University of California Santa Barbara Study Abroad


The University of California, Santa Barbara (also know as UCSB according to abbreviationfinder) is a state university in the US state of California and is located north of Los Angeles in the suburb of Goleta, just outside of downtown Santa Barbara. The university borders on the student residential area Isla Vista (IV) and is located directly on the sea with its own lagoon, which speaks for the unique location of the UCSB. Around 22,000 students are currently enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the university offers a large number of different fields of study with a number of courses, although not every course is offered in every quarter.

Before starting your studies at UCSB, you have to take care of a few formalities, including the application process. The easiest way to do this is not to apply directly to UCSB itself, but to contact the German exchange organization “MicroEDU ” (free of charge). This organization significantly simplifies the entire registration process and is always available to answer any questions you may have in connection with the application process. After you have put together the necessary documents (TOEFL etc. , you only need 80 points to apply for UCSB) and filled out the MicroEDU application form for UCSB, the whole registration process goes relatively quickly. However, it is advisable to start the entire registration process early, because the UCSB only accepts a limited number of exchange students and the principle of “first-come-first-serve” applies. After you have received the confirmation from UCSB, you still have to take care of an F1 student visa for the states, which in my opinion does not represent too much administrative effort. All in all, thanks to the support from MicroEDU , the entire registration process was very easy and problem-free.


I traveled to Santa Barbara around three weeks before the start of my studies to look after the apartment on site. During this time I lived in the student hotel “Santa Rosa”, which is actually a “dorm” of the UCSB, but during the summer break it is made available to international students as a hotel so that they can look for a place to stay for the coming semester (for international students There is no possibility to apply for a room in a “Dorm” of the UCSB due to a lack of space). The Santa Rosa was a good starting point for looking for a room, on the one hand it was inexpensive (around 55 CHF / night) and on the other hand it is right on campus and therefore very close to Isla Vista, where you should ultimately live. All social life takes place in Isla Vista and most of the students live there. Nevertheless, the whole search for a room turned out to be tedious. If you only study a quarter at UCSB and are looking for a room for only 3-4 months, it becomes extremely difficult, as practically all rental contracts are designed for 9 (rarely 6) months. If you then also look for a single room that should already be furnished, the whole matter becomes even more difficult, since practically all students in the United States live in a “shared room” (2, 3 or 4-bed rooms). On my first day, I went to the UCSB’s “Student Housing Office” to get advice on looking for an apartment. The ladies in the office said that it will be extremely difficult to find a furnished single room in Isla Vista with a 3 or 4 month contract and then recommended the apartments in the “Tropicana del Norte” to me. Since I basically wanted to live together with Americans in a house in IV and not in a “student dormitory” like the Tropicana del Norte, I first went on looking for a furnished single room for 3 or 4 months in a house in IV. After the fourth day I had to find out that it is incredibly difficult to all my preferences regarding. Apartment and I finally decided on the Tropicana del Norte, because on the one hand it was important to me to live in a single room and on the other hand I didn’t want to take the risk of a 9-month rental contract (with a subsequent search for a subtenant). I would like to mention at this point that I only gave myself 4 days to search for a room as I wanted to travel through California before the Quarter began, and with a little more time and patience depending on the situation, I still wanted a single room in an apartment can be found in IV, although it is quite difficult if you do not want to sign a 9-month contract. Looking back, I don’t regret it at all that I finally decided on a furnished single room in the Tropicana del Norte with a 3-month rental contract. The Tropicana del Norte is located in IV and is structured like a student dormitory, with everything included: unlimited food (including drinks), furniture (bed, mattress, desk, etc. ), cleaning service (every second week), swimming pool, small gym, cinema, printer, bike, Excursions (e. g. surfing, Disneyland,. . ), etc. only for the washing machine must be paid additionally. Both Americans (approx. 50% or a little more) and international students from all over the world live in the Tropicana del Norte, which means that you get to know countless students from different countries, which I particularly liked. It was also practical that you never had to cook, as food is included and you can eat and drink as much as you want. At the beginning I was really pleasantly surprised by the food: there is always a salad buffet, a warm buffet with different dishes, pizza, a grill where you can always order burgers, hot dogs, quesadillas, etc. , each with a special dish that you can enjoy directly freshly prepared in front of your nose and a dessert buffet with fruits, soft ice, etc. After 2 months, however, the food is always a bit the same, which was a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, the food can be endured for 3 months and I was often happy not to have to cook (especially after seeing the unsanitary kitchens in the apartments in IV, especially on Del Playa). At this point I would like to mention that I did not pay the rental price, which is officially published on the Tropicana del Norte website, but received a “voucher” from UCSB, which canceled 2 installments, which in the end was a considerable one (!) Sum made up!

Those who would like to live in a similar residence, but would rather cook or eat out, should also take a look at the San Clemente Villages. This is also a “student dormitory” on the northern edge of IV, but it does not include food. On the website of the San Clemente Villages it is noted that they do not accept international students – I had to find out on site that this was not the case and the lady in the office there put me on a waiting list because all the apartments in the San Clemente Villages were fully booked.

In summary, I recommend in any case to think about the desired living situation in Switzerland and, depending on your preferences, to take the first steps.


