University: San Diego State University
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: industrial engineering
Study type: semester abroad
Choice of university
Towards the end of my bachelor’s degree, I realized that I would like to do a semester abroad for my master’s degree. It was clear to me from the start that I would like to do this in the USA, as the country has always fascinated me. Since I would have preferred to complete the semester in California, but my home university does not have a partnership with any Californian university, it became clear relatively quickly that I would have to organize the semester as a “free mover”. See andyeducation for Thompson Rivers University Study Abroad.
After much research, I came across San Diego State University and MicroEdu. San Diego State University seemed like the best solution to me because the tuition fees are comparatively low by American standards, you can do a full semester and not just a trimester, and because San Diego seemed like a great city with a wonderful location. Using MicroEdu to organize the semester was exactly the right decision, as they provide instructions for every application step and check all documents again before they are sent to the USA.
MicroEdu staff were available by phone and email throughout the process and always received a friendly and detailed response to all of their questions. At this point I would like to apologize again for all my annoying detailed questions. : -)
Since it was already clear a year before the desired date at which university I would spend my semester abroad, there was enough time to overcome all the bureaucratic hurdles. SDSU requires some documentation and forms for enrollment, but most of these are relatively easy to obtain. Among other things, proof is required that you have at least English language skills at level B2. This can be done, for example, via the TOEFL or IELTS test, but also via the so-called DAAD certificate, which is probably the simplest and cheapest solutionis. I took the test for the DAAD certificate in the foreign language center at my university for €20 and was given the required level.
Then, in mid-December 2016, I was informed by MicroEdu that the university’s application window for the 2017 semester is now open and accepting applications. Since I had already compiled all the documents, I was able to fill out and send off the application directly and the confirmation of admission from the SDSU was in the mail by the beginning of January 2017.
Now I could take care of things like health insurance, credit card, first accommodation etc. Health insurance is included in the tuition fees, but the scope of services is not comparable to German international health insurance. For this reason, I took out additional health insurance with HanseMerkur Versicherung, which is explicitly aimed at au pairs and students.
A credit card is absolutely essential in the USA, since almost everything there is paid for in this way and you cannot otherwise book any accommodation or rental cars. As a credit card, I applied for the normal MasterCard from my local savings bank, which may have been slightly more expensive than other credit cards, but I didn’t have a single problem with the card during the entire semester, while others had to struggle with blocks more often. I was also able to apply for a higher credit limit without any problems.
I ordered my SIM card from the provider H2O Mobile in a German online shop shortly before my departure and I would recommend this SIM card at any time, since you can make free calls to the German landline network, which is useful if you have problems with your phone Insurance, etc. sometimes have to call a German hotline.
With your confirmation of admission from the SDSU, you will also receive the so-called Form I20. You need this form to apply for your US student visa.
The application for the F1 student visa can be completed online. This is very extensive and at the end an appointment for an interview at the US Embassy in Berlin or a consulate in Frankfurt or Munich must be made. I decided on Frankfurt and already had my interview appointment at the end of April. The interview itself only consisted of a few short questions and a little later I was sent my passport with the visa glued in. So there is no reason to be nervous before the interview. : -)
I booked my flight for July 25 because I originally wanted to look for an apartment there and wanted to have enough time before the semester started in mid-August.
For my first local accommodation I chose the USA Hostel Ocean Beach. The hostel was right on the beach so you got that California feeling straight away. At the beginning the hostel was almost exclusively occupied by backpackers and people passing through, but little by little other guest students arrived and you could do joint activities and exchange ideas.
When choosing the location of your accommodation, I can only agree with all the other experience reports: There is only the choice between a shared apartment in the beach area (Mission Beach, Pacific Beach) or a shared apartment in a house or one of the large apartment complexes (e.g. BLVD63) in the college area, since these are the places where student life is essentially happening and where most things are happening. However, it was clear to me early on that I would like to live on the beach for half a year once I’m in California. : -)
As already mentioned, my original plan was to look for an apartment on site, as this was usually described as the best option in previous reports. Since I had already joined various housing groups on Facebook before the start of the semester and also checked Craigslist from time to time, I got the impression that the majority of students were already looking for accommodation beforehand and shortly before leaving I got cold feet and contacted a few people on Facebook looking for roommates.
For my first request, I received a confirmation from another German student who had already reserved an apartment on the beach. First, however, all residents of the shared apartment had to pay a deposit of $1500, which of course requires a lot of trust for an apartment that you only know from pictures. However, I have to say about my apartment search that I only found a really great apartment so quickly through a mixture of chance and outrageous luck. Others searched much longer and were sometimes ripped off, since scammers are of course also aware of the popularity of the beach area with guest students.
The rents in San Diego are extremely high and in no way comparable to Germany, so I paid $800 per month for a shared room, which is still a very good price for the beach area. For a single room over $1000 quickly become due.
