I try to share my experiences with you in a structured way.
So, many people will advise you to plan your semester abroad early. That is also reasonable, but I have to admit that the planning for me was rather spontaneous and short-term. I only decided to apply shortly before the deadline. However, the nice staff at your website were very helpful and guided me through the application process as quickly as possible. A very special thank you at this point. During this short preparation time I had to look for a tenant for my apartment, apply for the visa for the USA and Auslandsbafög, compile the application documents and calculate the expected costs.
When I was at San Jose State, a lot of people asked me, “Why did you choose San Jose?” So I looked at the pdf form for Mechanical Engineering, compared it with a university ranking list and thought about which university I could have a relatively large number of subjects to choose from. At the end of my short-term analysis, what was left was San Jose and Sydney, Australia. I wanted to go to an English-speaking country and not spend too much at the same time. However, since the tuition fees in Sydney were € 10,000, I decided to go to San Jose State University. In addition, some people have also told me that the mechanical engineering department is respected there. So in my 3rd master’s semester I decided to spend my semester abroad in San Jose.
The San Jose State University is located in Downtown San Jose. There are around 30,000 students enrolled. The campus is square and very simply built. The engineering building is unfortunately at the northwest end of the university. But you get used to it quickly. The modern Martin Luther King library, a swimming pool, a fitness studio and the “green” campus are further reasons that speak for San Jose.
On January 6, 2011, a fellow student and I flew from Düsseldorf via London to San Francisco. From there we took a shuttle bus to San Jose and stayed in a hotel for the first few nights. We had already reserved the hotel (Executive Inn, nothing special). In the first few days we made inquiries about the city. We noticed that the Californians were very open, tolerant and friendly. At first we were surprised when strangers spoke to us on the tram, but after a while we noticed that people just want to talk. Then of course we asked San Jose State University. Since we arrived during the semester break, the campus was pretty much deserted. On 7.1.2011 we had to report to the SAL (Studies in American Language) office. The very nice and helpful staff welcomed us here and explained what to expect. The first two weeks serve as an orientation week. I found this to be very well organized and I was happy to see that the staff had thought of almost everything.
Considerable costs should be expected, especially at the beginning of your stay abroad. Since the Bafög office needs a certificate of enrollment from the SJSU for the Auslandsbafög, you only get the grant after one or two months. So first of all there are tuition fees ($ 4890), application fee ($ 100), credit fee ($ 600), SEVIS fee ($ 200), visa application fee (115 €), international health insurance (approx. 300 €), travel expenses (approx. 750 €) and toefl Test (220 €, although I would rather take a DAAD test). In addition, there are book costs, the deposit for a possible apartment, the first rent and course fees.
On the whole, you should expect around 10,000 € for the entire stay abroad (for one semester). You can get most of it from the Bafög office.
My colleague and I lived in a “homestay”, which means that someone rents out a few rooms from their house. You can use the kitchen, washing machine, dryer, etc. We were lucky enough to have a TV and a Playstation with us. This accommodation option was suggested to us by a SAL employee. Instead of paying around $ 800-900 a month, the rent for us was only $ 400. For such offers you should contact Cindy Graham (also a very nice employee). Before that, we looked for apartment advertisements on www.craigslist.com, but we couldn’t find a suitable apartment.
Our home is located near Hostetter Road in northern San Jose. The journey with the Lightrail (the tram) was about 40 minutes. It was only 12-13 minutes by car.
Even if the house was a little further away from the university, we couldn’t say no to the price and the offer.
The American education system differs from the German. While I rarely had to hand in my homework in Germany, in the USA I had to hand in homework every day. In addition, the size of the individual seminars was only about 30 students. No large lecture halls with 500-1000 students. I only chose the courses on site, as, as mentioned above, my decision was rather spontaneous. I chose three courses, which luckily all weren’t full either. Especially in the master’s degree, the number of participants tends to be lower than in the bachelor’s program. In the course schedule, the so-called syllabus, the professors set out the goal of the course, deadlines, books or software used. In comparison to Germany, I found the course more practical. So I was able to gain a lot of experience. I also chose a subject from aerospace engineering. It was interesting to look at the processes from this point of view. In addition, we were introduced to some software programs that we could then use.
The professors are very friendly, competent, helpful and generally much more relaxed than in Germany. The mood during the lecture is very relaxed. If you don’t understand something, the professors take the time after the lecture and explain it again. In most subjects, it is customary to hand in homework, submit projects, write midterms and final exams. That means a lot of work during the semester. One should therefore not underestimate the amount of time required. The final grade is made up of all the performance and personal participation.
Even if there’s not much to do in San Jose, I think San Jose is very well positioned geographically. If you feel like sun and sand, you can take a bus from San Jose Diridon to Santa Cruz for $ 5. Of course we went to see Yosemite National Park. For this I would suggest renting a car, which is not expensive. You can also divide the amount by five if the car is fully occupied. A page for this would be, for example, http://www.billiger-mietwagen.de/. So California has a lot to offer. In addition, San Francisco (approx. 50 km from San Jose) is only half an hour away and definitely worth several trips. During the spring break, I took two friends on a tour to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon.
The semester abroad at San Jose State University was rich in experience and exciting. I got to know a lot of interesting people and I still keep in touch with them today. While at the beginning of the stay abroad you still think: “How should I live here for 5 months?”, At the end you tend to ask yourself: “How could I only stay here for one semester?” That means the time goes by faster than you think. Have fun all of you and I can only say now. You will definitely not forget this experience!