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
I spent my semester abroad at California State University San Marcos last fall (2008). In the following I would like to briefly present how the decision for this university was made and how my semester went. Check ehuacom.com to see VUW study abroad opportunities.
Since my university also has a number of international partner universities, I first found out about them, but unfortunately none of them really appealed to me. So to make the most of my semester abroad, I started doing my own research. However, the information on the Internet is often incomplete or misleading (e.g. pseudo-certifications), so my search was initially unsuccessful.
MicroEdu was then recommended to me by a fellow student, which helped me enormously in my search and selection. I knew early on that I wanted to spend my semester in California. Thus, the list of possible universities was quite limited. Since my university required certification and certain mandatory courses, I had to screen potential candidates for them.
With the help of MicroEdu, I was able to quickly see the courses on offer and again had to exclude a few candidates. With these course lists, it is often the case that some courses are not offered every semester. You should definitely pay attention to this!
Another point was the application deadlines of the universities, since some time had already passed due to my own research.
From these reviews, Cal State San Marcos emerged as the favorite and was finally approved by my tutor, so the planning could really begin.
The application process went very smoothly. The Cal State San Marcos American Language and Culture Institute (ALCI) team assists all exchange students with the preparation of relevant documents and student visa applications. The visa in particular means an enormous amount of work, but I can confirm that a semester abroad in the USA is worth the effort.
I have already attached a desired course list to my application. However, this list was later turned completely upside down. After the timetable was published, it turned out that most of the courses I wanted were being offered in parallel. Later more.
The tuition fees ($4,520 in my case) are very cheap for the USA and you get a lot in return. For international students, the possibility of a bank transfer is also offered, which is otherwise rather unusual in the USA.
Introduction and course selection
After my arrival in the USA, an introductory week was organized for all international students. This week we were introduced to the campus and obtained the necessary ID cards. Each student received an “info folder” with important contact details, opening times and a map of the university grounds.
Finally, each student was able to individually check their choice of course and, if necessary, adjust it. Together with the ALCI team, I created a new desired timetable, taking into account the dates and course requirements. My previous certificates were used as a basis for many advanced courses. It is often necessary to have certain prior knowledge in order to be admitted to a course (e.g. a previously attended course). These requirements were checked for me and recommendations were also made if my choice of course was “too easy”.
This new choice of course took place just a few days before the start of lectures. For all those who are wondering how this is to be implemented organizationally: A special feature of American universities is the so-called “course crashing”. This gives students the opportunity to choose their courses at very short notice. Courses in which there are still places available can be attended unregistered at the first official lecture. In consultation with the professor, you can then be accepted as an additional student. The whole thing becomes problematic when too many students apply for the few free places. However, I was very lucky and was immediately accepted into each of my courses.
California State University San Marcos – Profile
This also shows a special feature of the Cal State San Marcos. With fewer than 10,000 students, it is one of the smallest universities in the USA. Personally, I found this “size” to be an advantage, because organizationally everything went much better than with fellow students who had opted for a larger university.
Since Cal State San Marcos (in its current form) was only founded in 1998, the university as such is still very young and is constantly evolving. The equipment in the course rooms and library is state-of-the-art and an online “blackboard” provides information for each course after logging in. Technical support is available for technical problems (e.g. when using the WLAN). The university also includes large undeveloped plots of land on which new buildings and a parking garage will be built in the future. However, the construction work is taking place at a sufficient distance from lectures so that you do not notice it.
The university environment is also quite “young”. Most of the houses are barely 20 years old and there are a number of new shopping malls and stores. Proximity to Highway 78 makes it about 40 minutes to San Diego and about 1.5 hours to Los Angeles. This makes one or the other weekend trip a good idea. Even Las Vegas is within reasonable reach at about 4 hours drive and a destination I can definitely recommend.
The courses were usually very small. There were around 20 students in advanced courses and never more than 30 in beginner courses. This created a very good learning atmosphere and the professors answered individual questions very well.
In contrast to German universities, there was not just one exam. In each course, seminar papers, homework and presentations were also assessed. Depending on the course, there were 2 or 3 exams (in the middle or after each third of the semester).
This means that there is always something to do, but there is also less pressure on a single exam. Group work was also often assigned.
Student life there was very varied, as almost every weekend there was a new party or barbecue. Even during the week there was always something to do with sports events or theater performances. The open nature of the Californians also made it very easy to make friends.
There were several beaches in the immediate vicinity, which could even be reached by public transport. There you could take surfing lessons, play volleyball on the courts at Pier Beach, make campfires, etc…
I was also involved with All Students Inc. (ASI) and helped organize some events and help create the yearbook. This also enabled me to meet a lot of new people and gain great experiences.
A special tip: In the “Christmas Candle Lane” every house is obliged to present a certain motto with lights and figures during the Christmas season. Two whole blocks are affected and are an absolute eye-catcher. : )
Overall, I am very satisfied with my semester abroad in San Marcos and can only recommend the university.