Since it has always been my wish to live in California for a while, I decided in spring 2012 to take part in the UCLA Summer Session Program. That decision was one of the best I’ve made so far. The program is ideal for high school graduates, students and graduates who not only want to spend weeks vacation in Los Angeles, but also want to use the time to study. In the following, my experience report is intended to give an insight into life and studies at UCLA as well as information on leisure activities and other aspects.
You take care of booking your flight and accommodation on site. It is advisable to book a return flight together, as one-way flights are more expensive. I opted for direct flights from Berlin to Los Angeles and back so that I didn’t have to change trains. Due to the duration of the flight and the time change, I can only recommend direct flights, which are usually a bit more expensive (my flights cost around € 900). I took a taxi from Los Angeles airport because I was tired and had heavy luggage. I can recommend the following shuttle bus provider: http://shuttletolax.com/. My friends and I used this service when we left and were very satisfied. For the accommodation, I resorted to the mediation through UCLA. Before that I also had contacts via http: //losangeles.craigslist.org/, but this option was too vague for me and, in my opinion, is not worthwhile for the six-week session. The advantage of booking a room through UCLA is that you can be sure that you will receive accommodation for the total rent paid in advance. The disadvantage is the very high costs, which you can only avoid if you look for accommodation yourself. I decided to live off-campus in a studio apartment plus a roommate and was very satisfied. What many do not know is that booking UCLA accommodation is independent of the length of the summer session. Since I didn’t want to fly home straight away after the last exam, I booked the accommodation for eight weeks, which I recommend to everyone. All of the fellow students I know flew home after six weeks and couldn’t really let the time end. The two weeks after the summer session were perfect for going on trips and getting that holiday feeling that you don’t really have during the session. I can also recommend arriving a few days before the start of the summer session and booking a hotel / hostel. This gives you time to overcome any jet lag and make your first explorations. After four nights in the hotel, I moved into the studio in the Margan apartments in Westwood. My first impression was very positive: clean, spacious, centrally located. I got along very well with my roommate from Singapore. It is unusual to sleep in a room with a stranger, but you quickly get used to the situation. This is also not uncommon in the US and I haven’t heard from anyone that there were problems with the roommate. So you don’t have to worry about sharing accommodation, on the contrary: I found it pleasant to have someone with whom you can exchange ideas and do something. When my roommate left after six weeks, I was really sad. It was then unusual to live alone for two weeks, but it was also pleasant because of course I had more privacy. The major disadvantage of the university apartments is the lack of kitchen utensils. Neither dishes, cutlery, pots, kettle, coffee maker, etc. were available. I brought a plate, mug, and knife from home. I then took a spoon with me in the restaurant, I heated water in the microwave. A vacuum cleaner and cleaning utensils were also not available. So I didn’t run a normal household for eight weeks. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to buy household utensils that are not complete for a short period of time, as they are firstly expensive and secondly not or difficult to take home with you. So I ate a lot of bread and microwave food. In Westwood there are also places to eat at every corner. So I can’t say much about the meal plan, which is included in on-campus housing. I once dined in a so-called dining hall ($ 7.50 for off-campus students). The food (all-inclusive) was okay, there was a lot of choice. However, the way there was too long for me and the average age too young.
I would now like to talk about UCLA and my courses. An orientation meeting will take place on the Sunday before the start of the session, which will provide some information. This event is the only one where all Summer Session participants meet. So if you have only made a few contacts by then, you should take advantage of this getting to know each other. From this meeting on you are more or less on your own (as at German universities). But you don’t have to worry about not getting to know anyone, because it’s so simple: You are constantly making contact with new people. Be it at university, on excursions or through friends. UCLA’s campus is huge and beautiful. I walked comfortably from my apartment for about 25 minutes to my events. One reason you see a lot of students skateboarding around Westwood. There is a great atmosphere on campus that can be described as typically American. The weather, the environment and the students all contribute to the good atmosphere. American national pride is also reflected in UCLA. There is a large UCLA store that sells clothes, accessories, office supplies, and a lot more that is UCLA tagged. Every second student wears something that UCLA contains in some way (t-shirt, backpack, writing pad). Of course, you also follow the trend. Not far from the UCLA store is the fitness studio, which can be used free of charge with a student ID. I have been there a lot and can recommend this option for sporting activities. By the way, at the end of July / beginning of August, the Spanish soccer team of Real Madrid trains for a week on the UCLA sports field every year. It was a great experience to see all the players up close. About studying at UCLA: I took an introductory course in psychology and economics, which turned out to be a mistake. The psychology course roughly matched my expectations and was interesting. Without my knowing it, the economics course was a course for advanced economics students and therefore the wrong choice for me. Both courses required a lot of learning. Daily and weekly tests were on the program, plus mandatory reading (which I didn’t read) and so on. With all the opportunities that Los Angeles and California offers, the university is actually taking a back seat, but should not be underestimated if you have chosen challenging courses like me. After two tests in economics and with the dawn of Summer Session Week 4, I knew that I would definitely fail this course. A short, friendly conversation and I was placed in another course. I was also spared the fee due to the extremely late change. I was now on a very easy course: American English and Movies. Although I had to rework quite a bit of material, I managed it with a little effort without any problems, so that in the end the grade A jumped out. I also mastered the psychology course with a grade of C-. All in all, I’m happy with the results. Check existingcountries to see more reviews from current students.
