I spent the winter semester 2013 at SDSU in San Diego (General Courses) and studied subjects there that I can credit for my business administration studies in Germany (economics, politics, statistics and Spanish). (The following report is based on the guidelines for the experience report of the PROMOS scholarship)
The SDSU is a very nice, large university. It has a very large campus that offers everything you need as a student. In terms of food, there is not only a supermarket, a large food court with a large selection of restaurants, but also numerous coffee stands spread across the campus. There is a bookstore that supplies you with books and learning material, as well as SDSU gear, a large and modern library, the Love Library, where you can do homework or do group work in a pleasant atmosphere. In addition, the SDSU has numerous sports fields and a sports hall, which is also often the venue for larger concerts. The classrooms are modern and designed for different class sizes. According to AbbreviationFinder, SDSU is the abbreviation of San Diego State University.
San Diego is the second largest city in the state of California and the seventh largest in the United States. And as a European, you get to feel the American dimensions very quickly in San Diego. In my opinion, in this big city you are more or less lost without a car. The trolley network has around 3 lines and the individual districts are connected to one another via freeways. You can survive without your own car, but for the short period of 6 months it is worth being mobile in order to see as much of the surroundings as possible.
Since the average annual temperature is 21 ° Celsius and it rarely rains, San Diego is also known as “America’s finest city”. During my entire stay there were only 3 rainy days. San Diego is located directly on the Pacific coast and has numerous beaches. This has created a surfing and beach culture that can be felt especially in the districts of Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla. Due to the close proximity of the Mexican border (half an hour’s drive to Tijuana), San Diego has a relatively strong Hispanic American character. For example, you can find numerous Mexican restaurants in San Diego and often hear conversations in Spanish in everyday life. The metropolis of Los Angeles is only two and a half hours away and invites you to numerous visits. While the Pacific coast invites you to surf in the west, in the east you can reach snow-capped mountains or desert regions within a few hours. San Diego and its surroundings offer a variety of landscapes over relatively short distances.
Such a stay abroad requires a lot of preparation in advance. Since it was a relatively spontaneous decision for me, I had about 6 months to make all the preparations. Usually a year and a half lead time is recommended. For this reason, I decided on the agency MicroEDU, which establishes a free contact between the exchange student and the university of choice and is available for questions about formalities, course selection, visas, looking for accommodation, etc. Due to the short-term decision, this turned out to be very helpful.
I made my decision to go to San Diego State University in February and got in touch with MicroEDU at that time. Unfortunately, I just missed the registration deadline for the business program, but after a brief consultation with my home university, I decided on the General Courses program, as in this case I was able to have enough subjects credited. Just to register for the SDSU’s semester abroad program, I needed a few documents, including a financial statement from my bank. This can take a few weeks. However, after I had the documents together and applied, I had to wait about 3 weeks for an answer from the SDSU. However, the probability of not being accepted as a “paying exchange student” at an American university is relatively low. So in March I had my confirmation.
In the following months I took care of the F1 student visa, for which you have to drive to the American consulate in Frankfurt or Berlin, about the eligibility of my courses in America, booking a one-way flight, looking for an apartment in San Diego turned out to be not particularly easy to apply for my Promos scholarship, and and and, while I was completing my 4th semester at my home university.
During this time, as well as during the semester, I was always able to turn to my contact person at MicroEDU if I had any questions. Through a Facebook group for all MicroEDU exchange students at the SDSU, it was also possible to find future fellow students, to make initial contacts and to exchange ideas. As a result, shared apartments have already been established in advance or information has been found about cheap offers (e.g. foreign health insurance or rental cars).
For the first few weeks of looking for an apartment, I lived with an American friend near the university. She herself studies at the SDSU and was able to help me with some questions and organizational matters. After viewing numerous apartments in the first few weeks, I then set up a shared apartment with other exchange students. The eight of us lived in a house in Mission Beach, less than a minute from the beach. When we set up the flat share, we made sure that different nations or different mother tongues live together (Germany, Denmark, France, Chile). This was important to us as it ensured that we would talk to each other in English.
The constant discussion, whether you should live on the beach (PB or Mission Beach) or in the college area, everyone has to decide for themselves. It both has its advantages and disadvantages and you certainly have the opportunity to experience a great time in both places.
