University: San Diego State University
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: mechanical engineering
Study type: semester abroad
How it came about…
After a weekend get-together with an old friend who was studying a semester abroad at SDSU, my interest and excitement about California rose to another dimension. Especially after realizing how easy it is to achieve that “unattainable” goal. A vacation in the States is nothing special as long as you have the financial means to do so. But living there for half a year and at the same time experiencing the famous American college life sounds unique and promising. I suppose most people find such a study abroad experience pretty cool and would love to do it, but are unaware that the only obstacle should be lack of money. Apart from that, I believe that by clicking on the MicroEdu homepage you have actually already taken the most important step. Because as long as there is interest and willingness to do so, all that remains to be decided is which city and which university suits you best. Visit toppharmacyschools.org to get information about Dublin Business School study abroad program.
After some research and after influencing my friend, the decision was pretty easy for me:
- the second largest city in California, which sounds very promising due to its geographical location on the Pacific Ocean and on the Mexican border
- the fifth largest university in California with approximately 35,000 students, an incredibly beautiful campus, a large selection of courses with relatively low tuition fees
Clearly I’m talking about San Diego State University!
The application process is also relatively uncomplicated. When you fill out the application form, you need to submit financial proof and proof of language proficiency (e.g. TOEFL or DAAD ). As soon as these two requirements are met, nothing should stand in the way of taking care of the small details of the procedure (such as transcript, international health insurance, visa, etc.).
In order for the time in the new and cool city at the other end of the world, where you don’t know anyone else, to go perfectly and smoothly, you naturally wish for the best of circumstances. Everything you need to do should be organized before the semester starts so that you don’t have to worry about looking for a place to live or mobility problems during the semester.
I had decided to embark on the adventure a bit unprepared, having organized nothing in advance other than a hostel and a rental car for a few days. So I planned to look at the local apartments and act on my feelings. Honestly, based on my experience, I would advise against it because, as is well known, the best things are gone first. Two weeks before the start of the semester you can usually only find B-goods. Either you are in a flat share that is too big, you don’t have a private room, you pay more than others, or you sign a 1-year contract and have to look for a new tenant and and, and, and. It is much easier to search intensively for apartments on Craigslist or Facebook 2-3 months before arrivaland secure suitable accommodation. Some of the people I met did the same and didn’t have to worry about finding a new tenant for several months like I did.
After arriving late due to a secondary custom control in San Diego, I checked into a clean hostel in the famous Gaslamp Quarter. There I met a fellow student from my university and the next morning we started looking for an apartment together. Like me, he also wanted a private room and to live on campus. We were open to shared apartments, but finding one that met our criteria was not easy. After a number of failed attempts in apartment complexes on campus, we gave up hope relatively early and wanted to be satisfied with what we had found. With a bit of luck, we were able to find a furnished apartment on campus after four days, which was a bit expensive and had a 1-year contract. So we had founded our 2-person shared flat.
In my opinion, a car in California is indispensable. Distances throughout California (except San Francisco) are simply too great to use public transportation. This was particularly evident when looking for an apartment. Using a taxi/Uber is out of the question considering the distances. For example, the trip from campus to Pacific Beach costs about $30, which would mean $60 for a round trip.
Since the cost of renting a car for two people was too high, we decided to buy a car and sell it again before leaving. As long as there are four or five of you, you should rent a car, as the amount to be paid (including insurance) is really low and the car can be replaced by the rental company if it is damaged. If you buy a car, you have to consider that the car has to be taken to the workshop if it is damaged and simply spoils your mood. Apart from that, you have to be able to sell the car before departure without a high loss so that it is worth not having rented a car.
When we saw the blue Ford Mustang GT Convertible with 280 hp for $ 4000 on Craigslist, all risks were quickly forgotten. When the salesman picked us up to show us the car, the matter was actually over. The sound could be heard from a kilometer away and the combination of the convertible and the blue paintwork with lots of sporty accessories was the perfect Californian eye-catcher. After a $20 check at Firestone and the mechanic’s approval, we bought the convertible for $3300. A $60/month insurance from Geico with great service from August to December equated to a final price of $3600. We were able to sell the gem on Facebook for $3700, so it was a good investment and somehow compensated for the somewhat high price rental costs was. The car didn’t let us down once on the approx. 5000 miles that we drove in 5 months and provided a lot of fun. Saying goodbye was really difficult.
University + student life + course selection
After the essentials for “survival” were done and the existence was founded, the semester actually started shortly. Before the start of lectures, there is an introductory week for all international students, where all the necessary semester-specific information, house rules and procedures are explained.
