1. Introduction & preparation
It has always been clear to me that I would like to study abroad for a semester in order to gain new experience and further improve my English. I already knew USA through various trips and it has always appealed to me as a country.
Since there were few partner universities in the USA at my home university, I decided on your website, which I can recommend to everyone. The organization is free and the staff are very friendly and extremely helpful at all times.
My girlfriend and I chose California State University East Bay (CSUEB). Before that, I did an internship and was therefore a bit limited with the period. The quarter system was just right for me. The tuition fees were still “manageable” compared to other universities in the USA. The CSUEB has numerous courses in the field of economics. I also found the CSUEB’s location in the Bay Area appealing – a good starting point for traveling and in close proximity to San Francisco.
We decided to live off campus because there are hardly any single rooms on campus in the dormitories and these, including food, are quite expensive. The food is not recommended in my opinion, mostly fast food and poor quality. In addition, it is difficult to get a place in a dormitory for a quarter anyway.
We had planned to look for accommodation on site. However, when we exchanged ideas with other Germans who had already found accommodation and recommended the apartment complexes near the university to us, we decided on the City View Apartments and already booked an apartment online. It felt better to leave for San Francisco knowing that accommodation was already established.
I really enjoyed life in the City View Apartments. The walk to the university is about 10-15 minutes uphill. The apartments are in good condition and the complex is nicely designed, there are three pools, BBQ areas, a small gym, tennis courts and the like. Both students and families live in the City Views apartment. Almost all German students have lived in the apartments. The rental prices are high because of the short rental period. The price is put into perspective by the good location to the university, you can do without a car.
3. Academic / CSUEB
The CSUEB is located on a mountain with a great view of the Bay Area. The campus is very nicely laid out and huge, compared to German universities. The campus is the nicest thing about Hayward, but not comparable to the Berkeley campus. Most of the buildings are rather shabby and not up to date with the latest technology. Many Americans refer to the CSUEB as the “university for the poor” because of this and because of the rather low tuition fees for US standards. The ALP Office (American Language Program) staff who looked after us exchange students from your website are unfriendly and disorganized. There was seldom information about activities on campus. In general, the CSUEB hardly offers any leisure activities such as parties and the like.
As an ALP student you have to take part in a course crashing, it works as follows: The Americans have the chance to register their desired courses before the start of the lectures and to change them if necessary. As an ALP student, you then have to check which courses are still vacant, attend these lectures and get the professors’ signature. 1.5 weeks after the start of the lectures, there is a day on which the ALP students can enroll in the courses. To do this, you have to queue up in front of an office as early as possible and be given codes for course enrollment. The following applies: whoever comes first, first serves. We were the first at just before 4 a.m. and got all the courses we wanted;). Check ehuacom to see more reviews from current students.
ALP students are not treated particularly well: You have to look in which courses there are places left, the number of places in the courses is not increased by the professors. In the first 1.5 weeks, ALP students do not have access to the Blackboard, but have to do homework or write tests without any material or guarantee of being accepted into the course.
The level of the American courses is by no means comparable to the German standard. However, the effort during the quarter is a lot higher. There is a lot of homework, case studies, presentations, etc.
The university town of Hayward didn’t speak to me. The city center consists of one street with a few shops, pubs and restaurants. There are some homeless and criminal people living in Hayward.
I wouldn’t buy a car for a quarter if you live near the university. There is a free shuttle from the university to Hayward Downtown, where you can go shopping or take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). When we rented a car for weekend trips, we often did bulk shopping at Walmart (the other supermarkets are very expensive). The university employee advised us: “Make friends with someone who has a car”.
San Francisco is an amazing city with lots to do and see! I was particularly fascinated by the architecture, the different districts (especially recommendable North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill and Marina District), the two bridges and the many parks (e.g. Alamo Square and Mission Dolores). With the BART, San Francisco can be reached in about 35 minutes from Hayward. It takes at least as long to drive a car due to the traffic.
The USA, especially California, offers a lot for “sightseeing”. So we started a road trip through the cities of LA, San Diego, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara before the start of the quarter, drove Highway One during the quarter, looked at Silicon Valley and visited the Yosemite National Park. We also visited New York and Las Vegas. For those who want to see Canada: Vancouver can be reached from San Francisco by plane in 2.5 hours and is definitely worth the trip.
I imagined the weather in California to be different. Note that San Francisco is in Northern California and the weather in the Bay Area changes very quickly. In one week you can experience everything from moderate to hot temperatures and rain. At the end of February it was still really cold and we often asked for a winter jacket. When it got summery in May, it still cooled down a lot in the evening. It’s always a little warmer in Hayward than in San Francisco, where the wind often blows.
The USA is a paradise for party enthusiasts. Although the clubs close at 2:30 p.m. (except in Las Vegas) and the alcohol laws are stricter (no alcohol before 9 p.m. and drinking on the street is not allowed), there are plenty of clubs with good hip-hop and party-mad Americans.
Shoppers will also get their money’s worth. It is particularly worthwhile to go to the outlets and dust off bargains. The Livermore outlets are very close by. My tip to take as little as possible and to dress there.
It is rather difficult to come into contact with American students. Most Americans work and therefore have no time or interest in making friends with exchange students. I chose a course in which my girlfriend and I were the only Germans and which consisted of a group project. This made contact with Americans. Group work with Americans is very nerve-wracking. Because of your job, you have no interest in meeting and want to split up the work that you don’t, incompletely, last minute and / or do poorly.
I would recommend a semester abroad to everyone. I gained a lot of experience, learned a lot, got to know a lot of new people, had a lot of fun and saw a lot of the USA. I don’t want to miss these experiences.