University: University of California San Diego
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: psychology
Study type: semester abroad
In March 2016 I decided to go to the USA for a semester abroad. As a freemover, choosing the right city and university wasn’t that easy, but MicroEdu ‘s events and testimonials were able to help me in this direction, so that I finally decided on the University of California San Diego – to my personal happiness! See jibin123 for Semester Abroad In University of California Santa Barbara.
After the decision was made, the organization began. Here I can give the all-clear right away as far as the always feared bureaucracy is concerned, since MicroEdu gives you great instructions tailored to the chosen university, which you can follow step by step. Deadlines etc. were also listed here, so that you always knew when you should have something done.
Application, visa & insurance
First I took care of the language test, I decided on the DAAD because it was offered cheaply at the university and probably involves significantly less learning effort than TOEFL & Co. (However, DAAD tests are designed by the universities themselves and can as far as the level of difficulty is concerned, differ from university to university, so it is best to ask fellow students at your university about their experiences).
As soon as I had confirmed my necessary C1 level, I took care of the application, including the letter of motivation and, after receiving the confirmation, the visa and other formalities such as international health insurance etc.
For the visa you first have to fill out a few forms online and then show up at the embassy of your choice at the appointment you made. The online forms take a bit of time, so do it calmly, as it is imperative that all the information is filled in correctly, otherwise the visit to the embassy will be worthless in the end. The appointment at the embassy (Munich) itself then went quite quickly and without a major interview or complications.
A tip regarding international health insurance, if you also decide in favor of UCSD: Plan additional costs here, UCSD literally forces internal health insurance on you, since the requirements for organizing your own health insurance are enormously complicated. I had organized my own, but would recommend taking the insurance from the university in the future, it is unfortunately much more expensive in comparison, but you save yourself a lot of nerves and bureaucracy.
To organize course selection and course evaluation
I had already had a letter of recognition issued by the responsible coordinator at my home university in advance. Here it is precisely determined which courses at UCSD I can have credited for which courses at my home university (Münster).
For this I searched the course catalog of the UCSD for the corresponding quarter for suitable courses of my degree program ( psychology, master’s). Don’t let the short descriptions confuse you, for some courses you can get detailed syllabi from MicroEdu, which will give you and the coordinator of your university information about the more precise contents of the courses.
After my semester abroad, I received an original transcript and certificate from UCSD, and I submitted this together with the letter of recognition to the examination office for the crediting of the ECTS.
The first two to three weeks at UCSD are class crashing. You attend as many courses as possible and hunt for the signatures of the professors. Since normal students at the university are given preference when it comes to places in the courses, you have to hope that there are still places left in the desired courses three weeks after the start of your studies in order to be able to enroll. It is therefore an advantage if you have several courses to choose from in advance, which can be counted towards a course at your home university.
This system may seem strange at first and, to be honest, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic at first, after all you pay a large amount in tuition fees. After the first few days, however, I also discovered my personal advantages: Imagine you come to a foreign university and have no idea how the courses work, which ones might be interesting for you, which professors you like, etc… Class crashing gives you the opportunity to get to know everything in peace and to be able to decide for yourself which courses are your favorites after trying them out.
In the end, after the crashing phase was over, I got two of the three courses I wanted. In retrospect, there was also a place available for me in my third course request, but since I was very enthusiastic about the other course, I didn’t switch. My subjects included Clinical Psychology, Industrial & Organizational Psychology and Social Psychology.
To the University
The UCSD is considered a very respected university and accordingly has high demands on its students. Since you not only have finals, but also midterms, homework, etc., you are very challenged during the semester and have to do something every day and should therefore not underestimate the effort. However, the courses are much livelier and more interesting than at German universities, so it’s more fun. I had great professors who, in my opinion, embodied the perfect mixture of expertise and sympathy and thus made the lectures not only instructive, but also exciting and funny.
The campus is located in La Jolla, near the famous Blacks Beach. The location of the university really can’t be beat, you can walk to the sea and even on a good day you can see the sea from one of the higher floors of the Geisel Library! La Jolla itself is a beautiful area, but I would not recommend living there as a student in a semester abroad, as it is rather quiet here and mainly rich families live there.
The campus itself is incredibly large and also beautifully designed with many trees and green landscapes. You can find everything you need from the food court to the recreation area to the supermarket. There are even shuttle buses running around the campus, which I personally only used to get to the parking lot, my buildings for the lectures were all within easy walking distance.
The parking situation at UCSD isn’t ideal, but it’s not as bad as many local students find it to be. If you don’t want to come by 7am, head to the Regents Parking Lot, which is about a 5-minute bus ride from the main campus (shuttle is free for UCSD students).
Housing & San Diego as a city
I lived in Pacific Beach, an area in San Diego that any student will recommend to you. The area is located directly on one of the most beautiful beaches in San Diego and there is always something going on. Numerous students live here and celebrate together, for example, on the famous Taco Tuesday in one of the many local bars and clubs. On the one hand you can enjoy the typical American “beach life” here, on the other hand you have everything you would expect to find in downtown (bars, restaurants, clubs, supermarkets, fitness studios, etc.) within walking distance. The UCSD is also not far from here, 10 minutes by car (no traffic jams).
I stayed here in the Bay Pointe Apartments which are booked through Kamo Housing. It is a large complex with many buildings and great amenities such as pool, jacuzzis, tennis courts, computer room with free use of printers, movie theater and free coffee bar. Many international students live here, including many Germans. There are always four people living in an apartment, which consists of a large living and dining area with balcony and always two bedrooms, each with an attached bathroom. You always share a room and a bathroom for two. Sharing a room is due to the high cost of living common in San Diego, but if you’ve found a nice roommate, it can actually be a lot of fun. In general, living in this complex was an absolute stroke of luck for me, as I met many close friends with whom I am still in great contact today. In terms of value for money, a room in this complex cannot be beat in Pacific Beach either. Some apartments are nicer and better equipped than others, but you can always (if available) change apartments if you are dissatisfied or request additional items for the apartment from Kamo Housing (e.g. missing kitchen utensils).
I would strongly recommend a car due to independence and excursions in San Diego, best rented from dirtcheaprentalcars. You pay $400 a month and are fully insured. It’s only worth it if you can share it with someone else, otherwise Uber and Lyft are probably cheaper overall.
Choosing San Diego as a city for your semester abroad is something I think no one can ever regret. Thanks to the fabulous weather, the local people are always in a good mood and also super open to international people, so that you always feel very welcome. The city itself has plenty of activities and sights to offer, from beautiful beaches with numerous water sports options to food markets and wine tasting in the surrounding wine regions – everyone will find something new to discover every day! Excursions to other cities and national parks are also great for a weekend from San Diego, but I would recommend traveling before or after the semester, as San Diego itself has so many beautiful things to offer.
In short: The perfect city and perfect university for a semester abroad with the right mix of university and free time.