During my studies, I always wanted to spend a semester abroad . I wanted to get out of my comfort zone , the daily grind of my home university and the well-established routine. I wanted to improve my English and just experience something new. I actually wanted to do this in the fifth semester, but I didn’t consider that the planning would be so time-consuming and tedious. I started my planning about 1 year in advance. First of all, I found out which universities were offering suitable times, here I liked the Universities of California with their quarter system because they fit together well with the German semester system. So I just had to decide which of the Universities of California (UC for short) I wanted to take.
I was able to find good information on the UCs website. In the end I had to make my decision between UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara , although Santa Barbara was more appealing to me because there is a real campus university there and thus has more American college life. A semester abroad turns out to be very expensive, so I applied for foreign funding for my German business scholarship .
Unfortunately, as a budding electrical engineer, it is very difficult to have academic achievements recognized abroad . Here, subjects from economics or business administration have it much easier. So I had to take a vacation semester for my semester abroad. The advantage here, however, is that you can choose the courses that really interest you. So in preparation I only picked out a few courses which I found interesting and which do not necessarily come from my specialist area. With these courses, however, you have a completely different motivation attitude and take a lot more with you than with compulsory courses at your home university.
I did not prepare myself particularly for the linguistic and cultural differences, as I had a very good command of English due to a previous internship and the cultural differences are not too great and are mostly already known in Germany. In the other planning such as housing, local activities, etc. that were advice on college Contact very helpful .
I can also mention a tip here: Instead of doing a normal TOEFL (approx. 230 $), a TOEFL ITP for only 90 €, which is offered at most of the university’s language institutes, is sufficient, so that you don’t have to go to such a test center have to drive.
The visa turned out to be more complicated than the visas of the previous countries I was in. So I had to pay around € 350, make an appointment at the consulate in Munich and do an interview there. It is a bit stupid that you are not allowed to take a cell phone with you to the consulate interview, which is not so easy when you are traveling by train.
Finding accommodation for the Fall Quarter was almost the hardest part, since many freshmen (freshmen) and exchange students start in the Fall Quarter and there are too many applicants for apartments. For the first time, i.e. the end of the Summer Quarter, it was still easy to find something on AirBnb, for the actual Quarter case I was lucky and found an apartment in Goleta, about 10 minutes away by bike . This was a bit outside the university, but we also had a real house there with a pool, jacuzzi and terrace. The costs were around 600 – 700 € per month, which was an average price for Isla Vista.
The health insurance I completed at ADAC. After long comparisons, it made sense for me to become a member of the ADAC for a year and take out “LONG-TERM” international health insurance. This cost about 150 € for 5 months. Unfortunately, the compulsory insurance that you have to take out at the university is very poor in coverage. So you only have various hospitals near the UCSB that you are allowed to go to and the health insurance is only valid at the time of the quarter and not at the actual arrival and departure times.
Situation on site
On site at the UCSB introductory event, you first had to present your passport, a transcript from the university and your visa, the form i20 (you get from the university itself) and the stamp in your passport (you get from the border officer). The introductory event was rather short and not very helpful, and the subsequent consultation regarding class crashing was more of a joke. My tip here is to send every professor and lecturer an e-mail before the start of the quarter, asking whether they are not allowed to take part in the course they are offering. This communication in advance saves you a lot of running around on site.
The university offers a wide range of courses , especially in the fields of science , engineering and economics. I especially liked the Technology Management Program courses, because they give you an overview of business administration and everything from engineers to psychologists is represented there.
Difficulties during the stay were the fact that we were not enrolled directly at UCSB during our semester abroad, but through the UCSB Extension . This makes a very big difference, as an extension student is a second class student. So you cannot register for courses online, you have to crash them, you cannot go to UCSB events (such as concerts & movies), you cannot use the Career Center, the fitness center costs extra, there is no three-day introduction Locals etc. For the next time I would try to come straight into the university as an exchange student and thus have a better experience.
The cost of living in California is also very high. So you have to calculate about twice as much for groceries in the supermarket, and there is no classic cafeteria on campus, rather many small fast food shops such as Subway, Panda Express, Habit Burger etc.
Nonetheless, California is a very beautiful place on earth where you can live wonderfully. The university is right on the water and you can just go surfing in the afternoons. But there are also other leisure activities on offer: A large fitness center with pool, climbing hall and everything you could wish for is also located on campus, or you can go on a road trip with a car (we bought our own for two) Las Vegas, San Diego or Hollywood .
It’s very easy to get to know local people because Californians are very open-minded and you can quickly get into conversation through student clubs or just at parties. I can also highly recommend the excursion club. In addition to regular excursions, this also offers the opportunity to borrow sports equipment such as surfboards, sleeping bags, tents, etc. free of charge.
Situation after returning
I could only have my credit points acquired in the USA counted as additional services in Germany. Nevertheless, the semester abroad was very important to me. Above all, the American Spirit has me very excited , and the great diversity of California’s population. The way of working was also very interesting: “Go big or go home!” Hits the nail on the head here. But the university itself is also completely different. In this way, students are more likely to be prepared for professional life than for research, as is the case in Germany. Thanks to my semester abroad, I also managed to add my desired internship to the semester abroad.
If I had the opportunity to do a semester abroad at UCSB again, I would try to do more with Californians. Especially when you are there, it quickly happens that you only do something with Germans and therefore you cannot immerse yourself so deeply in the culture, which is a missed opportunity.