In the spring semester of 2016 I studied at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) in the USA. My stay lasted a total of 5 months. At my home university in Germany I am studying mechatronics, at CSULB I have taken courses in electrical engineering and computer science. In the following I will report on my stay and address all the important points that have to be considered for a semester abroad.
1 University selection
Before starting a semester abroad, it is very important that you start planning early enough. Personally, I started planning roughly six months before the start of my studies in Long Beach, but I would recommend looking into the subject earlier. First of all, you should decide which university you want to attend. It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to do my semester abroad in an English-speaking country in order to improve my English skills, as these are becoming increasingly important for today’s job market. Since I didn’t want to stay in Europe, but further away from my home country, I quickly decided to go to the USA. Visit jibin123.com to get information about 8 best cities to study in Australia.
The study costs in America are very high in contrast to Germany, so I tried to find a university that has relatively cheap study costs, offers my course or suitable subjects and I personally like it. In addition, a foreign language certificate for the relevant university abroad must still be completed. Here has every university other requirements and certificates that are desired. It is therefore an advantage to take this into account when selecting the university. After much research, I decided to go to California State University in Long Beach (CSULB).
In order to make your work easier and to always have a contact person, I can only highly recommend planning the semester abroad with “MicroEDU”. It’s free and very helpful. Consultation appointments are also offered in the agency on site or any questions are answered by email or phone within a very short time.
2 Course choice
For me it was important that all courses I took in the USA are also credited in Germany. For this reason, I started thinking about course selection immediately after the university made the decision. Since I only had 4 exams left from my course in Germany, the choice of courses was limited. In Germany, I discussed the recognition of my courses with every professor and had them confirmed to me. Furthermore, the agreement must be confirmed by the international representative of the relevant department of the university. Above all, it was important to clarify in advance which courses will be offered at the CSULB in the current semester, since, just like in Germany, not every course is offered in every semester.On the website of the university, however, you could look up the course offers of the last two semesters and thus get a rough overview.
The current course offers were only announced shortly before the beginning of the semester. As an international student at the University of Long Beach, you have to do a so-called “Course Crashing”. This means that you take your desired courses in the first two weeks of lectures and that the professors grant admission on site if there are vacancies and requirements are met. In order to meet the requirements, it was important to have a certificate of German academic performance in an English translation. When applying to the university, a wish list with at least ten courses should be submitted to ensure that alternative options are available even when the courses are full. For each course from Germany, choose at least two, but more recommended, suitable courses from America. However, the wish list could be updated after the current announcement of the courses.
3 Finding an apartment
Another big topic is the search for an apartment. You can either do this on site and book a motel or something similar for the first few days or arrange for it to be from Germany. First of all, you have to decide whether you want to live on or off campus. Long Beach University has several international student housesin which two or three people can share a room. The bathroom is shared with six to seven people on average, but it depends on the student house. A huge advantage is that the rent also includes meals from the cafeteria, where you can eat and drink as much as you want. There are different packages with different numbers of meals per week. However, rents range between $ 10,000– $ 12,000 per semester. Further information can be found on the following website, http://web.csulb.edu/divisions/students/housing/campus_housing.
Outside the campus there are several large apartment complexes in Long Beach, such as Beverly Plaza or Alvista, in which you share an apartment with several students. However, it has to be said that the entire facility has to be bought new. Apartments or houses are also offered by private individuals. Sources for looking for accommodation include www.craigslist.org or one of the many Facebook groups of the university or international students.
Personally, I chose Elizabeth’s Manor, an off-campus house that was rented out by a private individual. There are 12 rooms in this home for international students in Long Beach. The rent for a single room was $ 750 per month. That sounds like a lot at first, but the house is fully furnished, the rooms are ready to move in, the kitchen is equipped with all kinds of utensils, such as pans, pots, plates, cutlery and everything you need for cooking. This saves you any stress at the beginning of your trip and you can move into your room immediately. I enjoyed it there very much, you got to know many different nations and made many new friendships.
4 Costs and Financial Aspects
Since the costs play a very large role in a semester abroad, it is very important to think about how it can be financed in advance. Because there are a lot of costs. The largest share will be the tuition fees, plus the flight, rent, insurance, food and a mobile phone contract.
