University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: psychology
Study type: semester abroad
From mid-August to mid-December 2017 I did a semester abroad at California State University Fullerton (CSUF). Since I had already gained some experience in the USA through a semester abroad during school, I would like to spend a longer period in the States again. I chose California because from there I could reach many places that had been on my travel list for a long time. These included San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, among others(more on that below). I chose CSUF because I found courses there that were very interesting to me personally. I’m studying psychology and I wanted to go to a university that also offers “clinical psychology” specifically. This was the case at CSUF. In addition, CSUF is only about 30 miles from Los Angeles, making it a very attractive location. See existingcountries for California State University Los Angeles Review 2.
With the help of MicroEdu, applying to CSUF went very smoothly. Nevertheless, the amount of time that is required should not be underestimated. As a master’s student, I needed a letter of motivation in English and was supposed to write a reason for each course as to why I wanted to take it.
At the CSUF, it was regulated in such a way that you chose the courses directly when you applied. You could also choose the course online see. Unfortunately, the course descriptions often contained only a few sentences, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of what the courses covered in terms of content. Although I was initially told that some courses were not open to “internationals”, I was still able to take them on site. In the first week of university, I simply went to the courses I wanted to take and asked the lecturer if he would accept me. So don’t be put off if it doesn’t work from home. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee for the courses (not even for those that have already been confirmed from home), which of course takes some of the security out of credit issues. I was able to have a course credited to me and exchanged information with the responsible employee at my German university. He was able to answer all of my crediting questions.
What also increased the preparation effort was, in addition to the language test and visa, financial proof from the bank that you had more than 15,000 euros. The CSUF recognizes the DAAD as a language test . This costs about 30 euros and is therefore comparatively very cheap.The University of Münster, for example, offers this in the language center. I quickly found an exam date there. If I remember correctly, this consisted of an oral, a reading comprehension, a listening comprehension and a written part. In order to obtain a visa for the USA, one must first apply online. A photo is required for this. The time required for this procedure should not be underestimated and can take several hours. When this step is done, you can make an appointment at the American embassy, for example in Frankfurt or Berlin. There you should be prepared for the question of whether you want to return to Germany. Although I have been pointed out several times before Taking documents with me as proof of coming back and coming up with good arguments, the conversation went very smoothly for me. I was only asked if I was doing my master’s degree in Germany and “that’s it”.
I booked my flights with the travel agency STA Travel. This is geared towards young people and very competent in advising. I started the semester abroad together with my boyfriend. We decided to make a stopover in New York on the return flight. I really highly recommend taking as much as possible with you on the trip.
Accommodation in the United Statesfinding it turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I first tried to find accommodation in various Facebook groups (such as the “CSUF roommate database”). This has not been easy as many Americans prefer to rent their rooms to someone who can view the property locally and plans to stay for a longer period of time. So I would recommend arriving a little earlier and staying in a hostel or an AirBnb apartment first to be able to search on site. You just have a lot more options that way. I decided against accommodation on campus because it was simply too expensive for me. By chance, while searching the Facebook groups, I met an American who, although unable to give me a room in his apartment, helped me to find one in the same apartment complex, where he also lived to find accommodation. I was very grateful for his willingness to help and became good friends with him over time. Finally, my boyfriend and I have a studio together (i.e. an apartment with only one open space) in theFound the “Homestead” apartment complex, which was not far from campus. Here, however, I would like to point out that in the USA “not far from campus” is relative. Although I was able to walk to the campus within 10 minutes, it took me closer to 25 minutes to get to the building where all my classes were held.
Luckily, the friend who also helped me to find an apartment gave my friend and I a bicycle as a present. We went to Walmart for the second bike and got one there for $70. This was very worthwhile because we were able to sell it afterwards for 50 dollars. So my way to the university was only about 12 minutes. The Homestead was a nice and safe condo complex with a gym, washrooms and pools.However, the studio I stayed in was way overpriced, so I don’t really recommend it. We later met friends, five of whom lived in a 2-bedroom apartment in the same complex and were therefore significantly cheaper than us. My friend said she paid little more there than for her apartment in Munster. Nevertheless, you should be aware that living in the greater LA area is very expensive and shared rooms usually cost more than single rooms in Germany.
