It is usually recommended that you apply approx. 10-12 months before the start of your studies abroad, so that there is enough time to organize. I recommend this to everyone!
My plan was to study at UCSB in the Fall Quarter 2018 (starting September). Since I only had a response from RWTH in January 2018 that I did not get a place as part of a partnership, my application process began quite late. However, it was already clear to me beforehand that in precisely this case I would aim to apply to UCSB as a free mover. I already knew the requirements for an application from the guidelines, so that you could get started on obtaining the evidence and certificates.
In order to be able to study in the USA, an F1 visa is required , which can be applied for at one of the American consulates in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich and also costs fees (approx.
In order to be able to make an appointment for an interview, the D160 form has to be filled out online and the SEVIS fee has to be paid.
I decided on the consulate in Frankfurt. In order to be able to apply for the visa there, you not only have to bring the I20 form with you on the day of the interview, but also your passport, financial proof, a certificate of enrollment and confirmation of payment of all fees. The process in the embassy goes through quite quickly and questions like “Where and why do you want to study in the US?” Are asked and fingerprints are taken. If the visa is approved, you will receive your passport back by post approx. Two weeks after the interview.
Since a semester abroad in the USA is very expensive, I decided to apply for the PROMOS scholarship through the RWTH. For this purpose, a ready-made form had to be filled out in which the motivation for studying abroad was to be explained. In addition, an overview of the grades, an acceptance letter and a résumé had to be submitted.
To my delight, I received confirmation of the Voss scholarship, which covered my flights and part of the rent.
Since it is almost impossible for internationals to get a place in a student residence, I recommend everyone to look for an apartment in Isla Vista.
Looking for an apartment can be quite difficult, especially in the Quarter case, as the freshmen (first-year students) move into the dorms and the students of the second. Accordingly, move from the dorms to Isla Vista every year. That is why I recommend starting your search very early, because the search also requires good luck to see an advertisement at the right moment. I have also heard of people who had to live in a hostel for 2-3 weeks at the beginning of the quarter before they could move into a house.
A few things first: rents in Southern California, especially in the Santa Barbara area on the coast, are very expensive. That is why most students live in twos, threes or even four in one room, which is not common in Germany. That means, depending on the size of the house, up to 13 students come together and live in the individual rooms. So-called doubles, in which two people live in one room, are common for this.
The Facebook groups “UCSB Housing” and “Free & For Sale UCSB” are ideal for searching. After a lot of news I was able to sign the sublease contract for a double on Del Playa Drive (the party street DP, right on the Pacific) at the end of August.
When I arrived in Isla Vista, I noticed that the students are not as strict about cleanliness in their houses as we do here in Germany. This was quite a shock for me at first and took some getting used to. However, this also differed from house to house, but was initially unfamiliar to most German exchange students.
In the course of the quarter, however, this also got a little better in our house, which of course also required a lot of organization with 13 people. Nonetheless, it was a great new experience to live with 13 people in a classic American house directly across from the Pacific. The students there are generally a little more relaxed and relaxed than here!
The University of California Santa Barbara is not only located directly on the Pacific coast, but also has one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA , according to various magazines . In addition to the extremely high quality of life, due to the good weather, the location and the mentality of the people living there (much more open than in Germany), the UCSB also has a high academic standard and a great reputation, which is also one of the most important for me The selection criteria of the foreign university was (to be seen in the consistently good results in university rankings)
Sometimes it feels like a dream, for example when you wake up with a view of the Pacific Ocean, ride your bike to the university and have a fantastic view or have lunch in the University Center with a view of the lagoon. The party-goers are not neglected either: Everyone knows the college Hollywood films and wonders whether the parties there are really as shown. It can be said that this is actually the case and that UCSB has something extra thanks to its proximity to the Pacific (who doesn’t like to party on a terrace with a view of the Pacific?).