The tuition fees at CSULB are relatively cheap compared to other universities in America, at $ 6000. In many cases, you can cover a large proportion of these fees with the BAföG abroad. If you don’t get a domestic BAföG as a student, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get a foreign BAföG either. Online on the BAföG page there is a computer with which you can determine whether and how much BAföG abroad you receive.
There are also many scholarships that are specifically designed for stays abroad. Such as the PROMOS scholarship, which is a performance-related scholarship. But there are also scholarships that are not awarded based on academic performance, such as the “MicroEDU” scholarship. There are also often grants from the university’s department.
The next question is how do you pay in the US? I personally applied for a free credit card from the DKB, with which free cash withdrawals can be made from machines worldwide. However, since payments in non-euro currency with the credit card incur 1.75% of the turnover, I opened an account with “Wells Fargo” in the USA. This was also free of charge, so I withdrew money free of charge with the DKB credit card and deposited it into the American account. To circumvent this procedure, there are also credit cards that do not have any foreign transaction fees, but are not free of charge, such as the “Germanwings Gold Credit Card”.
5 Course of studies at the CSULB
The course of studies or a semester at the CSULB was a little different compared to my German university. First of all, it started with the “course crashing” that I have already described above. However, after the first few weeks it turned out that the “course crashing” was not as difficult as initially thought. Most of the professors were very cooperative and granted admissions despite the full course. After I received all the signatures from the professors, I had to have them checked by the “International Office”. Now, at last, you were enrolled in your courses and had your fixed schedule.
As an international student, you can take a total of twelve credits. Since all of my courses included three credits, I took four courses. If you wanted to take more than 12 credits, you had to pay extra for each credit. Since I am studying mechatronics in Germany, I have taken two courses in electrical engineering and two courses in computer science. The courses in electrical engineering were “ Computer Method Engineering ” and “ Electrical Control of Motors ” and in computer science it was “ Introduction to Embedded System Programming ” and “ Microprocessors and Controlers 1 ”. The course of all courses was the same, there was a lecture and an exercise. The lectures are in the same style as in Germany, but the exercises were very practical. No tasks were calculated or presented, but there was always a practical application to the current topic of the lecture. This ran through the entire semester. In some subjects there were small projects in betweenthat had to be carried out as part of several exercise sessions. In each subject there were two “midterm” exams and one “final” exam. In addition, homework was given that had to be handed in on a specific date. Depending on the course, it is even common for short tests to be written in between. In courses with a small number of participants, partial points were even awarded for attendance. All of these points are included in the final grade. In the following I will describe two subjects in more detail and explain the process with projects and exams.
First I describe the subject “ Microprocessors and Controllers 1 ”, this subject dealt with programming in assembly language with the help of a programming board. At the beginning of the semester a programming board had to be bought, this board was needed for each exercise as well as for the final project. Unfortunately in America it is not like in Germany that you can simply borrow this board from the library, but you have to buy it yourself. Furthermore, all other components that were needed for application-related tasks had to be purchased during the course of the semester. Even measuring devices and tools were not made available by the university.Since the professor and fellow students were all very helpful, you didn’t have to buy everything yourself, you could borrow a few things like multimeters or screwdrivers.
Lectures and exercises in this subject were twice a week, one hour each of lectures and one and a half hours of exercise. As already briefly described above, the exercises are not on a theoretical basis, as in Germany, but always small practical application tasks related to the topics covered in the lecture. The exercises started with an introduction to the programming environment and the input and output of signals via switches or LEDs. Gradually the exercises became more and more demanding, a stepper motor and a servo motor were controlled, a pulse width module was programmed with which an LED could be dimmed and an infrared sensor was used for distance measurement with which the distance was output via an analog-digital converter. Depending on the scope of the exercise, a submission date was set, usually one to two weeks. The exercise was successfully completed if you could demonstrate the task with the programming board and the associated components by the submission date, as well as the program and a circuit diagram of the wiring. Furthermore, in some exercises, questions about the theory of the application had to be answered and submitted. Every single exercise was collected and graded.
In the lecture, ten-minute tests were regularly written, which I personally liked because you had to deal with the content of the lecture again and again and could not lose touch. Furthermore, there were two so-called “midterms”, these are exams that are written within the lecture period and only cover the content of the subject matter dealt with up to that point. Usually there are the “finals” at the end of the semester, these are exams that are written after the lecture period and usually cover the entire content of the semester.
