The west coast
I traveled to San Diego about 6 weeks before the semester started to do a little west coast tour. In terms of visa, this is officially not entirely unproblematic, actually you are only allowed to enter 30 days before the start of the semester. Therefore, in addition to my F visa, I also got a B visa. I never used it. But very important: never, under any circumstances, lose or forget your I-20 form!
My tour started in San Diego, where I stayed with a buddy for 2 nights at the OBI (Ocean Beach International) hostel. The hostel has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you quickly get to know other people (sometimes also real originals like the old hippie Dave, who has lived there for months). On the other hand, the hostel is a typical low-budget dump. You pay $ 20 for a bed in a 6-bed room, there are only 2 bathrooms per floor (so for 20-30 people). I thought it was absolutely okay for 2 days and also got to know a lot of people who stayed there for 2 weeks and started looking for an apartment from the OBI.
We drove through the western United States in a rental car for 4 weeks. For booking a rental car, I can recommend the website www.usareisen.de. They have special rates for drivers under 25 (in cooperation with Alamo), we paid 180 euros / week for a mid-size SUV. The car was already relatively tight for the 4 people who ultimately drove with them (and each had a big suitcase with them). Our stops were LA, Sequoia NP, Highway # 1, San Francisco, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite NP, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon NP, Phoenix and then back to San Diego. For more detailed travel reports, everyone is invited to take a look at our blog www.rathcorp.de.
A little tip: We did our tour with four people, there are motels / hotels with 2 queen-size beds. Often available for $ 60 / night ($ 15 per nose) and thus clearly below youth hostel prices (see www.hotels.com or www.hotel.de).
After our tour we started looking for an apartment. I set up quarters in a motel with a buddy who was also supposed to be studying in San Diego (albeit at the SDSU). Like almost everything else, apartments are best found on craigslist.com. A room in La Jolla is an obvious choice for UCSD students. This has the advantage that it is close to the university, but the prices are also tough. It’s always easy to find something in the huge apartment complexes, but that costs $ 850 / month or more. I can also advise against downtown La Jolla, both the beach and the university are difficult to reach from there. On the other hand, I can fully recommend the area around UTC. The only alternative to La Jolla is Pacific Beach (PB). Beach life is raging there and numerous bars, restaurants and clubs invite you every evening. It’s worth a lot if you can save yourself the drive home (although I have found that the San Diegans don’t take drunk driving too seriously – but the police do!). Regardless of the location, in my opinion there are 3 basic rules to be observed when looking for an apartment:
Basic rule I: It doesn’t work without a car!
San Diego is huge, which makes it difficult to get from A to B quickly. Therefore: rental car very recommendable. Forget the local traffic, this is a disaster, the buses stop at every street block and therefore take forever to get to their destination. Especially if you are looking in La Jolla and PB at the same time, a car is a must. The traffic in general is not that bad in San Diego, by the way, no comparison with LA. I ended up in La Jolla, but it was no problem at all to be in full surf gear on Mission Beach within 20-30 minutes. The interstate system works in San Diego!
Basic rule II: Don’t just search, let us search!
Request is the magic word here. Many students find their apartment by submitting a request on craigslist.com. Simply put in a picture and a brief description, and there will be many options on their own. This is how my roomies also found me for their house in La Jolla. In the end, it only cost $ 600 / month + NK (that’s damn good for San Diego!) And was a great experience.
Principle III: Move in with Americans
If you’re just interested in improving your English and want a real college experience, move in with American students. American workers can also be okay, but are rarely at home due to occupation. If you move in with internationals, you can also have a lot of fun, but they often speak much worse English than you do. I emphasize that because it is damn hard to get to know other Americans on campus. Only the internationals take part in the introductory phase and the entire extension program is designed for interaction with internationals (not Americans!). It is even worse at the SDSU, where I sometimes had the impression that German was the official language. Therefore: Americans have to be.
My very first acquisition was of course my own car. Also here: craigslist.com! In order to be able to assess what a fair price is, the website www.kellybluebook.com is also highly recommended, where all cars are priced (depending on their mileage). I got myself a Chevy (built in 2000, but already 150,000 miles) and was halfway satisfied with it (you shouldn’t be confused by lights like “Service Engine Soon” that light up ;-). However, it is best to have the car checked by an AAA workshop. Unfortunately I missed that and it turned out in the end that the transmission was no longer running smoothly, which is why I was only able to sell the car again for $ 1000. Selling via craigslist, of course.
My room furnishings (bed, mattress, desk, chair = $ 150) also come mainly from craigslist, where things are significantly cheaper than at IKEA and many sellers even deliver. I still used IKEA for pillows, bedding, etc. Unfortunately, I failed to put my things back online in good time and therefore stayed sitting on the desk, but in principle it’s easy to sell again at the cost price.
You can plan for 2 weeks for the entire “setup phase” (apartment, car, furniture). I did it in a little less time, but 1 week before the start of the semester is already tight (especially if you then have to take the bus to the university).
When visiting Mexico: don’t forget your passport and I-20. I’ve only been to Tijuana once. There was just a drug war going on there, so it was too dangerous for me later and the impression I had of this one visit was: Nothing special.
