Since I have also read various testimonials while looking for the right university, I take the liberty of putting a small summary with the most important points in front of you in order to save you time if necessary. If the summary arouses greater interest, you will find the detailed description on the following pages.
First things first: A semester abroad as a free mover in the USA costs money. If you are looking for a “cheap” stay abroad, you should definitely calculate beforehand whether you can afford the university and the cost of living . To help you a bit, here is a small list of the costs of my quarters:
- Program Fees: $ 2,270
- Tuition Fees (3 Extension Courses + 1 Open University Course): approximately $ 2,500
- Foreign health insurance (Hanse Merkur): approx. EUR 300
- Rent in a double room: $ 3,400 ($ 850 per month, please read the rental section)
- Visa: approx. EUR 300
- Flight (DUS-LAX): approx. EUR 1,200
- Total without living expenses: approx. EUR 9,970 (depending on the exchange rate)
I do not list variable costs such as travel and / or living expenses, as I think that everyone decides for themselves. But lunch / dinner in Santa Barbara or Isla Vista is always between $ 10- $ 15 and the area itself isn’t cheap.
Was it worth it? Every single penny!
Semester abroad in the USA
Is it easy to contact UCSB ? Definitely very helpful and understanding employees .
Contrary to the often held opinion that a semester abroad in the USA does not introduce you to a new culture, I would like to contradict that. Of course, many of the standards and social norms are the same as in Europe, but university life at an American university is a culture in itself, which I did not get to know in this way during my studies and which I do not want to miss.
There are homework and essays (not voluntary) that have to be done, just like tests (HÜ’s) that count into your grade. Attendance and participation are also graded in many subjects. According to this, there is always something to do for the university during the semester, but this will benefit you when it comes to the finals. These are not more difficult than German exams, I would even say rather easier, but I think that again depends on the course.
All in all, with the tests, essays, attendance and participation, you have enough opportunities to improve your grade throughout the semester. AND don’t worry too much, free time is not neglected.
Why UCSB ?!
Deciding which university to go to was a long process for me. A semester abroad is compulsory in my “International Business and Marketing” course , which is why I’ve been thinking about possible destinations since the first semester.
Now it was clear to me relatively quickly that I wanted to do a business -related master’s degree, which is taught in English. So I wanted to improve my language during the semester abroad in order to be prepared for another TOEFL and GMAT test . With this decision, I filtered out the English-speaking countries in order to achieve the best possible learning effect.
First I looked at the partner universities of my university. Unfortunately, there was no ideal partner university for me, it usually failed because of the country or the location of the universities. On their website you can find numerous partner universities where you can complete your semester abroad. And also all the necessary information (costs, location of the university, experience reports, accommodation options, etc.) in a very clear and simple format.
Even though I am firmly convinced that the British accent sounds more upscale and more beautiful than the American, I decided against the UK because it was just too close to me. To be honest, I never really thought much about New Zealand and Australia because personally I just wasn’t / am not interested in them. That left me with Canada and the USA . Relatively quickly, my search was limited to the UCSB and a university in Vancouver, Canada. However, since I was already in Vancouver after graduating from high school and I was also traveling in the winter semester, I decided to go to warm California .
Another factor was that I just wanted to experience the American university life and wanted to go to a campus university that is simply not available in a city like Vancouver (NOTE: The Canadian dollar was much weaker than the EUR, so this would be one cheaper alternative). Another reason why I narrowed down these two universities was the different semesters / trimesters / quarter beginnings, which simply worked for these two universities. It started at the end of September 2017 and at the end of December 18, 2017.
At first glance, studying in America is of course not cheap, but you should see it more as an education cost and thus as an investment in your own future . By the way, California has the lowest tuition fees on average and has, in addition to private universities, the CSUs ( California State Universities ) and the UCs ( Universities of California ).
UC system versus CSU system
If you follow the advice and German opinions, there is hardly any difference between the CSUs and the UCs, only that the UCs are more “research” based and the CSUs promise more “hands on experience”. But if you talk to people in the USA and students, you can hear a very clear mood that the UCs are superior to the CSUs.
