I spent the Fall Quarter 2015 from September to December as an ALP (American Language Program) at California State University East Bay, near San Francisco. Small note: As of the 2018 semester, the CSUEB will convert to a semester division instead of a quarter division.
Why did I choose the university and how did the application go?
On the one hand, this university is one of the cheapest in terms of tuition fees (around $ 4,000) in America, and on the other hand, not much additional information was required when applying except for a language certificate and a vaccination certificate. Since I am from Austria, I had to show the TOEFL or IELTS as proof of English language proficiency. (Think about 70-80 points had to be achieved – but more on that from Collage Contact). Otherwise, no job interviews or great selection processes were carried out beforehand. The course content was also right for me, and I was able to have my three courses credited at my University of Applied Sciences in Vienna.
After researching some universities on the CC website, I finally decided on Cal State East Bay, as applications were still easily possible here until May / June. Then I contacted the North America team at Collage Contact and they described the next steps such as the visa and the F1 form to me and supported me in all matters.
During the entire application process, I had hardly any contact with the university myself. All I wanted to know was through CC and Kristin Twilfer was able to help me with any question. It is also very practical that MicroEDU reads your application and sends the original to America.
To the courses and campus
In Vienna I am studying media and communication consulting for my master’s degree. I was lucky enough to be able to attend bachelor courses during the semester abroad, because on the one hand they are a little cheaper and on the other hand there was a lot more choice and free places. All course descriptions can be found on the university website. The only problem is that not all courses are offered in every quarter. My problem was that I specified three courses at my university of applied sciences, which in the end were not offered on site. But you can find “similar” substitutes.
The Open University System(Class crashing) was very complicated at first and I was really afraid of not getting into a desired course. It is important to sit down in a lot of courses in the first week of university and get a signature from the lecturer so that you can then register for the course online with a code. The first week was very chaotic, as you already have a lot of homework and papers to do until next week and if you weren’t even sure whether you were accepted into the course, you still had to do everything for all 9 courses. (I hope the system will change soon) Unfortunately, the local support was not very helpful here and everyone I asked told me something else about how I can finally enroll in the course. But I think that’s just American complicated and illogical style. The best thing to do is to always ask the International Office for everything on site. (In the first week I was in 9 different courses so that in the end I can get into 3 of them quickly.) In the end, I got into all of my courses that I wanted:
- Product and Pricing (Undergraduate)
- Intermediate Video Production (Undergraduate)
- Marketing Research (Postgraduate)
In an emergency, so-called “Business Diploma” courses are also offered, but where 90% German foreign students are found in the class and the “typical American” is rarely seen.
I also recommend the site: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com. Here you can read reviews and feedback from almost all professors and their courses.
According to ACT-TEST-CENTERS, the courses are MO-FR depending on which one has chosen. (Master courses are only once a week, Bachelor courses twice a week TUE and THU or MON and WED) There is an online platform ” Blackboard “, where you have to upload all tasks and find the lecturers’ slides. There are many presentations and papers to write, but the grades vary greatly depending on the professor. The midterms and finals are partly multiple choice, so also feasible. It always depends on whether you want to end with an “A” or whether a “B or C” is enough for you.
But you still have enough free time, or you can voluntarily attend a sports subject or register in the fitness center directly on campus (RAW Center: 60 dollars for the quarter)! On campus itself there are Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Starbucks and other food chains, so you don’t starve!
There is also a bus station at the fitness center, where a free university shuttle takes you to downtown Hayward. There the BART (train) goes to San Francisco. (Approx. 30 minutes drive, 9 dollars there and back) I would recommend you to drive into SF as often as you can or to go on weekend trips with rental cars. Apart from a cinema, Hayward himself has nothing to offer and there is little party life on campus either. A speaking buddy system was offered, but unfortunately only in mid-November. You could apply and then have a student made available as a buddy. A bit late for me personally, I would think it would be good if this were possible in the first week of university at the beginning of September.
I joined up with 5 other Germans in advance via an FB group from Collage Contact and we stayed in the “ City View Apartments“Rented an empty apartment. So we had to get the most necessary things (chairs, dining table, desk, mattresses, kitchen items) from IKEA ourselves. The rent was unfortunately very high as we all only stayed for a quarter. You have to reckon with around 500 euros for a shared room. The apartment was 10 minutes walk from the university, with a swimming pool and jacuzzi and a barbecue area. It was very pleasant to live there, but in retrospect I recommend living with Americans. Unfortunately, my English has hardly improved in the 4.5 months that I was there, even though I really tried everything. It was hard to build a friendship with Americans. In many Facebook groups, students are looking for flatmates or selling furniture, so be sure to check them out before you buy anything new.
I mostly made short trips to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Santa Cruz, Monorey Bay on the weekend. A flight to Las Vegas or San Diego is also not very expensive and certainly feasible during the quarter. Look at as many places as you can and try to get to know Americans when you leave and to be invited to home parties. That’s just part of it =)
If you have saved enough money, or if you are a group of 5 people, I would also recommend buying a car and selling it again in the end. If I add up all of my rental car trips, etc., and Uber and taxi trips, I would certainly have gotten around cheaper with my own car.
I would also recommend you to take part in the FUN TRIPS from the university. You register with a QR code and there are about 4 trips per quarter, where you will be taken for free. (Shopping Center, Napa Valley, Pumpkin Carving etc.)
The semester abroad was definitely a great and unique experience that I can only recommend to everyone. There were some things that I didn’t have in mind and where I was a bit disappointed. (Organization at the university itself, differentiation between exchange students and normal students) Above all, that I spoke little English and that there was hardly any party life at the university, or that you made really good connections. Unfortunately, the location is not very central and without a car, grocery shopping alone is very tedious. But you grow out of every situation and every experience and in retrospect I had a really great semester.