University of California San Diego Review

Personal introduction

My name is Samuel S. , I was in the 5th semester as an economics bachelor student at the University of California, San Diego (or UCSD according to anycountyprivateschools) on an exchange.

There are several ways you can be admitted to UCSD, but in my opinion applying using MicroEDU was by far the easiest way. It is not a carte blanche to be accepted at UCSD, but you just have to act reactively and hardly ever work independently. During the entire application process, you will be coached by the MicroEDU team and reminded of certain deadlines (visas, submitting courses, etc. ) so that you can start the exchange semester really well and without problems. However, if you want to do an exchange in the fall semester, it is advisable to contact MicroEDU in February / March, as the issuing of a visa for the USA can take a few months (F-1 visa).

Attended courses:

Personally, I am a Bachelor student, but have attended both Masters and Bachelor courses. Depending on which university you come from and how your predecessors have proven themselves at UCSD, you will either be admitted to such master’s courses as a bachelor’s student or not (at least that’s what UCSD told me).

Master courses
IRGN 411 – Business and Management in Japan
I found this course very exciting. It was led by Prof. Ulrike Schaede, a German Japan expert who has been working intensively on Japan for almost 40 years and speaks Japanese without an accent. She has also written a book about it and has been quoted in all sorts of prestigious journals (Economist, Wall Street Journal). Her course is based on her book and is more academic. It is relatively time-consuming (3 times / week 2 hours of lessons) but also extremely interesting and you get a good impression of what a course in the master’s course in the USA could be like.
All the services now listed are graded with the percentage next to them:

  • PP presentation with five slides on a topic of the Japanese labor market (time limit for presentation of the slides 5 minutes). 10% of the final grade.
  • Well-founded and active participation in the course based on literature. 30% of the final grade.
  • Approx. 15-25 page scientific paper with sources (20+) in collaboration with another student from the course on an annually changing topic. 30% of the final grade.
  • Two assignments (max. 1250 characters per assignment) for Harvard business case studies discussed in class. 15% of the grade per assignment (total 30%).

IRGN 490 – Energy Politics in Asia
This course changes every six months, mine was called Energy Politics in Asia and was led by Prof. Mikkal Herberg. Until 2000 he was chief economist at ARCO, a multinational oil company, which was then bought by BP. Currently he is not only visiting professor at UCSD but also flies around the globe every few weeks to give lectures on this topic and advises both the top of the US Navy and several committees in Congress with an official mandate. This man has a lot of experience and therefore the event is more like a classic university lecture, without too much interactivity.

There is only one exam to be taken, which consists of a paper on Energy Politics in Asia. This paper must be submitted in the finals week (at the end of the semester) and contain between 5500 and 7000 characters. A very scientific and well-founded research is to be ensured and he does not want to see it under 15 sources. But you have the opportunity to define the topic with him in advance and to get feedback on the desired topic during the breaks.

Bachelor courses
ECON 101 – International Trade
This course is led by Prof. Marc Muendler, a German who has already lectured at various renowned American universities.
The syllabus gives you a very good overview of the topics covered, which can be found in advance on his website, simply google for his name and the course title.

All the services listed now must be performed, otherwise you will completely miss the grade, which contains a total of 300 points that can be earned:

  • 3 problem sets during the semester (approx. 15 points each)
  • 2 midterms (approx. 72 points each)
  • 1 final (110 points)

The problem sets take about 5-6 hours and are handed out 2 weeks before the deadline. The final incorporates the entire material, while in the 2nd midterm mainly the material after the 1st midterm is added.


The weather in San Diego is usually really good, but you should still bring a thick jacket for the colder evenings. During the day, the sun usually allows you to go to the beach. The wind is much stronger on the beach in Pacific Beach than in La Jolla, so it is more pleasant to sunbathe there.


A car is an absolute must in San Diego in my opinion. If you don’t want to rent / buy one yourself, it is advisable to move in with someone who has a car. Personally, I was only there for almost 4 months, and then decided against buying a car, also because of the high risk of a possibly necessary repair. In that regard, I highly recommend a car rental company called Dirtcheapcarrentals. I paid 350 USD per month and was given a small junk truck with almost 200,000 miles (300,000 kilometers). The car had working air conditioning and a CD radio, but was otherwise very spartan. The car is also 100% fully insured and the landlord doesn’t care if there is a new dent in the car. The rental itself was very straightforward and if there is any damage they will repair the car and give you another car in the meantime. They also service and wash the car once a month. Towing service is also included if needed and there is no additional premium if you are under 25, you just have to be over 18.


I lived with a family who rented the upper floor of their house. Since I was almost never at home, it was a great solution and a very uncomplicated tenancy. The house was in the UTC area, quite close to the university, but too far to walk.


The costs of the semester abroad at UCSD have been calculated for me as follows:

  • 5200 USD tuition fee
  • 300 USD school books
  • 1300 USD car
  • 2800 USD rent
  • 800 USD flight

Total: 10,400 USD
There are also living expenses, which roughly correspond to those in Switzerland, and expenses for travel.
Depending on how economical you are, you will spend between 5,000 and 15,000 CHF again.

University of California San Diego Review