Visa procedures & entry formalities
The visa for an exchange semester in the USA must be requested online from the American embassy. You should do this as soon as you have received the definitive confirmation of admission from the UCSD, as it can take over a month until you receive the visa.
I lived just above the Pacific Beach district. However, many exchange students live in La Jolla, near the university. La Jolla is very beautiful, but there is not much you can do in your free time or in the evenings. Especially in the evenings there is practically nothing going on around the campus. You are better off with accommodation in Pacific Beach or downtown San Diego. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from Pacific Beach to the university and about half an hour from downtown. However, it is worth it.
I found my apartment through private contacts. However, if you don’t have this, you can quickly find the right accommodation via craigslist.com. It is best to look for accommodation in Pacific Beach first. As I said, I would not recommend La Jolla Costa Verde, where many exchange students live, as it is at least 20 minutes away from everything except the university.
Since UCSD is not a partner school of the HSG, you have to reckon with around 7,000 USD for the school. There are also flights (900 USD) and visas (approx. 300 USD). For the apartment you have to calculate at least 600 USD per 4 weeks. However, many of my fellow students paid around USD 900 for the apartment. In return, you can expect Jacuzzis, pools, fitness centers and barbecue areas in many apartments, as this is often the standard there. You can get a car in San Diego for around 500 USD per month (dirtcheapcarrental.com). However, we (2 people) bought a Mustang convertible for $ 1,000 per month in California. Just right for the climate / weather in California.
All in all (without a subsequent tour of California) I spent around 16,000 USD. If you look a little more at the money, you can get away with around 13,000 USD. But less is hardly possible.
I can absolutely recommend San Diego for an exchange semester. The possibilities to experience something and have fun outside of everyday university life are almost endless. After the semester, I added another month to tour California. In retrospect, I would extend this time to two months (maximum time you can stay in America after the semester according to the visa). San Diego / California has so much to offer that you always have to choose between several options for spending your free time.
Good destinations in San Diego are: Coronado, Gaslamp Quarter, Pacific Beach, Balboa Park, the disused USS Midway aircraft carrier, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Shores (good and uncrowded place for surfing), Mount Soledad (best and free 360 Degree view over San Diego and La Jolla). Excursion destinations outside San Diego are for example: Los Angeles (Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach / Hermosa Beach, Santa Monica, Venice Beach), San Francisco, Grand Canyon (if time is short, a helicopter tour from Las Vegas is worthwhile), Las Vegas, Sequoia National Park (good chance of seeing bears), Yosemite National Park (very beautiful, but very populated), Palm Springs, Anza Borrego Desert, Big Bear Lake, route along the Central Coast (Highway 1), Santa Barbara (very nice, but much quieter place than San Diego),
Contrary to many opinions, a trip to Mexico is also very worthwhile. However, one should not visit the border town of Tijuana, but drive a little further to Rosarito. This is a seaside spot about half an hour from the border. However, you should go here with someone who is knowledgeable about Mexico or book a driver from the hotel. Apart from the fact that you are not allowed to go to Mexico with most rental cars, it is also not recommended to drive there yourself, as you should not necessarily get lost in the wrong regions there. We booked a driver for three days (180 USD / day) who took us to all the beautiful places.
If you don’t have your own fitness / pools / tennis courts at home, you can register at UCSD Uni-Sport for 80 USD. San Diego as well as the UCSD are very sporty overall. Almost everyone does some kind of sport (not typical for America). I’ve heard that UCSD’s facilities and courses are very good. I could do my sport either on the beach (jogging) or in my accommodation (tennis / fitness center / swimming pool).
With regard to entertainment / culture / parties, it depends very much on the individual taste. However, San Diego has something for everyone. The offer is endless. When it comes to going out, I recommend the sidebar in downtown (stylish bar / club; there is always a lot going on here on weekends) and the Fluxx (in-club in San Diego; attention: you should be there by 9:00 p.m. to get in), especially as a man). In Pacific Beach you should go to the Typhoon on Tuesdays on Taco Tuesday (big party and good / cheap tacos, but also many language students), on Thursday to the Beachcomber (cheap drinks) and then to the sandbar. Otherwise, the Moondoggies, the PB Shore Club, the Firehouse (definitely go to the roof), the Ale House and the Johnnie V are popular in Pacific Beach.
In order to have contact with fellow students right from the start, it is important to take part in the introductory program.
Exchange experience overall
The exchange semester was the best semester of my academic career. It was great to be able to study for a semester at such a large university with a huge campus. On the one hand, the content of the courses was very interesting, on the other hand, you can take a lot home with you from a different point of view, as you find it in San Diego (attention: Californians are different from what you hear from Americans in general). In addition, through studying and the environment in San Diego, you also receive an English course on top of that. In addition to studying, you should definitely take the time to explore San Diego / California and experience the lifestyle, the people, the culture and the huge range of leisure activities there. The experiences outside of my studies probably took me even further than the studies itself. Read more student reviews on Ehuacom.
All in all, I can say that UCSD and San Diego are the best choices for a semester abroad. If you can afford to pay the 7,000 USD school fee, you will get an unforgettable experience by choosing UCSD. However, anyone who expects to get good grades at UCSD without any effort has come to the wrong address. But those who regularly attend the courses and do the tasks will be rewarded with interesting content and still have enough free time to get to know the beautiful surroundings of and around San Diego.