A semester abroad in the USA takes a certain amount of time to prepare, as things like a visa have to be applied for. My decision to go to California was made about four months before my departure. This time was just enough, but I would recommend everyone to take a lot more time and thus approach things in a more relaxed manner, as there are a lot to consider. MicroEDU was a great help there because it gave me checklists of things to do.
With the acceptance of the university, I received a list of housing options on campus itself, but also off campus. I decided on the SJSU International House, an institution of the university where 70 people from all over the world (20 of them from the USA) live together in one house. There was a meal plan, so full board and shared rooms, a bit like boarding school.
In the beginning it took me to give up all my privileges of living alone, but it was a great experience. I was directly connected to a community with both locals for local help and internationals who had the same problems. That made it really easy to arrive, so I could concentrate on the university and the country and didn’t necessarily have to make a connection. Also, I now have friends all over the world whom I will definitely visit.
Living in the International House was the best decision I could make as there was always something going on and I never had to feel like I was on the other side of the world alone. The I-House also has a few program items where participation is mandatory (intercultural workshops and the pancake breakfast, for example). But if you are generally interested in your roommates and enjoy community, you can really live well here.
In general, the USA is a relatively safe country, so I was rarely afraid of being on my own. Only in the evening you should avoid being alone in remote places, but the same applies to Germany and you can always get home cheaply with the Uber taxi service.
If you are planning to go on longer trips or just be flexible, it is advisable to think about renting or buying a car over the long term, as public transport is pretty poor, but at least it is included in the semester fee.
Study in the Bay Area
The Bay Area with its Silicon Valley is a wonderful place to study, the sea is a good hour away and San Francisco can also be reached by train in an hour. You can also get to various national parks relatively quickly, including the breathtaking Yosemite National Park. Anyone who is tech-savvy is in good hands in San José, the capital of Silicon Valley, as Facebook, Google and Tesla and many more have their headquarters around the corner and come to the university as guest speakers from time to time. Read more student reviews on Ehuacom.
The city of San José
San José as a city in itself is super big because it’s mostly single-family houses, like pretty much everywhere in major American cities. Downtown San José is small but cute with numerous restaurants and clubs and there are several large malls nearby that can even be reached by public transport. Despite its size, the city often conveys a bit of a small town feeling.
The university itself is on a large campus with an incredible number of buildings, a fitness center, a swimming pool (when I was there, it was still under construction, but the posters looked great), a medical center for students, a food court and our own bookstore, in which you can buy anything (really anything) with the SJSU logo.
The university has a huge library, from where you have a great view over the whole of San José and the adjacent mountains.
Culturally, the USA is an exciting country, still western culture and yet very different from Germany. The big culture shock did not materialize, but one should be prepared to come to one’s personal limits, especially when it comes to environmental protection, gun ownership and global responsibility. However, if you are willing to do so and may also like to discuss it, this is the right place for you.
All in all, I can recommend everyone to do a semester abroad in California and especially at the SJSU. The people are helpful, incredibly friendly and very relaxed. Many “techis” study at the university, i.e. IT people, engineers and everyone who can use the neighboring Silicon Valley. In California, the SJSU is very popular for people who want to get into technical professions, because Facebook and Google are always financial and ideal supporters of the university and they like to have their graduates as employees.
The support for international students is really great and there are a lot of people whose first language is not English. There are many offers on campus that have nothing to do with the university and are usually free of charge.
The courses I chose were all niche courses that few students attended. As a result, it was a very pleasant working atmosphere that helped me a lot personally.
As a final tip: Plan your budget for the six months very generously, first of all because you can shop very well in the USA and because the Bay Area is the most expensive area in the USA (2000 $ per month for living is not planned too generously).
With a bit of luck you can have a great time here at the other end of the world, get to know friends for life, be surrounded by relaxed people and live the California Dream for a while!