I chose the University of California Riverside because it is one of the partner universities of my home university in Germany and that’s why I spent my Spring Quarter 2013 there. Just follow the instructions from MicroEDU during the application process at the university and visa application and then the whole thing will be relatively easy. University of California Riverside is also known as UCR on abbreviationfinder.
I flew to the USA a week before the start of the semester to get used to it and to explore the area. I can only advise you to go to a cheap motel for the first 2 or 3 days and then look for an apartment on site.
There are several private student residences on UCR. I stayed in the Sterling Highlander Apartment that I highly recommend. The apartments are only 2 years old and the complex has a pool, fitness room, basketball court, gaming & study rooms and several barbecue areas. The apartments are also well furnished and have everything you need (dishwasher, TV, washing machine, dryer). I lived in a four-person apartment and paid $ 810 a month there. Each room has its own bathroom. I can only advise everyone against going to the International Village, where several people I know lived and were not at all satisfied.
University of California Riverside & course choice
If you are applying to the UCR, you must be aware that you are applying to the UCR Extension. This is a separate building on the edge of the actual university, where all international students come first. However, you have the option of choosing both extension courses (mostly more practice-oriented) and main campus courses. The extension courses often take place in the evening and are only manned by international students, whereas main campus courses take place in the morning or in the afternoon and the American students are there too.
It can be said that the Main Campus courses are more labor intensive than the Extension courses. The workload is generally more intensive during the semester than I was used to in Germany, because you either have midterms, write essays or give a presentation. But it’s still relatively easy to get good grades and there is definitely enough time to travel around and enjoy life in California.
If you are into sports and fitness, you should definitely get a pass for the Recreation Center for $ 75 (complete quarter). The Recreation Center is a huge sports hall where you can play basketball, volleyball, squash or go to the gym. You can also rent cheap camping equipment or surfboards from the university.
Riverside isn’t a terrific party town, but it’s a perfect location for seeing as much of California as possible. But for that you need to have a car. I rented a car with friends for 3 months at “Rent-a-Wreck”, where you can get older cars than normal car rental companies like Hertz or Avis. On the other hand, the prices are significantly cheaper and we were still very satisfied with the service ($ 700 per month for an SUV).
In general, I’ve traveled a lot and have made great road trips. Los Angeles is great with beaches like Venice Beach or Santa Monica and its famous pier. Other great beaches are Huntington, Newport and Laguna Beach. Hollywood and Beverly Hills are also worthwhile with the Rodeo Drive, Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Sign. Otherwise cities like Las Vegas and San Diego are an absolute must, especially for partying. But Las Vegas is only really worth it when you are 21 years old. Under 21 you have problems getting to the clubs and you are not allowed to play in the casinos either.
San Diego is also a super cool city with great beaches and a very nice city center with nice restaurants, bars and pubs. From Las Vegas you can still drive to the Grand Canyon. Another absolute highlight is the drive north on Highway Number 1 with stops in Santa Barbara and San Francisco. San Francisco is an absolutely dream city (highlights: Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars, Alcatraz, Twin Peaks, Fisherman’s Wharf, etc).
Another great excursion was the drive to Sequoia / Kings National Park, where we were camping. The landscape was awesome, with great views from over 2500 meters high, you can also see the sequoia trees and hike to various waterfalls. If you are lucky, you will also see one or two bears.
Riverside is also a good day trips (Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park) make and so there is plenty of entertainment if you’re interested. I was at a Los Angeles Clippers (basketball) and Anaheim Angels (baseball) game. In addition, Universal Studios and Six Flags amusement parks are no more than 2 hours away. The UCR also sometimes organizes excursions such as surfing, snorkeling or kayaking. For these excursions you have to register very quickly because the places are very popular. Other excursions such as to San Diego or Los Angeles, which are also organized by the university, are usually much more expensive than if you get together with several other students and then do the excursions yourself.
You can also go shopping in California and branded clothes are much cheaper than in Germany, especially in the outlet stores. I especially liked the malls in Ontario and Cabazon (near Palm Springs).
I had a great time in Riverside and I can only recommend everyone to study in California. It must be said that it is not that cheap to live in California. The cost of living is higher than in Germany and of course all the trips cost too, but for me it was absolutely worth it.