University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: tourism management
Study type: semester abroad
Summary evaluation of the semester abroad
Overall, I can rate my semester abroad at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) as very successful. I have had many instructive experiences and got to know and love a foreign culture. It was a great challenge and I can say that I surpassed myself in the process. The bureaucratic and financial effort was very high and I was very sad at times, but I have to say that it was definitely worth the effort. I’ve learned more in these months in America than I’ve ever learned in such a short amount of time. Not only did I learn a lot at the university in the lectures, but also about myself and the different cultures that are represented in a big country like America. See topschoolsoflaw.com for information about Metropolitan University Venezuela.
Studying in America is hardly comparable to studying in Germany. The type of lectures reminded me a lot of my school days. After each lecture, we were given homework that was comparable to homework, which the professor checked in the next lecture. Often we also wrote graded “homework checks”. From an honest student perspective, this type of learning was very laborious and time-consuming and I spent more time than I would have liked at my desk and in the library instead of looking at the country. In retrospect, however, I have to admit that it was a very efficient teaching and learning method and that it was probably the best way for me to organize myself to learn a lot and get good grades as well as to experience a lot of the country and the people.
The average number of students in a course was around 20 people and each lecture lasted only 70 minutes. The grade at the end of the certificate is made up of several partial grades. All homework checks, in-class assignemnts and oral participation were also included in the evaluation.
During the semester breaks and weekends, I traveled a lot and saw as much of California as I could. I have visited the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Las Vegas and got to know the indescribably beautiful nature of this country in the national parks Death Valley and Joshua Tree.
I can say that in the semester abroad I learned more about the world, myself and my studies than ever before. So I can only say: It was worth the effort and I enjoyed every minute.
California State University, Long Beach (also known as Long Beach State, Cal State Long Beach, CSULB, LBSU or The Beach) is a public university in Long Beach, Los Angeles County. With 34,863 students, it is the largest college in the California State University system and the third largest college in the US state of California.
The university has a very large campus as all departments are housed in one large campus complex. Campus shuttles ensure faster travel between the various colleges. Sometimes you only have 15 minutes to get from one side of the campus to the other. This is very close and can only be achieved without a shuttle by bike or by running.
The university consists of 8 different colleges:
- College of Arts:
- College of Business Administration:
- Honors Program
- information systems
- International business
- Legal Studies in Business
- Management and HRM
- Master of Business Administration
3.College of Education
- Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling
- Liberal Studies
- Single Subject Credential Program
- Teacher Education
- College of Engineering
- chemical engineering
- Civil Engineering & Construction Engineering Management
- Computer Engineering & Computer Science
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
- College of Health & Human Services
- Communicative Disorders
- Criminal Justice
- Family and Consumer Sciences
- Health Care Administration
- Health Science
- School of Nursing
- Physical Therapy
- Graduate Center for Public Policy & Administration
- Recreation and Leisure Studies
- School of Social Work
- College of Liberal Arts
- African Studies
- Asian and Asian American Studies
- Chicano and Latin Studies
- Communication Studies
- Comparative Literature and Classics
- human development
- Learning Alliance
- Religious Studies
- Romance, German and Russian Languages and Literatures
- Tech Services
- Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
- College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
- Biological Sciences
- Chemistry & Biochemistry
- Geological Sciences
- Mathematics & Statistics
- Physics & Astronomy
- Science Education
- Environmental Science & Policy
- College of Continuing and Professional EducationInformation on the various courses offered can be found at the following link: http: //www.csulb.edu/student-info/collegesdepartments.html
There are also several pool areas, shops and restaurants on the campus. Unfortunately, there is no canteen, but almost every fast food chain is represented on the premises. The ‘Student Union’ is an institution especially for the students, which is mainly intended to pass the time between lectures. In addition to a pool, billiard tables, televisions and a cinema, there is also the opportunity to eat here. The Beach Hut next to the library is one of the main places to go for a quick meal. The little shop has everything from shakes to sandwiches to pizza. Soups are part of the lunch menu here. The library next to the Beach Hut has five different floors of study rooms as well as a variety of computers, a free video library and is equipped with a Starbucks coffee shop. It is therefore a popular contact point for study groups in particular. There is also a huge fitness facility with pool area and whirlpool on the university campus. Here you can do a little work-out during breaks in lectures or relax on the loungers by the pool. Registration is free and two trial sessions are free. Whether you train for yourself, take part in fitness courses or work up a sweat on the beach volleyball court, there is a lot on offer for students who are enthusiastic about sports.
