For me, the gap year was my first long stay abroad alone. Throughout the entire preparation process, the time up to the start of the semester at California State University San Marcos flew by. With the help of iamaccepted, the application process and the visa application went without any problems. A big thank you again at this point.
Arrival and living
After the flight I was picked up by an employee who works for the homestay organization, which arranges host families.
First she showed me a bit around the university and then we drove to my host family. At first I felt a little strange with my host mother, but that got better and better from time to time and at the end of the stay she was like a second mother to me and I hope that I will be in contact with her for a long time.
The first few days I had free time because I arrived before the beginning of the semester and I would definitely recommend it to everyone, as it helps to settle in and is more relaxed.
The orientation week at California State University San Marcos was very helpful to get to know new people and the campus. I still remember the first week when everything seemed big, strange and unfamiliar to me, but I think that this impression arose for everyone at the beginning. The first real week of school was a bit stressful, because unfortunately I couldn’t take all the courses that I would have liked to take, but the California State University San Marcos office was very helpful and patient. Through events that the university organized, I got to know more and more other international students and spent time with them.
In the practical subjects, hip-hop, choir and public speaking, it was quite easy to get to know people. It was hardest in history because it was a “normal” lecture.
In Spanish we have a lot of practical exercises done and therefore it was “forced” to have contact with other people.
I am very happy that I took so many practical subjects because it brought me to know a lot of great people.
Leisure and travel
Unfortunately, when you’re under 21 in America there are a few things you can’t do like rent a car or go to bars and I think the only thing I would have wanted to change sometimes is that I would have been 21. Otherwise I enjoyed the 4 months in California. I’ve heard from friends that there are supposed to be good bars in Pacific Beach and that they would be suitable for anyone who is 21 or older. The weather was unfortunately not as good as expected and it rained a lot in the first two months, which made the locals very happy as they had many forest fires in the winter due to the heat.
California is also very good for festival lovers, as many festivals such as Coachella take place nearby. I recommend everyone to go to Balboapark and the seals in La Jolla as these two places are beautiful. If you are a fan of food you should definitely go to the street market (every Thursday from 5pm) in Oceanside, as there is a great variety of national and international food. In addition, Oceanside is easy to reach from California State University San Marcos with the Sprinter.
If there is an opportunity to go to San Francisco or Los Angeles during spring break, I would definitely use them, as both cities offer many beautiful attractions. The Moonlight Beach in Encinitas lends itself very well for campfires and barbecues on. If you have the opportunity to rent a car with someone, then definitely use it, as Uber is also expensive in the long run and you are more flexible with the car. I rented a car for a day with a friend and we drove along the coast and that was a nice experience, which would not have worked so well without a car. After the end of my semester, I traveled through the USA with my father for another month, as the visa was still valid 30 days after the end of my semester abroad and I would definitely recommend it.
If I had had the opportunity to stay longer, I would have used it immediately. I can not put into words how inspiring these 4 months were and I am so grateful to have met so many great people through my time in Cali.