University: University of California San Diego
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Natural Sciences, Life Sciences
Study type: semester abroad
The 14-hour flight stretches like chewing gum across the ocean and the American mainland to San Diego. In the meantime it has also become night on the west coast of America. As soon as they land, the eighth largest city in the United States welcomes the arrivals with a gigantic sea of lights, which, however, only gives an idea of the magnificence of the following months. See liuxers for VIU Study Abroad.
After the first rush of euphoria, however, you first land hard on the ground of the facts that independently conquering a foreign country entails: How do I get to my hostel, where do I get my first dollar bills from and when do I get used to the foreign language? Where can I find an apartment, how do I get to university and how do I find friends? With these and other questions I hope to be able to help with this report.
From the airport it is best to take a shuttle to your accommodation. You can get information about the departure points of the shuttles at the reception desk in the airport building, which is hard to miss.
Since I wanted to start my apartment search locally, I spent the first week in a hostel (www.bananabungalow.com), which I can only recommend to a limited extent because of the room facilities. However, it has the perfect location; right on the beach of Pacific Beach (PB) and you will find a very open international community.
PB is the ideal starting point for students without a car when looking for an apartment, since apartments in PB are usually within walking distance and the university can be reached by bus. On my first day in San Diego, I drove to the UCSD International Center. This isn’t actually the place for UPS students, but it’s still an ideal meeting point for making initial contacts and meeting other international apartment seekers.
My first impression of the university campus was: huge! So big that even free shuttle buses run around and take students from A to B. Many buildings look relatively new and modern from the outside. Nevertheless, there are enough green spaces that invite you to linger between lectures.
The university divides international students into two administrative groups: On the one hand, there are exchange students who benefit from a partnership between their home university and UCSD and are regarded as “normal” students. If you apply to the UPS program on your own initiative and are accepted, you are officially a member of the UCSD Extension. In my experience, the extension is a kind of further training opportunity. In addition to preparatory courses for the TOEFL test, computer science and medicine courses are also offered. As a UPS student, in addition to the regular university courses, you can also attend lectures at the extension and take part in their excursions. But you also have some, especially financial disadvantages compared to local or exchange students:
The course selection is also different here: while UCSD students can register for their courses online several weeks before the start of the quarter, UPS students have fourteen days after the start of the lecture period to look at interesting courses and get signatures from professors (sometimes a department stamp is also required). Collect flashcards that serve as official permission to attend the course and sit the exams. Getting the required signatures from the respective professors was never a problem for me, since no lecture was fully occupied. Perhaps this was because I was in less frequented and less popular departments; Physics, bioengineering, math and biology, wanted to attend lectures.
Twelve units divided into three courses with four units each must have been found after these fourteen days. Less units are not permitted due to the visa regulations and more or a different distribution (e.g. a course with six units, one with four and one with two) goes back to the wallet.
I liked all six courses that I attended very much. I had a lot of fun learning because I got a lot more help and support from the professors than I know from lectures and exercises in Germany. In some courses you also have the opportunity to apply what you have learned directly in practice, for example in projects. For me, this meant a very pleasant change from the theoretical part of the lecture. During this time at UCSD, I acquired a lot of knowledge that also proved to be extremely useful back in Germany.
- Public transportation
Generally; it’s not impossible to survive without a car in San Diego. However, the dependence on the public bus system means a lot of time. A ride from the UCSD campus to Pacific Beach takes about 45 minutes on the 30 train, and it’s about two hours to downtown. These distances could be covered much faster by car. I haven’t bought a car myself. I could easily cycle to the university and the supermarket, so I didn’t have to come into contact with buses on my daily trips. On excursions, I sometimes benefited from car-owning friends or took the tedious bus ride on myself. At the beginning of my stay, the long bus ride didn’t bother me much, towards the end I found it mostly quite annoying.
Finding an apartment is probably the hardest and most nerve-wracking task of the first few days. I think three alternatives are interesting. In terms of price, you can expect a warm monthly rent of 600 – 900 dollars. The homepage craigslist.com also offers a good overview.
A) Pacific Beach
The classic party mile in San Diego with a lot of young people, mostly students. During the day the beach lures and in the evening you are spoiled for choice between the many bars.