My other roommates were also German (two girls and one boy), which annoyed me a bit at first because I would have liked to only speak English in everyday life, but in the end the apartment and the shared flat turned out to be the best choice. The apartment in the Mission Beach district was just great and was less than 100m from the beach. I was very lucky with my roommates and we got along very well and did a lot together. Because the roommates I shared the shared room with had a similar sleeping pattern as I did, the shared room wasn’t that bad either, even if it’s strange at first of course to have hardly any privacy.
Arrive in San Diego
I landed in San Diego on July 25th. Since, contrary to what I had planned, I already had an apartment but could no longer rebook the flights, three weeks of vacation in San Diego were imminent. Among other things, I used the time to fly to San Francisco for a few days and then drive the legendary Highway 1 along the Pacific coast back to San Diego.
I reserved a car in advance with DirtCheap Car Rentals to be mobile in San Diego. The rents for the cars there are really cheap, but the condition of the cars is not really good. You also have to be careful with the insurance, as I found out from asking that the liability insurance for the cars only corresponds to the amount required by law in California. This is only $5000 for property damage, since an accident can of course quickly result in significantly more and I didn’t want to take any risks, I also took out additional German insurance, which increases the liability sum to over €1 million. However, this insurance is valid for a maximum of three months, which is why I rented a car from the Alamo the rest of the time,more modern and also better insured. With the international student ID you also get a 20% discount.
Since we couldn’t move into the apartment until mid-August, I spent the first time in the hostel and traveling, which was ideal to get a taste of California. On August 15, the first introductory events began at the university. The responsible persons at the American Language Institute, which looks after the guest students, explain in detail all the procedures relating to course registration and life at the university.
As a master’s student, I had to choose at least one special session before the semester started. These courses are then shared with other guest students, but are taught by professors from SDSU.
I decided in advance to choose two special sessions because I really wanted to take two business courses and it is very difficult to get into master business courses at SDSU as the selection is smaller than in the bachelor’s and American students generally have priority over visiting students to have. My courses were:
MGT 710 – Seminar in World Business Environment (L. Zhou)
The easiest of my courses. The idea of the course is to imitate a management consultancy and to develop strategies and concepts for real start-ups during the course, whereby one also came into contact with their founders. At the beginning of each seminar, current developments in the business world were discussed, which in some cases led to interesting discussions and provided new insights. In retrospect, however, I would have wished for a somewhat clearer structure for the course.
MGT 724 – Entrepreneurship (M.Sloan)
By far my best course. The aim of the course was to learn the basics for founding a start-up. Each student first had to pitch a business idea, then the students had to get together in groups and create a business plan for one of the ideas from the group. In addition, there were weekly reading assignments and a paper had to be written on an emerging business trend of your choice for the next few years. Prof. Sloan brings the students closer to his many years of experience in founding and managing a company in a humorous way and often uses amusing anecdotes.
POL 101 – Introduction to American Politics in Global Perspective (JT Smith)
Since I was only able to have two courses credited to me at my home university, I chose this course out of pure interest in the subject, even though there was no connection to my German studies. At the same time, the course was the one with the highest workload, since a total of three exams were written and a paper had to be handed in every week, which was also strictly evaluated. The lectures themselves were very entertaining, as Prof. Smith imparted his broad knowledge of the political system in the USA and current political developments in a humorous, sometimes sarcastic way.
The courses at the SDSU were much more personal and smaller than in Germany and you could always talk to the professors if you had problems, which was really great.
Living in San Diego
First of all, it has to be said that San Diego as a city is just amazing. The city fulfills almost all clichés that exist about California. There are endless sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets, palm-lined streets, tons of surfers and extremely friendly and laid-back people. The university campus is huge and offers everything your heart desires. The entire facility is very well maintained and just great to look at, so I just liked to stroll around the campus, because there was always something to discover and there are so many offers for students. Don’t miss the delicious food at the Farmers Market every Thursday. : -)
In addition, there is “Taco Tuesday”, on which you can party and eat tacos in most bars at particularly low prices. Since the Pacific Beach district, where most of the bars in the Beach Area are located, is not far from Mission Beach, we of course took advantage of this offer a few times.
In general, one has to say that life in California is significantly more expensive than in Germany. For example, a piece of Gouda in the supermarket can sometimes cost $6. You can buy cheaper at WalMart, where you can buy absolutely EVERYTHING from tents to duvets. In addition, it can be worth getting the customer card for some supermarkets. You can get big discounts just by showing your card.
Due to the convenient location of San Diego, many interesting travel destinations can be reached in a short time – by American standards. So I was during my time in San Diego, in San Francisco, at the Grand Canyon, at Antelope Canyon and in Las Vegas. Since, with a bit of luck, you can also get cheap domestic flights, I flew to Chicago for a weekend during the semester. It is also highly recommended to fly to Hawaii at the end of the semester. The islands are pure and simple paradise.
I can only agree with my predecessors and have to say that the time in San Diego was probably the best of my life. : -)
Despite the high cost, I don’t regret spending a semester at SDSU because San Diego is just a great city with great people. So this definitely won’t be the last time I visit San Diego.