University: California State University Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: computer science
Study type: semester abroad
My semester abroad was in the spring semester of 2016 at California State University Long Beach in the field of computer science. At home I am studying computer science and information management at the University of Augsburg. First of all – It will probably have been the time of my life ! See iamaccepted.com for information about University of Leipzig Germany.
To the organizational
To be honest, I never really intended to study abroad. From many stories combined with pictures of friends who were already abroad and the boredom in the course at home, I finally made the decision, which in retrospect was the only right thing to do ! I first heard about the CSULB from an acquaintance who kept posting these great pictures on Facebook, which initially only made the California area attractive to me . I also really wanted to go to the English -speaking world, where the IT industry is well represented, preferably somewhere on the beach, of course. Europe was relatively uninteresting for me, since I have already traveled more than enough to most of the countries that could appeal to me there. But I still hadn’t decided on the CSULB.
In principle, I came to the final decision as to which Californian university I would choose after a process of elimination. Location in a metropolitan area (LA / San Francisco / San Diego ), value for money, weather, beach and of course the range of courses were decisive. I made a list and ranked with the CSULB being the most attractive based on my criteria. A planning horizon of half a year is perfectly sufficient to get everything else going in a relaxed manner. Anja Heinz from MicroEdu was able to help me with all questions regarding the university and application. Application papers with instructions on how to fill them out were also available from MicroEdu completely free of charge. This made the application process stress-free, even if you have to submit a lot of evidence with your application.
While I was already collecting the first application documents, I took a simple online placement test for the English language certificate (10€) at an adult education center in Augsburg, for which I received the required DAAD certificate. Toefl or similar were not necessary. After the confirmation, I took care of the flight directly (€800 return, 1 change). After the application was completed, only the application for the visa was relatively time-consuming – but MicroEdu supported even that.
By the way, the interview at the consulate in Munich to get the visa lasted a mere 5 minutes. Regarding the cost : for me just over €17,500 including flight, visa, tuition fees, rent, travel (with domestic flights) and all other expenses before and after the associated stay abroad. I can recommend the Eurowings Gold cards as a credit card. In contrast to most other offers, these have no percentages on cashless payments, free cash withdrawals, health & rental car insurance packages and are free of charge in the first year and can be canceled thereafter. Be sure to ask how high the interest rate is if you want to pay cashless. That makes a good difference in the grand total.
Housing & living
My recommendation when looking for accommodation in Long Beach is a house for international students “Elizabeth Manor”. This house holds about 12 international students and is fully equipped, so you don’t have to buy anything anymore in terms of household appliances, furniture, etc. There is simply everything your heart desires. Rent was warm at $750 for a single room which may seem high but is a very fair price in LB. You already have a tour group and a few parties at home, sometimes up to 50 guests. You can save yourself a temporary accommodation in hotels and the search for an apartment, where you wouldn’t find anything better in the end anyway. If I had the choice again I would move back into this house! The landlady Yarina, who stops by from time to time, invites people to eat, has shown sights to see in LA and Long Beach a few times and has otherwise done hundreds of things for us that are not a matter of course, is the nicest person I have ever met (that’s not a Exaggeration! It is so.). Since the house is very popular, it is booked up quickly. So you should inquire as early as possible. I’m happy to tell you more about it, or send you some pictures (Added Edu Leibham on FB).
From there you can easily get to the university by bus, which runs regularly and stops at the university in 20 minutes. The beach is 15 minutes by bike. For excursions I would recommend renting a car through Enterprise rather than buying one if you have credit card insurance. Otherwise rent with insurance through Alamo with the ISIC card for a significant discount. At Enterprise, the rental car costs a whopping $8.50 per person per day for 5 people. Gasoline doesn’t really cost anything in the US. Some who have bought a car with the ultimate goal of reselling it have had such high repair bills in between that renting would have been more economical. So if you are already buying, then with a workshop check beforehand.
If you are considering moving into one of the many apartment complexes, it should be remembered that most of them had to share a room and that they are not equipped at all or only very (very!) poorly, i.e. you may have to rent furniture, kitchen utensils, etc.buy yourself. You also have to pay extra for washing clothes, electricity bills, internet connection, which was already included in the price for me. It adds up so quickly that you would basically be paying the same as my single room for a shared room with a lot more stress and no privacy.
As far as food goes, being home and being able to buy normal groceries makes you happy again. The first two months there was a veritable fast food orgy, after that you cooked more and more yourself. However, even after 5 months you don’t really get used to the product range of the American supermarkets. Groceries are also felt to be a little more expensive than in Germany.
About the Americans: They are always in a good mood, helpful, very superficial and often crazy (possibly because of the sun that you get in California). You get to know a lot of people very quickly, including a lot of other internationals from Germany and all over the world. Memorizing all the new names in the first few weeks is a challenge in itself.
In terms of travel, I’ve never done as much in half a year as during the semester abroad. It is difficult to list all travel destinations without forgetting something. But here’s an attempt:
- Las Vegas (proud 3 times): Even exceeded my expectations. The city is insane! Go to the pool parties at MGM or Hard Rock.
