University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Study type: Summer Sessions
First of all, I have to say that MicroEdu took great care of it, but that there are still a lot of things that you have to organize yourself at an early stage (!). This includes, for example, the Toefl test, which you need as proof of English in order to be able to study at a university in the USA. I signed up for it almost a year in advance because you also have to expect not to pass the test the first time and prepare well for it. See mcat-test-centers for Brock University.
Many small things like this test and the visa that you have to apply for (but only after you have been accepted by the university) result in many costs that you might not think of before. It is therefore very important not to plan too tightly with the money!
After applying to the university via MicroEdu and being accepted, the choice of course comes at some point. You have to specify two courses and alternative desired courses, because as a student from abroad you can only apply later than the actual students at the university. Unfortunately, many courses that I particularly liked were already full before I could even apply. Also, the course descriptions were very vague. I signed up for literature courses that were simply called “Topics in American Literature” or “British Writers” but ended up having specific themes, e.g. one course was a pure Jane Austen course, which wasn’t mentioned anywhere before. However, you can change courses without any problems in the first week.
Studying in the USA is very different than in Germany, you have to be aware of that. I had to read (part of it Old English) between six and ten hours a day (mainly because of my choice of course, of course) and hand in small assignments every week. In addition, many small exams are written. The good thing about this is that it all counts towards the final grade. So if you mess something up, it’s not that bad. I just advise everyone to be aware that you really have to do a lot for the university, of course especially if you have two literature courses…
The fellow students were nice and helpful, but rather distant. After the courses, everyone immediately runs out and everyone does their own thing. Apparently they don’t go to the canteen together there. I was the only German in both courses and also the only one who doesn’t study regularly at UCSB.
I was positively surprised that the lecturers are very nice and open. They really constantly ask you to turn to them and talk to them and have always asked me if I can follow the material, etc. It’s definitely different than in Germany. The interaction is much more friendly and after a few days the lecturers knew all the names of the students from the courses (at least about 30 each).
Since, as I said, I had to read a lot, I unfortunately didn’t experience that much during my stay. I’ve been to the beach a few times (which is overgrown with seaweed) and of course walked around the campus which is huge and absolutely gorgeous! You can sit anywhere and enjoy the sun or eat something. There is no canteen on campus, but there are fast food chains (Subway, Wendy’s, Panda Express) and other small restaurants in the university buildings.
I can absolutely recommend a trip to the designer outlets in Camarillo (approx. 1 hour drive; located on the freeway from Santa Barbara to LA). Especially Tommy Hilfiger is very cheap there!!! Otherwise, I was still in Hollywood and Santa Barbara itself. The university is not in Santa Barbara, but in Goleta, Isla Vista. With the bus you can get to Santa Barbara (downtown) in about 15 minutes free of charge. What surprised me is that the parties only last until 1am. Then the police come and you have to pay a lot if the music is still playing loudly. That’s why people meet early and go to parties around 8 p.m. The discos (only downtown, not directly in IV) are not open as long as in Germany and people meet there much earlier.
Isla Vista itself is purely a student town. Only students live there! The first week I lived in Del Playa, the street right on the beach where there is always (!) a party. However, it was absolutely horrible… I only had a moldy mattress on the floor and the whole apartment was a mess. The street’s reputation really isn’t the best when it comes to housing. At the end of the first week I looked for another apartment with nice flatmates and that was great. I can only recommend everyone to look for an apartment locally, because the standards there are rather low and you can experience nasty surprises. THE place to go for homes, bikes, and anything else you might want to buy is www.santabarbara.craigslist.org
I also met many who first stayed in a hostel and then looked for apartments from there. That worked for everyone. Especially since the Americans are quite happy to have German roommates, because we are so clean;)
In retrospect, I was surprised at how little I spent there. Shopping is a bit cheaper there than in Germany, but salads and healthy things in general tend to be more expensive, while you can get a jumbo burger menu for $3.50… What really hit the spot is the cost for the university and for a shared room for 6 weeks you should calculate 750 dollars. You usually share a room with someone else, a single room is much more expensive.
I would advise everyone to stay in the US for a few more weeks than just for the Summer Session because you don’t usually see that much during that time. For example, I then went on a trip along the west coast with a tour group and saw Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Death Valley etc. and then flew back from San Francisco.
In general, I can say that the six weeks definitely brought me something and that I really learned something in the courses. The people I met there are very nice and open. I hardly had any contact with Germans because only two other Germans did the summer session, but they also studied other subjects there. So I was really forced to speak English all the time (which can’t hurt).
But if you want, you can definitely make contact with other Germans, there are always many at the university, especially during the regular semesters.
So I can recommend UCSB, but I’ve heard from many people that studying at the university in LA or San Diego is more advisable because you have nicer beaches and more big city flair there.