I’m Theresa, 23 years old and in Spring Term 2013 I completed my semester abroad at the CSU San Marcos. In California I took courses from the business sector, but in “normal life” I do a dual degree in logistics management.
Preparation and university selection
For my semester abroad from January to June, it was important to me to go to an English-speaking country that is as far away from Germany as possible and where it is nice and warm in January. So actually only the USA or Australia and New Zealand came into question. As it quickly turned out, a semester abroad in Australia or New Zealand is very expensive, which is why the USA was quickly determined as my destination. I quickly decided to go to the “Sunshine State” of California, as MicroEDU offers a wide range of partner universities here. Since I had a total of six months for my semester abroad, I also wanted to go to a university that offers a semester program (approx. 5 months), so that all universities with a trimester program (approx. 3 months) were eliminated. Since I really wanted to go to a university where I wouldn’t meet too many exchange students and Germans, I quickly became interested in the CSU in San Marcos, as it is a rather small university with a low percentage of exchange students. When I found out that the university offers a variety of courses in the business field and that San Marcos is close to the coast and between San Diego and Los Angeles, I quickly decided on this university. The application process It was complicated because you have to deal with a lot of formalities and submit a lot of documents, but it was definitely worth the effort!
MicroEDU has given me great support the whole time and was able to answer every question – without this help I would probably still be working on the documents that have to be filled out for the application. After I received the acceptance from the university, everything went very quickly, I was able to apply for my visa, book my flights and look for accommodation. With the flights, I have had very good experiences with the tour operator ” STA-Travel “, as they also have international health insurance in addition to the flightscan complete. In addition, an option is offered where you can rebook the return flight relatively spontaneously for a fee of € 100, depending on the availability of the flights. Since you often don’t know from Germany exactly whether and how long you would like to stay on site after your semester abroad, this is a good option so that you don’t have to make a specific decision.
Course choice and course content
As an exchange student at the CSU San Marcos, you are supported by the so-called ALCI (American Language and Culture Institute). This support is particularly helpful in the initial phase, as there is an orientation week where you can get to know the campus and the other foreign students. In addition, you will become aware of what is known as “ crashing “Prepares the courses, because you can’t just choose courses from the range of courses. Crashing means that in the first week of lectures you attend the courses you would like to take and then at the end of the class you ask the professor for permission to join the course in addition to the American students. So in the first week I attended a total of 8 different courses, although I actually only needed 4 of them. When you attend the courses, you quickly get an impression of whether you really want to do the course or whether the course description doesn’t quite correspond to what you had hoped for (that’s how it was with me). The professors were very friendly and helpful in all courses and it was relatively easy to get admitted to the courses I wanted to take. Above all, it helps here to be persistent and to argue that you are only on site for one semester and absolutely want to take the course etc… should there still be problems, the ALCI is available at any time and can speak to the professors again. Learn more about California State University, San Marcos on andyeducation.
Ultimately, I took the following courses: International Business Management, Management in different Cultures, Import Export Operations and Career Development. The time of the courses was such that I had Fridays off and the first and only lecture started at 5pm on Mondays… So I always had a long weekend that I could use for traveling and excursions. In terms of content, the lectures were mostly very interesting, but also very labor-intensive. Written homework had to be done every week for each lecture, which was also consistently collected and corrected. There were also a lot of tests, presentations and group work, so there was always something to do for the university. After the first half of the semester, the so-called “midterm exams” took place in each course. The final grade then consists of all the different partial grades of the tests, homework, presentations and the exams (mid-term and finals). I found that pretty positive and much better than here in Germany, where an exam makes up the entire final grade of a semester. When you have so many smaller exams, you have to constantly learn something or prepare, but you never have exam stress because everything is spread over the entire period of a semester. For me it was even the case that I didn’t have to write a single final exam at the end of the semester and thus had a whole week off.
I really enjoyed studying and learning, which I can’t say very often about myself here in Germany. The content was interesting and the professors were so committed and motivated that it was just fun to go to the lectures. And if you do your homework regularly and prepare for the exams, it is also easy to achieve very good grades in the end. So I can only recommend studying at the CSU San Marcos, because you are well looked after here, study in small groups with American students and the atmosphere at the university is simply very friendly, so that you quickly feel comfortable.
