As part of my master’s degree, I completed a semester abroad at the University of California, San Diego. In Germany I am studying industrial engineering at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg. In the context of this field report I would like to go into particular topics that interested me particularly before starting my trip, but for which I could not find any precise information in older reports.
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is part of the Universities of California and was 14th among the best universities in the world in my time. In addition to UCSD, there are two other universities in San Diego : the University of San Diego (USD) and San Diego State University (SDSU). The UCSD enjoys the best reputation of all for research and training. According to Abbreviation Finder, UCSD is the abbreviation of University of California San Diego.
As at many American universities, training at the University of California takes place in so-called “quarters”. As part of the University and Professional Studies (UPS), I completed the Fall Quarter from September 17, 2015 to December 12, 2015.
Since the UCSD Extension is responsible for this international program, I was an extension student. I am not sure whether you can attend UCSD as a foreign student as part of another program, as long as you do not have your complete Bacheloror Master graduated there. I am therefore going into this status because I had to recognize very early on that extension students cannot take advantage of the same services as “normal” UCSD students. For example, UCSD students can use public transport for free, while extension students are excluded from it. They also have free access to all university events and sports facilities (such as swimming pools or gyms). Extension students, on the other hand, have to buy the so-called Recreation Card, which costs $ 105 for a quarter in order to be able to use the sports facilities.
The main disadvantage, however, is to be found in the choice of course. Extension students have to undergo so-called class crashing. The extension students have to attend all courses that are of interest to them in the first few weeks. However, it is not yet certain which courses you will ultimately be able to take. Depending on the faculty, you either have to get the lecturer’s permission or put on a waiting list. Because of this procedure, the first three weeks are particularly stressful, as you have to attend several courses, which may also take place at the same time, in order to get an impression of the event.
As part of the University and Professional Studies (UPS), I had to acquire exactly twelve units in order to maintain my student status with regard to Visa. This is really taken very seriously and is also controlled. In general, you can also purchase more units, but each additional unit has to be paid for separately.
The undergraduate courses (Bachelor) are numbered 1-199. The courses for graduates (Masters) start from 200. Since the UCSD attaches particular importance to the success of its students, each course must be completed with at least a B (good). To check this, the coordinators of the UPS program are in regular contact with the lecturers and are always on hand to help with problems.
In general, the American university system reminded me of my school days, since in most courses small midterm exams are written during the semester or texts have to be read as homework. So you always have to stay on the ball and attend the lectures, where attendance is usually checked. Below is a description of the courses I have taken:
2.1.1 ENG201: Venture Mechanics (4 Units)
This course took place on Mondays from 5:00 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. The lecturer is Mrs. Svetlana Eremenko. The course, which is divided into a lecture and a group project, deals with the establishment of start-ups and focuses on the business model canvas. Fortunately, no midterms or final exams are written. Instead, the course grade results from the participation and the group project.
At the beginning of the course, small groups are formed whose task it is to found a fictitious start-up step by step. To do this, you first have to come up with your own innovative idea. In the course of the quarter, this is then processed and presented to the course in regular presentations about the current status.
The lecture was very interesting and was framed with many examples from the real world. In the beginning it was not easy to develop an innovation, and the current status had to be presented almost every week, but the work in the team could be well divided so that the effort for group work was limited.
2.1.2 ENG207: Corporate Entepreneurship for Global Competitiveness (4 units)
This course took place on Mondays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. The lecturer is also Ms. Svetlana Eremenko. Here, too, the course consists of a lecture and a group project. In general, the content is very similar to that from ENG201, but the focus here is more on innovations and the international competitiveness of companies.
Since no midterms or final exams are written here either, the grade also results from participation and the group project.
At the beginning of the course, small groups are formed whose task it is to bring an existing technology step by step to a new international market or to bring your own innovation onto the market. For this, too, regular presentations about the current status must be given in the course of the quarter.
In general, I found this lecture a bit more interesting than ENG201, as I don’t think about founding a start-up. The effort was about the same.
2.1.3 Extension course: Clean Energy (3 units)
This course is an extension course offered by the UCSD Extension. In contrast to the two “Main Campus Courses” mentioned above, extension courses are offered for professionals who want to continue their education. These courses are chargeable and can be attended by (any) private person, which is why the average age of the participants was around 30 years. The UPS courses are free for extension students.
This course took place on Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Extension Building (Greenwich Drive) and therefore not on campus. It takes about an hour plus a 30-minute walk to get to the Extension building from Pacific Beach by bus. I therefore recommend checking in advance where the respective extension course is taking place, as some of them also take place on campus.
This course deals with renewable energies, energy saving opportunities and sustainability. The knowledge is tested in a midterm and a final exam using MC questions. In addition, an essay about a self-chosen energy topic must be written at the end. Compared to the normal “main campus courses”, however, extension courses are simpler in my opinion.
2.1.4 Extension Course: Academic Competence in US Universities (1 Unit)
For my last course, I chose a one-day course. This took place once on a Saturday from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This is also an extension course, but it is only offered to international students in order to explain the various differences in the American educational system at universities. The citation methods APA and MLA are also covered.
The grade is determined from participation and an online test. The online test, which consists of three parts (essay, true-false questions and correction of statements), can be carried out from home within a week and checks the content of the lecture. A book is required for the course, which can be bought for about $ 9 in the UCSD Bookstore.
