From August 2011 to December 2011 I spent a semester abroad at California State University in Long Beach, California. These four months in California were the best I have ever experienced and I would choose Cal State, as it is colloquially known, and California again at any time. But let’s start at the beginning.
It wasn’t until February 2011 that I started to apply for the university abroad and all other necessary things, and the time was absolutely sufficient. Applying for a visa and passport, booking a flight, looking for accommodation, … it all works even if you don’t start organizing a whole year in advance, so no stress. I met my future roommate on Facebook and I even managed to book the same plane to Los Angeles. If you book early enough, the prices are pretty good, we flew with AirBerlin and the price was around 500 euros OneWay. Since there are already many reports with details about visas and passports, I don’t want to repeat myself at this point and start with my arrival in the States.
I lived in the Oakwood Apartments in Seal Beach, a small town south of Long Beach. I can really recommend the complex, the apartments are nice, clean, there is a swimming pool, jacuzzi, tennis court, volleyball field and breakfast is also included. From the complex it is only a 5 minute walk to the very beautiful and often deserted beach of Seal Beach and at night (of course only until 10 p.m., after that it is forbidden to stay on the beach, which is also monitored by the police) you can even see the skyline of Long See Beach and the Queen Mary. Seal Beach is very tranquil, but has a nice little “shopping street”, Main Street with many small shops and a pier with Ruby’s dinner (highly recommended). The university is 10 minutes away by bus and the connections to 2nd Street and Long Beach Downtown are also very good. If you go in the other direction you can get to Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach in 15-20 minutes and Laguna Beach and Newport Beach in about 30-40 minutes.
At first glance, the Cal State campus is really huge and it’s easy to get lost. The university really cannot be compared with German universities. Check jibin123 to see more reviews from current students.
Palm trees on campus, the “Food Court” consists of Subway, Panda Express (highly recommended), Polo Loco and Karls Junior. Everywhere there are green meadows where you can spend a few free hours, there is a wide range of various sports fields and facilities and a bowling alley.
The lessons were a little different from what I was used to in Germany. The requirements are not necessarily higher, I would even say lower than in Germany, but the effort is higher. I took 4 courses, so I only had Tuesday and Thursday uni but I had to hand in a multi-page essay almost every week. Nevertheless, the lecturers are very friendly, especially towards the international students, and above all very motivated.
When it comes to living in California, it must be said that it is relatively expensive when it comes to food and housing. If you have a car then you can shop relatively cheaply at Walmart, other supermarkets that are still reasonably priced are Albertsons or Ralphs.
There is plenty to see and do around Long Beach. The whale watching tour from Long Beach was a special experience. You can shop well and cheaply in the Los Cerritos Mall, which really has everything to offer what your heart desires. Long Beach Downtown doesn’t offer much for the evening program, but 2nd Street, which is also very easy to reach from Seal Beach. Especially from Thursday evening there is a lot going on in the numerous bars and pubs and there is sure to be something for everyone. Since most students at the university are still under 21, it is more common for them to have house parties than to go out. Look forward to it, they are really just like in the films 😉 Another beautiful vantage point is on Signal Hill in Long Beach, especially at night you have a nice view of LB.
In’n’Out Burger is particularly tasty, I would say the best burgers in the USA and of course Yogurtland! Visits to the famous outlet malls in America are of course close at hand, I liked the Camarillo Outlet and the Citadel Outlet in LA (both relatively large, but not much).
Immediately after my arrival, I bought an AT&T cell phone for $ 10, which did the job. I also bought a prepaid card from AT&T.
Los Angeles is about 30-40 minutes away by car and if you are lucky enough to avoid rush hour and definitely worth a visit or two. The Griffith Observatory, an observatory in the Hollywood Hills, from which one has a breathtakingly beautiful view over the whole of Los Angeles, is particularly beautiful, especially at sunset. Other highlights are Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Walk of Fame and of course the nightlife in Los Angeles.
We rented a car for most of the weekends (Enterprise, especially cheap if one is over 25) as California’s local transport is a medium disaster. We spent a weekend in San Francisco, on the way back we took Route 1, i.e. the road that runs along the coast, which is really worth seeing. We made another trip to Yosemite National Park, where we also camped at Mono Lake. Not to be forgotten is of course Las Vegas, which is really an experience in itself. Especially in summer the temperatures are just incredible. At 2 o’clock in the night it is still 35 degrees and the sun is beating during the day. But you should definitely have seen it, I’ve been there three times, probably the best place in the world to party. Once in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam are also not far away. In Las Vegas I can recommend the Ballys Hotel, it is centrally located on the Las Vegas Strip just across from the Bellagio and is nice and cheap.
During the semester we actually explored the whole west coast and over Christmas I was in New York City.
After the semester, my roommate and now a good friend went on a 6-week tour through the USA before we had to leave again. I would recommend this to anyone who still has the time and money. We started from LA to Hawaii, Oahu where we spent 10 days. Hawaii is really unbelievable, a true paradise and the most beautiful place I have seen so far in the USA. Then we flew on to Miami, Florida, then to Detroit, Chicago and finally New York again, from where we flew back to Germany. We mostly stayed in Hostelling International, with which we actually only had good experiences.
The 6 months in the USA were definitely the best of my life and I am so happy that I decided to do this semester abroad and to go to California. If you go to California and other states you will notice that the people in Cali are simply incredibly friendly and helpful. No wonder, the weather alone puts you in a good mood. Although it can get pretty cold from October to November in the evenings / at night, the sun just shines from the sky anew every day. During my time in California I can count on one hand how often it rained. The unbelievably great weather, the friendly people and the whole Californian way of life make it very easy to quickly feel at home and at home.
Of course you sometimes have to deal with difficulties and problems, but that’s part of it. If you go to Cali you will definitely have a good time, so GO BEACH 🙂
If you have any questions, feel free to come to me 🙂