University: California State University Long Beach
City: Long Beach
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: physics
Study type: semester abroad
My name is Alina Jäckel, I’m 21 years old and I’m in the 7th semester studying physics at the HHU. I will probably have my chosen courses credited to the compulsory elective physics area and the elective area in the master’s, but I’m still enrolled in the bachelor’s degree because you can choose 3 more units (i.e. an additional course) compared to the master’s, despite the same study costs. An additional unit costs $315, which means you would have to pay almost $1000 for an additional course if you are enrolled in the master’s program. My decision that I would like to do a semester abroad in California, near Los Angeles, was already clear to me before I started my studies. Check animalerts to learn information about Internship in Singapore.
I was able to quickly narrow down my search to two universities: UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and CSULB (California State University Long Beach). These are both state universities, so the tuition is lower compared to other universities in California (still VERY high compared to here). After weighing the pros and cons of these two universities for a long time, I decided on the CSULB because the courses offered were more suitable for me and I personally prefer to be by the sea than in a big city. Since neither of these two universities is a partner university of HHU, this meant that I would apply to the university as a so-called “free mover”. I applied to CSULB through MicroEdu, which I highly recommend! The contact persons there are really very helpful, accompany you through the entire application and help you with all questions.
I’ve already looked for an apartment in Germany taken care of in Long Beach. I joined various Facebook groups, which I think is the best way to find an apartment. There I made contact with other international students who are also studying at CSULB for a semester. Another often mentioned option is Craigslist. However, I did not use this page when I was looking for apartments, as I often heard of incorrect information or offers of non-existent apartments. Of course, finding an apartment on Facebook is not without risk, especially since you usually have to pay a deposit in advance. Before I transferred the money, I had pictures of the apartment and the names of the previous tenants sent to me, I looked on Google Maps to see if the outside of the apartment matched the pictures and asked for a contract. Unfortunately, not all landlords are as patient as my roommate was, as demand is very high, especially at the beginning of the “fall semester”. I was pretty lucky, but I started my search several months before the start of my studies to get a feel for the apartments on offer. For me, the best time to find an apartment was about a month before arrival, as there were significantly more offers published for the semester period compared to the previous months. I started my search several months before the start of my studies in order to get a feeling for the apartments on offer. For me, the best time to find an apartment was about a month before arrival, as there were significantly more offers published for the semester period compared to the previous months. I started my search several months before the start of my studies in order to get a feeling for the apartments on offer. For me, the best time to find an apartment was about a month before arrival, as there were significantly more offers published for the semester period compared to the previous months.
I live in the Beverly Plaza Apartments, in a two-room apartment and I share my room with another German woman. The apartments here have two pools, BBQ grills, a clubhouse, ping-pong tables, and a small gym. Most of the people who live here are international students, so you also meet a lot of Germans here. Most international students share their room with at least one other person since rents are very high here. I met a German who lives with a host family and a Swiss who has an apartment by himself. Of course, it depends on your budget which option you ultimately choose.
I only arrived in Los Angeles on August 16, 2019 because I was still writing exams at HHU in August. At the airport I met my future roommate, whom I also met on Facebook. From the airport we took the shuttle to our apartment together and then we met our roommate who has been living here for a year, so the apartment was already furnished. So I only had to buy little things like clothes hangers, boxes and towels, but fortunately no mattress. I was a bit scared to share my room at first, but I think our room here is really big. We have two large closets and two large mattresses. On campus I wouldn’t recommend living there, at least it wouldn’t be for me. The rooms there don’t have their own kitchen, which means that you mainly have to eat outside or in the university at Panda Express, Subway, or something similar.
The actual studies started on August 26, 2019, but an introductory week for the international students took place a week before, which is why you had to be in California by August 19, 2019 at the latest.
As a “Free Mover” you are a “Study Abroad” student at the CSULB. The Study Abroad team also organized the introductory week, which was structured as a kind of get-to-know-you week. During this week we got to know the campus, learned more about the university and discussed the process of “class crashing”. Also during the semester there were several events like kayaking, a day trip to San Diego, pumpkin carving and a goodbye dinner, most of which were free.
