Even before starting my studies, I knew that I would like to spend part of my studies abroad. When I enrolled in the industrial engineering course at the Ulm / Neu-Ulm universities of applied sciences in August 2007, it was already clear to me that I would go abroad at least once during my studies. So it only remained to be clarified when it should finally be so far. In the first weeks of my third semester – one year before the planned stay abroad and after completing the intermediate diploma – I then started with the preparations and completed the TOEFL test, which is recognized or often required at all host universities in addition to the IELTS test. After this hurdle had been overcome, it was time to find a suitable host university. In addition to the quality of the school, the countries and the opportunities to travel locally also played a decisive role for me. After extensive research and some conversations with former students who were already there, the choice fell on California State University East Bay in Hayward. Not only did the campus have a good reputation as part of the California State University complex, but also the excellent location in the catchment area of the metropolis of San Francisco made the CSUEB one of my favorites. Further decision-making bases for me were clearly the costs for “Tuition and Housing” (tuition fee and dormitory), which at the CSUEB were significantly lower than those of comparable universities of the CSU Association at the time.
After the choice had been made, the organization of the stay continued relatively quickly. First I had to get a new passport because my old one could not meet the new requirements of biometric data. Then I had to fill out various documents to apply to the host university. For this it was also necessary to submit certificates of sufficient financial resources. During this time I received special support from the staff of the placement service CollegeContact.com, who were always helpful and very patient at your side. After the application documents were complete, they were sent to the host university and we had to wait for the acceptance and the DS2019 or I-20 document,
After a few weeks, the official confirmation came along with the coveted document. After that I was finally able to make an appointment at the US Embassy in Munich to speak there personally and apply for an F-1 student visa. It is advisable to make an appointment via the Internet, as the telephone hotline is extremely expensive; Furthermore, some required documents can be filled out directly online. It is important to pay the so-called SEVIS fee immediately after the appointment has been made, as a confirmation of payment must be presented at the embassy.
The visit to the embassy ultimately went smoothly, and the day after my appointment my passport with my F-1 visa was in the mail. Now it was still necessary to take out a sensible health insurance, whereby – after extensive research again – I decided on the long-term foreign health insurance from MLP Finanzberatung, which is offered especially for students abroad; Advantage in contrast to other international insurances: Incredibly cheap. A few months before my planned departure, I quickly organized a cheap flight and the preparations were actually over: I had the approval of the CSUEB including a dormitory, a student visa, health insurance and a flight – we could start!
Stay and study
So on September 5th, 2009 the time had come and the adventure of “studying abroad” could begin. Together with a fellow student we went from Munich to San Francisco and from there to Denver, Colorado, where we took a rental car to get an impression of this country on a two-week road trip. On September 21, the time had come and after a little more than 5000 kilometers we finally reached the campus of the CSU East Bay in the hills above Hayward with a wonderful view over the San Francisco Bay. After a short period of acclimatization, we quickly found our way around and we quickly made contact with other students of all nationalities. The decision to live in the dormitory turned out to be absolutely correct, as you could establish contact with other students much faster.
After we were a bit in doubt about the hospitality and friendliness of the Americans before we arrived, we were soon taught better here. The American students welcomed us very openly and warmly and, especially at the beginning, they too were happy to provide advice and help. What we noticed after just a few days were the mostly long distances that had to be covered, for example to go shopping. For this you either had to take the bus for a long time or buy a car that was often not very cheap.
A few days after our arrival, the lectures at the university began. At an introductory event, we were informed that, due to the prevailing financial crisis, some lectures had been canceled without replacement. The Economics / Business Department was particularly affected. Almost all economics lectures were therefore canceled. The fundamental problem is that the California State University system is heavily dependent on government funds and the state of California was or is practically bankrupt. Of course, I was also affected and so the first thing to do was to find a replacement for the canceled lectures as soon as possible. With the help of our supervisors in the local International Office, however, this was not really a problem and soon we could start studying.
The lectures were a bit strange at first, as the professors’ approach was very different from what we students from Germany knew. For example, there were no scripts, but every professor worked with at least one textbook, which one had to acquire in order to be able to follow the lesson. In addition, the professors were usually expected to do a lot of their own work outside of the lectures. This included not only a lot of reading in the books, but also a lot of homework in the form of papers, essays and presentations. In addition, we sometimes wrote up to four exams per subject this semester. After reading and writing in particular caused problems at the beginning due to the language and also took a lot of time, After this semester I can see a significant improvement in my skills in these areas. I am therefore of the opinion that this type of study is particularly valuable for exchange students; You are challenged a lot, but with the right commitment you can achieve very good results.
Of course, we also used our time here extensively for traveling and various leisure activities. It is highly recommended for any student visiting Hayward or the San Francisco area to get tickets to the football or baseball games. The atmosphere is great and it’s just a great feeling to cheer on the teams with thousands of others. The games of the basketball teams are always worth a visit and these three sports are the greatest for Americans. Otherwise, Hayward is very centrally located and we also spent many weekends on short trips. Highlights here were certainly the Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, the largest trees in the world in Sequoia National Park as well as stays in the city of San Francisco, LA and Santa Monica, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Regarding the city of San Francisco, it should be noted that for me – after having visited and seen all the larger cities on the east coast of the United States as well as on the west coast – it is definitely the most beautiful, cultural, most relaxed, most impressive and liveliest city. This assessment sounds a bit exaggerated, but it was confirmed to me by a lot of students and other travelers.
In addition to studying, traveling to “gods own country” – as many call this wonderful country – naturally had top priority. Incidentally, I can only warmly recommend this to any exchange student who is planning to study in the United States. Accordingly, after the Fall Quarter 2009 was over on December 15th, I still had an incredible two and a half months of travel time to fill. Of course, I could have added a second quarter to take further courses, but everyone has to set their own priorities here – I was well aware of me: First a ten-day road trip along Highway 101 on the coast of California, then a two-and-a-half week trip the Hawaiian Islands, then a four-week 20,000km (!
Overall, after this semester I can confidently say that my decision for this project was absolutely the right one. According to HETONGDIY, the university is absolutely superb in many ways and the dormitory is the best place to live for international students. I have been able to gain a wealth of new experiences that I consider to be very valuable and that I would no longer want to miss. I am also already sure that this semester abroad will certainly not be the last in the course of my studies. In my opinion, in such a project, in addition to studying abroad, all the other experiences and impressions of other people and cultures, which can unbelievably broaden one’s horizons, should be regarded as at least equal, if not more important.
I now hope to have my impressions of these six months reasonably well outlined and legible. Of course, not everything that has been experienced can be described and summarized here on six pages of text. If any reader of this report has become curious and would like more information about studying in America or at the CSU East Bay, I will be happy to help.