Planning started a year and a half beforehand. At that time I signed up for the Toefl test. The choice of university fell on Cal State Long Beach – because it has a good engineering department (I study electrical engineering and information technology and was able to find an equivalent there for each of my compulsory subjects in the 5th semester) and I am as close as possible to the sea and wanted to be at OC.
The international student loan application started about a year earlier. Besides the visa, that was probably the most complex part in advance. A lot of documents are required and the difficulty is that you cannot send everything at once. Because the university requires financial evidence, which you can partially cover with your student loan. The only problem: The student loan office in turn requires a confirmation of admission (I-20) before the complete application can be processed. The solution is called Confirming Statement, a document that puts a preliminary estimate of the student loan amount on paper and is sufficient for the university as financial evidence. When the admission to the university was in the mailbox, I was able to forward the remaining documents to the student loan office.
As a second financial pillar, I planned with PROMOS, which our home university (the HS Rosenheim) offers. The application went with the student loan, so to speak. The only additional thing was a letter of motivation.
The entire time I was applying, I was looking for courses that were similar to my compulsory subjects in the 5th semester. I found an equivalent for everything and had it approved by my responsible professors at home. That was a long way too. I was pretty much on the pioneering path because there was no one from my department before me who was planning a semester abroad of this kind (i.e. outside of ERASMUS and no partner university == as a free mover). In order to secure the recognition of the courses, I had to speak to every single professor of my compulsory subjects in Rosenheim and present him with the course description of my equivalent at the CSULB. Then I still needed the chairman of the examination board for the recognition, who is also solely responsible for elective subjects. According to AbbreviationFinder.org, CSULB is the abbreviation of California State University Long Beach.
- EE 382 Communication Systems I (as a compulsory subject)
- EE 386 Digital Signal Processing (as FWPF = subject-specific elective module)
- CECS 343 Introduction in Software Engineering (as a compulsory subject)
- CECS 474 Computer Net Interoperability (as a compulsory subject)
The visa application could now begin. Here, too, you need a lot of perseverance until you have the visa. In addition to the application, you also have to plan a visit to the consulate or embassy (Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin), which takes several hours (which basically just include waiting and a 5-minute conversation about my plans in the USA).
When that was over, we started looking for an apartment. At first I wanted to find an apartment from Germany, but that turned out to be very difficult. I wrote to several Craigslist advertisers but never got a response. So I had to book this chapter for better or worse for the first week in Long Beach and booked 6 nights at Motel 6 on Seventh Street. I would recommend the motel to anyone who arrives here without an apartment or orientation, because although it is the closest to the university, you still walk a long way to the campus. And that’s enough at the beginning to quickly find yourself overwhelmed by everything.
And in the beginning you need every spark of energy for looking for an apartment and class crashing.
The former took place for me within the first two days. I arrived in Long Beach 5 days before the orientation and the first was that I bought Skype credit for calls to American phone numbers (for unlimited talking only costs € 2.49 / month!) And searched through all Craigslist apartment advertisements and those Called landlord. Unfortunately, there were always cancellations. I then found what I was looking for on the “Off-Campus-Housing” website of the CSULB. After the landlady confirmed on the phone that there was still a room available in an apartment shared by 8 people, she immediately offered me to look at the house. I was so relieved to finally find something that it didn’t take me long to give her my yes. This flat share was one of the reasons why the semester was so great. I lived in a house with 7 other California students who could always give you little tips and help you to find your way around faster. It was about 15 minutes by bike to get to the university.
The class crashing could begin. The whole thing has to be planned very well in advance so that you can get your courses. I made a chronological list of courses (more than half of which were alternative courses!), After which I checked lecture after lecture. With success. I got all of the 4 courses I wanted. In some courses, quite a few wanted to join, but I was the only Study Abroad student and was then the only one who was accepted. The disadvantage of not registering online turned into an advantage! You shouldn’t forget that and it can serve as a little encouragement for class crashing. Always clearly demonstrate to the professor that you could not apply online. They are then very cooperative and understand that.
Studying began, and in the beginning I was literally inundated with homework and lab reports. I was about to drop one of my courses again. But I got the hang of it and pulled out all the subjects.
It also got easier over time, you get used to the many assignments, and you get to go on excursions at the weekend. I often took my bike on the bus and rode along the coast. Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach and Huntington to Newport are highly recommended.
We made bigger trips to San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego and Palms Springs / Joshua Tree. Everything can be done in a few days, San Francisco recommended over Thanksgiving Break. It is very practical that Jetblue flies very cheaply from Long Beach Airport (LGB) to San Francisco and Vegas.
In conclusion, I can only say that this semester abroad was simply an unforgettable time. The beautiful California and the even more beautiful weather (two seasons: summer and mild summer) leave you amazed every day, you get to know so many new people from all over the world and get to know yourself and you can talk about them for the rest of your life. Not to forget the wonderful campus, which resembles a huge park and has a lot of green areas for relaxing between lectures.
And one more thing: Anyone who knows the OC California series: It’s really like that here!
I would like to thank MicroEDU, which helped me a lot with the application process, and the professors and the International Office at my home university, who made it possible for me to incorporate the semester abroad into my curriculum as a regular study semester (without extending the study period).