The UC’s are globally recognized universities and enjoy an internationally renowned reputation . And if you have already invested your time and money, then you should invest in the investment with the highest return rate. UC’s include UC Berkley, UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, etc.
In order to be accepted at UC Berkley , which is number 1 among UCs, everything in your grades and curriculum vitae has to be right and usually only works with a partner agreement from your home university. Second place, UCLA , is in the middle of an affluent part of LA, but the university is very competitive for business students, which affects student life and you should have a bit of fun in your semester abroad. The UCSB and 3rd place of the UC’s has a perfect location by the sea with a direct connection to LA (1h 30min) and a booming student life.
The requirements of the UCSB were, among other things, the TOEFL, good grades and financial evidence. All in all, the application process for UCSB was carried out. I would like to express great praise here , as every problem and all questions are dealt with and answered directly. Great service and nice staff.
I arrived by plane from Düsseldorf with the departed airline, Airberlin. I had found and booked a cheap direct flight from DUS to Los Angeles, LAX. On the Internet and through a friend, I then found out that the Santa Barbara Airbus stops right at the terminal and drives one, including WiFi, to Santa Barbara or Isla Vista. A tour here costs an impressive 50 $. Isla Vista is a district of Santa Barbara (SB) or Goleta, where almost 20,000 students live in what feels like two square kilometers.
Accommodation and rent
In terms of accommodation , social media is probably the most efficient way to find an apartment in IV. I personally found a sublet on the “UCSB Housing” Facebook page. Everyone posts here, all different types of rooms, apartments, or annual contracts.
ATTENTION: Living space is scarce, everyone wants to live in IV and preferably as close to the sea as possible. Some people want to make a profit from it and offer their rooms overpriced or you should pay in full for two months. (The month at the beginning and at the end) even if you don’t use the room and you know that another subtenant is available for the time. Here you have to open your eyes and ears, which turns out to be quite difficult when you are sitting in front of your home computer and do not know the local conditions.
After a long search, since most shared apartments are still strictly separated according to gender and women are only looking for women and the majority are women, I finally found a room with a perfect location and an “okay” rental price, but at first I was shocked which brings you the rental rate of $ 850 / month.
Let me put it this way: 20,000 students on two square kilometers – this is what some of the apartments look like. But you get used to it. I lived with five other American boys in a 4 room, kitchen, bathroom apartment, which in retrospect was one of the best times of my life .
In the US it is completely normal to share a room. Sometimes two, sometimes three, but also four people is not uncommon. If you can, make sure you move into a house where Americans live with you. You get to know people much faster and your language skills also improve drastically. In any case, I shared a room and we both still paid $ 850 a month in rent for a room.
Overall, and to come back to the abundance of students, they live there under completely different conditions. Everything is expensive, but the standard is rather medium. Everything was dirtier, there were posters on the wall everywhere, stuff was lying around everywhere, but it didn’t bother anyone. (Mama doesn’t put anything away here.) My house was in the 65 block on DP (Del Playa Drive) which is the first street in IV if you come from the sea. Block 65 is the block that is closest to the university, with which I was able to unite both worlds.
What you learn and feel when you share a room is the little privacy you have to respect and you either get on well with your room colleagues or you collide. But due to different hobbies and / or courses and a living room, there were always alternatives and at least I could always talk to my roommate and communicate with each other if you needed time for yourself.
In general, one only moves around in IV by bike, skate board, longboard or on foot. The traffic rules are also unofficially adapted to this. At the top of the priority and always right of way, bicycles come, then skateboarders, then pedestrians and when there is nothing left on the road, cars can go. I bought a bike from “Craigslist” (classified ads) for about $ 70, which I got resold after the quarter.
My expectations for my semester abroad were all met . I was often surprised and the 1-2 negative experiences that you have are ultimately positive memories in retrospect.
I wanted to enjoy the American university life, learn to surf and have a good time with new people who become friends and also learn something in the courses. And that’s exactly what I got and a lot more. Despite the winter semester (September to December) I only had one day of rain and felt a little cloudy weather for a week. On the days you just pulled a sweater over your T-shirt, so that’s half as tragic.
