Before heading to the airport, there were all sorts of things to do. I am very grateful to the MicroEDU organization for their free help and the “Study Abroad @ the Beach” offer. To be accepted at an American university, you have to submit a very comprehensive application that includes proof of language skills, a course wish list and, in my case, the MicroEDU documents. Due to my English studies, the DAAD has already awarded me the C1 level in English and I was lucky that my university of choice accepted this certificate. In most cases, however, an IELTS or TOEFL test is required.
The desired course list should contain up to 10 subjects that you are aiming to take, but it was only a wish list and not a specification and was only used for orientation by the university. Entry into the USA is only possible with a visa, for students the F1 visa. You can get this at the American embassy, where you have to do a short interview about what you are planning to do in the States, whether you will come back and how you will finance it. Then the passport with the visa will be sent back to you. That brings us to the financial one. The tuition fees are very high, at CSULB they are currently $ 5,200. According to AbbreviationFinder, CSULB is the abbreviation of California State University Long Beach.
Fortunately, I get BAföG abroad, which covers a large part of it. In addition, the BAföG supports the flight with a flat rate, which is also extremely helpful because it is usually over 1000 €. In addition, I applied for the PROMOS scholarship and was very lucky because I only received half of it a while later, on my birthday. That was almost the best present. Thus, the major costs, such as tuition, airfare, housing, groceries, and insurance been covered. Regarding insurance, it should be said that you are obliged to insure yourself through the university. In addition, I still had German international insurance. When all the formalities had been clarified and the acceptance from the university was in the mailbox, all that remained was to book the flight, which was done in no time, and I was on the plane faster than expected.
I flew with a friend and we were very lucky to have already found a flat share in Germany, which is usually very unusual. Pablo, our new roommate, picked us up and drove us straight to the beach. After the 22 hour journey we were suddenly no longer tired, but overjoyed. Unfortunately, we didn’t get along with Pablo that well, which means that the apartment didn’t quite meet our high standards. There were ants everywhere and there was also a lack of cleanliness, and despite some cleaning, we couldn’t feel at home. At the information event for study abroad students we were very shocked at how many Germans were there. After the initial disappointment, it turned out to be beneficial for us in that we met three boys from Bavaria and they happened to be looking for two flatmates. That was how the problem was solved.
In general, you share a room with one or more people here. We have a total of 3 rooms, 2 bathrooms (one is right next to our room, so only accessible to us) and a large eat-in kitchen. We also have a small balcony on which you could endure the mild nights. Most German students live here in apartment complexes such as Alvista, Beverly Plaza or ours, the Towne City Apartments. They are all relatively close to the university and generally cheaper than your own apartment. In addition, there is usually a pool and a gym, which is free for all residents. Most good parties take place in these apartments too, just as a guide. You can often find what you’re looking for on Craigslist or Roomates.com.
Campus and courses
In the first few days we picked up our Student ID, without which nothing is possible on campus, and our TAP card, which is free to travel with buses in Long Beach, picked up from the campus. At first glance, the campus is overwhelmingly large, like a small town of its own, and not easy to find your way around as a newcomer. The first week at the university was O-Week, during which there were a lot of informational events, you could get to know a lot of new people and lecturers and of course you also tried out the first club. Then it started straight away.
The enrollment in the courses is very unfavorable for Internationals. I had to tinker with my schedule beforehand and, preferably, two or three alternatives, because you have to go to every first event of the course and ask whether you are allowed to participate. The lecturers are encouraged to accept international students, but it happens every now and then that one is not admitted, which is very rare. I immediately got all the courses I chose.
My courses were Fundamentals of Spanish, Comic Spirit (a course in English literary studies that I can take credit for in Germany), Composition (a writing course, which I also have credit for) and two sports courses, tennis and cardio. Together, the five courses add up to 12 units, which is my minimum number. As an undergraduate you have to take 12 units in order to be considered a full-time student according to the visa conditions. If that’s not enough, you have to pay around $ 250 per unit. As a master, there are only nine units. But with the 12 you are more than busy, because the system works very differently here. You have every course twice a week and you get a lot of homework that takes up a lot of free time. On the other hand, the level is not very high, at least not in my courses, there are certainly exceptions. You learn a lot more from doing a lot of homework. If you like to sleep in or skip a course, you won’t get very far here, because there are points for attendance and punctuality of homework to be submitted. In addition, you work longer on essays, for example, and at the end you have to hand in a bunch of notes that you don’t get if you weren’t there, what does one automatically lose points. So you are forced to go there. What I only knew from films so far was that American students put a lot of emphasis on their grades and therefore have a lot of pressure on themselves. Collaboration is also not capitalized here, as they are allegedly afraid that their work will be seen as plagiarism. But there are also enough “normal” students who make university life a lot more pleasant.
