In this way I would like to share with you my experiences that I was able to make at CSUEB in spring 2007.
1. The university
About California State University East Bay I can only say that this is a typical American university. What is meant by this is difficult to explain. Well, I’m studying at an average university in Germany, so by no means an elite university, but not a follower either. The universities in Germany do not differ as drastically as in the USA. There are so many types of universities there, and each has both advantages and disadvantages. The CSUEB is regularly awarded a “Best of the West College” by an independent commission. This depends particularly on the business and IT departments. Visit existingcountries.com to get information about New Zealand higher education.
Everyone who goes to study in the USA has to ask themselves whether they want to go to a private or a state university. I took a look at a few private universities myself and personally decided that “taking by the hand” is not for me. From Germany I am used to choosing my subjects myself, making my own decisions and bearing the associated consequences. Just because a university isn’t private doesn’t mean it’s not good. It is often the case that at private universities only the name is paid, but the standard of education is not higher than at a state university.
The CSUEB has the advantage that it really has a very good price-performance ratio. If you go abroad with a relatively small budget, it is very important that you get a good offer for little money. In relation to the other universities, the CSUEB is one of the cheapest in the western United States.
The departments in the CSUEB range from sports, teaching, music, economics, computer science to technical courses. Above all, the artists and musicians were challenged and encouraged, which contributed greatly to the cultural standard at the university. There were always exhibitions and concerts that could be visited.
I studied economics myself. During my studies in Germany, I specialized in controlling, taxes and auditing and my goal was to get to know the American systems in a nutshell. I was not disappointed. The range of courses in the business department is simply huge and it is not particularly difficult to get a place in a course. The quality of the lectures is very good by American standards. Compared to the German standard, the courses are rather easy to classify. The level of study in the USA is fundamentally below the level in Germany, since in Germany only those students who are striving for a higher career, but in the USA around 50% of each birth cohort go to university, as there is no in-company training there.
My experience at the university was consistently positive. Despite less effort, I took a lot with me in my courses, because the professors are not after “stubborn buffeting”, but rather organize the lessons together like in school and this makes it much easier to remember things and, to be honest, it mostly does also more fun. In addition, the courses consist of a maximum of 30 students, which of course makes it very pleasant, as the contact with the professors and other students is much better deepened.
There are various options for spending a semester abroad at CSUEB.
While many of my dorm room mates have completed the American Language Program – a program to learn the American language and culture – I chose the Open University Program.
With a German school education, it is rather nonsensical to do the American Language Program, because it is only for people who really cannot speak English at all. More Asians have settled there because they have very little English at school and have therefore prepared for the Toefl test, etc.
With the Open University Program, you can choose courses for 12 credits. You can take all the courses you are interested in and there is a huge choice. Sports courses, art, music and “trips to the surrounding area” were also on the list. In the first week you look at the courses and then you decide which one to take. I tended to take the tax and controlling courses and have been very satisfied with them. I was a bit more busy than my fellow students, but it was definitely worth it. It is always good if, for example, you have two “replacement courses”, because as an Open University student you have to wait until the regular students have a place in the courses. But often it also helps to talk to the professor, they make a lot possible and that’s how I got all the courses.
In the USA, by the way, it is not the case that you cling to the professor when you talk to them. On the contrary. Actually, this is actually expected, because in the first lesson everyone always introduces themselves and so you get a personal connection to the professor. It’s more like school. But sometimes it’s also really funny because you are not so strange to each other.
The best thing about the OpenUniversityProgram for me was that I had a lot of contact with other Americans. Since I was the only “foreigner” in most of my courses, I had the opportunity to chat and make friends with the regular students. It is generally said that Americans are very shy and very “busy” and that is why you rarely see them. But if you sit next to each other for a semester, you get the opportunity to chat every now and then.
In the other programs, especially the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, which some exchange students strive for, the classes or courses often consist of pure foreigners. That is certainly just as funny, but I wanted to see more what the Americans really are like, because I already know the Europeans anyway.
Otherwise to the buildings. Most of them are brand new and well equipped, and the campus is also very well maintained and invites you to relax. In addition to the book shop, there are plenty of restaurants and small supermarkets where you can stock up on essentials. Bands play regularly on campus and the student associations’ advertising campaigns are always worth a show!
I have to say about the dormitory right away that it’s not as bad as everyone always says. Most of the people who live in the dorms come from Asian countries and they are mostly spoiled little brats who are only used to luxury at home. It’s like my first thought in the dorm was, oh my god! Since I also have a nice apartment in Germany, far away from a student residence, I was initially shocked that they could even offer us something like that. When I got over the shock, I first drove to Walmart and bought a lot of cleaning supplies to get the booth up to scratch. After that succeeded, it was much better. The room is approx. 20 square meters and is shared by two people. There is a bathroom with shower and toilet, but 4 people have to share it.
