University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Business
Study type: semester abroad
The semester abroad was mandatory for me, but that was also one of the main reasons for me to choose my degree program “Industrial and Business Systems”, because I wanted to spend a semester abroad from the start. See ehuacom for CSUF Study Abroad.
I teamed up with N., whom I met during my studies, and together we went to California State University Fullerton (CSUF) in California. Fullerton is very close to Anaheim (Disneyland), which in turn is about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles. As the name suggests, the CSUF is a state university with almost 40,000 students, most of them in the business field.
Although the University of Applied Sciences Emden/Leer has a number of partner universities, none of them were particularly attractive to us. We then came across “ MicroEdu ” at an information event and applied there for a semester at CSUF in California.
The application process was very uncomplicated and fast and the people at MicroEdu were very helpful and easy to reach, so that all questions were always answered very quickly. This primarily included questions about course selection and the conversion of US American units into credits. This issue also turned out to be the first (and also one of the biggest) difficulties. It was not possible for us to choose our courses in advance. So all we could do was pick out courses that we would like and have the content of these checked by the International Office to make sure that they were credited to us. Through the so-called “class crashing” we should later choose our courses, but more on that later.
Another problem was that at CSUF you only take 4 courses or a total of 12 units per semester as standard. In order to get our 30 credits, however, we needed 15 units, i.e. one more course, which increased the already horrendous (by German standards) tuition fees by $1000.
However, everything else went smoothly. We received our visa documents quickly and were able to make an appointment at a US embassy.
We also got a lot of information about possible accommodations and since we were there relatively early, we both got a place in the University Village (more on that later).
I had actually pre-booked a shuttle for transportation from the airport, but something must have gone wrong with the booking. In any case, it was no problem to come to Fullerton without pre-ordering, and it was surprisingly cheap.
On site, we then first took care of a car, which was essential given the miserable network of public transport. We were able to rent a jeep at a very good price from a mechanic who was recommended to us in reports. All in all, we were extremely satisfied with our car because we made exactly the right choice for our purposes.
What turned out to be a bit difficult was finding a decent phone provider, as many, such as Verizon, were not compatible with foreign phones. In the end we ended up with 4 people in a family contract at T-Mobile. We didn’t always have the best network there, but the conditions were definitely the best in comparison, which is why we would most likely do it again.
The University Village is an apartment complex that is directly adjacent to the campus. Normally only contracts with a term of at least one year are signed, but if you apply early enough you get into a program where the contract is passed on to new internationals after a semester. The apartment was quite expensive, but only at first glance, since we got food twice a day during the week (as an all-you-can-eat buffet) and the cost of living in California is definitely higher than in Germany. In addition to the convenient location (close to the university and shopping facilities), we also had free parking and access to the pool. In addition, were organized many “social events” that gave the opportunity to meet people and exchange ideas. I was also very satisfied with the administration there, as everyone was very friendly and helpful.
Studies at the host university
Unfortunately, studying at Fullerton began with what was probably the worst experience of the semester abroad: class crashing.
As already mentioned, apart from a list of subjects we would like to have, we were not able to choose any courses beforehand (this only applied to the exchange students who were only there for one semester, everyone else can register online). N. and I both got 3 courses from that list, but we ended up not keeping any of them. Then two weeks began, in which we ran daily from course to course and professor to professor to find lectures in which there was still space or to which additional students were admitted. Of course, since we weren’t the only ones who felt this way (but more than 300 other foreign students, all of whom we met only needed four subjects), the professors were also a little overwhelmed,
After the first week we still didn’t have all the necessary courses together and therefore had to look for further lectures, which again had to be confirmed by the International Office in Emden. In the end, however, we managed to work out a timetable that consisted of courses that were credited to us in Emden and also made it possible for us to have long weekends. We had even managed to get into the same classes, although we hadn’t even planned it. So all the stress ended well after all.
Apart from the class crashing, the rest of the studies were fundamentally different from those in Germany. It brought back a lot of memories from school and I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. For example, there was compulsory attendance, homework, tests and a total of three exams per course (sometimes replaced or supplemented by a presentation). You had to get a book for each subject. These could cost up to over $200. At this point, Amazon Rent was an insider tip that saved a lot of money.
The number of participants in the courses varied from about 20 to not much more than 50, because, as I said, everything was much more academic and the weekly homework of each student also has to be corrected. Oral participation was usually included in the grade. On the one hand, the system was a real change, because you were less independent again and it somehow felt like you were taking a step back, on the other hand you got a lot of help from the professors and you are automatically on the whole semester ball remained. So you didn’t even get tempted to start learning just after the exam phase.
Personally, I didn’t have any problems with the level. Although we had some very interesting courses with not so uncomplicated material, the professors made it very easy for you in many places, which could well be due to the American study system. That alone could probably be discussed in great detail, which is why I’ll leave it at this point.
Everyday life and free time
At this point we have only partially fulfilled the purpose of the semester abroad, I’m afraid, since we spent a large part of our free time with other Germans. This was partly due to the fact that there were extremely many other German exchange students there (by far the largest part of the internationals) and many of them also lived in or in the immediate vicinity of the University Village. For me personally, however, this was not a major problem, since improving my English skills, after two one-year stays abroad each, was no longer my top priority.
For example, we founded a football team and took part in an internal university league. It’s not exactly my favorite sport, but it’s still better than no sport at all. I also have to admit that in this respect I hardly used the opportunities that the university gave me. If you wanted, you could use a large fitness center for small amounts and take part in many other sports. Furthermore, there was a huge range of clubs, where there was something for every taste. We also took a quick peek here and there, but ended up traveling too much to be able to follow it seriously.
During the week we always tried to do everything necessary for the university (homework, etc.) so that we had the weekends off, because when you pay so much money for a semester, you want to enjoy the time and enjoy it get to know as much of the area as possible. This included attending basketball and ice hockey games, as well as visiting Universal Studios in Hollywood and LA in general. But then Disneyland was too expensive for us.
However, I found the longer trips to the national parks in California, Utah and Arizona the best by far (we had a lot of time for the fall break, among other things). The landscapes that you saw there were so breathtaking that you can hardly describe them in words, or even pictures (at least I can’t).
In summary, I can say with certainty that I spent a very nice, unforgettable and academically successful semester in California. I can recommend Cal State Fullerton to anyone who is not put off by the tuition fees in the USA and the Americans themselves (at least in California) are very nice and open people. You definitely have the opportunity to have the time of your life there, whether you do that is of course up to you.
Even if I personally would not like to move to the USA for a longer period of time, for political and cultural reasons, I still really enjoyed the semester there. The best experience for me was probably our big road trip in Fall Break, during which we visited many national parks and cities in California, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. I definitely found the class crashing the worst. It was very annoying for so long not knowing which courses you would have in the end and, above all, whether you would get enough courses together that would be credited to you in Germany. Not to mention the fact that for two weeks we had to walk across campus from dawn to dusk to attend classes we didn’t know we could even get into.
In order to end this report on a positive note, I would like to add that even in such difficult situations, there was always enough help available. The International Office there in particular made a great effort to prepare us for all situations where possible and to prepare us to help further and the professors were also happy to take the time for questions and problems when you approached them.