University: California State University Chico
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: English / American Studies
Study type: semester abroad
The thought of going abroad for a while has been with me for a number of years now. At the age of 16, I didn’t feel ready to go to high school in the USA, and even after graduating from high school I preferred to stay at home. Ever since I started studying English, it was clear to me that I definitely wanted to spend a semester abroad. The USA was also quickly set as a destination, as the country has fascinated me for a long time and I have already spent a few vacations there. When choosing the university, MicroEdu was a great help and in the end the choice fell on them CSU in Chico, Northern California. After spending the Fall Semester 2016 there, I’ve been back in Germany for almost a month now and I would like to share my experiences with you. I will not write a classic report for this, but will try to answer some questions that occupied me when planning my semester abroad and also share some personal experiences with you. See mcat-test-centers for vocational training in china.
How much time does planning a semester abroad take?
I started organizing my semester abroad about a year before. I was always on schedule and still had a buffer in case something didn’t go according to plan. I never really had any difficulties, but in general the bureaucratic effort for a semester abroad (especially in the USA) is quite high. For the appointment at the embassy you have to plan a “stay” in Frankfurt, Berlin or Munich and applications for possible scholarships and/or foreign BAföG also take some time. So if you want to start your semester abroad stress-free, it’s better to take too much time than too little!
Chico – Vibrant metropolis or boring small town?
As you can probably already imagine, Chico is not a cosmopolitan city. If you dream of big, exciting cities like Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco, you should rather apply to the universities there. Apart from a brewery (Sierra Nevada Brewery) and a yo-yo museum (!), Chico doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourism. That doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll get bored there after a week – on the contrary! I felt at home in Chico very quickly and still got to know new shops and places again and again. So I can answer the question of big city or small town with a “neither nor”. Chico is a typical college town. Not as big and varied as the well-known cities in California, but because of the many students it never gets boring.
Leisure and Surroundings- What does Chico have to offer?
Chico “Downtown” is full of restaurants (Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Middle Eastern…), cafes, bakeries (Upper Crust Bakery has the best pastries!) and bars. I’m not really a party-goer and don’t drink much alcohol, so I can’t really comment on the bars. However, I know from some other international students that there is actually an opportunity to go out every evening. There was always something going on at Madison Bear Garden and the other bars in town were never empty either.
If you prefer to do sports, you should definitely use the gym (membership is included in the semester fees). There is a large pool, a climbing wall, a basketball court and lots of modern equipment. Otherwise, Bidwell Park is ideal for hiking, jogging and cycling. In Upper Park there are a few spots where you can swim in the summer and in Lower Park is the One Mile Pool, which is also free to use in the summer.
The University Auditorium hosts concerts throughout the year (for which students can get very cheap tickets) and the El Rey Theater also hosts regular events. Just outside of Chico you have the opportunity to shoot a gun at a gun range, go to a rodeo, watch a high school football game or go to a state fair that takes place regularly in the area in the summer.
Mobility – bike, car or both?
One reason for me to go to Chico was that you don’t need a car there. That’s true as far as everything in the city (supermarkets, mall, university) can be easily reached by bike. If necessary, you can of course also use the bus, which students can use free of charge. However, public transport in the USA is a thing in itself and it is better not to rely on it. It was never really a problem for me not to have a car, but I was often dependent on other people as a result. You should therefore be aware that Chico is surrounded by farms and fields and it is difficult to get out of town without a car. The Greyhound bus is a cheap alternative (you can easily get to Sacramento, for example) or you can share a car with several people.
A little hint ! Most American students have their own cars. So if you live with Americans or make American friends at the university, they might let you use the car or drive you somewhere from time to time.
PS: Taxis (Liberty Cab) and Uber are of course also available in Chico, but in the long run this will of course be relatively expensive.
Excursions/Trips – How can I travel from Chico to the big, wide America?
In the USA you should definitely consider the large distances. In my opinion, it’s not really worth going to LA for a day or to New York for a weekend. If you want to go away for a long weekend, there are of course many options. In the case of the semester, you also have the week-long Thanksgiving break, which lends itself to travel. Last year I went with two friends to Yosemite and Sequioa National Parks, among other places, and also to Las Vegas and San Diego flew and we also visited the Grand Canyon. The closest airport to Chico is Sacramento (about 1 1/2 hours away). Other nearby destinations (that don’t necessarily require a flight) are San Francisco (about a 3-hour drive away), Lake Tahoe, the Napa Valley, or Highway 1, which has some beautiful coastal towns.