The CSULB library is huge and offers a lot more choice than the Rostock Unibib. It is also open 24/7 and offers printers and PCs for free use. There is also the Horn Center, which also includes a computer cabinet. You can load money onto your Student ID and use it to conveniently pay for your copies and printouts with a swipe. There is also a Language Lab for those studying languages where they can learn for free or get help. For those who have to write a lot, such as essays or term papers, there is a Writers Lab, where students and employees give you tips and tricks to improve your writing. In this respect, there is all sorts of help on campus, and the International Office has always been a great help, even for the trip to Mexico. With the F1 visa you can leave the USA within the semester, but Mexico poses a small problem. The office gave us a signature with which we were allowed to go back in without any problems.
Student life at CSULB is amazing. There is a huge food hall with Subway, El Pollo Loco, Panda Express, everything your heart desires. There are also three dining halls, which corresponds to our German canteen, in which you can enjoy a meal with a meal plan or simply all-you-can-eat. This is a nice change from the constant fast food. The American universities are widely known for their university teams, which also exist at the CSULB. The home games of all sports are free for students and that’s how we saw the waterpolo team, basketball team, girls volleyball team and soccer team win. Here it is celebrated so extremely that even with “only” 100 spectators it looks like a huge event. You can even participate in these teams, but that also costs a lot per semester. In addition to normal sports courses like mine, cardio and tennis, For the sports fanatics there is the REC, the Recreation and Wellness Center, in the middle of the campus. There is everything your heart desires here, from indoor climbing walls to pools and tons of fitness equipment. You even get a personal trainer for two hours free of charge, who will carry out an assessment with you, name your body measurements and values, such as heart rate or the number of push-ups you can do in one minute, and then prepare a training session tailored to you.
To bring you a little closer to the country and the CSULB. California is amazing, the people here are so incredibly open, which is related to the multiculturalism here. The people here come from everywhere and speak all languages. You get to know new friends that sweeten your semester here. The sun shines permanently, we only had 5 rainy days in 4.5 months. You can only be in a good mood. The beaches are beautiful, the food is delicious. BUT: be careful, you gain weight very quickly if you don’t do any sport. I exercised up to eight times a week. The CSULB is in Long Beach, a suburb of LA, and therefore perfectly located: close to the beach, to LA, to San Diego. In winter it can get a little colder here. Sometimes we only had ten degrees in the morning, but during the day it was 25 again. The university itself offers a large selection of subjects which sometimes makes it difficult to choose courses. The most popular courses at the moment are Business Administration, Writing Studies, Fine and Studio Arts, Psychology and Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities. A total of around 37,000 students study here at the various institutes and there are events every week, be it the student associations attracting supporters, sales stands, participation stands or simply information stands.
The best comes at the end: the best time actually began at the end of the semester. For most of them, the long journey started. After we drove up the coast on the H1 to San Francisco, we took the plane to Honolulu, which was our home for four weeks and turned out to be the best decision of our life. If you study in Cali and don’t fly to Hawaii at least once, it’s your own fault. Oahu is paradise! We jumped off cliffs, went swimming in waterfalls, hiked through the jungle, snorkeled in turquoise blue water, saw the whales jump and took the most beautiful sunsets with us. Do not miss out on this one!
Let me give you a few more tips
Buy a bike through Craigslist for a few thalers, that saves waiting for the bus and thus often a lot of time. Do your homework – if it becomes clear early on that you are skipping too much or likely to fail, you will be expelled from school and have to leave the country immediately. For those who like to travel: Mexico and Hawaii are a must-have, anyone who thinks they have seen beautiful beaches here is mistaken! Canada is also supposed to be very beautiful, unfortunately we didn’t make it there. But the national parks are definitely worth a visit and so is the most beautiful city in the world – San Francisco! If you like shopping, you shouldn’t miss Black Friday. That is the Friday after Thanksgiving, when many shops are reducing some of their goods very sharply. Here you can grab a bargain or two. Oh yes: if you want to travel a lot, get yourself a car. We were lucky and could often ride with our roommates, but without one you are lost. Especially if you are under 25, because then you have to pay an abnormally high Young Drivers Fee if you want to rent a car. Or you go to ISIC.de and book through Alamo, there are good offers for students.
If not now then when! I’m so happy with my decision to go to Cali, I would do everything the same way again! Thank you CSULB, the six months passed so quickly, but the memories and acquaintances remain. GO BEACH!