University: University of California Riverside
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: economics
Study type: semester abroad
I spent the 2017 Spring Quarter at UCR. I can confirm a lot from previous field reports, but I also have to disagree on a few points. If you have any questions, please get my contact details from MicroEdu and get in touch.
The preparations were extremely time-consuming for me. It wasn’t so much about applying to UCR itself, I just had to fill out the MicroEdu forms and submit the required documents and was accepted straight away a few weeks later. Visit existingcountries.com to get information about University of California Santa Barbara student review.
Applying for a visa, on the other hand, was more time-consuming, as numerous forms had to be filled out online, fees paid and documents organized. Just follow the MicroEdu instructions and everything will work. The visa interview itself was absolutely unspectacular for me and lasted less than 2 minutes. As long as you leave no doubt that you want to study there and then return, nothing should go wrong.
The clarification of the eligibility for credits with my home university only took place after a lot of discussions about whether I could also take upper division courses as a master’s student and how many credits I would get for the American units. I also wanted to have done the apartment search in advance, which was also very nerve-wracking, since the Americans do not tend to give you clear answers. Ultimately, however, everything went well. I also recommend making sure that the UCR has your correct e-mail address, as I and some fellow students also missed out on a variety of information.
I arrived half a week before the orientation and first had the university’s pick-up service take me from the airport to Riverside, where I spent the first two days in a hotel before I could move into my dorm room. In the orientation, we received a lot of helpful information about course selection and things that you should consider in everyday life. In addition, we were introduced to contacts for almost every conceivable problem and we had the opportunity to make initial contacts. You don’t have any lectures this week either, so there’s still enough time to settle in.
I didn’t have any culture shocks, the USA and Germany are more similar than I had previously suspected. But you should know a few things: For example, right at the beginning we were told about some bans in the USA. Under no circumstances should you drink alcohol in public, cross the street or stream on illegal sites. What is largely tolerated here is associated with draconian penalties there.
Unfortunately, homeless people are part of the daily sight in the USA, but they don’t hurt you. Nevertheless, you should be careful, you never know if someone is armed. For example, we were explicitly advised not to give money to beggars, since revealing the contents of your wallet can arouse covetousness.
Public transit has largely died out in the area, the greater Los Angeles area is all-car-centric, and points of interest are often far apart. In my case it worked well without a car, since someone could almost always take me with them, for one trimester it worked somehow. If you are there longer, I recommend buying a car at the beginning and selling it at the end with as little loss as possible.
However, my first impression was very positive. Americans are very friendly, open and helpful. The way people treat each other is also much more relaxed than here. For example, you could address most professors by their first names.
Like so many MicroEdu students, I stayed at the Sterling Highlander. I could have moved to the International Village, but it’s not that nice (no pool) and, most importantly, way overpriced. In the run-up I had also considered taking advantage of the homestay and going to a host family because, so I thought, this could ensure that you could meet the locals and get to know their everyday life. In retrospect, however, I would advise against it. You are entitled to a daily transfer to the university, but the residential areas there are so extensive that it is difficult or even impossible to pursue social contacts without a car. The dormitories, on the other hand, are all close to the campus, most of which can only be rented for a much longer period of time.
Unfortunately, my experiences with the Sterling Highlander have not been as good as others, because I was quite unlucky with my roommates. They were dirty, loud without end and not particularly friendly. So I changed rooms again after two weeks. For the rest of the time I lived with two Americans, a Frenchman and a German Shepherd. They were actually okay, but weren’t really interested in closer contact. But I would probably move in there again, you just have to be lucky with your roommates.
There are also plenty of useful facilities on site such as the pool, BBQ and basketball courts and a PC room with free printing. The rooms themselves are furnished, but you have to bring your own things like bed linen, dishes, a shower curtain or a rubbish bin. You used to be able to buy all of that at the K-Mart across the street, but that’s no longer there! Luckily, an employee from the leasing office drove to Walmart with me and a French guy, where we could stock up on everything relatively cheaply. I had to rent my room up to and including August, although I left Riverside in June. Luckily I was able to find a new tenant, which is not always the case during the summer break. You can tell the Leasing Office when you are looking for a subtenant and if someone asks for a room for a shorter period of time (which you could of course try from the start) they will notify you. Subleasing is first come – first serve, so feel free to ask about it when you move in.
Since there is no economics at the Extension Center, it was clear to me from the start that I would have to take main campus courses. I’ve often heard in advance that these are very demanding and I have to honestly say that I can’t confirm that. There is definitely enough free time, so if you are interested in one of these courses don’t shy away from it, you will also get to know the actual campus life there;-) It is true that the main campus is a bit more demanding than the extension, but what It’s more because the extension courses are a bad joke in my opinion. This also leads me directly to my course choice:
Consumer behavior (3 units)
That was my only course at the Extension Center, which I only took to get exactly 12 units. You get this as a visa requirement and for each additional unit you would have to pay tuition fees of $250. Actually, the lecturer only ever emphasized that consumer behavior can neither be consciously controlled nor absolutely predicted and otherwise mainly uploaded YouTube videos. You could take all the exams home with you and google some of the sample solutions.