Arrival and movement
I still had about two weeks on site before the university started. I had planned this time because I initially planned to look for accommodation locally. In the end, however, I only had to spend one night in a hostel before I could move into my new home. Nevertheless, I found the two weeks before the start of the university very enriching, as I was able to explore the situation in advance and discover the first destinations. I decided against buying a car because of the cost. I have to admit that at first I was a little dissatisfied with this decision. Although I knew that the distances in the USA are significantly greater than at home, I still underestimated how little you can actually do without a car.
In the first few weeks I had the feeling that I wanted to see a lot but without a car I couldn’t see much. Luckily this problem went away quickly. Over time you found friends who had a car and could take you with them. I have also often used the providers Lyft and Uber, through which you can book a kind of “private taxi”. Here it is recommended that one person in a group first downloads the respective apps and then invites his or her friends, since you can receive so many vouchers for discounted trips. I can also recommend the UberEats app, which you can use to order good food. The same applies here: Inviting friends is worthwhile.
Free time and the surrounding area
Joining various clubs also solved the problem for me of being inflexible without a car. Ultimately, I settled on the Adventure Club, the Travel Association, and the International Student Association. All three clubs carpooled for the excursions, so it didn’t matter at all if you didn’t own a car. I can only warmly recommend participating in such clubs, because on the one hand you have the opportunity to do a lot and also to explore the country and on the other hand you can make great friends.For example, I went camping for a whole weekend, explored various hiking trails, roasted marshmallows on the beach by a campfire and took a day trip to San Diego. The clubs also offered, for example, trips to nearby amusement parks or activities such as pumpkin carving or friend’s giving. I made friends that were so close that it was very difficult for me to say goodbye to them at the end of the semester abroad.
Since Fullerton is an international university, I not only got to know Americans better, but also, for example, a Korean and three Japanese. Many beaches are within easy reach of Fullerton. I’ve been to Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach. I liked Laguna the best because it is a small beach with few tourists and is located in an almost hidden bay. Furthermore, the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego are easy to reach from Fullerton. From Fullerton, a train takes two hours to San Diego.There, among other things, I tried surfing for the first time and visited La Jolla Beach, where there are many free-living seals and sea lions.There I was able to borrow diving equipment and watch the animals swimming and playing up close. My favorite part of Los Angeles was the hike to the Hollyood Sign. Even if it really wasn’t an easy way up in August with about 35 degrees, the climb is worthwhile because the view is breathtaking. About Los Angeles I can say that the journey is not short despite the proximity. There is a lot of traffic from Fullerton by car, so the drive can easily take around 90 minutes. I don’t recommend taking public transportation, as it once took me five hours to get to Venice Beach (a beach in LA).
I would describe the recreational opportunities in Fullerton itself (at least without a car) as rather limited. The only bars and restaurants are actually within walking distance. Disneyland is not far from Fullerton. It’s certainly not for everyone, but personally I really liked it there. In addition, Universal Studios, including Harry Potter World, the Six Flags roller coaster paradise, the rather small Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, Sea World and several water slide parks are only a maximum of two hours’ drive away. In San Diego there is also a great zoo and a safari park.
The Thank’s Giving Week was ideal for further trips in California and the surrounding area, as all events were canceled during this week. I rented a car with three friends. Including the weekends, we were able to plan a ten-day trip. Our travel destinations were the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco. I’m glad I saw all of these places and would recommend any of them to anyone planning to visit California for any length of time. However, in hindsight, I would rather not go through all the goals within ten days, but maybe put some on weekends or before or after the semester. The journey involved a lot of time in the car, so I often had the feeling of leaving again, before I really got there. Personally, I really liked both the national parks and the cities.It is impressive to look into the Grand Canyon, to walk over the desert hills in Death Valley and to listen to the waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. In Las Vegas and San Francisco, on the other hand, there are just so many tourist attractions. Personally, I have had very good experiences with a travel group of four people and would want to travel with the group again at any time.
