University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Aerospace Engineering
Study type: semester abroad
Hi. It’s been almost a year since I flew to California to study for two semesters in the United States and experience the American way of life. I have had many interesting experiences and met many interesting and nice people. But I’ll start at the beginning:
About 2 years ago, I often talked to a few friends who had all been abroad for a long time about whether it was worth going abroad alone for a long time. Most of those who had either work-and-travel, an internship abroad or studied abroad reported how the experience had enriched their lives and that adventurous people like me should definitely try a stay abroad. Although not all experiences have been good and there have of course been hard times, I encourage anyone who is genuinely interested to try this one. See topschoolsintheusa.com for information about Continuing Education After Graduation.
The first thing I did was go to the International Office at our university and simply get advice on all the options. I found out that Bafög recipients get good financial help for a maximum of one year abroad. Of course, that makes things a lot more pleasant. That’s where I found out about MicroEdu and started finding out about the different countries and cities on their website. Since I’m a mechanical engineering student, only universities that also have the right department came into question, otherwise you wouldn’t get BAfög. So Long Beach was a very good fit. In addition, the tuition fees are comparatively cheap and the location is quite attractive as southern California.
As you can see from the other reports, the preparation is quite time-consuming, especially the Bafög application and the TOEFL test. You should definitely use all the help you can get for this in order to be well prepared. Such an English refresher also helps a lot to be able to communicate well everywhere right from the start. MicroEdu is a great help in the beginning as they give you a list of the things that need to be done most urgently right at the beginning. And if you have any questions just call or email me, I never had to wait long for an answer.
Living in Long Beach:
Looking for an apartment was one of the bad experiences I had right from the start. It would certainly have been a lot easier if I had talked to German students in advance and we had organized something together, but then I would have missed out on the experience of living with international students. That’s why I decided to go on my own to search. This venture was a nerve-wracking adventure. First of all, Americans are so difficult to understand on the phone and then the distances are so huge and it’s quite difficult to manage without a car. It would definitely be an advantage to familiarize yourself with the big streets of the city in advance to have a little orientation. In addition, many apartments that are offered are in an ugly condition. Half of the student apartments I saw were so dirty that even as a boy I couldn’t bear to live there. I ended up staying in a nice, renovated apartment in downtown Long Beach, which was cheap ($450/month) but cost me a 30-minute bus ride to uni every day. But the duration is normal for the conditions in Los Angeles.
I come from a small town in Germany with a small university. The huge campus with its countless clubs and organizations was therefore a big change for me. The area in general is beautiful, with lots of large lawns and trees, etc., where it sometimes takes half an hour to go from one classroom to the next. I was lucky and bought a cheap bike on the street, which I then used to cruise around the university campus. However, the university does not have a canteen as we know it with student-friendly prices, but there is simply a large selection of fast food chains available. Panda Express, Taco Bell, Karls Jr., Subway and some more.
The MAE (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) department has a good reputation among the neighboring universities, I was informed of this assessment through a number of discussions with professors and students. Since I only took 5 courses in this department within a year, I was only able to get to know the department a little bit. The FB has a workshop (workshop) in which the final projects of the last two Bachelor courses are carried out. There are also at least 3 computer rooms that are equipped with good software and where you can print for free.
However, the teaching has a completely different character than I know from my university. Of course, every professor has his own way of teaching, but in general, the teaching process is very similar to the general school form. Attendance is logged, weekly homework has to be handed in and such a teaching process often tempts only to focus on duties and deadlines and there is often a lack of motivation for independent study and more in-depth elaboration. The content itself and even the English language classes are not difficult to understand, but the pressure of the regular small quizzes and homework that are required even though understanding of the material has not yet really been conveyed is a bit tiring during the semester.
Life in Long Beach/Fun:
One of the reasons I chose the Southern California area for my study abroad experience is the countless outdoor activities you can do outside of your studies. In Long Beach itself I was able to learn sailing in the 2nd semester through the university course. For a small fee of $50 you can learn this interesting water sport in one semester and I really enjoyed it. I was also able to learn kitesurfing at Belmont Shore Beach in Long Beach, which is a lot more expensive, but it’s awesome.
In order to get to know interesting people, I strongly recommend that you find out about the various student organizations right from the start and that you visit them and talk to people as early as possible. I missed it at the beginning because I couldn’t get the organizational things right, so I missed getting to know people and doing something with them in the first 4 months. The most interesting groups for me were the international organizations such as the International Student Network at CSULB. There you get to know people who, like you, come from another country, who are curious and who can teach you a lot about another culture. That was one of the most beautiful experiences I was allowed to have.
Of course, I didn’t miss the opportunity to learn to surf through the university’s own surf course. I practiced this for almost a year and I have to say that it’s really cool. There are also many beautiful hiking trails where you can go with international students, for example, to enjoy the Californian nature and weather. Vegas is only 4 hours away, the Hoover Dam is an impressive structure just behind Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon is another 5.5 hours from Vegas. The Grand Canyon is, I repeat, a must-see. A stunning view and atmosphere, also for camping. Furthermore, California offers some national parks, where Yosemite is the best known and most diverse. huge rocks, Snow on one side and lots of waterfalls on the other. Try to plan your visit to Yosemite in late spring/early summer, when the falls are at their best!
Those were just some of the experiences I’ve had here in the States. My entire stay will be exactly one year and one week, which I now find towards the end of my stay a bit too long. I used the time afterwards to travel through California.
In my opinion, one semester would be enough for people who can quickly adapt to a new environment. But I’m a bit slow in this matter, so I’m glad I stayed for 2 semesters. In the second semester everything went much better and it was also much more interesting.
I have to say that I didn’t experience and find many things here in Los Angeles as I had previously imagined. The appearance of many Americans is quite fake compared to our culture, as they say here. Many parts of LA and some surrounding areas, including Hollywood, are looking a bit run down. But some people say: that’s exactly what Los Angeles is today. Add to that the bad traffic around LA and the accumulation of cars on the streets. It’s one of those annoying daily encounters that I couldn’t get used to.
Finally, I can say that I am glad to have had such an experience. And for people like me, whose university does not have the desired partner university for a stay abroad, MicroEdu is a good way to be easily placed at the foreign university of your choice. So if you are really interested and want to have such an experience abroad, then find out about the right university for you and start preparing early enough.