In this subject, however, there was a final project that replaced the final exam. All the exercises discussed previously were preparations or subtasks of the project. The task of the final projectit was to program a single-axis helicopter arm so that a height set via switches could be reached and maintained. The model for the helicopter consisted of a propeller with a motor attached to a lever arm at the front. The lever arm was mounted on a wooden board and stored on one side. The height of the lever arm was monitored via an infrared sensor. A height could be set via switches on the programming board, which the lever arm should automatically move to and maintain, this was realized by a simple control system. The height was passed on to the software with the help of the infrared sensor and an analog-digital converter. As already mentioned, all the components on the picture above had to be bought yourself. To successfully complete the project, a documentation of the project, with circuit diagrams and descriptions had to be made. These two points together resulted in the final grade of the project.
The subject “ Introduction to Embedded System Programming ” was relatively similar. The same programming board was used, with the difference that the programming language C was used. There was also a final project in this subject. The task was to program a traffic light circuit with two traffic lights with pedestrian crossing and to visualize it on a plug-in board with the help of LEDs and buttons. In addition, the crossing time for pedestrians and information for drivers were shown on an LCD display. To complete the project, documentation with circuit diagrams, source code and explanations also had to be submitted.
In general, the level of the subjects is a little easier than in Germany, but that can also be due to the fact that you have a lot to do in the semester and have to deal with the topic at all times. Regular homework and exercises that have to be handed in make it easier to prepare for the exams.
The semester lasted a total of four months, it ran from mid-January to mid-May and was interrupted by a week-long spring break.
6 Sports and leisure activities
In addition to the official courses, there were also many different clubs or student associations that were presented on campus at the very beginning of the semester. There were clubs on a wide variety of topics, from sports to religion to politics. For me personally, the sports clubs were the most interesting because I needed a balance in addition to the university. California is very well known for surfing, which is why I attended the surf club. This cost $ 50 per semester and included renting wetsuits, surfboards, and lessons and supervision. On the following picture you can get an impression of the rental equipment and the location of the surf club.
In addition, carpooling was offered by members of the surf club so that students without a car could also reach the beach. The surf club was held every two to three weeks and there were also events such as campfires on the beach. In order to be able to establish contact with American students, I strongly recommend joining a club, as it is usually more difficult to make contacts in the courses.
There was also a large fitness studio on campus with an outdoor pool, jacuzzi, beach volleyball facility, three large basketball fields, volleyball and soccer fields, two squash fields, climbing wall, running track and of course exercise equipment. However, the international students had to pay a membership fee of $ 32. There was also a “ University Student Union ”, in the building there was a pool, bowling alleys, table tennis tables, TVs with game consoles and many other things to pass the time.
7 Life outside the university
Studying in Long Beach naturally also includes life in California. Anyone who has been there before knows that the weather is almost always nice, that the people are all friendly and helpful and are always in a good mood. Long Beach itself is a very beautiful city, the city’s landmark is the old cruise ship “Queen Mary”, which is now used as a hotel, restaurant and museum. Downtown Long Beach offers tons of restaurants, bars, shopping, and leisure activities. The Hafencity is also highly recommended, with its many restaurants, bars and a beautiful lighthouse with a view of Long Beach Downtown, part of the harbor and the Queen Mary.
Personally, I jogged a lot on the beach, played beach volleyball there or just enjoyed the weather. Around Long Beach there are many beautiful cities and national parks that you should definitely visit on the weekend or during a spring break, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Grand Canyon and Death Valley.
For me personally, it was a very difficult decision at the beginning, as I had thought a lot about all the factors beforehand. Today after my return I am very happy that I made this decision, it was one of the best decisions of my life. All the worries I was worried about at the beginning were in vain. Everything went really well from the start, and I made friends and connections very quickly in the house I lived in.
The support from the university was very good, there was always help, everything was explained in great detail and in great detail, and many events were offered for international students, which made many new contacts very quickly. All the professors I met were also very nice and helpful. My English skills have improved a lot and I have gained a lot of new experiences and impressions. I can only recommend it to anyone who is even thinking about doing a semester abroad.