Hey First of all, something about me. My name is Nils, I am 23 years old and in the spring semester of 2016 I spent a semester abroad at Sonoma State University which is abbreviated as SSU by anycountyprivateschools. In Germany I am studying energy and environmental management and I am happy to be able to tell you about my time in the USA in this little report.
The question arose as to whether I would opt for life on campus, in the so-called dorms, or outside the campus, in a private apartment. The on-campus life with the advantages of already existing furniture, short lease terms and proximity to the university as well as a better insight into American student life, convinced me. The rental prices there are significantly higher than outside the campus. However, I found this acceptable for a short period of time. The application for the dorms was again made with the help of MicroEDU and after a short while I got an acceptance for this too. As usual for American universities, I lived with a roommate. This was strange at first, but over time I got used to it and it helped me improve my English even more. The rooms are very sparsely furnished with a desk, wardrobe and bed, but they are completely sufficient. There is also a well-equipped kitchen and living room – this is much better than at other American universities.
Since I had to achieve 25 credit points for my home university in my semester abroad, I attended three lectures at the host university (although there are an unusually large number of units per course in the business administration department – 4 in number). The specialty at Sonoma State University is that these can be taken in advance and do not happen through the course crashing that is common in the USA. So I knew before I left that I was studying Marketing, Cross Cultural Communication & Negotiation, and International Economics would study. The study system is much more school-based than in Germany. Homework is given in each subject, presentations are given and oral participation counts. In addition to a final exam, there are so-called midterms in the middle of the semester and other small intermediate tests. Since the final grade is not just a single exam and the points are collected continuously over the semester, the study was very easy for me. On the one hand, I had to do a lot more than in Germany during the semester, but on the other hand, only a few days were spent on the finals. So I finished the subjects with an A, A- and A- and I can also say that I have internalized many things more than in Germany.
Everyday life and free time
The international office at the university was outstanding and helped me from start to finish to have an incomparable time in the United States while studying. There were many introductory events to get to know the other international students as well as the American exchange students and to find their way around the campus. Many employees in the office are Americans who even abroad, especially many in Germany, studied and thus know what problems are encountered (Becky is responsible for the international students and cares very loving to each one. I have to thank all Problems never felt let down!). There were a lot of great trips to San Francisco, to food truck festivals, to a vacation home for a weekend, etc. Thanks to the familiar atmosphere in the International Office, I have made great new friends with many of the employees and students. Besides that, the decision to live on campus paid off. Since you are exotic as a German and Americans are very open to new cultures, I got to know a lot of people on campus. Especially my roommates on campus and the American exchange students became good friends with whom a lot was done. It must be mentioned that there were only five international students in the entire university besides me.
In addition to the expensive housing prices, around $ 800-900 a month, there are other very high living expenses as well. This is because Rohnert Park is located in California’s Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive regions in the entire United States. Food prices are around 2-3 times higher than the German ones. I spent around $ 200-300 a month on groceries. Although fuel prices are very cheap, you have to get a car first, which as an under 25-year-old is not possible without heavy surcharges. Fortunately, all other costs, such as trips from the university, are subsidized, so that at least a little can be saved here. You can expect rent, groceries and pocket money around $ 1200 per month. Inexpensive grocery stores, such as Grocery Outlet and an offshoot of Aldi, Trader Joes, have helped me to reduce the high cost of groceries a little.
Conclusion – best and worst experience
Bad things first: Since gasoline prices are so low, everyone has their own car, and therefore public transport ranges from very poor to non-existent, getting around is difficult. Everything is very far away and, as in Germany, cannot be reached on foot or by bike. American friends made it easy for me to go shopping, but further trips had to be organized over a long period of time and always with friends who have a car. Without the support of my new friends, it would have been very difficult to get groceries here or to explore California.
The greatest experience is how open, curious and needy to talk the Americans are. As a German you were always met with curiosity and great conversations took place. Small talk is the order of the day everywhere and even in the supermarket you still feel like a person and not as a source of money that has to be processed as quickly as possible. I will miss how friendly everyone is with each other and how much interest there is in the other person. Because of this openness, I have made many friends in the short time I spent there. I didn’t have to impose myself on the Californians, rather they sought contact through their open-mindedness and were therefore able to give me an unforgettable time.
Due to the small size of the university, the pleasant number of international students and the resulting perfect support and integration into American life, I can recommend a semester abroad at Sonoma State University to anyone who wants to get to know American culture as it really is.