San Diego State University Review (5)

San Diego State University Review (5)

North America


I made the decision to spend a semester abroad at the beginning of my studies.
Since I have been receiving a full scholarship from the Hans Böckler Foundation since the first semester, I clarified the appropriate funding for a semester abroad with my supervisor about a year beforehand and was accepted to cover the tuition fees and a corresponding travel allowance.

Due to the fact that the semesters abroad have different start and end times than in Germany, it was relatively difficult to find a suitable English-speaking country. Although there is no partner university for my course in the USA, the decision was made in favor of the San Diego State University (SDSU) in California, USA, which would not have been possible to attend without appropriate financial support. Visit to get information about best cities to study in Sweden.

I became aware of the organization MicroEDU ( through a friend who had already completed a stay abroad in the USA. This organization regulates all correspondence with the university and is at your side with advice and action. Application forms for SDSU can be obtained from Home / Study Programs / San Diego State University – Free Semester Abroad Brochures and will be sent to the MicroEDU officer named in the documents.

The documents include:

  • Application form (available online)
  • Financial confirmation of $ 10,980 (must be obtained in good time, otherwise you should borrow the money in advance from relatives or acquaintances if possible)
  • Proof of English (DAAD test is sufficient and is offered free of charge at universities)
  • Copy of your passport (apply about two months before applying)
  • Contact form (available online)

After a corresponding review, the documents are forwarded to the foreign university. I sent the documents to MicroEDU for the fall semester at the beginning of January 2012 in order to have enough buffer. As a rule, all applications are accepted, although there is still a certain residual uncertainty.

I received the acceptance about four weeks after sending it to MicroEDU in the mail. With the approval, you will also receive a checklist that shows the further procedure in a structured manner. Important points on the checklist include booking your outward and return flights in good time, applying for a visa and looking for an apartment.

With the F1 visa (student visa) you are entitled to stay in the USA up to 30 days before the start of the semester and up to 60 days after the end of the semester. The outward and return flight can therefore be chosen relatively freely and, if necessary, used for a road trip or the like.

I booked the trip through Statravel, where I got a student discount after the ISIC (international student ID) was issued. The outbound flight was on August 13, 2012 from Frankfurt via Seattle to San Diego. I booked the return flight on February 10, 2012 from New York via Reykjavik to Frankfurt. At the time, I deliberately chose the late return flight, as it was clear from the start that my friend and I wanted to use the last two months after the end of the semester for a road trip through the USA.

We extended the stopover in Reykjavik over three days, since at that time there was the possibility to see the northern lights.

When I arrived in San Diego, I stayed at the Lucky D’s Hostel in downtown for a week. During this time I was mostly on foot and by bus. Then I was able to move into my student apartment in 5025.


It was very important to me from the start to live close to the university. The experience with public transport in the first week had shown me that life on the beach is associated with a lot of travel time.

The 5025 ( offers student apartments of various sizes near the SDSU, a pool, a fitness room and a shuttle service to the university. The minibuses run every 15 minutes in the mornings and afternoons and every half an hour in the evening. The exact plan and the corresponding changes could be found in the leasing office.
In the pictures on the homepage, the apartments looked very attractive and relatively inexpensive compared to other housing options. Since the rooms were described as “furnished” on the homepage, I assumed that, in addition to the actual furniture, pillows, blankets, etc. were also available. Unfortunately, after my arrival, I was taught better and so I first took the trolley to the IKEA. There I had to equip myself with the most important things like bed linen, cutlery and much more. I shared pots and the like with my five roommates, with whom I shared the common rooms such as the kitchen and living room. Unfortunately, four of the five people were German and only one was American. Nevertheless, I tried as best I could to speak English and also to watch films etc. in English.

In general, the San Diego State is very popular with Germans as well as Scandinavians. Every semester there are around 600 Germans for a semester abroad at the university. Many of the students also live in 5025. It was always very important to me not to come into contact with Germans too much so as not to get used to speaking German.

