In my experience report I would like to start with the organization before the start of the semester. I chose MicroEDU because friends of mine have already taken part in the exchange program and I had to spend a semester in an English-speaking country to study English. According to Abbreviationfinder, CSULB is the abbreviation of California State University Long Beach.
The advice from MicroEDU and the organization worked very well. Those responsible for the universities in the USA were easily reachable and helpful both by email, in person and on the phone. This part of the preparation was easy and overall no problem as long as you followed the MicroEDU checklist.
It is best to make an appointment for the visa in good time and make sure not to forget any documents, because in front of me in the queue in front of the embassy in Frankfurt there were dramas, as two students left half of their documents at home.
I arrived in the USA a few weeks before the start of the semester, so that I still had time for excursions, setting up my room and settling in.
Looking for an apartment was a little more problematic. Although you can look for apartments on craigslist.com or on the Cal State Long Beach website, as some students are looking for flatmates on these pages, a few of these apartments are relatively far from the university and / or the central points in Long Beach removed. If you are not planning to buy a car during this time, you should pay attention to the distances and bus connections. Traveling by bus in the USA cannot be compared to bus and rail travel in Germany. At the bus stops there is no timetable with regular times. On these plans it says, for example, “Bus is coming in 20-60min”. There is an electronic time table at the larger bus stops (e.g. at the university).
The most positive thing I noticed was the Beverly Plaza Apartments in Long Beach. Some students and also a few international people lived there with 2-4 flatmates, so the apartments became affordable. The bus connections are good and I would describe the area as safe overall. This residential complex also has its own security. The nearest shops are 2-3 minutes walk away.
Before I actually start the university, I would like to describe the terrain. The university campus is a dream and it is worth registering at the Recreation Center. The Recreation Center is a mix of sports and wellness center and costs $ 30 a month.
Numerous sports opportunities are available both indoors and outdoors. A large pool with volleyball net, a whirlpool and a swimming pool can be found outside. Inside is a huge fitness area, a wall for bouldering, you can play squash, there is also a basketball hall and an indoor running track is located in a ring above the basketball fields.
The equipment for the respective sport can also be borrowed from the center. There is also a large selection of fitness courses on offer, which are also included in the price.
There are two Starbucks on campus and of course all the big fast food chains – whoever is into fast food will be happy. If you want to eat your fill for lunch, you should go to the dining room of the student residence on campus, because there is an all-you-can-eat buffet for around $ 7. There you can also ask for a box so that you can take your food with you.
The menus change daily, but of course they are also repeated. There is a salad buffet, fruits, ice cream, cakes, sandwiches, bagels and 2-3 warm dishes.
Now for the difficult part of Cal State. Choosing a course at the university was a disaster, I’m talking about an individual case, but if a student does not have the necessary units together on time, he or she can be expelled from the country, as this is mandatory for the visa.
The professors are not obliged to admit a student to his seminar / lecture, even if there are still places available in the courses.
It took me a few weeks to get the necessary courses together. Apparently I was unlucky, it doesn’t have to be a general problem at Cal State Long Beach, but the service for international students who do not belong to a partner university did not seem to be well developed or structured. Although I had chosen seminars in advance in which I would like to introduce myself and which also fit into my studies, finding a course was a challenge.
After I had the required signatures and courses together after about 4 weeks, my documents with the signatures from the International Office were lost / not passed on / not entered in the online system, so that I was not officially enrolled. In the meantime, I regularly attended all the seminars and took part in the tests, which took place almost every week. Two weeks later I received an email warning that I was not registered at the university and would have to expect expulsion from the country. Then I visited the International Office again and received documents from the “Late Add Petition” and the hunt for signatures started all over again. My lecturers all signed, of course, it was more difficult to get the signatures of the chairpersons of the student council.
In the end, I had to go to College Dean, who had to approve these documents. He apologized for the circumstances and was shocked by the conditions of the international students. Fortunately, no further payment was necessary.
However, during this time my ticket to the university became invalid and I was forced to pay for the bus, which cost me a total of $ 80 during this period. After resolving the problem, my bus ticket became active again.
One of my lecturers was particularly supportive because I told him about the situation and I had attended his seminar from the beginning of the semester. He taught the Survey of American Literature and one of the Grammar Classes.
I also contacted MicroEDU. They contacted the International Office and tried to shed some light on the organizational jungle.
Aside from this horror, I enjoyed my time in California and I miss the ocean, the land and the people. There are numerous possibilities for excursions and if you rent a car with a few people, you can make inexpensive road trips to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica,… to San Francisco.
I can especially recommend a trip to Yosemite National Park, which is breathtaking. We spent a couple of nights at Curry Camp and walked / climbed some routes. The trip was at the end of September and the weather was fantastic! It was warm and the sun was shining all day.
You should also visit the Grand Canyon, Death Valley or Las Vegas. The best way to get to Las Vegas is by Greyhound bus if you want to save some money. The trip took about 7 hours.
You can shop in Long Beach in the Los Cerritos Center and on Second Street. There is also a nice little shopping street in Belmont Shore on Seal Beach. The Camarillo Outlet in Santa Barabra should also be visited once, there are stores such as Fossil, Nike, Forever21, American Apparel, and many more.
Of course you have to be in Hollywood and stroll down the boulevard. There you can party in the evenings or drink cocktails in a rooftop bar with a wonderful view over LA.
Finally, a tip: you should have an internet-enabled smartphone on site, because Google Maps will be your best friend if you want to come from AB and need to know roughly when which bus is going, since, as I said, there are no bus timetables at the stops.
The recognition of the semester abroad in Germany was not a problem at all. The semester abroad was also great in terms of grades, as the learning curve is much less than what you know from German universities.