Campus and courses
The campus in Fullerton can hardly be compared to the University of Münster, which I attend in Germany. Since Fullerton has to provide space for over 35,000 students, the campus can be imagined to be correspondingly large. It contains two large sports stadiums (soccer and baseball) as well as a basketball hall and other training fields. There is also the so-called “Student Recreation Center”, which can be imagined as a large gym with a pool, a covered jogging track and a climbing wall. Unfortunately, although this is included in the tuition fee for local students, it costs over $100 per semester for international students to register. Since the condo complex I lived in had a pool and gym, I opted out of Student Recreation Center membership. Still, I’ve heard from others that it’s worth it. I myself really enjoyed campus life in Fullerton.I liked that the campus was very much designed to allow for togetherness and to make good use of the breaks that you had between classes. For example, there was a large room with tables and sofas, and a basement with billiard tables and even a bowling alley. The library was very well stocked. There were a few dining options and, typically for the US, several Starbucks.
Unfortunately, as far as the courses themselves are concerned, I can only share my experiences, especially in the field of psychology. In general, I noticed in all my courses that I would classify the level as significantly lower than in Germany. While I’m used to the fact that the events in Münster are very demanding, in Fullerton I had the feeling that you can achieve top marks with significantly less self-demand. In contrast to Germany, oral participation also counted in two of my three courses. In addition, unlike in Germany, there is not only one exam phase at the end of the semester, but also so-called “midterms”., so that there can be exams at any time. In addition, I had to finish homework within two weeks. Another difference to studying in Germany was that I was given homework. As a result, the time at CSUF reminded me a little more of school than of university. Even if I consider the demands in the USA to be lower overall, it should not be underestimated that the university requires a very large amount of time. Since there was always homework, exams or chores to do, you “always had something to do” and by no means a stress-free time.
Costs and conclusion
It is worth looking into whether you can get financial support in some way. Luckily, I myself received a scholarship abroad, but I know from my girlfriend, who financed the semester abroad through foreign BAföG, that she also received a considerable sum. The costs are nevertheless very high and should not be underestimated. You have to reckon with the fact that the apartment will probably cost between 500 and 900 dollars per month (mostly in a shared room) or even, if you decide for on-campus living, you have to reckon with over 1000 euros. Groceries are also very expensive, my boyfriend and I usually paid over $130 for a week’s groceries for two people. It’s actually cheaper to eat fast food, but who wants that on a long-term five-month trip. The proximity to Disneyland and Universal Studios is really great, but there alone the day ticket for one person costs around 100 dollars. One should simply be aware of what is to come and decide carefullyFor me personally it was the most expensive six months of my life, but I am of the opinion that I have seen and experienced much more than I would have done at home, so that it was still very worthwhile for me.
Overall, I would recommend everyone to do a semester abroad. It simply brings unforgettable memories and unique experiences. I find it difficult to say in general whether I can recommend the CSUF for the location of the semester abroad. I myself believe that another university might be more suitable for students with high self-aspirations, as I found it frustrating at times that I was able to learn much less there than in Germany, simply because the level of the courses was completely different. However, it is a mistake to assume that the semester abroad would be like vacation. Since I was constantly having to do any assignments or exams, I didn’t find the semester relaxing. However, I am fairly certain that this is an issue that is not unique to CSUF, but applies to studying in the US in general. Although I rated the university relatively poorly, I believeHowever, I would still rate the semester abroad as very positive and a great experience. Despite everything, the change from campus life and excursions and travel made the semester unforgettable and absolutely worthwhile for me.