I dealt with the subject of living before I flew to the USA. There are actually only three different alternatives: CSUSM student residence, host family or shared flat. The former is very expensive ($ 800 upwards) and single rooms are rare. With host families, you get your own room for much less money (from $ 600) and in most cases also food. It is difficult to find shared apartments from within Germany (at least that was my experience). However, since I wanted to live in a shared apartment, I have an ad on www.craigslist.com (this site is great for everything you need in the USA: from bicycles to beds to shared apartments, you can find EVERYTHING here!) I gave up and wrote that I am from Germany and am looking for a room in a shared apartment near the university for 5-6 months. A short time later I got a very nice message from a family whose daughter had moved out to study and whose rooms they would now like to rent out. own room with own bathroom and walk-in closet, very close to the university and a large pool in the garden for a total of $ 550 per month, but without meals.
For this I was allowed to use all the rooms in the house like in a shared apartment and was therefore not tied to the family in terms of meal times etc. After we “got to know” each other via Skype and got along very well, I decided to live with the family. I have never regretted this decision, because it made me live with very friendly and helpful Americans and was able to experience American culture “up close”. I got on really well with my host mother, I was allowed to use her car and ride her horses for free and I felt very comfortable. I have heard something similar from other foreign students who have lived with host families. Even now that I’m back in Germany, I have still regular Skype or email contact with the family and will definitely visit them again during the semester break. The family now also regularly takes 2 students every semester. If someone is interested, he / she is welcome to contact me! However, you should be fond of animals, as there are 3 Labradors and 2 cats in the family.
Life and travel
In addition to studying, there was of course a lot of free time, which you can spend in California in a very varied way. In my free time I learned to surf, for example (the course is taught by the ALCI, costs $ 600 for 6×2 hours including material, transfer from the university and back and photo shoot at the end of the course). The surf course was one of the best things I’ve done in my 5 months in California! The surf instructors were all super nice and the lessons are very intensive, as one surf instructor usually looks after two students. I have to admit that before the first surf lesson I had a lot of respect for the waves, which are really huge compared to conventional North Sea waves! However, we learned right at the beginning how to behave in the water and on the board and the surf instructors were always in the water, so that I was never afraid of being “killed” by the waves. As soon as I surfed the first wave it was clear that the $ 600 was definitely worth it, because the feeling of standing on the board and riding the wave to the beach with a view of the California coast is hard to put into words and simply priceless!
In addition to surfing, there were of course many other recreational opportunities: In San Diego there is, for example, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, many different museums and viewpoints and of course the Gaslamp district, where you can party in the evening (if you are over 21 years old old is). To the north, LA is also not far away from San Marcos, so here you can visit Hollywood, the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, Venice Beach and many other well-known places for a weekend. During the spring break I took part in an outdoor trip organized by the CSUSM (“the Clarke”) gym r. Here we traveled through the various national parks in Utah for a week with a group of 12 students and 2 guides and I have to say – this week was one of the best weeks of my life. The group grew together quickly and we had a lot of fun: be it rock-climbing, mountain biking or hiking in breathtaking nature. The national parks in Utah are definitely worth a trip, because you simply won’t find anything like that here in Germany. I could write page by page about it now, but since this is actually about California, I’ll just leave it with the recommendation to definitely go to Utah. Within the last three weeks I made a round trip with a friend who went via LA to San Francisco, to Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and back to San Marcos. This tour was very strenuous due to the great distances that we covered by car, but definitely worth it, as the landscape and the cities are simply breathtakingly beautiful and interesting! I found San Francisco and Yosemite National Park particularly attractive and I can only recommend that everyone visit these places as well.
Overall, life in the US is very expensive. Food is incredibly expensive compared to Germany if you don’t just want to eat fast food… The only things that are really cheap are clothes and gasoline. The huge outlets in particular are great for shopping, which is why I recommend everyone to fly to the USA with as few clothes as possible and then go shopping there first.
The five months in California were an amazing time that I will never forget! The course was fun, I made new friends from all over the world and learned and seen a lot. I would repeat the semester abroad in San Marcos immediately if I could! Living in a different culture and studying in a different language was a great experience that shaped me for the rest of my life. I’m already really looking forward to getting back on the plane to San Diego (hopefully soon) to visit my friends there!