California State University San Marcos Review (11)

California State University San Marcos Review (11)

University: California State University San Marcos

City: San Marcos (CA)

Country: United States

Continent: North America

Field of study: business administration

Study type: semester abroad

Application process

Without a doubt, planning a semester abroad is a real mammoth project. Of course I don’t want to scare you, because I’ve never invested time better in planning before. Check to see MU study abroad opportunities.

I started looking around for foreign universities and financing options about six months before departure. I quickly realized that it would be quite expensive in English-speaking countries. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve anything with my first quite complex applications for scholarships and exchange programs (eg ISEP) and was bitterly disappointed. Luckily for me, I contacted MicroEdu (CoCo) without high hopes and found out about the foreign BAföG through a call from CoCo, which ultimately financed most of my tuition fees (thanks CoCo !!). Then, after much back and forth, I decided to go to California State University San Marcos decided, everything went quickly and easily. I also received a PROMOS grant from the International Office (which should be available at every university, in Gießen almost every second student could be funded!), which supported me with a total of €1,600.

Accommodation search

Since I didn’t want to stay with a host family (and the student residences were incredibly expensive), finding an apartment from Germany was difficult. However, I planned to arrive two weeks before the introductory week and then organize everything else on site. For the first night I actually only found accommodation through Airbnb during (!) the journey. I even stayed with my super nice host, a 30-year-old American, for the first two weeks.

In the beginning I lived in Escondido (about 10-15 minutes by car from the university), but I hoped to be able to do without a car and live close to the university with other students. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything relevant, so I finally decided to organize a “home stay” with a host familyintroduced. Not only was it super nice, but the room was furnished and only 5 minutes away from the university by bike (which my host family provided me with). Plus it was the best deal all in all as I was paying “only” $700 a month including food. So I moved in and have never regretted the decision because I really got to know so much about American culture. I wasn’t allowed to have “guests of the opposite sex” in my room, but otherwise guests were welcome – and even invited to Thanksgiving.

Basically, I would absolutely recommend you to live in San Marcos or near the sea. A lot of people you get to know live in San Marcos itself or in the dormitories and I went there quite often in the evenings and somehow that’s real college life. And even if, in addition to many internationals, the American students are mostly very young and alcohol consumption is only allowed in moderation or not at all (don’t worry, people still drink;-)), you always have a good time there.

About your studies and the courses you have taken

Overall, the course was a complete success.

Only the class crashing in the first week of the semester was really exhausting. Since you as a semester student at the CSUSM cannot register online for the desired courses (or the waiting list) in advance like all other students, you really have to be a bit lucky. For example, I had to take some economics module, but I could see that all the courses were full. So I sent an email to the relevant professor early on, but only received a very brief refusal. I went to the course anyway, and then got a place a week later.

International Economics – Trade

This ECON course was really good. The overall level was not as high as it is, especially from a mathematical point of view. But if you wanted to learn a lot, you could too. Every Monday there were small tests (pure reproduction) and every few weeks smaller assignments and 2 or 3 exams. So there was always a lot to do, but if you weren’t lazy, you were sure to get a good grade.

It was similar with my other courses, such as:

  • In The Executive`s Chair (highly recommended!)
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Introduction to Global Studies

If you have specific questions about these courses, I am happy to help;-).


San Marcos is about a 35 minute drive from downtown San Diego. While I have to admit I haven’t been to San Diego that often, the truth is that without a car you’re really a nobody. I initially had a rental car and then was glad to be able to save the car after moving to San Marcos. It also saved me the university parking lot for at least $250 per semester (!). Unfortunately, you can forget about free parking, and that pretty much in the entire university area. I’ve also heard from people who just parked in the supermarket car park across from the university, which can work out sometimes, but isn’t a solution for the entire semester.

So I was happy to have saved a lot of costs as I felt like the only cyclist in San Marcos. Nevertheless, one would like to go somewhere at the weekend, even if it is only to the sea (15 minutes) or to the nearest Walmart. The car increases the quality of life enormously, so that after a month without a car, I rented one together with my roommate.

Leisure and excursion possibilities

Southern California and California as a whole has a lot to offer. Just driving down the coast at the weekend is great. Past Oceanside, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, Torrey Pines (beautiful, also perfect for jogging), down to Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and to San Diego.

Make sure you use the time during the semester to see something of the area and, for example, to fly to San Francisco or to drive to Vegas or the Grand Canyon and other canyons (Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley) to Arizona.

Otherwise, the University Recreation Center (near the gym) offers numerous trips during the semester, which are not only great for meeting new people, but are also damn fun. The university hardly makes a profit with it and that’s why these trips are really affordable. I went kayaking, learned to surf (!) and went to Joshua Tree National Park for a long weekend (a MUST!!). Find out as soon as you arrive and register quickly.

As a sports-loving “dude”, I not only often used the free gym, but also played in the CSUSM Club Soccer. Find out early on at the gym, there are a lot of sports that you can do there. My personal conclusion: three training sessions, Wings Wednesday with the team (whoever wanted;-)), game on Saturday, great people and thanks to 3 Germans in the team (the rest came from the USA), our team remained unbeaten to the end and “won the league”;-)!! That was great and I can only recommend it to everyone!

Do’s & Don’ts

  • – America is currently very expensive for us Germans, don’t let the expensive supermarket prices shock you (it hurts, but you better get used to it quickly;-))
  • – Take care of a suitable credit card (e.g. Comdirect) and insurance certificates early enough so that you don’t have to take out expensive university insurance.
  • + Camps at the Grand Canyon in summer (buy a tent at Walmart and exchange it afterwards (it’s so common, they don’t ask awkward questions))
  • + If you like live music, go to New Orleans for a few days on your way home
  • + Eat Mexican Food (also TacoBell! A $1 burrito has saved me from starvation many times : D)
  • + Even though it might be difficult at first, avoid Germans without being rude. To the best of my knowledge, around 200 internationals attended the Fall Semester at the CSUSM, and around 100 of them were German. Unfortunately, we Germans are everywhere ;-). But there are also many who are there for several semesters, and you can always find cool people there. You then inevitably get to know the cool Germans bit by bit.

All in all, I can only highly recommend the CSUSM. I am infinitely grateful that everything worked out so well for me despite the lack of financial means. I had a great time there and wish you the same!

Even if the planning doesn’t go so well, and they are sometimes really exhausting, please don’t let your head hang and stay optimistic. I can only say: it’s worth it !

As already mentioned, you are welcome to contact me if you have any questions.

California State University San Marcos Review (11)