or even look for potential roommates and an apartment. In addition to the rent, heating, water, garbage disposal fees, etc. are all extra, so that looking for an apartment in the USA can be very non-transparent for a foreigner. Furthermore, one is at a disadvantage with potential landlords because one is only in the States for a limited period of time. However, that should not deter anyone from choosing this path.
To the dorm. As a semester abroad student, it is probably not easy to get a room there. I learned from fellow students that you have to argue with the administration for a long time in order to get a place. It is also not as clean or as personally furnished as one is familiar with from German dormitories. Furthermore, you have to pay the rent in advance, around $4000, depending on whether you have a single or double room. However, there are advantages: you are always among people and get to know new people, there are always activities and activities such as eating pancakes or going to the movies and it is close to the university. To get to the point, I chose a homestay. That means living with an American family. There are many agencies that are happy to assist in finding a family. I also contacted them. You have to differentiate between the placement costs and the travel costs to and from the airport. Unfortunately, I’m a bit disappointed with the agencies, because they didn’t get in touch with me until I was already there, or others didn’t even get in touch. I was looking for homestay ads on the internet. That wasn’t easy either, as there are hardly any families from San Marcos who place ads. You have to google for homestays in San Diego and see who lives where exactly. Finally I found a family. It was a middle-aged divorced lady whose children lived with her ex-husband and were always there every other weekend and during the holidays. She herself worked a lot and liked to withdraw, so I had a lot of privacy. We had a good relationship, it was more like roommates than host moms. For $800 a month, I got breakfast and hot meals three times a week. From time to time she would take me shopping or invite me to dinner. The household was clean, my room adequately furnished and the housing estate was relatively close to the university. I also had access to a swimming pool, jacuzzi and gym. She always has two rooms available and is always looking for new roommates. If anyone is interested, I posted this on the forum. She always has two rooms available and is always looking for new roommates. If anyone is interested, I posted this on the forum. She always has two rooms available and is always looking for new roommates. If anyone is interested, I posted this on the forum.
Local life has not always been easy due to mobility. Often there are no pedestrian paths that lead directly to the destination and one or the other Californian hill makes it impossible to get up there by bike due to the incline. There is a train that you can take to the neighboring towns, but it takes forever and doesn’t run that often in the evening. He also only drives once an hour, if he comes at all, and also strolls around for quite a long time. In addition, there are usually no timetables at the stops, so you should always have one with you. In the USA, public life is very separate from private life, which means that shopping centers, supermarkets, bars, etc. are usually located in business districts where almost no one really lives. So it’s always far to go somewhere. So I recommend everyone to get a car somehow or befriend someone who has one. Another option is to rent a car together with foreign students, provided you live nearby. Luckily I had a very dear friend who drove me. Although my roommate did some of the shopping for me, the European taste is different and you have to take care of the extras yourself. So we come to the cost of living. Food prices are really high in California. When I first went shopping at Ralphs, the nearest supermarket, I was really shocked. I easily had to put down 60 dollars for the ten things that were in my shopping cart. The cheapest pack of noodles starts at $3, Curry spice (should be able to find some) at $4. Even with the discount card, it’s quite expensive (the discount is just a bogus discount too). There are no discounters like Aldi or Lidl in the USA. The 99 cent shop offers a cheap alternative. Yes, you read that right, the 99 cent shop. Compared to here, there is also food there. You can get almost anything there. Dairy products, fruit and vegetables, frozen food, preserves, spices, sweets, bread, drinks, etc. Of course, only a small selection and with fruit and vegetables you have to pay attention to the quality from time to time. The nice thing is that from time to time European products can also be found on the store shelves. Next to the 99 cent shop is a Mexican supermarket where you can get cheap and fresh meat, for example. Since I can cook to some extent, that was enough for me for basic needs. If you like European food or something a bit healthier, I recommend Trader Joes in Escondido. This supermarket chain belongs to Aldi. You can also find decent cheese or wholemeal bread there. If you don’t want to do without children’s chocolate and co., you can find it at World Market. Eating out, more precisely fast food, is a bit cheaper and more varied there. In general, the food there takes a lot of getting used to, a lot of flavor enhancers, sugar, preservatives. But everyone has to find their way around and pay attention to what they buy.