How did I get the place at the university?
I started researching the semester abroad in November 2010. I was looking for a university in an English-speaking non-European country. My plan was to get to know a foreign culture, improve my English and be on my own. Since I have never been so far from home alone abroad, I have decided to choose an English-speaking country so that at least the language barrier can be easily overcome.
During my research I came across the organization MicroEdu (http: //www.MicroEdu.com/). These offer students free support when applying to a foreign university for a semester abroad. Among the universities that MicroEdu cooperates with, I finally found CSULB in Long Beach, California. From the moment I arrived, I was fascinated by the institution, the location on the California coast and the fact that it is one of the cheaper universities in America. So I soon set about creating a to-do list with the help of MicroEdu. This list looked like this:
- Completing the MicroEdu contact form
- Complete the CSULB application form
- Obtaining an official transcript from Hochschule Bremerhaven with all my grades and credit points in English
- Creation of a “Learning Agreement” with all my desired courses at the CSULB, which had to be approved by Professor Vogel and signed by him and the International Office
- Obtaining confirmation from the bank that there is enough money available for a stay abroad including tuition fees
- Applying for a passport
After I had completed all these points, I sent my application documents to MicroEdu in early January. They reviewed the application and then sent it to CSULB. Just a few weeks later I had a heavy envelope in the mail from America. Inside the envelope was my acceptance letter, general information about CSULB, campus and faculty, housing information, and the I-20 form I needed to apply for a visa.
Preparation for the semester abroad
After I got the approval, I started the rest of the organization, which then took me several months. MicroEdu also supported me with ready-made to-do lists so that I couldn’t forget anything. First I went to the doctor and had it checked whether I had received all the necessary vaccinations prescribed by the CSULB. Next, I booked a return flight (about €800 at KLM). Then I started to apply for the visa. For this I had to have a new passport photo taken that met all the requirements of the American embassy. I also needed this passport photo in digital form, so it cost me €20.
The actual application for the visa is done online. You should take several hours to do this because the process is a bit complicated, especially since it takes place on three different websites. At the end of the online application, you will receive a DS-160 form by email. Then I had to pay application and SEVIS fees (€245.75) and organize a trip to Berlin.
I was lucky because three of my fellow students also wanted to go to the USA for the semester abroad, so we were all able to go to Berlin together. So we arranged online all our appointments at the embassy on the same day. You should make an appointment early enough, because these appointments are very popular. I prepared myself very well for the visit to the embassy and got all the forms that I needed according to the embassy’s website: a language certificate, a certificate of enrollment and my transcript from the Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences, the I-20 form from the CSULB, the payment receipt for the SEVIS and application fees, my passport and my passport photo that meets the requirements of the American Embassy, the application form DS-160, a stamped DIN-A5 envelope with my address,
However, the effort of collecting all these documents was not worth it. At the embassy, the nice woman behind the counter just wanted my passport and the I-20 and DS-160 forms, the passport photo and my passport. Then she asked me in English what I want to do in the US and then I could go. A few weeks later I had my passport back with the visa glued in.
In addition to applying for a visa, I also applied for foreign student loans and a DAAD scholarship. Both applications were approved and I was very happy about this support.
