University: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SANTA BARBARA
City: Santa Barbara
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Chemistry
Study type: semester abroad
The application itself went relatively smoothly via College Contact, who were always very helpful with questions. Only the TOEFL test and the application for a visa are very expensive, but they are necessary evils that you can definitely accept. Otherwise there were no problems. See mcat-test-centers for University of South Australia.
Probably the most difficult task is finding accommodation. After I couldn’t find any accommodation from Germany, I decided to arrive 2 weeks before the start of the semester and look for it locally. I searched on Craigslist and the UCSB-Housing Facebook group. It turned out that finding accommodation is particularly difficult if you’re only staying for a quarter, as most contracts are for a full year. I then found what I was looking for at “CBC and the Sweeps”, where it was possible to first sign a one-year contract and then (before you move out) look for someone for a lease takeover, i.e. someone who would take over your own contract completely. This worked without any further problems and the office of “CBC and the Sweeps” also helped me. As has probably been mentioned many times, apartments (especially in Isla Vista) are very expensive. This should be taken into account when planning your finances.
All in all, you should definitely try to get an apartment in Isla Vista, because that’s where almost the entire student life takes place and this small, almost purely student town is really something unique.
The main reason for choosing UCSB was its excellent reputation in the field of solid state chemistry and materials science. Since I’m already doing my master’s degree in Germany, I attended graduate courses in the USA. After discussing with the professors whether I could take part in the course, there were no problems.
I attended the lecture “First-Principles Calculations for Materials”, which deals with the computer-aided calculation of materials. A very good, but also demanding course, which also required project work. Overall, the level here was comparable to the level at my home university, TUM.
My second course was “Structural Inorganic Chemistry”, which dealt mainly with X-ray diffractometry. The course also included project work. The lecture itself was presented didactically less well, but the content was very good. The professor (Galen Stucky, 81 years old) is a luminary in his field and therefore always had very nice anecdotes to tell.
Most recently, I visited “Communications for international students” at the UCSB Extension. The course was less demanding, but the lecturer put a lot of effort into it.
Overall, all courses were much more school-based than in Germany (including the graduate courses). There is usually weekly homework to be given and projects to be completed during the semester, which are included in the final grade.
One of the greatest advantages of UCSB is its location. Both the sea and the mountains are not far away. The best decision of my stay was definitely to join the Excursion Club. This student outdoor club organizes countless activities and excursions every week, almost free of charge. A great opportunity to get to know many locals (and also some international students). It is also possible to rent wetsuits, surfboards, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags and much more for free.
I also joined the Intramural Ultimate Frisbee team. Intramural sport is an intra-university leisure league that is primarily about having fun and less about competitive performance. There is a game against another team once a week. It is actually not possible for extension students to join this league, but an exception was made for me.
The university is often referred to as the party university of the USA. However, if you like less, you will definitely get your money’s worth. There are endless activities.
As already mentioned, California is very expensive. Expect to pay $600-$800 per month for a shared double room. In addition, the overall cost of living is significantly higher than here in Germany. For shopping you should always go to a larger supermarket. The next largest is Albertsons, which is about 10 minutes by bike from Isla Vista. If you have a car, you can also drive to Trader-Joe’s.
I would recommend everyone to take the plunge and do a semester abroad at UCSB. The people in California are so friendly and open that it’s a real culture shock when you come back to Germany. The university is very beautiful and so well located. And of course not to forget the excellent weather. An experience that you can probably only have once in a lifetime.