University: San Diego State University
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: International Business Administration
Study type: semester abroad
I spent the 2015/16 winter semester at San Diego State University in sunny San Diego. If you are also interested in the adventure of a semester abroad in the USA, you should definitely consider this wonderful city in Southern California. Visit anycountyprivateschools.com to get information about University of California Los Angeles study abroad program.
Studying a semester in the USA means preparation, a lot of preparation. Especially if it is not a partner university. Luckily, MicroEdu was there to help me with numerous tips, schedules and 100% commitment through this jungle, which initially seemed almost impossible to comb through. Thanks again for that!
Studying in the USA means not only horrendous sums for the tuition fees but also a lot of paperwork. Applying for the visa alone is a lengthy process, as you first have to fill out an application form (DS-160), then pay a so-called Sevis fee (US$220) and finally the visa application fee (MRV €152). Only now can the appointment be made at the embassy. There are two options here, either by phone or through the online profile at CGI Stanley.
Now to the message and straight away the conversation is anything but bad. It is only important that all necessary documents are packed (original I20 form, printed payment receipt for the SEVIS fee, printed confirmation of the appointment, printed confirmation page of the DS-160 form, passport, a photo that complies with the regulations of the DS-160 equivalent, i.e. smiles not desired, proof of financial means and proof that you are willing to leave the holy land again). If you bring a mobile phone, you are not allowed to bring it to the embassy, but there is a nice kiosk nearby where the mobile phones can be stored for a small fee.
Anyone who can count themselves among the lucky ones who receive BAföG should of course also apply for foreign BAföG, since life in the USA can be very expensive.
Flights to the US aren’t exactly cheap, especially since the semester at SDSU starts in August, meaning you’re flying in the middle of peak travel time. Here I made the experience that it is better to go to a travel agency again, very old schoolto go. The online search on kayka.de, fluege.de, opodo etc. was very depressing, so I finally called my trusted travel agency and was able to get a cheap flight with great times and only one stopover. This still cost around €950. Compared to the prices on the sites above, this was still a bargain as they only started at €1300. Of course, if you are willing to change trains more than twice or fly from Amsterdam, you will definitely get away with it even more cheaply. Of course, the same applies here: the early bird catches the worm, the sooner you look, the better flights are available.
The first week
I arrived in San Diego on July 25th and had about three weeks to settle in and look for an apartment. I decided to spend the first time in a hostel downtown because that’s where you get in contact with people best. In retrospect, I would now prefer a hostel in Pacific Beach because I knew from the start that I wanted to live on the beach. Of course we rented a car for these trips and these costs could have been saved. Of course you can also take the bus, but that can take an hour. Having a place to stay After we had found one, we moved to an airbnb, because there you had a little more privacy and it was also much cheaper in terms of costs. Here, of course, everyone has to decide for themselves whether they prefer to be right in the middle of the action or whether they appreciate some peace and quiet and their “own” four walls. In general, you get to know a lot of people in the hostel who are also studying at the SDSU, so it’s always easy to get into conversation.
Now for the darkest chapter of my time in San Diego. The search for an apartment, which at times resembled an odyssey. I don’t want to scare you, but it was really nerve wracking and very, very exhausting. First of all, you have to give up the idea of having your own room relatively quickly, unless you are willing to pay US$ 1500 and upwards. Much more likely it will come down to sharing a room, usually even a bed. The fun then still costs around US$ 750. Often the utilities (internet, television, electricity, gas, water) have to be paid on top of that, so that the rent quickly amounts to around US$ 830. The total will probably give most people chills, but there is something about living right on the beach and you are “only” there for half a year.Yes it was expensive but I would do it again and would recommend it to anyone.
After some frightening viewings, I found I would be sharing a room. I was lucky enough to get a landlord’s number from friends at my university back home and we were told the house was still available. After a visit we got the landlord’s go and we were able to look for two more roommates.
If you also want to move to the beach, you should simply walk along the promenade and the Bayside and write down the telephone numbers of the landlords and then just call them.
In any case, it is advisable to take as much cash as possible with you, as it is common practice to pay a deposit and the first month’s rent in cash. That was US$5000 in our case as our deposit was US$1000 per person. But don’t worry, for most houses it was around US$ 400 at most. It is important here that you get a receipt, as there are always landlords who want to rip us students off the table. It might also be worth mentioning here that it is common practice to pay rent by cash or check.
