Preparation for the semester abroad… Pure despair
Why go abroad? What are the advantages of this? How should I finance my stay abroad? Why all the stress? These are questions that I have dealt with.
A look at the advertised job offers of many companies makes it clear that foreign languages and foreign experience of all kinds have become of great importance for various reasons. It was not only this knowledge, but also my extroverted attitude and interest in different cultures, that prompted me to spend a semester abroad at a host university. It was clear to me at the beginning of my studies (industrial engineering) that I would like to spend my practical phase abroad. An information event organized by the International Campus Office took me one step further. The International Campus Office referred to the award of scholarships, such as the PROMOS scholarship or the ERASMUS scholarship. In addition, a list of advice centers and intermediaries who offer study places in different countries was distributed. In addition, I was recommended the agency “MicroEDU” from my circle of friends, so I made an appointment for a consultation. Together with a consultant, we went through a list of all universities and their tuition fees. I ultimately decided that I wanted to study in the United States. Fullerton’s central location in California and the relatively low tuition fees of $ 5800 at California State University Fullerton (CSUF for short) made me want to study there. After choosing CSUF, I had exactly one year to prepare for my stay abroad. There was a lot of paperwork ahead of me. First, I had to fill out the required application forms in order for MicroEDU to apply to CSUF. After I received the confirmation of admission, the next step was the student visa. For this I needed the I-20 form (confirmation of admission from the host university), DS-160 form (application for a nonimmigrant visa) and the I-901 receipt (SEVIS fee) in order to make an appointment at the American consulate in Frankfurt (also possible in Munich or Berlin ) (http://german.germany.usembassy.gov/visa/niv/visakategorien/f/). After I received my student visa 2-3 months before arrival, the next thing I had to deal with was the course registration. To get credit for the semester abroad, 4 courses are necessary, which I have determined beforehand with my supervisory professor. As there is no guarantee of the desired courses, alternative courses must be specified and a list of 10 courses submitted. This is because the local students are enrolled in the courses first, followed by the international students. I also had to take care of the language certificate. Fortunately, the CSUF recognizes the DAAD test, so I was able to take the language certificate at my university for free. This saved me the 190 euros for the TOEFL test. I only had to take care of an additional foreign health insurance because I was only insured during my studies. I recommend additional international health insurance with an English translation to everyone as medical treatments in the USA are very expensive due to the existing health system there. The Hanse Merkur Insurance Group. A credit card is particularly important, since in America people pay mostly with credit cards and not with cash. Research on the Internet is highly recommended as the banks charge different processing fees. According to AbbreviationFinder.org, CSUF is the abbreviation of California State University Fullerton.
However, the monthly rent must be paid in the form of a check called a money order. In order to be able to withdraw enough cash to cash a check, it is important that the bank increases the daily limit. It is best to inform the bank of this before you travel, as not all banks offer a 24-hour service. Offer customer service. In addition, some banks limit the monthly cash withdrawal, this is between 2000-2500 euros.
Last but not least, all I had to worry about was a plane ticket, a rental car and temporary accommodation in a hotel.
Why do I describe all the preparation for my semester abroad in such detail?
The whole preparation took 12-16 months (including research) and experience has shown that I can say that it is underestimated by many students. In the meantime, because of all the paperwork, I doubted whether it would be worth doing so much for a stay abroad for just 5-6 months. A lot of perseverance and a structured approach are required for this time. My tip: In order not to lose track, it is advisable to create a to-do list.
Finally arrived… Now the stress really starts!
