University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: political science
Study type: semester abroad
Almost a year before I started my semester abroad, I was already thinking about the country and university in which I wanted to spend it. The choice finally fell on the USA and there on the “ University of California, Santa Barbara ” (UCSB for short). Speaking for UCSB
- their very good reputation (most recently ranked 37 among all universities in the USA ),
- the comparatively low tuition fees (to study at UCSB you have to reckon with about 5000$ per trimester) and
- the beautiful living conditions in California (fantastic weather etc.)
Since the “University of California, Santa Barbara” is not a partner university of my home university (KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt), I decided to go there as a freemover, which generally involves more work. However, I came across the MicroEduagency relatively quickly, which was there to help me with every step from the beginning of the application process to the end of my studies at UCSB – and it was completely free of charge. See mcat-test-centers for Universidad Adolfo Ibanez UAI.
I filled out the following application documents and emailed them to MicroEdu, who then sent them on to UCSB: The application form (previously sent by MicroEdu), proof of financing (confirmation from the bank that you have the necessary money – approx. $11,000 – can muster), a transcript of grades, TOEFL score, scanned passport and a MicroEdu form. Basically, you have to meet two criteria in order to spend a semester abroad at UCSB :
- a TOEFL score of at least 80 points (if you have less than 20 points in one area, you have to take a special English course for this area at UCSB, which was also the case for me)
- a GPA of 2.3 or better (although I have met students who were accepted with significantly lower GPAs).
The acceptance from UCSB came at the end of 2014 – only a few weeks after I had applied.
I got a visa appointment pretty quickly and I didn’t have to wait. However, I have heard from many fellow students that such an appointment can take 4 to 6 hours.
In the two months before the start of your studies, you would receive regular e-mails from the UCSB Extension (responsible for international students), in which you would be informed about the next steps (choice of course, search for accommodation, etc.).
- Housing search
In terms of living, I can definitely recommend living in Isla Vista, the student town right next to the UCSB campus. This has the advantage that you live close to the campus and can experience student life up close.
When looking for an apartment, I proceeded as follows: arrive early and search locally. About three weeks before the start of the course (you can arrive with the visa 4 weeks before the start of the course) I was at the IHSP hostel in Santa Barbara and started looking for an apartment from there. The advantage of this hostel is that you can meet some future fellow students there and it is relatively cheap. However, being in Santa Barbara is about 15 minutes from the UCSB campus and Isla Vista, meaning you’ll have to either drive or take the bus. The Facebook page “UCSB Housing” and sites like “Craigslist” are helpful when looking for an apartment. If you can’t find anything there, you can look at apartments like “Garden Court” (fairly cheap), “Tropicana Gardens” (very expensive) etc. However, it is difficult to get a lease for just one trimester.
- Studies at the host university
There are basically two types of courses at UCSB: extension courses and open university courses. Extension courses are courses that are only for international students, often take place once a week in the evening and are held by lecturers with “practical experience”. They are usually cheaper and easier than open university courses. Open University courses are the “normal” academic courses taken by American students. I attended three extension courses and an open university course to get to know American student life and to make contacts with Americans, which isn’t always that easy otherwise. Specifically, the following three extension courses were:
- Critical Thinking and Analysis (mandatory course due to my TOEFL result in the listening part; relatively easy; lots of homework)
- Global Economics (especially a lot of reading and weekly quizzes about the readings; also a midterm and a final, but doable; interesting)
- Business English for the Global Marketplace (English course; interesting and easy)
With the open university courses, you cannot (like American students) enroll there before you start your studies, but have to “crash” the courses, ie go directly to the professor and ask if you can get the course. Even though I was told by the UCSB Extension during orientation week that I wouldn’t have a chance in all the courses I wanted, I still crashed those courses and emailed the professors (extremely effective!) and ended up getting all three crashed courses. However, since I only wanted to take an Open University course, I decided to take the “Introduction to International Political Economy” course. This course was significantly more complex than the extension courses (including a midterm, five-page paper and a three-hour final at the end),I can also recommend attending open university courses, because you get to know Americans there and get a bit of the American student feeling.
In general, studying in the USA is a bit different than studying in Germany. The exams are more spread out over the semester and the final grade is made up of many individual grades (attendance, midterms, quizzes, finals, papers, homework assignments, etc.). This has the advantage that you don’t have the “really big stress” at the end of the semester. However, this also means that you have to work together from the start. Overall, I got along very well with the system there and found it to be easier than in Germany.
- Free time / student life / social affairs
Student life at UCSB is awesome ! Especially if you live in Isla Vista, right next to the university campus. Isla Vista is a student town with about 20,000 inhabitants and offers almost everything that is necessary for student life.
I can particularly recommend the following fast-food restaurants: Freebirds for a late-night burrito, Silvergreens for a fresh salad and Giovannis for an evening beer. Regarding the nightlife, it can be said that this is dominated by great house parties (there are no clubs in Isla Vista, only in Santa Barbara Downtown), which mainly take place on Del Playa. In addition, you get to know a lot of great people very quickly, especially international students, but also many Germans. Getting to know American students is a bit more difficult, as they often have their own circle of friends, but it is possible, especially through open university courses.
I can also recommend using the 30 days before and the 60 days after the semester, which you can stay in the USA with the visa, to travel and also to take a trip or two on the weekends. San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas are only mentioned in passing.
- Conclusion and tips
All in all I had a great time at UCSB and in the USA in general with great people and very nice experiences ! I really recommend everyone to do a semester at UCSB!