Of course, there is also the option of living on campus. There are various apartment complexes around the SDSU (Boulevard 63, Atzec Corner, Penthouse). This offers a number of advantages, such as short distances and the best possible use of what the campus has to offer. But living on campus also means young drunk Americans, fraternity parties (no, you probably won’t get invited to those) and just the campus. The prices, which are mostly similar to the beach houses in Pacific and Mission Beach, and the fact that you had to sign a one-year contract also put me off. Often the entire rent had to be paid in advance. Towards the end of the semester, you kept seeing desperate posts from students who had to find new tenants for their rooms. You can also look at your roommates with whom you share the room often don’t choose, unless you’re looking specifically together. Of course, life on campus offers the image that one knows from American films, but in San Diego the bear is tap-dancing in Pacific Beach.
When looking for an apartment, it is also helpful to join various Facebook groups, as this also puts you in contact with international students. The American site craigslist.com is comparable to Ebay classified ads and offers the opportunity to buy bicycles, surfboards, cars, etc. in addition to apartment ads.
Unfortunately, in addition to brazen landlords, there are also students who think they have to rip others off. I met a group of girls in the hostel who rented a house and significantly reduced the price of their own rooms in order to be able to afford a single room. To raise the rent, they advertised the other rooms as overpriced, hoping it wouldn’t be an issue. Of course it came out eventually and the drama was big…
The SDSU is a really beautiful campus, as you know it from the movies. The area is really huge and you can definitely get lost. But after a few weeks you find your way around here and don’t want to leave. SDSU really has a lot to offer international students. Starting with the free use of the gym, free tickets for basketball and baseball games, use of the pool, tennis courts, a bowling alley and numerous other sports offers. There’s also a concert hall where various bands or singers have performed, and the prices here are really student-friendly. There is the possibility of sports courses through the Atztec Recreation Centerto prove. This offer includes surfing, stand-up paddling, wakeboarding, climbing courses etc. Almost every student dreams of learning the art of surfing on the west coast. However, I cannot recommend booking this course through the university because the courses were more than overcrowded and the surf instructors were more concerned with flirting with the girls. It’s much better to just buy a used board, take a crash course and keep trying. I’ve only heard good things about the other courses, especially the wakeboarding and climbing courses are said to have been very good.
In addition to all these leisure activities, the SDSU also offers top equipment. There are several libraries and workrooms to retreat to to study or do group work. The numerous computer rooms are modernly equipped and allow students to print ten pages a day free of charge.
You don’t have to starve on campus either. There are several food courts with various fast food restaurants or healthier alternatives with salad bars, fresh juices and smoothies and of course Starbucks. You can also warm up your own food that you have brought with you. There are water dispensers distributed throughout the campus where you can fill up your bottles for free. The farmers market was held once a week. Vendors from the area sold small snacks and dishes from different nations there and a visit here is definitely worthwhile.
I attended three special sessions at SDSU because I chose the Business Courses semester program. I had the requirement from my university to take a business administration, economics and a specialization module. This program is ideal for business studies, as the special sessions cover many subjects. I was able to get credit for all courses and don’t have to repeat anything at home. But here the specifications are different from university to university.
But what exactly are special sessions? The special sessions consist of a wide range of business administration courses, which you must choose before the semester begins. If you’re lucky, you can even choose a third special session on site and save yourself a lot of stress. Special Sessions offer some advantages as you can check from your home university to see if the courses count and you don’t have to go into course crashing, but more on that later. A really notable disadvantage of the special sessions, however, is that the courses are arranged especially for the international students and you don’t come into contact with Americans.
Course crashing applies to all courses that do not fall within the scope of special sessions. Since I had to take an economics course and this requirement apparently also applied to many other students, the fight for places was really like a cut and shove. The selection of the students was not based on proof of their suitability for the respective course, but the professors usually decided at random.
In order to facilitate the process, the university has now changed the procedure and international students can choose courses in an online portal just like Americans. But here, too, there is a fixed number of seats that must not be exceeded, so you should be quick to get your elective courses.
