From August 2013 to January 2014 I spent my first semester abroad at California State University San Marcos. My expectations for all the different aspects of this experience have largely been exceeded and I am very confident that I have developed both personally and professionally. Leaving your own “comfort zone” is often uncomfortable and associated with a lot of uncertainty. I can only recommend it. For most of them, this leads to the further development of various skills and improves the perspective on their own strengths and weaknesses.
In the following three sections I would like to try to present my experiences from the past 5 months in a meaningful way.
Just a few days after my arrival, the semester began with the orientation week. During this time it was important to get in touch with the supervisors of the university and to get to know the structures and processes (especially for “class crashing”). The staff were very hard working and really helpful. It was then of course that I met the new fellow students for the first time. At first, many are a little shy, but this quickly dissolves and you get into conversation faster and faster. One of my few points of criticism concerns the second week, in which all international students then “crash” their courses. Unfortunately, many courses were already (over) occupied by locals, which made access to the desired courses impossible for many students. Overall, the following applies: We need to conclude at least twice as many learning agreements, more likely! Get more information about California State University San Marcos on educationvv.
Everyday life differs in some aspects from German universities. One aspect is the personal relationship with the professors and fellow students. Several weekly appointments and courses that do not exceed a size of approx. 30 students quickly lead to the fact that you know each other by first name and also make contact outside of the classroom. Such a close relationship with the teachers in combination with weekly homework, quizzes and homework, gave me as a student the opportunity to discuss and clear up questions and errors immediately with the very committed and helpful professors. In my opinion, that was one of the main factors behind the high quality of teaching in San Marcos. A major difference with regard to the exams at the end of the semester compared to Germany is that parts of the overall grade are already determined by intermediate exams and homework, so that the final exams were still very important, but do not represent an all-or-nothing situation.
In addition to teaching, the university in the USA is always the place where students live and sometimes live. The entire university is very centralized and therefore offers the opportunity to pursue one’s own hobbies even during shorter breaks. In my case, the “Clarke” (something like the university’s sports center) became one of the most frequent meeting places with friends (and sometimes professors). Right next door were the other sports facilities that I used to try other sports, such as football (what else ?!) or baseball. The dormitory located directly on campus also became a regular place of residence.
- Country & people
I decided to live with a host family so that I could come into contact with culture and language as quickly and extensively as possible. This idea worked perfectly, especially because I got on really well with my host family. In addition, a host family offers extremely valuable tips and support, especially in the early days, which you cannot get in the dormitory, for example. I am thinking here in particular that sprawling California Has very poorly developed means of transport and it is hardly possible to get around without a car (really!). The evening conversations about my experiences and my curiosity about the culture of the USA will probably stay in my mind for a long time. In addition, a host family is cheaper than the dormitory. There you pay around € 750 per month.
The university offered many activities to get to know the other international students. I used this and after a few days a large group formed. As part of this group, I took part in numerous excursions to the nearby cities (Los Angeles, San Diego etc.), as well as to the national parks. I also used a few of the offers at the university’s Recreation Center. These include a surf course. Here, too, there were excellent opportunities to meet people from other countries and cultures, because the group is reassembled on each excursion. To register, however, you have to be early, 10 after 8 they are often already full.
On the subject of parties: There are house parties almost every day in San Marcos and they go well. Disadvantage: most parties are cleared early by the police… There is a party bus for celebrating in San Diego ($ 10 for transport and entry).
Overall, I was able to experience a semester in San Marcos that broadened my academic and personal horizons by lengths. When organizing your stay, I would recommend looking around for scholarships. At first I thought something like this was only available for the absolute high-flyers, but that’s not how it is… just read it up.
In any case, I would do the semester in San Marcos again. It was a great experience.