My professors and fellow students that I met at the university are very friendly and helpful. Two of my courses (my only physics courses) were empty when I arrived. I got to know many professors and employees during the introductory week, before the actual class crashing began. After I explained that I was from Germany and that I was very interested in the course in question, they referred me to the responsible professor or contact person, so that I finally got a place in both courses. We international students, whose university is not affiliated with the CSULB, have to crash most courses in the first two weeks of lectures and ask the professors for a signature in order to get a place.
Before I arrived, I often heard that oral participation was very important in the USA, that attendance in every course was compulsory and that there was an intermediate exam in every subject and a “final” at the end. None of my courses require oral participation, although it is in the syllabus of each course. You can point out when the lecturer asks something, but you’re not asked and I don’t get points for it. Attendance requirements also vary greatly from course to course. I have heard from some that they are allowed to be absent twice, for example, others always have to come and yet others never go to the courses because attendance is not checked. The number and distribution of the exams also differ enormously in my courses.
In the following I go into detail about my chosen courses:
Most of the international students here have chosen four courses, each with three units, and arranged the courses in such a way that, if possible, they don’t have university on Fridays, so that they can go to San Francisco or a national park at the weekend, for example. I decided on six courses because I really wanted to take part in the surf course, which only consists of one unit.
Surfing (1 lesson):
Luckily I decided to take this course because it was the best experience I’ve had in my life so far. I bought a surfboard and wetsuit at a discount through uni, which I will resell after the semester. This course is suitable for anyone who is not afraid of water and willing to get up early. Movie Review, Midterm (online, multiple choice), Final Exam (“Proficiency test”, online and demonstrate the things learned in a lesson)
- Compulsory attendance (will be checked)
- once a week, two hours
Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (1 unit):
I don’t find this subject suitable if you have already completed a few semesters in a scientific degree. A new topic is raised every hour (like bioinformatics) without being able to go into detail about the topic because you don’t have enough time. I think this course is more suitable for freshmen.-Write one essay each week (200-400 words), three online tests (during class, multiple choice and short answers), Project (900 word essay on any BME article), a final attendance requirement (will be checked)
Astronomy (3 units):
Quite a lot of material is covered. In my opinion, the course is well suited for students of any semester who are interested in astronomy. You can learn more about planets and stars, but also about dark matter, the theory of relativity and black holes.
One or two tests every week (online at home), four intermediate tests (multiple choice, 50 questions, each over 5-6 chapters), a final (multiple choice over 20 chapters), you can take a formula sheet with you to the exams
- Compulsory attendance (not checked)
- twice a week, 1 hour 15 minutes each
Astronomy Lab (1 unit):
In my opinion, this lab is not suitable for physics students, but rather for students of other subjects who would like to do smaller experiments or calculate.
- Submit a report every week, some homework, 1 final
- Compulsory attendance (will be checked)
- once a week, 3 hours (you can leave if you finish earlier)
Materials Science (3 Units):
I think this subject is well suited for physics students who are in their bachelor’s degree and also enjoy chemistry. We had three different teachers (1: physics, 2: chemistry, 3: applications, more like chemistry).
- 6 homework (arithmetic tasks, explaining methods, chemical processes), 3 intermediate tests (written tasks, similar to homework)
- Compulsory attendance (not checked)
- twice a week, 1 hour 15 minutes each
Polymer Physics (3 units, master and bachelor course):
Interesting, but one of the most challenging courses I’ve had so far. In my opinion, the course is suitable for physics students who are in the last semester of their bachelor’s degree or who are starting their master’s degree.
- 8 homework with 4-8 tasks each (one task often takes at least one day, the professor changed the number of homework for bachelor students to 3, for master students to 4), projects (create simulations with Mathematica, a project for bachelor students, (for master students 3), 1 final
- Compulsory attendance (it doesn’t matter if you can’t come)
- twice a week, 1 hour 15 minutes each
We were told that if you fail a course you have to leave the US within the next seven days. It’s really hard to fail as long as you make an effort and take your studies reasonably seriously despite the semester abroad. Of course, it always depends on the subject and the choice of course, how much work you ultimately have. I have met people who can take all the exams online, at home in the form of tick tests, but also some who write many exams as written assignments in class, like in Germany.
