Anyone who has always dreamed of studying for a semester in the USA, attending a renowned university, enjoying the summer and sun for six months, experiencing unforgettable adventures, meeting people from all over the world and having the best time of their lives is the should definitely do a semester abroad at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, USA.
In the 2015/2016 winter semester, my dream came true for me and I was able to study for a semester in San Diego. In advance I can say that it was an incredibly great experience for me, that I learned a lot and that I will never forget the time. Any doubts you may have in advance are a waste of time. The high costs and effort of the organization are definitely worth it.
Selection of the university
Because of my curiosity about American culture, it was clear to me from the start that I wanted to study in the USA for a semester. In addition, it appealed to me to get to know the Californian lifestyle on the west coast and to get something of this flair due to the proximity to Mexico. From students who have studied at San Diego State University (SDSU) in the past, I have learned about the countless options for course selection etc. at SDSU. I learned from various rankings on the Internet that the SDSU also has one of the best international business programs in the USA. In addition, the tuition fees at SDSU are relatively lower compared to other California universities. Read more student reviews on Existingcountries.
Application and registration
As a freemover, I organized my semester abroad through MicroEDU and would recommend it to everyone. The services of MicroEDU are free for students and the employees are available with a lot of commitment and very good availability for all questions about the semester abroad. With advice, checklists, tips and forwarding the application documents, the organization is made much easier and you always have a competent contact person should there be any ambiguities or problems. On request, you can have MicroEDU send you information brochures, which also contain all the important documents for the application process. For compiling the applicationyou should allow enough time, as it takes a lot of effort to get the right documents on time. You will also have to pay an application fee of $ 175. The following documents are required for the application to the SDSU:
- Transcript of Records (proof of your grades in English)
- Copy of valid passport
- Financial proof from the bank (can be obtained from your account or that of a family member)
- Proof of language proficiency (e.g. from DAAD )
- Foreign health insurance (e.g. with ADAC)
If all documents are complete, they will be sent to MicroEDU, where they will be checked for completeness and correctness and forwarded to the SDSU. After a few weeks you will receive the acceptance from the SDSU. In addition, you will be sent the I-20 form that you need to apply for the visaneed. The MicroEDU checklists will take you to the online visa application page. Before registering online, you should have a photo taken that complies with the required standards (https://de.usembassy.gov/de/visa/foto-bedingungen/). After the photo has been uploaded, you will be asked to fill out the so-called DS-160 form. It takes some time to fill out, but it is not complicated. After you have successfully entered all the required data, you can make an appointment with the embassy. The following costs are incurred as part of the visa:
- Appointment: $ 10
- Visa application fee: $ 160
- SEVIS fee: $ 200
The conversation at the embassy in Berlin is relatively quick, provided all the necessary documents are available. It is particularly important to the embassy that you present proof that you will be leaving the USA again, e.g. with your return flight ticket, your rental agreement, etc.). The visa will then be sent to you by post together with your passport within a few weeks. You pay the tuition fee of $ 7,215 a few weeks before the start of the semester. You can find the list of tuition fees under the following link: http://ali.sdsu.edu/Pages/ALI/Engine.aspx?id=587#BGP.
The SDSU was founded in 1897 and is the fifth largest university in California. There are currently almost 33,000 students studying there. In addition, the SDSU is one of the most popular universities in California and receives the second most applications. The SDSU campus is huge and it looks just like you know it from the movies. I honestly have to admit that I got goosebumps the first time I walked the impressive campus and knew that this would be my university for the next four months.
There are countless sports offers from the SDSU, such as soccer fields, a swimming pool and a pool, a large gym with various courses and an aqua park at Mission Bay, where you can jet-ski and learn to surf. The use of the sports offer is free of charge for international students. The football, basketball, and baseball sports teams are nicknamed the San Diego State Aztecs. Don’t miss out on a football game in the grand Qualcomm Stadium or a basketball game in the Viejas Arena. It is incredible to see the spirit with which the Aztecs team is supported by the studentsand it’s a great feeling to be part of it. At these events you can also admire the performances of the cheerleaders, the dancers and the big band of the SDSU. As a student at SDSU, you can even get tickets to the games free of charge. However, since there is always a very large crowd for tickets, you should get your ticket as early as possible.
