University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: life sciences
Study type: semester abroad
I started planning a little over a year before I wanted to start my studies. After the exchanges offered by my home university were very limited, a friend referred me to MicroEdu. See mcat-test-centers for Massey University.
After browsing through the field reports for a long time and a few personal conversations, I finally decided in favor of the UCSB.
The process through MicroEdu was fairly easy and help was always at hand. First I had to take the TOEFL test, which is really easy to get. The subsequent application for the visa confused me from time to time and even when I stood in front of the consulate in Frankfurt, I was still afraid that I had forgotten something. However, that was more or less unfounded. Stick to the information you get from MicroEdu and on the website of the American embassy and work through them one after the other. For the visa you have to pay money several times, it is important to print out the corresponding payment each time, as you have to present everything at the embassy. Apart from the documents that are explicitly listed, I didn’t need anything else (rental agreement that has not been terminated or similar). You are not allowed to take anything into the embassy, so either leave your mobile phone etc. at home or hand it in at the kiosk around the corner. After a check like in the airport, you actually only have to go from counter to counter, where you have to present various documents and your fingerprints are scanned. It’s actually all pretty quick and uncomplicated (there’s no personal interview or anything like that). The only additional questions I had to answer were “Have you ever been to America [Yes]” and “Have you ever had any problems with the police in America [No]”, after which my visa was approved and sent to me shortly thereafter. After a check like in the airport, you actually only have to go from counter to counter, where you have to present various documents and your fingerprints are scanned. It’s actually all pretty quick and uncomplicated (there’s no personal interview or anything like that). The only additional questions I had to answer were “Have you ever been to America [Yes]” and “Have you ever had any problems with the police in America [No]”, after which my visa was approved and sent to me shortly thereafter. After a check like in the airport, you actually only have to go from counter to counter, where you have to present various documents and your fingerprints are scanned. It’s actually all pretty quick and uncomplicated (there’s no personal interview or anything like that). The only additional questions I had to answer were “Have you ever been to America [Yes]” and “Have you ever had any problems with the police in America [No]”, after which my visa was approved and sent to me shortly thereafter.
The support from UCSB was very good and I was never alone with questions. I used Craigslist to look for an apartment. Shortly after arriving, I looked up a few offers on the site and had 4 viewings for the coming days. Furthermore, I received quite a few emails from the university regarding their housing offer and the services of the “Housing Office”, which I kept open as an option (legal protection when moving in through video documentation).
It should be noted that living in Isla Vista can be very expensive, which is why, after visiting all the houses, I decided on a shared room in a 4-person household. Important: If you are looking for an apartment on Craigslist, look at the apartments personally before paying).
In order to be mobile in Isla Vista and the university itself, a bicycle or skateboard is recommended. There are bicycle lanes on the university campus, which you can use to get to your lectures quickly (and would have to really run without a bike). You can get used bikes from Craigslist or one of the bike shops and you can count on ~$100.
After moving into IV, I immediately joined the Excursion Club. You can become a member there for $30 in the Quarter. This allows you to borrow a variety of items from the club, from camping gear to wetsuits and surfboards. The house of the Excursion Club is also very close to the beach, so you can go surfing very well from there. Furthermore, the club offers about 20-30 activities per week, from yoga and surfing lessons to the already legendary weekend trips. For example, I took part in “free camping”, a hike followed by an overnight stay at hot springs (where you could also swim) and a wakeboard excursion. I met many of my friends there and also had some of the best experiences on the trips.
After university officially started, it was time to attend lectures and register for them. For this you get two forms from the university, which you have to fill out and present to the professors for signature. The whole process is called “crashing” because you first have to ask the professors. To do this, you simply go to the relevant professor before a lecture and ask him if you can attend the lecture. It was very easy for me and I always got a signature right away.
As a master’s student, I had to take at least 8 units. I opted for the stem cell biology and pharmacology lectures, which each brought in 4 units, as well as two seminars. I definitely could have taken another lecture, but that way I had a little more free time without being underchallenged.
The lectures were both very well organized and interesting. The grading was very different from what I was used to. In stem cell biology, I had to submit a 10-page “research proposal” at the end and in pharmacology there were 2 “midterms”, i.e. intermediate exams and a final exam. Since the lectures are well structured and there is a lot of support from the “TA’s (teaching assistants)” in the form of practice sessions and help via email, it is also possible to get good grades. At UCSB, it was also normal to go to the professor’s office hours with content-related questions, although the professors really show a lot of interest in their students.
The university itself is very attractive, it is located almost exclusively on a campus and is criss-crossed by footpaths and cycle paths. The central point of the university is the Stokes Tower, which can also be seen from afar.