Compared to my studies at the HHU, I have a lot more homework to do here. Most of the tasks are not particularly demanding, but mainly keep you busy and therefore take up a lot of time. The exams have so far been much easier than in comparison to the exams at the HHU.
Application/visa/language certificate, etc.: 600 euros
Tuition fees: 5910.17 euros
Apartment: 581€ per month
You should count on €15,000-€20,000 for a semester abroad as a free mover. Depending on how you organize your semester abroad, you can of course spend less (or significantly more), but it is better to plan with more money and have something left over at the end.
If I did another semester abroad here and had more money available, I would buy a car and sell it again at the end of the semester. You can also take the bus to most places, but you often have to resort to Uber or Lyft, which aren’t exactly cheap either. If you want to drive in national parks you definitely need a car and renting a car under the age of 25 is very expensive.
In several other field reports, financing options such as foreign BAföG, student loans, or scholarships such as the PROMOS scholarship from the HHU are discussed in detail. The sooner you know that you want to do a semester abroad in the future, the sooner you have time to save, which was one of the reasons why I only did my semester abroad at the end of my studies.
In the following, I will list some “negative” aspects of the semester abroad in the USA, since I have read very few negative things in most of the field reports, which I personally missed and which would probably have helped me before my semester abroad. But that doesn’t mean that I regret my semester abroad, that I don’t still find it wonderful and a great experience, or that I’m ungrateful for this opportunity:
I get along well with my roommate, but I’m still really happy when I’m alone again and have a room to myself.
I thought it would be easier to make friends with Americans at university. You mainly get to know international students and since most of them are German, you mainly have contact with Germans. Right at the beginning, many groups with mostly German students formed. Of course I met a lot of Americans here, but I only have contact with them during the courses and unfortunately not privately. After speaking to other international students, they have shared similar experiences with me. I’ve never been to Los Angeles and I always thought I would love it, but unfortunately I don’t. I am very glad that I chose Long Beach because Los Angeles looks very run down to me in many places,
In the big cities you often meet a lot of crazy people who are mostly on drugs and threaten to shoot themselves, for example. Of course, something like that also happens in Germany, but I experience it quite often here.
While I was here there was a minor earthquake (I didn’t notice it as I was already asleep but my roommates were), a “shooter” announcement at the university (I was lucky at the time didn’t take a class and was at home, campus police were able to track down the culprit before anything happened) and large fires around LA, even Long Beach could see smoke for a few days.
You really have a lot of homework here so you’re always busy. If you fail a course you have to leave the country within the next 7 days because then the visa is no longer valid (at least that’s what we were told if you can then stay with an ESTA, I don’t know).
Study Abroad students pay tuition fees twice as high as Americans, and yet we can only reserve places in advance for a few courses, and often only get leftover places.
Surfing! The environment and nature in California is a dream, the proximity to big cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, some of which buses from Long Beach drive for little money. As a Study Abroad student, you can ride the bus in Long Beach for free all semester(sometimes as far as Los Angeles). The campus is huge and so beautiful! We have two large pools, a beach volleyball court, a gym, tennis courts, a cinema, billiard tables, bowling, Starbucks, Panda Express, the Great Pyramid where sporting events are held regularly, a supermarket where you can take away groceries several times a week for free, many events, a climbing wall, various clubs to join, a small observatory on the roof of the Hall of Science and much more. Getting to know American (uni) life, because there are so many differences compared to Germany
My semester abroad was a unique experience and I am so glad that I was able to fulfill my dream. The CSULB campus is beautiful, the people are great, and I love the proximity to the ocean. Even though I probably won’t have contact with a single American when I’m back in Germany, I’ve still met great people, gained experience and learned a lot. For me, my semester abroad was definitely worth it and I am overjoyed that I took this step.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: You will receive the e-mail address from MicroEdu.