Clothing and electronics are fairly cheap. You can make very good bargains and go really great shopping. In order to avoid high bank fees, I opened an account with the German bank. This is affiliated with Bank of America, which is with the school. You can then withdraw cash without any fees. I also got an American account from Bank of America. So I was able to pull out the card without having to pay any fees. I’m actually quite comfortable with it and the service at the bank was also great. Communication back home was mostly via Skype or Facebook. Since you also need a cell phone number on site, I can recommend the prepaid card from T-mobile. You can book a Germany landline flat rate with the tariff and the SMS package also includes free SMS to your home country. Otherwise there are probably also prepaid cards, for example from Verizon with special international tariffs. However, caution should be exercised with prepaid top-up cards. Certain are not available everywhere, which is probably due to the fact that almost every American has a contract.
introduction and study
The American Language Institute (ALCI) is responsible for introducing and supervising the semester abroad. In addition to the Semester Abroad students, the ALCI mainly looks after language students, including those who plan to start a full course of study there. Most of them are Asian students. So the language students and the semester abroad students were looked after together. I personally didn’t like it that much. I felt that the introductory week was a bit superfluous, since the main focus was on the needs of the language students. A lecture was given on American etiquette, which for me personally has nothing to do with American culture. There were only things told how to get along at school and possibly. to behave in a host family and when to go to the doctor – things that for us Europeans are at least a matter of course. Only on the last day of the introductory week did it get a bit tricky, because you discussed your choice of course with the supervisors. However, there was also a lot of focus on the language students with their own courses. Regarding course selection: As my predecessor also described, one should not be put off if the responsible Cathy urgently advises against courses because of any results in the language test or previous education in the course of study. Just do the courses you’re in the mood for. Since the courses you want have to be “crashed”, you naturally have the greatest interest in getting into them (I’ll go into that again in a moment). Since only the lecturer / professor can give you a place for the course, it probably makes the most sense to contact them before the course starts to get a place (if the course is full). And the ALCI said very clearly that we shouldn’t ask them because the lecturers could feel bothered or disturbed by us. So the ALCI decided to ask on our behalf. Cathy did the same for me by email, but the request went to the course and faculty management and did not really reach individual or specific lecturers and was not really taken seriously. The bottom line was that you should get in touch with the person from the course. So complete nonsense. Since many courses were full long before the semester started due to the registrations of American students, I started contacting the responsible lecturers beforehand (as one of my predecessors recommended). This requires a bit of research work and sometimes it can only be done on site because the lecturer for certain courses has not yet been determined and therefore the name is not yet known. It’s definitely worth a try. Simply send a friendly and polite email to the lecturer. Introduce yourself in the e-mail, briefly explain the situation, tell a bit about your previous training and ask whether it would be possible to get a place in the desired course and finally apologize for the disruption. If no answers come, never mind then simply send the same e-mail to the lecturer on site shortly before the start of the lecture, as a little reminder. If you don’t get anything by then, just go to the course and if your name isn’t called, report to the other (American students) that you’re crashing the course. Sometimes the professor simply draws lots for places. I was really lucky with one professor who had responded to my emails beforehand and given me a place in three of his courses (although I actually only wanted to do two of them). For example, I didn’t have to take part in the lottery procedure in these courses, which gave me a clear advantage. Also in itself, as already mentioned by predecessors, the profs. like foreign students
Well, I didn’t get all the courses I wanted (but you also have to make sure that they are offered in the spring or fall semester!), but that was due to the fact that there weren’t enough workstations and equipment available in the video production course. I then switched to one or two other courses where there were still places, where I was accepted. Sometimes you get a place in a course, but then have to turn it down because it overlaps with another course for which you already have a place. So I would say that it doesn’t always work 100% to get the desired offer. However, this also depends on the popularity of the subject.
If you have the desired courses, it gets a bit complicated and cumbersome. At this point it must also be said that you feel like a second-class student (although you are actually looked after by the ALCI).
