Preparation and planning
My tip for your application, but also for later planning, is to make your own “to-do list” . You will have to collect some forms just for the application or you will have to purchase them first, such as the DAAD certificate. I had a very long list because I didn’t even have a passport at the time and believe me, the entire preparation will take several months, so an overview is really very helpful for you! After my application was sent to the CSUF, I had to wait about a month until I was finally accepted. The long wait was apparently due to the fact that I had to hand in my passport, as my friend had his approval after only a week. So don’t worry if the acceptance takes longer than usual.
Visa and flights
After the acceptance came in, we made an appointment at the American consulate in Frankfurt. The visa is unfortunately again cost you some money and time because you have to pay for some fees and online have to fill out a very long questionnaire about an hour took me. You will also have to answer a few questions on site. But please don’t make yourselves crazy because these are really only very easy questions like “What will you study in America?” And “Where will you live there?”. After we had the visa in our pocket, we booked our flight straight away. We decided to only book a one-way flight in order to spontaneously decide later how long we would like to travel, which turned out to be the right choice for us. Many will tell you that if you have not booked a return flight you will have problems entering the USA , but we and other students did not have any.
We looked at many accommodations in advance and got a new tenant contract in the University House through a Facebook group. I would like to recommend one thing to you in advance: Please do not be blinded by the great pools and the free fitness rooms on the websites of all the apartment providers. I lived in the UH, but I have also visited the University Village and the on-campus apartments and they are really not as shiny and beautiful as they look on the Internet.
I can recommend the UH itself, because you don’t have to worry about things like furniture, electricity and other costs, but it’s dirtier and shabby than it looks on the Internet. However, this is often the case with the apartments here. In addition, we were really unlucky because our roommates were changed three times during our stay and they were getting dirtier and dirtier. Unfortunately, American students in general are very dirty and I’m not just saying this from our bad experience. I’ve talked to a lot of other students here and we also had some American friends and it wasn’t any different with them. If you don’t have any problems with that, that’s okay, of course, but if cleanliness is important to you,
The contracts at the University of Applied Sciences always start in August and last for one year until July. Accordingly, you have to take care of a new tenant when you move out. In the spring semester this turns out to be relatively difficult, as the rest of the contract only lasts for 1-2 months, depending on when you leave the country. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one for our room because we moved out at the end of June and that was in the middle of the semester break.
We decided to drive around with Uber for the first two weeks and look for a car on site. You will definitely need a car here, as you will definitely want to see a lot of the area and things like weekly shopping in California are more difficult than you think without a car. If you are not planning to share the car with many people, I recommend buying a car locally. My boyfriend and I never thought we would either, but it ended up being the cheaper option for us and we ended up selling the car again. I can recommend Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and the “5Miles” app to buy. Should you decide not to buy a car, but only to rent one in between, the app “Turo” is highly recommended. We used them for our last few days here and for our trip to Hawaii.
The CSUF campus is really huge and beautiful. There are many tables where you can sit outside, a food court, several Starbucks, the “Titan Shop” (books and clothing from the university), several sports fields (soccer, baseball, etc.), a separate theater with several halls, a gym with pool and my personal highlights, the Titan Student Union and the arboretum. The Student Union is kind of a community center where you can study and eat, among other things, but also do cool things like play pool, bowling and video games. The arboretum is a kind of botanical garden of the university, where you can also stroll and spend your free time.
University life and socializing
Definitely go to the games of the Titans (university team). As a student, all you have to do is show your Titan card (student ID) and you can play all games free of charge. If you have enough money, I recommend joining a club or student association. Unfortunately, student associations in particular are very expensive and most clubs at the university also require a small amount to be paid. Of the clubs, I can definitely recommend the Adventure Club, for which you only have to pay a fee of $ 20 for a t-shirt. With the Adventure Club you can do activities like hiking, campfires or even bungee jumping. For some activities, however, you have to pay an additional fee, so find out more in advance.
At the beginning of each semester, the university has two days on which the individual clubs and student associations introduce themselves. There I was approached by a nice sisterhood and asked if I would like to join them. I was at the orientation of the girls and can highly recommend “Delta Zeta” if you would be interested in something like that. However, you have to know that such a sisterhood is really expensive, which for me was the main reason why I did not join. You have to pay about $ 300 a month to be part of them. If you have the money, this is also a great way to meet people. Otherwise, I recommend that you just be open and trust yourself to speak to people.
