- Introduction and motivation
My decision to spend a semester abroad was clear to me from the start of my studies. I was sure it would be an incredibly enriching experience, not just academically.
For me personally, the focus was on further improving my English, as I would like to work in an international environment later. Furthermore, the USA has always appealed to me. Although I would often call politics “questionable”, I still find the culture (on the coastal areas!) To be very interesting, as there is no really long and “characteristic” history integrated into it, but other old cultures to create a new one, the American, are combined. Openness and internationality are therefore important attributes that shape this culture and my experiences and which I have come to appreciate very much. It was relatively practical that with these two reasons my need to get away from my familiar surroundings for a long time was absolutely compatible.
My preparations began with choosing a university in the United States . Even the fact that I had limited my selection to the west coast didn’t really make my choice any easier at first. So I oriented myself to other exclusion criteria. First the formal ones, like the appropriate period. Of course, this should not necessarily overlap with the times at the FH / Uni. For this reason I was able to “only” complete an American quarter (3 months). In theory, I could have added a summer session to it, but that turned out to be a bit too expensive for me. The good thing about it was that I had a good balance between study time and free time would have. The next exclusion criterion for me was financial. Unfortunately, the university in Davis is one of the most expensive in California , but in the long term and in relation, every cent was worth it, which will become even clearer in the further course of my report. For me, other criteria were, on the one hand, the city itself and the university, as well as the range of courses. But more on that later. I can only recommend that you think about it before deciding on a university in order to make it easier and to give it a meaningful grade.
The next step was to apply to the university. This included a letter of motivation (two essays), a letter of recommendation from a professor, a certificate of appropriate English language skills ( DAAD , TOEFL or IELTS ), a financial statement (guaranteed availability of $ 10,000), a completed contact form, a current transcript and the copy of the passport.
After receiving a written confirmation from the university, I applied for a visa at the US embassy in Frankfurt. After completing the online form and transferring the fees, you have to go to the embassy for a short interview, which includes a short, oral, English justification of your stay in the US. You will receive the visa immediately afterwards.
After that, I took care of flights straight away. I can highly recommend the student travel agency STA for this. This takes care of good, cheap flights and also has good partnerships with tour operators, for example for trips during and after the study period.
I have also taken out travel and international health insurance with my insurance company. Getting one here in Germany is usually much cheaper than taking one at American universities.
The last thing to do was to plan the (temporary) accommodation. Personally, I didn’t care too much about it in advance because I wanted to see the rooms on site. That’s why I rented a room through Airbnb for the first few days. From there I looked for potential accommodation on the platforms “Uloop.com”, “Craigslist.com” and the university’s website and finally found one. How you handle it, whether before or after arrival, is up to you and your personal preferences. It will work either way ;).
I arrived two weeks before the start of the quarter to settle in and find a room. With the F1 student visa , it is possible to stay in the USA four weeks before and eight weeks after studying. So I didn’t quite use up the time in advance, but the time after that, which in my opinion is much too modest.
In the first few days I went to the campus and looked at the campus and picked up my student ID. I’ve already met a few people and got an overview of the campus. Furthermore, I have an American prepaid – Contract taken care of. Even if you usually have WIFI across the campus, I wanted to be independent of it. In addition, I wanted the Americans to be reachable by phone (yes, theoretically I could have been reached with my German number, but no American would have ever dialed it) and I also wanted to be flexible with SMS, calls and the Internet. For this I can recommend AT&T, which has very good customer service and a central location in downtown. For enough internet capacity, unlimited SMS and free minutes as well as free SMS to a country of my choice (I naturally chose Germany), I paid around $ 40.
Then I got myself a bike. This is absolutely necessary and common in Davis – the middle name of the city is “City of Bicycles”. Accordingly, there are bike racks everywhere and also a lot of bike lanes and general bike (driver) friendliness. There are also buses that you can use for free as a student, but generally a bike just makes sense there. Allow at least $ 50 for a used bike. There are enough bike shops in Davis and bicycles are bought, upgraded and repaired on campus so that they can then be sold to students at fair prices.