There are a number of restaurants in the so-called food court on campus. Here you can get Mexican, Chinese or Greek food. There is also a salad bar, smoothies and a subway. A Starbucks should of course not be missing on campus. There really is something for everyone, the food tastes good and you can spend your lunch breaks or free hours there very well. There is also a bookstore on campus, where you can buy books, clothing such as sweaters or T-shirts from the SDSU and other items with an SDSU print. Every now and then you get 20% on your purchase here. In addition, a huge, excellently equipped library offers good opportunities to study undisturbed and in peace, to do homework and to prepare group presentations.
The American Language Institute (ALI) of the SDSU is responsible for international students on site. One week before the semester begins, there is an orientation week for international students. A city tour is offered, you get to know academic life in the USA and receive information about the semester, for example on “class crashing”. The crashing means that, as an international student, you can possibly take part in American courses at the SDSU, provided you receive a signature from the responsible lecturer. You take part in the first event of the course and ask the lecturer at the end of the lecture whether you can still take part in the course. I crashed two courses and at first I was a little worried that I would not get my courses. In retrospect I can say that class crashing turned out to be very uncomplicated for me and that I got all of the courses I wanted to take. Nevertheless, I have heard from other students who, for example, are already fullEconomics courses crashed, found out that not all students were accepted and in some cases even decided the lot.
Course offer and course choice
When choosing the SDSU courses, a basic distinction is made between business and general courses. Due to my degree in business administration, I mainly took business courses. However, the business courses are in great demand, so so-called special sessions are offered for international students. These courses take place in parallel with the courses the American students attend, but contain the same subjects and are taught by the same instructors. Even before the semester began, I had the option of choosing two special sessions from home. In the end, I got these courses too. These included consumer behavior and direct marketing. I also took a social media course from the Journalism Department and a dance course, which I only chose when I was there. The courses at SDSU require more effort during the semester, as you have to write tests, submit assignments or give presentations. However, the degree of difficulty is lower than in Germany, so that you can pass the exams well. It is important that attendance is compulsory in almost all courses and that this is also included in the final grade.
Make sure that you at least book your outbound flight as early as possible. So you can save money in advance. I have my flightbooked for the end of July in mid-January. I paid almost € 1,400 for the return flight. In retrospect, I can say that it saves costs if you book the outward and return flights together, but you are not flexible with regard to the journey home. Since I decided at short notice to fly home at a different time, I had to accept a rebooking fee of € 500, despite rebooking protection. My tip, therefore, if you have not yet finally decided when you want to fly home, do not book the return flight in advance. So you stay flexible to visit one or the other city in the USA if necessary. According to the visa, you can stay in the USA for 30 days after the end of the semester.
I had my flight from Düsseldorf to Los Angeles and from there I took the so-called Pacific Surfliner to San Diego. The train ride takes about two and a half hours and costs about $ 40. Since the train runs right on the coast, you have an ideal view and can already admire the impressive beaches around San Diego on arrival.
As I lived in the college area and could easily and quickly get to my lectures by bike or shuttle, I didn’t need a car for the entire duration of my stay abroad. To move from the hostel to our apartment, however, we couldn’t avoid a rental car. I rented this with my roommates from Dirt Cheap Car Rental. We then signed the contract directly for three months, so that we could flexibly go shopping, to the beach, to shop or to downtown during that time. The five of us shared the car and for the three months each paid about $ 250 plus gasoline costs. However, the car rental contract only applies to journeys within San Diego. For weekend trips to Los Angeles or Las Vegas, you can get a new car cheaply. With the German driver’s license you can drive a rental car in the USA without any problems. However, to be on the safe side, I had an international driver’s license issued for around € 15 in advance. In San Diego there is also the possibility to use the public transport, the so-called trolley (streetcar) or the bus. This takes longer, but it is still relatively easy to reach the important places in San Diego and the surrounding area. A semester ticket can be obtained on campus at the beginning of the semester for around $ 200. In addition, you can get from A to B in San Diego using private taxis such as Uber. These cost much less than normal taxis and are easy to order and pay for using a smartphone app.