Now to the courses themselves. Here I can only speak for the courses I have chosen (BA350 Management and Organizational Behavior, ECON101 Principles of Economics, MGT460 Business Plan Development and MGT352 Human Resource Management). In general, the style of teaching in the States is completely different. The lectures are much more academic, participation is graded and the professors can kick out disruptive students and this can also affect the grade. Another point is compulsory attendance, which was normal in my courses. For this, the professors use either the online portal Coursekey or the so-called clicker. The principle is the same in both cases. You log in at the beginning of the lecture and during this there are sometimes too short quizzes.
It is also different, or rather unusual, that small homework or quizzes have to be done every week. There are also essays, presentations, oral questions and sometimes several midterms per semester. For German students who are used to only taking an exam at the end of the semester, this sounds like a lot of work. In retrospect, however, I can say that the final exams themselves do not always cover the content of the entire semester, but only the sections that occurred after the midterm exam.
Can’t say which system is better. In any case, an American degree requires that you have to sit down every week to do your homework like you did when you were in school. All in all, this is quite doable.
There was also a lot of group work in my courses. It should not go unmentioned here that, if possible, you should choose your group well, since not all students depend on the grading of the course and only have to pass the course. The commitment of this student was then partly limited.
A final point is the cost of books and different learning portals. I paid around US$400 for all the teaching materials. I also shared or borrowed some of the books with other students. Anyone who owns a Kindle should definitely consider reading some books there, as these are usually much cheaper than a printed edition. In addition to the SDSU bookstore, there are various websites such as chegg.com where books can be borrowed for the duration of a semester. Still, this is not cheap. A clear advantage, however, is that you can send the books back and not throw them away. I also had to register for two different learning portals in order to do my homework there. Unfortunately, these costs are unavoidable when you have a professor
If you’re lucky enough to only have to go to university two days a week, like me, you’ll get your money’s worth in San Diego. Since I lived only ten meters from the sea, I spent a lot of time at the beach and, in addition to tanning, I also surfed, played volleyball and swam. You can also go jogging along the promenade and the Bayside and enjoy a wonderful view at the same time. There are also numerous hiking opportunities in and around San Diego, such as to Potato Chip Rock or in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla. La Jolla is a place in San Diego that, in addition to lots of seals and hidden swings, also has a shopping promenade with many small boutiques and cozy cafés.
In addition to Mission and Pacific Beach, there are numerous beaches that invite you to sunbathe, surf and relax. Another small town, Oceanbeach, has a beautiful beach, numerous restaurants and bars and the weekly Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Every student should complete the usual sightseeing program from SeaWorld, to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Downtown, Little Italy, Seaport Village, to the USS Midways etc. There is also whale watching at Point Loma Lighthouse in November and the numerous sunsets are free to watch all year round. If you prefer action, you can jump off the Sunset Cliffs or shoot at a shooting ranch.
As previously mentioned, SDSU offers a variety of ways to get involved in physical activity, whether it’s physical education classes, the gym, or the bowling alley. There is also the option of taking weekend trips with the university to various national parks. Most of them involve camping or sleeping under the stars, which is a really great experience.
There’s no shortage of partying in San Diego either. Here again there are different possibilities. You can either drive downtown and hit the bars and clubs there or celebrate a little more comfortably in Pacific Beach. Every student should have taken part in a typical Taco Tuesday. Basically, the clubs in San Diego close around two in the morning. This was very unusual the first few times, but you get used to it. Unfortunately, the American bouncers only accept passports for identification, so you should always be careful with them. You should also watch out for your drinks, as it happened again and again that girls in particular got KO drops poured into their drinks.
There are numerous shopping opportunities for all fashion-loving men and women, whether in Fashion Valley or in one of the outlet malls, for example near the Mexican border. A short trip to Tijuana is certainly possible, but you must have a valid I20 form. Visiting the Mexican border town is nice, but of course it doesn’t give the impression of a real Mexican town. But to put some preconceptions out of the way, I’ve never felt unsafe in TJ, and they don’t sell drugs on every street corner there either.
If you like discovering hidden places, you should definitely scour the website hiddensandiego.com. The Adobe Falls are also highly recommended.
