My decision for UCSB
It was clear to me from the start that I would like to do a semester abroad as part of my Bachelor’s degree . I’m studying industrial engineering in Aachen and I wanted to see something new. For me it was very important to have a compact campus compared to Aachen . In addition, an important decision point for me was the location and the weather . As a little kid I always wanted to travel to America and live there for a while. So I only had to choose a university there. Based on my criteria, I decided to go to the universities in San Diego and Santa Barbara. In the end, I chose that University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) , because I liked the place and campus life there better.
Planning the semester abroad
For my semester abroad in the Fall Quarter, I applied in January. So a little more than half a year before that . They gave me tips for the application documents , the visa , the housing situation and much more. The UCSB does not have a set application deadline , but the application process usually ends in May. However, I would recommend everyone to apply six months in advance or even to plan the whole thing in advance. Important things that you should take care of early enough are, for example, the language certificate or creditable courses and after the approval the visa and the credit card.
Courses at UCSB
I have taken a total of three courses at UCSB. I had clarified with my home university beforehand that I could have two of them credited to me . Clarifying this beforehand cost me a lot of time and also some nerves. I completed two of these courses in the UCSB extension program. Another course on the Open University program. I was very grateful for the Open University course because half of the course in the extension courses was German. That was nice too, of course, but of course you also want to learn English at university. Overall, the effort to pass the courses was much lower compared to the effort in Aachen. Attendance is compulsory in the courses. This means that if you are absent a lot, the professors may, depending on the course, lower the grade. The whole system is much more intricate. In most courses, however, you don’t have a real exam at the end but have to hand in a paper, for example, which in my opinion made it a lot easier than here.
A friend of mine found an apartment on the “UCSB housing” Facebook page . There she asked if they also had a place for me and luckily this worked out. Usually, many Germans had great problems finding an apartment there. The best thing to do is to look for an apartment in Isla Vista, which is right next to the university and where all the student life takes place. In addition to the prices, what is quite different about living in Germany is that you usually live with a lot more people in one house and also share the rooms. I lived with 14 girls in one house and shared my room with three others. At first it was pretty overwhelming, but you get used to it after a while and are always happy to have company .
Leisure and excursion possibilities
Isla Vista and the university offer a lot of leisure activities . On Fridays there is always an improvisational theater , the university has a pool and many sports facilities . You can also register with the Excursion Club. There you can rent kayaks and surfboards, for example. This club also offers excursions. But I organized most of it myself with friends. For example, I went hiking in Santa Barbara or went to San Francisco for a weekend. The only thing that made me and many others unhappy in Isla Vista was the food. The first two weeks are pizza, burgers, etc. still pretty good, but after that you can’t see all of the fast food any more. In addition, there is no real bread like in Germany. After a while you can find out where the big supermarkets are and you can shop for a whole week, as these supermarkets are not on site either.
All in all, it was a wonderful semester . I made great friends and got to know a whole new culture . Isla Vista and the university are just unreal. You feel like you’re in an American high school movie all the time and just can’t believe it. I would recommend everyone to do their semester abroad at the University of California Santa Barbara.