My name is Timo, I am 20 years old and a dual student at DHBW Stuttgart and Murrelektronik GmbH specializing in industrial engineering. I have decided to study for a semester at California State University Los Angeles and would like to share my experiences below in order to support you in your decision to do a semester abroad.
Preparations for the semester abroad begin with the choice of the host university. In doing so, attention should be paid to the desired host country, suitable semester times, a comprehensive range of courses and appropriate tuition fees. I chose California State University Los Angeles (CSUL) because the semester times correspond very well to the DHBW schedule, the CSUL has an extensive range of courses and the tuition fees are not too high. In addition, the location in Los Angeles sounded very interesting. According to AbbreviationFinder.org, CSUL is the abbreviation of California State University Los Angeles.
After the host university has been selected, preparations can begin. At first glance, the bureaucratic effort seems insurmountable, but in reality it is easy and problem-free to deal with with a little expenditure of time, especially since most of the points only require filling out forms or writing emails. The following list is intended to give a brief overview of the items to be dealt with.
- Selection of the host university
- Criteria: location, semester times, range of courses, tuition fees
- Registration of the semester abroad at the DHBW
- Consent of the course director
- Consent of the partner company
- “Registration for participation in an international semester abroad” form
- Course choice and learning agreement
- Application to the host university (via www.MicroEDU.com)
- “Application Form”
- Financial statement
- Copy of your passport (make sure it is valid)
- English certificate from DHBW
- TOEFL test
- Transfer the application fees and deposit the tuition fees
- Scholarship application
- Information on the website of the International Office
- Apply for a visa (F1 visa)
- “Application Form DS160”
- Paying the application fee and the SEVIS fee
- Make an appointment at the embassy
- Bring the I-20 form (from the partner university), proof of payment, valid passport, passport photo and appointment confirmation
- further information on the website of the US embassy
- Take out foreign health insurance
- book a flight
- Take care of accommodation and possibly rental or used vehicles
- Prepare and plan your stay, pack,…
Study in the host country
California State University Los Angeles:
California State University Los Angeles is part of the network of California State Universities, which with 23 locations and a total of over 437,000 students is the largest university system in California. The CSULA is located in the Alhambra district and is approximately 5 miles from downtown LA and approximately 20 miles from the coast. About 20,000 students attend the CSULA. The campus has numerous recreational opportunities. In addition to a small athletics stadium, a baseball and soccer field, there is a swimming pool and a fitness studio, both of which can be used free of charge. In the food court there are various fast food restaurants and in the bookstore you can buy clothes and groceries in addition to books.
It is not possible for international students to enroll in the desired courses before starting their studies. You have to enroll in the individual courses using what is known as “Class Crashing”. You attend the first lectures and ask the respective professor whether he still has space in the course and is willing to accept one. This may sound like a problem, but in my case it wasn’t a problem and I was able to take all of the courses I wanted. It should be noted, however, that not all of the courses listed in the “Course Catalog” are taught every semester. So you should have agreed on some alternative courses in the Learning Agreement.
During my stay I took the following courses:
ACCT310 – Accounting Information for Decision Making (4 Units):
Lecture times : Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm
Buch required, costs: approx. $ 90
Course description: Prerequisites: ACCT 211. Use of financial and managerial accounting information to plan, analyze, control, evaluate, and improve the activities of a firm. Some sections may be technologically mediated.
MGMT306 – Operations management (4 units):
Lecture times : Mondays and Wednesdays from 1.30 p.m. to 3.10 p.m.
Buch not absolutely necessary, costs: approx. $ 60
Course description: Prerequisites: ECON 209. Management of the operations function of manufacturing and service firms including operations strategy, forecasting, process design and improvement, production and inventory management, supply-chain management, capacity planning and management, and quality assurance.
EE244 – Digital Engineering (4 units):
Lecture times : Monday and Wednesday from 4:20 pm – 6:00 pm
book available as PDF
Course description : Binary systems; Boolean functions and their simplification; introduction to analysis and design of digital systems.
