I wanted to do something very special before completing my studies or entering professional life. Something that is fun, but at the same time educational and experience-rich. An experience of a lifetime, so to speak.
After an intensive search, I finally came to the decision to do a semester abroad, which was one of the best decisions of my life.
Since I was convinced of my decision, I started to find a country and then the right university. But this is easy if you know what you really want. My goals were to continue my education in my field of study, to improve my English a lot, to gain life experience (and it had to be in a country where the sun is shining).;-)
Then came the awkward paperwork part. You should plan at least six months for the application process. Thanks to MicroEDU, I managed it in about three months… with this I would like to give the “late bloomers” hope that it can go faster if you are late. Nevertheless: URGENTLY plan at least six months! Because, for example, the Toefl test, the F1 visa, the Auslandsbafög etc. take an incredible amount of time. The application to the university abroad is handled by MicroEDU. You can also get all important information and answers immediately from MicroEDU. At this point: THANK YOU VERY MUCH to Aline and the MicroEDU Team. Visit iamaccepted.com to get information about Germany higher education.
Now the day of departure had come to adventure. After a long flight, I was finally in CALIFORNIA. It was so incredibly exciting. I spent the first week in a motel because I wanted to look for a room on site, which I recommend to you. As far as I know, a SAL student only pays around $ 25 / night in the Ramada Limited motel. It is very close to the SJSU. You better find out at the SAL office.
On the first day I reported to the SAL office (check-in). Then I looked at the campus with wide eyes. It looked like a beautiful city within the city with everything that goes with it. In the next few days I was busy looking for a room and sightseeing.
In the second week, the SAL office had planned an orientation week. We were informed about everything important. There were seminars, excursions, university and city tours and much more. I thought it was really great. A tip: Take the SAL-office’s recommendations seriously, because they speak from experience. The SAL office is just as helpful and friendly as MicroEDU.
After about five days I found a room in a shared apartment at 278 10th Street. The room was dirty and small (relatively clean by American standards), but right on campus. My roommate was a nice African American. Craigslist.com has lots of offers. Even on foot around the campus, rooms are usually available that cost half as much as one in the campus village. It is best to find a room near the campus, as this is where student life takes place. There are a lot of things you can do on campus and be part of American society with ease. Try to be laid back and enterprising or it will be hard to make American friends. You get to know people e.g. in the fitness center, coffee night in the I-house, during many different activities on campus, in and around Campus Village and in many other places. You can talk to anyone you see because it’s common in America. These are some of the reasons why it is good to live near campus.
The bus connections are not bad either. However, most buses only run until 8 or 10 p.m. It is fairly easy to get to nearby cities such as San Francisco or Santa Cruz. Most fall in love with San Francisco as it is a beautiful and exciting city. Santa Cruz is a surfer’s paradise. Shopping markets and malls can be reached in under 30 minutes. Obtaining a car is therefore pointless and, above all, expensive.
By the way: You can buy a T-mobile card in the Westfield Mall (bus 23 in the direction of De Anza College), which you can top up with credit. I was quite happy with it. But there are also cheaper and possibly better options, which are described in the other experience reports.
I extended my studies by one semester on site, because in my opinion one semester (approx. 5 months) is far too short for real experience and significantly better knowledge of English. I have not regretted this decision, because in the second semester I really had time to realize my goals.
Studying is reminiscent of school days in Germany. Not because it would be easier, but because one is “forced” to do homework and to be physically and mentally present at the lectures, ie homework and class-group work are graded. There are exams throughout the semester. The so-called midterms and finals. I spent most of the time studying (specialization: chemical engineering) because the effort involved in homework, classgroup work, midterms, finals and some other subject-related activities was huge. The business students had a little less to do. The effort involved differs greatly between the various courses of study.
In the US, group work is very important. In almost every subject you work in a group, which is very advantageous for a foreign student. That’s how I made new friends. I have often studied with those classmates in the King Library.
In addition to the university courses, you also have the choice to attend some interesting SAL (Studies in American Language) English courses.
Everyone should know for themselves which courses to choose, whether just university or some SAL courses. You definitely learn a lot in both. Of the SAL courses, I recommend four-hour courses such as “Grammer” or “Critical Thinking”, but I advise against some two-hour courses such as “Toefl-writing” and the like.
The friendships with the Americans are mostly superficial. You can’t really do much with the Americans, as most of the students at SJSU live off campus, and that’s what they work for after lectures. But if you try hard, you can also make good friends. Maintain best contact with everyone. Many Germans try desperately to avoid the German students. But you can usually only go on excursions with German or foreign students. You will also get to know more Americans through the foreign students.
I had at least two very good American friends who helped me all year round. But also many others who have invited me over and over again for Halloween, birthdays and many other great events.
By the way: You don’t have to worry about excursion destinations at all, because there is so much to see that you don’t even know where to go first. Popular destinations are: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe or universities such as Stanford University, Berkeley University, San Francisco University, and much, much more.
In summary, I can say that studying abroad was really worth it. I was able to achieve all of my goals. My English is significantly better, and my specialist knowledge has been greatly expanded. Now I not only know the Americans, but also the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Pakistanis, Mexicans and many more, because California is extremely multicultural. Most of all, it’s nice that I’ve made some American friends for life that I’m still in touch with.
I wish you all good luck at San Jose State University.