University: San Diego State University
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Study type: semester abroad
The application process through MicroEdu was easy and convenient. You are only in contact with the nice staff at MicroEdu and are advised not to contact the actual university abroad. MicroEdu can answer all questions about the application, e.g. by email or telephone. You have to differentiate between the registration deadlines for the two programs “Business Courses” (earlier) and “General Courses” (later), otherwise there is hardly anything to consider, apart from perhaps planning enough time to collect all the documents (and e.g. do the TOEFL). My TOEFL was still valid at the time of registration, but no longer valid at the beginning of the course, and was still accepted. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about College of The Desert.
MicroEdu provides a helpful list to help you gather everything you need. It probably couldn’t be easier to apply, and since MicroEdu is free, I would always recommend it, especially due to the prompt telephone advice on a German number (and at German times of the day).
One difference between free movers (who pay the tuition fees themselves, and have applied via MicroEdu for example) and students in the home university exchange program is that the former have the introductory week a week earlier.
The application is more of a registration – if you meet the requirements (language level, etc.), you will be accepted.
You always have to pay something for each step: eg application fee (SDSU Application Fee $175), or if you order and get the transcript at the end (that costs $7). A financial buffer is necessary so that you can handle expenses that you would never have to pay in Germany. The visa also involves various fees that have to be paid individually.
Here is an overview ($ and € information mixed):
- International driver’s license: €15 (never wanted to see anyone)
- ADAC international health insurance LONG-TERM: €155.80
- ADAC personal liability insurance EXCLUSIVE: €55
- Flights with United Airlines in a package via kayak.de (Munich-Newark-Orlando-San Diego-Munich): €1418
- SDSU Application Fee $175
- SDSU Tuition $6530
- Books: $309 (borrowed used books from KB Books)
- Transcript: $7
- Visa costs: SEVIS fee (Student Exchange Visitor Information System; $200), Machine Readable Visa Fee (€120), photo with special dimensions for the visa, travel to the respective embassy in Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin.
- $709 returned), 11-31àApartment (2 shared rooms at 2990 Mission Blvd): €300 agency fee to Nevan agency, $750 security deposit (less carpet cleaning/repairs Aug: $525, Sep 1-Sept 31 December $750.
- PROMOS scholarship from the DAAD: €1600 (€400 per month, for 4 months)
- Car rented from Renty (8025 Clairemont Mesa Blvd): $1600 for 4 months, $860 insurance: total $2460 for 4 months
As a freemover you have to crash the courses, ie you have to show up for the first lesson and get a code from the lecturer if there are still places available. You then enter your courses and the access codes in a form and hand them in at ALI, and you get access to the event on the online learning portal Blackboard (BB). This course crash was exhausting for me beforehand, as I had to have a learning agreement signed at my home university, although I didn’t yet know which courses I could actually take. So I had to get a lot of potential courses pre-approved and then hope to get them. I ended up getting all the courses I wanted; However, my final choice of course was not certain until 3 weeks after the start of the semester, so I had already missed two hours in a course. The price crash is pretty nerve-wracking, but somehow it works out. You shouldn’t prepare yourself too much for a course, as there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get it. The lecturers cannot be persuaded either, since the premises only have a certain number of approved places (due to security/fire evacuation, etc.). I was lucky – not all people got the courses they wanted. as the premises only have a certain number of approved places (due to security/fire evacuation etc). I was lucky – not all people got the courses they wanted. as the premises only have a certain number of approved places (due to security/fire evacuation etc). I was lucky – not all people got the courses they wanted.