A big problem for most international students is the so-called “class crashing”. In the first lectures you have to ask the professors to be included in the course. Most professors like foreign students, but on the other hand they are forced to reject some because they can’t offer any more places. Since domestic students can register online before the start of lectures, there are unfortunately no more places available in the highly sought-after courses. Thus, the first few weeks pass with stressful timetable constellations. I only had the problem in one subject, but I was lucky that the lecturer was willing to register ten foreign students, which I could also move into.
Apart from two mechanical engineering courses, I have participated in a project work in a team of two, a surfing course (with credits) and an astronomy course out of interest. Each subject has a certain number of units. With the General Course you have to take 12 units, otherwise you are not considered a full-time student. If you have free units after your desired courses and have to take any courses, I would strongly recommend taking a surfing course and, if you are interested, the astronomy course “ASTR 101” with Professor Douglas.
I recommend the surf course because it’s great fun, you meet nice people and because being able to surf or having surfed is just part of being in San Diego. During the project work, I had the opportunity to design and produce a pycnometer independently with a fellow student, which was very time-consuming but also a great experience and challenge.
Unusually, most courses have compulsory attendance, homework, intermediate exams and tests. First and foremost, it reminds you a lot of school, but in my opinion it has significant advantages in terms of grades. Since the final grade does not consist of a 90 or 120-minute exam, but is made up of the performances throughout the semester, it is a lot easier to get a good grade than in Germany, as long as you work hard.
The level is within limits and, in my opinion, really only depends on the professor. Lectures in English are no problem at all. You get used to the language very quickly and also get to know a lot of subject-specific vocabulary.
The SDSU campus is simply unique. The buildings have a Mediterranean architecture and are surrounded by countless palm trees and green areas. The cafeteria/canteen system does not exist here. There is a food court with about 6 fast food restaurants and many other restaurants distributed on and around the campus. There are two Starbucks coffee shops on campus with long lines. The well-stocked library also offers the opportunity to study in peace at any time. Apart from that, there are also many recreational activities available on campus. A large fitness center (ARC) is equipped with halls for basketball, football and volleyball, where it is also easy to get in touch with local students. A pool and a soccer and football field should not be missing on this beautiful campus. Then there is the Viejas Arena on campus, home to the very successful SDSU basketball team. Students get free tickets with their student ID. Unfortunately, these are sold out within a few hours. In addition, performances by celebrities such as Rihanna, Justin Biber, Kevin Hart etc. also take place in the Viejas Arena.
The SDSU college football team is also very successful. They play their home games at Qualcolm Stadium, home of the NFL team, the San Diego Chargers. There is also a section of the audience made up of old SDSU graduates. These are also seniors who are now over 80 and simply look back on their own student days and meet with old fellow students.
The SDSU also has the Greek system. There are a lot of student fraternities (frats & sororities) like you see in the movies. These have their houses in the most beautiful places on campus and are each identified by different Greek letter combinations. Only recently was a 4 million. Dollar Mansion built for a sorority. Even on campus, the Frat Guys and Sorority Girls show which fraternity they belong to by their clothing. However, I also really liked the fact that a great many students buy and wear clothes from the bookstore that say the university. Later, when I visited other cities, I often wore one of these clothes and was almost always approached or greeted by a former SDSU graduate.
I received the first confirmation that I had chosen the right city for the next 6 months on the intermediate flight to Philadelphia, when a lady who traveled a lot said enthusiastically: “You’re going to paradise!”. After a glance during the Landing from the plane I understood what she meant. A sun that is shining, endless palm trees planted in avenues, various beautiful beaches with many people and a nice skyline. In this way I became one of the most beautiful cities I have seen, receive.
As previously mentioned, I spent the first few days in the Gaslamp Quarter (Downtown), the entrance to which is also marked with an inscription “Gaslamp Quarter – Historic Heart of San Diego “. So I was in the liveliest place in San Diego. What is actually meant are the 4th, 5th and 6th Avenues (each about 1km long), which mainly consist of clubs, bars and restaurants and the like. Thus, funny acquaintances with people who are there to have fun were secured. If you don’t want to miss out on big city life, you would definitely not be wrong in the whole of downtown. Because there is always something going on there. If you want to relax there, you can simply enjoy the view of Coronado Island with a cigar on the Pacific Highway.
