University: University of California Riverside
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Business
Study type: semester abroad
After I decided to spend a semester abroad in California at the University of California Riverside (UCR), which is a partner university of my university of applied sciences, at the beginning of 2015, I started planning the trip relatively early and quickly. First, I applied to UCR through MicroEdu. To do this, I had to fill out a few forms and request a transcript from my university of applied sciences. I would have imagined the application process to be a lot more complicated and time-consuming, but thanks to MicroEdu, who took care of everything and were always available to answer questions, it was pretty easy. When I got the confirmation from UCR in the post, I was able to take the next steps. Thanks to MicroEdu’s “to-do” list, I knew exactly what I needed to be done by when. Visit iamaccepted.com to get information about Boston University study abroad program.
visa and flight
At first I focused on applying for my visa. This was quite time-consuming, since many forms on different websites had to be filled out. I was able to arrange an appointment for the consulate in Frankfurt promptly and without any problems. Before the appointment, it is essential to check whether all fees have actually been paid – I had forgotten a payment, which luckily my father was able to pay with his credit card on site, in Frankfurt.
I got my passport with the visa in the mail a few days later. Then I booked the flights. Since the university documents stated that I had to be at UCR for the orientation day on December 28th, I decided on December 25th as the day of departure. In the end I flew with the airline KLM via Amsterdam to LA.
Now the only thing left to do was look for an apartment, which turned out to be very time-consuming and nerve-wracking. I had read in some field reports that some students had decided to look for a place to live locally. However, that was too risky for me, especially since I was still 20 years old during the semester abroad and therefore underage in America. In retrospect, however, age would not have been a problem in order to be able to sign the rental contract for the apartment in the dormitory. I decided against a host family and for accommodation in a student residence. There were a few of these dormitories to choose from that didn’t differ much from each other.
The problem with the halls of residence, however, was that they usually only rented out their apartments for much longer than three months, so the choice was reduced. I finally settled on the Sterling Highlander residence, although I also had to accept a minimum rental period of four months, although I would only be staying for three months. There was also a $120 monthly short-term rental surcharge, bringing the monthly rent to $890. After exchanging several emails and a few phone calls, an apartment was booked that I would share with four other students.
Then I looked for the courses at the university that interested me. It is possible to take courses at the Extension Center and also at the main campus. Mostly international students or working Americans study at the Extension Center. The lectures there take place almost exclusively in the evenings and are easier compared to the normal courses on the main campus. In the end I only took extension courses, which I was very satisfied with. I chose the following courses:
- consumer behavior
- Marketing Principals and Practice
- international marketing
- Introduction to international trade
- Human Resource Management
It is recommended that you take advantage of the university’s offer of selecting your two preferred main campus courses in advance via Surveymonkey. However, the actual choice of course only takes place on site. You can easily enroll in the extension courses by filling out a form. In order to enroll in the Main Campus courses, the process is a little more complicated: you also have to fill out a form and then, so to speak, get permission from the lecturer to be allowed to participate in his course.
I booked UCR’s airport pickup service for $100 and was then picked up at the LA airport by Carlos, a very nice and talkative driver, and taken to Riverside, where I stayed the first night at the motel, as I had just rented the apartment day after arrival. The next day Carlos took me to the Sterling Highlander. I spent the first few days exploring the area a bit and looking around the huge university area. On December 28th, 2015 was the orientation day at the university, where I got to know many new people, most of whom were of German origin. We were told how to choose the courses and given a t-shirt and student ID. The university staff were all very friendlytook good care of us. After a barbecue (there were burgers and hot dogs) we continued with general information, especially safety, which brings me to my next point.
Especially in Riverside there are a lot of homeless people hanging around. Since you never know if someone is in possession of a gun, we were told from the start that we shouldn’t walk around outside alone in the evenings and that we should use the university’s “home delivery service” if necessary. The UCR has its own police department and the police officers I met there were all very attentive and friendly.
I actually walked around outside alone a few times despite the darkness, which sometimes couldn’t be avoided, since it always got dark at five o’clock in January. However, I never felt unsafe because I was only on main roads and ran purposefully. From time to time it can happen that passing cars ask you if you would like to be taken somewhere. This happened to me very often, especially after shopping, but of course I didn’t go into it.
Everyday life and excursions
I would definitely recommend for people who are into sports to join the university’s Recreation Center for $70 a month. In addition to a huge gym, this sports center also offers a hall where football, basketball and volleyball can be played, a climbing wall, a heated outdoor swimming area with a jacuzzi, as well as tennis courts and a beach volleyball court. While most dormitories also have a small gym and pool, these fitness offerings are not comparable to the recreation center.
My everyday life during the week consisted mostly of fitness, homework and lectures. On the weekends I usually went on trips with my friends. For example, we went to LA, San Diego, to some beaches and shopping malls, to Las Vegas and San Francisco. We also visited Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and Death Valley. Especially San Francisco and the national parks were very worthwhile and Las Vegas is also more than recommendable (even if you are not yet 21 years old and cannot go to parties there.)
