I did my exchange as a freemover at the University of California, Santa Barbara, as my home university is not a partner university of UCSB. The university is about 2 hours above Los Angeles, right by the sea. It is located in Goleta, a place approx. 20 minutes outside Santa Barbara and borders on the student village Isla Vista (IV). The university’s location right by the sea is unique and the region around Santa Barbara in general is simply fantastic.
UCSB is currently quite popular as a university abroad. We organized our exchange through MicroEDU, a company from Germany which has contracts with various universities and handles the registration, formalities, etc. for the exchange students free of charge.
In any case, register early enough (at least approx. 6-10 months in advance), as the exchange places are very limited and the first-come-first-serve principle applies to registrations. As proof of English, you only have to achieve at least 80 points in the TOEFL, which should be the smallest problem. Another requirement is the American F-1 student visa, which you should definitely take care of early enough.
Should you decide to do an exchange at UCSB, then be prepared for the fact that you will have a great time and that for a large part of the time the weather will be just great!
University, courses, extension:
Class crashing is on the agenda in the first few weeks. This means that you look for the courses you want to attend in the course catalog and ask the lecturer on site whether there is still space – if so, you get the signature from him on a special form, which you then have to hand in to the Extension Office and there then paid the course. Depending on the popularity, it can be very difficult and tedious to attend a desired / required course, as the regular students and the “normal” exchange students from partner universities of the UCSB (apparently around 200 per quarter (with reservation!)) Always have priority in front of the freemover exchange students (now not just 125, as in the past, but around 250 per quarter according to an office assistant) – unfortunately this fact is never clearly communicated, only on site. Read more student reviews on Mcat-test-centers.
The Econ courses in particular are often very difficult to get (mainly because California is bankrupt and is amalgamating many courses or is no longer offering every quarter). It is advisable not to trust that you can complete certain required subjects here.
At the beginning of the quarter, Profs. the syllabus, which roughly corresponds to our leaflets. There you can also see what the grade distribution looks like. It is worth taking a closer look at them, especially since they can be quite different from subject to subject and from professor to professor and can contain quite large differences (e.g. in one subject there is a C- with 60% or 65% and in the next only at 70% or even at an even higher percentage, not all lecturers “curve” and thus do not adapt the grades to the normal distribution).
I have attended a total of four courses and overall I am very happy with my courses (apart from Econ 101 with Prof. D. Lawver was an absolute impertinence from various perspectives), but you should definitely not underestimate the cost of the courses, especially for Econ courses, as the quarter is relatively short, you actually have assignments and quizzes almost every week (especially for assignments I had to spend many, many hours per week). Likewise, in most courses it is not the case that you are given good grades at UCSB, there are also no “advantages” for international students, e.g. in the case of papers, no consideration is given to the evaluation, that your mother tongue is not English and naturally you don’t have as large and distinctive academic vocabulary as the Americans (at least not in the courses I attended at the Communications Department, for example). It is highly recommended to attend a sports class (start with “ES” in the course catalog), just for fun, as these are usually only worth 0.5 units anyway.
The search for an apartment from here is very time-consuming and usually inconclusive. It is advisable to rent the Motel 6 in Goleta before the exchange and from there to look for something directly on site, via Craigslist. The best thing to do is to send people an SMS or call them directly, as emails are often not answered in the first place (this can be quite frustrating). It is also advisable to first inspect the apartment or room before accepting it, as there are often relatively dirty or neglected houses, especially in Isla Vista (you’ll see). He also recommends looking for a single room or at least sharing a room with someone you know. In any case, look for an apartment or a room in Isla Vista, as Downtown Santa Barbara is about 30 minutes away by bus, and Downtown Goleta is also approx. 15 minutes away by bus. This does not seem very far, but at the weekend and in the evening, for example, the buses do not run at all or only very irregularly and without a car it is then practically impossible to get away except by bike. It just takes a long time (another disadvantage of the bike is that it is strictly forbidden to ride a bike while drunk and there are many police patrols in IV, especially in the evening). Plus, if you want the true USA exchange college experience, living in Isla Vista is a must. Speaking of the police: find out what is allowed and what is not allowed at a post there in IV, e.g. being drunk in public on the street (this also applies to walking home from a party) can quickly end with a night in prison,
Isla Vista is the typical college district as you know it from the American films. This was actually quite funny and you quickly got to know a lot of people. But even after a few weeks it can quickly feel out of place / too old among all the mostly unaged college kids who live alone for the first time and cannot really handle alcohol yet.;-)
It is amazing how many City College students from downtown Santa Barbara live there in IV. Also: be sure to buy a bike, as you need it every day to get to the university or to get around Isla Vista in general.
If you go to the exit or want to buy alcohol, it is important that you always have your passport with you, otherwise you will often not be served or leave the store empty-handed.
In terms of excursions, San Francisco, San Diego, LA, Malibu, Orange County and Las Vegas are definitely highly recommended. Likewise Death Valley and the national parks. The distances are short by American standards and you can get to the individual cities relatively quickly from Santa Barbara (Las Vegas 6h, San Fransisco 6h, LA 2h, San Diego 3-4h).
Fixed costs are the F1-Vista (approx. 300-400 $), the flight to LA from Europe (approx. 1000-1500 $) and the registration fees at the Extension Office (approx. 2000 US $). For the university, depending on the number of courses, you have to calculate around US $ 3000-4000 per quarter in addition to the US $ 2000 registration fee. In addition, there are books which can quickly be booked with a few US $ 100). In addition, there is the relatively expensive living in general in the Santa Barbara region, which can be booked at around US $ 500-1000 per month, depending on requirements. Of course, there are also food, shopping and all kinds of excursions (LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, OC, etc.), which are not cheap either, but hopefully you will still do a lot during your exchange time!
In general, it can be said that this exchange was a great experience. As I said – you should by no means underestimate the high cost of the courses and think the grades are given to you.
But California and especially the region around Santa Barbara are simply fantastic and it is practically every day sunny weather and the sky is cloudless – simply indescribable!
Looking back, I can say that the exchange semester in the USA was amazing and despite some initial difficulties (e.g. looking for an apartment, class crashing, etc.) it was an experience that I wouldn’t want to miss!