I had a lot of respect and also a little afraid of going abroad. However, I don’t regret taking this step for a second and I really recommend everyone who has the opportunity to have such an experience to do it themselves!
Since the FH Düsseldorf is not a partner university of the San Diego State (SDSU), I was responsible for planning administrative and organizational things myself – which I had respect for. My preparations for the semester abroad in San Diego turned out to be easier than I thought. I felt very well informed and never had any nasty surprises.
Thanks to my own savings, support from BAFöG abroad and an educational loan from KfW Bank, I had enough money for the adventure in San Diego according to the documents from SDSU. The biggest financial burden was certainly the semester contribution of around € 4,600, which I got back in full with the BAFöG abroad. I calculated my cost of living at € 1,500 (including rent, car, groceries, …) and I did well with that. Only in the first month should you expect at least € 2,000 in expenses.
As an international insurance company, I turned to the ADAC. Unfortunately, I also had to make use of the services as I was treated as an outpatient in the hospital for two days. The American health system differs from the German one in that, as an international student, you have to pay for the hospital and doctors yourself before you get reimbursed by the ADAC, provided you receive outpatient instead of inpatient treatment. I had to pay bills in the amount of € 1,000 in advance from my own account, but the ADAC reimbursed the costs about 4 weeks later.
I booked my flight about 6 months before it started and ended up in the inexpensive “Good Nite Inn” hotel about 2 weeks before the semester at SDSU officially begins. I consciously decided against the other alternative, the “Bana-Bungalow” -Hostel, because I had never slept in a hostel and was afraid of leaving my valuables (laptop, camera, …) in a room with several strangers to stow away. Nevertheless, I would recommend everyone to spend the first few days in the Banana Bungalow. There you get to know a lot of new, cool people in the first days of the semester abroad, with whom you can experience beautiful and exciting things in the course of the semester. Valuables can also be stored in the locker with their own lock! Furthermore, I would recommend that you only book the flight ticket for the one-way flight, if you do not have any fixed and detailed plans for the entire period. Otherwise, rebooking and booking a new return flight will be very expensive. You can get a car cheaply and without problems at “Dirt Cheap Car” -Rental. My four roommates and I paid a total of $ 400 a month.
The biggest challenge for me during the entire stay abroad was looking for an apartment. Before I traveled to SD, it was already clear that I would move in with three friends from my university. Afterwards, I regretted the fact that I hadn’t previously found myself in the numerous Facebook groups – which were set up especially for a semester abroad in SD – with international students in order to live in an international shared apartment. Since there are really very many Germans at the SDSU and also in the city, I recommend leaving your comfort zone in order to improve your language skills and contacting non-German speakers. When all of this is settled, you have to go looking for an apartment together on site. It helps if you put away your fears, organize yourself, and then knock on every door, calling every number on the numerous “For Rent” signs or Craigslist (similar to eBay classifieds in the USA) and writing endless mails. Not only rummage through Craigslist and all the apps that are out there (unfortunately I don’t remember which ones I used), but also walk through the neighborhoods that appeal to you and keep an eye out for “For Rent” signs. If you hesitate and wait too long, the most beautiful houses and apartments will already be taken! It took us about 10 days before we got a good, but unfurnished apartment right on the ocean in Pacific Beach via Craigslist. We paid a total of $ 2,200 per month with four people and were able to move in with approx. $ 450 very well stocked up at IKEA with all the necessary furniture and consumables. The best neighborhoods are Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach.
When the stress of looking for an apartment and the stress of moving in was gone, I really arrived and after a relaxing day at the beach I realized that I would spend the next 5 months like in paradise. The city of San Diego, the sea, the lifestyle, the people and the nature in the area are simply beautiful and you are totally overwhelmed in the first few weeks. Even if the search for an apartment was stressful, we got to know a lot of nice and open people who helped us again and again. Strangers called friends for us, arranged contacts and even drove us to various offices to ask about possible accommodation for us. San Diego is a place to feel good. At no point did I feel unsafe or alone.
The beginning of the semester at an American university is very exciting. You can’t compare these universities with those in Germany. After the semester abroad, I honestly don’t want to study in Germany anymore! The campus is huge and beautiful. Everything was well organized down to the smallest detail and I felt very comfortable as “Aztec” – as the SDSU students call themselves. This sense of community will infect you and inspire you. It is unimaginable how well all students live, celebrate and cheer the university’s sports teams together. The level of the lectures was not very demanding in terms of content. The only difficult thing for me was to fully understand the lecturers in the first two weeks. But you quickly get used to speaking English and all professors are really nice when dealing with international students. I can recommend all courses except for “Multinational Business”, as this requires a high workload and a lot of difficult vocabulary is used there, which makes the follow-up particularly difficult.
You don’t have to register in a fitness studio. As “Aztec” I was able to train for free in the university gym. This gym is better equipped than almost every fitness studio known from Germany: New equipment, Cario, climbing walls, basketball halls, soccer fields, course rooms and trainers, swimming pool, sauna, lockers. That being said, there are plenty of volleyball nets and basketball courts on the beach!
It also remains to be said that you should leave a lot of space in your suitcase, as you can shop pretty well in the States. I have seen almost everything worth seeing on the west coast in my travel destinations. It is a good idea to travel to San Francisco, then drive along Highway 1 south along the coast back to San Diego, making stops in St. Cruiz and Santa Barbara. Personally, I didn’t like Los Angeles very much – you should have seen the city anyway! Furthermore, I strongly recommend staying at least two nights in Yosemite National Park. The visit there was definitely the highlight of the semester abroad! Trips to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon should also be planned. I didn’t travel to Hawaii or Mexico for cost reasons. I went home via Miami
San Diego is definitely the right decision! 🙂