So that I didn’t have to take out the expensive health insurance from the CSULB in the USA, I took out international health insurance with Hanse Merkur (€155.00) while I was still in Germany. It was online and very easy. I can only recommend this to everyone. (Note from MicroEdu: CSULB health insurance is now mandatory for all international students and cannot be replaced by Germany’s own health insurance.)
Then I opened an account with Deutsche Bank and applied for a credit card with Advanzia Bank. With the Deutsche Bank EDC card I was able to withdraw cash free of charge from all Bank of America ATMs in America and with the Mastercard from Advanzia Bank I was able to use my credit card without any fees for foreign transactions in all shops to make cashless payments. At the end of each month, I received my credit card statement by email and had to pay it within seven weeks. That was very practical because in the USA almost all transactions are cashless.
The most time-consuming task, however, was finding and obtaining a room from Germany. I signed up on various websites, posted requests on various CSULB facebook groups, and did a lot of research online at sites like craigslist.com. There was no way I wanted to share a room, which is what a lot of students in Long Beach do. Another criterion for me was the proximity to the university. I wanted to be no more than 20 minutes away from the university by public transport. Two weeks before departure, I was actually lucky and got a room in a house with 10 other international students for a monthly rent of $680 (including electricity and water costs). The house, which was called “Elizabeth Manor”, made a very good impression on the internet and on site at first glance, However, I soon realized that appearances are deceptive. Everything was dusty and dirty and I realized that the topic of cleanliness is understood differently by many cultures. So in the end it was just my German roommate and I who kept our area of the house and our kitchen and bathroom clean. The other roommates (mostly Asians and Arabs) made an effort, but they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. Everything was dusty and dirty and I realized that the topic of cleanliness is understood differently by many cultures. So in the end it was just my German roommate and I who kept our area of the house and our kitchen and bathroom clean. The other roommates (mostly Asians and Arabs) made an effort, but they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. Everything was dusty and dirty and I realized that the topic of cleanliness is understood differently by many cultures. So in the end it was just my German roommate and I who kept our area of the house and our kitchen and bathroom clean. The other roommates (mostly Asians and Arabs) made an effort, but they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. So in the end it was just my German roommate and I who kept our area of the house and our kitchen and bathroom clean. The other roommates (mostly Asians and Arabs) made an effort, but they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. So in the end it was just my German roommate and I who kept our area of the house and our kitchen and bathroom clean. The other roommates (mostly Asians and Arabs) made an effort, but they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. however, they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me. however, they didn’t seem to know the difference between clean and tidy. On the whole, however, I got along well with all the residents of the house and was happy that I was also able to get to know the Asian and Arabic culture. The fact that I practically kept the house clean alone with the other Germans quickly stopped bothering me.
In my learning agreement with Mr. Vogel, I decided that I had to take four courses in America so that I could get the required credits in Germany. However, I was not able to take the four courses that I had considered beforehand because there were no more places available in them. Since Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences is unfortunately not a partner university of the CSULB, I had the major disadvantages of having to pay the entire tuition fee of over $4700 and not being able to choose and take any courses in advance. So in the first week of the semester I set out to attend as many courses as possible and if I liked one I always immediately asked if I could take the course (this was called “course crashing” there).
- Introduction to Leisure Services with Professor Joanie Conley:
I found the quality of the “Introduction to Leisure Services” course to be good. I learned about National Parks in America, private, public and commercial recreational facilities and the differences and importance of Recreation, Leisure and Play. I only really became aware of the many different possibilities that exist here through the course. Guest speakers from different areas told us exactly how they got their job and what made their work special. We had a visiting football coach and the hotel manager of the Queen Mary Hotel, which was particularly interesting for a cruise fan like me.
In addition to the lectures, the course consisted of two exams, two essays and a presentation. In between, some homework had to be handed in. These requirements made this course a very learning and writing intensive course. There were many afternoons spent in the library or at my desk doing research for this course. An excursion to the Japanese garden on campus was also part of the curriculum.
