The 5th semester at my university is planned as a semester abroad. After thorough research, I decided to visit California State University in Chico for the 2012/2013 winter semester. The small town with just under 86,000 inhabitants is about 3 hours by car from San Francisco and is known to be very bike-friendly, which is a great advantage, especially as an exchange student. In the summer months it gets very warm, but there is no humidity, which is why high temperatures (40 degrees C) are pleasant. In the winter months it doesn’t get really cold, but it does rain a lot. The cost of living is particularly low compared to the rest of California. A big plus point of the university is that it merges directly into the downtown area of the city; Get more student review on California State University Chico on jibin123.
1. Preparation & application
The application process is very easy through MicroEDU. If questions arise, the team supports wherever it can. When choosing health insurance, I would recommend AXA or ADAC, as both are among the cheaper and meet all requirements. The visa should be applied for as soon as all information has been received in order to avoid time bottlenecks. If you want to apply for foreign student loans, you should do so as early as possible, as the processing time can be a little longer.
There are many ways to get here. I flew straight to Chico from San Francisco. You can also take the train / bus from San Francisco, which is of course more inconvenient. Another possibility would be to fly to Sacramento by plane and from there take the bus (preferred) or the train (which only goes to Chico once a day and that at night). Or you fly to San Francisco or Sacramento and rent a car (which isn’t cheap either).
Finding accommodation is not easy. It is best if you arrive in Chico about 2 weeks before the start of the university and then go looking for it on site (ideally with a bike). There are many apartment blocks in Chico where apartments are rented to students. However, since last year there have only been a few who rent only for 1 semester and these are often unfurnished (and not cheap). I would look for shared apartments on craigslist (http://chico.craigslist.org/). Best not near N Cedar Street / Columbus Ave or the train tracks. I lived further away from the tracks and still I woke up at night to the horn of the train (supposedly it always announces itself to warn students who might be on the tracks …). It really is madness
The university campus is really beautifully laid out. There is a lot of green and a great rose garden. The library is ideal for study and group meetings. WiFi is available and computers are also offered. For most courses you have to buy expensive books, which are usually much cheaper on Amazon.
4.1. Course choice
As an international student through the ALCI program, you can take 10 credits. For each additional one you pay on top (about $ 250). I have decided to take 4 courses with 3 credits each (with additional payment). In addition, you take an ALCI English course for at least one semester (more on this in the next section). In the first 1-2 weeks you can take any courses and then have to go straight to the professor and ask if you can take part in the course. I got all of the courses I wanted, just like most other Germans: International Management, Intro to Managerial Accounting, Purchasing & Supply Chain Management and Software Engineering. In most of the courses, intensive group work was sometimes required, which is why the courses can be a bit time-consuming. However, the subjects to be treated are usually not difficult to understand. The professors are very open and organize the lectures in different ways.
The ALCI (American Language and Culture Institute) works with MicroEDU. If you apply via MicroEDU, you will be registered with the program together. The people at ALCI are very helpful and you can approach them with any problem or question. The ALCI also offers English courses. Many of them are intended to serve as preparation courses for international students for the right university courses. Above all, this includes the courses grammar, writing, speaking and reading, which are offered in levels 1-6. In my opinion, these courses are not suitable for German students, as even the 6th level is too trivial and you are there to take part in real university courses. Then there are the so-called “elective classes” such as US History and American Slang. All ALCI students come to these courses no matter what level of English you are at. I would advise German students to attend one of these elective classes (I had American slang, for example). The course lasts half a semester and you can easily deselect it for the second half.
- Free time
There is a wide range of leisure activities in Chico. For example, you can register in the sports hall (costs around $ 200), where there is a nice large pool and all sports and fitness equipment. Since the hall has not been around that long, the devices are in top condition.
The university offers various working groups, e.g. CAVE (Community Action Volunteers in Education). This organization is run by students and is a non-profit volunteer organization with more than 15 different programs. I took part in the EXCEL program, in which you help 2-3 times a week in a boys & girls club. Registering for it was a bit more complex, but it was definitely worth it! If you like to sing, the university also offers various choirs. These are actually university courses (1 credit), but exceptions are made and you can just take part. 😉 Simply speak to / write to the choir director and ask. There are also various church choirs in Chico; I have, for example: joined a gospel choir.
The many cafes and restaurants are perfect for settling down with friends after university; There you can do very good things for the university and organize group meetings.
In the evenings there is a lot going on in the many bars n Chico even during the week (from Wednesday). The drinks are cheap and some bars have a lot of live music.
The nightlife is very pronounced in Chico. There are many house parties and the bars are always busy.
At the university there is another organization, Adventure Outings, which organizes and carries out trips. The organization is also run by students and there is a wide range of activities, from rafting (absolutely recommended !!!), camping, mountain bike tours, hikes to kayak tours, everything is included.
