University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: mechanical engineering
Study type: semester abroad
Field report of my year abroad at the University of California Santa Barbara
I would set the preparation time for planning a stay abroad at least a year in advance, since not only the selection of the university and the application process, but also visa and financial matters take a lot of time. See mcat-test-centers for Griffith University Gold Coast.
Choosing the university was relatively easy for me since I had been to Santa Barbara before. Additionally, my research revealed that the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA (UCSB) has a good reputation in engineering. I got most of my information from MicroEdu – mostly testimonials from other students.
Tuition fees are generally much higher in the USA than in Germany. In Santa Barbara, these costs are complemented by particularly high rents. Since I didn’t have the financial means, I applied for several scholarships and for the foreign student loan in order to later (hopefully) have several options to choose from. I would recommend everyone to draw up a plan of costs that is as detailed as possible. You should plan an additional 10% security, because exchange rates can fluctuate or unforeseen things can happen.
The “Test of English as a Foreign Language” (TOEFL) is a prerequisite for studying in the USA. I would complete this as early as possible in order to start the processing process on time. The test itself is of medium difficulty. You need at least 80 out of 120 points (internet-based test) to be allowed to study at UCSB.
After I passed the TOEFL test in January and had the acceptance letter from UCSB in my mailbox in March, I immediately made an appointment with the American embassy to apply for my student visa (I received a checklist with tasks from MicroEdu).
I was very lucky here. Normally, apartment hunting in Santa Barbara is done through the craigslist website. I found a place in Graduate Housing in San Clemente Village (5 minute walk to UCSB) through this site. I’m very happy to have ended up here, because the apartments in Isla Vista, that’s the name of the student enclave next to the university, are mostly inhabited by students who only party on Thursdays and their apartments look accordingly. Rooms there are shared with at least one person because the rents are extremely high. Even double rooms under $600 are rare.
I live in an apartment that I share with three other graduate students, but each has their own room. I live with an Italian, an Egyptian and an American – so it’s quite a mixed bag. I pay $824 a month for my room!
The costs in the American higher education system are extremely high. Those who are not lucky enough to have an exchange program with UCSB at their home university are like me. The tuition (basic tuition fee) alone costs three quarters $4500. You must take 8 graduate units (US ECTS points) or 12 undergraduate units per quarter to keep your visa. As soon as you have not taken 8 graduate units, it automatically becomes 12 undergraduate units (e.g. 6 graduate and 2 undergraduate do not count).
A graduate unit costs $295, an undergraduate unit $250. In the best case you pay $2360 per quarter in addition to the tuition. In addition, almost every course requires that you order books, some of which cost up to $150. I was often able to save these costs because I borrowed the books from the library. However, the compulsory books of the courses are limited to two hours of borrowing, so that every student has the chance to do their homework.
I did four courses in the first quarter. A business skills course that required reading so-called “case studies” every hour, which were often around 20 pages long and required reading them multiple times to understand all aspects. In addition, there were “reading assignments”, some of which were 100 pages long.
In addition, you had to hold three presentations spread over the quarter, write a paper and carry out a capstone online “game”. You play against your course members and it’s about managing a company. Extremely complicated, but also very interesting. The decisions made in the game are graded by the professor.
My other courses were “Numerical Analysis in Mechanical Engineering” and “Introduction to Computer Science”. Both courses included weekly programming homework, two midterms and one final.
My last course was a one-unit course in which I listened to the weekly presentations from entrepreneurs, which were then to be summarized in the form of a paper towards the end.
The professors notice very quickly who is working and who is not. Also, most professors will know your name in no time. (at least in the graduate field) In Business Skills, we even had to send in photos so that the teaching assistants, the professor’s doctoral students, can directly assign the quality of the contribution to a face during the lecture.
The class size depends heavily on the course, although I have to say that as soon as it is not a compulsory course like Maths I, the classes with around 30 participants or less are very manageable.
The teaching style is more like normal school days, where you have to register as a student, which also depends heavily on the subject. However, I can never say that the quality of teaching is lower than in Germany if you study in the technical field. I gave up a subject in the master’s degree in mechanical engineering after the first lesson because the professor said he “would only briefly repeat something” and I had never seen this type of math.
UCSB is known for its Technology Management Program. This is a certificate that is awarded when you have successfully completed certain courses. It’s totally geared towards starting your own company. This entrepreneurial spirit is very strong and many students participate in the “New Venture Competition” in which you propose your business idea, form a team and then create a business plan. The winners will receive a substantial financial grant and mentoring to actually start the company.
The professors also try to make the course interesting. In one of my current courses, we video chatted with a marketing expert in Mumbai and an operations manager in Beijing.
I would describe the campus as one of the most beautiful in the world. It is seafront, we have our own lagoon, the green areas resemble golf courses and most of the buildings are in very good condition. There are a variety of bike lanes and even dedicated skateboard lanes that get busy between courses. There is no typical canteen here, but a lot of fast food restaurants and coffee shops. In the University Center, you can buy almost anything with the “UCSB” emblem, in addition to stationery.
I think there are two types of students at UCSB. Those who want to do something seriously are mostly in the graduate field, ie Masters or PhD students.
The undergraduates, on the other hand, are trying to have the time of their lives where they’ve come to the right place. UCSB was voted the #5 party school in America. In Isla Vista there will be a party from Thursday. House parties are almost universally held on Del Playa, the street that faces the sea.
Apart from the house parties, there is a diverse nightlife. Special night buses leave Isla Vista on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to take students to downtown Santa Barbara (about a 20-minute drive).
The police are trying to get the crowd under control by really cracking down. “Open container”, i.e. an open alcoholic drink is prohibited in public in the USA, as is “wild pee”. No mercy and no excuses! An “open container” costs more than $ 600 fine, if you resist it goes straight to jail.
On Halloween, UCSB goes into a state of emergency, causing the police to patrol on horseback and block streets completely. A real spectacle.
The subject of sports is very important at UCSB. There are three different gyms, an excellent swimming pool, basketball, soccer, tennis and lacrosse fields, a small soccer stadium and many clubs, all very active. Lacrosse currently practice starting at 6: 30am. In addition, almost every student seems to be jogging, which is not surprising given this panorama. Also, it hardly ever rains in Santa Barbara. In my nine months here it has poured a little maybe five times – otherwise the weather is consistently great.
The Santa Barbara area offers a variety of options. The university right on the beach and many students surf or just enjoy the sea. There is the “Excursion Club” which organizes all kinds of leisure activities and has 500 members this year. Surfboards and wetsuits can also be rented there.
I really value the experience I’ve had so far. You learn a lot about yourself when you realize that family, friends and especially girlfriends are more than 9,000 km away. Everything starts from scratch and I have to admit that I was homesick at first. I am often amazed at my new knowledge of English. You write a paper and later wonder about the many new words that you have unwittingly incorporated. You just know the words all at once.
I also learned a lot about American culture and my own. Consumer behavior, quality, attitudes and studies – there are countless things that are simply approached differently and you only become aware of this when you really live in another country.
I deliberately speak of “living” here, because many of the German exchange students are only here for three months and keep to themselves. The parties and the beach life are certainly great, but the purpose of the stay abroad, especially improving the language, is missed. I can only recommend everyone to go abroad for at least half a year and to converse there mainly in English, ie avoid your compatriots!