University: San Diego State University
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Study type: semester abroad
The exchange semester at San Diego State University was an unforgettable experience in many ways. A lot of things lived up to expectations – a lot was also totally different. This is precisely why I would like to focus on aspects in this report that I personally missed in the reports of previous exchange students. See jibin123 for study in United States.
Before the exchange
Like most HSG exchange students, I set up my freemover exchange at SDSU with the help of the MicroEdu organization (www.MicroEdu.com), which makes the registration process easier and is always there to help with checklists and reminders.
The visa and any confirmations from insurance companies and banks should be organized as early as possible. On the other hand, it makes little sense to take care of accommodation or a vehicle from the comfort of your own home. However, it is advisable to book a hostel for the first 7-10 days, as they fill up quickly (e.g. Lucky D’s Downtown or Banana Beach Bungalow Pacific Beach).
Located in southern California, San Diego enjoys very warm to mild temperatures year-round. However, it is a misconception that you can wear shorts all year round: by November at the latest it gets relatively cool at night (sometimes below 10 degrees). Nevertheless, temperatures can still rise to over 20 degrees even in December.
Despite San Diego’s size, there is rarely a big city feeling here (such as in Los Angeles). The city is dotted with hills and bays and is surprisingly diverse. San Diego is very clean and shows California at its best.
It should also be noted that California – especially San Diego – is not necessarily “typically American” (like the Midwest): the population is very international, many pay close attention to their health and value lifestyle and prestige.
When looking for an apartment, patience and perseverance are required. Even if the search for an apartment – be it via Craigslist or Facebook – is a bit exhausting, it is worth not immediately responding to the first offer that comes along and to look at the premises on site.
Like most exchange students, I chose to live in Pacific Beach. With its surf spots, countless beach and sports bars and streets lined with palm trees, Pacific Beach offers the ultimate ‘Califorina experience’. The rents are correspondingly high: Expect to pay between 500 and 800 dollars for a double room and up to 1400 dollars for a single room.
If you want to surf or spend a lot of time on the beach in general, you should look for accommodation within walking distance of the sea, as even in Pacific Beach distances are crucial for everyday life.
It is important to know that a lot of exchange students live in Pacific Beach (in addition to Swedes, Swiss and Danes, especially many Germans) and the town is more of a holiday than a place of residence, which is why you meet and get to know very few Americans here. If that’s important to you, consider moving to a neighborhood like Hillcrest or Northpark (both very busy and young towns) or even the college area, with the trade-off of getting a little less beach exposure.
As already mentioned, distances have a different meaning in the USA . A car (at least per flat share) is almost unavoidable. (The drive from Pacific Beach to the university takes 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic.)
On the one hand, there is the option of renting a car risk-free (especially cheap at www.dirtcheapcarrental.com) or buying a vehicle yourself for the time in the USA with the chance of selling it again at a good price, what Ultimately, it can be cheaper than a rental car, but it also involves many risks.
Buying and selling a car is relatively uncomplicated and quick, which is why you should be careful not to be ripped off in an impulse purchase. (I am happy to personally provide more detailed information on the subject of buying a car in California.)
Attention: Parking zones and times are strictly controlled by the police and punished with high fines.
In addition to the costs for accommodation, university and transport, everyday costs must not be neglected: food in particular is surprisingly expensive in California (especially if you want to eat healthily, you generally pay more in the supermarket than in Switzerland!), which is why it is often cheaper, Eating out than cooking yourself.
Payment is typically made by credit card. When it comes to the question of whether it is worth opening a US bank account, opinions differ, although paying with Visa or Master Card – in contrast to cash withdrawals – generally involves fewer fees.
The university is located on a hill 20 minutes inland and, with around 33,000 students, is correspondingly large and anonymous. The students generally attend the lectures and immediately disappear back into their dorms, which is why there is little opportunity to make contact with Americans here either. It is theoretically possible to apply for a fraternity or sorority, but this is very expensive (semester fees up to $700) and practically requires living at the university. (Not to mention the ‘Hazing’ – the application procedure, which would take practically the whole semester.)
In addition to the football team, San Diego State has a very successful basketball team, although there is little of the typical American ‘school spirit’ and talegates are relatively sparse. These factors contributed to the fact that in the end I could identify little with the university itself and my everyday life took place more in Pacific Beach.