Anyone who buys a car must also register it. That means going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). There the motto is “There are days, we don’t move the line at all, we call them weekdays!” acted. So bring a LOT of time! Unfortunately, I was there twice, once to apply for an American ID (then you don’t always have to carry your passport with you) and to take a theoretical driving test (ridiculously easy, just leaf through the brochure and use common sense!). A second time to register the car. Theoretically, you also have to do a practical driving test, but the temporary driving license (valid for 60 days) was enough for me, I heard that the DMV extended it for another 60 days free of charge.
It is also very important to bring proof of health insurance with you on the first day at the university. The part must specify the period for which the insurance is valid EXACTLY, otherwise there will be trouble and bureaucratic pastime.
The campus is quite handsome and spacious. Even though you pay $ 150 / quarter for a parking permit, that doesn’t mean you can always get a parking space where you want. In front of the RIMAC (sports center) there is always something free, otherwise it is a game of chance after 9am. Attention: Only park in the yellow S-fields, otherwise a $ 40 fine is due. Read more student reviews on Andyeducation.
The above-mentioned RIMAC has a rich offer. Extension students have to pay another $ 80 per quarter to be able to use it (already noted: Nothing is free at UCSD, even downloading the course materials costs $ 50 per course). But it’s definitely worth it, I was there almost every day, be it for training in the gym, playing basketball with my roomies or playing football with the internatals. The surf course offered by RIMAC (for an additional surcharge;-) was highly recommended: 3 instructors for 10-12 students, you have already learned a lot.
With regard to the lectures, a lot depends on which courses you choose. The undergraduate courses are quite simple by German standards, the course size ranges from 20 to 150 people. The graduate courses (don’t listen to your Academic Adviser, you are allowed to attend them!) Are much more difficult and in smaller groups (maximum 20). The joke of the century is the course crashing. Although extension students pay significantly more money than the locals, the latter have a privilege in choosing a course. Ie: In the remaining courses (eg Game Theory) you either cannot get into the course or you have to fight for the few remaining places with the internationals. In plain language this means: the evening before the day of enrollment with a lot of beer (attention: there is actually a ban on alcohol on the entire campus), in warm clothing (even in San Diego it can get cooler at night) and a game of Monopoly (or similar) camp in front of the registration office. Believe me, it is NOT enough to be there at 5 a.m., there are already 20 others there. If you still do not get the desired course, there is still the possibility (contrary to the information from the stout office ladies at the enrollment office!) To speak to the professor directly. He can increase the number of participants, so I got the course I wanted. ) still have the opportunity to speak to the professor directly. He can increase the number of participants, so I got the course I wanted. ) still have the opportunity to speak to the professor directly. He can increase the number of participants, so I got the course I wanted.
Grumbling enough, the campus also has its positive sides. As mentioned, the range of sports courses is great. In the library (one of which is always open!) You can get a seat at any time of the day. Interesting (free) evening events take place on campus every day (e.g. Foosh, which is a kind of spontaneous comedy). The UCSD Playhouse is one of the TOP3 in the USA and numerous coffee stands invite you to chill out in the sun.
However, the UCSD is not really a party university. There are only a few fraternerties on campus, if you want to see really big parties, you have to go to the SDSU. But it is always advisable to know a few frat members, otherwise it will be difficult to get in. House parties still remain in the vicinity of UCSD. Since a student is only allowed to live on campus for the first 2 years, a lot of former dorm-mates get together and rent a house in La Jolla, where one or the other party is thrown. Otherwise, of course, there are always PB or Downtown San Diego (a bit more upscale, lots of cool clubs). Another remarkable thing about UCSD is that around 60% of the students are Asians or Asian-Americans.
San Diego – the city
I have seldom seen a city with so many recreational opportunities. The most obvious are of course the beach, sea and beach life. The beaches are all beautiful, I was mostly at Mission Beach, where you could rent cheap surfboards from Cheaprentals.com. A snorkeling trip in La Jolla Cove is also very nice, as (harmless!) Leopard sharks and all sorts of other fish, sea lions,… come towards you. Every kind of sport is offered on the UCSD campus, the (but mostly rather weak) unit teams can also be watched. Much better things happen at Qualcom Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers invite you to first-class NFL football. Those who prefer classical culture are best served in Balboa Park, where there are dozens of museums and a wonderful park.
In short: this city is really America’s finest !!!
To-Do List for the San Diego Area:
- Sea World (good shows!)
- Zoo (well done, was ok although I’m not a big zoo fan)
- Six Flags Mountain (near LA, great roller coasters!)
- Whine-tasting in the hinterland of Santa Maria
- Phil’s BBQ (ribs!)
- Keith’s for breakfast
- Rocky’s and Big Kahuna (vying for the title of “Best Burger in Town”)
- Halloween in Santa Barbara (the party university par excellence!)
- Drive over the bridge to Coronado Island
- Vegas, baby!
- Bonfire at the La Jolla Shores
All in all, I really had the best 4 months of my life in San Diego. I got to know and love the Southern California mentality, made friends for life, became a beer pong champion and will never forget my time there. I highly recommend a semester abroad in San Diego to everyone.