University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: physics
Study type: semester abroad
My girlfriend and I are at Cal State in Long Beach for a semester. She is studying English and therefore had to go abroad for a semester. I accompanied them even though a semester abroad is rather untypical for a physics student. Check act-test-centers to learn information about University of Munich.
The application process for studying in the USA is complex and expensive. If you also apply for an international student loan, you have a lot to do and a whole heap of paperwork ahead of you. But I can only say: It’s worth it!
Thanks to the MicroEdu checklist and the help you always get immediately, everything is doable and you are never on your own. Maybe 3 small comments:
- The free DAAD language test is sufficient as proof of English. We found out too late and took the TOEFL test for $125.
- 75% of the visit to the embassy is waiting. So don’t worry that you have to show professional English in the “interview”. By and large, you only hand in the documents, are asked how you are going to finance the semester and have your fingerprints taken.
- After landing in the USA, you still have to fill out a form that we didn’t know anything about at the time. We were pretty confused and nervous after the long flight and were a bit helpless at the airport. But the airport police helped.
If you live in an apartment like us and not with a host family, you should take a shuttle from the airport if possible, as a taxi to Long Beach can easily cost 100 dollars including tip. Recommended would be www.supershuttle.com.
We stayed at the Oakwood Apartments in Seal Beach. We recommend. Comfortable, clean, friendly staff, jacuzzi, pool, gym, etc. It’s a little pricey, but a lower price quickly means a lot lower quality. A car rental and a supermarket are within reach (about 900m).
With the student card you can use the buses in Long Beach for free and it takes about 15 minutes from the apartment to the university. Ideally, a bus comes every 30 minutes, although the American public transport system leaves a lot to be desired. Almost always delays, bad timetables. The university is large but manageable, there are opportunities for shopping and eating on campus. The students and professors are friendly and studying was enjoyable. As a physicist, I was underchallenged in 2 of my courses, but a little overwhelmed in the other two, which probably makes up for it quite well. You have a lot of homework to do and chapters in the textbooks, which are very expensive in the US (my girlfriend paid over $300 for books). But if you work hard and don’t just enjoy the sun, you can do everything well, still have free time and get good grades in all your courses. In general, I find it much easier to study in the USA than in Germany.
Because of the books, it is really advisable to order used copies from the American Amazon.
You can fill your 12 credits with any courses you want, as long as the professors agree. I had no problems at all, all instructors immediately signed and agreed. Probably because I was also the only foreign student in all the courses. In a course that is more likely to be attended by foreign students, there could be restrictions. However, there wasn’t such a large selection of physics courses either.
On-site support was adequate. If there was a question, you knew where to go and got help. However, once you have chosen the course, everything is actually quite automatic and you don’t have any difficulties.
The courses you have on Mondays are generally repeated on Wednesdays (same time, same room), the same with Tuesdays and Thursdays. The timetable is always very clear. Friday is usually free, there are only very few courses. So we always had nice long weekends for trips to San Francisco, San Diego or Las Vegas.
We rented a car whenever we needed one. Others bought one and ended up selling it again. Everyone should decide that for themselves, for us it was too complex and unsafe, because then you need insurance, you have to get a Californian driver’s license and there is no TÜV in America, so you can really fall for it when buying a car. That’s why we preferred to leave it alone and always rented one.
Las Vegas can be reached quite easily by car. You drive 5 hours which doesn’t seem as long as it sounds. Gas prices are a dream in America, so there is little to worry about. In Las Vegas, I highly recommend seeing the Blue Man Group or another show. I would also like to point out that hotels are much cheaper during the week than at weekends and it is always advisable to book online in advance.
San Francisco is a pretty big ride, it would take at least 7 hours to drive through, so it’s better to do a multi-day trip, taking Highway #1 north along the coast. Here you can experience beautiful natural scenes.
In San Francisco, I can recommend Chinatown, the piers and Market Street downtown for shopping.
San Diego can be reached quickly in an hour, where the Gaslamp Quarter is a nice place to stroll and eat.
In Los Angeles I can recommend the Citadel Outlet and the Farmers Market for shopping, of course you should have a look at Hollywood Boulevard and the House Of Blues on Sunset Boulevard.
Also beautiful on the west coast: Huntington Beach for surfers, Laguna Beach with an idyllic beach and Newport Beach with its huge fashion outlet.
Finally, some tips for general life in the US:
Eating out is cheaper than cooking yourself, you should get used to that. When shopping in supermarkets such as Ralphs, Albertsons or Pavillions, it is advisable to use club cards (they are free) and coupons to get discounts. California Pizza Kitchen and Souplanation are very tasty and inexpensive if you don’t always want fast food.
If you drive with a navigation system, you should use one with a lane assistant if possible, which really helps a lot on 8-lane interstates. Clothing and electronics are a lot cheaper than in Germany, so you can find nice bargains here.
You should get a prepaid cell phone, which is available from 15 dollars. In addition, a credit card is mandatory, with it everything is possible, without it nothing. An international driver’s license is also said to be useful, we had some with us but never used them, and were never stopped or checked.
Fast food and real restaurants always give you free refills on soft drinks like cola, so don’t be surprised if you get a new drink without having ordered it. In addition, you are brought to a table in restaurants, so you don’t sit down yourself like in Germany.
So go to America, it’s worth it!