I have received the following courses:
- ISCOR 300 Global Systems (something like international relations): 1 midterm, 1 final, 6-page paper, 8 quizzes; 5 books, many texts available online
- GEOG 321 Geography of the US: 4 midterms, 2 atlas assignments, 3 days field trip; 1 book, 1 atlas
- LING 352 Language and Advertising: 4 midterms, 1 paper; 1 booklet
- JMS 460 Principles of Advertising: 1 take home exam (midterm), 1 final, approx. 8 homework, 1 final ad log project (paper); 1 book
In the General Courses Program I had three courses in which I was the only German and also the only exchange student. In my fourth course there were many Germans, then Swedes and other Scandinavians, all exchange students, and a handful of Americans. My friends in the Business Courses Program almost exclusively had Germans in their special sessions, or other exchange students, mostly Scandinavians. I didn’t have any special sessions in the General Courses Program – ie I had to crash all four courses. My friends in the Business Courses Program had two special sessions, which means they knew they would get them, but they weren’t in the course with Americans. All they had to do was crash an event or two. Econ courses (Economics) can also be taken in the General Courses Program. However, due to the course crashing, it was possible for me, for example, to take a course that I didn’t like and choose a different one. I was able to try out the course, so to speak. The enrollment and change period ends three weeks after the start of the semester and the courses you have taken up to that point are fixed. For me it was important to be well informed in advance about the courses offered and to discuss them with my lecturers at home and have them approved in the Learning Agreement. However, a course was not offered, so I had to look for another one and clarify it with my lecturer at my home university by email.
When the price crash is done, you are almost in the middle of it. I had 4 midterms in 2 courses (4 exams spread over the semester, each covering a quarter of the material, like in high school). In the other 2 courses I had a midterm and a final. I then had to submit an essay (of varying complexity) in 3 courses. In my geography course I had to do 2 atlas assignments and take part in a 3 day field trip. Especially for ISCOR 300 I had to read a lot, twice a week, and in the semester there were 8 unannounced quizzes at the beginning of the lesson, like an extemporal about assigned reading (not material from the last lesson, but the texts that you read should). The work during the semester was unusually time-consuming – always do your homework! You don’t sit passively in the lecture, it’s more like a school class, in which people should report or be addressed directly. My lecturers knew me by name and even if there were no grades for my work, participation was desired. The final grade is then made up of many individual grades from the midterms, assignments, essays, quizzes, etc. The lecturers were easy to talk to during office hours and responded to students’ questions in a much more personal and dedicated manner. They tried harder and were closer to their students than I know from lectures in Mannheim. Maybe also because my courses were seminar-like and not lectures. By the way, it was essential to get the books – I rented them used from KB Books. You can also rent them new or buy new/used.
In San Diego, the question is, car or no car. In my opinion: definitely a car. It’s easy to get around by public transport, but it just takes forever. It took me an hour to get from Mission Beach to the university, or 20 minutes by car. In my experience, most people who have given up a car have also done less: the inhibition threshold is greater once you have been on public transport for an hour. I had the impression that many then preferred to stay at home and thus got less out of the semester abroad. San Diego does not have more inhabitants than Munich, but it is very spread out and the different parts of the city are far apart. You can still bike back and forth between Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, but to La Jolla, to the university.
I then came up with the idea of renting or buying. I ended up renting a car from Renty with my roommate. The most common car rental for students in San Diego is Dirt Cheap Car Rental, who have deals for $400 a month (including insurance) – although this deal only allows you to drive within San Diego and no further than LA. We wanted to rent a car that we could drive anywhere to be flexible on weekend trips. However, in my experience, the cheapest option would have been to take the $400/month dirt cheap car and rent an extra car for a weekend trip. This money can then be divided up well, since there are usually four or five people on the road anyway. This is my tip for you if you are planning to rent a car. My roommates have had good experiences with their convertible, which they bought for the two of them. Part of that was because they were able to repair two of the damages themselves, and they didn’t sell it until mid-January when the new students were already in San Diego. They bought it for $3900 and sold it for $3000. Before Christmas they would have gotten $500 less for the car. Ideally, buying a car can be cheaper than renting it, but there’s also a double hassle of buying and selling, and when it comes to repairs, it can be expensive. When buying a car, you can have good and bad luck. If you don’t want to take any risks, I think renting should be, and if you want to get away with it cheaply, get a $400 car from Dirt Cheap and an extra rental car by the day for trips.
