University: San Diego State University
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
Preparation and arrival
The first step in choosing a destination for a semester abroad is, of course, choosing the foreign university. At the SDSU I chose, the application and acceptance went very quickly and professionally and you could tell that they are quite experienced in admitting exchange students. After receiving confirmation from the SDSU, the first administrative matter to be addressed was of course the US visa. There are a lot of prejudices and concerns about how difficult it is to get it. From my experience I can say that most of them are grossly exaggerated. Of course it is a certain effort to fill out all the documents, to drive to Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich and also a little annoying, if you still have to pay various processing fees. All in all, I have to say that if you get enough information, calculate the costs in advance and take care of the visa in good time, there will be no nasty surprises. See liuxers for universities where you can study with 100 TOEFL points.
I would also like to briefly mention the choice of international health insurance, which you have to take out before you start your trip. There are various providers with sometimes huge cost differences. So it’s worth finding out more, and I chose the ADAC offer, which is relatively cheap. Another frequently chosen provider is MLP, to name two useful options here.
Since the SDSU accepts various exchange students every year, there is of course also a high fluctuation in the housing supply. Unfortunately, the best and cheapest offers are long gone before you arrive. Rents between $300 and $400 near the university are not uncommon for locals. However, since the apartment search only works locally, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. The price depends on whether you want to live in a student residence or a privately offered room. I decided on the latter, where I searched together with a fellow student and an American. Of course, the range of individual rooms is greater than if you are looking for a group, which of course is also reflected in the final rent.
First of all, it has to be said that San Diego State University, at $6,500, is still relatively inexpensive compared to other universities in the USA, with the emphasis naturally being on ‘relatively’. In addition to the rent mentioned above and the tuition fees, there were three other cost factors that made a particular difference to me.
First, of course, for food. Since these are quite cheap in Germany in an international comparison, you should not be surprised here in the USA if you have to spend a little more for food and other everyday items in the supermarket.
The second factor was the car. Since the USA and especially the city of San Diego are quite extensive and at the same time have a poorly developed local transport network, you can hardly avoid a car (which of course does not mean that there are not students who can do it). I was lucky enough to share one with my fellow student, which of course reduced the cost. But cars are generally cheaper than in Germany and petrol is also within a reasonable price range at just under $1 per liter.
The third factor was extraordinary undertakings that you want to take advantage of on the unique opportunity of a semester abroad. These include trips to LA, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Santa Barbara and some national parks such as Yosimite and the Grand Canyon. I guess that everyone has the desire to see as much of the area as possible in such a unique experience as the semester abroad. Of course, these are additional costs that should not be forgotten if you want to see some more places.
Unfortunately, right at the beginning of the semester you have the feeling that you are only a source of income for the university. It is important to differentiate whether you want to take courses in the ‘Business’ area or in a department. Whilst I have not heard any complaints from students in any of the other departments, it was very chaotic in the ‘Business’ section and also disappointing for many students in terms of subject choice. In my experience, the reason for this is the American Language Institute (ALI), which is responsible for the semester students. This is a profit organization that logically wants to admit as many students as possible in order to make money. From my experience, there were obviously far too many exchange students in the business department, so that admission to the desired courses is associated with good luck. I have been told by professors that this is probably the case every semester, but that the situation has gotten even worse with the award procedure used for the first time this year. From my experience and according to reports from other students, courses offered by ALI as a substitute only for exchange students are unfortunately of inferior quality and not very instructive. The service of the ALI in relation to the many problems is unfortunately poor. Unfortunately, long queues, unanswered e-mails and unsuspecting helpers were the rule. In addition, as an industrial engineer, I had the problem that, despite the announcement, none of the engineering courses that I was interested in were offered.
On the other hand, if you were lucky enough to get SDSU courses, they were really interesting. Well prepared material as well as the American view of economy and economy, which often differs from German values. The teaching system with a lot of interaction between students and professors should be particularly emphasized. Unlike at the University of Hamburg, they were always available to answer questions from the students. In principle, the whole semester was spent learning. So you always had to do something for the university, such as handing in homework or studying for intermediate exams, but this also eliminated the great stress of an all-important final exam at the end of the semester. In my opinion a big advantage.
The facilities at the university, such as the libraries, etc., were also really good. Unfortunately, unlike in Germany, it is not usual to borrow compulsory reading, but you had to buy every book, which of course also resulted in several hundred dollars in costs.
Everyday life/free time
Life in San Diego can rightly be described as unique. In addition to the weather that cannot be experienced in Germany, the people there are almost unreservedly nice, relaxed and mostly in a good mood. This mixture inevitably gives visitors an equally relaxed, pleasant attitude to life.
In terms of leisure, the city also has a lot to offer. Of course, this includes a frequent visit to the beach, also with the popular sport of surfing. But there are also various, often free sports facilities of the university as well as bars and clubs for planning the evening. The latter can be found almost exclusively in the city center or on the beach, so you either need a car or you have to use a taxi if you live near the campus.
Despite all the problems with the allocation of courses, my semester in San Diego was really an exceptionally beautiful experience. In addition to the pleasant way of life, the contact with American economic philosophy was a real benefit for me. The same goes for getting to know American and Californian culture. If I were asked whether I would recommend the semester as I had it, I would advise trying another university in San Diego due to the organizational problems at SDSU. But I can recommend the city itself without reservation and would gladly go back again at any time.