Courses and course choice
The system in the USA is very different from that of German universities. The courses are significantly smaller (sometimes only 10 students, depending on the course) and a different grading system is used (A, B, etc.). In addition, you get homework every week (problems, essays, etc.), which must either be uploaded to the GauchoSpace or handed in to the teaching assistant’s mailbox at a deadline. Furthermore, both a midterm and a final are written in most courses, so that the overall grade is not just made up of an exam grade at the end of the semester, which I personally liked much better, which also results in a deeper understanding of the materials. In addition, the professors are available weekly for consultation hours or even personal concerns and seek specific contact with the students on the course. In one of my courses, for example, it happened that our professor met with our course on Sunday afternoons for coffee at Starbucks in order to get to know everyone better.
In the course selection is an exchange student has two options. You can choose between courses from the UCSB Extension and Open University courses.
The courses of the UCSB Extension are basically open to everyone, including professionals, and therefore usually take place late in the evening. These can be booked in advance against payment, provided there are still places available (approx. 400 € depending on the units)
The Open University courses, on the other hand, are only available to UCSB students and must be “crashed” as international. This means that you go to potential courses within the first two weeks, explain your situation to the lecturer and, if necessary, have a form signed which serves as a confirmation that you are allowed to attend this course. However, it can happen that the courses are officially full and you are put on a waiting list. This means that the place is only assigned if American students drop the course after the first two weeks and a place in the course becomes free. As a result, these two weeks can be quite stressful because you don’t know which courses you will attend and therefore have to do homework in all courses.
It should be said, however, that the lecturers are usually very accommodating towards the internationals and provide a place in the course even though it is already full. Payment for these courses is made after confirmation by the lecturer in the Extension Office (significantly more expensive than extension courses). In order to keep the F1 status, at least 12 units must be occupied per quarter, which is perfectly fine in terms of effort.
I had taken a total of four courses, three of which will probably be recognized, which unfortunately is a somewhat longer process at my university.
The level of the courses varies depending on the course and level. Basically, it can be said that the extension courses are much easier than the Open University courses. Especially in the field of mechanical engineering, upper graduate courses can be of an extremely high level, which requires a lot of time, but in the end also leads to great learning success.
Through group work, which is particularly common with homework, it is very easy to come into contact with other students and develop friendships.
Isla Vista and the Santa Barbara area have a lot to offer. You not only have the Pacific right on your doorstep, which invites you to surf and canoe sessions before and after university, but also the mountains in the “backyard”, which have numerous hiking trails.
I can only recommend that everyone register in the UCSB Excursion Club . Not only are numerous excursions and sporting activities offered here every week, but equipment for surfing, stand-up paddling, canoeing, camping, etc. can also be rented at any time.
The UCSB Recreation Center is recommended for all athletes , which in addition to several classic fitness studios also includes swimming pools, gyms, squash fields and several soccer fields. This is included in the tuition fees and simply great!
As an exchange student you can also travel perfectly thanks to the excellent location . So you can travel by car to Northern and Southern California with the national parks, e.g. Yosemite or Joshua Tree and well-known cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles , San Diego , Big Sur or Las Vegas in Nevada. In addition, you can book cheap flights from Santa Barbara and LAX to the rest of the USA. During the quarter, for example, I was in Denver, Miami, Las Vegas and several times in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, for example, is ideal for visits to world-famous sports teams such as the Lakers, Clippers, Rams, Chargers or Dodgers. I attended two Los Angeles Rams games at the Memorial Coliseum and loved it! Furthermore, we were lucky enough to experience the first West Coast launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket up close at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
After the quarter I took the opportunity and flew to Hawaii with friends over Christmas, which was also an unforgettable experience!
Looking back, my time at UCSB can be described in one sentence: It was the time of my life! During the whole stay you have to tweak yourself several times, as you often can’t believe where you are.
Not only the UCSB with the diverse range of offers on campus, from events to sports clubs or extracurricular activities, but also the people and internationals made the stay abroad an unforgettable time, which one step further in personal and academic development brings forward. That’s how I made new friends there, whom I can now count among my closest friends . You look back at the time with a laughing and crying eye, because the stay unfortunately passed by in a flash.
Even if the costs are very high , in the end I can say that every cent was worth it and that nobody can take away these experiences and impressions. UCSB offers an almost perfect exchange experience , which is why I can only recommend this university to everyone!