As a disclaimer: Since I was a minor during my two semesters at CSUSM, my experiences are probably a bit different from those of the others who did a semester abroad there (driver’s license, etc. ). But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a semester abroad at CSUSM! See more information on ehuacom.
After thinking about which of the host families offered by Homestay I should choose, I found accommodation with a Persian host family, who gave me a very warm welcome. They gave me a generously furnished room with a private bathroom and terrace in front of the house and the family picked me up somewhere in an emergency. Per Homestay with a family to live proved to be (apart from the fact that it enabled me to get to know everyday life of a typical American family and participate in), who were already fully booked at the time of my application to be significantly cheaper than those offered by the university halls of residence.
In general, it is advisable to buy a car (provided you have a driver’s license), because without it you are either dependent on the bus or on carpooling from friends or fellow students. During the orientation week everything is explained in detail, from the basics about the university and university life to suggestions for excursion destinations and there are also stands that offer mobile phone contracts or car rentals.
Certainly, weeks before the semester even starts, CSUSM asks you to put together a list of courses that you are interested in. However, this list is not binding, so it is important to get in touch with the professors early on in the first two weeks regarding the desired courses. Although they try to accommodate you in the courses that you absolutely have to or want to take, it is of course good to show interest in another possibly possible course in order to have alternative options in the event of an emergency, in case one or the other the desired course should not work out after all. If you are not directly enrolled at CSUSM, the choice is a bit limited, but there is still a large number of courses open to you. Course crashing is nerve-wracking and can be a bit frustrating, but the team at the ALCI, the American Language and Culture Institute, makes sure that everyone is satisfied with their course choice in the end.
You should expect that during the entire semester, apart from the obligatory midterms and finals, there will be many tests and forum posts, i. e. smaller essays. When you come from Germany you are not used to that, but you have one or even several free shots per course and in my experience the professors are happy to give you an extension of the deadline.
What surprised me, even though I’d heard of it, was how expensive textbooks are in the US. It can happen that a book costs several hundred dollars. To avoid these absurd costs, one should try to buy the textbook used or to borrow it from a rental service. Sometimes the professors even make a copy available in the library for the entire course.
With the courses, I had the advantage that – because I had not yet started a major but had just graduated from school, I had no guidelines as to which courses I should take. In the end, I took Arabic and Spanish through both semesters, which I can highly recommend (especially Arabic!). However, the professors were amazed that it is possible to learn two languages at the same time – but for Germans who have learned at least two foreign languages at high school and mostly started with English in elementary school, this is quite feasible. Otherwise, I have courses in philosophy and ethics proves that it was all very writing and labor-intensive (although the academic claim sometimes does not correspond to what is standard at German universities), but it was really fun.
Campus life and leisure activities
Another thing that I can only recommend are the various centers that are available at USU, i. e. the Student Union. Campus Life is much more important in the USA than here in Germany and regardless of whether you are looking for a quiet place to study or make new friends, there is something for everyone. Every Tuesday and Thursday between 12 p. m. and 1 p. m. there is the U-Hour, during which many organizations introduce themselves or organize various fundraising activities.
In general, you really don’t have to worry whether you will be able to make a connection. Especially when they find out that you come from another country, Americans are curious and not only have numerous suggestions on what to visit, but also like to invite you to their home, sometimes on an excursion. I spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas with the family of a friend who wanted me to see as much of Las Vegas as possible. But otherwise there are always opportunities for excursions such as camping excursions or hikes, which are organized by various campus organizations.