Basically, the level of study and the workload at the SDSU – in contrast to the HSG – are incredibly low, which is mainly due to the very simple multiple-choice exams. The following is a brief overview of the courses I have attended, although it should be noted that the form and content depend heavily on the lecturer:
BA 323 – FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCE with K. Haddad
(Special Session, 3 Units = 6 ECTS, Finance)
The course covers a wide range of topics in the field of finance using a textbook. However, this is rather superficial: most tasks can be solved by simply typing them into the required financial calculator. This was a special session (ie only exchange students in the class), so the overall motivation of the class was limited. The commitment of the lecturer was also rather modest here. Tip: The first exam in particular is very easy. It is worth getting as many points as possible here, as this already makes up a third of the final mark.
ECON 320 – INTERMED MACRON THEORY with R. Gordon
(3 units = 6 ECTS, Macro II)
Although counted as Macro II, little more is required here than for Macro I at the HSG. There is little arithmetic, only connections have to be understood. However, the lecturer is engaging and explains content in a very understandable way. The exams are correspondingly easy and attendance is not checked by the lecturer (however, this is recommended since the exams relate exclusively to the concepts dealt with in class).
BA 405 – INTL BUS STRAT & INTRAGRA with E. Nicasio-Mercier
(3 Units = 6 ECTS, Strat. Mngt)
As the ‘supreme discipline’ of the SDSU business bachelor’s degree, this course was recently classified as ‘too difficult’ for exchange students, which is why I I was only allowed to enroll thanks to a conversation with the person responsible for the course. With regular papers and group work with a presentation, this course gave the most to do. Nevertheless, a good grade can be achieved with moderate effort. In addition to multiple-choice tasks, concepts must also be applied to case studies in the exams.
MGT 358 – FUNMNTLS OF ENTREPNRSHP with L. Hoffman
(Special Session, 3 Units = 6 ECTS, elective or contextual area)
After the original lecturer unexpectedly dropped out, the course was taken over by a self-successful entrepreneur who embellished the lessons with many practical examples and overall an interesting insight into the American start-up scene. Concepts are queried in relatively easy-to-solve multiple-choice exams, which is why a very good grade can easily be achieved here as well.
Since the amount of work at the SDSU is limited, the social aspect of the exchange in San Diego is of course of great importance. There’s a lot of partying among the internationals in Pacific Beach, whether it’s at the countless bars along Garnet Ave, in the clubs downtown or at house parties.
Unfortunately, as an exchange student – especially in Pacific Beach – you don’t really notice much of the supposed ‘party university’. If you want to take part in one of the notorious American house parties, you really have to track them down on the very extensive college area, with fraternities in particular only allowing invited guests entry. This gave many exchange students the impression that the American students preferred to keep to themselves, but this was of little consequence given the numerous alternatives.
Finally, a few “insider tips” on my part:
CRSSD Fest: The music festival, which takes place every October and March, offers a breathtaking line-up of techno, deep house and mainstream acts. The location and presentation is reminiscent of the famous Coachella. The weekend pass costs around 130 dollars and is an absolute must! (http: //crssdfest.com)
Pool parties in Las Vegas: If you want to take part in one of the legendary pool parties in Las Vegas (Wet Republic, Encore Beach Club, etc.) you should visit the party city in the warm summer months if possible, as they no longer take place from October.
Sunday Gameday: During the football season, the beach bars in Pacific Beach celebrate at lunchtime, especially on Sundays. Especially recommended are the local PB-Shore Club and PB Local. In contrast to the well-known Taco Tuesday, you tend to meet fewer internationals and more Americans here.
Suburbs: In addition to Pacific Beach and Downtown, it’s worth visiting the lesser-known neighborhoods of Hillcrest and North Park in the evenings.
Is San Diego State University the Right Choice? – Conclusion
Those who primarily want to make acquaintances with Americans and experience typical ‘college life’ should better decide on a university in the Midwest or in particular UC Santa Barbara.
If you want to travel and celebrate a lot during your exchange semester, live the ‘Cali-Life’ and still want to take good grades home with you with little effort, San Diego State University is the right choice for you! While not necessarily academic, an exchange in San Diego is definitely a valuable experience.
I’m happy to share more impressions and answer specific questions – be it over a cup of coffee or a Budweiser.