My lecture schedule enabled me to take numerous short trips. A little road trip to LA can easily be done in a weekend. In addition to the typical hotspots Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Hills, Griffith Observatory, Walk of Fame, Disneyland and Universal Studios, Malibu and the Venice Canals are particularly worth seeing.
A definite must-do is the trip to Vegas. Just grab your friends and enjoy a cool party weekend in this crazy city. The girls in particular get their money’s worth there and often don’t have to pay for admission or drinks. If you go to Vegas in the summer months, you should definitely go to one of the legendary pool parties. In Vegas, it’s best to live on the Strip and pay a bit more for it. From Vegas you can also make a detour to Death Valley or the Grand Canyon. For the latter, however, I would plan at least a day and a half, as this national park is really impressive. who national parksshould definitely visit Sequoia National Park and Yosemite Park. These parks and landscapes are beautiful and invite you to hike, camp and enjoy.
If you have time for a longer trip, you should not miss Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Antelope Canyon. On the way you can make another stop at Lake Powell or just enjoy the endless expanse. A trip to Joshua Tree National Park is also recommended for climbing enthusiasts. This can easily be combined with a visit to the city of Palm Springs.
Flying is significantly cheaper in the USA than in Germany. However, caution should be exercised, as you are often only allowed to carry a very small piece of luggage with you, so always read carefully.
Distance really doesn’t mean anything in the US. If I added up all the miles, I would certainly have covered thousands. If you rent a car, you can see the most of the landscape and since you usually drive off with several friends, the gas prices in the USA are usually very cheap.
If you intend to visit several national parks in the USA, you should consider investing in an Annual Pass. This is worthwhile even if you only want to visit three national parks, since the entrance fee per car usually costs around US$ 30 and the Annual Pass is US$ 80.
A visit to the northern city of San Francisco should also be considered, as it impresses with its very special flair. If you have more time here again, you should definitely drive back along the coast on the Big Sur Highway. In addition to cheap motels, hostels or airbnbs are also available for overnight stays.
Anyone who does not have the opportunity to withdraw money for free in the USA should consider opening an account. This is also useful if the landlord wants a check. What is also unusual for many Germans is that everything is paid for by card. Paying with cash is rather rare here. But as the saying goes: different countries, different customs. If you go to an American restaurant, you should get used to the fact that you always get free water and refills, but usually your plate is taken away with the last bite. If there is no more room for dessert, you usually get the bill slammed straight onto the table. In the USA it is customary to tip at least 10 percent and this also applies to visits to the bar. Just close your eyes and have fun, because a semester in the USA is not for saving.
America is and will always be expensive, be it the apartment or even just the weekly shopping. If you want to eat healthy, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. In addition to the large supermarket chains such as Ralphs or Vons, I recommend the somewhat smaller supermarkets Trader Joes and Sprouts. You can shop at Walmart for cheap. By the way, you won’t find bread in San Diego, the Americans just can’t do that.
Although San Diego has a public transport network, it often takes a long time even for shorter distances. I rented a car with my roommate and I would recommend this as it gives you more flexibility and allows you to explore the area around San Diego. Of course there is also the possibility to buy a car, but this involves some risks, especially if you have no idea about cars like me.
Unfortunately, students who are under 21 cannot really do much in the evenings. Entry into some restaurants or bowling bars is often denied, as alcohol is served there. So if you are not 21 or will be 21 in the early part of the semester abroad, you should forget about studying in the USA, because you really have a lot of opportunities.
At the SDSU, more than half of the international students were German. Of course, this means that a lot of German is spoken, especially if you only live with students of your own nationality. Actually, I only had friends from Denmark and also had two Danish roommates, which of course meant that I spoke almost exclusively English. I think it should be mentioned that the SDSU always attracts a lot of German students. Of course, everyone can decide for themselves whether they want to speak English or not. Living with students from other countries not only offers the opportunity to speak English, but also to get to know the culture of the other country.
In summary, I can say that I probably had the best semester of my life in San Diego. Anyone who has the opportunity to study for a semester at SDSU should definitely do so, because you really only get this opportunity once in a lifetime. I had a wonderful long summer with great friends and this is an experience I wouldn’t want to miss. I already miss the beautiful sunsets and the spirit of SDSU. Go Aztecs and, like me, enjoy the time of your life in sunny California.