University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
The agony of choice
It wasn’t clear to me until quite late whether I definitely wanted to do a semester abroad. In the course of the 3rd semester, however, the decision was made to embark on the adventure and not to deny myself the many social, cultural and knowledge-building advantages of a longer stay abroad. Since we can use the 5th semester for this in the Business Administration course, the autumn/winter semester 2015 became my semester abroad. See existingcountries for California State University Northridge Review 2.
Since I was extremely attracted to the American mentality and way of life, ever since my family took me to Florida on several vacations when I was quite young, I knew immediately that I should go to the USA. Hopefully this time as a young adult I could confirm and deepen the positive experiences and impressions I had gained back then.
Unfortunately, my home university only offers one place per semester in exchange with its partner university in the USA. In a very tight decision, I was only 2nd in this application process.
So an alternative was needed. Of course in America, preferably where cold and rain are foreign words and where many young and interesting people live. Two possibilities that came to mind spontaneously: Florida and California. Since I’ve been to Florida twice already and I like seeing new places, my final choice was California.
California, the “Golden State” of America, so. The land of which dreams are made. The state with the largest population and probably the most diverse landscape in America. Not so easy to find a suitable place for a semester abroad amidst the many possibilities. Many of the private universities are among the best, but also among the most expensive educational institutions in the world. Since I saw the most important learning aspect for me in particular in relation to cultural and social skills, these sometimes fell out of the grid because the small bonus of having such a university on your CV bears no rational relation to the additional costs associated with it.
Within the framework of the state universities, there are two different university associations to choose from: the Universities of California (UC) and the California State Universities (CSU). Both are characterized by a progressive educational status that meets the demands of the 21st century.
As a result, I chose CSU Fullerton. Convenient location in Orange County, approximately 25-30 minutes by car to the beach, 30-60 minutes depending on traffic to downtown Los Angeles, 90-120 minutes to San Diego and only 3.5-4.5 hours away from Las Vegas. No astronomically high tuition fees and plenty of European exchange students to share this wonderful journey with.
Working with MicroEdu
I took care of the entire application process in cooperation with the agency MicroEdu, which places exchange students free of charge for the students and then receives a certain commission for the successful placement. The commission does not result in any additional costs for the student.
The cooperation was very pleasant. The necessary application documents were already listed on the MicroEdu website and I just had to fill them out and send them to the agency. If something is incomplete, please inform the student in good time to complete the documents. MicroEdu handles the entire communication process for the students.
The application process ran like clockwork and all the necessary information was provided step by step in good time. Every student who cannot find accommodation at a partner university of their home university should definitely use this free service; it will give the students some time that can be used for other planning.
Now that the rough plan was in place, I had to take care of a lot of smaller things: The passport needs a USA visa, which I picked up at the consulate in Frankfurt after making an appointment, and the flights have to be booked. In my case, I only booked the outward flight in order to remain as flexible as possible when and from where I would return to Germany. You should also start thinking about where you want to stay and how you will survive the first few days and get from A to B.
When it comes to looking for a flat, it can be said that it can be worth starting early. The dormitories that are partnered with the university are usually fully booked quite early, so you should hurry if you want to get there. Disadvantage of these apartments/rooms is that they are quite expensive ($1000+ for a room) and you may live with people you don’t get along with. I found my roommates through the MicroEdu Facebook group.Two Swiss, both of whom were very warm to me. We stayed at the Homestead Apartments. Theoretically only a 5-10 minute walk to the campus, however the business building is right at the other end of the university, so it takes another 20 minutes to walk to reach it. Otherwise quite luxurious, many pools, whirlpools, barbecue stations and a lot of staff who keep the park in good condition. The audience there is more upscale and many non-students live there. Our apartment had 3 unfurnished rooms that we furnished with Ikea furniture, two bathrooms and a balcony. In addition to the three of us, there were many other German-speaking students in the apartment complex, which was probably due to the fact that they offer the “short-term leases” that we covet, i.e. 4 or 5-month contracts instead of annual contracts.
In summary, I was quite impressed with the apartment. Despite many complaints on Google or Yelp, I can’t find anything serious to complain about. Since we all had our own room, the fun didn’t come cheap either. Each of us paid about $720-$750 per month plus utilities. Many fellow students shared rooms to save costs. Fortunately for all of us, that was never an option from the outset.
Of course, this number must be viewed in the overall context. The cost of living in SoCal isn’t cheap anywhere due to the high demand for housing. Those who want to save are probably not in good hands in this area.
