My semester abroad at CSULB was a really great experience. Even if it wasn’t always easy, in retrospect I am very happy and proud that I did it. A semester abroad like this is not only good for your résumé, but also for your personality. I can recommend it to anyone who plays with the thought.
A semester abroad is required for my degree program, which is why I decided to do it very early on. Since I’ve already lived as an au pair in California for a year, I wanted to spend my semester abroad there again. The choices were then the CSULB and the UCSB (Santa Barbara). Since I only get credit for one semester and no trimester, the choice fell on the CSULB which stands for California State University Long Beach listed on abbreviationfinder.
First of all, you should think about your financing, as the first costs are incurred when you are accepted to the university and then continue with the visa application. For a long time I thought about how I would finance my semester abroad. Since I don’t get any student loans in Germany, I didn’t have high hopes for the foreign student loan. It was just important to me that I got at least a little support so that the tuition fees could be covered. It was, but it wasn’t enough for life. That’s why I wanted to take out a student loan first, but when I left the conditions, I quickly looked for another solution. A semester abroad like this is really not cheap. The rent alone was $ 600 a month. Since I eat very healthy, I also had to pay a lot for groceries. Eating fruit every day was a real luxury.
I actually wanted to buy a car for the time, but that didn’t work out that way. I also regret that very much. In Long Beach it wasn’t a problem as everything could be reached by bus or bike. The only problem was that the buses stopped running in the evenings and you therefore had to take a taxi, which became quite expensive in the long run. We then borrowed a car every now and then. But that can also be very expensive, which is why I always booked it through a German car agency (cheapermietwagen. de). Plus, I was already 25, so I didn’t have to pay that extra fee. You should also get your California driver’s license very quickly. With it you can always identify yourself and do not need to carry your passport with you. I had already done this on my first stay abroad and it really wasn’t difficult. You can even take the theory test in German. It’s also a nice keepsake.
You can take out health insurance through the university (CSULB health insurance is now mandatory for all international students and cannot be replaced by your own health insurance from Germany). Like almost everyone else, I decided to go to the Hanse Merkur. In the end, it wasn’t cheaper because I didn’t just take the basic package. That was my luck, because I had to have a root canal treatment, which I first paid for out of my own pocket. That was $ 1500 in one fell swoop. For this reason, you should really have some reserves. If I couldn’t have paid for it, they wouldn’t have treated me. I got all the money back in Germany, but for the time there it was gone for the time being.
My roommates and I were looking for an apartment from Germany because we knew that it would be very difficult on site. We opted for the Oakwood Apartments, which are also home to a large number of German students. But we also knew that we didn’t want to stay there. In the first month we three girls also realized that we don’t really fit together. We got on so well, but living together is something else. So we went looking for a flat separately. Now there were two of us and we responded to all the advertisements we saw. We were so lucky that we came across an advertisement from Susan Pierce. She lives with her daughter (who is never home) in Seal Beach, near the Oakwood Apartments, and had two furnished rooms available in her little house. So we each had our own room, but we could still live together.
One should be aware that order and cleanliness have a different status in America than in Germany. But for 5 months it was completely ok. In addition, our landlady has always helped us. Sometimes she drove us to the airport or we could go shopping with her (which was really a relief). She even corrected my homework for spelling mistakes every now and then. If you are female and still looking for an apartment, you can contact Susan. She has a house in a nice residential area in Seal Beach, with, I think, now 3 furnished rooms and not to forget a super cute dog.
The CSULB is a really nice, but also a very large university. We didn’t have any problems finding our way, as there are nice and competent contacts on site. Where I had very big problems and was almost desperate was the course search. You have surely already read how this works I have already selected a few courses in Germany that would fit my degree program. I had concentrated on the area of women gender studies. I had 10 courses to choose from, which I also had to get confirmed by my university. You won’t believe it, I just got into one of these selected ones. All courses were already full by the time it was our turn to vote.
The search for courses was very stressful. You went to all kinds of courses for about 2-3 weeks only to be told that the course is actually full. Most lecturers didn’t care how important these courses were to me. I needed all the credits for my German university and therefore didn’t have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a course. Well, in the end, with a lot of luck, this time with the lottery, I had my 4 courses together and was very satisfied with them. Above all, my lecturers were great!
Still, studying shouldn’t be underestimated. Since I had to pass all the courses and also bring in my grades in Germany, I didn’t take it lightly. But that meant that I had something to do every weekend. In addition to reading and writing essays, I had pop-up quizzes every week to prepare for. Even if the content wasn’t always that demanding, there was still a lot to do. The semester is definitely more relaxed if you only do two courses and take sports courses for the remaining credits. So you can definitely see more of the country.
Well, because of my packed schedule, I didn’t have that much free time. But I flew there about 3 weeks before the start of my studies and have already done a lot during that time. We visited San Francisco, Highway One Tour, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas and Los Angeles (Universal Studios) in a short time. For weekend trips, San Diego and Las Vegas are recommended. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the nightlife in Long Beach, but there was also the problem that you weren’t as flexible without a car. If you like to go out to dance, I recommend simply going to LA. There are many good night clubs there where you can meet one or two celebrities.
I had booked my return flight directly from New York because I wanted to do a few more days of sightseeing on the way back. Actually, I had thought that I would find someone who would accompany me there, but that was very naive. Of course, everyone had already booked their return flight from LA or visited New York on the way there. Well, I was then just 4 days alone in New York, which wasn’t a problem at all. On the contrary, I could manage my time all by myself. Only the hotel room was quite expensive for one person. But I can only recommend New York to everyone at Christmas time, it was just fantastic!
Now I have gathered all the facts worth knowing as best I can and I hope my experience report will help you a little further. All I can say is do not hesitate and send your application. Everything else comes by itself. I wish you all the best and, above all, good luck;).