University of California San Diego Review (18)

University: University of California San Diego

City: San Diego

Country: United States

Continent: North America

Field of study: Business

Study type: semester abroad

University of California San Diego Review (18)


In the fall of 2015, I studied one trimester at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). In this field report, I summarize why I think UCSD is an excellent choice for such a project abroad, what you should pay attention to in advance and what you should not miss on site. In many points, my opinion overlaps with other testimonials that I read before my departure, but I also have to disagree with them in some aspects. I can only recommend that you read several reports and thus avoid a one-sided presentation (you can find more reports on the MicroEdu homepage ). The following report is relatively detailed and hopefully helpful for one or the other. If you have any questions, you can always write to me (just ask MicroEdu for my email address). The most important thing first: Start planning early so that you have all the options and don’t get stressed. See liuxers for UNB Study Abroad.

Why I chose UCSD – Why MicroEdu is awesome

I got involved with my plans to go abroad fairly early on and first checked all the options at my university. However, no partner university promised me one hundred percent. I found out about MicroEdu by accident and just sent an email. I was immediately given super friendly advice and was very impressed by what the universities had to offer. MicroEdu is a company that works with various universities abroad. MicroEdu places German students with these universities and is paid for by the universities. The placement service is therefore free for us students ! Generally found in MicroEdu’s repertoire Universities with a first-class reputation. At this point, of course, everyone needs to know which criteria have priority for them, but for me the reputation of the university was definitely important. Since it had been clear to me for a long time that I would like to go to the USA, I didn’t really bother with other countries. I then checked all of the American universities from MicroEdu more closely and ultimately decided on UCSD. UCLA may have the best reputation on MicroEdu’s offerings, but as an international student, there are almost no business courses to choose from there. The reputation of the UCSD is not much worse, the choice of economics subjects is possible and theThe city already impresses in pictures on the Internet with its fantastic beaches and simply a cool atmosphere. In the end, the decision was pretty easy for me and now, looking back, I’m absolutely sure that it was the right decision.


It is best to ask MicroEdu yourself about the formalities in detail. In principle, it is normal for you to be accepted at UCSD if your grades are reasonable. The effort is also limited and the best thing is that MicroEdu explains everything in small steps and is always available for questions.


In other reports you will read that the language test is quite uncomfortable. This must be provided in the form of a TOEFL test. I think there are alternatives to this in certain situations, but these are absolutely exceptional cases. The TOEFL test is quite expensive (around $250) and a nuisance as it is worth preparing for if English is not your first language. However, the required 90 points for the UCSD can be achieved very well with good preparation. As preparation, I recommend the book “Cracking the TOEFL” (nice tips and tricks) and if you want to be absolutely sure, the official preparation book for the test. This is less about learning the language and more about understanding the test. All in all, the language certificate is annoying, but shouldn’t hold you back.


In the run-up to your stay in the USA you have to take a tuberculosis test. This, too, brings with it costs.


When applying for a visa, you can again fully rely on MicroEdu, since everything is explained step by step here too. However, the visa is also associated with costs that should not be underestimated. The appointment at the embassy goes pretty quickly and usually without any problems. It is best to make an appointment early enough so that you are not pressed for time (a postal strike when sending your passport should not jeopardize your visa). It is best not to take a mobile phone to the embassy itself, as you are not allowed to take it into the embassy (or leave it somewhere). Again and again you hear horror stories from people who are cross-examined during conversations in the embassy. For me it was two questions (What are you doing in San Diego ? Do you have family there?) and then I was already done with my interview.


Booking the flight early can help. Otherwise, it is the classic to fly to Los Angeles and travel from there to San Diego by public transport, because the flight directly to San Diego is often more expensive.


Unfortunately, there is very little leeway when it comes to insurance, because the UCSD has very precise ideas in this regard. Accordingly, most insurance is denied and the only real option is to insure the UCSD itself. This costs $540, but this only covers you for the quarter itself. So if you want to stay longer in the US before or after, you will need additional insurance (you couldn’t extend your UCSD insurance for a few weeks, at least in the last fall quarter). I can take the assurance from Dr. Walter recommend, but I’m not an expert in the field.