In general, I was extremely satisfied with my courses. The content was very interesting and I was able to learn a lot, especially in the group projects, as I worked with students from various courses. I also got to know some new innovations in the two engineering lectures that may be available on the market in a few years
3. Living in the US and San Diego
Around June I booked a room in Old Town Place from Germany for the month of September. This cost about $ 900. I had read from other experience reports that it is best if you have safe accommodation to start with and then look around for something else on site. I chose Old Town Place because it was recommended to me by a friend and it’s not far from the airport. Old Town Place is, as the name suggests, in the Old Town district. There I had a single room in a small house with two other roommates. The accommodation was very nice from the facility. However, the situation was very unfavorable. None of the other international students lived in Old Town, and it is very far from Pacific Beach (PB) and the campus, which was sometimes very boring and awkward.
For this reason I was looking for a place to stay in PB. Craigslist.com is recommended for this. But you should be careful about dubious offers and definitely visit the accommodation before signing the contract.
It is not easy to find a single room in PB that costs less than $ 1000 as the student demand is very high. However , I was lucky and was able to find a single room in PB for $ 830 a month. I lived here with four Americans for the remaining months.
Many students live in Bay Point Apartments. As some are satisfied and others are not, I do not want to comment on this further. Personally , I can only advise everyone to live with Americans, as you simply get to see a lot more of the American lifestyle. Also, in my opinion, PB is the best place for students, as there is always something going on and most of the other students live there too. You are a little further away from campus, but you can get over that.
The public transport is not as good as in Germany. You can inquire about the arrival times at the stops in real time with the help of SMS or Google Maps, but it takes a long time to get from A to B. In addition, the whole city is not covered equally.
I was always traveling by bus. It takes about 50 minutes on Line 30 from Pacific Beach to the campus. It is about 20 minutes by car. Many of my friends have rented a car for about $ 400 a month. You can get around very quickly in San Diego with a car. However, it is not always easy to find a parking space, especially on campus. A parking ticket is required for the campus, which is very expensive and does not replace the search for a parking space.
If you want to use public transport, I recommend the university ticket, which you can buy on campus at the beginning of your studies for around $ 130. This was for all buses and trams (trolleys) in San Diego from 12.09. until 31.12. valid. The public transport network (MTS) uses the so-called compass card. This yellow plastic card, the size of a credit card, has to be scanned at a machine or by the bus driver at the beginning of every journey. The university ticket is then also loaded onto this card.
If you want to use public transport before the start of the semester, I recommend buying a Compass card at the ticket machine for a one-time fee of $ 2. A day ticket for $ 5 dollars can then also be loaded onto this card at the machine. A single bus ride is $ 2.25 and $ 2.50 for the tram. A detailed description of how the Compass-Card works can be found at every major stop.
If you travel to the USA, you cannot avoid a credit card. I myself have a free plan with MLP. Since I always pay with cash in Germany, I actually wanted to keep this in the USA as well. But after a few days I switched to the credit card and in the endI paid for everything by card, because it is much faster and more convenient. Since you do not have to enter a PIN or hand in a signature in many shops, you should check the debits at regular intervals.
A processing fee is always charged by the bank for cash withdrawals from machines. This is $ 3 at Chase and $ 5 at Wells Fargo. With Wells Fargo you can withdraw a maximum of $ 800, with Chase you can withdraw a maximum of $ 400 at once.
Generally everything is a little more expensive in the USA than in Germany. In my experience, groceries are cheapest to find in Walmart, Ralphs, Von and Sprutz (in that order). Walmart has the lowest prices, but there isn’t a market everywhere. Ralphs and Vons are about the same in terms of prices and are much more common than Walmart. With both, it is worthwhile to ask for a club card when you shop for the first time and to set up an online account, because the advertised prices usually only apply in conjunction with a valid card. In addition, it is worth taking a close look at the weekly offers and to use various coupons. The coupons are loaded onto the club card with the help of the online account, which is then automatically redeemed the next time you make a purchase.
Since my German mobile operator does not offer any real international tariff, I bought an American SIM card on site. Just like in Germany, there are a lot of different providers in the USA. I have chosen a prepaid tariff with T-Mobile. The plan was $ 40 and included unlimited calls and SMS, as well as mobile internet with 1 GB LTE. There are also tariffs with larger data volumes, but this tariff was sufficient for me. Since I always had reception and no other problems, I can recommend this tariff with a clear conscience.
Having never been to the US before, I had extremely high expectations for the land of opportunity. After just a few days I noticed that everything in America is just a bit bigger and more extreme than in Germany, which is a bit strange at first. However, you quickly get used to the differences and live with them. I was particularly impressed by the openness and hospitality of the Americans. Already in Seattle, while I was waiting for my connecting flight, I had a conversation with an American, who after a few minutes offered me a place to stay and recommended the sights in San Diego to me. On the street and in public transport, too, you are often approached by people who just want to talk to you.
Of course, during my time in San Diego, I met a lot of new people from different nations and made new friends. As a result, I got to know other cultures and their ways of thinking in addition to the American lifestyle. In addition, I have developed linguistically and personally, as I have become more open to the world and more self-confident. Even if the stay abroad in the USA was very expensive, I would definitely do it again because of the priceless experiences and experiences, as it was the most beautiful and exciting time in my life so far. At this point I would also like to thank the Studienstiftung, which supported me financially and made this experience possible for me.