San Diego State University (SDSU)

San Diego State University was founded in 1897 and offers bachelor’s degrees in 84 and master’s degrees in 76 fields. In this way, a wide range of courses for a semester abroad is offered.
When applying, you have to decide whether you only want to take “General” or “Business” courses. If you do not want to attend business courses, you should think twice because, in addition to subjects such as business administration and controlling, courses in management also fall under the term “business”. If you don’t cross the box with “Business”, you shouldn’t complain in retrospect if you are denied a large number of courses. For this reason, I would recommend every student, including those in purely technical courses, to check the box next to Business in order to keep options open.

At the beginning of the semester, the ALI (American Language Institute) offers two orientation events. Depending on whether you have only decided on “General” courses or also on “Business” courses, you can enter yourself into a corresponding list online. The links to the list are sent by email from the ALI. In general, at the beginning of the semester you get a lot of emails through the ALI, which is certainly well-intentioned, but still leads to confusion. Checking your mailbox regularly is essential, especially at the beginning of the semester.

As a Product Engineering (industrial engineering) student, I have signed up for both business and general courses. As a result, all courses were open to me, at least in theory.
At the SDSU, the occupancy period for Americans begins before the occupancy period for foreign students. This means that American students can choose their courses early on. The foreign students are only allowed to choose their courses afterwards. Courses that are already fully booked can no longer be attended.

For foreign students, the choice of courses in the USA is based on a different scheme – the “crashing” course. This meant that I had to attend the lecture and ask the lecturer to sign a form. Without the signature of the lecturer and, depending on the subject, also the signature of the faculty, it is not possible to choose a course.

For people who had ticked “Business” courses at the time and also wanted to take predominantly or exclusively business courses, there was a special agreement that no courses could be crashed. At that time, we had to log into an online portal and tick all potential desired courses. Then our wishes should be compared with the places still available in the courses and filled with foreign students accordingly. We foreign students were not allowed to attend the courses, ask for signatures or write emails to the respective lecturers. We only received the information that the students would be informed by email about their participation in the courses by the lecturers. For this reason I waited about two weeks for feedback – but without success. Not only me,

Shortly before the occupancy period expired, it finally became apparent that the system had several deficits when it was entered in the online portal and that no assignment could therefore be made.

People who illegally crashed business courses had no problems getting their courses. Those who followed the rules ended up having to take what was left, even if it didn’t match what they originally wanted.

For me as an industrial engineer, this was not too tragic and my course assignment was as follows:

  • ENV E 0320 Design Solutions for Environmental Problems (3 Units)
  • CS 0107 Introduction into Computer Programming (3 Units)
  • ECON 0101 Principles of Economics (3 units)
  • MGT 0350 Management & Organizational Behavior (3 units)

The “Management & Organizational Behavior” course was an ALI course. This means that the course was opened especially for foreign students and that it was mainly Germans and Scandinavians. ALI courses like these could be taken online before arriving at the SDSU. In general, I advise against such courses, as the large number of Germans tend to neglect the English language.


The courses I chose were in very different faculties and had different levels of effort.

The subject “Design Solutions for Environmental Problems” contained a lot of content that is very similar to the subject geography in Germany. Various environmental aspects such as recycling, landfills, renewable energies, the water cycle, the use of pesticides etc. were discussed. There were a total of three exams, two of which corresponded to the Miterms and the last test to the final. The tests required free writing, which is why I invested a lot of time in learning and following up the course. The lecture was held with Power Point, the documents were only made available with a very delay, which is why taking notes was essential.

The course “Introduction into Computer Programming” was very easy for me because I had already taken a similar course in Germany and therefore only certain aspects were new to me. In this course, not only points for the exams but also attendance points were distributed, which ultimately improved the grade. As in the course above, there were three exams, two of which were midterms and one was the final exam. The midterms were multiple choice questions that were asked by the lecturer and presented no difficulty. In contrast to the midterms, the final exam was quite demanding, as this test was created by the faculty. Additional points could be achieved by answering general questions.

The Principles of Economics course was very costly because I had to buy both a book and an access code (around $ 130 total). The lecture was 50 minutes three times a week. After each lecture, a so-called quiz had to be carried out in an online portal, for which the access code was required. The quizzes could not be answered by simply being present in the course, but required looking up in the corresponding chapter of the book that was purchased in advance.

There were three midterms and one final exam in this course. Those who took part in all three midterms and were satisfied with their grade did not have to appear for the final exam. The course was on a simple level, which was partly due to the fact that the lecturer wrote down everything that was said and saved the student a lot of work.