The workload for this course was very large and organizing group meetings with the American students proved very difficult. I have found that they prefer to work alone than in a team. Usually, at the first team meeting, one person had already done most of the work and only delegated who should deepen and present what. I was very disappointed because I was really looking forward to working as a team with Americans.
- Hotel and Lodging Management with Professor Ronnie Yeh:
Unfortunately, the course “Hotel and Lodging Management didn’t show me much that was new. I was already familiar with many topics such as yield management, marketing and travel and tourism from my lectures in Bremerhaven. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see the American perspective and I found the American working conditions and legal issues particularly exciting.
The workload for this course was the least. Only two pure multiple-choice exams were written, which I didn’t find difficult and passed accordingly. There were also four spontaneous “in class assignments” in which we had to answer questions about topics from the lecture. There was also a group project in which we were supposed to analyze the current problems of an international hotel and develop possible solutions. I formed a group with two German and two American students and we met several times to develop a presentation and to write the paper. Working in this team worked very well, which could be because we were more German than American.
During the last week of the semester, Professor Yeh organized a trip to the Mariott Courtyard Hotel in Long Beach. There we were shown through the hotel. I found it very exciting to get an insight into the day-to-day operations of a hotel of a well-known hotel chain in America, even if we weren’t able to look too much behind the scenes.
Overall, I found this course very interesting, especially because it led to many conversations between German and American students.
- Meeting Planning in Hotels and Restaurants with the lecturer Mrs. Aris:
This course dealt with the organization and planning of events, such as weddings, trade fairs or conferences in a hotel. The lecturer was a professional meeting planner at the Hilton Hotel in Anaheim and was able to give us a very good insight into her area of activity. She also organized a trip for us to the Hilton Hotel in Anaheim, where she showed us around the impressively large hotel and was able to explain to us, for example, the difference between a restaurant kitchen and a banquet kitchen on site.
We wrote 3 exams in this course (multiple choice) and after each lecture a multiple choice quiz was written for the current lecture. This meant that you had to pay close attention to every lecture and save everything immediately, otherwise you would quickly get into trouble. As a result, the learning effort for the three major exams was all the less, since you always learned everything in the lectures during the current semester. That’s the way it should be. At the end of the semester, however, there was also a group project. Each group was assigned an event and had to hypothetically plan it down to the smallest detail. My group’s event was a wedding for an Indian couple planning to get married in California.
The learning effort for this course was only very large for the group project at the end, otherwise it was rather little effort. I rate the quality of this course as very good, because I learned a lot and learning was a lot of fun because of the good teacher, who was able to tell many vivid examples from everyday life in her job.
- Introduction to International Studies with Professor Angela Hawk:
I liked this course the most and it was also the most useful. It was the highest quality course I have taken and also the only course I have taken that has nothing to do with my previous business, hotel and cruise industry courses. I chose the course because I found the title so interesting and thought it would be quite appropriate for me to take this course as an international student.
The professor was very young and absolutely enthusiastic about her subject and she quickly passed on this enthusiasm to all the students. This course was by far the one with the greatest amount of work, but also the one with the greatest learning success.
We covered topics like the Haiti War of Independence, the famine in Somalia, unfair working conditions in China and fair trade. I had to read three books, which were discussed in detail in the lectures, and in addition one or two other texts on the same topic every week, which were usually over 30 pages long. I had to really pull myself together to stay on the ball and cope with all the reading material. But I managed it, because the topics were always up-to-date and interesting and the professor guided us through the semester along a common thread through all the texts and topics. In the end, my efforts were rewarded with a good grade and a lot of new knowledge.