I actually study English and philosophy to become a teacher, but since there is a huge range of courses at the CSUF that we tend not to have in Germany, I have decided to only take two courses that have something to do with my degree and two that just interest me. So in the end I had a colorful mix of English, linguistics, theater and film courses . The “Rate my Professor” page is also recommended for choosing a course. In the end, the reviews also gave me cool lecturers and courses.
Another important thing to know is what is known as “class crashing” . You will first have to send a pre-selection of courses to the CSUF online. During your orientation day at the university you will find out whether you have received it or not. If you have not received your favorite course, you have to “crash” it, which means that you simply go to the course and at the beginning / end introduce yourself to the lecturer and ask if he still has room for you in the course. Don’t worry too much, most of the lecturers are nice and let you in.
THTR 160 – Theater for Non-Majors with Miguel Torres Cruz
I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to try something different in addition to their main subjects. Miguel is a passionate actor and hilarious. Because you have to come into contact with people a lot in the theater, I met many of my American friends here. In the course, as a midterm and final exam, you have a short presentation of your scene before the course. The scenes are then simply practiced every week in the course and Miguel gives tips on how to improve them. What’s also cool is that instead of books you have to pay for the university’s theater performances here. I had a lot of fun every time as I went there with the people from the class.
ENGL 350 – Literature and the Environment with Nicole Seymour
As the name suggests, it’s mainly about how the environment is portrayed in literature. But you also discuss many topics that exclusively affect our environment or the representation of nature in video games and films. Nicole Seymour is really very funny and gives very modern classes . Since this is an English course, you have to prepare a lot of literature and you have several quizzes during the semester, but they can really be done with very little effort. I usually only prepared the literature on the day of class and still got full marks on my quizzes. There is also a midterm and a final exam, but they are also easy to manage.
LING 469 – Language, Sex Roles and the Brain with Patricia Schneider-Zioga
Among other things, the linguistics course was my most demanding course , because you really have to work scientifically here, but an A is easy to get here too if you simply do your tasks regularly. Mrs. Schneider-Zioga is really very nice. However, you have to be really interested in linguistics as there is a lot of discussion here.
CTVA 350 – Story Structure at Samuel Lively
Unfortunately, Samuel Lively now teaches at another institution, so I’m only concentrating on the content of the course. Here you will learn how to structure a Hollywood flick and get lots of useful tips for your own film ideas. The aim of the course is to write an outline for your own film idea at the end of the semester. Don’t worry if you haven’t had any experience in the field, because neither have I. The course is just cool for anyone who loves films and has always wanted to develop their own concept for a film . You will need to watch a movie every week for the course and complete a small online assignment that will teach you more about film writing.
Travel and leisure
Last but not least, use every free minute to travel! California alone has so many beautiful places to fall in love with!
Downtown Fullerton: Downtown is full of cute cafes, restaurants, and bars. Favorites: The Brownstone Cafe (breakfast), The Night Owl (Cafe).
Brea (approx. 10 minutes): In the neighboring town of Brea is the “Brea Mall”, which already supplies a large selection of American shops. On the same property you will also find “BJ’s” and my favorite “Cheesecake Factory”. Both restaurants have super delicious food, which you will definitely miss in Germany!
Anaheim (approx. 20 minutes): Disneyland is in the neighboring city of Anaheim, where children’s dreams come true. Unfortunately, tickets are very expensive, so here’s a little tip: Many university students work at Disneyland or know someone. who works there. Try to find out through your acquaintances whether they have connections there, because that’s how we got to Disneyland for free;)
Newport Beach (approx. 30 minutes): Who doesn’t know Newport Beach from the series “OC California”? In addition to chilling on the beach and walking on the pier, you can also book tours to watch whales there. The best thing to do is to look for vouchers online at “Groupon”.
Huntington Beach (approx. 30 minutes): Here you will find lots of surfers, a cool pier and cool pubs. Favorite: The Killarney Pub.
Los Angeles (40min-1.5h depending on traffic and location)
Downtown: A heart in downtown is the rooftop bar “Perch”. You have a wonderful view over the rooftops of LA and enjoy delicious drinks there.
