University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
02/2017: About exactly a year ago, the adventure of a semester abroad started for me. Of course I had missed the deadline for Erasmus at my university, but like all my friends I really wanted to complete my “semester abroad” in the fifth semester. That’s why it was clear that I would go abroad as a free mover – and if I was going to finance it completely myself, why not go to the USA ? So I googled and found MicroEdu. See mcat-test-centers for University of California Los Angeles UCLA.
You have to do this before you go abroad
Application including proof of language proficiency (TOEFL)
After a few clicks, I found out that most of the time, the language certificate could not only be provided by a certificate from the university (GER), but often the TOEFL or IELTS is required. It is advisable to make the appointment for the test at least one month in advance, otherwise places may become scarce. I learned how to do this a few days in advance, but you should plan a little more time, otherwise the case described in Section 2.1. can occur.
04/2017: Since I am very free in my choice of courses due to my degree program (check the “Schedule of Classes”), the subject of the host university was not decisive for me at first; my only criterion was therefore only the location in California. After a few emails with the relevant advisor, it was decided fairly quickly within a week that I would apply for the 2017 Fall Quarter at UCSB would. Due to the high application fees, it is advisable to only apply to one university. If the admission requirements are met, you will usually be accepted a few months before the start of your studies. A few weeks later, I received the acceptance letter from UCSB through MicroEdu in the mail. Even though my grades weren’t just A’s and B’s at the time, I was accepted! So sometimes just trust, similar to any other application!
- $245 TOEFL test
- $200 application fee (non-refundable)
Also to be paid when applying:
- $775 quarterly fee
- $1275 Immersion Semester Program Fee (refundable if canceled)
Visa and flight booking
07/2017: Applying for a visa was one of the easiest things in organizing this semester abroad. It may be time-consuming and expensive, but you really don’t have to be afraid of visiting the embassy. I got my appointment at the American Embassy in Munich about 1-2 weeks beforehand and once you have all the documents together, the visa is usually granted without any problems.
The flight booking turned out to be a lot more complicated. My expectation of my time in the USA was that I would still be traveling a lot towards the end of December after the end of the Fall Quarter and should therefore not book a return flight for the time being. However, my recommendation is to book the return flight directly with the option to rebook, since the costs for me afterwards due to the return flight, change fee, luggage, etc. amounted to over $1500. You may also be able to consult the travel agency in addition to search engines such as Skyscanner.
- $160 MRV (=Visa) fee
- $200 Sevis Feeca.
- $600-800 flights (depending on booking period)
08/2017: Since I had previously read in many reviews that the best accommodations I would only ever find something locally, so I planned to arrive a few weeks earlier. Shortly before my outbound flight, however, I got cold feet and signed up for the Facebook groups “UCSB Housing” and “IV Housing for UCSB Students”. By default, I wrote to over 20 American students asking if the spot in their double was still available. It’s just a matter of acting quickly and not wasting a lot of time with introductions etc., because the Americans don’t think much and forgive on a first-come, first-served basis. It is important to post a request yourself, if possible to take over a spot from someone who is a quarter away, only look in Isla Vista (=IV) and not in Goleta (too far away) and if possible not on the Del Playa Drive. I heard from someone who lived there that not even earplugs are supposed to help you sleep… but I was often there as a guest myself, which is definitely recommended, see section 3.2.;)
I hastily accepted a place in the Capri Apartments and signed a contract for a whole academic year. That’s no big deal, because I found someone who took over the lease. However, all of this would have been avoidable and involved greater expense and effort than a (hard-to-find) quarter-only lease agreement. My tip is to keep checking the Facebook groups right after UCSB’s commitment.
- $767 rent in double (plus application fee, transfer fees etc.)
Here’s what to expect at UCSB
General (choice of courses, quality of teaching)
08/2017: Choosing the course was initially difficult for me, as I mainly still take business courses for my bachelor’s degree were missing. However, UCSB does not offer “open university” business courses, ie courses together with other Americans, which are taught by full-time professors. With MicroEdu you are not an exchange student at the actual university, but at the UCSB Extension. Courses are offered there by lecturers, some of whom are employed full-time elsewhere. The fellow students are mostly German and there are a few Asians. In summary, it can be said that you can put together a colorful mixture of open university courses and extension courses, but a minimum number of 12 units must be achieved for the visa, which almost always corresponds to 3 courses of 4 units each.
It is positive that in the extension courses it is very easy to achieve an A with little effort and the courses can be booked easily via the Internet and are somewhat cheaper than normal university courses.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the negative outweighs the negative: Since the Open University courses are almost unaffordable, you only have contact with Germans through the extension courses. The American lecturers are all very nice, but you quickly notice that they don’t prioritize these courses. In addition, the extension courses almost all take place in the evening. If, like me, you didn’t study well for the TOEFL and blacked out on the day of the test, you have to take language courses in the categories where you scored under 20 points (in my case, Listening & Reading). Although these language courses are well organised, it is clear that in a German learning environment you are more likely to improve your English by talking to the roommates than in these courses.
Nevertheless, I have to say that all in all I get along much better with the American learning system than with the German one. This is simply because midterms, presentations, etc. force you to learn continuously. The final grade is therefore made up of several smaller examinations. In addition, the contact with the lecturers is much more intensive and open, also because you can address everyone. Americans like to form study groups, which makes it much easier to learn.
My insider tip: The Pacific View Room on the 8th floor of the Davidson Library with a view of the sea!
