At the beginning I would like to introduce myself briefly so that everyone who is interested in my report can get an idea of my priorities and expectations. I think this is helpful when you are looking for the right university for your own year abroad.
I’m 24 years old, I’m doing a Masters in Chemistry, and I did my second year of Masters at the University of California Davis (UC Davis). My main areas of study are physical or theoretical chemistry, biochemistry and technical chemistry. Since I was in my final year of study, I planned not only to take classes in Davis, but also to write my thesis there.
Even before I started planning, it was clear to me that, due to the limited time of my studies, I would have to plan my entire master’s degree well with regard to the year abroad. I didn’t want to lose any time, so I worked on compulsory courses in the first year at my home university as far as I could. I wanted as much freedom of choice as possible when I was in the US.
It was clear to me very early on that I wanted to go to the USA. So I searched the internet for various universities and came across MicroEDU. Here I found some universities that I liked. After a conversation with my professor, who offered me a contact with UC Davis, my decision was made. Get more information about University of California Davis on educationvv.
So I got in touch with the professor at UC Davis and expressed my interest in writing a thesis in his group. My request met with approval and so I could start planning.
I soon found out that I should have started earlier. It was not quite a year until autumn 2011 and the application deadlines for most scholarships had already expired. Without financial support, however, the year would not have been possible for me. A quarter at UC Davis Extension, the facility through which overseas students can access university courses, costs around $ 5,900 in tuition alone. I finally got financial help from the BAFöG Abroad Office and the new Germany Scholarship.
The MicroEDU team provided me with a lot of information and a detailed plan for handling the application and preparation. I always got an answer very quickly via e-mail.
In the following months I put together my documents, took the TOEFL test, which is no longer absolutely necessary for UC Davis, and sent everything to MicroEDU, who took care of the forwarding to the USA. The language test is very important because you have to meet minimum requirements, a b in the DAAD test has been sufficient since last year, in order to be accepted into the Bridge Program. This UC Davis Extension program enables students to take courses at UC Davis. If you do not meet the requirements, you can attend the language courses at the extension instead. However, you don’t notice much of university life as a student. My school English, however, was completely sufficient.
Applying for the F1 visa wasn’t a problem either. With the help of MicroEDU, I filled out all the documents and made an appointment at the consulate in Frankfurt. Everything went smoothly there and afterwards I had my visa within a week.
I booked the flight with the return flight. To do this, however, I needed a special rebookable ticket, because it was not possible to book a return flight for a year in advance. A return flight cost around € 900.
Life in Davis
I describe Davis whenever the inevitable question “How do you like Davis?” Comes from the lips of my counterpart, preferably as a large village. Because Davis is not small and with around 66,000 inhabitants it is also more of a city size. The flair, however, is more reminiscent of a village community.
The city is clean, family-friendly, active and safe. The crime rate is mainly driven by bicycle theft, which is why it is best to get a cheap bike and an expensive lock. The bike is the primary mode of transportation for students at UC Davis. Although there is a university bus service in Davis, public transport cannot generally be compared with European transport. There are bike paths and bike racks almost everywhere in Davis, especially at the university. The city is also largely flat, so you don’t have to struggle every morning.
A bike makes the university easily accessible from anywhere in the city. So you don’t have to limit yourself to looking for an apartment on campus. I myself lived in a shared apartment with two American students. I had my own, quite large room with a bathroom, living room and kitchen were shared. Since the apartment was part of an apartment complex, I also had access to the laundry and fitness room, as well as the pool. The rent was about $ 500 a month. To make my financial affairs in Davis as easy as possible, I set up an account with Bank of America. That was straightforward and is free of charge for students as long as you do not use certain services of the bank.
The climate in Davis blew my mind for the first few days. At the arrival time in September the temperature was around 40 ° C. It often didn’t cool down much at night either. Davis differs drastically in climatic terms from the not far away San Francisco. While there is always a cool breeze blowing on the coast, the temperatures in the Central Valley are up to 10 ° C higher and there is not a single cloud to be seen. Over the entire winter, the temperatures did not drop below freezing point, but the apartments are not always as well insulated as you know at home, which is why you can get cold. Yeah, I bought a wool hat in California.
For Davis nightlife, I’ve mostly stuck to cafes and restaurants. There is no shortage of different cuisines in Davis, especially Asian food seems to be very popular. Friday evenings are busiest in downtown. The so-called Art-About takes place every second Friday of the month. There are live bands, open art galleries, and a few others.
Courses and exams
The range of courses at UC Davis is huge. It not only contains lectures and seminars, but also sports courses of all kinds. The Craft Center also offers a whole range of craft and art courses. In addition to courses in chemistry (Theoretical Chemistry, Group Theory) and chemical engineering (Process Design), I decided to take a language course in Japanese. Unlike what I was used to in Germany, the courses take place more often during the week. The Japanese course five times a week. However, this in no way degenerates into stress, because you normally only attend three to four courses in the quarter.
I also found the course climate generally very pleasant. I often felt reminded of my school days. The material was often explained and illustrated with examples. Sample tasks were even discussed during the lecture. Homework was given weekly or daily in the language course, which was collected and scored. Smaller tests were written in the courses, but they were never particularly difficult. Usually there was an exam in the middle of the quarter and one in the week after the lectures had ended. The grade was then made up of all the points that had been collected with homework, tests and exams, so that there was often no longer any great pressure at the final exam.
The support during the courses was good. The professors themselves offer fixed office hours for each course. In addition, there is usually a student assistant who is supposed to help you with any problems.
I usually had enough free time during the quarters when I attended courses. Often my courses were over in the early afternoon. I would walk the parks in Davis, join an Intramural Sports Ultimate Frisbee Team, go to football, basketball games, or other sporting events, or go to the movies or the theater.
On weekends it is always worth taking a trip to San Francisco, which can be reached by train without a car. Other destinations such as Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park are also not far away. Sacramento can be reached in under an hour by bus.
Vacation in California
You shouldn’t come to California just to study. The variety of landscapes in California is simply breathtaking and not to be missed! I went on two major tours myself. The first, before the Fall Quarter began, led through northern California via Highway 1 to the Redwoods and Lassen Volcanic National Park, the second tour after the end of the Winter Quarter I made through the south. I visited cities like LA, San Diego or Las Vegas but also other national parks. Death Valley in spring has a very pleasant climate and is my personal highlight of the trip.
Traveling by car is cheap, especially if you are under 25, of course not, but if you take advantage of the many camping options in the parks, you can stay reasonably cheap and have more time in the parks.
What I missed so much
Now that I’ve revealed a lot about what Davis has to offer, I’d like to complement the picture and say a little about the things that I missed. First of all, there is forest. Davis lies in the middle of a desert made up of agricultural land or test fields at the university. Anyone standing on the edge of Davis can see for miles in any direction. So there is not much to do with a nice walk in the forest or a bike tour in summer. In addition, there are always relatively strong winds that blow the sand in your eyes.
A cheap, well-functioning, public transport system is also largely in vain. Traveling by train to San Francisco or Berkeley costs around $ 50. The buses run much less frequently than you are used to in German cities.
Last but not least, I would like to advise everyone to enjoy the good German rye bread. What is sold as bread in the US is usually called toast with us and it is often sweetened too. During this time I developed my bread-baking skills and just baked it myself.
I hope I haven’t put anyone off with this section. California is definitely worth a trip and anyone who can say afterwards: “It’s most beautiful at home!” Has probably also learned something.