Application and preparations
It was immediately clear to me personally that I wanted to spend my semester abroad in California to improve my English. Since I contacted the International Office at my home university beforehand, I found out about SSU and found out more online.
In the end I decided to go to Sonoma State University because the tuition fees are relatively cheap here, unlike other universities in America. I was also impressed by the proximity to San Francisco, despite the university’s rather rural location. The application was then very easy, thanks to the help of MicroEDU, as everything is explained in detail in the form provided. After my advisor checked my application, it was sent and within a week I received an acceptance from the SSU which stands for Sonoma State University according to AbbreviationFinder.
Since such a semester abroad in the USA is not easy to finance, it was clear to me from the beginning that I would apply for BAföG abroad. I would definitely recommend an application to everyone, as a large part of the tuition fees is covered here and even if you don’t get BAföG in Germany, you can still get it.
Since I still had time between my last exams in Germany and the orientation week at the SSU and it was possible because of the visa, I decided to go on a tour of California and I have already experienced a lot before.
Accommodation search and costs
The university offers various types of accommodation, e. g. a 4-person flat-share in which you have your own bedroom and bathroom, but also an 8-person flat-share in which you share everything with your roommates, so there are big differences in costs. The residential housing is divided into different villages with the different flat shares. Each village is equipped with two washrooms. The campus is very green, which I personally liked very much.
I chose the 4-person flat share because it was important for me to have my own room. The apartments are very well equipped, for example there is a microwave in the kitchen, but unfortunately you have to take care of all the dishes yourself. But you can also coordinate with your new roommates in advance and share everything.
In Los Angeles I got a prepaid card from Cricket, but there are much cheaper alternatives here, as you have free WiFi on the entire campus. Compared to Germany, the food is relatively expensive. But you can also opt for a meal plan and always eat in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, this is also very expensive, but could be worthwhile if you really take full advantage of it every day.
Course selection and on-site support
The SSU is one of the few universities where you can choose your courses before you start. Unfortunately, choosing a course was not that easy at the beginning, as the business administration courses fill up quickly and not every course is always offered. In the first two weeks after the start, it was still possible for all students to change courses. Since I didn’t get the ones that were approved by my home university straight away, I turned to Becky, who is responsible for the international students, and switched two courses. My courses (Consumer Behavior, Hospitality & Event Management, Supply Chain Management and Legal Environment)took place twice a week for one and a half hours. Since you had to do homework every week and had two exams per course during the semester, you didn’t have too much stress in the end, so the system here is more relaxed than in Germany.
After receiving such good advice from MicroEDU , it continued at SSU. Becky answered all of his questions and the whole team gave you good advice if you had any problems. After taking the Airport Express from the airport to Rohnert Park, you were picked up by her, brought to the campus and then you received a small welcome package for the first few days.
The coordinators in the Center of International Education, who, among other things, are still students themselves, offered small weekly meetings in which you could meet with the other international students whom you were able to get to know in the orientation. But day trips were also planned, for example we all went together (for free) to the Petaluma Pumpkin Festival and spent the day there.
But the university itself also offers various trips (e. g. backpacking on Lake Tahoe) and events (e. g. paint the night). There were even events that were offered free of charge, unfortunately these were sometimes canceled because the weather didn’t cooperate or there weren’t enough drivers. You should register early enough here, as the trips sell out quickly. But you can also plan your own trips, for example driving through the national parks over Thanksgiving or spending a weekend in Las Vegas.
But even if nothing is planned, you can chill by the pool on campus, play table football or billiards in the Rec Center or go to the Santa Rosa Mall. And there are also some options for those who like to party, as many students go to the Cotati Crawl every Wednesday and on the weekend.
If you don’t want to buy a car and don’t always have to rely on the bus or train (which is absolutely okay and you can even travel with the buses for free within Rohnert Park), there is the possibility to reserve a Zipcar. Here you can apply for a key card online, for which you have to pay 15 euros once. There are two cars on campus for this purpose, which you reserve in advance with your mobile phone and then pay around $ 8 per hour via your account. If you are traveling with several friends, it is not that expensive and a good alternative.
If you really want to go to California and not pay too much tuition fees, you should definitely consider the SSU. I would always do a semester abroad because my time at Sonoma State University was the best of my life. You make new friends with whom you can do a lot with a little initiative.