University: University of California Riverside
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: mechanical engineering
Study type: semester abroad
If you are reading this text, you are probably toying with the idea of spending a semester abroad at UC Riverside. First things first: This is a very good idea, I can only recommend it! In the following I would like to share my experiences with you and possibly give you a tip or two that should make your decision and/or preparation easier. Visit iamaccepted.com to get information about California State University Monterey Bay study abroad program.
After I decided to go to the USA, I had to choose the right university. In my case, this was the most time-consuming part of my preparation, but that’s because I’m in my master’s degree and therefore I was looking for quite specific courses. You should plan for this depending on the progress of your studies, also that some American universities exclude the acceptance of master’s students in their program. The subsequent application, visa application, etc. are also quite time-consuming, but you will get this from MicroEdu a checklist that will take you by the hand and guide you through this process.
What you should also clarify before departure is your accommodation and the transfer from the airport to Riverside. I traveled alone and had the university pick-up service pick me up, which worked very well, but at $100 it’s not exactly cheap. If you are traveling alone, this is still the best option in my opinion, since the journey by public transport (if you don’t know yet: these are almost non-existent in the USA) takes 4 hours and believe me, that’s the last thing you want after such a long flight. If you are traveling as a group, I would definitely recommend renting a car or calling an Uber, which also usually costs $90-100 but you can split that price.
It should be said: Uber and Lyft (the same concept, just a different app) are amazing. Since – as I said – there are hardly any buses or trains, we used Uber all the time. These are significantly cheaper than taxis and usually there very quickly. Nobody uses regular taxis in the USA outside of big cities anymore.
As far as accommodation goes, I have no hesitation in recommending the Sterling Highlander. Living here was the real highlight of my stay. If you are only staying here, try to get a room early, as the short-term contracts are always gone relatively quickly.
The first few weeks
I arrived in Riverside two weeks before the start of my studies. The first night I slept in the Motel 6 on University Ave, as my apartment wasn’t ready until the next day. I can recommend the motel if your apartment is near the university, there is enough fast food and also a 7/11 nearby. However, also expect that there are relatively many homeless people in the area, which can be a bit disturbing at the beginning.
I lived with four Americans. Of course, this was ideal for the entire stay, since you came into direct contact with the locals and the boys were also very nice. On the other hand, of course, they already have a life there, etc., which meant that I explored the area on my own for the first two days. But, and that’s the great thing about living in Sterling: It’s incredibly easy to meet new people. Just sit by the pool and chat to people, the rest will follow. After a week we were a group of over 50 people (mostly internationals but also a lot of Americans) so there was something going on every day. In the first weeks of university we got to know other people from other dormitories who also spent most of their time at the Sterling because of our pool.
At the UCR you can choose between Extension and Main Campus courses. Extension courses are a kind of evening school, in which, apart from the exchange students, almost only working Americans take part.
Roughly speaking, if you want a lot of free time, take extension courses, if you want to learn something, attend the courses on the main campus. In my experience and the experience of everyone I have dealt with, the extension courses (which take place mainly in the evenings) are really not demanding. Of course, free time has something to offer, but I recommend (which is what I did) to take at least one course on the main campus. If the extension courses are more like a German school lesson, you get the full college experience on the main campus. I found the open discussions with the professors particularly pleasant. Midterms, homework, etc. keep you busy during the week, but the workload is manageable.
Another tip: Especially if you are interested in doing a thesis/PhD in the USA afterwards, it is worth investing a little more effort. Since the professors in the smaller courses know you personally, it is not uncommon for them to ask you after the lecture whether you are interested in a corresponding research project.
As far as life outside of university is concerned: Since Riverside is relatively central, day trips to LA or San Diego at the weekend are easy. It’s also not very far to the beach, Huntington Beach is about 45 minutes away by car. For nature lovers, the Joshua Tree National Park next door is recommended, if you like it a little wilder, it’s about 4 hours to Las Vegas.
Even if studying at the UCR is cheap by American standards: a semester abroad in the USA is expensive! However, if you are interested in the country and want to experience the American way of life, it is worth every penny. You will experience an unforgettable time and take a lot with you personally!
I can thoroughly recommend the UCR: The system at the university is sometimes complicated, but you will always find friendly help. I strongly advise booking a room at the Sterling Highlander early. If you don’t get one, I would go to one of the other dormitories near the university. Homestay students have told me that it was very difficult for them to participate in student social life.
If you are making the long journey to the USA, you should take the opportunity to travel for a few days before or after the semester. Especially on the west coast there are some incredibly beautiful national parks, all of which can be reached by car.
- Grand Canyon
- Lake Powell
- Bryce Canyon
- Zion Canyon
Las Vegas is also definitely worth a visit, but a weekend (one day Strip, one day Old Strip) is more than enough. If you’re planning on going to San Francisco, be sure to get tickets to Alcatraz as soon as possible! The tour to this prison island was by far my highlight in San Francisco.
I hope I was able to help you with my report to get a picture of a stay at the UCR. Enjoy your planning, and while it’s annoying, it’s bloody worth it!
Finally, I would like to thank MicroEdu for the fantastic and, above all, incredibly friendly support I received during the planning of my stay. Without you, this experience would never have happened to me!