Planning and preparation
My goal was to conduct a 6-month study abroad in an English-speaking country. In view of the fact that the University of Erfurt’s internal exchange programs did not cover the study options in sociology, political science and economics in English-speaking countries, I decided to look for other options. An individual application to an American or Canadian university would have been possible, but in my opinion it turned out to be too complicated, as I was hardly familiar with the American university admission or application procedures.
I made a conscious decision in advance to go to California State University East Bay in Hayward. Even if the city of Hayward is not a particularly vivid or appealing area, the university is a Best of the West-ranked university in which the support potential was particularly good against the background of the small class sizes. Furthermore, the East Bay Area is not only the 7th strongest economic zone in the world, but it is a very liberal region by American standards, in which it is sometimes much easier to get into conversation with critical and informed people. than in other parts of the US. Just 20 minutes from Berkeley and San Francisco, it wasn’t particularly difficult to break out of the dreary Hayward.
According to ehuacom, the search for an apartment turned out to be extremely difficult in advance. I made countless phone calls, mostly immediately after the advertisements were published, but the landlords or roomates were rarely willing to rent their room to someone they hadn’t met before. The rental prices were also a real challenge, at least by East German standards, although in retrospect it should be noted that the favorable exchange rate was very beneficial to me.
The organization and handling of all the formalities that affected the university can be summarized as a very simple process, as all of the organization was taken over by MicroEDU.com except for the compilation of a few documents.
The application for financial support from the Böckler Foundation was also quick and easy.
The only time-consuming things were applying for a visa, possibly taking an English test (TOEFL, IELTS), which at least at this university was not compulsory, and finding suitable and cheap health insurance for the USA.
In order to be enrolled as a full-time student at an American university, the completion of at least 12 credits per quater was required. The Quatersystem, which is by far not offered at every American university, was among other things one of the decisive reasons why I decided on the CSUEB, because otherwise it could have happened quickly that you would have to end your stay after 3 months and since the American semester system is not congruent with the German one, a lot of time would have been wasted. Furthermore, it was primarily about improving my language skills and getting to know the country and its people better, which in my opinion can be very difficult.
Not only did the search for an apartment turn out to be extremely complicated, but unfortunately I also had to gather the experience that the USA has far more crazy people than we are used to from Germany or elsewhere. My first landlady turned out to be absolutely crazy after a while. Not only did she develop a total control mania, after just under 2 weeks I was the culprit for all her private and professional problems, she spread the rumor that I control the Haywards drug market, apparently gave all my data to the FBI and Hayward Police continued, stole my wallet and withheld my bail for no reason, as she herself admitted.
I was a bit shocked about the location of the university and about the possibilities to pursue everyday activities. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that in Hayward and California in general, the public transport links are extremely poor. So we were forced to buy an old car in order to be able to go shopping at least twice a week, which would have been an impossibility without a car. In addition to the horrific food prices, the range of food on offer was also very shocking. After 7 months in the USA, I now appreciate the not particularly outstanding cuisine of Germany all the more. Even with a lot of goodwill, it was very difficult to eat healthily or even satisfactorily.
Experience with the university
In a first introductory event for all international students, the tuition fees could be paid relatively easily in different ways.
The enrollment process for the desired courses was similar to what I am used to from Erfurt. Nevertheless, the secretaries and those responsible for the organization have to be taken for granted that the entire registration and registration process is much better and more efficient, even if that does not always rule out problems. I found the support I received to be remarkable and quite unusual after I barely received two of my courses in the 2nd quarter due to the allegedly overcrowded rooms. Nevertheless, the secretary of the political faculty managed to help me get the courses I wanted via detours.
During my semester abroad I chose the following courses:
- Macroeconomics for Business
- Public Policy Analysis
- Medical Sociology
- Environmental Economics
- The Political System of Latin America
- Social policy
- French II
with 4 credit points each and completed all courses with very good results.
In my opinion, all courses were to be rated lower compared to the German performance requirement, but this was primarily due to the type and frequency of the examinations. Compared to German lectures and seminars, I can say that I was able to acquire significantly more knowledge from the events in the USA and that the quality of the lectures was far better and more interesting than what you generally get from Germany is used to. In my opinion, this is primarily due to the professors’ self-image. Personally, I have not seen a single professor in the United States who has even remotely behaved as arrogantly towards his students as is sometimes the custom with German professors. Rather, all professors showed an enormous willingness to help and openness, showed consideration and were collectively available to their students around the clock. E-mails were answered within half an hour even after 10pm and there was no shortage of fun either.
Excursion possibilities and leisure activities
During the 7 months in the USA I had the opportunity to get to know California, parts of Nevada and Arizona. Even if there is little leeway to travel during the lecture period, good time management makes it possible to get to know many different places. The most interesting cities in the East Bay Area, including San Francisco, are quite close to the CSUEB anyway, so afternoon excursions are definitely a good option. Otherwise, we got to know all the national parks, which are very impressive and the most important cities such as LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, Berkeley, etc., which everyone should really have seen.
Finances and costs
All in all and in retrospect, I can say for myself that this study abroad would hardly have been possible for me without the support of the Böckler Foundation. The costs that arise for daily needs were greatly underestimated by both me and all other international students I met. If you don’t want to restrict yourself too much and eat at least a similar diet as in Germany, you should calculate a good 600-700 euros / month just for food and perhaps useful things such as toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Living space, as already mentioned above, is also a major factor. The tuition fees at the CSUEB were very low compared to other American universities, but are constantly increasing. From the Fall Quarter to the Winter Quarter alone, tuition fees have increased from $ 2,300 to $ 2,500. A lot of costs arise for the literature required by the professors, which, unlike in Germany, is not only recommended, but which is actually worked with and which can NOT be viewed or borrowed in the library, as the university has concluded exclusive contracts with the publishers . So, depending on the courses you choose, you have to expect at least $ 650 extra for books just for each quarter. In the second quarter, I paid over $ 1,100 for literature alone. Although the university’s internal bookstore offers the possibility of buying back the books, this can only be described as absolutely ridiculous. For a book I bought new for $ 240 and used for 3 months, which I hadn’t described or something like that, in the hope of getting it sold again, the bookstore asked me $ 35. I finally decided to keep all of my books.
Since it is unlikely that most of them complete such a study abroad just to improve their curriculum vitae or to study exclusively, but also to get to know the country, people, culture and language, travel costs must always be budgeted for. In my experience, it is often possible to travel very cheaply, especially when you are traveling with other people, at least when it comes to accommodation, etc. You should not underestimate the cost of a rental car if you are not yet 25 years old, as this can also result in horrific costs. The cost of a rental car should always be taken into account in advance anyway, since, as already mentioned, traveling by public transport in the USA is hardly possible.
All in all, I am very satisfied with my stay in the USA and can only recommend everyone who is interested in gaining similar experiences: definitely do it!
The 7 months have really brought me a lot personally. I learned a lot, met a lot of new people, was able to perfect my English skills and gained a lot of new experiences and insights.