The rooms are not furnished in the most modern style, but each has a desk with lots of drawers, a bed and a closet with plenty of space for new and old clothes. In principle, only same-sex people can share a room and the bathroom is only used by girls or boys. In the USA this is still handled very, very strictly, which was very pleasant for me, as it is easier to live with a girl than to share a bathroom with boys.
Mostly foreigners live in the dormitory. There is room for 250 people and only 10 of them were Americans who wanted to live in the International House because of the interest in other countries. The rest consisted of 10 Europeans and 10 students from other nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. The remaining 230 young people were mainly from China, South Korea and Japan. There were also two other Germans there, which was actually very nice because you could speak German again from time to time. But of course it was much more interesting to exchange ideas with the other nations. So much could be discovered in the shared cafeteria and I really had a lot of experiences with the cultures of the world. This fact was worth almost more than all the courses I took at university. Pretty is, that you really find friends from all over the world and it is not difficult to get in touch at all, since everyone is alone and new. The nicest thing was to sit together in the cafeteria and laugh about the similarities but also the differences between the countries.
What else I really liked about the I-House were the room assistants. Everyone was assigned a contact person for their room who is also an international student and who takes care of all matters that depress you. Most of them have been here for a long time and always know what to do. There is also a “shopping trip” every Wednesday evening. It goes either to Ikea, Walmart or one of the countless shopping malls. The ride is free and someone from the I-House always rides on the buses so that everyone arrives home safe and sound. By the way, every Saturday the international office of the university offers a “fun trip”. These are always a hit because you can see so much there and they are also free. It goes to San Francisco, to the amusement park or to one of the many national parks. In summer you can of course also go to the beach and so people who don’t have a car can go on a trip every Saturday and see a lot of the area. This is really great and if you don’t go there, it’s your own fault.
After a while and a big cleaning attack, I felt very comfortable in the dormitory and I would go there again at any time. The nice thing is that you get money loaded onto a meal card for the entire semester and you can use it to pay with the meal card in the dormitory, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, but also in the many restaurants in the university. Since I was charged $ 950, the money was enough for the whole semester and I also bought little things like shower gel and drinks in the university’s supermarket. This is especially good because you are taken care of and there are no additional costs.
While we’re on the subject. Of course, it is also important how much the whole thing costs.
Here is an overview for 1 quarter / semester:
Tuition fees for 1 quarter (12 units): 2300 dollars / approx. 1700 euros dormitory fees (of which you get 950 dollars back on the meal card. So the dormitory costs only 1500 dollars for the quarter): 2450 dollars / approx. 1800 euros Books (in the USA school books have to be bought and are not exactly cheap. A little tip: just don’t buy them in bookstores but at Amazon.com and sell them again after the end of the semester): 400 dollars / approx. 300 euros Total: 5150 dollars / approx. 3850 Euro
Of course you also need a little something else. If you want to see something and you should definitely do that, then you have to expect a bit of expenses. The shopping paradise California should not be underestimated either. The boys are also addicted to the shopping frenzy. Especially because the dollar is so weak at the moment, it is super cheap for Europeans to go shopping in the USA. I was just stocking up on clothes and there were a lot of items that I would never have been able to afford in Germany. I still needed around $ 500 a month, although I also drove to some nearby city overnight every two weeks.
4. Hayward as a place
Hayward in itself is not exactly awesome. It’s a city with 140,000 inhabitants. Not too big and not too small. Unfortunately, the city is very much in the shadow of the beautiful metropolis of San Francisco, which is approx. 15 km away. San Francisco can be reached by bus or train in 30 minutes and for about 8 dollars and you really don’t need a car for that. Otherwise you can get almost everywhere by bus and train.
In Hayward itself there is everything your heart desires and what you need for life. It’s not particularly dangerous, or dirty, or uncomfortable. Just a typical American town with little houses that you could really get used to.
5. Experienced and learned
For me it was first and foremost important to master the language a little better. After my 14 years of English at school, I still just couldn’t get the hang of it, and you can’t get it at home because you don’t talk too much. In America, after about 2 weeks, I spoke English so well that it was easier for me to speak English with the few Germans I met. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. If you go to the USA just for the language, 1 semester is more than enough. In the end I noticed that my English had hardly improved because you had, so to speak, acquired your own style and made fewer mistakes. My roommates also said that it doesn’t get much better anymore.
Because of the experience I can say: I would have liked to stay another semester, but couldn’t for professional reasons. It’s just unbelievable what you learn and take with you in such a short time. Be it in dealing with other countries, cultures and people, as well as in dealing with yourself. Since I was not only able to get to know the Americans as a people, but also to experience many other cultures, I have gained a lot of experience and have been able to do so Prejudices like “the Americans are all stupid, stupid and naive anyway” or the Chinese are “dirty and loud”.
I have been back from the USA for 3 weeks now and I know exactly that this was the best time of my life so far and that this stay has left its mark on me. I wish everyone who decides to take this step that they can have the same wonderful experiences as me and that this report was able to contribute a little to the decision-making process.