Arrival in Los Angeles
A good 10 days before the start of my studies in August 2015, I landed at LAX in Los Angeles. I had arranged to meet another German there in advance in order to drive to Fullerton together with her long-term rental car. After almost 18 hours of travel, it’s not easy to stay awake to talk. Another German was also in the car, who was staying in the same hostel as me, to bridge the time until we could move into our apartments. We got along well and looked for a rental car the next morning to drive to the beach. Big Mistake: Never underestimate the California sun in August. We both hadn’t put any cream on each other, so we didn’t get incredibly brown, but incredibly red.
In the evening we drove to Los Angeles to stay overnight. There was a lot going on in Santa Monica and we were impressed by the crowds that were still out there in the evening.The next day we explored Venice, Hollywood, the hills of the super rich, popped in downtown LA and had a good time. On the same day, my girlfriend spontaneously came to Los Angeles to surprise me because it was my birthday the next day. A wonderful gift that she made me and one that made it easy for me to bridge the time until moving in and getting to know the Swiss. After her departure a few days later, my roommates picked me up at the airport and we moved into our apartment together. Shortly thereafter, the lecture period began and slowly one began to settle in.
All in all, the arrival and the first days in California were a wonderful time, during which I was able to collect many unforgettable impressions and which I personally enjoyed very much.
University and lectures
As already mentioned, the CSUF campus was huge, which is not particularly surprising given the 40,000 students. The business faculty in particular enjoys a very good reputation in America and is very well equipped in terms of inventory and lecturers. While other faculties live in other buildings in a much less spectacular way, the Mihaylo Business School is very modern and offers very good facilities for teaching and learning. On the ground floor, the business school has its own Starbucks, which was always filled with students thirsting for coffee.
In addition to various faculty buildings, the campus had a food court, a baseball field, a soccer stadium, another soccer field, an athletics field with a running track, its own gym, several administrative buildings, a building for medical and psychological care, on-campus apartments, a huge centrally located library, several places to relax and an extensive forest with a lake.
So it’s no wonder that it takes a few days to find your way around. Luckily, we were welcomed by a team of students who showed the newcomers from abroad around the campus and showed us the most important places to go (food court, gym, Mihaylo Business building).
In addition to the activities within the university, there were plenty of opportunities to get involved outside of the university. There were a few events where student clubs and brotherhoods and sororities introduced themselves and motivated people to join. On the campus itself you see an incredible number of different faces from different nations every day. Despite the great cultural diversity, all students were connected by the connection they maintain with their university. A lot of people walk around the campus in CSUF clothes and are proud to be a part of this educational institution. It was also common to see cars in Fullerton that had a CSUF sticker on their windows. Many parents are proud that their child is studying there, which is why cars with a “CSUF Mom” or “CSUF Dad” sticker often roll by.
While I was still in Germany, I had to fill out a list of desired courses and send it to MicroEdu, who forwarded it to CSUF. It was expressly stated that these are merely wishes that the American authorities are trying to take into account. I was aware that as soon as the lectures begin, things get down to business and you have to get in touch with the relevant professors as soon as possible if you don’t get the courses right away.
Of course, it is clear that in most cases the Americans had already secured coveted courses, coveted professors or coveted times before we got the chance. Consequently, it is also not surprising that some of the international students only got 1 or 2 courses that they originally wanted. My roommate didn’t even get a single one.
However, I got a course for sure. Admittedly, I had secretly wished for this course and was therefore glad that I got this course that I wanted. I was able to get hold of two other courses without any problems, but one of them was a so-called “night class”, which was not so popular with the Americans and with me. You have to accept compromises before you are left without the necessary number of lectures. In my case, I had to choose 4 courses to get the equivalent of 30 credit points in Germany. The last course I chose was Entertainment Money Management. Definitely not a dream course, but at the time it was most important to me that I could scrape together 4 courses by the deadline.
I took the courses: “Strategic Internet Marketing”, “Financial Management II”, “Principles of Marketing” and “Entertainment Money Management”.
Strategic Internet Marketing
My favorite. Especially suitable for absolute beginners in online marketing. I’ve been interested in this topic for a while, but I’ve never found the right place to start. After my time in America, I was able to use the knowledge I gained through this course to delve deeper into the subject and plan to continue working (self-employed) in this field after graduation.
Neil Granitz competently conveys content about various methods of marketing on the Internet. He discusses in depth eg email marketing, social media marketing, PPC marketing and organic online marketing. To do this, he uses various practice-oriented tools such as Google Adwords and WordPress as well as a marketing campaign simulation that takes place weekly and simulates a lot of what he has learned theoretically in practice. Furthermore, the basics of search engine optimization and the associated Google algorithm are explained.
The practical relevance is also emphasized on the basis of extensive group work, in which a physical or digital product is to be created and marketed over several rounds.