MicroEDU recommended that I find accommodation on site 10-14 days before the start of the semester. I thought it would be easier to find accommodation, as the rental offices near the university are almost fully booked before the start of my studies. This was due to the fact that at this time (beginning of August) the demand is extremely high due to the large number of national and international students. I was given a list of addresses and advice on Craigslist to look for apartments. After several conversations with a rental manager, I and my fellow students were able to convince them of a “month-to-month lease”, as a standard annual contract would not be an option for us. With a little luck, after 12 days of intensive search, we got an unfurnished apartment near the campus (10 minutes by bike). As soon as the rental agreement was signed, we had to look around for a car. At this point it should be mentioned that the public transport network is very poorly developed, especially in California. Few and irregular buses and few train connections mean that one is dependent on the car, especially for everyday things. Students who have already spent a semester in Fullerton have recommended a car dealer (Standard Auto Center, owner Chicho Tarcicio, 812 Williamson Avenue, Fullerton 92832) who will ultimately give us a car (Mercury Sable, sedan, year of construction 2001, 110,000 miles) for sold a fair price of $ 3,000. There was also liability insurance cost of $ 350. It is advisable to team up with several (international) students, in order to reduce the cost of buying a car. Before leaving, you should take care of the sale of the car in good time. Another option is of course a rental car.
After 2 weeks the introductory event finally began, which was a good opportunity to make new contacts with international students and to exchange first impressions. The next thing was “class crashing”. I was enrolled in 2 courses so I still had to crash 2 courses. After talking to professors, I was enrolled in 2 further courses and thus had all 4 courses that I needed for crediting. The best thing to do is to research when and where the courses will take place in the course catalog and ask the professors in a friendly manner before or after the lesson whether there are still places available.
I have taken the following courses at the CSUF:
- Economic Environment
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Financial Management
Finally arrived… Really arrived!
The campus life of the CSUF was fantastic and had a lot to offer… Like from the Hoolywood strips! Lots of palm trees, large green areas to relax, activity stands and student associations, food courts for lunch and of course the constantly overcrowded Starbucks (3 Starbucks on campus!) Should not be missing.
In my opinion, American studies are similar to the German school system, such as the Abitur. I was almost inundated with homework, writing assignments, and summaries. There were also regular quizzes, midterms (intermediate exams) and final exams. Online platforms such as Aplia or Pearson, where online homework had to be done weekly, were completely new to me. I found my way around quickly because I did homework and assignments together with other students. I was able to ask the professors my questions at any time during office hours and after class.
After I settled in well, I was able to devote myself to traveling with international students. We have often been to the beautiful Californian beaches such as Huntington Beach or Venice Beach. Just relax, throw football or frisbee to each other and play beach volleyball. We went on many trips on the weekends. In Las Vegas just walk along the strip and admire the many light panels or play blackjack and enjoy the atmosphere. In San Diego, a beautiful student city, relax on Pacific Beach during the day and end the evening in the Gaslamp Quarter. And let’s not forget San Francisco. The 8 hour drive to San Francisco along the California coast of Route 1 is worthwhile. A bike ride along the pier,
We also went on many day trips. Hollywood with the world-famous Walk of Fame, LA Downtown enjoying the view in rooftop bars, admiring the attractions on the pier in Santa Monica, a bike tour along the southern California beaches (South Bay Bicycle Trail, highly recommended!) Or in the Joshua Tree National Park in the desert hike. California has a lot to offer. No matter if city trips, national parks or amusement parks, there is something for everyone.
Conclusion… an unforgettable time!
As I mentioned at the beginning of my experience report, I doubted whether all the effort and stress for a semester abroad would be worthwhile. To answer the question… yes, definitely! However, you have to take into account that a semester abroad in California, especially Orange County, involves a very high financial outlay. Depending on what you want to see and do, an average of between € 12,000 and € 15,000 must be budgeted.
Nevertheless, I had an unforgettable time in California, experienced a lot, seen a lot, met new people and made very good friends. For the first time, I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with an American family.
I understood why California is so popular with many people. Everywhere in the media, in reports or reports, on the radio, on the Internet, etc. there is reports about the unique lifestyle in California. Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls” describes it very well in my opinion. “I know a place, where the grass is really greener, warm, wet and wild, there must be something in the water, sippin gin and juice, laying underneath the palm trees […] you could travel the world, but nothing comes close to the Golden Coast ”. You have to explore the “Golden Coast” or the “Golden State” yourself and form your own judgment. It is difficult to put into words what I was able to experience during my semester abroad. An unforgettable time with many positive memories!
I would like to thank MicroEDU, who looked after me very well before and during the semester abroad. With this experience report I would like to give a piece back with insights and advice for the next exchange students.