Choice of university and preparation for the semester abroad
In my course of study, a stay of at least three months abroad is compulsory, a circumstance which has been very helpful to me, as I wanted to study one semester at a foreign university one way or another. The choice of the country fell on the USA relatively quickly. Since my university unfortunately has no partner universities in the USA, I had to organize the stay myself. So I turned to your website, who helped me a lot with the organization and with any questions that came up. After looking at all the universities on your website that would be suitable for me, I decided relatively quickly to go to Cal State Fullerton. On the one hand the range of courses here was very attractive, on the other hand I was attracted by the ideal location within California.
Now it was time to continue preparing, such as taking the TOEFL test, finding out about the visa application, finding a place to live and booking the flight. At this point I would like to advise everyone who is also planning to study a semester in the USA to find out about the visa requirements and the application as early as possible, as this can be a very tedious process and you have to submit a lot of documents.
Since I didn’t want to look for a place to live on site, I decided to apply to the CSUF dormitory. The rent is unfortunately not cheap here, but the “Residence Halls” have the advantage that almost exclusively Americans live here, so you have the opportunity to connect. In addition, the rent includes a certain number of courses in the cafeteria (either 80 or 112 times), and the cafeteria there is really not bad.
Since my course in Germany covers several different subject areas and my lecturers are therefore not so strict about course crediting, I fortunately had the opportunity to freely decide which courses I would like to take. After I arrived in California, I learned that my Course Request Form (which you have to fill out beforehand so that you can get your desired courses) was never received by the university. So I had to “crash” all of my courses (ie go to the respective lecturers in the first lesson and ask them if they still enroll me in the course). I was extremely lucky with my courses and was immediately enrolled by every instructor I asked. So I took two film and two American Studies courses each.
- AMST 300 – Introduction to American Popular Culture:
A very interesting course on American culture and how certain cultural assets (films, books, etc.) have and are still influencing Americans. We watched a lot of film trailers and listened to radio excerpts, which led to a pleasant atmosphere in the classroom. But still we had to do a lot to get good grades. In total there were two exams, two papers, weekly reading assignments, and weekly participation in lessons. I can really recommend this course if you’re interested in American culture and aren’t afraid to put in a bit of work!
- AMST 318 – Hollywood & America: Using Film as a Cultural Document:
In this course we watched a film every week and then discussed it a bit. Here I had to do the least by far, there were only two exams during the semester, which were also quite easy to master, especially since the lecturer handed out the exam questions a week in advance so that you can prepare your texts at home and then could learn by heart.
- RTVF 271 – American Film to 1945:
As the title suggests, this course covers film production in the USA in the first half of the 20th century. Here, too, we watched films every week (but mostly only excerpts, we should watch the complete films at home). In the end, our grade was made up of two exams, weekly blog entries, a small project work (which wasn’t really a lot of work), and a few quizzes (smaller tests during the semester).
- RTVF 361 – American TV:
In this course, too, we watched films or film excerpts every week. Although I didn’t find the course as exciting as the others, it was relatively easy to get good grades here. The final grade resulted from two exams, several quizzes (always announced in advance), a project including a project proposal.
In general, I can say that in the USA you have to pass more credits for the courses during the semester, but the level is lower than in Germany. At least that’s true for the courses I took.
I was lucky and was able to schedule my courses so that I only had university from Monday to Wednesday, so that I had a lot of time to travel around. So I was in various cities in California, in Las Vegas (especially recommended for party people!). I was also in Hawaii for Thanksgiving and celebrated New Year’s Eve in New York.
I can only advise those who decide to spend a semester abroad at the CSUF to consider renting or buying a car. I hadn’t done this and in the end I regretted it a bit, because in the USA you are really lost without a car. There are also regular buses that run regularly (if you disregard the typical delay) and that you can use as a CSUF student free of charge throughout Orange County, but I would only recommend this for trips into the surrounding area. It can sometimes take over two hours to get to the beach by bus, and the same applies to a trip to downtown Los Angeles. And unfortunately there is not so much to see in the immediate vicinity.
In conclusion, I can say that I am very happy to have completed my semester abroad here at Cal State Fullerton. It was a wonderful experience, I made many new friends, improved my language skills and learned a lot about the culture. The organizational effort at the beginning and the upcoming costs seemed quite intimidating, but thanks to your website and the International Office of the CSUF, both the application for a study place and a visa went smoothly. The employees in the International Office at the CSUF are all very nice and were able to help me often during the semester if I had any questions.