University: San Jose State University
City: San Jose
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
My stay at SJSU was supposed to start on August 13th, so I decided to fly to San Jose about 2 weeks beforehand to settle in and look for a place to live (see below for more on finding a place to live).
On 08/13 Finally, the introductory week for all SAL students (SAL = Studies in American Language) officially began with a relaxed lunch where all students came together. Already at this point it became clear that in addition to me and a handful of other Germans, primarily Asians were taking part in the program. The lunch, at which the employees of the SAL Office and some responsible persons were introduced, took place in an informal atmosphere. In the next few days, several events followed on the subject of “USA”, “Studying at SJSU in general” or “Visa and I-20”, which were always “quite nice” but sometimes had nothing new to offer. In any case, it was a good opportunity to make initial contacts with other students and you quickly had the feeling that you were in good hands. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about University of California Santa Barbara UCSB.
The support at the university was exemplary throughout. I was always helped in the SAL office (first point of contact for questions of any kind). However, you sometimes had to be careful who you got in touch with, ie if you had important questions about course selection etc. you really insisted on speaking to the Student Advisor instead of getting help from the SAL Office staff (sometimes contradictory information).
Although I didn’t have to attend any English courses due to my TOEFL result, but could choose freely from what the university offered (at least 12 credits), I still belonged to the SAL program in terms of status, which had a few minor disadvantages: That’s how you have to be eg pay for certain services which are free for regular students (eg gym or aquatic center). Likewise, as a SAL student it is not possible to enroll online for the courses (which is a significant disadvantage!). On the one hand, this is “fair” because local students are given preference and the chance to get into important courses is not taken away from them. On the other hand, for me this meant some uncertainty and a lot of “running” and “persuasion”.
This means that you should consider a number of alternatives in advance and accept that in the first week you may not be able to choose exactly the “desired subjects”. Especially in the business area, all courses with a focus on “Accounting” are very overcrowded. Unlike at German universities, American business students focus more on finance subjects. Despite everything, I managed to attend two courses, which were subsequently credited to me in Germany.
The level of the courses varies greatly depending on the professor. Overall, I would rate it lower than in Germany from my point of view – especially if you are already doing your main studies there. This is certainly related to the fact that you can only choose from undergraduate courses. The lessons themselves are more reminiscent of a teacher-student relationship than of a lecture as we know it from German universities (which of course also has advantages). Initial worries about not being able to follow the lesson quickly disappeared when I noticed that the professors were all very easy to understand. Overall, the workload is higher, but still enough time for other things.
With its 1 million inhabitants, San Jose is large, but also quite scattered in terms of area. The city does not have a real “downtown” as one would imagine for a city of its size. The nightlife and flair cannot be compared to San Francisco. However, San Jose is very conveniently located at 101, I-880, I-280, which makes (day) trips to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkley, Napa, Palo Alto or Santa Cruz possible.
All in all, the surrounding area has a LOT to offer and I strongly recommend getting a car, otherwise you will be “trapped” in San Jose, which would be a shame as you really miss a lot.
I didn’t live “on campus” but about 2 blocks away from the university. On the one hand you have more freedom and peace if you want, on the other hand living in the Campus Village is completely overpriced (800 USD for a tiny single room!!!). I now had the advantage that I was in San Jose with a friend, otherwise the only advantage I see in life “on campus” is that you get to know people relatively quickly.
The cost of living in the Bay Area is significantly higher than in Germany. This starts with rents and is particularly noticeable in the area of everyday groceries. It is also an advantage to have a car here, as it is then possible to drive to other/cheaper shops. Admittedly, the exchange rate between the euro and the US dollar was just under 1 to 1.50 during my stay, which compensated for the higher cost of living. In addition, many (non-everyday) things are simply much cheaper in the USA than here (especially clothing).
All in all, the semester at SJSU was a successful stay that I would do again at any time! In addition to the university, there was still enough time for leisure activities and to explore the area. My grades at the university were consistently good, although I didn’t spend every free minute at my desk or in the library (which, by the way, is very well stocked)! As I said: I see the purchase of a car as a “must” for San Jose, because despite the relatively good bus network, “just go shopping” without a car for an afternoon-filling activity and excursions to San Francisco or the sea can only be operated with a great deal of time.