As for living in Los Angeles, it can be said that it is expensive and that you should have enough money because you spend it faster than you think. As an example, a few sums: Brown bread: $ 6, long drink Hollywood: $ 14, UCLA’s Transcript of Records: $ 10 (a cheek to ask for money for it), LAX-Airport luggage trolley: $ 5 (in comparison: Berlin-Airport: € 1, den you get back on delivery). The credit card wanders across the table almost every day, as this is a common method of payment in the USA. So you can do without a lot of cash. What you can buy comparatively cheaply are fast food and clothes. For the latter, I spent a sum that could have been used again on vacation. The shops are also excellent and there are numerous outlets (especially in Las Vegas) where you can shop very well. Groceries are far more expensive in Los Angeles than in Germany. It is a good idea to purchase the free Rewards Cards from supermarkets (e.g. Ralphs). After all, this saves a little money with every purchase. Getting around Los Angeles for the majority of students is the bus (mostly $ 1 each way), which can be quite annoying. On the one hand, the distances are huge (Los Angeles County consists of several cities) and you sit in the bus forever to reach your destination. On the other hand, I have never seen so many disturbed people. People who have money, and there are a lot of them in LA, drive cars, students and lunatics drive buses – that was my impression. It was sometimes strange what kind of characters were on the buses, but you survive it. And if after approx. 30-minute drive from Westwood in the well-kept Santa Monica, you have already forgotten the bus ride and enjoy the beautiful city. Nevertheless, it is good to know people who own a car and take one with them; this is particularly useful in the evening. Otherwise you usually have to resort to a taxi at night, although the prices are okay if you share the costs. If you’re in the club, you can share a limo with several people ($ 20 per person) that picks you up from home, drives you to the club, and then drives you back home. The nightlife in LA is exciting and you can run into one or the other famous personality. Recommended are, for example Greystone Manor Nightclub in West Hollywood or various bars on Sunset Boulevard (e.g. Sky Bar at Mondrian Hotel). If you are clever, you don’t have to spend huge amounts of money on admission and drinks, you can be invited or get into the clubs through a promoter. During the day, Los Angeles and the surrounding area have a lot to offer and you might need years to explore it all. You should definitely visit the highlights: Walk of Fame, Getty Museum, Griffith Observatory with a view of the Hollywood Sign, the numerous beautiful beaches: Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach (to name just two), Universal Studios Hollywood, The Grove, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Marina Del Rey, and Downtown. Trips to Long Beach (visiting the Queen Mary) and Malibu are worthwhile by car. Unfortunately, traffic in California is characterized by constant traffic jams and slow traffic. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the USA, which you should be aware of before you decide to spend some time there. Anyone who hates big cities will go crazy in LA, because the city is loud, hectic and not always nice to look at. Unfortunately, even in the student village of Westwood you can see the homeless every day. The contrast between rich and poor is literally shown in Los Angeles. The climate in Los Angeles is almost perfect, the sun is actually always shining. In my two months I experienced drizzle and it was overcast for about five days. You never have to worry about the weather, which makes spending your free time easy. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t do without sweaters and long trousers. Especially in June it was in the shade and especially cool in the evening. In addition, the air conditioning in shops, buses, etc. is quite heavy and you have to be careful not to get anything away from these temperature fluctuations. On the whole, the weather is a dream for anyone who likes sun and sand.
The weekends should definitely be used to get to know other parts of California and the USA. A trip to San Francisco is a must – a great city with great sights, but much cooler than Los Angeles. A trip to Las Vegas is also recommended, as the city with its many hotels and casinos is very impressive. Here you experience the complete opposite of San Francisco at 45 ° C. I booked these two tours with friends through California Tours. I have read many times in advance that traveling through this tour operator is not recommended, which I cannot confirm. You get a lot for your money, meet new people and don’t have to worry about a car or hotel. The trips are short (two nights), but are always worthwhile. Furthermore, I’ve been to San Diego twice, where you get a real feeling of being in California. The first time we went on a day trip to Sea World, which is not just an experience for children. The second time we went to La Jolla Cove, Coronado and visited the beautiful beaches like Mission Beach. So San Diego is definitely worth a trip and, due to the relatively short distance to LA (approx. 2.5 hours by car), it is easy to plan as a day trip so that you do not need an overnight stay.
In summary, the stay in Los Angeles was one of the nicest I’ve had so far. Everyone who has the opportunity to take part in the Summer Session Program should take advantage of it. You get to know a lot of nice people from all over the world, improve your English and have a great, carefree time. The people in the USA are a lot friendlier than in Germany (of course also more superficial), the sun makes you happy and you can just experience so much. The only downer is the cost of this stay abroad, which you should be aware of beforehand. The tuition fees, accommodation and flights alone cause the account balance to shrink before the start of the trip. All in all, the two months with all the trimmings cost me almost € 10,000, but it was more than worth it.