Once you have completed the course, you will receive a permission number from the professor. You have to collect all of these on a piece of paper with their signatures and then hand them in to Cougars Central (the enrollment office). After paying a fee (I would also agree that you should pay this with the tuition fees beforehand) you are officially enrolled there, although you have already received a student ID card and matriculation number?! But only then will you have online access to the course materials and the course and enrollment system. And I felt quite disadvantaged, because until you had the whole thing together, you had to do your homework (which I will go into in a moment) and the materials for this were only available online. You should also talk to the professor urgently/
Once the lectures are on, there is a lot to do. Homework is given regularly, for me it was usually discussion or response papers on the online texts (often very scientific and up to 40 pages per course), then I had to read a chapter from two books, for each a test or summary was due. In addition, there is an online test and one in the course each week. And of course there were intermediate and final exams. In short: the amount of work is immense! Leisure time should be chosen wisely. But I also have to say at this point that it depends on the course level you have. The amount of work in the 100s and 200s seems to be less. I had 300 and 400 courses corresponding to the third year of study. The 300s were also slightly lighter than the 400s. I’ve never done so much for university!!! But also at this point, it should be said that it depends on everyone personally, some do it with ease, others struggle. The lectures themselves were super interesting and the discussions were always super exciting and stimulating. Well, I always went home very excited after class. The university itself is also very well equipped and offers everything you need for studying. Many out-of-state American students are enrolled there, although there are also state universities in their communities. The study conditions at this university are much better than at the others.
Social / Fun / Nightlife
In the beginning you get to know people relatively quickly. Later, the wheat is separated from the chaff. Even if you are currently living in a homestay, i.e. not in a dormitory, you should definitely seek out public life. It can get pretty boring in the housing estate. So feel free to join any clubs and interest groups and show up in the dormitory more often to stay in touch with people and make friends. In addition, many public events take place during lunchtime and in the evening in the form of shows, films and theater at the university. Always go there when you find the time outside of your studies. Don’t be shy and seek contact with fellow American students. They are always very nice, helpful and open. So always go to the people and wait for them to come to you.JIn addition, you get so much more of the local culture and life with What I can also highly recommend are the recreational activities of the ASI office. Various excursions such as camping, kayaking, surfing and paintball are then offered there. They are also relatively cheap, but also fill up quickly, so hurry up with the registration. I felt like there wasn’t much to go out in San Marcos apart from a bar. Things are looking better in Carlsbad. But if you really want to dance in a club, I can probably recommend San Diego. Unfortunately, the nightlife is not as extensive as in Germany. Most of the time, the bars and disses close around 1-2 a.m. and after that nothing is open. In addition, the entrance fees for the clubs are between 20 and 40 dollars and you have to wait in line for ages to get in, even though the disco is half empty. But that also seems to be more of a kind of tactic used by the club owners to say to the potential audience “Hey, it’s worth the wait – here’s something special”. The ban on alcohol in public doesn’t make it any easier. If you don’t want to put up with that, you should rather switch to private parties.
However, America’s west makes up for the sluggish nightlife. The weather in Southern California is really awesome. Although later in autumn/winter it got cool in the evenings and swimming in the sea got too cold, it was always a very pleasant 20 to 27 degrees during the day, so that you could easily move around in flip flops and a t-shirt during the day. The west offers really beautiful beaches, landscapes and sights. Especially on the weekends, public holidays and after the semester you can do a lot of trips and travel. San Diego, Los Angeles, the beautiful small coastal towns and various leisure and amusement parks such as Disneyland can be reached quickly. You should definitely take the opportunity to drive to San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and also to explore the places and landscapes around them. On the way back to Germany there is a nice stop in New York. As far as that goes, I had a wonderful holiday. So that was now a lot more report than originally planned.
I really fell in love with the lovely people I met there and I still keep in touch with them today. All in all, I would say that it was a great semester abroad. If you are looking for a good university in California close to interesting cities with low tuition fees, you have made a good choice with San Marcos. For city dwellers who need the hustle and bustle, it’s probably nothing.