Now to my apartment: The agency Nevan arranged our flat share in Mission Beach for us, for which we paid €300 commission each. We were able to move in on August 11th and the apartment was equipped with absolutely everything imaginable. Except for bedding and towels we had everything you need. Grill, bikes, bodyboards, beach chairs, balcony, … In August we paid $525 each, in the months of September to December 31st $750 each month. There were two shared rooms, one of which was much smaller and had a bunk bed. Luckily I wasn’t in the room with the bunk bed – it was perfectly fine with my roommates and they never complained, but I was glad to have my regular bed. I was completely satisfied with the apartment. It saved me a lot of stress: no house hunting, since we had already organized the apartment from Germany, and there was no need to look for new tenants etc. It was fully furnished and I hardly had to bring or buy anything with me. I would highly recommend this beautiful apartment in a prime location – totally worth the €300 to Nevan in my opinion. Carpet cleaning fee and minor repairs at the end was about $45 per person. I would generally be prepared to share a room in San Diego. This is a quintessentially American experience, saves money and I really enjoyed it! Two people never get homesick.
Right at the start I bought a used fiberglass longboard (8’6”) and a used long wetsuit at Coconut Peet’s (4050 Voltaire St). The deal at Coconut Peet’s is that you get a 50% refund if you end up returning it undamaged. I bought a board that had already been broken in half and repaired. At the very end it broke again somewhere else and of course I hardly got anything back. So my advice is that you buy a slightly more expensive board that is in great shape for around $300. Then there is a better chance that you can either sell it privately for about 75% of the purchase price, or that I can get 50% at Coconut Peet’s. A brand new wetsuit is not necessary, but don’t buy one with holes, because they keep ripping open and your wetsuit ends up being worth much less or completely ruined. Also expect the fin to break off, the leash to tear off and your board to get minor damage at the tip. This is normal shrinkage. The best surfing spot is in Pacific Beach at Tourmaline Surfpark where you can park in a larger lot and all the locals are ready at 8am and have a thermos coffee before/after surfing. Exchange students tend to buy a cheap soft top board, but I would definitely recommend a fiberglass or proxy one. You have at least four months to use your board and then a decent material is also worth it.
You can take a surf course at the MBAC (Mission Bay Aquatic Center), either for 1 credit point (e.g. if you only have 11, you can still take a sports course for 1 credit) or for money. I paid for the surf course – and wasn’t satisfied. The surf instructors are all super nice and really chilled out, but unfortunately I didn’t really learn anything. In the beginning it is probably useful when the surf instructors push you into the waves, so you can easily get up quickly. But then they leave you alone pretty quickly and you have to see for yourself how you can cope. When I asked how exactly I should do it – how do I know which wave to catch, when to start paddling, etc. I got less and less helpful tips like “just go with the flow”, “you just gotta get used to it”. In addition, you are in the water with 50 people and have no space at all. Then, of course, you surf every week at the same time, ie sometimes there is a low tide or the waves are too high. If you’re doing the course for course credit, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But I shouldn’t have paid him; I brought my own board and wetsuit, the surf instructors didn’t really help me and looking at the wave forecast and going into tourmaline at high tide definitely did more. If you don’t have your own board or wetsuit and live in the college area, for example, and want to go surfing once a week, the surf course might help.
In Pacific Beach, Mondays are Sushi Monday (sushi 50% off; Mika and Kato Sushi, on Garnet Ave), Tuesdays are Taco Tuesday (cheap tacos and margaritas; e.g. Typhoon, Cabo Cantina, Tavern, on Garnet Ave, or Fat Fish, on Mission Blvd), $1 drinks on Wednesdays at Beachcomber in Mission Beach and $2 drinks on Thursdays on Thirsty Thursday. Nightlife in Pacific Beach is laid back and chilled, board shorts and flip flops are just as accepted as a dress code, as are dresses and heels, while going out downtown is much fancier and more expensive.
One more tip at the end: try to get a scholarship, eg the PROMOS scholarship from the DAAD. The application is not complex and the €1600 is of course worth it.
PS: Drive to San Diego!!! This semester I had the best time of my life! I love the city, love life in California and I’ve always loved going to college. Let’s go!!! In my opinion, San Diego is the best city for a semester abroad!