I’m Julia, 23 and I was in the United States at California State University of Los Angeles for a quarter (fall 2012) in my 3 college semesters.
From the first semester in the FH it was clear to me that I wanted to do a semester abroad in America. In 2009 I was already in NYC for 6 months and therefore I knew that I would feel at home in this country again. Since there are no partner universities in the USA at my FH, I was made aware of College Contact by a friend. Since she had already used the program 2 years earlier, I was hoping for a smooth process through College Contact. It was clear to me that I would only go to NYC or California, as the east and west of the United States appeal to me the most. In addition, I now always have very high demands on a city – after 6 months in NYC, no wonder – so it was clear San Francisco, Los Angeles or NYC, another city was never an option for me.
As I am from Austria, contacting CC was not always easy and there were a few minor complications. (Telephone costs, … etc.) The entire registration process at the CSULA was also tedious, as you simply have to fill out a lot of forms. And in addition to testing the Toefl – I was only able to do it quickly next to – because I had enough to do with my studies during the registration process. Nevertheless, the whole effort has definitely paid off. So, in a nutshell, registering at an American university is a long process (at the university itself, at your own university and also applying for a visa) that takes a lot of time, but if you really want to do a semester abroad in America, all the effort is worth it !
First impressions at the CSULA
A few days before the start of the quarter there was an Orientation Day (additional: 60 $$) on which all internationals could get to know each other. However, those students who came to the universities through College Contact were not allowed to select their subjects online in advance, we only had the second choice. For me that was a huge problem, for example, because I had to complete previously agreed subjects from my university, and I had great difficulty getting into these in LA because they were already full. So I had to get in contact with all the lecturers of the desired lectures and hoped that people would jump out of the lecture in order to get their place.
I also had initial difficulties with living. I had applied for a place to live in the dorms (dormitorios = student dormitory) and when I wanted to move it into my room, the whole apartment was totally fucked up and many pieces of furniture were totally broken. It was really a bad state. At first my complaints were not even listened to, after a long discussion our apartment was “closed” and we were allowed to move into other rooms. Anyone who decides to live in the dorms of the CSULA should think twice, as it was a lot of money for a room for 2 and in my case an 8-person flat share. And I wouldn’t recommend the 7 Days Meal Plan to anyone because the meal was really not for dinner and you couldn’t log out afterwards.
In a nutshell, everything that could have gone wrong at the beginning went wrong for me!
The CSULA site is as one would imagine American universities to be, a large campus with a fitness center, swimming pool, food court, … etc.
The level of the courses is not comparable to ours. I am used to a FH and “school”, but after each unit there was homework and a lot to read at home (sometimes up to 80 pages until the next unit) and 3 exams per subject that took place every 3 weeks. Nevertheless, the required level of learning is very low and easily achievable with little effort.
Life and Fun Factor:
In any case, a car is necessary in Los Angeles. I solved this by renting a car over and over for longer periods of time. After much research I found that the best and cheapest solution here was Hertz. You could register for the Hertz Goldmembership card free of charge on the Internet, which has the advantage that you save the under 25 fee and within California you can register up to 2 additional drivers for free. On top of that, I also got a free upgrade for a car for my birthday.
According to topschoolsoflaw, Los Angeles offers all possibilities, be it to chill on the beach, to explore a museum, to party or simply to get to know the culture. There is everything! Thanks to the many different “city districts”, there are also many different things to experience and discover. (Eg: Pasadena, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills .. etc.) I think there is something for everyone, as long as you are ready to get involved in something new.
Party life is usually pretty okay for girls too, as girls usually enjoy lower admission prices and there are in principle more offers. However, a real party night is always relatively expensive – compared to Vienna and Germany, as my international ones have also confirmed to me.
Excursions and travel
I was very lucky with my international group (we were a mix of Sweden, Norway, Australia, Germany and Austria) and therefore we did a lot together outside of the university. Among other things, we were 4 days of 10 in Las Vegas, in national parks, in other cities like San Francisco and Santa Barbara. In addition, I often went to museums alone and looked at a lot of things because I was simply interested in this city. In addition, it was great that I only had university 3 days a week and was therefore able to use the time ideally. (There was never university on Fridays anyway; and the remaining days I divided up so that I had all the lessons between Tuesday and Thursday)
In addition, we were often in outlet centers, on many different beaches and this city also has everything to offer in culinary terms.
Of course, Los Angeles is also the city of film and there is therefore a huge range of options for those interested in film and series. The moment when I sat on the Friends Caoch in the Warner Brothers Studios or was part of a laugh from “2 and a half man” was just great and unique.
So my conclusion is that you won’t learn a lot of new things at this university, but you can still gain great experience. I am glad that I was able to have this experience, but I would probably not really recommend this university in particular. Because I have to catch up on a lot at my HeimFH that I didn’t learn over there.
For me this trip was a great adventure that I don’t owe to this university but to my own commitment and the city of Los Angeles which had so much to offer.