CSUL Exchange Program

CSUL Exchange Program

Hi there,

my name is Raphael, I am studying economics and in my 5th semester from September 2014 to December 2014 I studied for a “quarter” at the “ California State University Los Angeles ”.

University selection

Right from the start of my studies in Germany, it was clear to me that I wanted to study abroad for a semester. Preferably to an English-speaking country and as far away as possible. So it goes without saying that California was of particular interest to me. The decision to go to CSUL was certainly also shaped by being as close as possible to the metropolis of Los Angeles as the second largest city in the United States and hotspot on the American west coast. I was attracted by the many sights, cityscapes and landscapes that you previously only knew from television and the desire to travel to LA once in your life. This desire was consolidated and I applied for a semester abroad at California State University Los Angeles. According to Abbreviationfinder, CSUL is the abbreviation of California State University Los Angeles.

Before you travel

For the application I needed in addition to the application form a valid language certificate (eg TOEFL), an English-language transcript of the home university and a copy of the valid for the duration of stay abroad passport. I was then able to send the documents to the “MicroEDU” office and they then passed them on or made suggestions for improvement, if necessary. I applied about six months before the semester abroad started.

After “MicroEDU” forwarded the documents to CSUL, I received the approval a few weeks later. Now I had to apply for a visa for the USA. For the visa I needed, among other things, the I-20, the online forms and a financial confirmation. To do this, I had to make an appointment for a visa interview at an American embassy (e.g. Berlin or Frankfurt). This went quickly and without any problems and I was sent my passport with the registered visa less than a week after this appointment.

I have also contacted the International Office at my home university, Leibniz University Hannover, to have the courses that are likely to be taken abroad officially approved and to guarantee that my courses will be credited within the framework of a “ learning agreement ”.

Now it was still a question of booking a flight. I have decided to travel to Los Angeles 3 weeks before the start of university in order to use the time to find an apartment for my stay abroad.

The experience reports published on the Internet did not give the best picture of the student dormitory. In retrospect, the CSUL “dorms” are completely okay! Most apartments are equipped with a large kitchen, living room, balcony and spacious bedrooms and make a clean picture. They’re also cheaper than most Los Angeles private apartments.

Going to the dormitory to live on the campus of the university was not of interest to me. MicroEDU gave me the tip to first look at apartments on site and not to rent an apartment “blindly” from Germany and certainly not to make advance payments from Germany in order to avoid potential fraud and failure. Because I was in California weeks before the start of the semester, I also had time to settle in a little in Los Angeles.


After an exhausting, almost 12-hour flight from Frankfurt to LA, I arrived in the late afternoon and was tired and exhausted. However, this tiredness subsided relatively quickly when I took a taxi ride from the airport to the “Starlight Inn” hotel, where I booked a room for the first week, in this big city. There are also cheaper ways to get away from the airport. The “LAX FlyAway” bus, for example, runs regularly from the airport in the direction of downtown to Union Station for just under $ 8. I was really blown away by the size of the city, the many people, the view of the skyline and the warm California weather. A city that looked like a huge film set and that made me feel like I was in the movie. From the first minute I felt that going to Los Angeles was the only right decision to make.

I CANNOT (!!!) recommend the “Starlight Inn” motel near the CSUL. Not only after sunset a very dodgy place, where sometimes very bizarre guys run around, who you can tell that they are not the most inexperienced in dealing with drugs and weapons. Unfortunately, this picture is not improved by the motel owner, who speaks only broken English. There are definitely nicer (and also safer) accommodations for the first week (s) in the vicinity of the university.

I took it as an incentive to quickly find a room or an apartment to get away from this strange place.

Apartment Search

The next morning I made my way to the International Office of “Cal State LA” to get information about looking for an apartment and a telephone provider. I was given a list of room and apartment rentals. After getting a SIM card from AT&T ($ 40 a month), I contacted some of the landlords on this list and made viewing appointments with them. In addition, I looked for a place to stay on the websites “airbnb.com” and “craigslist.com”, where people also rent rooms and apartments for certain periods of time. Eventually I found a nice room in an apartment in Boyle Heights through Airbnbwith an unbelievably awesome (!) view over the city. The catch, however, was the price. I paid almost $ 1000 a month in rent for the time there. That can also be done much cheaper! Even if without a view over Los Angeles. After a few days in the motel, I was able to move out and move into my new home for the following months in Boyle Heights (pretty much between downtown LA and California State University).

