University: San Jose State University
City: San Jose
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: engineering
Study type: semester abroad
You probably have the same problem as I did a year ago. Where do I do my semester abroad…? Since solar energy is part of my studies, I always wanted to go somewhere where the sun shines. And you know: “it never rains in southern california…”
But even there there are a lot of universities. If you count on BaföG (and you have to count a lot for a semester abroad…) then all the universities with trimesters are eliminated. Which makes it all a bit more manageable. Next you should look at the course catalogs and look for suitable (if you want or have to have them recognized…) or chilled (if the semester abroad is just a nice excuse for professors etc. at home…) courses. And of course it would also be helpful to think about the area. That’s kind of how I did it and ended up in San Jose. Was very cool. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about University of Canterbury.
But so far: It wasn’t the city’s fault. It’s rather boring. The location is even better for that. San Francisco, the hottest city in Cali, is just around the corner. And above all Santa Cruz with its somewhat alternative scene and perhaps the best surf breaks on the west coast (but you can’t do anything without a neoprene suit, that’s the Pacific and not the Caribbean…) is more or less the more distant beach from San Jose. Then there is Yosemite National Park with its legendary climbing rocks and Lake Tahoe for a weekend trip. And if you have a little stress and want to get to know gang culture, you can make a detour to Oakland;) So you can see everything there in and around San Jose…
The university campus is very well maintained. Pretty much the nicest in San Jose. Between courses you can relax by the pool. Or go to their own Burger King (if American culture is right…). And to help digest that, there’s also a gym on campus.
Assessing the courses yourself is subjective, but I’ve actually only heard and experienced positive things about the professors. Most are friendly, helpful and motivated. Although you can understand that as a motivating factor so that you won’t get bored. Homework, tests, projects… think back to your school days. And calculate that in the “worst case” you will have to spend a few hundred dollars on specialist books. The library is well equipped, but you cannot borrow any specialist books there.
Unfortunately, it is not that easy to get the desired courses. The “real” students have priority and you have to run from one professor to the next and ask politely. But most of the time it works anyway. For example, I got pretty much everything I wanted. As one of the few non-business graduates, I have the most courses (4 total) in the Mechanical Engineering Department, which always does pretty well on rankings in the States. Is certainly also in the adjacent Silicon Valley.
Which has a less beneficial effect on the room rates. In general, it’s cooler to live on campus and it’s easy to get to know other students, but it’s cheaper if you find something off-campus like I did (e.g. via Craigslist.org). But preferably not too far away because after 10 o’clock in the evening you already have difficulties to get a bus. But until 10 a.m. the public transport network is certainly very good by American standards and I think you can get by without your own car. My insider tip is: get a room in Santa Cruz. A bus commutes the route relatively frequently and you probably only have lessons 3 to 4 times a week anyway. Then you can surf every day and hang out in the much smaller but much livelier Santa Cruz.
If you plan to earn a few more dollars during the semester, you can do that on campus too. Make an effort as early as possible, as the jobs are assigned at the beginning (or even before) of the semester.
In conclusion, I have to say that it was totally worth it and that I brought back a lot of exciting experiences from California (and a few pounds from fast food…).
If you decide to go to SJSU (which of course I hope as an alumni), I want to give you one last tip: You will then be a so-called SAL student (Studies in American Language). They are very nice and will help you with questions, choice of course… further. But if you don’t get enough Toefl points, they’ll stuff you into English courses with lots of even nicer Chinese… So don’t mess up the Toefl test;-)