Studying in the USA and experiencing the Californian student lifestyle first-hand – this is roughly how you could describe my plans, or rather my dream that drove me to study in the United States for two months. After a lot of pondering and thinking, I finally did it and studied for six weeks at California State University Long Beach in the form of a so-called “summer session” . Here are some impressions and experiences from my studies and my stay in the land of unlimited possibilities – maybe it will help one or the other who is still unsure.
Why California State University Long Beach?
It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to study at a university in California . Before I made a decision, I looked at all the options that came into question for me. Funding was an important factor here. Since my university in Germany (University of Cologne) unfortunately did not have any partner universities in California, it became clear relatively quickly that I would have to finance a study visit abroad myself. You have to say: studying in the USA is really expensive. For a whole semester (including accommodation , tuition fees and other things) you can quickly get to amounts of 15,000 or 20,000 euros. In a summer session, on the other hand, you can get by with 5,000 – 6,000 euros.
Brief explanation: In a summer session you take at least two courses at the CSULB, which are completed within six weeks. For me, the summer session was a good alternative to get a compact impression of the American study system and still have my academic achievements recognized.
So to the question – why California State University Long Beach? There are several reasons for this in my opinion. First of all: it is comparatively cheapest . For a summer session at CSULB you pay almost 2,000 euros less than, for example, at UCLA. Another reason: great range of courses . Because I am personally interested in the fields of psychology , communication and journalism, the CSULB offered a wide and varied range of courses with several courses. Unfortunately, not all courses are offered in the summer session and as an international student you are not allowed to take online courses. You should therefore find out which courses are available beforehand. A third reason: the great location. As the name suggests – California State University Long Beach: the university is really close to the beach .
So if you really want to live the Californian life, you are definitely in good hands here. Los Angeles is half an hour’s drive away and well-known beaches such as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Venice Beach or Santa Monica Beach are less than an hour away by car. I felt really good at CSULB and would definitely recommend it to others.
The application process and on-site support
According to Top-Engineering-Schools.com, the application for the CSULB is quite straightforward and easy to master. The big advantage here is that the DAAD language test certificate, which I was able to take at my university, is sufficient for the application . So I saved a lot of money for the TOEFL test, for example . A few things are a bit more complicated to organize, such as a bank receipt with a corresponding amount in the account or the English-language transcript. But even that can be mastered with a little preparation.
The mentioned “problems” that occurred during my application process related to my choice of course. Since fewer students take part in the summer sessions than in the normal semester, the problem arose that there were too few registrations for one of my chosen courses and this could not take place at short notice.
I also experienced the help and support that I was able to experience beforehand during my time at CSULB. There was always a contact person to turn to if there were problems. In fact, I had to use that during my time there, but more on that below …
When it comes to accommodation in California you should be aware of one thing again: it is really expensive … So with some accommodations you can really expect rents of up to $ 1,000 a month. Since I financed the whole thing myself, it was important to me not to spend that much on the rent. I informed myself well and got a lot from the university until I came across the accommodation “Elizabeth Manor” (here is the link to the page, if you are also interested: https://web.csulb.edu/~ cle / final / index.php).
Roughly speaking, this is a large (typically American) house that is particularly offered to international students attending CSULB. From there you can take the bus to the university and I really liked the neighborhood. Overall, I would definitely recommend this accommodation – the rent is bearable and depending on who lives in the house during this time, you become a real little family. The landlady is a really friendly person and tried to help me in every situation. She really tries to make your stay a pleasant one and therefore often plans one or two trips together.
Unfortunately, there were some difficulties while I was there, which is why I didn’t feel comfortable there after two weeks. The landlady as well as the CSULB had absolute understanding, so I moved to the University Dorms on campus for the second half of my stay. You can say: YES – it is exactly like you know it from the American college films: A rather carelessly furnished room, with a bed and a desk that you can design according to your wishes. There I slept in the room with another student. Advantage here: You get food from the buffet three times a day and I have to say that I was really convinced of it. Contrary to my expectations from American food, the university really tried hard to provide a balanced menu that you always got full of.
Leisure and excursion possibilities
As mentioned briefly before, the area around the CSULB really offers a lot of opportunities to spend your free time outside of the university. But it is also really nice on the campus itself – there are many small cafes and restaurants, meadows to sit down and even the opportunity to play billiards, bowling or table tennis in the so-called “Student Union” . There is also a pool on campus that students can use during their free periods. In addition, there was the so-called “Student Recreation and Wellness Center” of the CSULB – I was personally very impressed. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much membership will cost during the semester, but in my “StudyAbroad @ theBeach” program, i.e. the summer session, membership was integrated. Here you could go to courses such as spinning, yoga, fitness or martial arts , as well as work out on the running track or use the fitness equipment provided on two floors. To relax or of course to work out, there was a large pool outside with loungers and a whirlpool .
Since my time at the CSULB was limited and I had to do a lot for the university due to the compact study period, my leisure options were a little limited. Nevertheless, I was able to use a few weekends to explore California and even after my studies, I still used two weeks for a road trip. These trips consisted of a weekend to San Francisco, a road trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park or just a weekend on the various beaches.
In total …
… I would do it again and again! Although I thought about it for a long time whether so much money was worth it for this period, I can definitely say today that I have no regrets about my decision. I have seen and experienced so much in the “short time” that even after a few weeks I was still totally flashed. I can definitely recommend this stay to anyone who would like to study at an American university and really get to know life in California.
I also don’t regret my choice of the summer session instead of a whole semester abroad! Of course you wish to stay a lot longer, but I have to say that the limited time spurred me on to see a lot and enjoy every second. The courses taken could be credited to me as if I had studied a whole semester, since I also wrote “midterm” and “final” exams.
Another advantage was of course the cost savings. If you have to finance the whole thing yourself, as I do, it can be very helpful to choose the short period, as this of course also saves you on rent and food costs. There are also ways to at least partially finance the whole thing. For example, it was made easier for me by a scholarship. My previous concerns that there will hardly be any students at the university during the summer session have only partially been confirmed. Sure, it’s a different feeling when the campus is completely full, but it also has advantages when there are fewer people – you hardly have to queue, the gym is not completely overcrowded (it is in the normal semester) and you have many options to explore the university. And you get to know other students anyway.