When I started planning the semester abroad , it was clear that I wanted to go to California . In order to make a decision for a university , I first selected the universities that offer courses for mechanical engineers and then made my decision in favor of UC San Diego based on experience reports and the courses offered .
Unfortunately, the courses offered in a quarter are published relatively late in the Schedule of Classes. Often, however, little changes to the offer over the years, so that the selection of the previous year’s headquarters can give a good impression . For example, I looked at the Fall Quarter 2015 courses and then attended the Fall Quarter 2016.
When applying, UC San Diego requires the results of a TOEFL test, which must be passed with 90 out of a maximum of 120 points. So start the preparation and the first test as early as possible, then during the exam you have the feeling of being able to repeat the test again in an emergency. But don’t worry too much, there is a lot of exercise software to simulate the tests so that you can prepare very well.
It is helpful to have a look at some of the properties on offer before leaving to get a feel for the market. Most local students live in University City so they are 3 miles or less from the university. To get a rough idea of the prices: You have to calculate with about 700 dollars for a shared room and usually over 1000 dollars for your own room.
The university requires proof of health insurance to register . Unfortunately, the requirements for the services are so specific that one is forced to choose the university’s health insurance. In order to be insured for the period before and after the quarter, I ended the insurance period two weeks earlier and two weeks later and paid 45 dollars a week for it. Since the treatment costs in the USA can be very high, I didn’t want to take any risks.
To search for a flight , I tried a few portals on the Internet, but then found the advice in a travel agency more practical and even cheaper than the portals. With a visa you do not need a return ticket when entering the country. However, if friends visit you, they will need the return ticket before departure in Germany, otherwise they will not be left on board.
Arrival and apartment search
For the first 10 days I booked a room through Airbnb and arrived two weeks before the start of the semester. When searching, I only used Craigslist. Be careful and do not react to offers that are too cheap! A friend of mine was supposed to transfer money before he could inspect the room …
Another way to search is roomster.com. You log in with your Facebook profile so that providers can get a personal impression before the first meeting. In my experience, this was often used by providers who are looking for new flatmates.
It is generally good to arrive early. I was very lucky and found something suitable after four days. The demand for rooms rises continuously in the two weeks before the start of the semester , so that some internationals were still looking for accommodation at the start of the semester.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to live on campus. Most internationals live in Pacific Beach . Especially with the apartment provider Kamo Housing, groups quickly emerge, separated by nationality. Most of the local students live in University City, east of the university.
There were many housing offers in acceptable university proximity for University City, La Jolla and Pacific Beach. The advantages of a room in Pacific Beach are the proximity to the beach, the opportunities to party and the surfer and vacation flair. A room in University City offers the opportunity to live in a shared apartment with local students and thus learn more of American culture and also have to speak English in your free time. Central and southern La Jolla is often expensive, especially near the beach, and a rather posh area. For me it was a good compromise between the beach and the location between Uni and Pacific Beach.
Orientation and class crashing
In the week before the start of the regular lectures, there will be an orientation on Thursday and Friday. This begins with your registration, a campus tour, several lectures about the visa requirements, class crashing and leisure activities.
As internationals you have the status of an extension student . The Extension Campus is mostly visited by young professionals who already have a few years of professional experience and want to continue their education. As a guest student you can choose courses from the Extension Campus because of your affiliation, but these are often not recognized by your German home universities, as they cannot be assigned to a Bachelor or Master program. Since the crediting of courses was important to me, I only have regular lectures from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Structural Engineering departments. When you apply, you have to specify 12 to 15 courses that you are interested in. At the start of the semester you will then take part in the famous Class Crashing. Depending on the departments, this can be very stressful. For many courses there are waiting lists for which extension students unfortunately cannot register. Exceptions are a few departments such as B. Economics. During the first three weeks, the waiting lists get shorter as the local students choose their final courses.
Each department has different regulations for the registration of extension students . Some only require the approval of the lecturer, others such as the Structural Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department also require the approval of the department, which, as with the Structural Engineering Department, is only given in the third week in some departments. This uncertainty means that in the first few weeks you have to attend more than the 3 courses required to fulfill the 12 units in order to have backup courses. You should therefore already have a look at the length of the waiting lists in the previous year in the Schedule of Classes when pre-selecting. If there are many students on the waiting list, there is a high probability that places in the course will again be short next year.
Fortunately, my professor in Germany is very tolerant with regard to the crediting of courses . Some fellow students who are friends have taken courses that are not recognized at their home university.