Organizational course of the semester abroad
The on-site support provided by the staff of the American Language Institute (ALI) at the CSULB went very well. I was always very well informed. Already with the confirmation they had sent me a lot of information about the university, vaccinations, health insurance and the search for a flat. They helped me to choose my courses, to register for the courses and also to pay the tuition fees I was informed by the ALI staff. They also filled out and signed the foreign student loan form for me without any problems. On the first day, all international students received a guided tour of the campus and an information event. In the frame, photos were also taken of us and our student ID cards, which gave us free use of the buses in Long Beach and on campus. Thank God I can’t report any problems with the organizational execution of the semester abroad.
Even before my flight to America, I received information via email on how to register on the CSULB’s “beach board” online portal. Once registered there, I was able to view my grades on this page, communicate with the professors and fellow students from the courses I had taken via “beachmail” and request my certificate. The requested certificate was sent to my address in Germany immediately after the semester. So this also went smoothly.
Technical, cultural and social learning successes, cognitions and unexpected insights
The greatest learning success for me is the improvement of my English language skills. Since I had never been abroad for more than two weeks before my semester abroad, the semester abroad offered me the first opportunity to practice and train my school and study English in real life and thus in everyday life. An English woman who lived in the same house as me taught me a lot and in return I was able to teach her a little English. This tandem learning principle was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.
Studying at an American university is difficult to compare with studying at a German university. Studying in the USA is more like the upper grades at a German high school. The professor gives very precise information about what the US student needs to know and has to learn, comparable to a high school teacher. Studying seems rather forced and not as voluntary as with German students. In Germany you study because you really want to (the financial effort alone hardly allows for anything else). In America, I often had the impression that many people study because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. As in school, there are strict rules of conduct (comparable to school regulations), attendance at lectures is always compulsory and written homework is required at all times. Participation in the lecture, whereby the term “lesson” fits better, is also evaluated (comparable to grades for oral participation) and is included in the overall grade. I hadn’t expected such a strong, school-based university system and I rather had the feeling that US students are sometimes forced to study by their parents.
Some students I have met have studied for several semesters without majoring or minoring. In my opinion, the performance of US students is also weaker than that of students in Germany. As I mentioned earlier, this was particularly noticeable when it came to group work and presentations. Teamwork: out of place! In group work, communication usually didn’t work and group meetings hardly ever took place. No one felt obligated to contribute anything and often something was conjured out of a hat shortly before. Most of the time, one person had done all the work by then and only delegated who should present what.
Due to this poor group work, the group presentations often went very badly, which the professors did not blame at all! On the contrary: Most of the presentations, which would have failed in Germany in any case, even got very good grades! I just didn’t understand. Nobody knew what he or she was talking about during the presentation and then the content of the PowerPoint presentation was usually read word for word. In the worst case, which actually happened quite often, the speaker stood with his or her back to the audience and everything was read verbatim from the Powerpoint presentation. I would never have expected this overall lack of communication skills, willingness to cooperate and presentation skills and it shocked me a lot.
Overall, it can therefore be said that technical learning successes tend to take on the smallest part in my semester abroad, because the quality and level of the learning events was also far lower than at German universities. What is remarkable, however, is that almost all students only get A and B grades, and students feel downright bad if they don’t get an A. I praise the German system, in which you fight for your grades and only get what you deserve!
In contrast to the learning successes at school, the cultural learning successes were all the greater: Because I lived with many international students, I got to know many different cultures, religions and traditions. Especially living with Arabs was very interesting. Her views on the status of women and her strong Islamic beliefs were a completely different world to me. I have to admit that there were also conflicts, for example when the Arabs simply couldn’t believe that I was driving a car as a woman. I was shocked how these cultures still treated women and I was able to learn a lot about their culture from many long conversations with my roommates.
Life with two Chinese women wasn’t always easy either. Communication was very difficult and the different views on running a household often annoyed me. One Chinese woman could hardly speak a word of English. We always practiced a lot with her, which was very interesting, because after all I can’t speak Chinese either. But somehow the communication worked out, even though hands and feet often had to be used to explain something. Also, my Chinese roommates almost never cleaned. We all worked out a cleaning plan together, but it still didn’t work out. I even had the impression that the Chinese could not understand the plan, which was structured like a matrix. Furthermore, they made loud phone calls almost every night, so that my night got shorter and shorter. Nevertheless, in retrospect, I wouldn’t want to miss living with them.
