University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
A wonderful experience that you wouldn’t want to miss for anything in the world. The best time of my life was the six months in Fullerton, with a wonderful family who is now my second family : -). See educationvv for California State University Northridge Exchange Program.
Still a bit hesitant, but already have the dream in mind? Then let’s start with the application process! Or even before that, through a friend who had already organized a semester abroad through MicroEdu, I found out that there were info events. In March 2014 I went to an event like this in Münster and got more information, which was very detailed! are, fetched. My choice quickly fell on Cal State Fullerton, because on the one hand my friend was there himself and could warmly recommend it, on the other hand the reports on this university were very positive and, of course, the location right next to Los Angeles was perfect.
At that point I hadn’t really believed in my semester abroad anymore, I only had my bachelor’s thesis ahead of me and two more exams, it was the end of the 5th semester and I thought it would be too late, but since I had never been to America before was, I wanted to try it.
First I communicated with Anja via email for a while, then I decided to take the TOEFL test, first to test how good my English really is (the test is also not exactly cheap at around $240). When I had my result, I collected the necessary documents (overview of grades from my university, the TOEFL result, application forms, etc.). After I had filled out the forms and sent them directly to MicroEdu together with the remaining documents (July 2014), I had to wait. And after about 5 weeks, a large envelope came back from MicroEdu, I have my acceptance! *happy*.
As you can see, the application process itself is not particularly difficult, but with the help of MicroEdu it is all the easier, since you don’t have to send the documents directly to America, you only have to hand them over to MicroEdu.
Approval in hand! Yes! Now it’s time to make further preparations, above all, the most important thing, apply for the visa! For this you have to register online at the US Embassy and fill out a very long form, as far as I can remember it took about 2 hours. You have to reveal a lot of personal details but also answer a few absurd questions, such as “Do you want to launder money while you are in the USA” and similar…
When registering online, you also have to pay the SEVIS fee and the visa application fee. Altogether that amounts to 220-270 euros, depending on the exchange rate. Oh yes, and you can go to the photographer again, because the passport photo for the visa has special dimensions (5×5 cm if I don’t get it wrong) and a normal passport photo is too small for it, cost about 10 euros.
After you have mastered all this, you still have to make an appointment at one of the four US consulates (Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg), plan for this 3-4 weeks in advance. Important when visiting the consulate: No MOBILE PHONES! You will also be double checked at the entrance to the consulate. In the consulate building, things went very quickly for me, a kind of receptionist showed me the way to the first counter, where I had to give my fingerprints and answer a couple of questions. Then I was supposed to go to another window (waiting times were very short, 5 minutes each) and then the “interview” followed. For me there were three questions: Where do I go, why do I want to go there and how do I finance it (no documents were required as proof during my interview, but you should have them with you). Then there was the redeeming sentence “Your visa has been approved”. You then have to hand in your passport to the consular officer and this will be sent home with your visa in 2-3 days.
Now I was sure my dream of America would come true! Now it was time to book a flight, find a subtenant for my shared room, take out international health insurance, and shut down my mobile phone contract for the time in America. Just a lot of small but important things, everyone should take a close look at what is still pending at home.
For flight booking: Compare the prices of different lines on the Internet! And according to travel experts, the perfect time to book cheap flights is between 63 and 52 days before departure.
And what is also very important, of course, is to apply for the foreign BAföG, preferably 5-6 months before departure, then it will be done very quickly. People who applied for it at very short notice had to wait until March until they received the first money….
And then there is one of the most important points for the semester abroad! The shelter. There are basically three different housing options. The student dormitories, rent your own apartment or live together with other students or a homestay with an American host family! Many students choose the student residence (on and off campus), which in my opinion is not necessarily the best choice, since very often Germans then live with Germans (not in every case, but I noticed that with some) and this becomes natural less English spoken.
I chose the homestay program, more on that later! But I can already say it was the right choice!
I landed in LAX a week before the semester started and went straight to my host family. In the first few days I explored the area and of course also visited the university. Wow, a huge campus (about 1.5km long) with various buildings and sports facilities.
The university itself is very large with over 37,000 students, but you never get the feeling that it would be overcrowded, which was often the case at my home university in Germany, even with just under 18,000 students.
Then came the first week of university and it was called crashing courses, because of course I didn’t get into any of the courses I wanted. However, when I crashed, I got straight into all the courses I had selected. Some professors said that you would have to wait until the end of the add & drop phase to sign, but at the end of the two weeks you got the signature directly.
My courses were as follows:
Business Calculus (Math 135): In principle like mathematics for economists/analytical methods in most German business administration courses.
Capital and Money Markets (Finance 342): With Prof. Milligan, a former NBA pro who, after his relatively short career, caught up on his MBA and worked on Wall Street as a stock broker and later even managed a hedge fund. An incredibly interesting and good professor! The course itself dealt with interest rate decisions and what influences them.
International Business Finance (Finance 370): A course dealing with internationalization in the company. Here, too, I got hold of a very interesting professor in Prof. Huebner. He worked in Germany for a while and teaches very lively by bringing in his own experiences and examples from his own life!
Business Valuation Mergers & Acquisitions (Finance 440): Probably the most challenging and exciting course for my professional future. Company valuation procedures were taught here and at the end of the semester you had to evaluate a company yourself according to certain specifications.
