University: San Diego State University
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
My adventure began on August 4, 2015: I was allowed to study at San Diego State University in sunny Southern California in the USA for half a year. Before the semester at SDSU began, however, the first thing to do was to look for an apartment. For the first two weeks I had booked a hostel from where we went every day to look at apartments. Even if we liked the apartment, you still had to fight to get it. San Diego seemed to be a popular destination for international students. So I was relieved to be in a nice apartment near the beach after three weeks together with three German and two Swedish girls to be able to pull. I already knew two of the Germans from my outward flight, which we had booked together after communicating via Facebook. The two Swedes joined them on the day of the apartment viewing. However, that was just right for us, since we had planned from the outset to live together with other nationalities if possible, in order to speak as much English as possible. Unfortunately, this turned out to be more difficult than expected as San Diego’s international student body was dominated by Germans. See mcat-test-centers for 7 best cities to study in Belgium.
As part of SDSU’s Business Course Program, I chose two business courses from home – Business Plan Development & Multinational Business. The Heinrich Heine University should be able to count these as an elective module. Compared to Germany, the size of the study group in the USA is much smaller. So we were an average of 30 students in one course. Unfortunately, only internationals and no American students took part in the two business courses. The length of the courses is also different from the one and a half hour lectures I’m familiar with in Düsseldorf. A group session in San Diego lasted about two and a half hours including a ten-minute break. In my opinion, this period is a bit too long to keep the focus on the learning content.
As part of the Business Plan Development course, we were asked to found our own startup by creating a business model canvas during the semester, a business plan and a presentation should be drawn up. The project was actually implemented very realistically as we had to interview potential buyers and partners to verify our business assumptions. We should also present our progress to the class once a month. At the end of the semester, the grade was made up of the presentation and the final version of the written elaborations and the participation and oral cooperation of the students. I find this evaluation system very fair and, above all, more productive, since you are encouraged to work throughout the semester.
On site, there was also course crashing because I needed two more courses from the general courses. I chose Event Coordination as well as Recreation & Tourism Management because I am very happy to be able to do my business administration bachelor’s degree in eine der beiden Richtungen orientieren würde. Im erstgenannten kam jede Woche eine Persönlichkeit aus unterschiedlichsten Bereichen der Eventbranche in die Uni, um aus ihrem beruflichen Alltag zu erzählen. Wir hatten kein Skript, sodass wir uns zu jedem Vortrag ausführlich Notizen machen sollten. Das war aber nicht der Grund, weshalb jeder Student stets aufmerksam zuhörte, vielmehr war es auch hier die Realitätsnähe der von den Gastrednern vorgetragenen Geschichte, die den Unterricht spannend machten. Außerdem konnte ich in diesen beiden fachfremden Kursen Kontakte zu Amerikanern und anderen Internationals knüpfen.
Recreation & Tourism Management dealt with the marketing of sports and leisure activities and the tourism industry. At the beginning there was a lot of talk about the individuality of definitions such as “leisure”, “recreation” or “tourism”. In connection with this, we were also questioned in our personal values. One of the assignments was to describe our future dream jobto research this position for required qualifications, knowledge and skills and, if necessary, to find out a possible salary. We should draw up a kind of plan on how we could develop the necessary technical and social skills on the way to our dream job in the future. Our professor also suggested interviewing a person who already has our dream job. Although the task was not easy, it was very helpful and meaningful to each and every student. Personally, I can say that it was fun to explore his possible future path in life and that I have seldom worked on such a useful task during my university career. Regrettably, I doubt that something like this would be in a German curriculum.
Admittedly, the Americans work a little more slowly at the university and in some places the material seems less complex to me than in the German educational institutions. However, more might get stuck in the minds of the students because the professors take more time for the material and other soft skills are also taught. Overall, as a student in America, you do a lot more work during the semester, be it in the form of group projects, case study analysis, oral work, or multiple exams, rather than just a final exam at the end of the semester. I liked that the professors use different media to convey the content to their students. I was able to hear many guest lectures, work through two books on starting a business, watch films or take part in field trips. Ultimately, I have the impression that I learned more intensively and sustainably as a result.
In addition to the compulsory courses, I also took stand up paddling and volleyball courses. Sports are an important part of American college life, which I didn’t want to miss out on. It’s impressive how much togetherness the students develop at a university, especially at the home games of the football or basketball teams. The sport itself almost takes a back seat. As an enrolled student at San Diego State University, we even got free tickets to all the varsity teams’ home games. In a shop on campus you could equip yourself with all sorts of fan and fashion items. The SDSU clothing was worn by the students themselves in everyday life or during sports. I can hardly imagine that a German student would identify with his university as strongly as one experiences in the USA. In addition, it is also not the extent of uni clothing etc.