Through my American housemates, I was quickly introduced to various groups of friends with whom I was later traveling even without my housemates. I can really say I made friends for life . But as it is, there are German exchange students everywhere and whether you like it or not, you meet and spend some time together.
However, I kept my German circle of friends relatively small, as most of them had a disgusting attitude and I was already traveling in American circles.
When you think of American college parties, you automatically think of fraternities (e.g. Kappa Alpha Phi), RedCups and beer kegs that you drink from upside down. A bit like in the movie “Project X”. And what can I say big … Yep, this is not just a Hollywood invention. At first I thought I was going to a festival and it was just house parties on a normal weekend. But as much as people can celebrate, they are just as hard-working the day after, with homework and tests, there is always something to do.
The UCSB requires an LPC (List of Proposed Courses) to be sent before the start of the respective quarter. In my opinion, this only serves to estimate how many people want to take which courses, since the choice of course changes on site anyway and initially caused a lot of confusion for me.
In general, there are two major differences when it comes to choosing a course. There are Open University (OU) courses and Extension courses (EK) . Both course types give units and are worth the same on the transcript, i.e. 4 EK units are worth exactly as much as 4 units of an OU course. However, the OU courses are usually twice as expensive as the EKs. This is because the OU courses are the normal university courses that American students also attend. The EK’s are mostly in the evening and are mostly flooded with exchange students or adults who are still doing further training.
You rarely find American students here and when they do, they want to achieve a specific certificate, for example in marketing. In most of the EK’s you can buy directly, ie you choose the course, clarify the requirements and buy the course, which, so to speak, reserves a place for you. The OU courses are only taken by the American students and if there is still space available, other students or you can take the courses by asking the professor whether you can attend the course (Course Crashing).
Accordingly, at OU you cannot say in advance whether you will come into the course or whether you will be able to take it. However, do not be put off if the course is titled “Full”. Many American students “drop” or switch courses in the first two weeks.
The OU are more expensive and you have to work more as they are more demanding. However, in my opinion they are worth it, because in the EKs you are almost exclusively with exchange students (mostly 80 percent German) and in the OUs you also work with and get to know the Americans.
My courses were the following:
- ECON X455.1 – 013 – Global Economics (EK)
- BUSAD X402.2 – 009 – Marketing in the 21st Century (EK)
- TMP XSB122 – 009 – Entrepreneurship 47563 (OU – Super course.)
- BUSAD X432 – Business Negotiation (EK)
At UCSB you have to take at least 12 units per quarter and can have a maximum of 16. Since I needed the equivalent of 30 ECTS points, I had to take courses with a total of 15 units.
As already explained above, the courses were generally associated with more effort than in Germany, but on the whole not more difficult. The EK’s are simpler than the OU courses, but both have their own characteristics. I was very satisfied with my courses and would recommend them too. In my opinion, the constant homework and assignments during the week meant that you learned more, but felt a bit like high school.
My favorite course was the Entrepreneurship course run by a former Apple chief and co-founder of EA. Here our final was a presentation of a business idea to real investors. The course is very demanding and complex, but extremely instructive. All the professors I had at that time were super cooperative and nice and mostly offered their help for the future .
Unfortunately, as an extension student, I didn’t feel like a full member of the student body, as I needed an extra library card and I wasn’t allowed to use all amenities such as pools or gym free of charge. However, that should change in the next few quarters. Otherwise I really cannot express any criticism, as I was completely satisfied with my choice.
Financially speaking, it’s of course a big decision, especially if you don’t get a BAföG abroad , but for me it was definitely worth the experience. Nobody can take away the experiences and experiences and you also make friendships that really enrich you immaterially.
What I can only recommend to you and what in my opinion is super important is to go to the semester abroad on your own . Does not matter where! You find approval and friends and grow with your challenges. Plus, the feeling of going to an American university is like being in a big family. All of them proudly wear the university’s initials, cheer on the university teams, and outside SB, too, you come into contact with others through your “university clothes”. You feel like a unit, which I unfortunately miss at most German universities.
All in all, I had the time of my life in America and never even dreamed that it would be as beautiful as it was in the end. I already miss the time and am jealous of everyone who chooses this university. I can recommend UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista to anyone looking for fun but also a world class university.