I made the decision to study abroad at short notice. That is why I recommend anyone interested to do the preparation at least six months in advance . For me it was about 3 months before the start of the university. Even if it worked out to get all the documents for San José 2 months before the start, I would tackle it earlier today. With regard to the language test, the easiest thing to do is to take the free DAAD language test at your home university . All other documents are relatively easy to come by .
I had the consulate appointment on December 12th and just under a week later the visa was already in the mailbox. Here in particular, you should plan a larger time buffer when you start your studies in January. I spent six months in San José after submitting my bachelor’s thesis in economics . So I was able to freely choose the courses at the SJSU without any credit pressure from my home university.
I lived with a host family for six months . Since I’m not the type of student dorm and private accommodation is “priceless”, this was the best solution. If you don’t want to do without typical university life, you have to live on campus. Everything happens around and on campus, of course.
My host family lived just 45 minutes outside of downtown. It was often an arduous journey, above all one is dependent on the light rail (train). Despite this, I do not regret this choice. You also have to be a bit lucky with the host family. Some other students weren’t as happy as I was. I lived with a retired Chilean couple. Of course, a host family also has advantages: a large room, always full of a refrigerator, US TV, freshly cooked food with vegetables and fruits from the garden and unlimited use of the washing machine. My host parents did everything to make me feel comfortable . I will never forget my “Chilean grandparents”.
I found the homestay through the “ISP” agency on the university website. Whether on campus or host family, the costs don’t seem like much at first glance. Both are in the same price level, although food and a lot more was included with me. Groceries are more expensive in the US than in Germany and cheap fast food sticks out after six months.
I can only recommend San José State University . The campus is so huge, beautiful and clean. The university fees are currently being invested in a new cafeteria and a new health care center. All professors are super friendly and very committed. Here the professors really care about their students. All of my professors knew me by name. The range of courses is not comparable to that of a German university.
Choosing a course in the first few weeks is the greatest challenge. You can run from one course to another within 2 weeks to ask the professors to join their courses. That was the worst time. Many courses are already full and professors are not allowed to exceed the limit. Fortunately, I didn’t have to take any specific courses for crediting in Germany . Admission to the courses is a bit like the lottery.
There are a total of 12 units that you have to collect as a full-time student. These are either 4 business courses with 3 units each or, as with me, 2 business courses, 2 English courses and a yoga course. Cassy at iGateways is the contact person for this. In the 2 weeks I was often with her for advice. The whole iGateways team is always there for the international students to answer questions.
I chose “ Introduction to Entrepreneurship ”, “ Marketing New Venture ”, “ Creative Writing ”, “ Critical Thinking ”, “ Beginning Yoga ”.
All courses take place on the university premises, with the exception of the English courses. These are 10 minutes from campus in the iGateways classrooms.
In contrast to Germany, there are a maximum of 30 students in a course in San José. You have to rework or prepare the material every hour. There is more than one exam, mostly 3 spread over the semester and several projects in addition to the lectures. Participation and attendance are also included in the final grade. Overall, the final grade is made up of several components. The US semester is more work, but the exams are extremely easy and it’s not just theoretical learning.
The business courses
As described above, “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” is not just listening to a lecture. It was a lot of work. Additional points could be earned by attending lectures in the Martin Luther King Library and typing in minutes of what had been learned.
“Marketing New Venture”, on the other hand, was a large project in groups of four, which lasted the entire semester with regular progress reports, individual papers and presentations, but no exams. Here you had to work on the project in addition to the lecture hours.
The English courses
Here we were a maximum of 15 people in one course. There is regular homework, which is included in the final grade. There are also projects and a final exam. These courses in particular were unique for all the international students. It is very interesting to get to know the views of other cultures and to overcome prejudices against certain cultures.
The yoga class
This course was 1 unit to reach my 12 units. In addition to the yoga practice, the theory behind it is explained to you. Grading was not that complex on this course.
Even as a mediocre student I got very good grades. A good grade in the US is associated with a lot of work during the semester, not just exam preparation.
Despite numerous course commitments, one still has enough of that in San José. It is important to do everything in the introductory week . This is organized by iGateways and is indispensable. In the week before the regular start of lectures you get to know a lot of international students. It’s the easiest way to make friends. This week I made all of my friends. Another starting point to get to know people is in the International House. Every Tuesday there is a coffee night there.
The leisure activities in San José Down Town are quite limited. It’s a nice city center with some nice bars, clubs and a cinema . The craziest parties are in fraternity houses and at private house parties. Just like you know it from numerous American films.
The weekends should be used to explore California . The best thing to do is not take any of the rare Friday courses, then you have a 3-day weekend. There are a number of interesting places to visit around San José. For me, California is the most beautiful state in the USA . A car is very helpful over long distances.
It took me about $ 19,500 for half the year. Of that, $ 6,000 went to my host family, $ 7,500 to university, and $ 6,000 in pocket money. In the host family there are no longer any costs. In addition to the semester fees, there are also costs for books and other learning materials at the university. Education is a luxury in the United States. With $ 1,000 pocket money, I got by very well every month. If you go out in the evening you have to calculate about 4 dollars for a beer, a pizza costs 15 dollars and for a trip to the movies it is 7.50 dollars.
It was the best 6 months of my bachelor’s degree . If the Master’s didn’t cost $ 40,000, I would have loved to stay in San José. For my master’s degree, I plan to study in the States again for one semester. In addition to language skills and international experience, you get to know friends from all over the world.
The USA is a great country, but you quickly notice that Germany has just as many advantages and that not everything is as bad here as you think. My biggest and most impressive insight is the positive attitude Americans have towards Germany. After six months you have more pride to come from Germany.