In my opinion, the cultural exchange in San Diego is very interesting. Since the SDSU is very popular with German exchange students, as a German you run the risk of coming into contact exclusively with Germans, which of course can seriously affect cultural exchange and the promotion of English language skills. However, the large number of German exchange students does not mean that you cannot come into contact with other cultures. During my stay, I got to know just as many German exchange students who only had to deal with their German friends, as well as German exchange students who were very much integrated into an American group of friends. It all depends on his own preferences and integration skills. It depends on, what you make of it and how well you can jump over your own shadow and actively approach other people and other cultures. Sometimes it gets on your nerves how much German you can hear in this American city, but you don’t have to be put off by it. I myself had a very mixed circle of friends. In addition to German exchange students, there were some internationals (Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway, Argentina, Chile, Brazil) and Americans, with whom I still have contact today.
What cultural similarities and differences:
The way of life in California is quite different compared to that in Germany, which for me has a lot to do with the good weather. While people in Germany generally concentrate more on work and efficiency, in California more emphasis is placed on a comfortable, fulfilling life (laid back). Californians are also very active and sporty. People like to go surfing before work or camping and hiking in the nearest national park at the weekend. Sport and a “healthy” lifestyle are very important here, in contrast to some other states.
A big difference between Germans and Americans that I personally noticed is the way they treat each other. Generally speaking, Americans are more open to new people. What Germans often dismiss as superficiality, I got to know in America as politeness and friendliness. Americans are the masters of small talk and so it is very easy to get into conversation with them, in almost any situation, whereas in Germany you would rather avoid each other. You talk to the supermarket cashier about what has happened in the last few weeks and nobody complains in the queue behind you, but is more likely to be invited to the next barbecue. The general consensus of socializing and networking applies. Exchange students also benefited from this, of course,
Class crashing and teaching system
The class crashing happens in such a way that far too much theater is made about it in advance. There are courses that are very easy to get and others that generally do not accept exchange students. You should be prepared for this in advance and have enough alternatives ready, but after an initial panic, an acceptable solution was found for every exchange student.
As at pretty much all American universities, the teaching system at SDSU is heavily schooled. There are classes, regular homework with a submission date, group work and the grades are made up of partial grades. As a result, people “had to” learn continuously in order to perform well, which tends to collide with travel plans and other leisure activities. The professors and assistant professors were always at your side (whether by email, phone call or consultation). It is often said that the American level of learning is significantly below the level of learning at German universities, which I did not notice when I chose subjects (politics, economics, statistics and Spanish). In itself, the learning content was to be equated with the German level, maybe a little easier, but associated with a higher continuous learning effort. However, I think that this depends – as in Germany – on the choice of subjects and professors. Therefore, it is worthwhile to take a look at ratemyprofessor.com before choosing a subject;)
The crediting of the courses went smoothly. In my case, I was even able to have a political subject credited to the economics subject at my university. However, you should take care of the certificates from your home university beforehand.
What would you have liked to have known before your stay abroad and what would you do differently today?
I am actually completely satisfied with my stay abroad. I felt well prepared and informed, thanks in part to MicroEDU. The only thing that was relatively complicated was finding an apartment. It is recommended to search on site, but the rush at the beginning of the semester is so great that panic breaks out among the students. You may be able to save yourself this stress by planning in advance.
What is also important is that a semester abroad in California is not exactly cheap, and you are only allowed to work to a limited extent during the semester. You should plan this in advance so that you don’t stress yourself all the time because of the financial pressure and have to turn every penny three times.
Have your expectations of the study visit been met?
Since I went to San Diego with the very open attitude that I wanted to experience a “new / foreign culture” and wanted to benefit from it as much as possible, I was not disappointed in any way. On an academic level, too, the SDSU turned out to be a very good choice for me, as I was able to take my desired subjects, have them credited, studied together with Americans and, in addition to the university, was also able to work in the American Marketing Association of the SDSU. I can only warmly recommend a stay abroad at the SDSU and I don’t know anyone who was dissatisfied with this choice. Above all, the SDSU is ideal for getting to know an ordinary, traditional American university life and school spirit,
What recommendations do you have for future students at “your” host university?
As already mentioned, the SDSU is very popular with German exchange students. My recommendation is to make sure from the beginning not only to make German contacts, but as much as possible with Americans (you come into contact with German fellow students almost by yourself). After all, it is also the reason why they went to America. Otherwise, I can still recommend looking for an apartment / room in advance, as looking for an apartment can be very exhausting and expensive in the first few weeks.