In general, I can say that the system is much better than in Germany, because you write midterms (intermediate exams) during the semester and, depending on the professor, you have tests, homework or presentations or projects, which gives you points for your final grade collects. And the final exam usually only counts for 50-30% of the final grade and you are forced to study more regularly than in Germany, for example, where you often only start studying at the end of the semester a week before the exam.
Leisure/Travel: With Fullerton in Orange County you have a perfect location, 20 kilometers to the Pacific, around 35 kilometers to downtown LA, 10 kilometers to Disneyland and cities like San Diego or Las Vegas are also very easy to get to with a car reach.
Since I was already following the NBA and NFL very enthusiastically before I left for the USA, and I was also addicted to baseball, I naturally also went to games of the Los Angeles Clippers in basketball and the Los Angeles Angels as well as the Los Angeles Dodgers. The NBA game was one of the highlights as I had a 3rd row ticket behind the visiting team!
During Spring Break I went to Las Vegas with my roommate for 3 days and on the way back we went to Hoover Dam. Las Vegas is really a sensational city, or rather the strip, the rest of Vegas is really small and rather less interesting. But walking down the Las Vegas Strip and seeing the various hotels/casinos and some malls within hotels (specifically at Cesar’s Palace and The Venetian) is worth the experience.
Of course, I made frequent trips to the sea and to Los Angeles. Huntington Beach in particular has a beautiful beach and is relatively empty.
Towards the end of the semester I went to San Francisco with my host family in a brand new 300 hp Dodger Charger : -). There I was on Alcatraz, drove a cable car and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog : -). On the way back from San Francisco we drove through Stanford and then down the coast route. Halfway there we stayed in Pismo Beach in a small hotel that had the Coast Highway on one side and the beach and the sea on the other : )
When it was time to say goodbye to Fullerton, I traveled to New York via Chicago. In both cities, of course, I still played baseball, in Chicago with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. An absolutely incredible experience, the stadium is 102 years old and most Americans, especially baseball fans of course, get itchy fingers just hearing the name. It is probably the most historic and popular stadium in the United States. Otherwise I thought Chicago was great! It is by far my favorite city in the US.
For the last 10 days it was off to New York and to be honest that was my only disappointment in America. I think the city is too crowded and dirty, of course there are also beautiful places like Central Park, but I didn’t like New York in general. But there were two highlights in New York, for one, of course one or two New York Yankees baseball games, in which Alex Rodriguez hit a home run! And on the other hand, I was with 2 people I met in the hostel, a Dutchman and a French woman, in a small, very inconspicuous but very historic bar in Manhattan, which was in the basement of a building on a side street, you had to ring the bell to be let in and it was also very dark inside. At every table There was a small bell on the sofa to let the waitress know when you wanted to order. Despite cocktail prices of 15-20 dollars, it was a very nice experience there. The huge fireworks in New York on July 4th were also very nice : -).
My absolute highlight
As I have already indicated, there should still be something to come about my host family. I want to tell you that now. My host family was by far the highlight of my stay in America. Linda and Dave, 62 & 65, Alana, the granddaughter, 3 ½ and Gemma, the German Shepherd belonged to this family. Two other students also lived there with me, but each had their own room. Faruq, 23, from Saudi Arabia and Kyotaro, 30, from Japan were my roommates.
My host family was so warm and great, we did an incredible amount together and of course I got to know the life of a real American family all the more.
Pretty much every Sunday my host mother’s best friend, Madeleine (57), sometimes with her son Travis (28), came to the weekly card game where there was a lot of talking and laughing!! : -)
I golfed a lot with my host dad Dave as he worked at the golf course about a mile from our house and we could play golf there for free! We also went poker once a month with some friends from Dave (at small stakes of $10 per spin).
As I mentioned above, while I was in America, I also got sucked into baseball, which Dave is partly to blame for, having been an LA Dodgers fan for 55 years, he taught me everything there was to know about baseball. And we’ve been to the Angels and Dogders games together.
We also often barbecued at home and every few weeks I cooked for my host family. Mainly Polish, as I also wanted to show them delicacies from my homeland (which they did well, they loved my food : -)).
Of course, there were often simply evenings where we sat together and talked about politics, religion and life, sometimes heatedly discussing it. What was also very nice: When about half of my stay was over, we set up the children’s room for Alana. Of course, the little princess got pink walls, as befits a young lady, a loft bed that represented a princess castle and pretty much all other furniture that was pink or pink. : -D
I don’t think I was bored for a single day in my host family and above all I was welcomed as a full member of the family and treated very heartily! As a farewell gift, my host family (as mentioned above) invited me to San Francisco! And one day, shortly before my departure, we went on a whale-watching tour in Newport Beach, where we took a ferry out to sea and watched dolphins and whales!
I will definitely not regret my decision to go to a host family! And of course I keep in touch and hopefully I can visit my host family soon.
The semester abroad was a complete success. Of course it wasn’t cheap, roughly 15,000+ euros should be expected. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons. With the help of MicroEdu, organizing was super easy! The university was very interesting and a good experience. I was able to perfect my (quite good) English. I’ve seen a lot of America. And above all my incredibly great host family and on the return flight I had to shed more than just a tear. And since my host family flies to Hawaii on vacation every year, they taught me a few words in Hawaiian. So in the end it wasn’t goodbye, but A Hui Hou (goodbye).