University: University of California San Diego
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business Informatics
Study type: semester abroad
1. Application through MicroEdu to UC San Diego
After studying abroad in England for my bachelor’s degree, I decided to go to the USA for my master’s. Due to the small selection of partner universities at my home university in the USA, I applied independently in the USA with the help of MicroEdu. MicroEdu is particularly helpful here and does a lot of the work for you and, above all, there are step-by-step instructions for everything that shouldn’t go wrong. See jibin123 for Semester Abroad In San Diego State University.
It is therefore essential to read the instructions from MicroEdu carefully and follow them (how to fill out forms, which language certificate do I need,…). I would just give them a call to discuss which alternative is best for you at the beginning. After consultation with MicroEdu, I applied exclusively to UCSD. Everyone has to consider their own criteria here. For me it was a good reputation of the university and a nice, ie warm, place. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the courses in my department in the appropriate quarter (autumn) when choosing a university. MicroEdu has enough experience with acceptance/rejection that they can tell you with relative certainty whether you will be accepted or not, based on your grade point average.
UCSD’s acceptance came shortly after UCSD’s official application period had begun. Overall, I don’t think it took a month after I sent my application to MicroEdu. This already contains some information from the university, e.g. on accommodation, campus information, visa etc.
With the approval of the UCSD you will also receive a form that you need to apply for the visa. In order to set the visa appointment online, one must first pay the sevis fee and have a photo taken according to their requirements. In any case, I would recommend taking care of the visa as soon as you have the approval. Often something comes up or takes longer and you get unnecessarily stressed.
I went to Frankfurt to apply for a visa. There is a security check here similar to that at the airport and after a short wait you usually have a very short conversation about why you want to go to the USA. The conversations can be German or English, in my case German. I was only asked where I study and if I have relatives in the US, so no biggie. The visa will be sent to you by post within 1-2 weeks after the interview.
Some sites say you should take a plane ticket with you as proof that you will fly back, but the consulate in FfM expressly emphasizes that you should not book a flight before the visa. I still booked the flight first and then applied for the visa. The student visa allows you to stay in the USA for 30 days before and 60 days after your studies. If you want to stay there longer, you need a tourist visa for this time and have to leave the country once (typically to Mexico/Canada) and re-enter again. This went off very easily with some friends.
UCSD is located in the upscale suburb of La Jolla, just north of downtown San Diego. After speaking to some former exchange students, it was clear to me that I wanted to live in Pacific Beach. This is exactly between downtown and the university and, depending on where you live, it takes about 45 minutes by bus and 15-25 minutes by car or, in my case, scooter to the university. Alternatively, some have looked for apartments near the university. Of course, this means a short trip to university, but it prevents you from going out and experiencing San Diego. Since I only had to go to university twice a week, PB was definitely the right choice. Unfortunately, when you look for a place to live, you don’t yet know your university days.
Pacific Beach is slightly more expensive and harder to get rooms than in the varsity area (UTC), but it feels much more like living by the sea and in San Diego than living in a small suburb (UTC). If you are here looking for a room, take your time. Most found something between one and six days. I ended up paying 700 euros for my room in a shared flat. There are also much cheaper alternatives in PB, but it was also important to me to live near the beach/in PB and to live with American roommates. The roommate has paid off. As a result, I was able to celebrate a “real American” Thanksgiving with my roommate’s family and spoke English throughout my stay.
- Course Choice
In general, courses at UCSD can only be selected on site. You will receive all the details on the course selection on the introductory day. However, you can already select courses at home via Tritonlink and create a timetable for the lessons and for the finals. In some cases, you can contact professors directly in advance (depending on the faculty, you will be told on the introductory day) and ask whether you can take part in their courses. As soon as the courses start, you have to go to all the courses and have the professors personally sign your blue cards (you get them on the day of the introduction). The majority of the exchange students had found 3 courses after one week and therefore did not have to attend 9 courses for 3 weeks.