Course choice

Since I found out about the courses offered by CSUL in advance of my studies abroad and needed them for crediting at my home university, I knew roughly which courses I was interested in and was able to make a pre-selection of courses. However, the registration and mandatory participation in courses for international students only takes place on site, in the time of the ” class crashing ” (usually the first two weeks of the semester).

The so-called “Open University” form plays a major role here. You have to address the responsible lecturer or professor, i.e. the leader of the respective course, during this time and ask him to include him in his course. As an international student you are only then a participant in a course when the respective lecturer or professor confirms with his signature on the “Open University” form that the student is authorized to participate in the course. In my experience, the professors were always friendly and cooperative and I was able to register for all of the courses I wanted within the first week.

Among other things, I took the courses “ Mathematical Economics ”, “ Managerial Economics ” and “ Economics of Developing Countries ”. The lectures are very similar to the lessons known from German schools. This has the advantage that the courses, with a maximum of 40 people, are significantly smaller than at German state universities, so that you can receive better individual support. In addition, in my opinion, the requirements for American universities are less strict compared to Germany. Means: I could easily follow the lectures and had no major problems with exams or homework.

Student life and free time

Already with the first event, the “ Orientation Day ”, the “Cal State LA” enables an overview of the following “Quarter” to be obtained and to establish contacts with other international students.

Furthermore, the university tries to give the visiting students the opportunity to get in contact with other internationals and to exchange ideas with events for “internationals”. Of course it is up to you to what extent you want to be part of it. With us, a large group of students from all over the world formed relatively quickly, who regularly did things together, met in the “dorms” or celebrated together.

Los Angeles (and the surrounding area) is more than recommended for things to do! Be it the wonderful beaches of “Venice” and “Santa Monica”, where the sun is a permanent guest; the downtown skyline, which is not only the heart of the die-hard GTA fans; the grand villas of Malibu and Bel Air; the “Cheesecake Factory” in Pasadena, which is also known for the fact that “Penny” works there as a waitress in the series “The Big Bang Theory”; the “Walk-Of-Fame” in Hollywood with many clubs and bars (it should be noted that American law is very (!) strict with the distribution of alcohol to people under the age of 21); Disneyland and Universal Studios; atmospheric baseball, ice hockey, and basketball games; the “Griffith Observatory”, from which one has an incredible view over the whole of LA; and and and…

Los Angeles has more than enough to offer when it comes to sights! And normally the timetable always offers enough free time to devote to activities and activities.

For adrenaline junkies and roller coaster fans, I can particularly recommend the “Six Flags Magic Mountain” amusement park in Valencia, approx. 45 minutes north of LA. Many roller coasters and exciting attractions ensure that you won’t forget your visit there too quickly. In my opinion one of the best theme parks in the world!


Since the “Quarter” ended in mid-December, but I didn’t fly back to Germany until the end of January, I had almost a whole month to travel through California. This left me enough time with friends to start a road trip to San Francisco, the Yosemite National Park and San Diego and to take most of the time from the Pacific Coast Highway with the incredible view of the coast and the Pacific Ocean see. During the semester we traveled with a group of German students to the legendary city of Las Vegas for a weekend. From there the Gran Canyon is only a few hours away. In addition, we traveled to New York for a week in the last week of our stay in America and experienced the flair of the “Big Apple”.

So it makes sense to plan a few weeks after university in order to have enough time to travel the country in peace. Experiencing another country, with all its cultures, peculiarities and facets, was the most important reason for me to study a semester abroad.

Personal conclusion

It was an incredibly exciting and eventful time, in which I met great people from all over the world, was able to experience American culture, saw breathtaking cities and beautiful landscapes, gained a lot of impressions and experiences and certainly also developed personally.

You can always rely on “MicroEDU”! They were always approachable and friendly while answering my questions and clarifying anything (especially before departure). Thanks for the great help from “MicroEDU” in organizing my semester abroad! I can only recommend everyone to plan a stay abroad during their studies!

I always fondly remember the time and many beautiful days there under the Californian sun. Maybe I will say later that this semester abroad was the time of my life. But until then, I will describe the time in such a way that I have never regretted the decision to go to “Cal State LA”, felt comfortable in Los Angeles and California very quickly and am very happy and happy to spend a semester abroad having studied. In short: an unforgettable time!

California State University Los Angeles Exchange Program

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