University: San Jose State University
City: San Jose
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Business Administration, English / American Studies
Study type: semester abroad
I spent the fall semester of 2009 at San José State University and would choose this university again at any time. A semester abroad is mandatory in my course, but even if that hadn’t been the case, I would definitely have done one. Once the semester abroad had started, it was a super nice time, but of course some preparations had to be made beforehand, some of which were very time-consuming, so a few months should be planned for this. Especially the visit to the embassy and the whole application for a visa can be stressful. With the information and papers that you get from the university and from MicroEdu, nothing can actually go wrong. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about Universidad De Belgrano University of Belgrano.
I also took care of the accommodation beforehand, because it was important to me to start “settling in” immediately after arrival and didn’t want to have the stress of looking for an apartment in front of me. I will go into more detail on the subject of accommodation later.
University and SAL
After arriving in the USA you have to check in at the SAL office – a simple and short process, in which you already get initial information about the courses and the orientation week. The orientation week offered by SAL was very informative and really helpful, and it was also a good way of making initial contacts. The SAL staff has always been very friendly and helpful and has tried very hard even with difficult issues.
Choosing the course in the first week was a bit tiring, because as a SAL student you can’t register online in advance and you simply have to go to all the courses that come into question to get confirmation from the professor that you can take the course. This wasn’t easy, sometimes I was sent to the chairperson of the department to get permission, but that always worked. Basically, it is not easy to get into the courses, especially with the current financial situation at California State Universities, but the professors are very understanding and try hard.
Everyday university life was different than what I am used to from my home university in Giessen. In Gießen I had many courses that only took place once a week and only one exam per course at the end of the semester. In San José I had four courses – one English and three business courses, each of which took place twice a week. During the semester there were several midterms, homework and presentations and at the end a final exam phase. I personally liked this system much more. In addition, there were a few workshops organized by the SAL Office, of which at least two had to be attended. But these workshops were very interesting and useful, for example, it was about the right research, good presentations or combating exam anxiety.
The campus is really very nice, with palm trees, green areas, a pool and the event center where concerts take place, for example. There is also the fitness center with a very wide range of sports, the health center with attached pharmacy, and the Spartan Bookstore, where you can not only buy books for the university, but also electronic devices, stationery, clothes, sweets, toiletries…
I’ve stayed at International House and can really recommend it to anyone who wants to meet as many people as possible. The advantage of the International House compared to the rooms in the Campus Village is that you not only have your own room (usually two-bed room), a kitchen and a living area, but a large living room, a TV room, a dining room, a fully equipped kitchen, a computer room, a large room in the basement used for parties, but where you can also play billiards, table tennis, etc. There is of course also a laundry room with washing machines and dryers. There’s a lot going on at the I-House. There are many trips and parties, as well as events such as the Pancake Breakfast, the International Quiz or the Formal Dinner, which take place every semester. In addition, every Tuesday is Coffee Night, to which students who do not live in the I-House are also invited, and “Regional Dinners” are occasionally held, evenings with typical local food. In the fall semester of 2009 there were 72 residents from over 35 different countries and it was a really great experience. I also found most of my friends there and during the Orientation Week, since it was rather difficult to make contact on the courses. The atmosphere in the house was always very informal, and I don’t think my semester would have been as good if I hadn’t lived there. Once when I got sick, one of the employees of the I-House let me live with them for a few days and took good care of me – that’s how I was able to experience the well-known hospitality of the Americans.
If you live in the International House, you have to book a meal plan, a kind of “meal flat rate”. You can decide whether you want food five or seven days a week, pay the corresponding price and then eat as much as you want. Breakfast and dinner are served at I-House at set times, but otherwise you can eat until midnight at the Dining Commons on campus.
Those who attach great importance to making non-German-speaking contacts and learning a lot about foreign cultures are in good hands at the International House. However, the fact that the rooms have to be shared is not for everyone – I shared my room with an American woman, which worked out great, but you actually have much less privacy.
Free time and life in San José
San José is not a bustling metropolis, but it is a pretty, lively city. There are no shopping streets, as you are used to from Germany, you have to go to the malls to go shopping. I particularly recommend the Valley Fair Mall, which can also be easily reached by bus from downtown. If there’s one thing to do in downtown San Jose, it’s definitely eating. There are many different restaurants, whereby I especially recommend the “Flames” where you can really get EVERYTHING, from breakfast to burgers, pasta and steaks to cocktails and really great cakes. There are also a few bars where you can go for a good cocktail in the evening and the WET nightclub. Every Wednesday is Student Night at the cinema downtown, where you can watch the latest films at a reduced price. Christmas in the Park was also very nice – unlike Christmas markets in Germany, but very lovingly designed, with carousels, an ice rink under palm trees and artificial snow. For art lovers, the Art Museum is worth a visit and San Jose’s attraction, the “Winchester Mystery House” is best visited on Halloween with a Flashlight Tour.
There is no beach in San José, but you can get to Santa Cruz and Monterey very quickly. Other trips I’ve taken have been to San Diego, LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Huntington Beach (“Surf City”), Las Vegas and of course San Francisco, where I’ve been at a San Francisco baseball game on my second day Giants vs. LA Dodgers was — a “real American” experience, even if you (like me) don’t know anything about baseball.
All in all, my semester abroad was a great experience, during which I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. If you have the opportunity to go abroad for a semester, you should definitely use it!