Those who dedicate themselves to the Californian laid-back lifestyle should live on the PB (Pacific Beach). A lot of people run shirtless here because they are either jogging along the beach, riding bikes/skateboards, they are too warm or they just want to show off their fit body. Here most people really seem to live free from worries, as if they were on vacation. You can surf almost the entire length of the beach. If you want to cool off, all you have to do is brave the cold and strong waves of the Pacific. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants here, filled with people who like to have fun or watch football. Unlike downtown, there is no dress code in this area. It doesn’t matter whether you show up with flip-flops or ice skates. Everyone is welcome here who is over 21 years old and has identification.
If you want to enjoy American college life, you should spend as much time as possible in the college area. Depending on traffic, this is about 25 minutes away from the PB. The journey by public transport takes just under an hour. This is where you spend most of your time as a student on campus, as it offers everything that makes a good campus. Here you are usually only surrounded by students, which is why nothing contradicts a lot of fun, the coolest activities and a harmonious learning environment. Those who want to spend their free time with fellow students from Germany should rather live on campus. If you prefer to spend less time on campus and still want to spend a semester with a vacation feeling, you should live on Pacific Beach.
The border with the Mexican city of Tijuana can be reached by trolley in less than an hour from downtown. Walk across the border and take a $5-max cab downtown and you’ll know you’re on new ground almost immediately.
Other places not to miss during the semester in San Diego:
- La Jolla, here is the most beautiful sunset in my opinion
- Coronado Island, with an indescribably beautiful view of downtown San Diego (skyline)
- Woodson Mountain + Potato Chip
- Sunset Cliffs
- a San Diego Chargers NFL game at Qualcolm Stadium
- Balboa Park
- possibly the famous SeaWorld
- Mission Bay Park
If you stay in this wonderful city for half a year, you should definitely take advantage of its geographical location. The border with Mexico can be reached in half an hour by car. Las Vegas is about 5 hours away and Los Angeles 2 hours (closer to 3 hours during the day and weekends due to traffic) which is really not that far in a country like the US considering California is larger in area than Germany is. One reason to treat yourself to a car during this time is because of the many famous places that surround San Diego. During the semester I went to Las Vegas twice and Los Angeles several times. It was either about exploring the city itself or about events such as the Floyd Mayweather boxing match in the MGM Grand Arena or an NBA match of the LA Lakers /Clippers and much more.
Aside from weekend trips, I would recommend a road trip to San Francisco via Highway 1 to anyone. I did it at the end of the semester and discussed the following cities with my roommate and a guest from Germany:
- San Diego ► New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. + Grand Canyon trip
- Las Vegas ► Los Angeles
- Los Angeles ► San Francisco via Highway 1 visiting famous cities/spots such as Malibu, Santa Barbara, Big Sure, Santa Cruz, Monterey etc
- San Francisco ► 6h flight Miami Beach
- Miami Beach ► 2 hour flight New York City
- New York City ► Frankfurt Airport
Before leaving San Diego, we had rented all the accommodation and cars, because it is ALWAYS true in America: the sooner the cheaper! We paid about $15 per head for the night on the Las Vegas Strip at the Flamingo Hotel. For the other cities we rented very nice apartments through AirBnb. We spent a total of 4-5 days in each city, which is why the money from the partial scholarship for the trip was a great help to cover accommodation costs.
Since the whole trip had to be done with a lot of luggage, we had to rent the largest car at the cheapest price. With a bit of luck and complaints, we got the biggest car at the cheapest price, which is why the ride was just very comfortable, but at the same time it was actually a lot more fun.
In Las Vegas you really only meet people who are there to have fun. Accordingly, all people are relaxed and in a good mood and the funniest events that one can experience happen. Most try their luck to make quick money in the most famous casinos in the world. It’s a city that takes hours of driving through the desert to reach. But as soon as you arrive, you are amazed by all the lights and architecture. Each hotel has its own speciality. The two most famous and most beautiful hotels, which you may know from Hollywood films, are the “Bellagio” and the “Caesar’s Palace”. There are numerous modern hotels all along the Strip, which always have a casino and often several clubs. You should take a look at each individual hotel, because each hotel has something special. Apart from that, it is a city where there are different entertainments every day. If you want to shoot at the shooting range, see guns on Wal Mart shelves, or just have fun in general, Las Vegas is a must.