There are also many cultural differences to the Americans. Especially the Americans living in California have a very positive and happy attitude towards life. They enjoy life much more than I know it from Germany and want to experience a lot. They are always on the go and very committed. Commitment is particularly important. The best example of this was my landlady Yarina. She volunteered for her children’s schools, for charity events and especially for her church community.
But there are also differences that I didn’t like that much. Actually, one thinks of a progressive country when one thinks of the USA. But somehow I often had the feeling that the Americans were years behind us in terms of development. The latest American trend is “Go Green”. You are now trying to think and act in a very environmentally friendly way. But this action has long been part of everyday life for us in Germany and is no longer anything special. The best example was a lecture in the Meeting Planning course. Our docent, Events Planner Manager at the Hilton, talked about the latest innovation in the hospitality industry: Eda’s two-button toilet flush system (one button for less water and another button for more flushing water). This “new invention” has been around in Germany for about 15 years.
Another change in California was the elimination of free plastic bags in supermarkets. Californians were so proud of this new law and felt extremely eco-friendly to take their own bag to go shopping to avoid having to buy a tote bag. When I told American friends that in Germany it was the most normal thing in the world to take your own bag or shopping basket with you when you went shopping, they were very sad and disappointed in their country and realized that what they saw as progress designated, has long been normal in other parts of the world.
Another example was a presentation in the International Studies course. There, two students gave a lecture on waste separation and recycling. Hardly any of the listeners had any idea how waste separation actually works. When I then told me that I had been taught these topics in kindergarten, everyone was amazed and enthusiastic. These experiences are just a few of many examples that show that the USA is not always a pioneer, as one might think in advance.
Also, as mentioned before, I got to know the meaning of the word “melting pots”. Before I went to California, I knew that there were many different nationalities, especially in the LA area, but I did not expect such a diversity in terms of nationality, culture, religion and language.
I often had the feeling that I was not in the USA. Little did I know that over 50% of people living in LA are not native speakers of English. More than half – you have to imagine that! And we in Germany hold debates when many people speak Turkish in a district of Berlin. Now that strikes me as absolutely ridiculous. Most people in LA on the buses and subways and many shop assistants hardly speak English. Spanish is a sort of unofficial national language in California. Some supermarkets cater specifically to Mexicans and there is hardly any English description on products and signs. Advertising on buses and announcements of stops on the metro are also in Spanish. In addition to Spanish speakers, there are also many Asians in the LA area.
Life in a multicultural city like LA is very exciting. You see and meet many different people with very different worldviews. LA is the second largest Mexican city and also the second largest Korean city outside of Mexico and Korea. I found that out on a city tour. Whether it’s true or not, it certainly demonstrates the magnitude of the many nationalities that live in the area. Living and experiencing this “melting pot” has changed my world view and that is my greatest learning success.
Recommendations for prospective CSULB prospects
I can recommend everyone to look for a university through MicroEdu. This organization made planning my semester abroad a lot easier.
I would recommend anyone who chooses CSULB to apply for a room at Elizabeth Manor. In this beautiful large house you get to know students from all over the world and the friendly landlady also shows you the city at the beginning and goes on excursions with everyone. For example, we went to the Universal Studios amusement park with everyone from home and some friends. She also prepared a beach party with everything that goes with it and also a very big Christmas party to which everyone could invite whoever they wanted. So I was able to make a lot of contacts and very quickly felt at home in the distance.
In addition, I can only recommend teaming up with several international students and renting a car together to get to know this US state with all its wonderful facets. I’ve seen so many beautiful places and in California that’s only possible by car. You should therefore stay there a few weeks longer than the semester lasts, because the state is large and cannot be visited in a weekend.