California State University, East Bay 11

My semester at CSUEB starts and ends earlier than the winter semester in Germany. That’s why I flew from Bremen to San Francisco on September 7th, 2016. I spent the first few days in a hostel to explore my new city. On September 12th we went to the CSUEB. I was very impressed with the size and location of the campus. The entire campus was on top of a mountain, so you could see all the big cities in the area. 30-40 buildings, some of them very modern, belonged to the campus. Of the 20,000 students, 2,000 lived on this campus. It seems normal to have 10 fast food restaurants plus one all-you-can-eat cafeteria belonged to the campus. The campus was so big that one bus was only responsible for the university, it took 15 minutes to go around the campus once. Due to the hilly ups and downs, no bicycles were to be seen on the entire campus. However, hundreds of skateboards drove across the site and mine was quickly one of them.

Flat

Since I wasn’t sure whether I would find an apartment for a semester, I decided, like most international students, to live in a student dormitory on campus. In the student residences there were apartments for 2 to 12 students living together. I got into a shared flat for two, which is expensive but also very relaxing. On the day I moved in, I quickly realized that the living situation in student dormitories is really as it is portrayed in the films. There are no single rooms. The students always share their rooms with 2 or more people. This was a bit of a surprise for me, but since it was only for the period of one semester, this was not a problem at all. My roomate was a very nice Spaniard who even studied something like me. We got along very well throughout the semester and went on many weekend trips together. Since the apartment was empty, apart from some furniture and a bed, the first few days we went shopping: 2 plates, 2 forks, 2 knives, 2 cups, 2 spoons and 2 bowls had to be enough for the semester. Of course, I also had to buy a duvet, pillows and a few other things, which I logically had to leave behind.

A surprise when we moved in was that all students had to move out over the summer vacation, as many advanced training courses are offered at our university in the summer and they therefore need the rooms. This means that all students move out once a year and later have to move in with new roommates. This would really annoy me in the long run. A much bigger surprise, however, was that there were no hotplates in the rooms. Every room, regardless of size, only has a microwave with an oven function and it is forbidden to get mobile hotplates. Now I have understood the many fast food chains on campus. Every student who lives on campus has to buy a meal plan from the Unimensa and has to continue to buy 200 flex dollars, which you then spend at the fast food chains. This is automatically deducted from the room rate. The cafeteria had burger, Chinese, pizza, pasta, sandwich and daily changing stations. At all these stations it was “All you can eat”, thanks to this fact that I gained 0.5 kg every week in the first few months.But the food was really delicious! All students on campus were still able to use the on-campus gym for free, which helped me shed those pounds. There were also gaming areas, billiard rooms, swimming pools, running tracks, soccer fields and many other offers on the campus. The campus was really huge and weeks went by without leaving the campus.

Courses

The requirement for my American visa was that I had completed at least 12 units. These units can be covered with various, sometimes absurd, courses. So there was football, dancing or running, where you could earn 1 unit each. Since I want my courses to be recognized by my home university and of course I also wanted to learn something, I have already decided in Germany to only take courses from the Construction Management degree to prove. 3 courses of 4 units each would meet my 12 units. Of the 4 courses I had been approved, 2 were already full and I was advised not to take one course. So I only had one course. This problem led to a meeting with the head of Construction Management. This meeting was very helpful. After I explained which courses I had already taken in Germany and which courses my home university would probably approve retrospectively, we looked for 4 courses for me and he approved me to take them. All courses were in the last semester of the degree, so I was by far the youngest. Most of the students already had wives and children, and almost all of them had jobs in the construction industry.

All in all, the level of American courses is a bit lower than that of German courses, but it is a lot more work to get good grades in America to get. I only had 4 hours a week of each class, but there was a ton of homework and books to read. I was able to calculate around 6 hours of homework per week per course, plus around 1.5 hours of reading the respective chapters in the books. Since homework is collected and assessed every week, it had to be clean and correct as far as possible. There are also weekly tests and 2 exams per course, which of course had to be learned a lot. Not to mention the projects that somehow had to be accommodated. And now let’s compare this effort with Germany: One exam per course at the end of the semester, which is the total grade of the course. I think everyone now knows why I think that getting good grades is a lot more work in America.American system, I have to admit that you learn and keep a lot more than in the German system. I learned a lot during the week, but kept my weekends completely free.

Campus life

There was always something going on on campus. In addition to job fairs, concerts (yes, really, a stage was set up and rappers came), sporting events and gamecomes, there were weekly competitions such as running, decorating pumpkins and the like. It was also the winter semester at the university, which means that all connections are looking for members. To find this, the connections organized tournaments and games and invited to free barbecues. I quickly fell in love with the Alpha Kappa Omega connection and have attended every one of their events. However, I did not join as I was only in America for one semester. Connection in America = party? No, that’s not the case, there was a strict alcohol ban on the entire campus and since many members are still under 21, the consumption of alcohol would be forbidden anyway. Even in your own four walls in the dormitory you were not allowed to drink alcohol if someone under the age of 21 was present. This was also taken very seriously. I was very happy to be 22 years old. Furthermore, the rooms are checked for cleanliness and there are many rules such as alcohol may not be used as decoration. The whole thing sometimes felt like a kindergarten to me. Still, I had a wonderful time and I don’t regret going to America for a second.

Closing words

After taking the final exams, I traveled the US for a few more weeks and visited some friends before going home in late January. I learned a lot and improved my English a lot. I would recommend a semester abroad to anyone who thinks about it. The experience you gain in America will never be forgotten, and neither will your friends. Some friends from CA are actually visiting me in Germany this summer.

California State University, East Bay 11