The course itself was really very good. It is actually more time-consuming than in Germany, since homework, essays, presentations etc. are expected every week, but the learning effect was quite high. I chose three courses that really interested me and that fit my focus and an additional English course. So my time at Davis became quite intensive, but I learned an incredible amount in this short time and I have never regretted the decision to invest a little more effort, probably in contrast to other foreign students. The professors are very competent and the staff at the university and the GSP program are very helpful.
- Check topschoolsintheusa for more about The School of Law at University of California Davis.
The university, which will probably not be different at other UCs, has a huge range of additional events. On the one hand, there are regular good and interesting guest lectures or discussion groups. On the other hand, the range of leisure activities is quite extensive. There are a number of organizations and clubs on campus that you can join in order to get involved in relevant directions, to do sports together or to do other activities (such as outdoor adventures) or just to get to know new people. You can also use the large fitness center on campus, which actually has everything you want, free of charge. In addition, there are also festivals on campus from time to time instead of. Picnic Day and Whole Festival fall in the Spring Quarter. And almost forgot: the campus is big and beautiful. I really enjoyed walking or driving across campus between my courses, even if it was just to change location. Feeling uncomfortable there is hard to imagine!
- Life in Davis
Davis is a well-arranged city with approx. 60,000 inhabitants, half of them students, and of them also a lot of international students (mainly from Brazil and Asia). Accordingly, it is anything but difficult to get to know people. The city is practically located around the campus. Downtown is directly adjacent to the campus and in general everything can be reached quickly.
Davis has a Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday for fresh, good, and delicious food and dishes. Generally good for shopping are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and the Co-op. For shopping there are only Forever 21 or small second hand shops. In downtown there are many good little restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Since, as I said, quite a few students live there, there is always something going on there at least on weekends or Thursdays.
And if you get bored in Davis, you benefit from the geographically good location, because you can quickly get to Berkeley, SF, Sacramento or other larger cities.
- Miscellaneous and travel thereafter
California is incredibly beautiful and characterized by a pleasant lifestyle. The landscape is very diverse and ranges from desert to forests. Visiting national parks should definitely be tried to integrate. If you want to leave the USA, for example to come to Canada , you should do it during the official study period, otherwise you will not be allowed to re-enter.
After completing my studies, I scoured the route from Seattle to Phoenix. I mainly only traveled with AmTrak, which I can highly recommend as it is uncomplicated and comfortable to travel. Once I flew because the distance was just too far and again I took a Greyhound bus (that was a small impertinence, but the low price made it up for it). And especially when you are traveling alone, these modes of transport are most worthwhile. I’ve only stayed with friends of friends, so I can’t give you any information about other accommodations, but that shouldn’t be so tragic in the age of Airbnb and many hostels.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience that justifies all the investments, such as time and effort in advance, a large amount of money and a few nerves in between. In no moment have I regretted the decision. Of course I was worried that something would go wrong or not work out or something else, but in the end everything was manageable and all worries were unfounded.
Especially at the beginning, during the first few days in Davis, I questioned a lot and of course doubted it, but that was mainly because I made the decision to do it all on my own and it was connected with the fact that of course I was didn’t know anyone and was in a completely new environment. But after I’ve settled in, made friends, and learned to live the Californian lifestyle, all negative thoughts are gone.
Finally, a few tips:
A generous total of 16,000 should be taken into account if you want to do it in the same way as I did (i.e. three months of study, two months of travel). I know this amount is a bit scary, but during this time people’s attitudes towards money change. All the personal experiences you have, be they interpersonal ones that I appreciated the most, or other experiences, are just worth it! To compensate for this, you can try foreign student loans if the study period abroad is at least 3 months long (unfortunately that did not apply in my case) or to apply for a scholarship and other financial support – you should not leave untried.
You should also take enough time to relax and plan. For research 1 year and the formal stuff about half a year. The MicroEDU team has always given me great support in everything !
If you too are struggling with the decision, I can only recommend that you make a decision! And don’t forget that this is a challenge that will be unforgettable and that you will grow with. Have fun!