Selection of the host university
The Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Stuttgart cooperates with numerous universities abroad, within and outside of Europe. It was clear to me from the start that I would like to spend my semester abroad in an English-speaking country to improve my language skills. For me, it was a long time the UK (including London and Edinburgh) and California to choose from, with the foreign trade fair DHBW I then a crucial conversation with Alexandra Michel MicroEDU (an agency dedicated to the preparation of semesters abroad as a free mover specializes ) led the offer from California State University Northridge has presented. In the end, the university convinced me with its extremely diverse range of courses, including in finance, and the perfect location near Los Angeles. After this decision was made and I had received approval from my employer and the course director, I was able to officially register my stay abroad at the DHBW.
Application process at CSUN
Throughout the application process I was assisted by MicroEDU, who provided a fairly detailed schedule of the application process, documents needed, and important deadlines. With the help of this information folder, the entire preparation went pretty smoothly, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean a lot of work to plan a semester abroad in the USA. Learn more about California State University Northridge on andyeducation. The first step was to apply to the host university and pay the registration fee (administration fee). The application consisted of the following documents:
- Letter of motivation / application / contact form
- Proof of language proficiency (TOEFL / DAAD)
- Proof of financial means (tuition fees and living expenses)
- Transcript of records (certificate with all courses taken so far)
- Learning Agreement (list of desired courses abroad)
The application and my documents were checked for completeness and correctness by MicroEDU and then forwarded to the CSUN. A few weeks later I received the firm confirmation and further preparatory e-mails from the international office of the university. These e-mails remind you of further important steps and required documents, including:
- Payment of tuition fees ($ 6,900 for a winter semester at CSUN)
- Submission of proof of international insurance (information about the minimum coverage and important elements can be found on the host university’s website, approx. € 250 travel health insurance, € 90 liability and property insurance)
I also received tips on insurance products, as well as credit and SIM cards for abroad, from MicroEDU in the preparation folder. Here planning should start at least 3 months before the start of the trip.
Applying for a visa
The next important step is to apply for the visa. For a study visit to the USA you need to apply for an F-1 visa. In addition, the passport must be valid for at least 6 months at the time of entry. The application is made via the websites specified in the guidelines. In addition to the cost of the visa, which is $ 160, an additional $ 200 SEVIS fee must be paid. So the costs here are a little over 300 €.
The interview for the visa will be carried out personally at the US Consulate General in Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin after a fixed appointment has been made. Since a very detailed online application had to be filled out in advance, only a few questions were asked on site, including about the purpose of the trip to the USA, the length of the stay and financing. The passport was then withheld and returned to me one or two days later by post including the visa and I-20 document.
The last step I took was looking for a place to stay in Northridge. Here you have the option of living on or off campus. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The Living On-Campus is very convenient because you just lives on campus, near the lecture buildings and dining halls, on the other WGs are mixed most colorful and you learn many international and American students know. Since this offer is unfortunately very expensive, I decided together with a fellow student from Germany for off-campus housing.
Apartments and rooms are advertised on a website of the university as well as on Facebook and other apartment portals. In any case, we were very lucky with our choice and were able to live together with two American students in a row house 10 minutes away from the university – and at half the price of on-campus housing.
California State University Northridge is one of the largest universities in California with 40,000 students. The campus is correspondingly large and offers everything you can imagine. In addition to the library, which has already served as a location for the Star Trek films and other Hollywood films, there is also a cinema, theater, various dining options (bar, grill, Burger King, Subway), shops and a medical center with a pharmacy.
Special is the large fitness studio, where all courses and equipment can be used daily after paying the membership fee of $ 140. There are also indoor and outdoor sports fields on campus, including baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball and a running track. Either you do sports yourself and join one of the numerous clubs, or you can relax and watch the matches of the university teams.
