It has long been a dream of mine to live abroad for a longer period of time. At the same time, it was clear to me that I really wanted to live and study in America in order to experience American college life. Since I wanted to see a lot in a warmer region and in addition to studying in the USA, I decided on California. The decision for CSU Fullerton was very easy for me, as the range of courses, especially in the master’s area, is very diverse and Fullerton offers a great starting point for traveling to California and neighboring states. Also, the tuition fees are comparativelower than at other American universities.
The application process turns out relatively simple and straightforward through the support of Contact College. You receive very detailed information about the course of the entire application process as well as the required documents such as financial proof, proof of language proficiency and visa. I was able to complete the language certificate free of charge with a DAAD language test at my university in Germany. In order to get the F1 visa, some online forms need to be filled out. An appointment must then be made at the American embassy to have a short interview there. For me, this was limited to the question of my project, the subject of study and the financing- so no big deal! Read more student reviews on Andyeducation.
In addition, a letter of motivation is required from master’s students as part of their application. Unlike in the Bachelor’s degree, Master’s students are enrolled in advance in 3-4 courses from the course wish list, that is, you do n’t have to do any class crashing on site – unless you want to change one of these courses. However, this also means that the application process takes a little longer than for Bachelor students, as feedback from the respective departments about successful enrollment is necessary. At the beginning of the semester, I swapped a course that I was already enrolled in for another course because I only had a short description of this course and accordingly I had expected something different.The change of course was straightforward.
In general, you should start preparing and getting the documents early, as it can take some time. Especially with financial proof or proof of language proficiency, you cannot expect the bank, university or other institutions to provide these documents immediately (and in the correct form) or to have dates free for the language test, for example.
Arrival & accommodation
I traveled from Frankfurt directly to LAX. The only way to get to Fullerton from the airport is by taxi or Uber. Since I hadn’t installed Uber in Germany before and the installation at the airport didn’t work after several attempts, I then took a taxi, which was very expensive at over $ 100 to Fullerton. So my recommendation: Install Uber in advance! So the trip would probably have been only half as expensive.
I lived with another German in the UCA Apartments. We took over the apartment from other Germans who were in Fullerton the previous semester. A clear advantage of the UCA Apartments is that you only need about five minutes to walk to the Mihaylo Business College and there is a supermarket, all restaurants and other shops next door. Although we only rented the apartment for two and we both had a single room, it was a cheap alternativeto Oxford North or University House. The disadvantage, however, is that you can only conclude annual contracts and you have to find new tenants for the rest of the time. Since UCA is a private residential complex and not a student residence, I missed the “college life experience” there a little, for example in Oxford North, where almost all internationals and friends of ours lived. Accordingly, there were some house parties there and there was always something going on, which I really liked.
Studies & courses taken
In general, I can say of all of my courses that the professors were always very helpful and committed. Overall, the workload during the semester was higher than in Germany. On the other hand, the exam phases (midterms and finals) were more relaxed in my case, as I hardly had to study for the exams by doing homework, assignments and regular quizzes at the beginning of the classes. The end grades usually consist of several components such as homework, projects, group work, quizzes and exams.
FIN 562 – Enterprise Risk Management (with Brian Hagen)
Prof Hagen is really nice and fair. It is important to him that everyone understands the main messages and aspects of the course, which is why his exams are limited to the few essential topics. By working on different Excel sheets, the course is very practical. I can highly recommend Prof Hagen and the course, as there was always a relaxed atmosphere and you can get a very good grade with comparatively little effort.
ISDS 462 – Database Management Systems (at Ester Gonzalez)
When creating my wish-list for my courses, I looked at https://www.ratemyprofessors.com to find out more about the courses. Prof Gonzalez was not rated very well there, because she was neither helpful nor understanding, but very strict. I cannot understand these reviews at all, because in my opinion she is very nice, dedicated and helpful. You could always come to her with any questions or write an e-mail that she would answer late in the evening or at the weekend – so don’t let any ratings influence your choice of course, but get an idea for yourself!Overall, the course was very complex and time-consuming. If you are diligent and do all the tasks carefully, you can get a very good grade relatively easily. In addition, the assignments and exams are very application-oriented, which allowed me to learn a lot about databases. For example, we had to create a database ourselves and write the necessary SQL codes. Despite the high effort, I can recommend the course because everything was very organized and structured.
MGMT 516 – Operations Management (at Asad Shafiq)
In this course, oral participation took up 25% of the final grade, which is a very high proportion, but not unusual at American universities. Personally, it was difficult for me to take part in the class discussions, as I sometimes did not understand some colloquial words or expressions immediately and accordingly could not react to statements as quickly as the native speakers. From class to class, however, it got easier for me. Overall, the course was also relatively complex and time-consuming, as I had to work on a case study every week, which was graded. The midterm and final exam also consisted of working on one case study each within the lecture period. Overall, the grading was rather strict, but still fair.
Leisure time & excursion possibilities
My courses were set up so that I had Monday and Friday off. I was mostly able to do the tasks for the university during the week in order to use the time on the weekends for excursions.
We were five Germans in the spring semester and we rented a car (from Chico) together. In my opinion, you definitely need a car in Fullerton. Regular grocery shopping alone is very difficult without a car, as Walmart or Target are a certain distance away and lugging shopping bags can be very annoying. While Uber is an alternative, the costs add up quickly. You are also more flexible with your own car.
Together we went to LA, Malibu and beaches in Orange County like Laguna Beach or Huntington Beach a few times. A highlight was getting up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to watch the sunrise in LA above the Griffith Observatory – getting up early and taking the short hike up the mountain was definitely worth it! We also made weekend trips to Las Vegas (about 4 hours), Palm Springs (about 1.5 hours) and San Diego (about 2 hours). In San Diego, we even made a short detour to Tijuana, Mexico, to eat tacos and drink margaritas.
Since I play tennis several times a week at home in Germany, I didn’t want to do without it during the semester abroad and I joined the CSUF tennis club, which is organized by students. The members were happy to host internationals in the club and were super friendly, interested and always ready to have fun. So I can definitely recommend that you practice your hobby at the CSUF or even try out other sports to meet new people. Common interests made getting to know each other much easier. There are student clubs at the CSUF for all kinds of activities!
We also watched some basketball games and a Titans baseball game. At the games there were even gifts such as a coffee mug with the CSUF logo or free meals such as chicken wings and in-and-out burgers for the first 100 CSUF students. The atmosphere was as you know it from the American high school films: a mascot (Tuffy), cheerleaders cheering on the crew and even a band playing music during breaks. So definitely check out the Titans Games – it’s worth it!
Due to the corona pandemic, the campus was closed at the beginning of March and all classes were switched to online classes. The changeover to online classes went relatively well and without complications on the part of the CSUF. In addition, there was regular communication about all the news and the current situation, which I perceived very positively in this uncertain time. Unfortunately, I and almost all the other internationals left the USA in mid-March, so that already planned trips, such as a road trip through California during spring break or a vacation in Hawaii after the semester, could not take place. I finished the semester from Germany – here, too, the professors were very understanding and tried to ensure that I could finish the semester without any problems, for example due to the time difference,
Even if the semester abroad did not go as planned, the time I spent there was very pleasant and unforgettable. I would opt for a semester abroad in California and also for the CSU Fullerton at any time! Whether in California or elsewhere in the world, dare to go abroad – the experiences you gain during this time are unique and worth every penny!