I took care of an apartment from home about two months before my departure. This saved me the stress of looking for an apartment on site and was able to enjoy San Diego to the fullest from day one and get to know a lot of new people. The first two weeks were like a summer or beach vacation with lots of experiences and by the way I was able to get to know the city very well and settle in.
Basically, you have two options in San Diego: Either you live on the beach or in the college area near the SDSU. Ultimately, both have advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I decided on the apartment complex BLVD63, which was only built in 2014, in the College Area and would recommend it to everyone to live there at any time. The facility is really impressive. Everything is very new and modern and there are countless leisure opportunities. There is a well-equipped gym, a large and a small pool, a jacuzzi, lots of BBQ places, party buses to hip clubs, events such as free breakfast during the exam phase, quiet study rooms, a PC room with printers, free coffee, Netflix and much more. In short: you have everything you need for a perfect semester abroad. Come in addition, that there is a free shuttle from the BLVD63 to the campus. During the week it runs every 15 minutes from morning to evening and a journey takes only five minutes. In the BLVD63 you will meet many new people from all over the world very quickly. In addition to international students, there are also a lot of American students on the site, so you have the opportunity to get an insight into their lifestyle.
In the BLVD63 there is the possibility of four or six people living in an apartment. You either live in a single room or in a double room (shared room). The contract is usually concluded for one year. Students who live in the apartment for six months can independently organize new tenants for their room and then overwrite the contract. In addition, there is a limited number of apartments that are offered for one semester (short term lease). For this you pay about $ 50 more per month per roommate. However, you also save yourself all the stress of looking for a new tenant. We were lucky enough to conclude a short term lease, ie our contract was valid from August to December. Our apartment for six people consisted of two single and two double rooms. I paid $ 685 per month for my double room. My roommates paid $ 985 per month for a single room. I met my roommates in advance on Facebook. There are Facebook groups for all apartment complexes and houses in which apartments are offered or roommates are sought. There is also the possibility to find suitable houses at www.craigslist.com.
Since I couldn’t move into my apartment in the BLVD63 straight away, I stayed in the “Lucky D’s” hostel for the first two weeks, which I can highly recommend to you. Not only is it cheap, but it’s also very central to downtown, you get a free breakfast, and there are lots of common activities to take part in. This offers the opportunity to socialize and make friends before the semester starts, as many of the hostel residents are prospective SDSU students from all over the world.
The only uncomfortable part of a semester abroad in San Diego at SDSU is clearly the high cost. The tuition fees, housing costs and the cost of living in the USA are very high compared to Germany. The following figure shows you the costs you will have to pay:
- Flight (round-trip): $ 1,350
- Application fee: $ 175
- Visa: $ 350
- International Health Insurance: $ 200
- Tuition (Fall 2016): $ 7,215
- Study materials (books etc.): $ 200
- Housing rent (5 x $ 700): $ 3,500
- Car rental + gasoline: $ 700
- Food: $ 1,500
- Leisure / travel:…
- Total: Approx. $ 15,500-16,000
From the beginning I noticed the extreme openness of the Americans. Whether shopping, on the bus or simply on the street, you can hear a friendly “How are you?” Everywhere. This makes it very easy to start a conversation and get to know new people. The Americans are also very sociable and helpful. Once when we wanted to buy tickets for the tram at a machine but our credit cards weren’t working, a strange woman even offered us her credit card to pay.
