It has already been said 1000 times that planning should be started early, but you should not only plan but also act early. Spread the individual preparations over a year otherwise you will have a lot of stress at once. I am happy to have done my semester abroad with your website, because I got to know people who organized the whole thing on their own and who often lacked essential information and then had no contact person. The paperwork is also done quickly because your website will check that everything is complete. I didn’t send my application for the university until the end of April, which in retrospect was a bit too late because it took a good four weeks for the acceptance to come. With the confirmation you can also apply for the visa first and it also takes until you get an appointment at the American embassy. The interview appointment was really not that bad. I waited 1.5 hours until my turn, but I was lucky and it was my turn shortly before the end of the day, so the officers just wanted to act quickly and even spoke German to me, which totally surprised me.
The university requires, among other things, the TOEFL as proof that you have sufficient language skills and with 61 points it requires significantly less than other universities. There are always people who claim that the test is totally easy, but even if you have always been good at English, you do not go to the test with an “everything easy” attitude, because that gave some people a rude awakening. Familiarize yourself with the tasks at least 6 weeks before the test. There are various books on this, and I also did a preparatory course with a native speaker as a lecturer, which I can only recommend.
In advance, I decided to stay with a host family. I know this is not for everyone, but for me it was important to immerse myself in everyday American life and, above all, to speak English all day. You can fill out the registration form online or print it out and forward it to the university via your website. Then three weeks before departure I received the address details of the family. The host family will NOT pick you up from the airport, so you have to organize the transfer yourself. The university advises you to take a super shuttle. That’s OK. Another option is a cap, but this is firstly super expensive and secondly not particularly safe. I have booked a private transfer with a car and a driver. It is more expensive than the shuttle, but much faster and safer. My host family was super nice and supported me in everything, and the other families also seem to be very nice.
In advance, I set up a free current account for students at Deutsche Bank. With the EC card, you can withdraw cash free of charge from their partner bank, Bank of America (as of 2011). A machine is located directly on the campus. You can also set up a free account with the BOA directly on site, but due to the shortness of my stay it would not have been worth it for me. You should definitely not do without a credit card in the USA. When applying, there were massive problems at Deutsche Bank due to my being a student without a steady income, so I would recommend you go elsewhere early enough to see e.g. Barkley Card. Just google it.
Choosing a course in art history or history was difficult for me too. The courses were all closed when I arrived, but I was advised to just go to the professors with my note and ask if I can still take part, because just like in Germany, more people register for a course than ultimately come. Sometimes courses are just too difficult or you don’t like them, so it is important to be flexible and look for alternatives. I ended up having two courses in art history and two in American studies. I needed at least two books for each class, and in the end I had to buy $ 250 books that I hadn’t budgeted for at all. In general, studying is much more complex than in Germany. You have to read something every week before each lesson and there are always two exams in the semester, plus presentations, quizzes and essays. You should be clear about that. But due to the good weather and the nice people, the whole thing is relatively relaxed. Check educationvv to see more reviews from current students.
Public transportation in California is a disaster. The bus makes total detours and it can take two hours to get to the beach. If you have a driver’s license then I would advise you to buy a used car or at least rent a car. Most of us didn’t do that because you need an international driver’s license and auto insurance that costs a few hundred dollars a year. Nevertheless, I didn’t let my mood spoil and always took the bus and walked. My host mother also made her bike available to me and also drove me in the car.
Despite the university stress there is a lot to do, including trips to Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Disneyland, Knott’s (Scary) Berry Farm, Universal Studios, San Diego, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Los Angeles , Hollywood.
I would like to recommend a very personal matter to you. You are obliged to take out the health insurance of the university, I would also recommend you to take out a foreign health insurance in Germany, which covers almost everything. I’m glad I had both, because I had to go to the hospital twice and they wanted to see cash quickly. You have to pay $ 150 yourself every time you come to the hospital. The prices for medical care cannot be compared with those in Germany. My German international health insurance then covered all the costs that the American one did not want to pay. Even if you don’t want to think about something like that, you should be prepared for it, because it happens very quickly.
I can only advise everyone to do a semester abroad, of course, preferably in California;). So don’t shy away from the costs and efforts, because during your studies it is a unique opportunity to live so “cheaply” elsewhere.