After my 7th semester, relatively late, I decided to do a summer session. During the preparation I was very grateful for the active support from your website. Since I worked abroad during the preparatory phase, it was twice as difficult for me to organize all the necessary things regarding the stay abroad, book a flight, in my case renew my passport, register for subjects and the occasional problems with the university myself the organization. At your website I always had a competent contact person who took care of my concerns and kept me up to date. Just one more advice to everyone to really take care of everything that is necessary in good time, this applies in particular to booking the flight, registering for the subjects, everything about the visa, etc.
Once you’ve packed all your things and sat on the plane, the adventure can begin. After UC Berkeley had paid the tuition and course fees, I received a couple of brochures from UCB along with my I-20 form, which included useful information on moving in or directions.
One was immediately received very openly on site. Anyway, Americans (at least the West Coasters) are much more open and maybe even friendlier than one is used to from Germany or Europe. You make new acquaintances almost every day, so that no one gets left behind, and in the area of “socializing” the dorms or other accommodations try everything to bring people together. In the USA, campus life is nowhere near as anonymous as it is in Germany, because with the huge distances in the USA you can rarely drive home quickly over the weekend. Therefore, there is a much more organized study life, both privately and at university. In our case, trips to San Francisco, sykdiving trips, barbecues and a lot more were organized.
Doing something on your own is not a problem either, since rental car prices are almost dirt cheap compared to German conditions, not to mention the fuel price. However, unlike ours, you can only rent a rental car from the age of 25 or, if you pay a reasonable surcharge, you can rent a car a few years earlier. And 12 weeks were by shockingly quickly with the mass of offers in California. Whether sightseeing in Los Angeles, pure nature in the numerous national parks, gambling in Vegas or a bike tour through San Francisco (it’s better not to move too far away from the harbor and into the city center, it’s super hilly and you’ll kick your feet!).
When it comes to studying at UCB, I have to say that it’s very easy. Maybe it’s because I’m used to different things from my university or because I’m already in the 7th semester. But the material was not particularly difficult for me, nor was it necessary to invest a lot of effort into the subjects. In contrast to what I am used to, the exams are very much based on the lectures or accompanying exercises. Transfer knowledge is rarely found in exams. So I was always given an A with below-average effort. But, depending on the subject, you often have to prepare lectures and the like in advance of the exams. Overall, you do more at American universities during the semester, but the exams are also more relaxed. The classes are very small and there is a lot of emphasis on interactivity. Despite the “relatively relaxed courses”, everyone is STRONGLY advised against doing more than 2 normal courses per session, unless you really want to spend 7+ hours a day in the university and spend the weekend writing papers. There is always too much going on for that and the weather is way too nice.
However, one should take into account in a summer session that, at least in my area of business administration, only undergraduate courses are offered, which German universities usually include as part of the basic course.
The campus is huge and offers a lot on its own and even with San Francisco only 45 minutes away by bus, you have a great city within reach that you can’t go shopping and experience often enough. Trips to other universities such as Stanford or UCLA are also worthwhile, as their camps are just great.
Now a few words about the few downsides of the USA. The strict behavior towards alcohol is certainly unusual for German standards, so this is generally prohibited on the entire campus. Crime should not be underestimated either. You really shouldn’t move alone in the dark. For midnight joggers there are campus patrols that accompany you by bike. Sounds embarrassing, but it’s for your own safety. However, there were no problems during my stay, but prevention is better than crying.
Overall, I can absolutely speak out in favor of such a stay abroad. The gain in experience is gigantic, the fun that you can experience is indescribable and every HR manager likes to see a (study) stay abroad!