I. My decision for the UCSB:
At the end of my bachelor’s degree, it was clear to me that I definitely wanted to spend a trimester abroad as a freemover in California for my master’s degree.
As a freemover, choosing California as your place of study is not cheap in view of the tuition fees, but if you decide to do so, it at least has the advantage of being able to choose between many universities.
Now it was time to find out which university was the right one. Because of my degree in business chemistry, I was looking for a university where I could take both chemistry and business courses. The University of California Santa Barbara(UCSB) not only met these basic requirements, but also brought many other advantages:
- One of the best state universities in the USA according to several rankings
- Relatively low tuition fees for the California location and high-quality teaching
- Countless opportunities to do sports
- Very active student life
- Beautiful landscapes and beaches
After getting enough information about the university, I was sure that a trimester abroad at this university would be an unforgettable time and I should be right!
It is ideal to start planning for the trimester abroad six months in advance. There is no fixed application deadline at UCSB, as it depends on the number of applicants. However, you should have submitted your application by May / June at the latest, as experience has shown that the UCSB application process for the Quarter case closes during this period. According to Abbreviation Finder, UCSB is the abbreviation of University of California Santa Barbara.
I decided to apply to UCSB via MicroEDU, as this generally gives you a good chance of getting a place and the service offered is free for students. Personally, I was very satisfied with the service from MicroEDU, as my inquiries were always answered quickly and competently.
The most important steps in preparation are:
- Financing the stay abroad
- TOEFL test
- Student visa
- Book a flight
- Additional health insurance abroad
- Find an apartment
1) Financing the stay abroad
Even before the semester abroad, the costs for the visa (approx. $ 375), the TOEFL test ($ 245), the application fees ($ 2235) and the flight (round trip: 800 – 1000 €) have to be factored in. In Santa Barbara, the cost of living is very high, even by California standards. However, you can save a lot of money with relatively cheap accommodation.
In the application documents, proof is also required from the bank, which certifies that the necessary financial resources are available. In general, you can finance your stay with various scholarships and foreign student loans.
2) Toefl test, apply for a student visa, additional health insurance abroad
It is advisable to arrange an appointment for the TOEFL test relatively early, as it can be problematic to find an appointment as soon as possible. Depending on your English skills, you should also plan enough preparation time. I was also able to borrow the proposed textbooks from my university free of charge. So better check beforehand as the books are quite expensive.
The F1 student visa is required for a purely study visit at UCSB.
In addition, you should have additional health insurance abroad if you are in the USA after the end of the semester or before the start of the semester, as the UCSB health insurance is only valid until the end of the semester.
3) Find an apartment
Finding accommodation has been described in many field reports as the most complicated part of the preparation. Fortunately, I found an apartment relatively quickly and can therefore not confirm this.
In general, you can book apartments from home. However, you should be aware that you run a certain risk, as you cannot visit the apartment on your own.
For me personally, the better alternative was to arrive three weeks earlier and see the apartments on site. Before the start of the semester, the offer is very large and you can possibly join forces with other apartment hunters. It is advisable to book a room in the so-called “Student Hotel” on campus and start looking for an apartment from there, as this means that the distances to the apartments in the vicinity of the university are very short. After arriving in beautiful Santa Barbara, the best thing to do is to get a domestic cell phone contract directly. The apartment visits are relatively spontaneous and therefore it is important to be reachable via mobile phone.
The student village Isla Vista is right next to the campus. There is a very active student life here and many parties are celebrated on Del Playa Road, especially on weekends. But Isla Vista is also a paradise for sports enthusiasts due to the wide range of sports on offer. In addition, I can personally recommend opting for an apartment on the outskirts of Isla Vista, as it is a bit quieter here, but the university is still very close. In Isla Vista, most students live in double or triple rooms ($ 500- $ 800 a month) as single rooms are almost unaffordable.
Otherwise you can also find apartments in Goleta and the city of Santa Barbara, where you often live with American families, but have a much longer daily commute to university.
I found the Facebook group “UCSB Housing” to be particularly helpful as a platform for looking for accommodation. But you can also find good apartments on Craigslist.
III. Studying at UCSB
1) University courses
There are two types of courses to choose from at UCSB.
The so-called extension courses are offered exclusively for international students and professionals. These can be booked before the start of the semester, so you are sure to have a place in the respective course. In addition, very good results can usually be achieved in these courses with a manageable amount of work.
In addition to these extension courses, as an international student you can also take part in the regular university courses, the so-called open university courses. These courses have to be crashed, ie after the first lecture you ask the respective professor personally whether you can take part in the course. However, it often happens that you are first put on the waiting list for a course. It is therefore advisable to take courses in reserve in the first three weeks and to attend them regularly, as the system means that you cannot be sure of getting into the courses you want.
In addition, the likelihood of getting a place in a course is very dependent on the subject area. There are usually no problems in the science courses. The whole thing looks very different in economics, where it can be very difficult to get hold of a place.
Despite the higher costs and the higher workload for both the organization of the courses and the courses themselves, I can definitely recommend the Open University courses. UCSB offers excellent teaching in several departments and is one of the best universities in the USA, for example in the field of material science.
Another very important advantage of the Open University courses is that you spend a lot of time with Americans. The Californians are generally very open and helpful. They also like to take you into their study group, which makes a lot of things easier.
In general, for the F1 student visa to be valid, at least 12 units in the undergraduate area or 8 units in the graduate area must be taken per term.
On campus and in Isla Vista you can see a lot of skateboards and bicycles. Bicycles can be bought relatively cheaply on the Craigslist website and on the Facebook-UCSB group “Free and for Sale”. For a slightly higher price you can also find good bikes in the two bike shops in Isla Vista.
You can also have a bus sticker stuck to your student ID at the beginning of the term. With this you can use all buses in Goleta and Santa Barbara free of charge.
3) free time
The UCSB offers numerous possibilities for sports enthusiasts:
The Rec Cen (Recreation Center) is located directly next to the campus. For a fee of $ 60 per term you can use a large gym, numerous basketball courts, climbing walls, squash courts, several swimming pools and much more.
Furthermore, you should definitely register in the excursion club ($ 30 per term). Here you can rent surfboards and equipment for hiking and there are many different courses on offer, in which I can particularly recommend the kayak and stand-up paddling courses. There are also many trips to the nearby mountains. Every Tuesday you will receive an overview of the activities and then you can register directly with the organizers – it pays to be quick!
In addition to this diverse sports program, California offers very interesting travel destinations with the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. And the Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas can definitely be visited from Santa Barbara.
IV. Closing remarks
Dare to get out of your comfort zone and seek contact with Californians. Then this time will be unforgettable!