I was at the University of California, Irvine for 6-week summer sessions this year and I would like to share my experiences with you here.
Irvine is located 60 km southeast of Los Angeles and has a population of around 200,000. According to Usprivateschoolsfinder.com, it is considered one of the safest cities in America , and is also very wealthy. But we didn’t see much of Irvine outside of campus, because you couldn’t get out of there without a car. That’s why we often called Uber, a kind of private taxi company (the taxis are easy to order using the app, they are cheaper than normal taxis and are usually there within 5-10 minutes). That’s how we got to the beautiful beaches, where I was unfortunately far too seldom because you couldn’t even walk to the beach after university.
I am studying psychology and have taken the courses “ Developmental Psychopathology ” and “ Forensic Psychology ” (since this is only available at 3 universities or so in Germany) with the same professor. The professor was a gifted speaker and made his lectures very lively , peppered with video and newspaper clippings as well as many reports from his work in the State Prison. He has also organized an excursion there for his students.
What I found particularly advantageous was that the summer sessions take place during the German semester break, so that you don’t have to add a semester just because you want to go abroad. I have also heard that the entry requirements for studying at such a renowned university are not as strict during the summer sessions as if you want to study there during the regular semester times. The material that is normally taught in a whole semester (here approx. 10 weeks) is carried out in the summer sessions in 5 weeks. In my case, that meant 2:50 lectures twice a week per course. I still had to write a 5-page paper (with citation rules). Of course, this differs from course to course.
After two and a half weeks we had the midterm exams, in the form of multiple choice exams. In “ Developmental Psychopathology ” at least the first exam was easier than the exams at my university. But in the end it was all doable. Buy the required course books used, as an e-book or in advance, because they cost half a fortune on site!
The university was very well equipped with computer rooms and modern libraries. The lectures were held in school class size, so it was much more interactive than in the large German lecture halls. We were able to use the huge modern gym including pool free of charge and could be reached within 4 minutes on foot. A supermarket and restaurants (mostly fast food) were also within a 10-minute walk. But food is comparatively expensive. In the University Center (approx. 25 minutes’ walk) there was another supermarket called Trader’s Joe, which is a bit cheaper but unfortunately not all things for everyday use. What we could complain about would be that there was no WiFi in the dormitories and even with our access point that we brought with us it often didn’t work, which sometimes made working and researching “at home” difficult.
The organization by the summer session team and many additional local students was great . At the beginning you were “taken by the hand” well: When the keys were handed over on arrival, for example, everyone was given a map showing the dormitory and the university building to which one had to go. They were all always super friendly, helpful and interested in our countries of origin. On the first day there was a campus tour and an orientation event where the most important things were explained. To set up the “student account” (the online portal EEE, on which lecture slides, other course materials and grades and which was used to contact the professor, teaching assistants or other course participants) as well as to order the “official transcript” (the official proof of the work performed for crediting at the home university), there were extra workshops.
The campus is really huge and at first you think it’s easy to get lost , but once you know how to get to your building on campus it’s no longer a problem. One should not underestimate the air conditioning and the temperatures in the evening. Unfortunately, most of the time I had a cold on my cheek because my body didn’t like the air conditioning at all.
I have hardly come into contact with American students. I only sat with them in a classroom. Those I talked to said that there would be more going on during the semester and that you would experience typical campus life even more. But since I found so many nice people among the international Summer Sessions participants in the Arroyo Vista Housing, I didn’t miss that much either.
On the weekends I discovered California with many international students . For example, we were in LA, San Diego , Las Vegas and 2 national parks. In Sequoia National Park we saw the second largest tree in the world. We also paid a visit to one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. The setting was simply breathtaking. I booked a large number of the excursions offered through the university, but many have simply rented a rental car and have, for example, made a road trip along the coast to San Francisco. It’s easy to team up with the others and rent a car together. So we then visited Santa Barbara and San Diego. I went back from San Diego with Amtrak, the train, which in the end was cheaper than the outward journey by car and didn’t take longer.
It was an unforgettable experience with an unbelievable number of impressions that showered on you in a short time! I got to know a lot of new people from all over the world, all of whom I should now visit.