The academic year at UCSB is divided into quarters and not semesters, which means that an exchange semester at UCSB only lasts 10 weeks and begins in mid / end of September and ends in mid-December. The level of the courses at UCSB is clearly below the HSG level. Depending on the course, weekly assignments, papers, quizzes etc. have to be completed, which means that the workload is higher during the semester, but the level of difficulty of the tasks / exams is clearly lower than at the HSG and there is also no stressful learning phase for the finals. With a little effort, you can bring home extremely good grades from UCSB. As an extension student, you cannot register for the desired courses at UCSB in advance, you have to do “class crashing”. This means, that you have to go to the desired courses at the beginning of the semester and ask the professor whether there is still a free place. I did not find the class crashing to be too cumbersome and got into my desired ECON courses without any problems. For the context courses, I deliberately let the crediting office credit me more than needed before the exchange, so that I have a choice on site and if certain courses are really overcrowded, I have an alternative, which I would recommend to everyone. I also recommend writing an e-mail to each professor in advance, briefly describing your situation and asking him to let you into his course (this can definitely lead to an advantage over other students, as I was able to find out myself). Extension courses are not taken into account by the HSG, which means that regular courses must be attended (at least 16 creditable credits must be completed in accordance with the HSG information sheet). I have attended the following 4 courses at UCSB, all of which I can recommend:

ECON 134A – Financial Management: Finance
The course covers basic financial areas without really going into depth. The grade is made up of 4 quizzes (multiple choice), an assignment and a final exam, whereby the final exam does not have to be written if you are already satisfied with the grade from the quizzes and the assignment, which was very pleasant. No compulsory attendance.

ECON 101 – Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory: Macroeconomics II
The course tries to explain macroeconomic models on the basis of microeconomics, which means that the course is shaped more by microeconomics than macroeconomics. The grade consists of 5 homeworks, a midterm (multiple choice) and a cumulative final exam. The sections (tutorials) were very helpful for the homeworks, as the tutors there already solve most of the homeworks. No compulsory attendance.

GEOG 3A – Ocean and Atmosphere: Contextual study
The course deals with the ocean and the atmosphere and gives an overview of tsunamis, waves, hurricanes, cyclones etc. , with a very nice and personable professor who always brings one of his dogs to the lecture. The grade consists of Homeworks, a midterm (multiple choice) and a non-cumulative final exam (multiple choice). The sections (tutorials) are partly necessary in order to be able to do the homeworks, because you do experiments in the sections and these are partly relevant for the homeworks. In my opinion, the sections were not relevant for the midterm and final exam, as you only have to learn the Powerpoint slides. Compulsory attendance only in the sections.

ED 123 – Culture, Development and Education: Contextual study
The course covers topics such as culture, racism, upbringing, homosexuality etc. and is led by a very nice professor who is extremely interested in her students. Although the course is also divided into a lecture and a discussion section, there is no lecture in the classic sense, but a lot of discussion and discussion, which makes the course very special and interactive. The grade consists of attendance and participation and different papers.

College life and travel

I really enjoyed college life and the atmosphere at UCSB. The weather is really fantastic in Santa Barbara: Even in December there is often a bright blue sky without clouds and 15 ° – 20 ° C, although it gets very fresh in the morning and evening and you definitely need a jacket. At UCSB you get to know a lot of fellow students (Americans as well as international students) extremely quickly, who in my opinion were always very friendly, curious and open. The UCSB campus is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the States, surrounded by palm trees and located directly on the sea, which is really unique and which makes the way home by bike in the evening a pleasure! Get yourself a bike as soon as possible, as it is the most convenient and practical means of transport for the UCSB. There is a bus to downtown (approx. 20 min. ), Which can be used by the students free of charge, so a car is superfluous (a car is only rented for trips). In the residential area of ​​Isla Vista almost exclusively students live and it is the typical college area as you know it from the American films. There are always home parties and there is something to celebrate, although it takes some getting used to for us Europeans that the music is already on at midnight. This means that the parties usually start earlier than we are used to here in Europe. If you like clubs more than home parties, you should take the Bills bus to downtown, as there are no clubs to be found in Isla Vista. The sports offer at UCSB leaves little to be desired: In addition to the university’s recreation center with pool, jacuzzi, tennis courts etc.

Santa Barbara is an ideal starting point for trips. Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, San Francisco and some National Parks in California are all very easy to reach by car and are definitely worth seeing. Since the majority of my courses were not compulsory, it was easy to do long weekends during the semester and to travel around California. Nevertheless, I recommend everyone to plan some time before and / or after the quarter to go on further trips / journeys, as there is really a lot to see in California and the 10 semester weeks are over extremely quickly.


I enjoyed my exchange semester at the University of California, Santa Barbara to the full and it has definitely been my most exciting, varied and eventful semester so far. The Californian lifestyle and the climate really appealed to me and American college life is definitely a special experience that I wouldn’t want to miss. An exchange semester not only helps you to get to know a different educational system, but also to broaden your own intercultural horizons, which I would like to encourage everyone to undertake an exchange semester.

University of California Santa Barbara Study Abroad