University: University of California San Diego
City: San Diego
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: economics
Study type: semester abroad
The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) has around 26,000 students and is located north of San Diego, in the La Jolla district. My boyfriend and I applied there together and we really enjoyed it. The university is divided into different colleges and occupies an area of approx. 1km². As an exchange student, you have nothing to do with the various colleges. Organizationally, you belong to the “extension”. This is an office that also offers language courses. See liuxers for JCU Study Abroad.
We applied through MicroEdu and were very happy with it. MicroEdu staff review applications before they are passed on, so nothing is forgotten. The application documents themselves were not very extensive, the most complex were: the visa, the TOEFL test, confirmation that you do not have tuberculosis, and proof of foreign health insurance.
The search for an apartment has turned out to be quite an arduous search. Since we wanted to see the apartment personally on site, we decided to look for an apartment in San Diego first and to live in a motel until then.
At the beginning, of course, the first question is which part of San Diego you would like to live in during your semester abroad. Most exchange students live either in La Jolla at UCSD or in Pacific Beach. Since all of the bars and nightlife is in Pacific Beach, I would recommend any student to find an apartment there. You can also find numerous apartment ads on Craigslist. However, it is very difficult to find a furnished apartment for such a short period of three to four months.
So after a few days we decided to rent an apartment through Kamo-Housing. Kamo-Housing is a company that has rented and furnished apartments in a residential complex and then rents them out to students for short-term periods. The Kamo-Housing apartments are located in an apartment complex in Pacific Beach and are very spacious, consisting of a living room with a separate, open kitchen and two bedrooms with bathrooms, which can be occupied by one student alone or by two students together. The positive thing is that as a student you don’t really have to worry about anything anymore. Internet, TV, electricity and all other costs are included in the rental price. This is $700 for a room for two and $1300 for a single bedroom.
We rented a car from Dirty Cheap Car Rental. This is a small company that specializes in cheaply renting cars to students. For a rental price of 369 dollars per month you get a car in the cheapest rental car category. We were lucky and got an old Ford Mustang. All insurances are included in the price and if something doesn’t work on the car, an employee will come by immediately and help. It is a pity, however, that you can only drive in this category in San Diego and the surrounding area. (Tip to get to LA anyway: drive to Oceanside, park there for free and take the “Metrolink” to LA, there is a weekend ticket (FR-SO) for a cheap $10!)
The first week and course selection
At the beginning there are two days in which all important things are explained and appropriate brochures are distributed. Since everything is explained in great detail, there are hardly any questions left unanswered. The hardest part is choosing the course. We mainly considered ‘Economics’ courses, but you can also take courses at the Rady School of Management. A few weeks before the start of the semester you will receive an email with a link to the waiting list. It is very important to register here immediately in order to have a low number.
Normally you take 3 courses of 4 US credits each (6ECTS). The exchange students are only allowed to take courses after the normal students, ie to fill the places that are left. The number of free places can be tracked on the Internet (http: //students.ucsd.edu → “Full Schedule of Classes”). Depending on the availability of places, you should then attend more than 3 courses in the first two weeks in order to have alternative options if the courses are full. In the third week, the course allocation takes place, the exchange students are called by their numbers in order to take courses. If you have a low number, you can also get into courses with only a handful of places. However, many people sign up and then don’t come, so that we got all the places we wanted with the numbers 60 and 61.
Course schedule and grading
The courses are much more academic than in Germany. Attendance is sometimes checked. The learning effort is different due to the distributed examinations. My impression is that the arguments are sometimes not so abstract, but that at the end of the year you keep more of them in your head. The focus of the exams is on having understood what was taught in class, the exam tasks correspond to the format of the exercises.
Travel in California
We flew to San Diego a good four weeks before the semester to have enough time to travel after we had looked for an apartment and before the semester started. If you want to travel to the national parks in California and the surrounding area (Sequoia, Yosemite, Grand Canyon National Park), it is worth doing these trips in summer, otherwise it gets very cool in the individual parks and some park areas are therefore closed.
Otherwise, LA can easily be reached by car in 90 minutes. If you want to travel to Las Vegas or San Francisco, you should fly.
In summary, I can only recommend a semester abroad at UCSD!