The entire infrastructure is built for cars and many students tend to have their own car rather than a private room. Some internationals buy or rent a car for the duration of their stay. You can expect about $ 500 a month for a rented car plus $ 180 for a parking permit for the quarter. A Compasscard valid for a quarter costs $ 140 and entitles you to use all public transport. The buses usually run every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends and early in the morning and in the evening. I rented a bike for $ 125 from the UCSD Bike Shop for the duration of the quarter. The buses have bike racks, so I took the bus to the university and could use the bike on campus for the sometimes long distances.
For the first time I used a German credit card . Since the foreign transaction fees for paying and withdrawing cash cause higher costs in the long run, I have set up my own account with the Wells Fargo Bank with a combined debit and credit card. There are no account fees for the first two months, after that for students $ 5 per month, but these are eliminated through regular use (anything with 10 transactions per month). To transfer money from Germany, I used the internet portal transferwise, which is unbeatably cheap compared to conventional international transfers.
In order to be able to call immediately after arrival, I ordered a SIM card from Lycamobile via travsim.de before leaving . Depending on the plan, which can be extended more cheaply in the USA via the Lycamobile website than via Travsim, German telephone numbers can be called free of charge if you also have friends or relatives without Whatsapp, Skype and Co.;)
The weather is fantastic in September and October and you can go to the beach almost every day. From November there are more days with “only” 18 to 22 degrees, but it gets suddenly cold after sunset. The Mall in University City (UTC Westfield) has lots of shopping and something is always on sale. There are also several outlets in the area.
I mostly bought groceries from Vons, a larger chain that sells everything for daily needs. Without having to give your name and address, you can save 20 to 30 percent with the help of the club card, depending on the product.
During the semester
In contrast to most lectures in Germany, you have 2 to 3 lecture dates per course and week. In addition, laboratories or discussion sessions are added to some of the events, so that the three courses are well occupied. Weekly homework and usually two midterms per quarter are also common. The final exams all take place in the last week in mid-December. Often these only contribute around 40 percent to the final grade, the rest is roughly equal to the midterms and homework. The office hours of the lecturers and their TAs (teaching assistants) can be very helpful, especially when doing homework. As can be read in the other experience reports, the system rewards hard work. The advantage of homework, however, is that preparing for the midterms and finals actually takes significantly less time than for exams in Germany.
The recreational opportunities in San Diego are simply overwhelming. During Orientation Week you will find out that you can take part in all Recreation Classes.These cover all sports. If you are interested in surfing (UCSD claims first place in the surf ranking and has its own surf shop on campus) register as early as possible because the courses fill up quickly. In addition to the Recreation Classes, there are Outback Adventures, where you can book day trips and multi-day excursions for climbing, hiking, surfing, hiking and much more. At the Mission Bay Aquatic Center, students can take water sports courses at reduced prices and rent boats and equipment. The surf courses here are a bit more expensive than at the university, but that’s why they don’t fill up so quickly.
In addition to the official offers, there are numerous clubs at the university that are comparable to AGs at German universities. You can get to know them on the Librarywalk (the long path that runs from Gilman Drive to the Geisel Library) the week before the start of the quarter. I decided to join the sailing team, received an invitation after the selection sailing, but unfortunately couldn’t register. All members of the sports clubs must register on the university’s own website SCOMS. For this, however, you need a regular student ID that begins with an A. As an extension student, however, the ID begins with a U. After several queries and discussions, I was able to take part in the training, but was blocked for competitions with other universities.
Internship and work
In order to be able to extend my stay a little, I have decided to look for an internship in the USA during the quarter. If you are also interested in it, it is best to take care of it very early, as you can only work on campus with the F1 visa . For an internship, a J1 visa is required, which is best applied for before entering the country, as a change of status is very complicated, lengthy and expensive . In general, many American students are looking for an internship, so that as a foreign applicant you have little chance of applying for a visa because of the additional work for the company.
I am very happy to have come to UCSD for a quarter. You experience so many new things and the many new impressions give you a slightly different view of Germany. Germans largely enjoy a very good reputation among Americans and you can quickly become infected by the open and friendly nature of the Americans (this can initially lead to irritation after returning to the gray winter of northern Germany :)). Despite all the euphoria, you also go through difficult phases, for example in class crashing, during which you grow and later look back with a little pride. You will be assigned an Academic Advisor on site, who will also repeatedly emphasize that they will help you with any problems or at least refer you to the right contact person.
During your stay, try to do a lot with Americans and other internationals and avoid the simple route of a purely German circle of friends. In this way you make friends all over the world and have new travel destinations when you return.