University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: History, media, journalism
Study type: semester abroad
Are you considering whether you should do a semester abroad, or not? The answer to that has to be yes! After your studies you will hardly have the opportunity to learn as much about yourself, a foreign country and its inhabitants as you did during this time. California and Long Beach are, in my opinion, perfect places to have this experience. But let’s get down to the basics:
Yes, that is frightening. Visa, flight, possibly scholarship, accommodation, etc. You must definitely start organizing 6 months in advance to avoid unnecessary stress. The American consulate has some strange peculiarities, for example you should under no circumstances call them with questions about visas, because it costs 4 euros per minute. And just leave all electronic devices at home or in the car – otherwise you’ll have to throw them away… But apart from that, you don’t really have anything to worry about in the interview unless you have a full criminal record or too few documents with you. See thembaprograms.com for information about Santa Rosa Catholic University Venezuela.
I wanted to go to the dorms first, but apparently they’ve increased the prices and at around $5,000 a semester it’s just not worth it. There are also room checks and an alcohol ban – problems that you don’t have when you live independently. The best tip is the CSULB roomate finder (you can find it on the homepage, just type it in the search field. There you could create a profile and then look for people with similar interests. And believe me: you will be written to – and with a bit of luck everyone will be If it’s the right one. There are also apartment complexes like sand by the sea, unfortunately you can’t usually book them from Germany. The four of us paid 1400 dollars a month and lived in the Patio Gardens Apartments. If you move there too, say hello to Tammy and Dea (the stewards), you will love them, because they will do anything for you! In any case, Craigslist is also a good tip if you are looking for flat shares – I have met many people who have found good apartments and roommates through it.
First, a word about the California Budget Crisis: In the fall of 2009 and around Spring 2010, professors are forced to take days off because they don’t have the money to pay for them. The campus also closes completely for three days per semester. As far as I know, things should get better soon.
Regarding the level: significantly higher than expected, significantly more work than expected – but also significantly better lecturers and courses than expected. I took history, journalism and film courses – and was allowed to write around 20 to 25 pages of essays per course, plus presentations, plus exams. Nevertheless (or maybe because of that) I learned a great deal and it was definitely one of the best courses I have ever attended at a university. But that was also because I took courses at the 300 level. That means junior, so 3rd year of college. 100s are less demanding – but also less exciting. Otherwise, the American Language Institute always has an open ear and the lecturers are usually always approachable and very, very nice and cooperative.
I’ve never had as much partying and fun as in Long Beach – at least not 4 months at a time. It takes a bit of luck – like nice American neighbors who want to take you everywhere and spend every night with you; or cool international students to meet in any class. But because Americans usually find you very interesting if you only speak English with a German accent, meeting new people shouldn’t really be a problem.
LA can be easily reached by public transport (it’s still an hour’s drive to Hollywood…) and has something for every taste – from the museum to the (always very expensive) nightclub to the Halloween parade. San Francisco is 6 hours away but definitely worth a visit. Las Vegas is a must, I’ve been there twice. If you feel like it, you can also go to San Diego and Tijuana (Mexico).
Those are the bigger things, otherwise there are also clubs and bars in Long Beach, which are difficult to reach without a car (but a taxi should always be possible, the distances are not that big…) A car (or knowing someone who has a car) is in any case highly, highly recommended. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway along the coast and looking at Huntington, Newport and Laguna Beach is definitely worth it.
If you don’t feel like going to clubs, there are plenty of fraternity and house parties. You just have to know people who will take you away or invite you – but as I said: a German accent usually works wonders…
The problem with all the many options is and remains the money. A semester abroad is expensive; especially since you definitely want to take all the activities and ventures with you that you can (at least that’s how it was for me). Since you are not really allowed to work (except on campus), you should think about how you can raise enough money in advance so that you don’t get stuck halfway through. By the way, if you have an account with Deutsche Bank, you don’t pay any fees when withdrawing from Bank of America – and that’s the largest bank in the States.
Drive to. Enjoy. You will not regret it and will certainly never forget it.