Living in SD

At this point, my opinion probably differs most from the other reports. There you will read that you should definitely live in Pacific Beach (PB) or at least Mission Bay because La Jolla (the neighborhood where the campus is located) is too boring. I followed this advice and shared a room in a shared flat in PB. In PB you have a great beach for surfing and a lot of bars. So the area is really great and I can understand if you would like to spend your semester abroad there. However, PB also brings with it problems that are often ignored in the other field reports.

It takes about half an hour to get from the PB to the university by bus. Most of the other students (except for a few internationals from SDSU) live near campus in La Jolla. So many nights I was the only one who somehow took the bus to a party and was able to pay an UBER back on my own. On the other hand, if you live in La Jolla and would like to party in PB, you can easily share an UBER with your friends. So I think that it is not absolutely necessary to look for an apartment in PB. Overall, I think the optimal residential area depends less on the area, but what matters is where you have your friends. Looking for an apartment was pretty stressful for me. I lived in a cheap hotel for the first few days and then tried to find an apartment via craigslist and various Facebook groups. However, I found that it is not as easy as one might expect. The landlords are often not reliable (you get a confirmation and a few hours later a rejection) and especially if you are not looking for the beginning of a new month, it is almost impossible. So plan enough time to look for an apartment. I found an interim solution for the first 10 days and then moved into my permanent home at the beginning of the month.


Everyone has to decide for themselves whether to buy a car. San Diego is huge and a car makes the whole thing much more comfortable, but you can also do without one. I always took the bus from PB and still had a great time. If in doubt, you can also get to know helpful American students who drive you from time to time. A car can be very helpful, especially for excursions, and if you have friends there, you can also share a car.

Course choice

UCSD is a great university, but choosing courses for international students is very nerve-wracking and probably the only catch about studying abroad there. International students are only offered places on courses that are not occupied by “regular students” at the university. Since it is not clear until the third week which places that will be, it is only very late in knowing which courses you will ultimately be able to take part in. It follows that it is recommended to take eight to twelve courses in the first three weeks. In this way you can increase the chance that you will ultimately be able to take three of these courses. Since there is compulsory attendance, homework and tests in almost every subject right from the start, the first three weeks are super stressful.

However, the allocation of places also differs greatly between the individual faculties. Economics students are very fortunate, because the above only applies to a limited extent. The Rady School of Management has the best system in my opinion. There you can register for courses or be put on a waiting list before the start of the quarter. What is particularly pleasant is the fact that numerous places are reserved specifically for international students in three business administration courseswill. The Economics Department is at least somewhat accommodating to international students. There you can be put on a general waiting list (not specifically for individual courses) and after the third week this will be gone through and all international students on the list can express their course requests one after the other. In summary, students of economics should read their e-mails regularly, since the date for the start of the course selection or opening of the waiting lists is announced at very short notice and you can save yourself a lot of stress.


The tuition fees include the selection of 12 units, which normally correspond to three courses. It’s supposed to be a full workload, but there’s still plenty of free time to enjoy California. I initially enrolled in all three courses at the Rady School of Management that have reserved places for international students. So I avoided the greatest stress of choosing a course. For these business administration subjects, it can generally be stated that only about 60 students can participate at a time and the lectures are therefore designed to be very interactive. I then have one of the courses for a subject in the field of economics exchanged. Each subject corresponds to about six German LP and it is really almost problem-free to achieve very good grades.

a) Organizational leadership

In my academic career I have never experienced a professor who is even remotely as motivated as Professor McKay is in the lecture. This woman lives her profession and can really pull you away. However, she also requires that her students show a willingness to perform. Every week you have to read a lot and write an essay. The costs associated with the course should also not be underestimated. The texts to be read, which are contained in a course reader, cost a total of around $150. Here I recommend asking in various groups on Facebook whether you can buy a used copy of the last quarter cheaply. In terms of content, the question is what qualities make a leaderand approaches are shown how you can develop yourself into one.

b) project management

Here we have discussed the individual phases in the planning and implementation of a project. Professor Hedges has a lot of practical experience (for example, she and her team were responsible for security at the Olympic Games) and she is really helpful with international students. Despite almost weekly tests, the time required is limited.

