“Over too quickly”, anyone who knows this song by Clueso should be able to understand how I feel now after the semester in beautiful California. Five months were filled with positive experiences, nice people and incredible natural beauty. In California you will find a culture with a friendliness and openness that you don’t know in Germany. To all of you who are still thinking about going to San Jose State University, I want to say: Treat yourself to this experience!
My thoughts on studying abroad were quite simple at first: it should be somewhere in California. By then I had heard from many friends how nice it was there and how enthusiastic they are about every aspect of life there. In addition, I also wanted to come to San Francisco, to have the opportunity to visit a friend on Oahu (Hawaii) and to see Las Vegas or Los Angeles. In the end, I was not only able to fulfill these wishes, but also a whole lot more. Yosemite National Park, Lassen National Park, Highway 1 and Santa Cruz are just a few keywords. Find out what a huge range California has in store for you.
I started to take care of the organizational procedure in January. Your website helped me a lot with everything; They sent me a kind of schedule in which they give guidelines at what time you should take a certain next step, such as applying for the visa or transferring the tuition. So you just had to work through this to-do list and had less additional stress besides the regular everyday German university life. Your website was also always quick to answer questions by email or phone. Of course, there are also decisions to be made that your website cannot do for you. For example, you should think carefully about where you want to stay in San Jose or how you want to live there. At that time I decided against a student residence or a host family and wanted to move into a shared flat with Americans. Since it is difficult to judge an apartment – its location and condition – over the Internet, I stayed with a couch surfer (www.couchsurfing.org) for the first few days and started my search for an apartment from there. Sounds adventurous, it was a little bit, but in the end it was totally worth it! The couch surfer and I became good friends, and he helped me find a place to live and gain a foothold in San Jose. Even after my stay with him, we did a lot together and through him I got to know a lot of interesting people before the semester started. By the way, I found the apartment on http: //sfbay.craigslist. org / (Category Rooms / shared), where you can find offers for everything in the San Francisco Bay Area. I then lived in a great flat share with 5 roommates in the immediate vicinity of the SJ Int. Used to the airport. But maybe you should also consider whether you want to accept the daily commute in the bus equipped with WiFi and live in Santa Cruz. The city is nicer and there is a livelier student and night life. In addition, you have the beach right on your doorstep. At Craigslist I also found a motorcycle, which is significantly cheaper than a car and can easily be registered with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). The driver’s license can be obtained cheaply and quickly on site, and of course the search for a parking space is no longer necessary. 🙂 But if you want to save yourself this work, it is also very easy to get to the university by bike or the relatively well-developed public transport system. As a student, you can travel by bus and tram for free and you can also take your bike with you for free.
Life in San Jose, or in California in general, may seem very expensive at first glance. An apartment for $ 500 is undoubtedly cheap – I hope for an exchange rate that is as good as I had, which made a lot less painful ;-). Food is also more expensive than here in Germany. You should therefore apply in any case for BAföG abroad in Hamburg (apply even if you do not get BAföG in Germany, the rates and thus your chances are much higher!) It is totally worth it, because you get the tuition back plus monthly Alimony payments. Once the financing has been clarified, you can let yourself be pampered by the sun almost all year round and let off steam at the university’s own pool or gym for $ 30 / month.
The course selection will be made on site. If you are in the SAL program, you should have your English skills assessed with the TOEFL test or by an employee. Then it depends on how many SAL courses you should do and how many regular SJSU units you can take. For me as a graduate (= master’s student) this meant, for example, 1 SAL class, 1 undergraduate class and 2 graduate classes. So I could actually throw the dice together to meet the requirements of the BaföG. Courses vary in level of difficulty, but I never really had too little free time.
San Jose and the university campus offer plenty of opportunities for activities that you should never get bored. Cinemas, bars and clubs, as well as museums and exhibitions offer the opportunity to come into contact with Americans outside of the university and to acquire a few soft skills. Note that life is MUCH easier when you are 21 or older – age controls for all age-restricted things (= everything where there is alcohol) are carried out rigorously. Friends often had to stay at home while we were partying somewhere …
The city itself is characterized by high-tech corporations, with corporations such as Facebook, Google, Ebay and many other big names in the vicinity. Therefore, of course, there is also a lot to see for technology enthusiasts.
If you feel like traveling, you can also spend the afternoons and weekends in beautiful San Francisco, which is rich in culture-related offers, or in Santa Cruz, a surfing stronghold. Both are about 30 minutes away by car. I would also recommend trips to Napa Valley for wine tasting, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, as you will find breathtakingly beautiful landscapes there. Flights to more distant destinations are not a problem, as San Jose has its own international airport. A flight to Hawaii cost me $ 400, to LA $ 130, a flight to Washington DC only $ 170. Of course, these prices depend on the time of travel. A weekend trip to Las Vegas is also highly recommended (but don’t overdo it ;-)).
In conclusion, I can say that I can unreservedly recommend a semester in San Jose or California in general. I got way more there than I expected!
Have fun with your semester abroad.