Urban Economic Problems (4 Units)
This course looks at why cities exist and how they function from an economic perspective. Overall very interesting and Richard Arnott is not an unknown professor internationally either. In the course of the semester you have to hand in 4 problem sets, write a term paper and complete a midterm exam in addition to the final.
Global Poverty (5 Units)
This course looked at measuring and explaining poverty, policy implications were discussed and there was a chapter on poverty in the US, particularly in comparison to other countries. I can definitely recommend this course. In addition to the final, there was also a midterm and a term paper in which everyone was asked to describe the poverty situation in a certain country. In addition, there were cliquer questions in every lecture, for which each student had a kind of remote control with which one had to answer multiple-choice questions. There was also a weekly discussion, to which everyone had to bring a question, which was then discussed together.
In principle, attendance is compulsory in the USA, but many lecturers say they don’t expect it, and I’ve never seen it checked. You only had to be present with Professor Helfand to answer the Cliquer questions, but if you accept minimal cutbacks in the rating, it’s definitely okay not to go to university. The performance requirements are generally not as high as ours. There were a few (few) weeks in between when I actually had a bit more to do, but that was all quantity and, in principle, everything was easy to understand. For the economists among you: that’s more verbal economics. Examinations were also usually set benevolently.
Since I’ve always wondered how that works, here’s a brief guide to class crashing : In the orientation, forms are handed out that you normally use to go to the lecturer in the first class, introduce yourself and ask if you can take your course may visit. He then either tells you that it is possible, not possible, or that you should wait and see whether there is still a vacancy. In economics, however, you have to get permission directly from the Department of Economics and have the responsible lecturer certify that you meet the participation requirements. You then have to submit the signed form for each course to the Extension Center, which will then register you in the said course. But no worry,the procedure will be explained again in detail on site. While the uncertainty was annoying, I was quite happy with the courses I got.
I was dealing almost exclusively with local students the entire time. Even though it may be difficult at first, do yourself a favor and don’t make yourself dependent on the first (Germans) you meet. I met a lot of nice people in a community on campus who welcomed me very warmly and took me to various activities or invited me to their homes. If you want to meet local people, the best thing to do is to join any student organization. There are information stands on campus every Wednesday about pretty much everything there is.
During the week I was partly occupied with my studies, but also spent a lot of time at the Sterling Highlander pool. In the evening we often met for dinner. Be sure to check out the Heroes Brewery in Downtown Riverside, as well as the Buffalo Wild Wings and Panda Express chains. At the weekends we often went on day trips to the surrounding area, for example to Los Angeles, San Diego or to nature (Big Bear Lake is highly recommended). San Diego has become my absolute favorite city, there are about 200 breweries and lots of cultural offerings. Day trips are also organized by the Extension Center, but these are a bit overpriced.
The weather was very pleasant most of the time, the Spring Quarter should definitely be the best time in that regard. In March it was mostly around 25° during the day and rarely well over 30° until the beginning of June, so that it was bearable. I only experienced rain once.
After the end of the lectures I went on a round trip with my family. If you plan to travel a lot during the semester, plan early, time flies by. In addition to LA and San Diego, I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The USA is a beautiful country and so huge that you can only explore a small part of it in 5 months.
The Los Angeles area is incredibly expensive. Since I had a single room, I was paying almost $800 in rent every month. Even if you really only buy the essentials of food, you quickly end up spending more than twice as much. You often end up in one of the countless fast food chains because cooking yourself is not cheaper. With tuition and other fees (e.g. everyone must have health insurance prescribed by the university take, which costs $650) almost $6000 had already been spent before the start. Entrance fees are also much higher than what you are used to here (e.g. Sea World $80 or Disneyland $124 per person per day). On the other hand, driving a car is cheap, especially petrol, but clothes are not that expensive either. In total I came up with almost 12000€ and depending on lifestyle, travel plans and the current exchange rate it can be more. But I am convinced that this great time was worth every penny.
I can definitely recommend a semester abroad at the University of California Riverside. If you want to get to know American culture and learn something along the way, you’re in good hands there. If you really want to party, you should better go to Santa Barbara or San Diego. I was pretty nervous beforehand, but once I settled in I was just glad I decided to go and experience it all. So if you also have doubts, do yourself a favor and dare;-) I had a really great time, saw a lot and met a lot of nice people who I still keep in touch with. Also, be prepared to be homesick for California when you return, and it may take time to settle back in. With this in mind, I wish you an equally great semester abroad as I had.