c) Corporate Social Responsibility

I opted out of this course because I also wanted to do an economics subject. However, the professor made a very likeable impression. In terms of topic, the main question is how companies should behave in a morally correct manner. In this course, in contrast to the subjects described above, oral participation in the lecture is also evaluated.

d) Monetary Economics

This lecture is very similar to a German economics lecture in every respect. Large lecture hall, no attendance requirement and a monologue from the professor, which is only interrupted by a few questions. In addition, there is no homework and the level of the final exam is significantly higher than in the subjects described above. First, the emergence of economic crises and later, on the basis of macroeconomic models, various questions about the monetary economy are dealt with.

Things to do in San Diego

San Diego is rightly called America’s Finest City. Everything feels beautiful about this city and there is so much to discover. I’ve tried to summarize a few of my personal highlights here.

a) Black’s Beach

San Diego has a lot of beautiful beaches and my favorite is Blacks Beach. This is located in the north of the city, almost directly at the university. First of all, you have a fantastic view of the coast from the cliffs. From there there are different ways to the beach. The most popular way is down rough steps. However, further south there is still a relatively unknown path that is definitely worth seeing (it’s best to ask someone who knows the exact location). Especially at night Blacks Beach is very worth seeing, if you are lucky you can also experience a campfire and drum music down on the beach.

b) Balboa Park

Balboa Park is really beautiful to look at. There are many museums but there is also a lot to explore outdoors. During the Christmas season, the so-called December Nights are a special highlight. Everything is wonderfully decorated, there are all sorts of culinary specialties and you get into the Christmas spirit even without the coldness you are used to in Germany. I found the world-famous San Diego Zoo, which is located in Balboa Park, rather boring. Of course there are a lot of animals there, but it’s just a zoo.

c) Coronado Island

Coronado Island has great views of the city skyline, yet the neighborhood is super quiet. I found this contrast really great and a cool experience, especially at night.

d) Beach at the Mexican border

This is now a real insider tip. There’s a beach that’s right on the border with Mexico. You can see how the border wall protrudes into the water and especially in the evening you are completely alone there. Maybe it was just me, but I found this lonely beach right on the border really impressive.

e) USS Midway

Huge aircraft carrier now used as a museum. Super exciting to have seen all this, I think it’s definitely worth it. Incidentally, in front of it is the famous statue “Unconditional Surrender”, the obligatory photo in front of it is quickly taken. If you still have some time, you can also go to Seaport Village. This is a very cute waterfront neighborhood very close to the USS Midway.

f) Gas Lamp Quarter

Perhaps San Diego’s most famous neighborhood. You should have looked at it in the dark, but personally I didn’t find it too spectacular.

g) Sunset Cliffs

Significantly lower cliffs than Blacks Beach but definitely worth a visit.

h) Mount Soledad

Great overview of the entire city – day and night.

i) Downtown La Jolla

Nice beach, also quite quiet in the evenings and there you will meet numerous sea lions.

Activities in San Diego

In addition to university, you actually still have enough time to enjoy college life.

a) surfing

If you study in San Diego, you must have stood on a surfboard. I recommend taking a surfing lesson early in the Quarter so you can see if you enjoy the sport. The whole thing is not as difficult as it looks and San Diego offers just perfect conditions.

b) hiking

I’m not a fan of hiking here at home either, but there are some really great routes there (e.g. Blacks Beach or Potatoe Chip Mountain).

c) Campus Life

In the first week of the university, the various campus clubs introduce themselves. Pretty much everything is there, anything you can imagine and I think it’s worth attending for the authentic college experience. Student fraternities in particular are very popular in the USA and cannot be compared to the fraternities that we know from Germany. In the so-called “Greek Life” (the names of the connections are always a combination of Greek letters), the first week is called rush-week. Each fraternity organizes various events where you can get to know the fraternity and vice versa. At the end of the week, the liaison decides who they want to take on. I myself had no idea how the whole thing works and just went to the events with another international student. At the end of the week, two connections wanted me to join them. However, I refused because it would have cost me $400 to join. Nevertheless, from then on I was invited to the events and parties of the connections. Until then, I had mostly been in contact with other international students andthis gave me the chance to do more with American students as well.