The desired courses had to be specified when applying to the host university, but the final choice was only made in the first few days of Orientation Week (introductory week). I received 3 of my 4 desired courses, for the fourth course I was offered a corresponding alternative at a similar level. I was well advised by the CSUN office. The final courses were:
ECON 350: Urban Economics
The course dealt with the economic topics of urban growth, urban sprawl, production and transport costs, land scarcity and land costs, as well as the current housing market, housing demand and price development in Los Angeles. In the second half the focus was placed on the development of infrastructure and problems such as environmental pollution and pollution. Current developments were regularly discussed in the course. The evaluation was carried out through 3 equally weighted exams (2 midterms, 1 final). The course was one of our larger courses with around 40 students.
FIN 352: Investment Management
My preferred course in Investment Management was about the measurability of risk and return, the characteristics and valuation of securities and stocks, derivatives, investment strategies and portfolio theory. The lectures were very structured and interactive and there was sufficient joint preparation, including mock exams. A total of 2 exams (midterm and final) were written.
FIN 355: Corporate Finance
The Corporate Finance course was based on another CSUN course, which is why it was a bit difficult to get started, as a lot of knowledge from the basic course was required. After a few lectures, however, it became easier to come along, but there was still regular preparation and follow-up work outside of the university. The contents were the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), interest structures, approaches for forecasting upcoming annual financial statements, valuation of share prices and company values based on various cash flow models and the calculation of equity costs. What was particularly good about this course was that the knowledge was refreshed again and again through regular online assignments (approx. 10). In addition, there were 2 exams (midterm, final) and a case study with group work.
FIN 431: Risk Management
In this course the basics of risk management analysis, assessment, management and control of risks were dealt with, with a special focus on the topic of insurance. Individual topics were the qualitative and quantitative analysis of the risk situation, coverage in individual insurance lines, as well as captives and reinsurance. The exams (2 midterms, 1 final) were in the form of homework with their own analyzes. For this purpose, 3 small in-class tests were carried out.
Overall, I would recommend all courses to others, as they were interesting in terms of content and appropriate in terms of level, and the lecturers conveyed the knowledge in a practical and clear manner.
There are an incredible number of varied options on campus. My program included visiting a talent show, watching soccer matches by the “Matadors”, going to a concert and playing billiards in the gaming room during lunch breaks. It was a special experience to join the CSUN Club Tennis Team to train together and to drive to tournaments in Santa Barbara and at UCLA. In addition, various small events are organized for international students, for example a pool party and an ice cream dinner. At the beginning of the semester there is also the “Matadornight” every time, a huge “Welcome” party for the new semesters, with rides, laser tags, photo boxes, free food and drinks and a dance floor on which various DJs perform. All in all, the possibilities are endless and there is an event on campus pretty much every day.
If you have already been to the USA, you should definitely use the weekends and explore the area. The CSUN Outdoor Office offers a lot of trips, for example to the national parks, but also surfing courses, riding, hiking and cycling tours, rafting, water skiing and canyoning. The courses and excursions are very popular and inexpensive, so you should register quickly for one of the limited places. The courses are also a great way to meet new students. I went on a 3-day camping trip to Yosemite National Park with the Outdoor Office and took a surfing course in Santa Monica tried it and can only recommend it to everyone. Apart from that, I organized many excursions myself with a group of five other students. These included Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Universal Studios, Malibu, Hermosa Beach, San Francisco, Disneyland, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, as well as smaller trips to Hollywood and Downtown LA. It is also worth visiting a baseball or football match.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do not stress yourself too much about the university or your courses and exams. Getting started is super easy and the exam phase is also easy to do.
- Don’t try to get from A to B on foot. The distances are much longer than in Germany and in LA everyone uses the car even for short distances.
- Take everything that the university offers with you: excursions, courses, events… you get to know so many new people and have a lot of fun.
- Organize as much as possible in advance, including small things, for example applying for a SIM card. The search for an apartment should also be done beforehand, this saves a lot of stress.
- Tried to live in a shared apartment with American students, this not only helps at the beginning to get to know the area better, but also to improve your language skills.
- Use Lyft and UBER as a means of transport, which is usually cheaper and definitely faster and better than bus and train.
- If you want to eat reasonably healthy, you should definitely go shopping yourself (not at Target, but in smaller supermarkets) and not eat on campus every day.
- Join one of the many clubs where you can get to know real college life.
- Enjoy the time and have fun, it is one of the best times of your life !!