University: University of California San Diego
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Study type: Summer Sessions
I was at UCSD for a month and took part in a 4-week summer program called the English Language Institute (ELI), which is classified as an extension program. Unlike the summer sessions, these programs do not take you to specific semesters at university level, but you can choose from a large number of continuing education programs and topics. Many business administration or law students, for example, have taken “Business English”, many pupils/students with weaker English skills have found themselves in the “Communication” course. See liuxers for UON Study Abroad.
All programs are 18+, so high school students, like me, have the opportunity to participate. However, I have found that Germany and Italy seem to be the only countries in the world where 13 years of school is compulsory before starting university (although it has now been reduced from 13 to 12 years in Germany). Because the few other 18-year-old international participants have already studied in their home country. From my point of view, however, this circumstance did not mean any disadvantage for me.
I chose the “Academic English” course, where the participants are prepared for the required level of English at American universities in subjects such as “Listening and Speaking” and “Writing”. Many of my classmates (the vast majority of Asian origin) have taken this course with a view to studying at an American college for a year or two. Overall, the language level was rather low and I often felt underchallenged. But the teachers were very understanding and committed, so they tried to challenge and support me individually.
To really improve your language skills, I recommend direct contact with the locals, which is easy to do on campus.
Even if I often had the feeling in the group work class that I was not learning much, I definitely benefited from the numerous interesting discussions (for example, I now know very well about the understanding and origin of patriotism in the USA in the comparison to Korea and France). Furthermore, I have learned the formal structure of a “real” essay and have been able to improve my written English by doing homework almost every day.
At the end of the course, everyone who has successfully completed the course (that is, one has been absent for a maximum of 4 days) will receive a certificate. The sheet music will be sent by post two weeks later.
The lessons took place from Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and I almost always enjoyed going to my classes;-)
Finally, the following can be said about the English level: On the first day there is a 40-minute placement test, after which you divided into different classes. I myself chose the bilingual branch plus English course at my high school in Germany, so I didn’t have any difficulties. However, I believe that school English in Germany performs quite well in an international comparison and that no German should have too many problems with the English language in the Extension Program.
Living on campus
During my time in the town of La Jolla, where the university is located, I lived “on campus”. Optionally, you can also live with a host family or in a self-rented apartment in the area. However, I can only recommend living on the university campus, as it is the easiest and safest. The apartments are not equipped above average, but the comparatively short distances to the classes in the morning or to one of the three canteens are just some of the advantages. Personally, I found it most pleasant that all international students lived in one neighborhood and that one could spontaneously knock on a neighbor’s door and plan the afternoon or evening without any problems.
The campus itself is huge and it takes a few days to find your way around. For a fee of $40 you can get a Recreation Card and use it to access the gym or the outdoor pool. We also recommend renting a bike on the university campus, as it gives you more flexibility.
As a participant in the Extension Program, you are largely on your own, ie there are a few people you can contact if you have problems, but you are completely responsible for organizing your time in California yourself. I only found this freedom disturbing on the first day of my arrival, as the responsible people at check-in only gave me my key and a map of the university campus without being able to give me any further information…
A “campus police” is employed on site, which I have met once or twice in the evening while breaking up a room party…
Overall, the university campus is not only ‘safe’, but also – thanks to many green areas – a pleasant place for living.
In hindsight, what I miss most here in Germany is the beach! The beach “La Jolla Shores” is only 20 minutes by bike from the campus and is famous for surfers. So that’s where I spent most of my afternoons in the sun. Also worth a visit are the beaches “Pacific Beach” and “Ocean Beach”, which can be found further towards downtown San Diego. This beach life has made my stay in San Diego more of a vacation experience than a study abroad experience.
In the evenings there is not much to do on the university campus – apart from the typical house parties – because in summer there is not as much going on on campus as in the current semester. However, there are a few bars, a cinema and several restaurants in downtown La Jolla. There’s a lot going on in San Diego Downtown, of course. Buses (free with a UCSD student ID) only go there until midnight, and a 40-minute cab ride back is common but expensive.
Since many of my friends were Italian, I’ve often been to San Diego’s Little Italy, which I highly recommend. I also really enjoyed a boat tour at the port of San Diego to be able to see the impressive skyline from a distance.
However, it should not be forgotten that in California 16-year-olds are allowed to own guns, but under-21-year-olds are not allowed to drink or buy alcohol. The laws even state that under 21-year-olds are not allowed to be in a room where alcohol is being drunk. In theory, this sounds rather strange to most Europeans and is therefore usually not implemented in practice. However, one should not overdo it or mess with the police. A 23! year-old Spaniard (so she was legally allowed to drink alcohol) was jailed for one night because she vomited in a taxi driver’s car… It is also essential that under 21-year-olds are not allowed in discos to have. On Thursdays, however, some downtown clubs have special offers for over 18s.
You should definitely plan a trip for the weekends. Las Vegas is only worthwhile for those interested in gambling who are at least 21 years old, in my opinion. The climate there is also very different than on the coast, since Vegas is located in the desert. The humidity is unbearable there during the hours of sunshine. LA (approx. 2 hours by car from San Diego without traffic jams) has also impressed me as a hot, overcrowded and sometimes frighteningly dirty city. Nevertheless, Beverly Hills and Hollywood are worth a visit and if you’re ever in California, you should take the chance. Great to combine with this are stays on famous beaches like Venice Beach or Laguna Beach, which are really fantastic. In San Diego itself, among other things, Sea World is a big attraction.
All in all, I really enjoyed my stay in San Diego and my experiences there made a decisive contribution to my development, since it was also my first longer stay abroad on my own. At the beginning I didn’t know anyone there and now I have friends all over the world. The registration in advance is time-consuming (an F1 student visa is required), but the effort is definitely worth it and I can only warmly recommend the UCSD.