d) nightlife

The best bars are in PB (Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends) and the best clubs are downtown. So – called party buses drive regularly from the campus to the clubs. An absolute highlight is also celebrating in Mexico, but you should only do this in a large group (preferably with people who know their way around). It is best to take a taxi directly to the club after the border and back the same way. Just be careful not to lose your documents so you can be let back across the border.

e) food

I really thought I was a big fan of burgers, but eventually I just couldn’t anymore. My favorites are In’n’Out and Five Guys (Five Guys is a bit more expensive but you get free peanuts). Definitely take the chance and enjoy the Mexican food. There are some good Mexican restaurants in San Diego, but Tijuana has even better Mexican food. Tuesdays is the so-called Taco Tuesday in San Diego, when you can eat really cheaply all over the city.

f) Ice skating on the beach

In winter there are skating rinks on the beach – cool experience!

g) Sport at the university

Unfortunately, compared to other American universities, UCSD is not particularly enthusiastic about sports (nevertheless significantly more than German universities). There is no football team, which surprised me for such a large university. The most popular sport there is probably water polo and I can definitely recommend watching such a game. Anyone who is enthusiastic about football can certainly get their money’s worth with the SDSU or the Chargers (if they play better than in the past season).

h) shopping

The “Las Americas” outlet on the border with Mexico is awesome and a paradise for bargain hunters.

i) Undie Run

A UC tradition! On the Wednesday of the finals week, a large group of students walk across the campus in their underwear at all UCs in the evening. Sounds crazy, but it’s part of studying at UC.

Attractions in the area

At this point I don’t want to go into too much detail. If you have the opportunity, I recommend traveling before the start or after the end of the quarter. That way you don’t have the pressure of leaving town every weekend during the Quarters. San Francisco really is a beautiful city and the Golden Gate Bridge is simply stunning. If you have a little more time, a day to see Alcatraz is definitely worth it (book early). Yosemite National Park is beautiful and a must see, if you’re already in the San Francisco area. Death Valley is rather monotonous (it’s interesting to visit, but not worth staying overnight). Las Vegas is a totally insane city and probably confirms any preconceptions one might have about sin city. The Bryce Canyon is a highlight because of its special color, the Grand Canyon (who would have thought that) really impressive because of its size. Los Angeles, on the other hand, was more of a disappointment. Of course, after living in San Diego for a few months, LA is a must-see, but lower your expectations. The Walk of Fame isn’t really spectacular, nor is the Hollywood Sign. Personally, I didn’t find downtown LA to be a particularly attractive area in comparison. Venice Beach is worth seeing and a detour to the quieter beaches of Malibu is worthwhile. Tijuana is a good option for tacos and partying, but the city itself and its beaches are not recommended.

Costs and financing

The basic rule is that you spend more than you originally planned. There is just so much to experience and the weak euro and the high cost of living are not very helpful. As described above, I shared a room in a shared apartment and paid $650 a month for it (you can’t get anything reasonable for much cheaper). Without actually checking, I would suggest that home prices in PB and La Jolla are pretty similar. Food is also significantly more expensive compared to Germany. Above all, I missed the cheap canteen food from Germany, at the university you can hardly get a meal for less than $7. I didn’t concern myself with the prices of cars. The tuition and student service fee together is $8150. In addition, there are the costs, which I have repeatedly mentioned above (especially TOEFL, visa, insurance and books for the lectures). As a scholarship holder of the German National Academic Foundation, I have onereceived great financial support and this is how my dream of studying at UCSD was made possible. There are many ways to get financial support. This is where early planning pays off.

Summary and conclusion

My time in San Diego was amazing and I would choose UCSD again anytime. The main disadvantages of studying there are the high costs, the choice of courses and the fact that there is no football team there. However, the numerous advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages and I can warmly recommend a quarter (some international students also stay more than one quarter) at UCSD to everyone. For me, San Diego is the most beautiful city I know. I saw and experienced an incredible amount there and made great new friends from all corners of the world. I hope this report can help you a bit. If you decide to go to UCSD, I’m sure it’s absolutely the right decision and I wish you a great time in America’s finest city.

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