If you have to skip the university for a trip, that’s usually not a problem. Some lecturers don’t really care if you’re present or not, others prefer you to sign out. Just ask if you are unsure, and then nothing will stand in the way of your short vacation.
Courses, university and lecturers – What is different than in Germany?
Personally, I like the American system much better than the German one. Instead of a big exam at the end, on which everything depends, you write a few smaller essays, tests or assignments spread over the semester. I have to admit that on some courses I panicked when I first saw the syllabus. However, the tasks there are all a bit easier than in Germany and don’t take as much time. I also had the feeling that most of the lecturers didn’t pay that much attention to formalities and writing style. So don’t worry if your English isn’t perfect. You can definitely introduce yourself to your lecturer and say that you are an exchange student from Germany.
As I mentioned before, I’m studying English and took two courses in literature and two in linguistics in Chico. If you have specific questions about my courses or want to know how I got along with the lecturers, just let MicroEdu give you my contact details and then just write me privately.
In general, I felt very comfortable as an (exchange) student in Chico. The International Office organized a number of events during the semester (information events and excursions) where you came into contact with many other international students. I never really had any difficulties or problems that I had to raise with any of the counselors, but I felt that everyone always had an open ear for us.
Making friends – are you only among Germans or can you also make international contacts?
In general, I would say that anything is possible. In addition to me, about 15 other Germans were in Chico in the fall. Of course, it’s easier to strike up a conversation with them than with others, but you definitely don’t have to spend all your time with other Germans. It was important for me to speak as much English as possible and it helped me enormously to live with American women. In my free time I still spoke a lot of German, although I also had dealings with Americans. Of course, that depends a bit on everyone, but it also depends on who you meet in your courses, in your free time or through friends. Just be open to everyone
PS: Be sure to register for the buddy program at the university. There you will be assigned an American mentor, with whom you can of course also do something in your free time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really lucky with my mentor because she rarely had time for me, but I know from other students that they did quite a lot with their mentors and sometimes even got to know their families.
Living – dormitories, in a flat share or with a host family?
For me it was the greatest luck that I found my American host family with the help of MicroEdu. Okay, actually it wasn’t really family, it was my landlady and another roommate that I lived with. My landlady was a super nice, elderly lady who couldn’t have taken better care of me. She always offered me her help, did things with me, but she also gave me my freedom. I didn’t know anything about my other roommate (and her little daughter) at first, but I immediately took them both to my heart. Thanks to the family connection, I immediately felt at home in Chico and hardly ever had to struggle with homesickness. Of course I can understand that some prefer to live with people of the same age. You can do this in the student residence (University Village) or in a private flat share. For example, a friend of mine lived with two American women, another shared a shared flat with international students in UV, and still others only shared a shared flat with Germans. Whatever your ideas, all options are open to you in Chico. If you want the contact details of my landlady, you are welcome to let MicroEdu give you my name and I will put you in touch. another shared a shared flat with international students in the UV and still others only shared a shared flat with Germans. Whatever your ideas, all options are open to you in Chico. If you want the contact details of my landlady, you are welcome to let MicroEdu give you my name and I will put you in touch. another shared a shared flat with international students in the UV and still others only shared a shared flat with Germans. Whatever your ideas, all options are open to you in Chico. If you want the contact details of my landlady, you are welcome to let MicroEdu give you my name and I will put you in touch.
I can only advise everyone to take the plunge and go abroad for a semester. Chico was the perfect choice for meand I immediately felt comfortable there. Since I am a family man and very attached to my home, it was not at all easy for me to go abroad. At first I thought I was doing it just to have the experience and put it on my resume. I thought to myself that I would somehow get around the four months and then be able to return to Germany quickly afterwards. In the end, the semester was actually over really quickly, but suddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to come back to Germany. Although I was happy to see my family again, I definitely found a second home in Chico, which I left with a crying eye and which I will probably think back to in a few years’ time.