University: California State University Fullerton
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: computer science
Study type: semester abroad
California State University Fullerton was my first choice for my semester abroad and I spent 4 months of my studies in Computer Science here. Located in the state of California, Los Angeles can be reached within 45-60 minutes and the beach can be reached in just 30 minutes. San Diego (2 hours) and Las Vegas (4 hours) are also just a short drive away. The CSUF now has more than 38,000 students, including around 1,800 international students each year. See educationvv for University of California Riverside Exchange Program.
Choice of university
It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to do my semester abroad on the west coast of the USA. This narrowed my choices, but there were still plenty of colleges to choose from. Ultimately, after reading some field reports and contacting former exchange students, I decided on CSU Fullerton because a good location, a beautiful campus with many attractive offers and, of course, suitable courses were important to me.
Application process and preparation
After making the big decision, the application process was stress-free and easy with the help of MicroEdu. I decided to study at CSUF at the end of February and was therefore only able to start my application and preparations at the beginning of March, which was enough time to plan my semester abroad. Some universities require the TOEFL test as proof of English, which is not the case with CSUF. The DAAD test, which I was able to take free of charge at my home university, is also sufficient here. If you have already taken another English test (such as the Oxford test), this can sometimes simply be transcribed into a DAAD form. To submit the application to MicroEdu one needs proof of English, financial confirmation, copy of passport, an English transcript with the courses you have already taken and two other forms provided by MicroEdu, and of course the application form. MicroEdu will then forward the application directly to your contact at CSUF. After about 3 weeks I received the confirmation letter from California State University. MicroEdu also looked after everything else, such as submitting the desired electives and, of course, applying for the visa. Some home universities no longer require a “Learning Agreement”, but I would still recommend concluding one so that the grades or points can be credited without any problems after the successful completion of the study abroad. It’s also worth noting that CSUF requires you to get your $700 campus insurance.
The first days and on-site support
A week before the semester officially begins, there is an Orientation Week at CSUF. During these days, all students must be on site, because the registration takes place in the first 2 days and there are events such as campus tour, welcome luncheon or optional lectures, e.g. on the topic “Working on campus”. In these events you get to know many internationals. Even during my preparation, I was active in some CSUF FB groups, so I knew some of the students before I arrived and was able to exchange ideas with them.
Once you have your access data for the online portal by registering, you can see which courses you have been entered into. Very few people got all 4 courses to be taken directly as the national students are considered first. I had only received 2 out of 4 courses directly and now had to do “class crashing”, i.e. attend the courses and ask the professors to accept me into the course. For me it was very disappointing and exhausting, although I ended up getting 4 good courses. Personally, I found the “class crashing” very difficult, since some professors unfortunately didn’t want international students in their courses or, for example, could not accept more students for fire safety reasons. Even after having the signature and approval of the professors, you had to get a stamp from the department, which wasn’t always easy to give. The on-site support was very disappointing for me, as we were often given different information and we didn’t know what was really true. Unfortunately, the International Office on site wasn’t much help either. However, other internationals were luckier than me and didn’t have to go into class crashing.
The campus of the university is very big and beautiful. At the heart of the campus is the Pollack Library, which has 4 floors with computers, printers, study areas and separate rooms for group meetings or the like. In the Titan Bookstore you will find the school book rental, stationery, electronic devices, as well as a small supermarket and university merchandise.
If you have problems, you can also bring your computer here for repair and have it sent to you. My computer had a defect at the beginning of the semester and they sent it in for me to be repaired without any problems and brought it back as soon as possible. Next to the bookstore is the canteen with many dining options such as PandaExpress, Baja Fresh, pizza and smoothies. There are also several Starbucks scattered across campus.
The Fullerton Campus has a wide range of free offers such as weekly film days in its own cinema, concerts and giveaways. With the large and diverse range of clubs, everyone will find something, such as the German American Club, which offers trips to theme parks, beach bonfires and hikes, among other things.
Here, as everywhere in the USA, varsity sports are an important part of varsity. The campus has its own football, basketball and baseball stadium. Here you can cheer on the CSUF Titans with their elephant mascot “Tuffy the Titan” on weekends.
