Personally, I made up my mind at the time not to organize the semester abroad at the last minute, as I had the status of a “Free Mover”. Therefore, it was necessary to do almost everything independently and with reliable, high-profile support from MicroEDU, because my university does not have an exchange program with the California State University Channel Islands. Therefore the preparations were under way already a good eleven months before the start of the stay abroad. Of course, you can do the organizational thing with piece work in less time. First of all, choosing a suitable university was my top priority. It was clear from the start that it should go to California on the American west coast. After contacting MicroEDU and asking which criteria were important to me, MicroEDU offered me a selection of California universities in no time at all. Ultimately, the choice fell on the CSUCI, as it has the perfect mix of family campus, good teaching, natural surroundings, but at the same time also close to the trendy “hot spots” of Southern California captivates.
Then the starting shot was fired for the application. First you had to go through the various application steps at the CI, including paying an “application fee” and later transferring the semester fee(Tuition Fee) counted. The latter should be checked via the university’s internal network “myCi”, under “CI Records” in the payment portal. In our case, the transfer process dragged on a little because the payment methods seemed a bit confusing. However, this problem could be solved relatively quickly because Edith Ramos – Head of the International Office of the CSUCI – was in close contact with us internationals and often sent PDF instructions via the email distribution list. These emails corresponded approximately to all the questions that were directed to Edith in the course of the application and were very helpful. I generally recommend E-mail Edith Ramos or Mayumi Kowta from the CI’s International Office early on if you have any questions about the application process, I benefited a lot from this and was able to save myself a lot of stress. Both are super nice and helpful. In addition, we will endeavor to answer promptly. Of course, MicroEDU also acts as a source of information and is available to provide advice.
However, before you start transferring the Tuition Fee (approx. $ 8,000), you should already have your visa. I received mine at an appointment at the US consulate in Berlin in early June. In advance you have to exert a little nerve to fill out the required documents correctly. It was partly like a smart job, but believe me, the effort is worth it. The visa interview itself, which I had read quite a bit about before, was basically “easy going”. In my opinion, there is really no need to be afraid of that. At some point you will hear the call, you will have a little “small talk” at the counter and usually your visa will be issued. The entire procedure was rather like a mass processing. Before the actual appointment, you were asked to pay two fees (approx. $ 200 and $ 160) for the Visa application, including the “VISA application fee”
In addition, various necessities had to be taken care of. This includes booking a flight as early as possible. The travel company “STA Travel”, which cooperates with CC, offered good budget-friendly offers. Furthermore, the internal health insurance of the CI had to be taken out and an “Immunization Certificate” uploaded. I got carried away with taking out private health insurance, as the CI really only covers the bare essentials and only within the semester period. A credit card is also essential. Without it, not much goes on in the US and makes life easier. I also already have a SIM card with a telephone contract before departure. The US-Sim card can then be put into the mobile phone in a relaxed manner on the plane.
Finding an adequate place to stay gave me the greatest stomach pain personally. Right from the start I didn’t want to stay in the university’s “dorms”. For these, the application deadline for the Fall Semester expired in May. If you are toying with this option, you should urgently comply with the deadline for sending in the relevant documents. On the other hand, I was attracted by the idea of living in a Californian host family or, if necessary, in a shared flat. But now, as you know, Camarillo is not LA, even if the latter is only 55 minutes away by car. The offers are accordingly rather few and far between. The university homepage offers two links to browse through self-advertised rooms / apartment offers, but I was not really resourceful there. Craiglist also had interesting offers, although for me the real thing wasn’t really there, which doesn’t mean that this counts for others as well.
In the end, I applied to a homestay agency (to be found on the CI homepage), which was able to place me one day before my departure on August 17th. So I didn’t have to fly to the States completely without an apartment. Since moving in was not scheduled until later, I looked for accommodation for the first night through Airbnb in Oxnard. I liked this very much. For transport from the airport, I recommend ordering an Uber or consulting the more expensive shuttle services in front of the terminal. My host family then turned out to be “Asian Americans”. I was allowed to live in a spacious house in a friendly residential area in Camarillo, which was about eight minutes from the university by car and close to the 101 freeway.
Other internationals, on the other hand, had host families of Latin American origin. You should just be open to cultural insights, after all, that’s one of the reasons for the semester abroad. Chinese or Spanish are sometimes spoken in the household. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend that you do not make the same mistake as me and only look for an apartment at the last minute. This saves you a lot of trouble and gives you peace of mind before you leave. Last but not least, I spent more time with friends in the dorm during the semester and I have to say that they are minimalistic, but you feel very comfortable there, you get the campus life with and you can walk around in the dark outside without having to worry. The campus is very safe.
