I will start at the very beginning with my experience report.
After I had already finished school it was clear to me that I would like to spend a semester abroad in the USA during my studies, it was only a matter of time before I came across MicroEDU. After visiting the website for the first time, everything else went pretty quickly. I wrote a short application and my forms were in the mail. Super fast, super nice! An application really couldn’t have been easier, as almost all of the effort is taken free of charge. Compliments at this point!
And then came the first obstacle to the journey: the visa. An unbelievable bureaucracy, combined with a lot of paperwork and deadlines. Get your visa as early as possible, otherwise it can run out! In order to get a visa, you have to give the United States pretty much your whole life! Don’t be surprised at the questions, because they are often really pointless!
When you have everything together you can go to the embassy in Frankfurt aM (or Munich / Berlin). Here is one of the most important tips: do not bring any electronic items (no, not even the iPod is allowed) with you to the embassy! Otherwise the same thing will happen to you as to me and you will have to hand over all your belongings to the little booth on the corner. For a fee of 5 euros! The cell phone is also not allowed in (or at least not the battery).
As soon as you have overcome the security precautions, everything goes relatively quickly (at least for me, I also heard that some people spent several hours in the embassy). Short interview and off you go home. Important: all documents for the visa must be available, otherwise you can go straight back home!
After all the paperwork, I eventually made it to the USA and landed at the airport in San Fran. There are several ways to get to the university:
1. The BART, the public train network in the Bay Area and around Frisco. Here you have to note that not every train from the airport also goes to Hayward! It is best to check everything out before departure (it will be the most difficult on Sunday). At less than 10 dollars, the BART is certainly the cheapest alternative, but also the most cumbersome.
2. Taxi, the most expensive option. It’s easy and comfortable to get from the airport to the university in a cab. But be careful, a price of 100 dollars is nothing unusual! Very expensive!
3. My favorite: the shuttle. With 40 dollars one is there and is driven directly from the airport to the university. You have to wander around the area at the airport to find the shuttle, but the staff is happy to help. Then several passengers will be let out at their desired destinations and so the journey will of course take a little longer than with a taxi. My tip: www.bayporter.com Book in advance and simply pay with a coupon. Top!
If you land at the airport in Oakland, the BART is a strong alternative, as the distance is much shorter than from the airport in San Fran and there are more trains. From the train station in Hayward, simply take the bus up to the university.
Arrival and living
It should be clear in advance where you want to live. There are basically 4 alternatives. The first and easiest is to live in the “I-House”. The dormitory is mainly intended for international students, but there are also a few American people. The majority of all residents and (almost) the entire staff are Asians. China, Japan and South Korea are the most strongly represented nations in the I-House, followed by Germany and France. But don’t be put off, Asians are (well, not all) in a bad mood. I have had good experiences, only speaking English is often neglected in the I-House, as there are many Germans who speak the same language and many Asians come to the USA to learn English and are therefore often behind Europeans in terms of language level.
Alternative 2 are the so-called “Pioneer Heights”, the dormitories that are mostly inhabited by Americans. There are also some international ones here, but the majority of the rooms are occupied by state officials.
Alternative 3: The student dormitories off campus. You should have a car if you want to move in here, but it should be by far the best apartments (even with a pool in the courtyard). I think this is more for students who are staying for more than a quarter and want to move in with friends after their first quarter!
Alternative 4: You can find your own apartment in Hayward. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about this, except that owning a car is inevitable.
But now back to the I-House. It doesn’t matter when you arrive, as the office is manned 24 hours a day. First, a few forms are filled out, then the rooms are checked and that’s it. Problem-free. Pay attention only to the move-in and move-out dates! You shouldn’t arrive much earlier than the official move-in date and you shouldn’t stay much longer than the move-out date, otherwise you will pay extra! In addition, nothing is going on on campus after the move-out date!
Food and supplies
Basically, you don’t have to worry about food. Right next to the I-House and the Pioneer Heights are the brand new “Dining Commons”. There is an all-you-can-eat buffet that has been washed three times a day. However, even the best food sticks to your throat after a certain amount of time! But there is nothing to complain about about quality and quantity! Very good.
If you live in the I-House you can choose from 4 different “meal plans”. Full board, 10 meals a week, 5 meals a week, or 0 meals a week. Depending on which plan you choose, you will receive “flex dollars” which can be spent in all campus shops except the bookstore. I don’t recommend taking more than 10 meals (plan B), because you won’t get around to eating 3 times a day in the dining commons anyway. Even 5 can be enough.
For shopping you can (if you don’t have a car) simply take the bus to Hayward and shop at Lucky. Unfortunately, there is no cooking facility in the I-House (unless your roommates have bought hotplates!) In the Pioneer Heights there is no obligation to choose a meal plan (this also makes living cheaper) and you can cook yourself.
