The entire planning of my semester abroad went very well and easily for me thanks to the friendly and always available MicroEDU staff. The application process for the host university was quite straightforward, so that I was accepted directly at the university of my choice. But I was also very well supported by MicroEDU with all other things that had to be organized ( visa, foreign health insurance, language test, etc.), so that this was done quickly. Thanks to the good cooperation between MicroEDU and the host universityImmediately after my acceptance to the university, I was assigned a contact person from the International Office. During a Skype call, I was able to ask all my questions about the choice of course and accommodation in advance. I went into my semester abroad with a good feeling.
First weeks, looking for an apartment and choosing a course
The first 1-2 weeks were full of organizational things that had to be done. Since I wanted to look for an apartment on site, I spent the first night in an AirBnB accommodation. The hosts (my age and also students) gave me wonderful support in the first few days and we became good friends. My apartment search took 2-3 weeks because I was looking for an apartment with American students and didn’t necessarily want to go to the on-campus doorms or the International House. Most of the search went through Craigslist, but also through other students and the International Office, through which I got contacts to apartments. I finally found a room in an apartment with 3 other American students just two blocks from SJSUremoved. The orientation week of the university and the choice of course also took place parallel to the search for an apartment. During the orientation week, the campus with all its activities was presented to San José itself, so that I got a good overview of the city and the campus and got a connection to other internationals. My choice of course was also quite straightforward. I was supported by my contact person and during the class crashing in the first lecture I got into all the courses that I wanted to take.
I was used to a high level from my mechanical engineering courses in Germany. The courses in the USA are much easier and reminded me of my school days, as you regularly get homework and small group work and you are expected to participate in the class. It is also common to write Midterms in the middle of the semester in addition to the Final Exams at the end of the semester. As a result, I had to perform regularly throughout the semester, but this also has the advantage that it is not just the final exam that makes up the entire grade.
Campus and campus life
The SJSU campus is really nice and well-kept. You can see straight away why you pay such high tuition fees. In addition to the individual faculties, there is a study hall, a large library, a food court, a sports center and on-campus housings on campus. The SJSU campus is located in downtown San José, so shopping, restaurants and nightlife are within walking distance. There is always something going on on campus because most of the students live on or in the immediate vicinity of the campus. But if you want to experience a real college party time, you will search in vain. Nevertheless, you can have a lot of fun in various sports activities(e.g. volleyball tournament) and clubs. It was a shame that, for me, access to the on-campus gym wasn’t covered by my tuition fees, but it was free for all students and most international students. Read more student reviews on Andyeducation.
I could easily reach everything in and around San José by public transport. The university gave me a semester ticket (clipper card) with which I could use all local public transport for free. The surrounding cities like Santa Cruz (1.5h bus ride for $ 7) and San Francisco (1h train ride for $ 19 round trip) are also easy to get to. For shorter journeys I simply took an UBER or LYFT, which made getting around cheap, easy and safe. Since public transport is not as well developed as we are used to in Germany, I bought a car for longer journeys.
A daily program for international students was offered for free time. But this mostly consisted of joint sports games on campus or going to the cinema etc. together. For me, however, it was out of the question.
I spent most of my free time exploring the area or surrounding cities. Because I bought a car, it was easy to do. The location of San José in the Bay Area is ideal (which is why I chose the university). The coast around Santa Cruz can be reached within an hour’s drive. That’s where I loved to explore the coast or go surfing at world-famous surf spots. After 3 trips to San Francisco, I hadn’t seen everything yet and the city is definitely worth several trips. Otherwise, the California coast offers countless possibilities for excursions (Monterrey, Half Moon Bay, Big Sur etc.). Because San José is located in the middle of Silicon Valleyyou should definitely visit one or the other campus of Apple, Google, Facebook etc. The quality of life at work is very important there.
Those who love the mountains like me, drive 3-4 hours inland from San José and reach the beautiful Lake Tahoe to spend one or more weekends there. During the winter months, I went snowboarding in various world-class ski resorts that encircle Lake Tahoe. The vibe there is a very special one, an unbelievable amount of snow fell (15m over the entire season) and it was possible to enjoy the last snow in June as well. The possibilities to have fun at Lake Tahoe are simply endless – an absolute must for every sports and nature lover.
But also various national parks are easy to reach from San José. The Big Basin State Park, where the gigantic redwood trees can be admired, is only 45 minutes away. A little further, but still suitable for a weekend trip, are Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park. There you can really experience the unique nature of California.
In the evenings, I loved going to sporting events (basketball, football, baseball, ice hockey, etc.) in the Bay Area or going to house parties or bars and clubs with friends.
I had the best time of my life in San José. The MicroEDU staff supported me as much as they could and I never felt left alone in San José. Nevertheless, I faced a wide variety of challenges that I could only have experienced in such a semester abroad. I would have hoped for a little more of the “typical” American college life from the university and the city itself. But the ways to be active and have fun are simply endless – in the Bay Area and California per se.
My tip to you: Don’t choose your university just because of the courses or campus life. Of course, this should meet your expectations. But the semester abroad should, in my opinion, not only consist of studies and parties, but rather of exploring the uniqueness of California and its people. Find out beforehand what you want to experience / do where and then see which university is suitable (located) for it. You will appreciate the long-term investment planning very much later!