Since 2011 I have been studying “Applied and Engineering Physics” at the Technical University of Munich. Right from the beginning of my studies, I wanted to complete a semester abroad to supplement my professional university education and to develop personally. Looking beyond your own subject-specific horizons, experiencing foreign cultures and mentalities and expanding your own intercultural understanding are just some of the countless reasons that speak for a longer stay abroad.
In this context, I studied a semester at San Jose State University from August to December 2015 . During this time I not only learned a lot professionally, but above all made many friendships with Americans but also with people of various other nationalities. This enabled me to gain deeper insights into a wide variety of cultures and ways of life . In the following I would like to describe my experiences during this semester abroad.
Planning and concrete preparation
It is advisable to start planning for a semester abroad early , especially for a stay outside Europe . Two years before my departure I had to choose the host country. With regard to the country of study , my choice fell on the United States of America. Due to its economic and political supremacy, the United States also influence many areas of life outside of its national borders. In addition, the United States is one of the world’s leading nations in the field of research and development. The experiences and impressions gained there are therefore of inestimable value both for my professional career and for my everyday life. In the USA, due to my scientific and technical studies, I quickly became aware of the Bay Area and the high-tech companies located there. My choice of host university was therefore San José State University in the heart of the Silicon Valley . This not only offers a variety of interesting materials science courses, but also establishes initial contact with the world of work thanks to its practice-oriented orientation and good relationships with the high-tech companies based in Silicon Valley .
In the course of my research, I came across your website, which was very helpful with the application process and made applying to the university much easier . A visa had to be applied for to study in the USA and health insurance had to be taken out with the partner insurance company of the university. In addition, it is absolutely necessary to apply for a credit card , as in the USA you pay almost exclusively with it. You also need a credit card when booking hotel rooms or renting a car. Despite the slightly higher rental price than on the free housing market, I decided to go to apply for student dormitory on campus. In order to get one of the few single rooms in the shared apartments, it is advisable to apply six months before the start of the semester. Living directly on campus, in addition to the short distances to the lectures, also has the advantage of being able to make contact with international and national students immediately .
I was able to build a close friendship with my American and Brazilian roommates during the semester. The common rooms within the dormitory also offer opportunities for international exchangeand to social gatherings, which also resulted in close friendships for me. In addition, the university’s own fitness studio and a university medical center are located on the campus. Due to the different cultural habits, many compromises had to be made within the shared apartment. However, I had to get used to other hygiene standards despite an established cleaning schedule. To my amazement, I was able to use the kitchen of our apartment all by myself, as my roommates preferred – typically American – mainly to use fast food.
Study and University
The San José State University presented itself to me with two faces. On the one hand, I met professors and employees, especially employees of the International Office, very friendly and helpful. For example, an employee of the International Office made it possible for me to store my suitcase at her home before the actual semester began, while I went on a road trip through California with my best friends . The International Office was always at my side with advice and practical help with other problems. On the other hand, I quickly realized that I was primarily a source of money for the university because, as an exchange student, I wasn’t in a regular bachelor’s or master’s program was enrolled in her university. As part of the so-called ” class crashing ” , I had to personally inquire about free places in the respective lectures from each individual professor. Since the number of students per lecture was limited and the local students had priority at first, I was unfortunately unable to attend some of the lectures I had wanted. Exchange students on my program also had to pay additional fees for the university’s own fitness studio. Nonetheless , I really enjoyed living and studying at San José State University. During the semester induction days at the beginning of the semester, I was able to make contact with many international students. It is worth mentioning here that there is a large proportion of German students. Check mcat-test-centers to see more reviews from current students.