- Florida: Miami (South Beach), Everglades and Key West on Spring Break for a week. Holiday feeling at its finest! Even better beaches and temperatures than on the west coast. Even the water in the sea is warm. Was probably my favorite trip. Day Trip to Key West 5 hour drive from Miami. You’re almost in Cuba there. I would only recommend Key West if you have at least 5 days in the region. A half-day airboat tour of the Everglades in search of alligators is a must on any Miami visit.
- San Francisco: Beautiful city, even if it was raining cats and dogs. Walk over the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy the good view from the Coit Tower.
- San Diego: Worth seeing are Balboa Park and the view of the entire city from Cabrillo National Monument. Old Town, on the other hand, is more of a tourist trap and not recommended.
- Los Angeles: Things to do: Hollywood Sign, Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Down Town, Art District, Malibu, Griffith Observatory, Citadel Outlet, Getty Center, Venice Beach and Santa Monica Peer. Be sure to catch a basketball game at the Staples Center and attend concerts.
- Santa Barbara: Well, quite nice, but you don’t have to see it.
- Huntington Beach: Best beach near Long Beach, you can also rent cheap surfboards and wet suits there. Easily accessible by bus.
- Long Beach: Worth seeing Harbor, Down Town, 2nd Street, and at night Signal Hill from which you can see LA Downtown. The most beautiful place in LB is Naples in my opinion. Rent a kayak there and paddle through the canals.
- Grand Canyon: Most impressive national park that I was allowed to visit and that you should see. It can get a little cooler there, which means we camped in the snow. So wrap up warm.
- Yosimite National Park: Drive up to Glacier Point, very good view. The park itself is definitely gorgeous, with its many waterfalls and great for hiking, but not quite as impressive if you live close to the Alps back home.
- Death Valley: 2 hours from Vegas. Easy to do in one day, you should have seen it. All hot spots are accessible by car, so you don’t really hike there in the heat.
- Valley of Fire: Spontaneous trip that I have no regrets. 1 hour from Vegas. Breathtaking expanses of landscape, fun to drive through the park.
The campus of the university is really a gem. With the basketball hall in the pyramid, pools, sports clubs for every kind of sport, fitness center and Japanese garden, it is almost reluctant to leave the campus. Fitness center membership for $37 a month is well worth it. There is a varied course program, indoor climbing, more fitness equipment than you need and again 2 pools and a whirlpool. I also joined the Surf Club. Unfortunately, I only made it to one surfing lesson, but membership for the whole semester was only $45 anyway. Unfortunately, the computers in the Computer Science building were very slow or unusable (= from Apple). Accordingly, your own laptop from home is worth its weight in gold at the university. I didn’t write anything by hand at all. The lecturers are very relaxed, friendly and helpful.
Since the CSULB course catalog offers a wide range of courses in the field of Computer Science, it wasn’t very difficult to find courses that interest me personally. Surprisingly, it turned out that the University of Augsburg is the bigger problem when planning the course, not the foreign one. The examination board demands that a foreign course be mapped to an equivalent German course, both in terms of content and the number of credit points. Since the targeted, quick degree was important to me, I signed up for a Learning Agreement can be secured, which guarantees the credit on return. To do this, I had to visit the individual lecturers (approx. 4) of the German reference courses, show them the description of the American courses and, in turn, pass their approval on to the chairman of the examination board. That dragged on for 2 months and was endlessly annoying and time-consuming with many appointments and emails.
In the end, 12 courses were confirmed, of which I only wanted to take 4 anyway. Of course, it’s worth having more courses ready than you actually need for a plan B in case one doesn’t take place this semester or you can’t get any more places. You should not worry about the allocation of remaining places in the courses for international students, the course crashing, in the first few weeks at the CSULB. It takes 2 weeks until the final choice of course is confirmed, but at least I was able to attend my top 4 courses on the desired course list.
I have proven:
- CECS 475 Application Programming Using.NET (attendance required)
- CECS 545 software architecture
- CECS 470 Web Programming (attendance required)
- CECS 445 Software Design & Architecture
I can recommend all the courses so far, especially the first one on the list, which was the most interesting for me because of my professional environment and has a very entertaining/weird lecturer. You laughed a lot. Of course only with him, not about him! The content is very good, but almost too much for one semester, but I would take it again. Because of the lab assignments, projects, and midterms in addition to the respective finals, the workload during the semester is significantly higher in all courses than in Germany, which I really didn’t expect. Basically weekly exams. On the other hand, the final week was relatively relaxed, since the finals sometimes only accounted for 20% of the final grade make out and you were already forced to learn everything during the semester anyway. But don’t worry, you can usually do everything that has to do with the university MON-THU, sometimes with a little less sleep to ultimately keep the weekend free for the many trips. In terms of grades, you should actually easily get an A or B without being a nerd.
Despite the Learning Agreement, after returning to Germany there were another 15 pages of application for crediting the achievements in duplicate – German bureaucracy at its finest. But who cares, it was worth the effort !
Short and sweet about the semester abroad in LB: Yes, it’s the right thing. Just do it! Go Beach!