Motivation for the stay abroad
For me there were a number of reasons why I decided to spend a semester abroad during my master’s degree . At first, I wasn’t abroad during my bachelor’s degree, so I didn’t have that experience. At that time, many of my fellow students generally only reported positive things, especially about their time on the campus of an American university. I am firmly convinced that a stay abroad not only gives you a lot of interesting academic experience, but also gets to know each other better as a person and grows with the experiences and challenges in a foreign environment. Studying in a different culture with students from all over the world alone was for me one of the funniest and most interesting experiences I’ve ever had .
Information and support
Since it was clear to me in advance that I would like to do my semester abroad at an American university that is not a partner university of my home university, I had to seek external help for the complicated application process. There are now a large number of companies in Germany that offer free advice on all aspects of “semesters abroad” and make an enormous contribution to gaining an overview of this bureaucratic jungle.
All international students were welcomed at the beginning of the semester on the premises for all international programs (language courses, semesters abroad, MBA programs, etc.). There we received a very interesting presentation about the history of the university and the city of San Diego. Afterwards, all international students were shown together across the campus. On the first day I was able to get to know many other students from all corners of the world.
The subject of accommodation is a very difficult and at the same time costly issue in California. Since my university doesn’t offer on-campus housing for international students in the winter semester, it was clear that I had to look for an apartment. This is difficult in that both the time difference and distance have been an issue, as has the number of fraudulent advertisements on the network. I was lucky in this regard because we have had friends in San Diego for many years who have been able to look at potential rooms near the university. Personally, I would therefore recommend never paying money in advance, but rather, if there are no local contacts, traveling to the city early and looking for apartments. This minimizes the chance of becoming a victim of a “scam”,
Ultimately, I found a single room in a shared apartment near the university. I lived there with three young professionals and paid around € 950 per month.
In San Diego , as in many other major American cities, there is public transport, but it is by no means comparable to those in Germany or Marburg. During my stay abroad, I covered most of my distances to campus by bike or with UBER. Unfortunately, public transport cannot be reached everywhere and it does not run with a particularly high frequency. In addition, at least at my university there was no semester ticket, which is why a monthly bus ticket would have resulted in further high costs (about $ 75 per month).
On the campus, on the other hand, the infrastructure is very good. Due to the sheer size of the campus, many universities have their own bus routes or other public transport that are available to students free of charge.
The subject of insurance is also handled differently at American universities than in Germany. I also had to get insurance from the university as part of the application, which was around $ 800. In spite of this, I would recommend taking out another private foreign health insurance in Germany, as the scope of benefits of a German insurance company is significantly greater.
Since many courses are already in English during my master’s degree and my language skills are very good due to previous stays abroad during school times or for internships, I only prepared for the language test at the language center of the university. As part of the application to the UCSD, you have to prove, among other things, a sufficient language level. This is done through a standardized language test such as the TOEFL, the IELTS or the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE). Alternatively, you can also take a DAAD test or a certificate from your home university above C1 level in the European Framework of Reference for Foreign Languages. I decided to have the proof at the language center because it is cheaper and can be completed in Marburg.
The costs for a semester abroad at an American university are enormous, unless there is a partnership with your own home university. The biggest item is definitely the tuition fees . Depending on the size, reputation, degree program and type of university (state / private), tuition fees can quickly reach the double-digit thousands (see table for UCSD). In addition, there is the flight, food on site, rent, fees for books and other private expenses. In California in particular, the cost of living and eating is at least twice as high as in Germany. That’s why I applied for a scholarship at an early stage advertised to reduce at least a small percentage of the cost. Unfortunately, with an F1 visa, it is not possible to have other sources of income during the semester abroad in the USA.
Evaluation of the stay abroad
The last semester in San Diego was one of the nicest of my entire degree . From an academic perspective, I am very satisfied with the results of my modules at UCSD. Since points can be collected at many American universities during the entire semester through participation, midterms, finals and group presentations, the overall grade is less dependent on individual exams, as is the case in Germany, for example. I liked this type of rating very much . All of my courses were also strongly oriented towards practical application. Among other things, a lot of work was done with case studies from real companies.
I am convinced that I can apply a lot of content in my later professional life and that I will benefit from my stay abroad in the long term. Not only because of the excellent lectures and exciting challenges at the university, but also because I made many new friends from all over the world , I really enjoyed my time in San Diego . That’s why I can recommend a semester abroad, especially in California, because it’s a time you will never forget.