Finding an apartment, English test and other preparatory measures
First of all, I would like to mention that most of the worries that one has before starting the semester abroad can be resolved relatively quickly. The organization was relatively stressful for me (visa, etc.), as I only decided 5-6 months before the start of the semester to do a semester abroad in the USA. I therefore recommend that you plan your semester abroad in good time in order to cope with the application etc. without great stress.
I was a little afraid of the visa, as you often heard it was all pretty strict, but I had no problems getting the visa. Unfortunately my date of birth was reversed (month and day), but this problem was resolved within 2 weeks and everything went smoothly.
Another problem was that I unfortunately did not pass the English placement test (DAAD at my home university) with the required grades. Therefore, I had to take the English test on site at the CSUF, which gave me a little stomach ache, because no one knew how difficult the test is there and what the consequences of failing the test would be. But here too: don’t worry! The on-site test was much easier than the DAAD test and everyone who took it with me (around 30 students) had passed and was allowed to choose the courses without any problems.
Since I have often read on the Internet that it would not be a problem to look for accommodation locally, I initially decided to only book a motel for 3 nights after my arrival in the USA and then to start looking for an apartment there. This also turned out to be problem-free. I went to the international office at the university and they gave me a handful of apartment options near the university. Unfortunately, the accommodations there are not very cheap, but at least many facilities have a pool, public grill, etc. Me and 2 friends from Germany decided to move to the Homesteads. The complex is very well maintained and you always have a kind of holiday feeling, but our assumption that many Germans would live there, which we actually didn’t want, was true. Unfortunately there wasn’t much going on in terms of partying either. Get more information about California State University Fullerton on educationvv.
At the beginning of the semester you have about two weeks to choose or crash your courses. Here, too, it was initially thought that this would be very difficult and in some cases this has also been confirmed with one or the other. You don’t always get exactly the course you want. For me, however, everything went relatively calmly, as I already had 3 courses safe from the start and therefore only had to get one more course by crashing. So I went to courses that interested me and at the end of the lesson you asked the professor if there was still space. Since I only needed one course, I went to several and then picked the one that best suited my schedule. I only had uni on Mondays and Wednesdays (8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) and Tuesdays (7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.). I wanted it that way because we wanted to travel during the semester, etc.
For me everything was a bit new, because you had to do a lot of homework, presentations, and so on. However, it was often group presentations, which made things a little easier. The structure of the courses reminded a little of school life (about 40-50 students per lecture, homework, compulsory attendance, etc.), but everything was done well and had enough time to travel.
The campus is beautiful, decorated with palm trees and there are many activities on offer. There was also a huge fitness studio, pool, basketball court, tennis courts, soccer field, etc. on the huge campus.
What disappointed us a little was the party life. We had hoped to find house parties like you know from American films, but unfortunately that was rarely the case. You have to know people from connections to get to the big parties, it was said. Therefore, we spent almost every weekend in Isla Vist (Sanata Barbara), which I would recommend to any party fan. There we finally found the house parties we were looking for;).
Travel, rent a car and living expenses
Fullerton is a very good starting point to tour the west coast. We’ve been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara. After our semester abroad, we flew to Miami and New York. The beaches around Los Angeles are gorgeous (e.g. Venice Beach, Long Beach) and all about 25 minutes away by car. A car is indispensable in Fullerton if you want to see something of California. We decided to rent a car for 3.5 months for which we had to pay around 1800 €, which was a very good offer. We also considered buying a car, but were not in the mood for repairs, car sales after the semester, etc.
The cost of living in America is, in my opinion, significantly higher than in Germany. Fruit and vegetables in particular are very expensive. There is fast food on every corner, but this is not a healthy solution in the long run. There are even 3 Starbucks cafes and many other fast food restaurants on campus. Fortunately, I received all of my tuition fees from BaföG and also received monthly financial help. That made the financing a lot easier for me.
All in all, it was the best time of my life. You hardly had any worries and could enjoy almost every day. The weather and the lifestyle in California alone made a very positive impression on me. If I had the chance to do a semester abroad again, I would certainly go to California, but not to this university anymore, because the party life was a bit too short for me. Otherwise it’s a very nice environment and the university is great too, but partying was one of the most important things for me during the semester abroad. One should really enjoy the time;). I hope I could help you a little. Take your time thinking about which university you are going to and don’t worry too much. You are not the first to do a semester abroad and everything will work relatively smoothly;). Have fun!