On campus you will also find the Student Health Center, where you can visit doctors or get medication for free at any time. Another feature of the CSUF is the Student Recreation Center, which can be used for an additional fee – a fitness center with a climbing wall, a running track, basketball courts and an outdoor pool.
Studies and courses
The courses offered at CSUF are very diverse and interesting. Despite initial difficulties with “class crashing”, I received 4 courses – all in the field of computer science – which I was very interested in and which go well with my studies. Above all, there were courses that are not offered at my home university. Unfortunately, I had lectures 3 times a week in the evening from 6/7 p.m. to 10 p.m., which is probably normal for courses in this subject area. My professors were very helpful and open-minded towards international students and were always happy to answer any questions. The courses involved a lot of effort, so I spent many hours and sometimes even weekends to work on projects, homework and other assignments or to study for tests and exams, because in some subjects there are up to 4 exams. There is always a lot to do, but if you make an effort and take your time, you can get very good grades.
Finding an apartment was a little more time-consuming for me. I had applied through the university for the on-campus dormitory and also for the University Village, for both of which I received a rejection shortly afterwards because the quotas for semester students had been exhausted. After that, I also looked for flat shares in Facebook groups or online, but all of this was in vain. However, since I didn’t want to rent my own unfurnished apartment and wanted to look for subtenants, I contacted University Village directly. They still had rooms available, but no longer had any semester contracts, only for the entire academic year. Luckily I found someone to take over my room for the second semester, so we rented the room together. Otherwise it is very difficult to find a new tenant and not always successful, as I have seen with some friends. The UV has furnished flat shares, but you have to buy your own bed linen, towels and crockery.
The area in the UV is very nice with a pool, fitness room and a canteen. The food in the canteen was good, although there isn’t a great deal of variety for vegetarians. But they always offer pasta with tomato sauce and pizza, if you can’t find anything else. Monthly events are also offered, such as pool party, movie night, Halloween party or beach trips. The only negative thing about University Village is that getting information is very slow and you have to wait a really long time for an answer. The University Village has a very good location and is only a few minutes’ walk from the campus. It’s just 5 minutes to the baseball field, 12 minutes to the library and computer science building, and to the south end of campus where the business building is located. you can do it in 20 minutes. It’s also just a 10 minute walk to Target (supermarket) and bus stops are also right around the corner.
Depending on where you live, you can easily reach the university on foot, by bike or by bus. I would not recommend taking the car as it costs extra to park (and is always checked) and finding a parking space is difficult. You can pick up a free bus ticket from CSUF. The bus takes you quickly to the Brea Mall, downtown Fullerton or the train station. However, it takes more than an hour to get to the beach by bus. From what I’ve heard, taking the bus at night is not recommended. Downtown LA is easy to get to by train. From there you have to figure out how to get on: by bus, taxi, metro or Uber. However, the metro in LA is not well developed and it is difficult to get around without a car. That’s why I find it helpful to have a car. I wouldn’t buy or rent a car all the time though as you really don’t need it during the weekdays and you also have to pay for parking or look for free parking depending on where you live. Renting a car in Downtown Fullerton is quick and easy for the weekends.
Most courses take place from Monday to Thursday, so Friday to Sunday was free. There is much to discover around Fullerton. CSUF is right next to Anaheim with Disneyland and also the Anaheim Angels baseball stadium. There are many beaches nearby – a very nice beach is Laguna Beach, but Huntington Beach, Newport Beach for whale watching are also worth a visit.
The typical sights are also easy and quick to reach by car: the beautiful beaches in Malibu, the beach and canals in Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade, Hollywood with the Walk of Fame or Beverly Hills with Rodeo Drive. Also recommended are the hike to the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory at night and the drive along Mullholand Drive.
There are very interesting museums, such as the LACMA or Broad Museum. Los Angeles also has many beautiful unknown places and of course a lot of events. Concerts at Staples Center, football games at Rosebowl Stadium, TV show tapings and film premieres.
Other day trips include San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs.
By car you can take many weekend trips from Los Angeles, such as San Francisco, Las Vegas and also the Grand Canyon.
I had an unforgettable time at Fullerton and would recommend it to anyone.