The holidays in the USA are a special cultural experience. For example, I saw Thanksgiving. On this day the American families come together and cook and eat a huge feast together. The next day is Black Friday. Shops open at midnight and advertise with promotions and offers. It’s incredible how many people rush into stores in the middle of the night to get the best deals possible. You really have to experience it once. As soon as Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over, Americans prepare for Halloween, which is celebrated very big in the United States. Everyone dresses up in an original way and there are already many events and parties on the days before Halloween. Of course, you need a different costume for every party. So you have the opportunity
Linguistic, professional and personal development
I can safely say that I have developed in so many ways during this incredible semester. I got to know a new culture, a new country and new people. As a result, I have become more open to new things and have learned a lot. In addition, because of the proximity to Mexico, I was able to get to know part of the Mexican culture on excursions or through Mexican students and improve my Spanish. My English has not only improved in terms of the language skills I acquired from university, but also in terms of everyday conversations and colloquial language. Over time, I became more and more confident and courageous to speak English with strangers and to be able to make mistakes. Especially through conversations with American and international students, I learned a lot of new words and phrases. Also with regard to the courses at SDSU, I havegot to know new scientific perspectives and methods, especially in marketing.
Also personally I have developed myself as I had to solve everyday problems alone in a foreign culture and language. This challenge made me more independent and learned a lot about myself.
Attractions and travel
San Diego is the eighth largest city in the USA and is rightly referred to as “America’s Finest City”. The city is very diverse and really offers everything your heart desires.
You should definitely not miss the following places:
From a ferry that goes to Coronado Island, you can admire the great skyline of San Diego. At Mission Beach, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach you can swim, surf, tan or have a campfire with friends. At the Sunset Cliffs you will experience breathtaking sunsets from the cliffs. On Coronado Island, you can admire the famous Hotel del Coronado and stroll on incredible sandy beaches. In winter, an ice rink is set up in front of the hotel, on which you can skate. You should definitely do that. Who can say that they skated on the beach at sunset at 24 ° C in December? In the La Jolla district there are great cliffs where you can enjoy the view very close to seals.
The nightlife of San Diego also has a lot in store for you. Numerous pubs, bars and discos await you in the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown. There is a lot going on in Pacific Beach, especially on Taco Tuesday. Every Tuesday people meet here to first eat cheap Taccos together and then roam the clubs and bars. On Sushi Monday there is 50% in many sushi bars,
For weekend trips you shouldn’t miss the following places:
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Los Angeles
- Las Vegas
- Joshua Tree National Park
►Weekend trips can also be planned very well during the semester.
The following places are worth seeing for longer trips:
- new York
- Yosemite National Park
- Grand Canyon
- San Francisco
► It is best to use the time before and after the semester for longer trips.
Partying from 21 years of age: In the USA, partying in bars and discos is only allowed from the age of 21. Therefore, it is important that you always have your passport with you for entry to parties. Unfortunately, if you are under the age of 21, you have nowhere to go and you cannot buy alcohol.
Alone or with friends: Don’t be afraid to undertake the adventure semester abroad on your own, even if it may take you to overcome it at the beginning. You will not regret it in the end, as it offers great opportunities to meet all kinds of new people and to face challenges on your own and learn from them.
Paying: You can open a free account at the Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB), which will give you a credit card that you can use to withdraw money abroad free of charge. However, your account will first be debited with the fees until you request the reimbursement by email from the DKB. Since many landlords require a check when paying the rent, it makes sense to open a joint account with an American bank with your roommates. I had a free bank account with my roommates at Bank of America, to which we paid our portion of the rent every month.
Mobile phone: You can conveniently conclude a family contract for five people on site at T-Mobile. Everyone I know did that there. You pay around $ 25 per month per person and have an Internet, SMS and calling flat rate for calls within the USA. Calls to Germany are blocked, but you can easily call loved ones at home via Whats App, Facetime or Skype. Most public places also have free and free Wi-Fi.
Taking my semester abroad at San Diego State University was one of the best decisions of my life, if not the best. I made wonderful friends from all over the world and had unforgettable adventures. And even if the last six months have been very expensive, the experience I’ve gained is priceless. Time has passed very quickly and I am only now gradually realizing the unique moments and experiences I have had in the last few months. I can only recommend it to everyone to take the chance and do a semester abroad.
What are you waiting for? Start your Californian Dream!