- BUSAD X409.65 Principles of Marketing, 3.0 Units, $465
- HIST XSB17C AMERICAN PEOPLE (=Open University), 4.0 Units, $1005
- LING X482.74 Academic Reading and Writing, 4.0 Units, $490
- LING X491.6 Independent Research Writing Project, 1.0 Units, unfortunately I don’t have the price to hand right now
On-site support by the Extension Office
I really have to give a big shout out to the extension team and especially to Jason! You will get an answer by e-mail within a few hours and even after the tenth request, everyone remains really friendly. In Germany I was used to the fact that I never got an answer from the university via e-mail and that office hours are generally always fully booked. The Extension Team is there to help and you can always drop by with any small question. I don’t even want to know how much free candy I’ve taken with me on my countless visits at the same time;)
The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to pay for every detail in America. I really paid a lot of unnecessary money to the Extension Office for changing courses, dropping out of courses, books, etc. Also, with the Extension Student ID you don’t have the same privileges as the “normal” students, you have to pay for Rec Cen and soccer games etc., officially you can’t do the Late Night Study in the Davidson Library and so on.
You can experience this outside of your studies in Santa Barbara/Isla Vista and California
During the week
To be honest, I was in the library a lot during the week studying and doing everyday things. I just felt completely comfortable there and you could even eat and talk, which is rather unusual in Germany. Otherwise I can also highly recommend the University Center including Starbucks.
After the Bib, I usually met up with friends at Sands Beach in IV. It is better not to walk around barefoot there for a long time, because the nearby oil platform will quickly leave tar on your feet, which is difficult to get off. Whenever we were very motivated, we borrowed surfboards, SUPs, kayaks etc. from the Excursion Club. There you can only become a member for $30 per quarter and rent all sorts of outdoor things 24 hours a day. The club also runs a few free trips a week, which are highly recommended for meeting “real” Americans.Even though I’m really crazy about sports and bought a three-month Recreation Center membership right away, I was rarely to be found there. The Recreation Center is a huge university-owned sports center with several gyms, outdoor pools, jacuzzi, climbing wall, etc.
On the weekends
Americans don’t usually go to uni on Fridays. That’s why all the house parties in IV start on Thursday evening. Everyone who is hard drinking actually has access there. College parties in the US really do work out just like you see them on TV! Maybe not everyone’s taste, but it’s worth taking a party or two with you. If you’re not a house party fanatic and are 21 or older, you can take one of the many party buses to downtown Santa Barbara. You have to reserve this in advance, costs about $6 and takes you in 20 minutes directly in front of the club (preferably to the Wildcat) and takes you back home afterwards. Also recommended in downtown Santa Barbara after a shopping trip in the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center is the Sushi in the Harbor,
Under point 3.2 I only included what you can experience in Santa Barbara and Goleta/IV. For the sake of clarity, I will now list in bullet points where I spent more than just one day and what you should definitely have seen of it:
- San Diego: Rent an Airbnb with friends and hit all the beautiful beaches
- Salvation Mountain: right in the desert and built by hippies, very impressive!
- Manhattan Beach: Near LA, most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen
- Runyon Canyon Park in LA
- Alcatraz prison island: if sold out, check the website every day at around 11 a.m. to see if tickets that are being returned are still being posted
- Las Vegas: stay in a great themed hotel and go partying
- Knapp’s Castle: in the vicinity, really a great view
- Big Sur: very very beautiful nature!
- if possible, go to a shooting range with an American (e.g. Oaktree Gun Club LA)
You should also pay attention to that (grocery shopping etc.)
- open an American bank account (e.g. free Chase account) or have a German credit card without any international fees
- Owning a bike can often be bought relatively cheaply via FB group “Free & For Sale”.
- American SIM cards with a contract often only start at $50/month, so order from MINT Sim (about $60 for 3 months)
- You can’t buy groceries in IV → go to Goleta with the free bus sticker from the Extension Office to the Calle Real Shopping Center, there to Albertsons or Smart & Final
- To save some money, go to the Food Bank in the University Center, there you can get noodles, fruit, canned food for free as a student
- Favorite food places in IV: Cajé (Bowls!), Buddha Bowls, Freebirds
- the Americans are very, very friendly and open, but also very superficial → don’t always take their word for it;)
- Tips are usually left on the table or you pay with a credit card and enter the “tip” on the receipt, which is very convenient
- Never rent a car directly from Hertz & Co., otherwise under 25 years of age the young driver fee will always apply → cheaper via the German Check24 Internet portal
- It can get really cold in the Fall Quarter in the evenings, so pack warm sweaters as well as summer clothes;)
You have to do this after your stay abroad
When I returned from the USA, I first had to get used to the German way of life again (even after only three months). But unfortunately that goes very quickly again and you miss the Californian sun and the nice Americans!
It is important to apply for the Transcript of Records at the Extension Office ($15 with Standard Shipping) and to arrange all Learning Agreements with the home university. And of course to write a MicroEdu field report. What I have to say is that College Contact rewards you with an Amazon voucher for every review. Nevertheless, I was happy to take on this task, because a year ago I was faced with the difficult decision of choosing a university and the experiences of former students were very important to me.
My conclusion about my three months at UCSB is that it really was the best time of my life so far. I think you can read about that in almost every experience report here, but even at low points (e.g. not making friends with Americans that quickly) you always have to try to make the best of it. Of course, I could have found a college that was a better fit for me in terms of courses, but the great study environment at UCSB, ie its own beach and very helpful faculty made up for it. So if you have the financial means to do so, dare! And if you have any questions, feel free to email me!