The American team spirit was a little less intense, but still noticeable in my volleyball course, which consisted almost exclusively of locals. I first got to know the English terms for volleyball techniques and tactics. What I really liked was how people supported and challenged each other. No matter what level someone played, you always got compliments for successful shots or nice suggestions for improvements. Every Tuesday afternoon, while the volleyball course was taking place in a sports hall of the university’s fitness studio, I made my way to the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, which is located on a bay opposite the “real sea” in the Mission Beach districtlocated. Because our condo was near the bay, I was able to ride my bike – a popular mode of transportation in San Diego – to my stand up paddling class. I felt like I needed to take a watersports class to experience California as authentically as possible. Exactly this feeling came across during the courses: Usually you just sat in a sunny spot on the meadow for the first half hour before everyone was there and you went on the water with the boards. But alone the patience and serenity that was conveyed here, quickly transferred to oneself and also defines life on the Californian coast for me. Since I had only chosen this course for fun, the relaxed design only suited me. In addition to the basic paddle techniques, we did a SUP Yoga lesson, a Moonlight SUP and a costume competition on the boards. But even without these events, the sport gave me joy, so I will definitely look out for an opportunity to SUP in Germany in the summer.
In retrospect, I learned a lot more during my time in America apart from the study-related part: starting with living in a shared apartment – since I still live with my parents in Germany – through cultural differences to the change in some basic attitudes. To be more precise, for the first time in my life I planned every step on my own and was solely responsible for its consequences. Doing this in another language at the same time is easier said than done. I’ve become a lot more independent now and have learned to deal with difficult situations more calmly.At the same time, I have gained self-confidence, because traveling independently through a foreign country for half a year, living differently and studying in a different language actually makes you a little proud.
If I now have to describe what I’ve learned in six months in America, I wouldn’t necessarily start with the university part. Of course, the linguistic advances make up a large part, that’s clear. At the same time, I also learned to live in the USA. This means getting to know the habits of the Americans and adapting them if necessary. Starting with the initial confusion when asked “How are you?”, which was often asked by complete strangers such as the cashier in the supermarket. So we found out that you either don’t answer at all, or you can answer briefly “Fine and you?”, but the other person is not necessarily interested in your real condition.
Another example is traffic: There is no “right before left” on American roads, so you have to stop at every intersection. First come, first go. There is also no rule on the Autobahn that you can only overtake on the left. However, the speed limit here is below the German standard. Driving on Californian roads, one learns to appreciate the efforts of the Germans to maintain the condition of the roads through numerous construction sites. I have rarely had to avoid as many potholes as in California. Nevertheless, almost every American has a car. The buses run regularly, but there are only a few train connections for long-distance traffic. I also appreciate the food prices in Germany more now: fruit and vegetables were definitely expensive, as well as dairy products and meat. It is therefore easy to understand why Americans prefer the cheaper option at one of the numerous fast food chains. Over time, however, we discovered in which markets fruit and vegetables were offered quite cheaply, or that you could get bargains in the wholesale markets by buying large quantities.
A very sad difference to Germany is the social security system in the states, which is the cause of a large population of homeless residents. Especially in big cities like San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco you will meet someone begging for money on every street corner. I find it hard to say that you get used to these encounters over time. In fact, you learn that these people aren’t dangerous, they’re often downright friendly. Still, to this day I don’t know how to deal with them. Furthermore, the consumption of drugs is treated less strictly in the USA than in Germany, so that people were often seen taking prohibited substances on the streets of Germany. On the other hand, the consumption of alcohol is only allowed from the age of 21.“underage” (under 21) and was therefore denied access to most parties. The inconsistency of some laws, namely that I could have bought cigarettes, for example, is questioned here. Nevertheless, I didn’t always have to stay at home in the evenings because the university connections – the so-called “fraternities” and “sororities” – liked to throw one or the other house party at the weekend. So I can only confirm that American college life is known for being more celebrated than it is back home for a reason. In addition, in California the so-called “Taco Tuesday”which residents also celebrate during the week: First you go out to eat tacos together, which are offered for one to two dollars on Tuesdays, and then move on to the bars.
One prejudice I want to disprove is that the majority of Americans are fat. My impression is that the contrasts are simply very strong, so that the fatter people are probably more conspicuous. On the one hand you see a lot of overweight people and unfortunately a large number of children among them, on the other hand there are also many athletic, motivated and nutrition-conscious Americans. Especially in San Diego you can see someone jogging on every corner and in addition to the fast food restaurants there are also many trendy shops that offer smoothies, acai bowls, salads, etc. On the other hand, I don’t know these diverse possibilities from Germany. But I missed a real bakery in the USA, especially the bread…
What I liked best though was the way of life in California. People seem to be happy almost all the time and rarely let themselves be disturbed. You will be greeted with a smile wherever you go. Of course, the consistently good weather and the beach could be the main reasons for this… Despite everything, we Germans could certainly learn something from the stress-free and carefree lifestyle of the Californians.
During my time in San Diego, I also learned to enjoy every second and am really grateful that I was able to spend my semester abroad there. I definitely take some of the light-heartedness and happiness of the residents back to Germany with me. I don’t know when, but I will definitely return to San Diego one day!