University: San Diego State University
City: San Diego
Continent: North America
Field of study: mechanical engineering
Study type: semester abroad
Even before planning a semester abroad, you should be aware that a semester abroad, especially in the USA, is very expensive. The financial question should therefore be clarified in advance. The following financing options may be available:
- Baden-Württemberg scholarship
- PROMOS scholarship from the DAAD (awarded by the HS Offenburg)
- Fulbright grants for USA
- Auslands-Bafög (responsible office is based in Hamburg)
This information can also be found on the website of the International Office under the keyword studying abroad / financing.
Right from the start of my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to study abroad for a semester. In the fifth semester, I was finally able to make this dream come true. Since there was no partner university in the USA for the mechanical engineering faculty in 2012, I had to take care of the organization myself. Luckily, I was made aware of the MicroEdu organization at an information event on the subject of stays abroad organized by the International Office. On their homepage www.MicroEdu.com you will find a lot of additional information and testimonials about studying abroad. That’s where I came across San Diego State University. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about Deakin University.
The MicroEdu staff will help you to complete your application documents and will provide competent answers to any questions you may have about your stay abroad. They also forward the applications to the foreign universities and check all the documents for completeness beforehand. In order to increase my chances of getting a place, I applied to the USA about 8 months before the semester started. According to MicroEdu, the host university attaches less importance to the average grade than to meeting all application requirements. The free places are therefore allocated according to the “first come – first serve” procedure. About a month after my application I got the confirmation. Then you should take care of the following:
- Arrange a visa appointment with the American consulate
- book a flight
- looking for accommodation
- Take out health insurance for abroad
For the visa appointment you need the I-20 form, which you will receive with the confirmation from the host university. You should take care of the appointment at the consulate as soon as possible after the confirmation, as the appointments for the next six months are often fully booked. You should have all the necessary documents with you at the first appointment, as missing documents will lead to a second appointment. This can possibly delay entry into the USA and should therefore be avoided. Sometimes, when the visa is issued at the consulate, it is also ensured that you will return to Germany. You should have the respective faculty in which you are enrolled issue you with a certificate of the end of your studies. With this one can prove that you have to finish your studies in Germany and that’s why you have to come back. Another option is to book the return flight in advance and take these documents with you to the embassy appointment. I booked the flights through STA Travel (www.statravel.de) in Freiburg.
Since I wanted to be on the safe side, I already organized my accommodation in San Diego from Germany. First of all, however, you have to decide whether you want to live on the beach or near the university. I finally decided on accommodation close to the university. The reason for this is the otherwise very long journey times that you have to put up with to get from the beach to the university. Of course you can buy a car and drive to the university, but the public parking spaces there are extremely limited and a semester ticket for the parking garage is outrageously expensive. In the end I ended up in “Fifty Twenty-Five” (www.live5025.com), a kind of student dorm. In retrospect, however, I have to say that it would have been enough to look for the apartment/accommodation directly on site. In addition, you get some discounts right before the start of the semester, as they try to fill the student dormitories. I definitely advise against signing a lease for a year. The rental agreement should only apply to the period in which you actually need the apartment. Many then had the problem that they had to hand over their rental contract to someone else or find someone to take over the contract.
The condominium had a large pool, a small fitness center, and a computer room with a printer (caution: you have to bring your own sheets). As a big bonus I can mention the shuttle bus to the university. Except for weekends, it runs every 15 to 30 minutes. In addition, the shuttle always goes to Qualcomm Stadium for football games of the Aztecs, the football team of SDSU. If you still want to go to the university at the weekend, you can do so in about 15-20 minutes on foot.
Studium an der San Diego State University (SDSU)
Compared to German universities, the SDSU campus is huge. Over 30,000 students from all over the world study there on more than 1km². Scattered around the campus are football, baseball, basketball, and soccer fields, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and two food courts. International students can use the outdoor pool and fitness center free of charge. Since San Diego State offers many different bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a wide range of courses is offered for a semester abroad.
I took four bachelor courses (undergraduate studies) at SDSU, each with 3 credits:
- CS 0107 Introduction to Computer Programming
- ENGR 0280 Methods of Analysis
- ME 0304 Mechanics of Materials
- MATH 0242 Mathematical Programming
Unfortunately, foreign students have to crash the courses. This means that, unlike students who complete their entire bachelor’s or master’s degree at the respective university, the course selection cannot be completed online via the university’s intranet before the start of the semester. Instead, we had to attend the courses at the beginning of the semester and consult the relevant lecturer about participating in the course. If the lecturer agrees, he must sign a form for participation in the subject. Depending on the faculty, a second signature must be obtained from the faculty secretariat. For me in the Mechanical Engineering course, the crashing of the courses was not a problem. Almost all the courses I wanted to attend I got it right after the first or second lecture after a short consultation with the professor. However, since many international students mainly wanted to take “business classes”, these were rather overcrowded. At that time I heard from friends about extra courses in which only international students were registered. The language of instruction was of course English, but communication among the students was more in their mother tongue.
stay in the host country
My stay in the host country was very pleasant for me. In San Diego there is a pleasant climate between 20-25°C all year round and the people are very friendly and helpful. You immediately notice that everything is approached in a more relaxed manner there. Since San Diego is a big city and public transport is not that fast, I bought a car with a roommate. This made it much easier to get from A to B. In contrast to the bus or trolley, you only needed a quarter of the time to run your errands and was therefore more flexible. This also made shopping extremely easy. You can also use it to take nice weekend trips to Los Angeles or San Francisco. After the semester ended, we sold the car through Craigslist.com.
With the exception of rents, the cost of living in the USA is actually just as high as in Germany. Since San Diego is right on the border with Mexico, many Mexicans live there. Spanish is the second most common language spoken next to English.
- Plan enough time for everything organizational
- Note the application requirements, which can differ from university to university
- Find out about different semester times (trimester, quarter)
- Clarify in advance how much tuition fees you have to pay at the respective university
- Think about the financing options for your semester abroad
- Find out about the language requirements, e.g. a TOEFL test must be taken or a DAAD language certificate is sufficient
- Try moving in with Americans to improve your English and experience the American lifestyle
- In order to be able to use your cell phone to make calls and text messages in the USA, I recommend that you buy a prepaid card locally. I had one from AT&T and had to pay $25 a month for it. This gave me 250 free minutes and SMS flat rate (also to Germany). To access the Internet, I only used the Wifi in my apartment or at the SDSU.
- Get a credit card if you don’t already have one. This is the number one means of payment there. I opened an account with the DKB especially for my stay abroad. There you can get the fees refunded if you withdraw cash abroad.
- Observe the German customs regulations when re-entering Germany
My decision to do a semester abroad extended my studies by one semester. Since I am already advanced in my studies, I can only have the courses I have taken count as compulsory electives. However, I would decide to spend a semester abroad in the USA again at any time. I don’t want to miss the many great experiences I had there. In addition to improving my English skills and my professional knowledge, I got to know many nice people from different cultures. Since you only have to take a maximum of three or four courses, you also have enough time to get to know the area, go to the beaches and enjoy life.