Los Angeles is San Diego in big. It’s the city where most celebrities live and work. This city definitely has the most to offer in California. There is always something going on in this city, in my opinion a bit too much. The friendly people from San Diego are missing here. The traffic is unbearable. However, the beach in Santa Monica or Venice Beach is all the more beautiful. If you are looking for a lot of glamor and high society, you only need to spend a few minutes in Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive. Royal Rolls Royces, large jeeps with chauffeurs, the most famous designer shops and of course mega villas as far as the eye can see. Anyone in Los Angeles should definitely not miss an NBA game. If you get the chance, visit Universal Studio, but plan a whole day for it. In Hollywood, you can go to Sunset Boulevard if you want to go out at night. Otherwise, the most beautiful place in Los Angeles is definitely in Santa Monica. A mega large beach with a beautiful pier and many different interesting people. It is also very difficult to be bored in Los Angeles as it is very lively and there is always something to do.
As I said, I would recommend the drive along the coast towards San Francisco to everyone. The way on Highway 1 takes about 5 hours longer, but in my opinion it is worth every second. On the one hand you drive through several smaller towns and villages that are both well-known and have something to offer. On the other hand, you can really enjoy the most beautiful natural views of the Pacific with the cliffs. It is a good idea to complete the journey in two days and spend the night somewhere in the middle of the route, as you can enjoy the route and the different cities during the day. The most important stops in my opinion are in Malibu, Santa Barbara and the Big Sure. But during the journey you stop every 50-100km anyway to enjoy the indescribably beautiful view of nature.
San Francisco is also a very beautiful city that really offers the best views ever, as the city always goes up and down very STEEP. If you’re a bit homesick, you simply have to go to the Financial District and experience the more European atmosphere. Must-see places in San Francisco include the Twin Peaks, the Golden Gate Bridge, Market Street in the Financial District, the California Street Cable Car ride, Pier 39, Alcatraz Island and Lombard Street. It really is a city to be fully enjoyed in 4-5 days.
Celebrities I’ve seen in California and Nevada : Johnny Depp, Sandra Bullock, Vin Diesel, The Big Bang Theory actor, Jason Derulo, Ludacris, The Weekend, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown.
There really isn’t much to say about Miami. Unlike the West Coast, Miami Beach’s beach is much cleaner and brighter. The weather is consistently warm and hot. The perfect beach vacation is definitely in Miami Beach. Similar to Beverly Hills, you can also see expensive cars and mega mansions here, which, however, have a yacht parked in front of the front door. If you want to go out in the evening, you only have to cross Ocean Drive once and the evening is secured.
We spent our last days in the most famous city in the world: New York City. Here we were mostly in Manhattan. Tall buildings, tourists from all over the world and people in suits as far as the eye can see. A city for itself. A city that really doesn’t rest for a second. If you stop on the street (pedestrian walkway), you will definitely be bumped into or stared at because there are no breaks in this city. Those who need a break can go to Central Park and enjoy nature surrounded by numerous tall buildings. We were lucky enough to see the city both before and after Snowstorm Jonas.
Closing word / conclusion
Regarding the question of how I view my semester abroad after the past six months? It’s probably the best experience I’ve had in my life. I can really only motivate and encourage every single one to do a semester abroad. Better yet, have that experience at San Diego State. Currently I am like a virus that infects its surroundings with the Cali-Life. It really is an indescribably beautiful city with a lot of nice people. Not all city dwellers are like San Diego. Here it is simply nice, friendly and open to be. You hold the door open for someone who is maybe 30m further away. If you make eye contact while walking past, you are happy to greet each other, even though you do not know each other. If you’re in the elevator with another person, ask how your day was. People like to compliment each other on their clothes or their hair. Lots of little things that make people smile. There is always something to do in this city. The weather is always good. If you’re bored in this city, it’s definitely your own fault.
The experience I have gained while starting my own business or living independently with people from all over the world is priceless. It sounds pretty mainstream, but you really learn for life. Starting a household and managing it successfully, managing the budget at the same time, is an experience that is not easily given in the parental home. The development of my English skills is also clearly noticeable. A certain feeling for language develops in a very short time, which would be more difficult to achieve in a language course.
Through the project work, in which I got an (A), I had the opportunity to get an insight into the professional world of an engineer in the USA, which was also really an excellent experience for me. The many trips in the USA were also a unique experience. So I can only encourage everyone to do as much as possible abroad. Because it really is a wonderful time and what remains are the great experiences and memories. It’s no longer a secret that San Diego and actually all of California are quite expensive. Is it worth spending that much money for six months? It is 100% worth it. And I’m sure most who’ve been to SDSU would say the same. Money should be used to enjoy life to the full and not to stash it away. So I really don’t regret a single cent I spent in the US. On the contrary, I’m motivated and determined in the Master’s to do another semester abroad and put my money aside exclusively for this. The only thing that saddens me about it is knowing that I’ve already been to the most beautiful place and will always compare my next time abroad to my time in San Diego.