In general, choosing a course is not as stressful as it sounds at first. Most courses have enough places for exchange students. I chose all of my 3 courses at UCSD and not at the extension to get a better idea of university life. My degree in Germany is business informatics and I chose the following courses:
COGS 120 – Human Computer Interaction: Professor Jim Hollan is quite old, tells a lot of stories with little content. The accompanying book is great, but a lot to read. 500 pages in 3 months. Still recommended, grade A.
CSE 190 – Current Topics in Computer Science / Engineering: Focus on database systems, very broad in content and therefore appealing. Prof very helpful but somewhat monotonous presentation style, grade A.
PSY180 – Industrial and Organizational Psychology: not from my department, many people in the lecture, models presented rather superficially, otherwise great professor, grade C (not my department!).
I bought a scooter for my time. Unfortunately, that was probably not a stroke of luck, I had to have it repaired several times and therefore lost money. Therefore, if necessary, have it checked by a specialist before you buy it. Otherwise, I think a scooter is a great cheap alternative to the car. You can get parking anywhere and pay only $20 a month for parking at UCSD instead of $60. Of course, the scooter can’t keep up with the free bus. I think even if you live in PB and have friends who have a car, you can definitely get by without a car/scooter. However, a bicycle is mandatory.
b. Account and mobile phone contract
Opening an account is worthwhile if you like to pay by card and don’t want to pay 1.5% to your German home bank every time. I decided to pay cash and did everything with my Comdirekt/DKB credit card. The machine fees are also reimbursed. There are countless mobile phone contracts here, for example from T-Mobile $30 for virtually unlimited text and call and I think 2mb of data. However, some phone providers do not allow international calls.
c. Health insurance
I’ve heard that UCSD’s are typically more expensive around here. Besides, I needed additional insurance for my trips anyway. So I insured myself with the Hansemerkur. If you are ill, go to Student Health at UCSD first. The examination is free here. I had to see the doctor twice and was reimbursed for everything after submitting the documents.
The course is more balanced than in Germany in terms of the learning effort. However, this means that you always have something to do and you have to stick with it right from the start. Personally, I found it more stressful and more time-consuming than in Germany, even though I only had three courses. With group work, reading 50-150 pages per week, which are then asked in the quiz, etc., you have a lot to do. It really depends on the courses though.
Before the actual studies, the introductory day serves to give an overview of the university, course selection, life in San Diego, leisure activities and much more. These days were also very helpful, definitely go. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many other events during the Welcome Week. However, trips to Disneyland/canoeing/surfing/climbing etc. are offered again and again during the semester.
Obviously, UCSD campus life isn’t all that American. Since there is no football team, the campus spirit isn’t that extreme and you don’t see fraternies/sororities too much either. In terms of places to eat, there are all the fast food chains in the central Price Center next to the library, as well as typical American food in a few small cafes/bars, ie burgers, sandwiches, salads, bagels, etc. The campus is certainly larger than most German ones. Especially if you choose courses from different faculties, this can lead to time problems between the lessons.
The courses are also a good opportunity to get in touch with Americans, but only if you are alone in your courses and not in a group of internationals or Germans. I made some contacts here and kept them throughout my stay.
San Diego is an excellent starting point for trips to the national parks (Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope, Monument Valley, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Sequoia Tree, Yosemite etc.) and for a trip along the coast. Due to the visibility, the summer months are less suitable for the coast, but the winter months/spring in particular. The possibilities are almost endless and if you don’t have that much time before/after your studies, you should definitely make use of the offers of the UCSD during the semester.
California in general and San Diego in particular is a place of diversity. Everyone is accepted here as they are and I personally had the feeling that it is easier to integrate because there is no such thing as the “right American”. Everyone is somehow descended from the Europeans. Many students even have parents who were born in Europe. I found this mix of ethnicities very positive and relaxed. In general, San Diego is always described as “laid back”, here everything is a bit more relaxed and slower. Even if that doesn’t necessarily apply to every university course, it’s just incredibly nice to be able to study and live in this atmosphere for a certain amount of time.