University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: psychology
Study type: semester abroad
My planning for the semester abroad started about a year before the “real” start : Which country do I want to go to? Which university is right for me? What do I even need to be accepted? See mcat-test-centers for Reykjavik University.
After reading dozens of reports, I was sure that UC Santa Barbara was the perfect university for my semester abroad. From then on it was all about planning: TOEFL, flights and travel, house hunting.
TOEFL: I prepared for the TOEFL for about two weeks with several different TOEFL preparation books from the university library. It helped me a lot, not only to brush up on my English a bit, but above all to get to know the format of the test, which differs quite a bit from normal school or university tests. In general, however, the test is easy to do and the desired number of points can be achieved!
Flights and travel: At UCSB, the Fall Quarter starts in mid-September, since we have semester breaks in Germany long before that, I decided to spend a few more days in LA and San Diego before I go to Santa Barbara. to get into some english. Speaking English didn’t work out so well, since there are a lot of Germans everywhere in California, but the cities are definitely worth it! I spent 5 days in both places and was able to explore all the tourist stuff, such as the Hollywood sign, Warner Brothers Studios, Sea World, etc., that I wanted to see in a relaxed manner. I probably wouldn’t have been able to take that much time during the semester. Since that visa is still valid after the semester, I decided to spend Christmas in Hawaii. When is the flight there that short again? Hawaii not only has beautiful beaches, but also many mountains and basically everything you could wish for. Definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been!
Apartment-hunting: All reviews say “find an apartment there”, “you’ll find much better stuff locally”, etc. That’s why I initially planned to do the same thing. A month earlier, I discovered the UCSB Housing Group on Facebook and thought, I’ll post something in it and if it works and there’s something good about it, I’ll take it, if not, then not. In the end, I’m super glad I did it this way! I lived with a total of 12 super lovely girls, except for one New Zealand exchange student, all American students in SB, with whom I spent most of the semester and who would be my best friends there. So I got to know the real American life, from many who lived in student housing I heard that mainly exchange students live there.
The rents over there are super expensive, probably nobody would pay $700 for a shared room here, but the morning view of the ocean makes up for it! If you get the chance to live on DP – the street where all the parties are – do it! The parties only last until 12 p.m. and it’s quiet before the exams, so you can still get some sleep. 65 and 66 are the best corners for this.
UCSB: The university itself is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen and will probably see. There are palm trees all over the campus, the buildings are modern and there are cafeterias all over the campus, as well as a pizzeria right next to the library, where the queue can get quite long, especially during the exam phases. Even though all my roommates have always emphasized how small the campus is, by German standards it is huge! A bicycle is highly recommended, otherwise you can walk 20-30 minutes home. It is also an advantage to have a bike for the rest of everyday life and the football games, since the stadium is a little further away. (Definitely bring tortillas to the games! Sounds weird, but they throw them every time the gauchos score, which is pretty funny. It’s not officially allowed so they’ll have to be smuggled in, but everyone in the stands will have them.)
Courses: As an exchange student you can take normal “Open University” courses or special extension courses. Since my university at home only allowed me to take psychology courses and I wanted to study with normal students, I had chosen all the courses from the normal program ( Psychopharmacology: Drugs of Abuse, Psychology of Self and Social Memory). In general, I had few problems not understanding something, both in terms of the language and the content. I had the feeling that the course content was a bit simpler than in Germany, but you have to do a lot more – read 100 pages a week and take exams twice a semester, which can be quite stressful with only 12 weeks. With 2/3 professors, however, I had the feeling that they knew a great deal about this topic, much more than I ever had with my lecturers here. And everyone was always super helpful and responded to the students: if you have any questions during the lesson – get in touch, that’s not enough – go to their weekly office hours. This will make it much easier for you in the end and is (allegedly) also reflected in the grades. Nevertheless, I have to say that before the exams I sat in the library much longer than here and also for the whole semester (although I think I was the only one of the exchange students who was so motivated, the extension courses are also much simpler and sometimes have not even midterms).
Even though I learned a lot during that time and it was quite stressful at times, which I hadn’t imagined, the time when you party through the weekends, lie in the sun and simply enjoy life in California is more like that than off! I can say without lying that I had the best time of my life there and now that I’ve been back for two weeks, I already miss my life there and wish I hadn’t just studied a quarter there. For anyone who likes the sun, beach and parties, UCSB is the perfect choice, so stop hesitating and go for it. You will not regret it!