The people in the dorms were provided with relatively expensive “meal plans”, which allow a certain number of people to eat in the cafeteria. For me a meal would have cost $ 12, which made it easy for me to avoid the “caff”. My host family offered me breakfast and dinner. Since it sometimes seemed a bit poor to me, I also went shopping once a week. Camarillo has good grocery stores with Walmart, Target etc. If you miss the German shops too much, an Aldi recently opened in Oxnard and the World Market in Thousand Oaks offers all sorts of international items. I found the prices to be moderate to slightly overpriced. A purchase that is impressive can easily add up to $ 35- $ 50. The products themselves only have preliminary prices before the “tax” is added to the payment. The “self-checkout” offers the convenience of not having to wait in line at the till.
At the CSUCI, 12 CP are required per semester. If you want to take more courses on a voluntary basis, a fee will be charged. Since the majority of the seminars are designed for 3CP, there are four courses to choose from. At the end of the orientation week, I had three policy courses and one business course with marketing. The ” course crashing”It went off lightly, so that I was awarded the contract for every seminar that I primarily wanted to attend. Other internationals were less lucky. One person was initially” crashed “out of six courses, until everything was in the towel There the biggest rush in the “Business” and “Economics” courses. The lessons themselves reminded me a lot of my high school days: Small classes, personal atmosphere, oral participation and midterms / finals. You can take a lot of the learning material with you. In some cases, other perspectives are adopted than is the case at home. Before the beginning of the semester, however, it makes sense to sign a “Learning Agreement”to have it signed at the home university.
The campus, however, looked really clean and well-kept. One could quickly guess where parts of the Tuition Fee were going. The environment with the gentle mountains was very inviting and the campus was green. The gym and clubs offer amusement and the library is a popular place to study. There is a police station on the premises and a few buildings have been abandoned as the complex was once used as a psychiatric facility. Today there is practically nothing left of it. The campus is located outside of Camarillo, approximately 10 minutes from the Pacific.Buses run regularly between Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and the CSUCI. However, the parking situation seemed tense to us, to put it carefully. Without a “parking pass” – after all, $ 200 – you quickly ran the risk of receiving tickets for “parking violations”. (Tip: after 9 p.m. you are on the safe side). Even with a parking pass, there was no guarantee of finding a parking space at peak times. That was pretty much the only flaw.
Before I tell you about the leisure activities, one more thing in advance. I had already decided to buy a car in Germany, but it is only when you are there that you understand how important a car is there. To be mobile. Almost every local has one, some of them looked really rusty and run down, but the regulations in this regard are a bit more generous in the USA anyway. We simply said to ourselves: “The main thing is that the mill works”, who cares about the appearance. So again, without a cart you are really lost there. Virtually every international ended up owning one. Fortunately, there are enough offers on favorable terms through “Facebook cars”, “craiglist” or dealers. The four of us were able to get hold of a Toyota Corolla 1999 for $ 1,000 after a month. It was very reliable and we never had to go to the workshop with it. In Cali, fuel costs only half the price in Germany.
According to mcat-test-centers.com, the CSUCI is really a focal point for undertakings. So you can drive to the Pacific beach at Oxnard in less than 15 minutes, or the picturesque Highway 1 down to Zuma Beach in Malibu (30 minutes) where you have an ingenious panorama and permanently see the beach, as well as surfers on the roadside. Santa Monica and Venice Beach are about 55 minutes and an hour away, respectively, as is LA in general. The 101 freeway is ideal for longer journeys. We drove it to San Francisco, for example. Longer trips can also be made to Las Vegas, Joshua Tree, or San Diego. But the local spots also have their charm.There are many bars in Thousand Oaks, as well as in Ventura. There is a huge outlet center in Camarillo and Ventura, as well as Santa Barbara (40 minutes) captivate with a Spanish-style old town. Unfortunately, during our time in Ventura County in December, the “Thomas Fire” broke out, which grew to be the largest in California’s history. However, this should now be under control or completely off.
All in all, the entire workload before the semester abroad was absolutely worth the effort and I was able to spend one of the most formative and most beautiful months of my life at the CSUCI and in the surrounding area. I made so many new contacts, gained experience and experienced things that I will never forget, that no one can take away from me and that will last for the rest of my life. I can only recommend to anyone who is undecided: do not hesitate! Give yourself a push and spend some time at CSUCI. The latter goes by in a flash. It’s a hell of a cool experience.