A room in PB would definitely have been my favorite if I hadn’t shied away from the long bus ride to the university. Depending on where you live, this takes up to an hour and is served by only one line coming from UCSD (line 30).
You will spend a significantly shorter time on the bus if you choose the residential area La Jolla / UTC.
B) La Jolla / UTC
Depending on where you find a room here, the university can be reached on foot or by bus, which takes a maximum of 20 minutes. However, there is almost nothing going on in this residential area. Pubs and bars near the university dormitories are totally non-existent, only the campus and its immediate surroundings remain.
C) My living situation
For me personally, only a flat share, if possible with Americans, came into question. For this reason I decided to look for an apartment locally. From my experience, this is associated with quite a lot of stress and potential for frustration: Internet research via Craiglist.com, phone calls, writing emails (I almost never got an answer), running to the apartment, rejection. A friend’s tip helped me too. Instead of responding to ads, contacting works better if you post a request yourself, also on craigslist.com, and give your phone number. I also found a dream room in a dorm in La Jolla, a minute walk from campus, 5 minutes to the cliffs overlooking the ocean and sunset.
In general, it is difficult to make friends with locals. I was lucky enough to share a house with four American women and one Dutch woman, which also had a large living room, a kitchen and a garden, which was ideal for community activities. A very friendly relationship developed with three of these girls, so that we soon went out together very often and did things together.
Otherwise it is very difficult to find American friends. Most of them are very fixated on themselves and existing connections and even those usually only exist between current or former roommates.
I maintained the closest contact with other internationals, including many Germans.
Here are a few general tips for meeting people:
- At the beginning and just before each quarter there are many activities for newly flown internationals, for example Bonfire Night and a Western Square Dance evening. Here you meet people who feel the same way as you do and who are therefore usually very open and sociable.
- For many courses there is a project to be done in groups. Such group work usually does not result in private friendships, but at least one is forced to deal with and communicate with other students.
- Sports fans can participate in the Intramural Sports program (http: //recadmin.ucsd.edu/ims_new/im_user2.php). Each Quarter offers leagues with different levels of proficiency for different sports that you can enter a team for. If you don’t have a team yourself, you go to the Captains Meeting (time and date can be found in the Recreation booklet and online), where there are usually other teams that are still missing a player. That’s how I found a soccer team and a volleyball team, regardless of the fact that I rarely hit the ball in soccer.
- An International told me that he had joined a fraternity and made some closer contacts through it.
- Personal Tips:
- The best investment I’ve made in America was in my bike, which I found used on craigslist.com.
- For animal lovers and those who want to become one, it is definitely worth visiting Seaworld and the San Diego Zoo. The shows at Seaworld in particular are an impressive and unique experience. Annual tickets can be purchased for both attractions for the price of a single ticket.
- The Outdoor Adventures team, part of the UCSD Recreation program, offers active vacations to nearby destinations, such as horseback riding in Mexico and rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park.
- As an extension student you can also take part in the UCSD program AS safe ride. To discourage young drivers from drinking and driving at the same time, the community sponsors three cab rides per quarter for associate students. Registration forms can be found in the AS students office on the top floor of the Price Center.
- An American bank account and the associated American credit card, which makes daily payments and online shopping much easier, are also free for students.
- Unfortunately I missed but heard a lot from the highly acclaimed but not cheap La Jolla Playhouse, on whose stages various plays are staged. Perhaps this is also worth a visit along with the many other attractions that San Diego has to offer.
- Last but not least, it is of course also worth exploring California and the surrounding area! The West Coast has more than enough to offer, from stunning cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles to the vast national parks of Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Sequoia and Zion to the beautiful coastal highway Highway 1.
- Say goodbye
The day of the journey home is also fast approaching. Usually this is combined with a laughing and a crying eye: the melancholy of leaving the new home and the joy of returning to the old one and seeing the family and many familiar faces again.
What remains are memories of a great time, study documents, photo albums and another little flag on the personal world map of the cities visited. Few readers will be surprised that I can definitely recommend a semester abroad at UCSD. Nobody can take away the experiences that one collects in life and these six eventful months were certainly one of the most beautiful ones.