When we got back from the trips we mostly went to parties, which happened almost every weekend – conveniently mostly in my dorm. There was also a club in Riverside Downtown called Sevilla that hosted a U21 party on the first Thursday of the month. However, the parties in the clubs end at two o’clock in the morning. Once we were even invited to a fraternity party, i.e. a student fraternity party, which, thanks to “professional” beer pong tables, for example, could be compared to the American parties we see on television and in the cinema. We also had BBQs from time to time and from mid-February as the weather got warmer, the parties were all moved outside to the BBQ area at my dorm.
I was lucky that my dormitory rented bikes and if you were quick enough and not all the bikes were rented, you could borrow one of the three bikes as often as you wanted. However, this had to be returned within the opening hours of the leasing office, which was usually at 5 or 6 p.m. Some of my friends rented a car for the three months. In San Diego, there is a rental company called Dirty Cheap Car rental, where under 21s can rent a car for relatively little money.
We usually rented a car from Avis for the excursions. Thanks to a party, we even knew an Avis employee who always made us good offers. Usually someone over the age of 21 drove, because otherwise it would have been more expensive to rent a car for insurance reasons. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can also take the bus and train. Here the Greyhound bus is recommended, with which we drove to LA and Las Vegas for very little money. This departs from a stop in Downtown Riverside. If you are up for adventure, this bus is just the right thing for you, as many dubious people drive on it. If you want to drive short distances, such as from a party back to your accommodation, Uber or Lift is just the thing for you. This is a kind of taxi – just a lot cheaper. To do this, an app must be downloaded, with the help of which a driver who is nearby can be called for your own location. Highly recommended – only had good experiences with. Payment is made automatically via the credit card, whose data must be stored when registering. Before leaving, I applied to the Sparkasse for a partner credit card, which runs through my mother’s account. In addition, an online banking account so that my parents could see the debits from home.
The weather in Riverside was great almost all the time ! In January it was still relatively cold and I went to the lectures in a thick jacket, especially in the evenings. But it quickly got warmer and by the beginning of February it was already possible to go outside in a T-shirt. In mid-February it was over 25 degrees almost every dayand the bright sun could be enjoyed at the pool, for example. However, there were also a few rainy days in between, on which I came home soaked to the socks. Because of the mediocre sewage system, the water flowed in rivulets across the streets and it was impossible to get to your destination with dry feet (unless you had rubber boots : P) There was even a storm warning issued once due to the heavy rain. But there were no more than five such rainy days in the three months, and the rain often disappeared as quickly as it came. All in all great weather!
Moving to Sterling Higlander Student Residence was a very good decision. In hindsight, I can say that this dorm was one of the best, if not the best, compared to the others. In addition to a pool with loungers and pavilions, there was also a basketball court and two barbecue areas. Almost all the parties were celebrated in my dorm. Another plus is the accessibility to StaterBros and Kmart (both stores are directly across the street from Sterling). The Sterling is a bit further away from the university than other halls of residence, such as the International Village Towers, but this is not a problem as, for example, there is a bus stop right next to the hall of residenceis, from which a bus leaves for the university.
The rooms in the apartments are small but nice – however not as nicely decorated on arrival as it is portrayed on the internet. But the room is quickly and comfortably furnished and, thanks to adhesive strips that are given as a gift when you move in, pictures can even be hung on the walls. With one exception, the employees were always very friendly and personable and helped with all requests. What I really liked were the events that the dormitory organized. For example, there was a “Casino Night” where you could play poker with play money. In addition to a number of vouchers, a month’s rent could even be won!
This is regulated in all halls of residence and the only negative point to point out is that when you move out, you couldn’t just leave things like shower curtains, kitchen utensils, bed linen, etc. there for the next tenant. Here I give the tip to try to sell your stuff on Craiglist or in a Facebook group.
What I particularly liked was the open-heartedness of the “Americans”. I met a lot of nice people from young to old, with whom I still keep in touch. However, I was shocked by the food prices: groceries such as fruit, vegetables, quark, meat and eggs were a lot more expensive than in Germany and since I actually cooked myself every day, the cost of living was there for me, as far as the food goes, quite expensive. It also has to be considered that water had to be bought all the time, since you couldn’t drink it from the crane – like at home – simply because of the high chlorine content. Friends of mine bought a water filter so they didn’t have to lug the 4 pound water canisters to the apartment all the time. I would advise everyone to go on as many trips as possible and above all to try all the cheesecakes in the “Cheesecake Factory” : D
Before leaving Germany I had concerns about the time difference (9 hours back), but it quickly turned out that staying in touch with my German friends, family and boyfriend at the time, and myself, wasn’t that big of a problem kept homesickness at bay. I would go back immediately and would advise anyone who decides to spend a semester abroad at UCR: stay there as long as possible and do not decide to leave immediately after the end of the university lecture period! The visa still allows you to stay in the USA for a maximum of 6 weeks longer – a time that can still be used for extended trips.
To be honest, before we started in December, I was very scared. Today I can say that every fear and concern was more than unfounded and I spent the best time of my life there, which changed me positively.