In addition to the two exams, this group work accounts for a large part of the grade. In addition, Granitz awards a grade for cooperation, although he rates it quite generously for international students.
Although I was very interested in this course and had to do quite a bit for it, I could not get an A as the final grade due to the strict evaluation of the exams and the group work. For me personally, however, the course was worth more than a grade could express, so I can warmly recommend this course to anyone interested in the subject area.
Financial management 2
Also thematically a desired course, I could not “get” my selected lecturer here. Ms. Lim, with whom I ended up sitting in this course, is very committed to ensuring that all students understand the material. She regularly asks if everyone understands and is not afraid to answer individual questions.
I was pleasantly surprised by the former Deloitte employee. I really enjoyed going to her lectures, in which she dealt with the topics of annuities, perpetuities, capital and final value methods, which form the basis of her teaching material. In addition, the financial company valuation in particular is discussed using the discounted cash flow method and given the students an understanding of various case studies.
As a German student, I was unfamiliar with weekly homework, which was assessed and accounted for 10% of the final grade, and was sometimes annoying. Already in the 1st exam, however, it became clear that it was good if you knew the complete list of questions for the homework by heart, since she has similar tasks in her exams.
There were a total of 4 additional group projects that dealt with topics that were also relevant to the exam.
A very good course, especially for people who like numbers and arithmetic and who are interested in the subject. Personally, I was regularly the best in her 3 exams without too much effort.
Principles of Marketing
Mr. Anicich is a very funny fellow who is always good for a snappy joke. Personally, I liked him the most as a lecturer. He knew how to make a late Thursday evening at the university bearable. Thematically, he sticks closely to a textbook, which he works through over the entire semester. It describes marketing basics that German students have already come across here and there at their home university.
However, I also got to know a lot of concepts that were unfamiliar to me and understood the big picture in marketing. Contrary to the opinion of many others, I did not find his exams to be a great challenge if you attended the lecture regularly and took a little time to work on the book before the exams. There is also a 20-30 page homework assignment that you have several months to complete. Here, Mr. Anicich evaluates very generously and gives most full marks, provided that you have made a little effort.
A good course overall. An outstanding professor who only wants the best for his students if they are willing to put in some time. Not the most exciting of the 4 courses, but not the most boring either.
Entertainment Money Management
Sounds more exciting than it actually is. Basically, there are some interesting topics on the menu, for example hotels, casinos and film. From my point of view, what sounds promising is conveyed in a rather dry and tough way by dwelling on many unnecessary details. On the other hand, some guest speakers were positive, including from Walt Disney, who were able to provide interesting insights into their business.
In principle, the course is not difficult, but since I was bored with the way the subject matter was conveyed to us, and probably because I was only interested in individual fragments of the extensive range of topics, I personally cannot recommend the course.
Experiences outside of the university
Away from the university, I can look back on an extremely fulfilling semester abroad. Countless times I have been to one of the many nearby beaches and have been able to enjoy California life to the fullest. Many good friends made it easy for me to live away from my family for a longer period of time.
Together with them and my girlfriend, with whom I went on vacation for 2 weeks during the semester, I was in San Francisco, several times in San Diego, several times in Las Vegas, often in LA, in several national parks and on some of the most beautiful beaches of the world. Of course we also went to various clubs, restaurants and shops in and around Fullerton.
The city itself, with around 140,000 inhabitants, is quite manageable by American standards. Downtown Fullerton offers a selection of bars in the evenings that get busy on weekends. The music and the audience in Fullerton were often not to my liking, but it was enough for one or two fun evenings.
There were plenty of amenities and things to do in Fullerton, although I didn’t use them very often. I preferred to go to the beach or to a larger city with friends. The Fullerton region offers some culinary highlights. Pieology, an Italian pizza delivery service and Mr. BBQ, a Korean barbecue and my beloved Chipotle are just a few of Fullerton’s highlights.
All the diverse impressions gained have had an extremely positive effect on my personality development. I have become much more independent and have become much more open when it comes to interpersonal relationships. In addition, I was able to improve my English skills significantly and I am no longer inhibited to speak English. I may have awakened one of my strongest interests in online marketing, which I might also want to pursue professionally. My natural ability to be interested in different cultures and to deal with them was noticeably strengthened during my stay in the USA.
Experiencing California with the right people can be a very meaningful experience for anyone who is open to it. So also in my case.
The time in California changed my life for the better and the only downside I see is that it’s hard to get used to everyday life in Germany again. I was able to develop and flourish there on a social, mental and emotional level. I had the feeling that I experienced more in the few months there than in a whole year before in Germany.
In retrospect, the fact that I didn’t get a place in the partner program at my home university was probably one of the happiest decisions of my life, because with Fullerton I drew the best possible lot for me.