As already mentioned, I also attended the “Management & Organizational Behavior” course, which I had booked in advance as an ALI course. According to this, only foreign students attended the course and language development largely fell by the wayside. Attendance was checked towards the end of the lecture and counted in the grading. In general, I advise against attending this event, as in my opinion the lecturer only read from the transparencies and you could have worked out the documents yourself. Many students bought the book recommended by the lecturer at the beginning of the lecture. This served as a template for the lecture and contained additional knowledge that could be helpful for the exam. There were two exams in this course, the midterm and the final exam, whereby both exams were multiple choice, but were weighted differently for the overall grade. In addition to the exams, a “Management & Organzational Behavior” topic had to be worked on in group work. Here I recommend to follow the instructions of the lecturer exactly in order to avoid unnecessary stress and discussions.

In summary, it can be said that the courses are offered by different lecturers and that each lecturer has different methods and, in some cases, different levels of difficulty. My statements therefore only apply to the courses and lecturers I have attended.


As an ALI student you have the opportunity to visit the Recreation Center and the Aquaplex at the university free of charge. It is a fitness center with a climbing wall and a swimming pool with various pools about 500 meters away.

During the semester I tried to visit the Recreation Center as often as possible. The devices are in good condition and are regularly serviced. At the beginning of the semester, I also visited the Aquaplex relatively often, although this was also often used for pool parties, etc.

In “Introduction into Economics” I met a freshman (student in the first semester) who offered me to accompany her to the Entrepreneurship Society. This is
an organization of the university that deals particularly with the entry into self-employment. The group met every Wednesday, during which the agenda was discussed and then there was the opportunity for further discussions with individual group members.

Unfortunately, as a foreign student you do not always have the opportunity to get a taste of every club or organization, as some clubs are not allowed for ALI students from the outset.
There were no restrictions on admission to the Entrepeneurship Society and so I decided to become a member of the organization, because on the one hand I was very interested in the topic and on the other hand saw a special opportunity to get in touch with Americans.

In general, it is very difficult as a newcomer to have conversations with Americans beyond small talk. The Entrepreneurship Society gave me a new opportunity to get to know Americans and their mentality better. I can only warmly recommend joining a group like this.


  • A semester abroad requires long-term planning – take care of organizational matters such as the application requirements in good time
  • Find out about the different semester times. Abroad there are also universities with trimesters instead of semesters, which is why the start of semesters can differ from the Germans
  • Since tuition fees can be very high, especially in the USA, it is advisable to find financing options in good time
  • The language requirements can be different at each university. Sometimes a DAAD language certificate is enough instead of the TOEFL test
  • Even if it may not be easy at first and there are also differences in mentality – try moving in with Americans to improve your English skills
  • Find out about the relevant mobile phone providers – Telekom and AT&T are the most common providers, although network coverage and prices can vary greatly. I chose AT&T at the time and had to pay $ 25 a month. The $ 25 included:
  • 250 free minutes
  • SMS flat rate (also to Germany)
  • No internet (can be booked depending on the data volume. During the semester I used the wifi in the apartment and at the university. For the road trip I booked a data package of 1GB for an additional $ 25 dollars)
  • Take care of a credit card – Many Germans opted for a credit card at the DKB, which offers a refund of the withdrawal fees, or a local account such as with Bank of America
  • Pay attention to the German customs regulations when re-entering the country

Personal conclusion

Since I am studying at a university of applied sciences in Germany and have made quite some progress with my studies, I can probably only credit the courses I have taken as additional subjects. In the sixth semester in particular, there is a high proportion of practical work in my course that the courses at the university could not offer me. Despite this additional semester, I don’t regret the decision to go abroad. Studying abroad offers the unique opportunity to take a long break from everyday life and explore the country and its culture.
I particularly recommend using the remaining time until the visa expires with travel and exploration, because here you get to know the country from a completely different side. In addition to motels, my friend and I opted for accommodation via, a portal where Americans offer vacant guest rooms in their homes for rent. This portal has given us the opportunity to stay overnight at a reasonable price as well as to get to know Americans from different countries.

San Diego State University Review (5)