Studying itself, however, is very different from studying at a German university. With a lot of graded homework, hand-held tasks and a lot of intermediate exams, studying seems a bit schooled and is very labor-intensive. Although San José State University is one of the best state universities in California, the level seemed comparatively low to me. The comparatively low level could in part be attributed to the fact that even for a large number of non-academic professions, such as the profession of a nurse, bachelor’s degrees in the USA apply as a prerequisite. In my opinion, many of the courses therefore focus more on imparting general education. The sense of this development is at least questionable. In addition, the bachelor’s program in the USA consists of four years, with general education being predominantly taught during the first year as part of “general education”.
In general, American students are very busy because they are employed mostly in one or two part-time jobs to the high tuition costs to bear. That is why it is often difficult to find suitable times for joint ventures.
The university has a large number of specialist or sport-specific clubs that you can join depending on your own interests. In addition, the International Office offers outdoor activities and activities. I was particularly impressed by the idea of an international house in which students with roots from all over the world live together under one roof. Every Tuesday a coffee evening was held in this house, which I used to share and socialize with.
Sports teams are an integral part of American universities. They represent the university’s figurehead and contribute to the students’ strong sense of togetherness. I have become a proud “Spartan” myself and have especially supported the football and basketball team at home games. Before every football game, there is a so-called tailgate, a parking lot party in front of the stadium. I have rarely seen celebrations revolving around sporting events as crazy as here in the US. The so-called homecoming was a special eventwhere every alumni was invited to come back to their former university for an important football game, to cheer for the team and to celebrate. In this context, there was also a large event with many stands and a large stage to get the students and alumni in the mood for the big game. In retrospect, it was just terrific . Because of the sport and the emotional bond that goes with it, I will always think back to San José State University with great enthusiasm .
Life in California / San José
The population in California is very diverse due to the Mexican and Asian influence . The question of ethnicity plays a much more important role in the USA in general and has to be stated over and over again on a wide variety of forms. Political and religious discussions are mostly ineffective because Americans are very convinced of their country and their own opinion. In addition, the politically very absorbed news contributes to very subjective evaluation criteria of the population. Therefore, it is very difficult to compromise or do persuasion. The more rural the regions, the more conservative the political convictions. This effect is much more pronounced than in Germany.
Overall, however, the people are very friendly and helpful . On Thanksgiving, I was able to experience American hospitality firsthand. The family of an American friend invited me and eight other international students to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them. This warm and cordial get-together is one of my most beautiful experiences in the USA .
With their wide streets arranged in a square pattern, American cities are ideally designed for the primary means of transport – the car. Public transport is inadequate, unreliable or not frequented enough. Although the Bay Area has one of the best-developed means of public transport, which as a student can use for free within a certain area around the university, one is dependent on a car.
Due to my short stay of only six months and the expensive parking situation around the university, I decided not to buy a car. With a bike and friends with cars, everything was easily accessible. For a whole year abroad, however, I would recommend buying a car, especially since rental cars are quite expensive due to a fee for drivers under 25 years of age. Regarding bicycles, it should be mentioned that bicycles are regularly stolen in large cities. A friend of mine had two bikes stolen during the semester.
Crime is a common problem in the United States. The area around the university was not considered to be particularly safe. We received regular e-mails from the campus police, which informed us about robberies in the vicinity of the university and urged us to only be out in groups in the evening. Unfortunately, two of my Brazilian friends had to witness how someone shot in their direction in the evening. Fortunately, they both managed to get to safety. I never felt really safe on the streets in the evenings and was always wide awake and paid close attention to everything that was happening around me. On the other hand, I didn’t want to hide in my own four walls for the whole semester. I’m glad I never had an incident during my stay.
Situation after returning
America is still today the land of opportunity. I admire the enthusiasm, spontaneity and courage that Americans display . Many students set up start-up companies. I hope that, in addition to the many friendships and cultural experiences, I can also take some of the American entrepreneurial spirit home with me and partly put aside my tendency to overplan things and act too cautiously.
Overall, I enjoyed the stay abroad very much and I was able to take a lot with me for my future life . I can warmly recommend a stay abroad to everyone. For further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.