I had actually had my eye on a semester abroad during my entire degree, but until the 6th semester I had never managed to get serious about it. Actually, I had already written off the topic until I found out by chance that it is possible at my university to take a semester abroad even after the thesis. So I first tried to organize a semester abroad through the International Office (AAA) of my university. Unfortunately, the AAA turned out to be very inflexible and the range of partner universities on offer was not exactly convincing either. So I searched the internet and came across MicroEDU. After exchanging a few emails with CC, I was convinced that MicroEDU would be of great help in organizing my stay abroad. In retrospect, I would say that the effort involved in preparing for the self-organized stay abroad has actually been reduced enormously with the help of MicroEDU.
The criteria I used to search for a university in the CC database were that the target country should be an English-speaking country, that it should be as far away from Germany as possible;), that I would travel to an interesting city and that The whole thing should remain affordable, as I paid for everything myself and received no financial support (student loan). Due to the high tuition fees at most Australian universities, the USA was quickly chosen as the destination. In the end, I decided on the CSUEB because of the convincing price / performance ratio and the favorable semester start times for me. Overall, the preparation for the stay abroad was quick and relatively problem-free.
Arrival in Hayward
At the end of March 2012 it finally started. The first lesson I had to learn when I arrived in SF was that (Northern) California can not only be warm and sunny, but – especially in spring – also quite cold and rainy. So you shouldn’t make the mistake of arriving only with T-shirts in your suitcase – taking a jacket with you makes perfect sense!
Since I had decided not to move into the student dormitory for various reasons, but to look for an apartment off-campus, the plan was to spend the first week in a motel and use the time to find an apartment. From Germany it turned out to be relatively impossible to organize accommodation in advance. I am not a person who likes to plunge into an “adventure” unprepared, but I have to say that due to the numerous apartment complexes in the vicinity of the university, it was relatively easy to find an apartment on site Landlords are reluctant to rent to students who only stay for a few months – in the end it wasn’t a problem). I can recommend the “City View Apartments” because they are very close to the campus, the complex is very well maintained and the apartments are really nice. However, the whole thing has its price (around $ 2000 per month). It is therefore very advisable to team up with a few people (ideally three people) in order to be able to split the housing costs.
In this context, I would also strongly advise you to make sure in advance that you have enough cash with your credit card. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the US doesn’t need cash! Unfortunately, the deposit and the monthly rent can only be paid in cash. Since you will most likely also need a car (for shopping, etc.), you should also include the purchase amount in your cash requirements. Furthermore, one must not forget that American ATMs give out a maximum of $ 500 per card per day – luckily there are quite a number of ATMs from different banks along B-Street by Hayward that you can check out one after the other.
The first days at the university consisted of introductory events and some excursions organized by the university, including to San Francisco. Before the courses started, the class crashing was on the plan. You can already read a lot about this on the MicroEDU website and in other experience reports. Unfortunately, the whole process is actually structured relatively sub-optimally and you have a lot of stress during this time – but overall I didn’t find it particularly bad and I didn’t have any major problems taking my desired courses.
Stay at the CSUEB
The CSUEB campus is certainly not the largest of all American universities – but you have to admit that, despite everything, it is not poorly equipped and, above all, due to its location, offers a magnificent view over the Bay to SF.
The university cafeteria is actually not that bad by American standards (there is, for example, a large selection of fruits and vegetables every day) – but you have to live with the fact that the food is repeated quite often and after a certain time everything tastes the same. If you – like me – live off-campus, you are in the fortunate position of being able to cater for yourself completely if you want to.
During the week there is always something going on on campus – the weekends, on the other hand, may be a bit more boring as most of the American students do not live on campus. It is then almost exclusively the international students who are there. We always used the time to go on excursions into the surrounding area and Hayward really offers an excellent starting point for this (at least if you have a car). In addition to San Francisco itself, there are tons of places and cities to discover in the Bay Area and its surrounding area – Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz, Susalito, the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas (there are cheap flights from Oakland), around to name just a few. It is advisable to set up a plan in good time where you want to go, so as not to miss most of it.
According to anycountyprivateschools, Hayward itself isn’t all that exciting, there are a handful of bars and a pretty nice movie theater. If you are out to party, it is definitely advisable to take the BART to SF. Alternatively, there are of course always private parties in the student dormitory or off-campus. I was lucky that there were extremely many international students (including many Germans) there during my stay and that we quickly had a great clique together, so that you actually always had someone to celebrate, chill out or whatever and it never got boring.
Between all the leisure activities, you should of course visit the lectures every now and then (by the way, attendance is mandatory in the USA and is more or less controlled). The quality of the lectures and the workload vary greatly. Apart from the peculiarities of the individual professors, the classification of the courses (recognizable by the first number of the course number) is essential. Basically, the master’s courses (highest course numbers) are significantly more labor-intensive, but also of higher quality. With regard to the choice of master’s courses, one should note that these are associated with additional fees.
All American courses differ from German lectures mainly in that there is not only one written exam at the end, but also that there are repeated performance assessments in between (e.g. through exams, quizzes or graded homeworks). As a result, the effort during the semester is higher than in Germany. The advantage, however, is that at least not all of the material has to be repeated at the same time at the end of the semester.
Whether you feel comfortable in Hayward or not depends primarily on your own expectations. You have to be aware that Hayward is not San Francisco and that the distance to SF is too great to be accepted every day. In the end, it was perfectly fine for me to postpone trips and club visits to the weekend and to take things a little easier in Hayward during the week – but that doesn’t mean that I was ever bored. You get to know so many great people that you can let it rip in Hayward without any problems – the beer pong evenings have always been legendary;).
For everyone who is primarily interested in getting to know the country and its people, Hayward is certainly a very good choice due to its location in the Bay Area. There you inevitably come across an extremely wide range of cultures, an exciting economic region and many great cities and impressive landscapes in the immediate vicinity.
Basically, I can only urgently advise everyone to spend a semester abroad – I definitely had an extremely great time there and you broaden your horizons tremendously. So you shouldn’t hesitate long – just do it!