After it became clear to me that I wanted to do a semester abroad in the USA, I started looking for a suitable university. The main criteria for me were of course the costs and the number of courses that could be taken into account at my German university. The CSUEB was quickly shortlisted. The application process was relatively easy.
I received my confirmation very quickly, so that I could book flights and apply for a visa. Until then, everything is pretty straightforward. In June we learned that the university had simply increased the tuition fees, but of course everything was already booked and we couldn’t do anything about it.
The search for an apartment turned out to be more difficult than expected. I wanted to move to the International House, convinced by the experience reports over the past few years. I applied for it in March. Around May an email came from the International Office that the dormitory was full, but we were on the waiting list, but should be on the lookout for off-campus apartments as a precaution. Unfortunately, even after several inquiries, one could not get a precise answer about the chances of getting to the I-House. So I started looking for apartments – unsuccessfully. The apartments around the university are absurdly expensive and only habitable with several people, provided you can even reach someone there. Only 3 weeks before departure I was able to find a room with a host family via Craigslist, About 30 minutes’ walk from the university. Two days before the start of the university I-House received another e-mail that 9 places are still available – for another $ 1000 more per quarter and of course much too late.
The university began chaotically. Our exchange program (ALP) consisted of 95% Germans – so the first few days you only had contact with German compatriots. The ALP office was very disorganized and gave a lot of wrong information. We knew beforehand that we would have to do class crashing, but we didn’t imagine it would be so hard. The business administration courses were all full, at most a few places free, as the Americans were allowed to register for the courses beforehand. Only one lecturer has agreed to increase the number of seats in the course – but Americans have snatched these seats away from us again, as they can still enroll in and advertise courses online in the first few weeks. The other lecturers didn’t really care. Generally one had the feeling that you are not valued here as an international student when choosing a course, but rather annoying. So the only courses that remained for the international students were those that no one else wanted. On the day on which the courses were assigned, the first ones were in front of the office at 4 a.m., from 6 a.m. it got full, and the office opened at 8:30 a.m. So whoever came last was unlucky!
But when you made it into the course, you were a full member of the class. That was sometimes a bit difficult, because of course little consideration was given to the fact that English is a foreign language for us. But in general it was all doable and fun. With homework and midterms, you still had a little bit to do after university, but kept within limits (of course it depends on the course).
Life in Hayward
Anyone who expects a party university and the typical student (night) life is more than wrong here! There is next to nothing going on in Hayward and you shouldn’t go out on the streets alone in the evenings. Many Americans do not live near campus but in the surrounding cities. There is the Bart (a rather expensive train), but with a car you are better off at this university! Since I was traveling every weekend, Hayward didn’t bother me very much. So if you have a party in focus, you should go to Santa Barbara or San Diego. For someone who wants to travel a lot, the university is worthwhile, as it is relatively cheap and you have more travel budget available.
California is great and definitely worth a semester abroad! Just be clear beforehand what is important to you so that you can fully enjoy it.