Santa Monica / Venice Beach: The Santa Monica Pier is particularly beautiful at sunset or at night, as the pier is particularly beautifully illuminated. I recommend that you visit Venice Beach when it is still light and make your way to the Santa Monica Pier in the evening. Venice Beach is very interesting, but there are often many homeless people out and about in the evenings, which can sometimes be a bit strange.
Universal Studios: Harry Potter World in Universal Studios is a must for every Harry Potter fan! Also recommended is the 1-hour studio tour, during which you will get to know many original locations from well-known Hollywood films and series. The CSUF is offering a small discount for Universal Studios, just go to the information desk in the Titan Student Union and ask for the link for the discount!
Griffith Observatory: If you love the film “LA LA LAND”, you will recognize many corners from the film here. Nowhere will you see such a beautiful sight of LA as here. Best to run up to sunset and stay until evening when the lights come on over LA.
Hollywood Sign: The hike to the Hollywood Sign is a must. You’d better come by here in the afternoon or in the morning, if it’s not that hot yet.
San Francisco and Pacific Coast Highway (approx 6 hours)
San Francisco is really beautiful and has a lot to offer! Must-sees: Hike to the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, Twin Peaks (best at night), Union Square, Golden Gate Park, China Town (best during the day) and a cable car ride. I recommend you to make a little road trip out of your return trip from San Francisco. My boyfriend and I spent three more days on the coast after our stay. Recommended places are: Big Sur (Julia Pfeiffer National Forest), Carmel Valley (accommodation: River Inn and the “Refuge” for relaxation), Monterey and Santa Cruz.
San Diego (approx. 2 hours)
San Diego has many beautiful beaches and, above all, a cool nightlife. During the day you can browse through the Seaport Village or the Liberty Public Market, in the afternoon marvel at the sunset in La Jolla or on the Sunset Cliffs and in the evening you can eat or drink something in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Las Vegas (approx. 4 hours)
One weekend in Vegas is enough to marvel at all the hotels and attractions. We were in Vegas three times and the third time we really knew almost everything. My favorite things in Vegas: The fountain show in front of the Bellagio (takes place every half an hour and is different every time), the casino in the Cesares Palace (free drinks when you play in the casino) as well as the shops and the “Fountain of the Gods” there , the Vulkan Show in front of the Mirage Hotel and my absolute highlight, which I have been looking forward to every time we have been there: “Battista’s Hole in the Wall”. Battistas is a cute restaurant that started out as a small family business. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the Strip and there is always a free main course (soup or salad), bread, the homemade house wine and a delicious cappuccino. You get all of this for free with your main course and it tastes delicious. Should you go there, please take some cash with you, as a cute older man plays the accordion there and it is only polite to tip him.
I can only give you one tip. Get the America the Beautiful Pass and visit as many national parks as you can. The pass costs around $ 80 and you can get into almost all national parks in the United States with anyone in your car. Yosemite was a very special experience for me and my friend, but every national park is really unique and worth visiting.
Hawaii (about 5 hours by plane)
You will probably never again have the chance to get to Hawaii for as little money and as quickly as you did from California. We paid a total of only 1500 euros for our accommodation + flight + car, for 2 people and 6 days. If you can settle for an AirBnB instead of a hotel, you can get away with it really cheap. That’s how much money you pay two people for a cheap vacation in Turkey, that’s what we spent on Hawaii. If you are in Oahu, you can save a lot on food if you eat in the “Marukame Udon”. This saves you money that you can rather spend on your trips, because food in Hawaii is expensive.
- I can only recommend AirBnB for traveling. If you are well informed, you will get great accommodation for comparatively little money and meet very nice people. We were really lucky with each of our hosts and often even dined or just chatted with them in the evenings. This is how you get to know Americans and their way of life properly
- Get a SIM card in good time. We ordered from Mint-Sim on site and got enough internet and phone calls for a small budget
- Dare to approach Americans in your courses. Small talk is quite normal in the US and sometimes more develops from it
- We found Walmart to be the best for shopping, as you get relatively good quality for the price. Be prepared, however, that fresh food is generally a bit more expensive in California
- Use Yelp to discover new bars and restaurants
- Enjoy the time and don’t worry too much about the university! American courses are really not that difficult and you only have one chance to travel to America