When I received the information letter from my university in mid-2011 that there was the possibility of studying abroad for a semester, I was amazed. However, the partner universities didn’t really speak to me, either I had already seen the cities or I didn’t speak the national language. But there was also the possibility to look for a suitable university in another country yourself. So I started looking for a university in English-speaking countries. In addition to England and Australia, the USA were also among my chosen candidates. But after a short time I was able to “shelve” a semester in England and Australia, the tuition fees and the cost of living are extremely high in these countries. So my search now focused on the USA. Via “MicroEDU” I was able to look at a wide variety of universities. Since I wanted to avoid taking another TOEFL test or the like if possible, only three universities were shortlisted for me – Boston University, Hawaii Pacific University and California State University East Bay. When I looked at the different cities, it was immediately clear to me that I wanted to go to California. The Cal State East Bay is only 30 km from San Francisco and also has a very wide range of courses. Read more on Andyeducation.
The planning could now begin. After I had put together my application documents with the help of the MicroEDU staff, I had to wait. One day before Christmas Eve 2011 I got the lucky news – Cal State East Bay had accepted me as a student for a semester. So nothing stood in the way of my semester abroad. But the actual organization of the semester abroad was still ahead of me.
In January 2012 I started booking my flights, looking for accommodation on site, compiling the documents for my visa and choosing my courses. At the beginning I was of the opinion that everything would be done quickly, but the entire preparation took several months. Just the visa application with a mandatory visit to the American embassy in Frankfurt took a lot of time. But you don’t need to worry, the employees at the embassy simply ask a few simple questions – in German – and then you have your visa almost in hand.
Two months before I left for the United States, I had most of it sorted out. During my time in the US, I would live in the dormitory, right on the university campus. This is one of the easiest solutions for a quarter. I had also found a foreign health insurance (Hanse-Merkur) and my flights were booked. So my semester abroad could come.
Two months later, on August 30, 2012, the time had come. The suitcase was packed and I was standing at the airport in Düsseldorf and actually had to say “Bye, Bye” for 15 weeks. But when they arrived in the USA, the homesickness was almost forgotten again. The lectures didn’t start for me until September, so I still had three weeks to explore the United States. To get started, it was certainly not bad to get to know the country and the people before it really got going. I had already got used to the American pronunciation and had hardly any problems understanding it.
Nevertheless, the first days at the American university were very exciting and exciting. Until my last day in the US, I didn’t know every corner of the campus. But not only the size of the campus was new to me, the type of lectures and the way the professors deal with the students are also completely different than in Germany. In the first few weeks, the “Open University” system in particular drove all international students crazy. I had already picked out a few courses in Germany that matched the subject content, but that was no guarantee that I would get these courses. In the USA it is customary that the international students can only enroll in the courses after the American students have made their selection. On site I then had the problem that some of the courses I wanted to take were already full. But I also got the problem under control with the help of my university. After I got all the courses, normal everyday life started. In addition to my “normal” courses, I also attended some sports courses – I can only recommend that to everyone. It’s just a lot of fun trying out new sports and doing sports regularly with the other students. You should definitely pay a visit to the fitness center (RAW) on campus. The RAW is really well equipped, in addition to numerous fitness machines, there is a sports hall and numerous courses such as Zumba, spinning etc.
The normal lectures usually take place throughout the day, sometimes twice a week. A note at this point. Of course, I also tried to choose my courses in such a way that I don’t necessarily have a Friday lecture. However, several courses are often offered in popular subjects, so that you can often find places in the desired subjects at “bad” times.
In the individual courses, you usually write two midterms and a final, and there are often quizzes (a kind of test) or writing essays. For me that was unusual at the beginning of the, because in Germany we usually only write exams at the end of the semester.
The 12 weeks of study went by in a flash. In addition to the lectures and self-study, I luckily had enough time to discover California on the weekends. Take the opportunity to take the BART to San Francisco as often as possible, the city is simply fantastic. In addition to the well-known sights such as the Golden Gaten Bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square, there are many other interesting corners that should not be missed.
Day trips to Silicon Valley, to Napa Valley to Lake Tahoe, to Santa Cruz, to Half Moon Bay or to various nearby shooping malls are also recommended.
During the time you should definitely use the weekends to get to know the rest of California. Highway No. 1 drive down via Santa Barbara, LA to San Diego. Las Vegas is of course also worth a visit and the numerous national parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon, Sequio etc.) are a must-see. I can only say, use the time and get to know California. There’s much to see.
The semester abroad was a great experience for me, even if the organization is very time-consuming. It was more than worth it for me.