University of California Santa Barbara Student Review

By | May 4, 2021


I came up with the idea of ​​studying at UCSB after a college friend had completed his semester abroad there and came back completely enthusiastic. In addition to UCSB, I was also shortlisted for UC San Diego, but I liked Isla Vista (the place where the university is located about 20 minutes from Santa Barbara) so much that I finally decided on UCSB would have. The application process via THEMBAPROGRAMS and UCSB went super fast and within a few days the acceptance was already there. Then just quickly booked flights and off we went!

On site

The UCSB campus is really beautiful and very picturesquely located right by the sea . From the University Center you can see the sea, which can be reached from all buildings in a few minutes. Going to surf the web quickly in the morning before lectures? No problem at all at UCSB! Isla Vista is directly connected to the campus. Around 25,000 people live here, most of them students. I can only recommend anyone who wants to study at UCSB to look for a place to stay here as well . Since everything is so compact, you don’t need a car for “everyday student life”. For trips there are cheap rental cars at the nearby airport.

Campus life

I only chose courses from the extension program . The course level here is significantly lower than in the normal “Open University” courses. In retrospect, I would have preferred to have chosen one or two courses from the regular course offer, as the demands in the extension program are really not particularly high and you can often take more with you in the Open University courses. So if you really want to learn something for your studies at home, you should also choose courses from this range. The advantage of the extension courses is that you have a comparatively large amount of free time and tend to have very good grades. The other courses on offer tend to focus on humanities and artistic fields . There is also an engineering department and also Economics is quite well represented at the university, but as an industrial engineer I found the courses on offer for my studies at home a bit poor. Otherwise you should also know that the UCSB, for a state university, always does very well in the rankings . This is certainly also helpful for internships in the USA.


There is probably hardly a place on the west coast that has more options for spending free time in such a small space. The beach can be reached from anywhere in Isla Vista within a few minutes, in Del Playa you even live directly above the beach. The university offers “free” surfboards, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and much more through the Excursion Club for a quarterly amount of a few dollars . You should definitely take advantage of this offer, as the beaches are also well suited for surfing. There is also a lot of university sports : a gigantic gym that is already paid for by the tuition fees, swimming pools, tennis, football, basketball – everything you can imagine.
Otherwise Isla Vista is an absolute party stronghold. From Thursday to Saturday night there is celebrations everywhere and, thanks to the great climate, almost always outside. The UCSB offers the complete Cali college experience as you know it from films.

The city of Santa Barbara is also very beautiful and can be reached by bus in about 20 minutes. Santa Barbara is also a perfect base for weekend trips . After Los Angeles is less than 2 hours, according to San Diego 4h in good traffic. Highway 1 is also not far and is an absolute must if you are studying here.


In Isla Vista you live in quite a bubble. The UCSB is comparatively expensive even for Americans and you can see that. The cost of living is very high. Under $ 700 (as of 2019) you can hardly find a useful place to stay. I can only advise against the private dormitories, rather take a look around privately and on site. Most of the students are also quite young (around 18-22), because UCSB mainly has undergrads, or the graduate students have their own dormitories. I felt quite old at times when I was in my late 25s.


The time at UCSB was one of the best in my life. I can only recommend it to everyone who wants to have the full college experience, because more is hardly possible in such a small space! I look back fondly on the time and am still good friends with some of my fellow students. You won’t regret studying at UCSB.

University of California Santa Barbara