Chico’s central location offers many travel options, which are also ideal for a (long) weekend. Lake Tahoe is only a few hours away; there you can rent a place to stay for a weekend or camp. In summer it is very warm there and you can go swimming, in winter the places turn into popular ski areas.
San Francisco is of course a must (the ALCI also took us on a day trip there). Definitely rent a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Bakers Beach, walk through Chinatown, visit Coit Tower, picnic in Golden Gate Park and of course ride the cable car! There are many bars scattered all over the city, which are good to visit in the evening.
If you have a little more time, you can also go to Seattle. It is best to rent a car with a large number of people, then the total costs are kept within reasonable limits due to the low fuel costs. 😉 On the way you can take Portland with you and, if you want, go all the way up to Vancouver (Canada). In Seattle you can also go on a day trip to Victoria (Canada) and go whale watching there (be careful, keep in mind the season and it could be a bit more expensive). Highly Recommended!!! In the vicinity of Portland are beautiful impressive waterfalls and the Oregon coast is a dream (Astoria, Cannon Beach,…)!
Then there is of course the Yosemite National Park, which is really worthwhile. Absolutely unique in terms of landscape!
And there are many, many other great cities and places in California such as
- Sacramento: interesting history, very nice downtown area, great bars)
- Santa Cruz: cute surfer town, is very nice, has great beaches
- San Jose: nice city, good night life
- Monterey: cute little town below Santa Cruz, whale watching
- Carmel: beautiful little town, expensive & wealthy, nice cafes & restaurants
- Santa Barbara: student city, unique climate, pretty harbor, great villas in the mountains, wealthy
- Ventura & Oxnard: beautiful beaches, shopping, whale watching
- Malibu: Beach !!, great roads in the mountains, dream villas
- Santa Monica: Tourist spot, rent a bike and drive down the beach past Venice Beach (cute street stalls, great atmosphere), enjoy the beach
- Los Angeles: Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park + Griffith Observatory (great view over the whole of LA!), Universal Studios, Madame Tussauds, bus tours, shopping, Walk of Fame, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard, clubs, bars & cafes, Manhattan Beach,….
- Long Beach: aquarium, beach
- Huntington Beach: beautiful surfer town, great beach, sweet shopping and restaurant mile, which lead to a jetty into the sea, beach volleyball, cute houses and apartments
- San Diego: beautiful city, whale & dolphin watching (!), Little Italy, restaurants & cafes, beautiful beaches, Balbao Park (great museums, the park is beautiful and diverse, fountains, architecturally the buildings are very reminiscent of Mexico),…
Then of course you have to drive down Highway 1, preferably from north to south (because you drive on the waterfront), where you drive past beautiful towns, fantastic stands, many view points etc.
You can also go to Las Vegas good to visit when you’re in the corner. Personally, I would plan maybe 2-3 nights. The essential thing is “The Strip”, where all casinos and hotels are on it and which you should definitely see in daylight as well as at night! There are hundreds of great shows running daily and the shopping opportunities are endless.
The Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam are not far from there and are all worthwhile. Take part in the Grand Canyon before a sunrise or sunset and on the way there maybe take the Wupatki National Monument Park with you, a volcano park with many Native American ruins.
After the semester, plan a road trip through California (Highway 1 down)! You will get to know the Germans who are there through MicroEDU in Chico, with whom you have found great travel partners.
Visit the Cheesecake Factory (e.g. in LA or Huntington Beach)!
If you love coffee, you will definitely feel right at home in the local cafe “Naked Lounge”. Free WiFi is included (on request).
Definitely go flaoting on the Sacramento River! You can borrow large swim rings, sit on them and swim down the river. However, you have to be careful, there are many large pieces of wood in the water (so it’s best to just stay on the tire) and the water is always very cold (because it comes from the mountains). And on Labor Day, thousands of students go floating, but it is very (!!!) crowded and also not completely harmless …
Every Thursday evening there is live music at The DownLow Jazz.
In summer there is always a farmers market on Thursday evenings. And of course Sunday mornings all year round. Definitely worth a visit!
If you often shop at Safeway (supermarket chain), simply get your club card, it costs nothing and saves a lot of money.
Helloween is big in Chico. Make sure to make a costume and join in. And the week before, go to a pumpkin field, look for a pumpkin, buy it and carve your face in!
Just take a walk through the beautiful Bidwell Park.
If you are interested in getting to know a piece of America, Chico is the right place for you. With its many cafes, restaurants and leisure opportunities, the city offers an almost perfect student life at a reasonable price (for California). I really enjoyed my time there, especially the relaxed, almost amicable interaction between the students and professors. I’ve met a lot of great people from all over the world and I’m still in the travel bug. All university courses are completely feasible (despite the sometimes high workload) and there is enough time to meet with Americans and enjoy the semester in the sun and between the palm trees.