City and surroundings
San Diego, California’s southernmost city, is located between the metropolitan area of Los Angeles (LA) and the Mexican city of Tijuana (TJ) in a natural bay and is characterized by a very pleasant climate all year round. The city is known as the “Americas nicest city”, which is reflected in numerous tourist activities (such as the famous Hotel Del, Sea World, Sea Port Village, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo), beautiful beaches, the particularly high standard of living and a very low crime rate . In addition, San Diego stands out from the crowded, hectic and dirty mega-cities of LA and TJ, not least because of the relaxed and helpful mentality of the “San Diegans”. Meanwhile, however, it is also considered to be a bit more conservative than the more European-influenced northern California around San Francisco. San Diego is also considered the beer capital of the United States with its hundreds of microbreweries. The traditionally very dark beer with a high proportion of malt takes some getting used to for the German beer taste. In any case, the quality wines produced in the region taste better, especially the Chardonnay, Merlot and Carbernet Sauvignon cultivated in the rocky areas of San Diego County. For sports enthusiasts, San Diego has an incredible variety in store. Hardly any other place outside of Hawaii offers so many surf fanatics in the USA a home as San Diego. It would theoretically be possible to start a day on one of the excellent surfing beaches, Then take a bike tour along the kilometer-wide coastal promenade, take a car to one of the nearby ski areas to try out one of the snowboard slopes and in the evening, after an extensive mountain and desert hike, spend the night outdoors. One of the most beautiful sailing harbors in the USA is also located here. The US Air Force has offers for parachutists, among other things. A very special experience: laser tag! This is about hitting the protective suit of the teammates with a laser pistol within a spaceship setting without being shot down yourself. Guaranteed bullet-free and injury-free – but still not for the faint of heart.
As the oldest city in California, San Diego, once founded by Spanish missionaries, can look back on a moving history as a melting pot between American and Hispanic-Mexican cultures. The topic of migration and integration is more topical than ever, because a good fifth of the city’s residents come from Mexico. Although California has one of the strictest immigration rights in the United States, the cheap labor of the Hispanics has become an integral part of the economic structure in many places. So it seems that America and Mexico have settled in by mutual agreement in a paradoxical contrast between the most modern security systems, permanent border patrols and highway checkpoints, as well as the extensive, fairly undisturbed tunnel system. In any case, the drug war, which has been widely reported in the media, is as little noticeable in San Diego as the daily traffic chaos that surrounds the city of Tijuana. Rather, San Diego owes the country’s best Mexican fish restaurants and burrito stands to its proximity to Mexico.
Los Angeles can be reached in the opposite direction in about two hours by car. Ironically, this 11 million metropolis is avoided as much as possible by most of the San Diego. Many consider the city too big, uncomfortable or too dirty. In fact, in addition to its particularly strong gap between rich and poor, its smog clouds and chronic traffic jams, the city has an image problem in the region. However, it is worth visiting Hollywood with its Walk of Fame, Bewerly Hills with the sinfully expensive shopping centers, as well as Griffith Park with its planetarium, from which you get a wonderful view of the city. Las Vegas in the state of Nevada can be reached in about 7 hours.
The university campus is located in the rather posh “La Jolla” district in the north of the city. It is therefore a bit difficult to live directly in La Jolla if you don’t want to invest a fortune. Relatively inexpensive apartments can be found in the districts of Claremont Mesa and Pacific Beach. With a little luck, you can also get a dump in the UTC business district, which is directly adjacent to the university campus. Foreign students typically share a house or apartment to rent in order to reduce costs. Although much smaller than LA, San Diego is California’s second largest city. Therefore, one should consider getting a rental car to commute between campus and apartment. For leisure activities, on the other hand, the car is almost a must, if you don’t live in one of the party districts. Unfortunately, local public transport is at the level of a developing country, so getting from A to B is extremely time-consuming, expensive and complicated.
The UCSD is part of the joint university system of the state of California and is considered one of the best state universities in the USA. The Academic Ranking of World Universities of Shanghai Jiaotong University places UCSD among the 20 best universities in the world. At the national level, it ranks 8th among the state universities. UCSD has a global reputation above all for its leading role in applied research in the fields of oceanography, social psychology and molecular biology. Although it was only founded in 1960, 19 Nobel Prize winners have emerged at UCSD, of which it currently employs 8. It is also considered the “Americas greenest campus”, which is reflected in the innovations it emanates and practices in the field of renewable energies and pollutant-free waste disposal. In addition, the effects of climate change have been researched at UCSD for more than 50 years.
This is in turn reflected in the very high demands on the course. For my courses, the required reading consisted of up to 300 pages per week, some of which were queried using a quiz at the beginning of the lecture. As proof of performance, an intermediate and a final examination can be expected for each course, whereby an additional homework must be done in some subjects. The courses are chosen using the so-called “class crashing” procedure. Since local students are preferred when choosing a course, you have to ask the lecturers of the desired course or the responsible faculty for admission after the event. This can take up to 3 weeks, depending on how full the course is. If there is enough space, however, no problems arise.
My only drawback is the much too high tuition fees, to which all sorts of other costs add up. Foreign students, for example, have to pay an additional administration fee of $ 350, student ID costs $ 15, and an official university transcript costs $ 12. As an extension student, you do not get access to the WiFi on campus and you do not receive an e-mail inbox. In short: as an international student, you pay more for less.
Basically, however, I am very satisfied with the study conditions and, above all, the excellent course content. Dealing with professors and teachers is very personal and administrative processes are dealt with quickly and easily.
Meanwhile, the UCSD maintains the most extensive sports facilities on the US West Coast and the local athletes, known as “Tritons”, are world-class. Various swimming pools, tennis, football and soccer fields are available for foreign students at favorable conditions.