University: University of California Riverside
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: logistics management
Study type: semester abroad
From March to June, I spent a semester abroad at the University of California at Riverside with three fellow students from my university. First of all, it has to be said that for a semester abroad in the USA, there are many, sometimes very complex, preparations to be made, which in most cases are also associated with fees of up to 150 euros. In order to be able to apply for the F1 student visa, for example, you have to fill out a large number of forms, obtain certificates and finally make an appointment at the embassy. The same applies roughly to the university, since you need a certificate from your bank about the solvency of you or your parents, for example. Visit iamaccepted.com to get information about California State University San Marcos study abroad program.
There are various student dormitories in the immediate vicinity of the university. We settled on the Sterling Highlander relatively quickly, which ultimately turned out to be the perfect solution. The rent is a bit more expensive than the other alternatives at $875/month, as you have to pay a surcharge of $120 for the short-term rent of 4 months. In addition, the security deposit is very high at $1500 and will be returned by check in the mail. (As of August 2016, this check has not yet been delivered to many). However, given the very good features, the Sterling is worth the increased cost. There’s a pool, several barbecue areas, a small fitness center, a computer room, and a small bar with free coffee. However, if you decide to stay at the Sterling, be aware that apart from a washing machine, kitchenette, and some furniture, the apartments are pretty much empty. As a group of 4 we were allocated a complete apartment with 4 rooms. Crockery, cutlery, pots etc. we had to buy everything ourselves, and a shower curtain for the private bathroom is not included in the price. If you want to live cheaper, private accommodation is definitely the way to goto recommend. However, almost all of the participants in our international program opted for Sterling, so that you quickly came into contact with a large number of international students (mainly German, French and Spanish). After the semester started, you could meet more or less every day at the pool or in the evening at one of the barbecue areas or even have parties in an apartment.
There is the possibility to choose courses at the main campus or at the Extension Center. If you want to get to know typical American university life, you should choose main campus courses. Extension courses offer more free time, as they usually start at 6: 00 p.m. and are not very demanding. These courses are made up of international students as well as American part-time students. Both types of courses are only selected on site, which makes the whole thing a bit confusing and difficult to plan. Internationals are treated favorably in the extension courses, so that in contrast to the main campus there are usually no difficulties with the choice. The extension courses can be viewed online in advance, which means that you can already put together your “optimal” timetable in Germany, which you then choose on the spot. We chose the following courses so that we only had to go to the university from Tuesday to Thursday:
- International Business Strategy (2 units)
- Marketing Principles and Practices (3 units)
- Lean management (4 units)
- Project Leadership (3 units)
- Human Resource Management (3 units, online course)
Differences due to the different units were not noticeable. Rather, as already mentioned, the level was very low. Some of the lecturers had very outdated or unsuitable learning methods and it turned out that communicative cooperation in the courses was very important to them. With many term papers or assignments, it seemed that the submission of a draft alone ensured 100%, regardless of its quality.
Public transportation is pretty much non-existent in the LA area. For this reason, I recommend everyone who has the opportunity to rent a car. Since there were four of us renting, we were able to reduce the costs accordingly and had a car available for the entire period. Other students have teamed up for individual road trips and rented a car. If you want to have a car all the time, you should go to Sixt at the LA airport. While the service here occasionally lacked, it’s still a little cheaper because Sixt has a very small surcharge for drivers under 25 years. We also got a free upgrade to a minivan, which turned out to be extremely convenient for road trips.
Riverside itself is rather unspectacular. The area around Sterling is also very homeless and Riverside doesn’t have much to offer in general. However, it is in a very good location for excursions and road trips lasting several days, which, however, require a car. The cities of LA and San Diego with their beaches and other sights can be reached in 1-2 hours. After 3-4 hours drive you are also in Las Vegas. You definitely have to have been there, because you won’t find this city a second time in the world and it left a lasting impression on me. San Francisco is a bit further away, but combines very well with road trips to the national parks nearby. Additionally, the return trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Highway No. 1 is a must-do in California. In addition to Death Valley and Sequoia National Park, the national parks mentioned also include the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. The latter, however, require a longer road trip.
The transition to American food will take time. Despite the Sterling’s built-in kitchen, most Americans ended up going to one of the many fast food restaurants nearby. Here you pay about 10 dollars for a menu, but it’s still cheaper than shopping. The car at least gave us the opportunity to go to ALDI nearby. There you can get everything you need for daily catering at a reasonably bearable price. Nevertheless, healthy food in particular was more expensive here than you are used to in Germany.
If you do a semester abroad in the USA, you have to be aware that an enormous amount of money is required for this. Before we even arrived in America, we had already spent around 8,000 euros on visas, deposits, university fees, rent, flights, etc. The high cost of living also causes higher costs during the stay compared to other countries. For us there were also costs for the car and fuel as well as accommodation for hotels on the road trips and more. Overall, depending on the dollar exchange rate and the intensity of activities and travel, you can expect to spend between 12,000 and 16,000 euros.
Despite the high costs, the semester abroad in Riverside was definitely the right decision. Overall, you had a lot of free time, which allowed you to explore the unique nature and culture of California. The lifestyle of the Americans is very different from that of the Germans, which you quickly get used to, but which can sometimes be a bit annoying. Apart from a few rainy days, the weather left little to be desired the whole time. In general, I also think that it is better to go in the spring, since the temperatures there are still very pleasant compared to summer.
In conversations with other internationals, I have found that it is not so much the content of the courses that sticks in your memory and helps in the future, but rather the personal experiences you have made there. On the one hand, this is due to the low level (at least of the extension courses). On the other hand, for me – like for many others – it was the first stay of this kind. For the first time I have lived for a longer period of time in another country where a different language was spoken. In addition, you got to know a large number of new people and gained an insight into other cultures.
Although I spoke a lot of German during my time there, I was still able to improve my English. This relates above all to the fact that English conversations are now easier for me and I have become more confident in using the language overall.
In conclusion, I can say that I really enjoyed the semester abroad in America and can look back on a formative and exciting time that I will probably not experience again any time soon. If you like sun, sea, big American cities and unique national parks, I can only warmly recommend the decision to spend a semester in Riverside!