Right from the start of my studies, it was clear to me that I would like to spend a semester abroad. About a year beforehand, I was concerned with where the journey should go for me. Since I wanted to go to an English-speaking country and Australia dropped out due to the semester times, it soon became clear that I should go to California. The Sonoma State University, I became aware of the organization, MicroEDU. com. I chose this university because it brought me some advantages compared to other Californian universities:
- Relatively small university where you attend lectures with American students and not just with other international students.
- In comparison, low tuition fees and very comfortable dormitories on campus.
- Courses can be taken in advance and do not have to be “crashed” on site, as is usual in the USA. This makes it much easier to get credit at your home university, as the pre-accreditation can be carried out before the semester abroad begins.
- No TOEFL test or the like is necessary, but the DAAD test, which can be taken free of charge at Aschaffenburg University, is sufficient.
In August 2016 the time had come and I went to Sonoma State University in northern California for a semester.
The application was very time-consuming, but thanks to the good support from MicroEDU , it was still easy. There is a precise step-by-step instructions provided on how to fill the application and further questions were always answered well and quickly by e-mail. “Desired courses” can be specified with the application.
I submitted my application in January and a few weeks later I had my acceptance from Sonoma State University.
It is advisable to start preparing for the semester abroad early enough, as there is a lot to organize. First and foremost, of course, is the visa, for which some forms must first be filled out online. Then you can arrange an interview at the American embassy (in my case in Frankfurt). For me it only took half an hour to go through all the stations in the embassy and about 2 weeks later I got my passport with the visa for the semester abroad.
After some deliberation, I decided to live “on-campus”, as Sonoma State University is known for its particularly good dormitories in the USA. The rental prices (especially for a single room) are very high, but I have never regretted the decision. You just get a better insight into American student life and I always had an opportunity to speak English through my three American roommates. I lived in the “Beaujolais” Village, which is right next to the pool. The single rooms each have their own bathroom, so you only share the kitchen and living room with your flatmates.
The dorms are furnished, but you have to take care of the duvet, pillows, dishes, pots, etc. yourself. On the first day after arrival, a “shopping trip” was offered where you could stock up on all these things. However, I was glad that I had already ordered some items from Target beforehand and had them delivered to the university.
If you live on campus, you can use the washing machines and dryers in the laundry rooms free of charge and the gym can also be used free of charge.
Since Sonoma State University does not offer courses in real estate management, I took courses in business administration and communication studies. These were fully credited to me at the Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences. The two courses Introduction to Marketing and Survey of Human Resource Management were very interesting and I was able to learn a lot. In general, you have to read a lot for university in the USA. Exams and small surprise tests are written throughout the semester. In addition, you often have to hand in written homework and give presentations. Overall, if you stay on the ball, you can achieve very good grades and the learning curve at the end of the semester is significantly lower than in Germany.
The disadvantage is that you cannot borrow the text books from the library, you have to buy all of them. I rented my books through Amazon Textbook Rental, which is significantly cheaper. Some professors also require you to buy online programs, which can also cost over $ 100.
LEISURE AND EVERYDAY LIFE
Sonoma is a very beautiful wine region in Northern California. However, one should be aware that the landscape here is more like that in Germany. Palm trees and sandy beaches are more likely to be found in southern California. The weather in Sonoma was very pleasant until the beginning of November and you could spend many hours in the sun by the pool. At night it gets very cold even in summer, so you should definitely pack warmer clothes.
A small disadvantage of the SSU is that Rohnert Park doesn’t have much to offer. In addition, you always have to rely on people with cars, as you can’t even walk to the supermarkets. For me this was usually not a problem as two of my roommates had a car and took me to go shopping.
At the weekend, excursions from the university are often offered (sometimes free of charge). You shouldn’t wait long to register here, as these are booked out very quickly. So you always have the opportunity to get to San Francisco or the sea without a car.
In general, Sonoma is a good starting point for further excursions and I can recommend everyone to end the semester with a road trip on Highway 1. This leads directly along the coast and the nature there is really breathtaking.
A semester abroad, especially in the USA, is associated with high costs. By tuition fees, housing, flights, etc. a few thousand dollars to come together quickly. And the cost of living on site is also very high. Groceries, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, are very expensive and you should expect about three times the price compared to Germany.
Nevertheless, I have not regretted my decision to do the semester abroad. It was a great time with lots of new friends and you learn an incredible amount. Since I did not get a foreign student loan, the PROMOS funding helped me to finance my time abroad.