My international experience in the USA
After landing in San Francisco late that evening on July 27th, the next morning I drove to the apartment in Hayward, where I had arranged a room for rent in advance. I still remember how exciting it all was: the drive to Hayward over the Bay Bridge with a spectacular backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, exploring my new neighborhood and getting to know my three roommates. I shared the cute, quintessentially Californian house with an American who also studied at Hayward University and two Mexicans who worked in Hayward. The advantage of this was that I was only able to communicate with my roommates in English – that also helped to improve my English skills.
The first day at the university started with an “orientation week”. All international students who have registered for the five-week English program were shown from one place to another across the entire university in order to, among other things, register for the courses in general, get vaccinations and learn about the university rules and take language proficiency tests.
After the tests were evaluated, we were divided into different courses, which differed in our individual language level. The program included a total of five English courses: Writing, Listening and Speaking, Reading and Vocabulary, Elective Hospitality and Bay Area Experience (I found the last-mentioned course particularly interesting because we got the homework every week to go to certain places in groups, which we talked about then had to give a presentation in class).
In retrospect, I can say that the English program brought me something and prepared me well for the subsequent studies. I acquired a lot of new vocabulary, continuously practiced my speaking and listening skills, learned how to write English essays, gave presentations and practiced reading academic texts. All of this was very important for the psychology trimester that followed.
I also got to know a lot of new people from different countries, which I found incredibly exciting. I was a sore thumb in the English classes because I was the only European. So I was introduced to some new cultures (Taiwan, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and of course the USA), in which we exchanged our customs, fed each other with traditional food and simply let talk about our home life. I have received many invitations to visit Asia, which I will surely accept one day.
At the end of the English course weeks, a celebration was held in our honor – a typical American “graduation”. Each and every one of us who passed the courses was called to the front and given a certificate. It was surprising for me that I was chosen as an “outstanding student” in level 6 (I was even given a voucher for it).
After the English program, I had over three weeks off until the beginning of the trimester. I used this time to travel extensively to explore the USA. I’d driven to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, then by plane to New York, all the way down to Miami. There I stayed in the hostels, where I met a lot of other people. Read more on Ehuacom.
The next day after returning to Hayward my studies started. Unfortunately, I was quickly brought back down to earth: the three courses I wanted to take to study psychology (“interpersonal relationships”, “groups and organizations” and “social psychology”) were fully booked and even had long waiting lists, on which I was not allowed to sit as an international student and therefore had to wait and see whether one or the other student would vacate his place. It didn’t look good for me – I have been repeatedly advised to look for other courses. However, that was out of the question for me. So I spoke several times with the teaching professors, stood at the door of the secretariat of the psychology department every morning and even contacted the chairman of the department to come to the courses. It was a very difficult two weeks for me. Especially since the lectures had been going on from day one and I was supposed to concentrate on them on the one hand, but on the other hand I didn’t know whether I would be enrolled in the courses (everyone was allowed to try out the courses of their choice in the first two weeks – I had to do this time at the same time “wait”, because only after the “normal students” had finally enrolled in the courses, the international students were allowed to register officially – depending on what was left of the course). But luckily I got into all of the courses! what was left of courses – officially register). But luckily I got into all of the courses!
All three courses consisted of Americans only – there was only one other international student in total, but I didn’t see him after the 3rd or 4th week in the course.
The first written exam was announced after just one week of the trial period. Five of the eight exams that were asked only contained questions with an open-ended answer format, the other three exams were presented in the format of multiple-choice tasks. The form, the date and the number of exams were specified by the respective lecturer. Only the so-called “finals” (final exams) were scheduled by the head office for the last day of the trimester.
Everyday life at the university was such that I had 2-3 hours of lectures every morning and then had to prepare the extensive compulsory literature. As here in Germany, there was no compulsory attendance for the students. However, this did not apply to international students like me whose visas were linked to studying abroad. So I was almost the only one in all three courses who was there continuously. The lecture hours were often very poorly attended. Only at the exams we were always complete.
All in all I can say in conclusion that it was a great unforgettable experience for me. I got to know different cultures and made many new friends, expanded my English skills a little and developed personally. I would do such a study abroad again and again!