California State University Channel Islands (1)
Since the beginning of my studies, I always wanted to do a semester abroad. In the fifth semester, I finally had the opportunity to spend a semester at California State University Channel Islands. Because it was such a great experience, I would like to share my experiences here.
Start in California
Because the winter semester in California started in mid-August, I had to fly to the USA immediately after my last exam in the summer semester. After a 20 hour flight and a lot of anticipation, I landed in Las Vegas first (it was much cheaper) and after a two-day stay I took the Greyhound Bus to Oxnard. At first I only booked a private single room because I wanted to find a room on site. I lived there for the first two weeks. The next morning I first went to the university, which is right in the city center. I was welcomed very warmly and I was given great help with enrollment and all the necessary formalities, which were then dealt with very quickly. The lectures started on August 20, 2018 and the first invitation to a student party was not long in coming.
Next up was the room search. A flat share in California can be found fairly quickly, but not at an affordable price (prices range from $ 800 to $ 2000).
According to existingcountries.com, finding a room in a shared apartment that meets “German standards” and is affordable is an impossible undertaking. After two weeks I finally had a room in a shared apartment. I lived in a huge house with a Vietnamese family and another student who was from California. The house was 20 minutes by car from the university, but very central (30 minutes walk to the city center / 10 minutes by bus) and everything such as supermarket, bus stop, restaurants and bars were in the immediate vicinity. The house was in really good shape and I had a clean and furnished room. I shared the bathroom with the other student. After a month, I also bought a car. A car is essential in California and you can find one very quickly. I had the luck.
I studied at California State University Channel Island. This is a small, fairly new university in the mountains of Camarillo. The university has a very spacious campus and a very modern library, which offers enough space to study and take a break. However, one looks in vain for books here. In the US you buy all the books you need. The campus is kept very green, where you can pass the time between lectures. Some restaurants are also located directly on the campus, where something is going on all day. The only drawback is the lack of parking spaces. Despite a semester parking ticket of over $ 200, you sometimes look for a parking space here for over an hour.
After a short period of getting used to it, things worked out very quickly at the university. You got to know new people very quickly, who came from all over the world. The reason for this was definitely the very well organized events by the International Office. For example, an international meeting was offered on one weekend, which was aimed at all international students. You learned a lot about the culture of the Americans and the other students and sat together with tons of delicious food and one or the other beer. True to the motto: “Everything is bigger in America”.
The lectures (compulsory attendance) are comparable to those at our university. Only the evaluation is different. You regularly submit homework for each subject in one semester, which is also assessed. In addition, there are two midterms, one at the beginning of the semester and one in the middle, so that the final exam only counts for about 30 percent. I think this regulation is very good because you learn more continuously and thus, in my opinion, you deepen and retain your knowledge better.
When you come to California it is irresponsible not to tour and explore this beautiful state. There are endless beautiful places. During the semester, I mostly limited myself to weekend trips, which meant I traveled all over the state with a few other international students. In the weeks after the semester, it was the turn of the other countries. The phenomenal thing about the USA is the people and the nature / landscape. There is such diversity in such a large space that it can hardly be put into words. I found the numerous national parks best, some of which made me speechless.
You can stay overnight very well almost everywhere. For example, you can rent a campervan.
Planning and application
In general, I would say: the sooner you start planning a semester abroad, the better. I started planning about a year before the start of my semester abroad. Many application deadlines, such as for scholarships or some vaccination phases, are well before the start of the semester. Some vaccinations even take an entire year to complete and because you always have weeks with you when nothing happens, it is advisable to start early enough. The following schedule shows my steps during the planning of the semester abroad:
- Select the college with MicroEDU
- Criteria: Desired language, match of subjects, tuition fees, interest in the country and the city
- Choice of subjects
- Discussion of the subjects with the individual professors, do the subjects match those that are heard at our university? Are the subjects recognized ?
- Examination of financing, own money, scholarship options, BAföG abroad ?
- Application to the university
- Applying for a visa
- Visits to doctors for various vaccinations
- Flight booking and first accommodation
I really recommend everyone, if you have the opportunity to spend a semester abroad, to take advantage of this. Such an experience not only makes a good résumé and improves language skills, it also broadens your own horizons and self-confidence. If I get the chance to do a semester abroad again in my master’s program, I will definitely do it.