The entire campus is somewhat remote on a “mountain” above Hayward. This often makes spontaneous evening excursions problematic because the bus only runs until 10 p.m. Again: a car is great! Unfortunately, there isn’t much going on on campus itself, so frequent tours to San Fran with the BART are the order of the day. The drive to Frisco takes about 40 minutes and is very relaxed.
Hayward itself is a larger suburb of Oakland with around 140,000 inhabitants and not the center of the earth. There is really no nightlife, but there is a really nice cinema. Also, many of the students (especially the Asians) say you shouldn’t go out on the street alone at night, but it’s no more dangerous here than on the streets of German cities at night. So don’t let it drive you crazy!
Oakland itself is only about 20 BART minutes away, but not a particularly popular destination. Crime does play a certain role here, at least at night!
Hayward is (as can be recognized by the name of the university) in the eastern part of the Bay Area. The beautiful Highway 1 stretches south, a tour to LA along the coast is a MUST!
California State University East Bay is a medium-sized university with approximately 11,000-14,000 students. You can find more information on facts and figures on the website. The campus is very nicely designed with wide green spaces, but some old buildings are a thorn in the side. The administration building in particular is not an architectural masterpiece. Otherwise, the campus houses a bookstore, a small campus store, a coffee stand and 2 fast food restaurants (Panda Express and a deli). The business building (VBT) is very modern and a second new building is currently being built. The fitness studio on campus is functional, but unfortunately only open to all students at certain times. Otherwise the athletes train (especially the basketball team is very good, but also the baseball players rose last season). For a price of 25 dollars, if you register in time for the entire quarter, there is nothing to complain about!
The course size varies between 15 and a maximum of 150 students, so very pleasant. Lectures take place from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and these are usually divided into 2 or 3 parts (1 subject Mon + Wed, or Tue + Thu, or Mon + Wed + Fri). The university has a solid reputation for business administration students, but I think the Masters area in particular is well equipped with professors (mainly from Berkeley). In the undergraduate area, the courses are often easy and do not require much study effort (at least in the business administration area). Anyone who can credit their courses at the home university has a good chance of easily earning 1.0. But be careful: In the master’s area (graduate area) it looks completely different!
I can only say about the professors that the relationship with them has nothing to do with that in Germany (at least in Cologne)! We talk to you like friends, meet one or the other in the fitness studio. Very pleasant. They are always available after the lectures and are open for a nice chat. Many also have a great interest in Germans, as they often have German ancestors.
In my time I met a lot of new people from all over the world! Made new German friends, but also many Asians and Americans. The cultural differences are often clearly noticeable, but that is exactly what makes it interesting! So just be open and let everything come to you (even if you live in an apartment with 6 Asians like me!) In general, you can say that the Americans in particular are always helpful. And among the Asians there are such and such, but where is that not the case?
This is arguably the saddest aspect: Hayward has no real nightlife. So to go to party the trip to San Fran is preprogrammed! The city then makes up for it with many clubs and bars. Very important: always write on the guest list before going to the disco! Makes entry much easier. The dress code is almost the same everywhere: the man does nothing wrong with a shirt, leather shoes are not a must, but neither do they choose worn-out kicks. As soon as you have been to the club for the first time, you notice that the girls can sometimes do a little more in the sense of a little less! But convince yourself!
The prices are humane but not cheap. Entering the guest list often saves admission or at least reduces it if you are there until half past ten (parties in Cali start early and end early, as alcohol is no longer poured out after 2 a.m.). For drinks, you get $ 5 for beer and $ 9 for long drinks. Warning: shots are often very expensive !!! My tip: The “Temple” is a great location and the right place for people who like neat house and minimal tones, but (in the basement) also R’nB and hip-hop. You can go there with the BART, but you have to get a taxi back for about 20 dollars per person. Best to book before the party night!
A good alternative to Frisco is a Friday evening in Berkeley (can also be reached quickly with the BART). The student city offers a lot of bars at good prices! My tip: The “Bear’s Liar Pub” bar, you can even drink outside here.
And if you should hold on to it on campus: a cozy get-together in the rooms is the order of the day! I’m just saying cheers!
According to JIBIN123, some excursions should also be on your planning:
1. Highway 1 to LA: On the coast it’s down to LA A dreamlike panorama offers you along the Pacific and the actually oh-so-short distance to the mega-metropolis suddenly takes 2 days! no problem, there are enough motels along the way. The quick way back inland is I-5. 5 hours non-stop from LA to San Fran.
2. If you haven’t done it yet, head to Yosemite National Park!
3. Las Vegas, the Sin City.
4. A day trip to the beach of Santa Cruz is hardly accessible when the weather is nice.
5. If time and money allow: off to San Diego!
Whoever has the opportunity: Off to the NBA! Lakers or Golden State Warriors (Go Kobe !!!)
Finally, a short summary in keywords:
Great time, great people, a lot of fun, a car should be here, unfortunately no party in Hayward, good luck with little learning, San Fran aka Frisco aka good times, is going on (the food knocks rein), I love the USA and anytime again!