EE345 – Microcomputer Programming (4 Units):
Lecture times : Tuesday and Thursday from 9:50 am – 11:40 am
book not required
Course description: Prerequisite: EE 244. Organization and structure of microcomputer systems; machine and assembly language programming; system software for microcomputers.
In the lecture “Accounting Information for Decision Making” (ACCT310) the basics of accounting and controlling were taught. Homework had to be submitted for each lecture, which was also graded. In addition to the midterm and final exam, a group presentation in which an American company had to be presented and analyzed was included in the overall grade.
In the lecture “Operations management” (MGMT306) methods for production quantity planning, for the determination of requirements and other topics of production management were dealt with. During the semester, several group tasks had to be worked on, which were graded. There was also a midterm and a final exam.
The lecture “Digital Engineering” (EE244) was an introductory event in digital technology. In addition to digital logic, Boolean algebra and simple digital circuits, combinatorial and sequential switching networks were also dealt with. A quiz was held every two weeks. In addition, several projects that were worked on in partnership and a final exam were used for grading.
The lecture “Microcomputer Programming” (EE345) built on the lecture “Digital Engineering”. The content of the lecture was the basics of software and hardware engineering. Using the M68HC11 microcomputer, it was explained how a computer works and the basics in assembly and machine language were taught. 4 homework and 4 programming tasks were due over the semester. In addition, a midterm and a final exam took place.
In summary, one can say that compared to Germany, fewer lectures have to be attended, but the workload in addition to the lectures is higher than at the DHBW due to the many tasks and projects. Due to the regular homework and tests you are forced to repeat the learning material continuously, which I find very advantageous, as the content can be internalized better and a good grade can be achieved through constant performance. The level of the lectures was not a problem for me, as it is not comparable with German standards. I also had no problems following the professors in the foreign language.
Stay in the host country
Basically there is the possibility to live “on campus” in the “dorms” or “off campus” to look for your own place to stay. I have decided to live “on campus” because it is the easiest way to come into contact with other students. The apartments are very spacious and well equipped. 4 or 8 students live in an apartment and you share a room with someone else. There is the possibility to sign up for a “meal plan”, but this is quite expensive, inflexible and not very varied.
I was lucky enough to live with three American students and have not regretted choosing the “dorms”. You get to know a lot of new people and experience student life up close. It should be noted, however, that the “Housing Service” is not very cooperative and that organizational problems have often arisen. In addition, they react very strictly to disturbances of the peace and alcohol consumption.
Activities / excursions
Of course, the semester abroad is not just about studying. You should also use the time to get to know the country and its people. Los Angeles and California offer a variety of opportunities to diversify your leisure time.
Numerous sports activities can be used on campus. Many beautiful beaches can be reached quickly and easily by car. Downtown Los Angeles and many large outlet centers nearby invite you to shop. There are several interesting amusement parks in the vicinity, such as “Six Flags”, “Seaworld” or “Universal Studios”. Due to its diversity, Los Angeles also offers many options for delicious food and there is also a lot to experience in Los Angeles at night with numerous (rooftop) bars and clubs. For the weekend there are short trips to San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barabara or one of the numerous national parks.
It is important to know that the public transport system in Los Angeles is not particularly well developed and that you need a car to get from A to B quickly and easily. You should definitely factor in the cost of a rental or used car from the outset.
If after reading this experience report you are still undecided whether you should decide to spend a semester abroad, I can only give you one piece of advice: DO IT! – It is worth it. The stay in the States is one of the most beautiful times of my life. I’ve had so many great experiences, visited great places and met nice people and it was incredibly fun to get to know American (student) life. Nowhere can you improve your English more easily and such a stay will also help you personally.
If for any reason, for example the costs that I have listed in the following cost overview, you still have doubts or have any questions, I am at your disposal.
TOEFL test ~ $ 250
visa ~ $ 500
flight ~ $ 1000
tuition fees ~ $ 6000 (approx. $ 350 per unit + application fees)
accommodation ~ $ 2250
car ~ $ 1000 (may vary depending on the alternative)
TOTAL: ~ 11000 $