Behind said Stokes Tower is also the main building with a bookshop, food court and study areas. Here you can buy or borrow the books needed for the lectures and buy something to eat for lunch.
The library, which is also fairly centrally located, is particularly important for learning. Computers and printers are available here, as well as a large number of workstations.
Isla Vista [IV]
At first glance, Isla Vista looks like a normal American suburb, but only at first glance, since the city is 99% inhabited by students. The town itself consists mainly of restaurants (or fast food), some bars and shops. Those who really want to shop, on the other hand, go to Santa Barbara Downtown. There are some very well-stocked liquor stores, where there is a lot of activity, especially before the weekend. Celebrating and drinking is mostly at private parties in Isla Vista or in the clubs downtown if you are over 21 (which, however, close at 2 ). Those who go out during the week and are old enough often end up in a pizzeria, either Woodstocks or Gio’s, where special offers (pint night) apply.
Thursday to Saturday there is “Bill’s Bus” for everyone who wants to go downtown, this runs from IV to Downtown and back, whereby at 8$ it is still very cheap. If you are dependent on taxis, Uber is a very good solution as it is half the price of regular taxis.
In addition to all the good experiences, there were also two bad experiences. The first was the “Isla Vista Riots” just after spring break. The police had banned loud music and large parties for Deltopia and set up cameras. In the afternoon everyone was still pretty peaceful, but after I went out again in the evening it escalated. Drunks threw stones and bottles at police officers, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Luckily I got home safely. It was also largely due to out-of-town visitors who were frustrated that they didn’t find the party they were expecting.
The second was a boy’s killing spree at the end of term. This was also widely reported in the press. All I can say here is that it was a huge tragedy, but crazy people can be anywhere. The cohesion of the students and the processing of the incidents was impressive. There were many commemorative events and also a lot of support from the university and the professors. Don’t let that put you off, something like this can always happen and has nothing to do with the university itself.
Important to know:
Some drugs are very common in California and marijuana in particular is smoked a lot. Medical marijuana is decriminalized in California and very easy to obtain. This can be particularly important when looking for an apartment. If you read “420” or “blazing” somewhere, it usually has to do with smoking weed. (e.g. in the case of apartment ads, “420 friendly” means that it is a household with stoners) Dealing with drugs is also correspondingly more open there, so you should not be surprised if you enter a house and find pipes and drugs lying around openly. As tolerated as smoking weed is in California, it’s just as acceptable if you don’t smoke. Just say thank you no and nobody will get on your nerves.
Otherwise, “whip it’s” are common. These are cartridges containing nitrous oxide that are emptied into balloons and inhaled. So when you see people breathing in balloons, most of the time it’s not helium.
I have also seen the use of harder drugs from time to time, although this is not as common and not as tolerated as marijuana.
The police in IV are not particularly squeamish because of the many partying and underage students. However, it is fairly easy to stay away from problems.
Never carry open bottles of alcohol with you.
Never sit (drunk or sober) on the curb. The police will assume you are drunk and put you in the drunk tank.
Always be nice and friendly when spoken to.
Personally, I’ve dealt with the police twice when they checked me and nothing ever happened, although it’s a bit scary when you’re suddenly asked to sit on the floor.
Deltopia takes place every spring semester after spring break. Originally it was a party around and by the sea (then called Floatopia). After a few accidents and heavy soiling, the party was then banned in style. The party then moved to the Del Playa Dr. relocated to where the streets and big house parties are celebrated. When I was at UCSB, strict laws were again put in place for the day, so no parties with lots of people or loud music could take place. Since Deltopia is very well known, many external people also come to this festival, which is viewed critically by both the students living there and the police. (so most of the rioters in the riots were not UCSB students,
In the last exam phase of the semester, the Undi Run takes place in the middle of the week around midnight. The students meet at the central square (Stokes tower) of the university and strip down to their shoes and underwear before they start. All participants then run once through IV and then again across campus. Clothing left at Stokes Tower will be collected and donated to people in need. A really crazy tradition with a charitable part,
If you are already in America during spring break, it is worth thinking about what you are going to do with the time beforehand. There are only a few people at the universities themselves, either they go home to their families or they go to one of the big “spring break places”, such as Cancun, to celebrate.
Summer Solstice parade:
After the spring semester ends, the Summer Solstice Parade takes place in downtown Santa Barbara. The parade is entirely performed by individuals and small clubs, with incredibly creative and hilarious entries. Pretty much anyone can register, as long as you stick to the annually changing motto. For us, for example, it was games
I can heartily recommend a stay at UCSB, I had an incredibly good time and learned a lot and made good friends.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Best regards and have fun abroad,