Studentische Monatszeitung für Duisburg, Essen und das Ruhrgebiet


Studying Abroad @ the Beach: Expanses, Education and Elections

On campus [photo: Carina Banisch]

11.12.2019 13:15 - Gastautor*in

By guest author Carina Banisch

Even before I had any idea on what I was going to do as soon as I would finish school I knew one thing with absolute certainty: I would like to study and definitely want to go abroad during that period of time. Admittedly, studying to become a teacher would seem like the obvious thing to do. Although I did not know of a better, or any, alternative I still knew that teaching wasn’t something I was even remotely interested in. Instead, I decided to settle onto what I felt like was the only other viable career path: getting a Bachelor’s degree in International Business.

The University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Dortmund ultimately offered a study programme that I felt like would be the closest match to my interests and wishes. Most notably because there would be a compulsory semester abroad included.
When later preparing for this semester students can either decide to organize their international education independently or to apply for a spot at one of the partner universities. Usually, the number of collaborating institutes is rather limited and therefore chances of scoring a spot at one’s top choice are relatively slim. So I took matters into my own hands and after having spent a few hours on research I ultimately applied for a public university in the United States. Subsequently, the free online service by the International Education Centre proved to be extremely helpful and convenient in the application process.

Since higher education in the States is largely privatized, college tuition inevitably comes with quite a hefty price tag. Thus, picking the California State University of Long Beach simply ended up being mostly financially motivated. Opting for one of the cheapest state-owned universities in the United States my tuition expenses thankfully turned out to be considerably less than the average. Still, I was left with a whooping bill of close to US $8,000 for a total of five courses. Additionally, living expenses for my subsequent 8 months stay would roughly add up to another US$12,000. Thus, I was determined to make as much money as I possibly could beforehand so I ideally wouldn’t have to worry about returning to a lot of debt.

A Hefty Check for Education

Time could not move quickly enough as I was impatiently anticipating the day I would finally leave for sunny California. Given that America is the self-proclaimed land of the free and home of the brave I understandably had nothing but high expectations for this upcoming adventure.

I was required to take care of everything that was not related to the university unassisted. Especially trying to deal with possible housing solutions proved to be exceptionally difficult from afar. Nonetheless, I somehow accomplished to score an apartment to rent and even find my roommates beforehand. This to me meant I would be able to start off on this journey more relaxed and at ease. Surprisingly, settling in and adapting to the entirely unfamiliar environment proved to be substantially more work than I had expected.
The university facilities are modern and house a myriad of diverse departments. Hence, this college is able to provide a great number of different degrees and courses. As a result, CSULB has repeatedly been named as one of the best state-owned universities in terms of value for money. Admittedly, for students used to the German educational system, the curriculum will most likely feel less challenging when compared to equivalent German courses.

Nevertheless, do not make the mistake of underestimating the amount of work students are expected to put into their coursework. A course typically consists of one or two midterm exams and one final exam. Moreover, the courses final grade will partly be influenced by your in-class participation. Therefore, class attendance is usually compulsory. In addition to that, many course directors will give weekly assignments, which a lot of the times can make up to 50% of the final grade. While I found the course material to be fairly easy to comprehend, it admittedly took me some getting used to the sole amount of continuous assignments and general work effort expected.

Long Beach and President Trump

The CSULB campus is located in the city of Long Beach, which is a part of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Although in a close proximity to a city of the likes of L.A., Long Beach is a vibrant and versatile city in its own right.

Despite being in one of the most liberal states of the U.S. the election result tainted that carefree feeling

Having lived in the Ruhr area my whole life and then being presented with everything one could possibly imagine, the sheer endlessness of opportunities and options can feel overwhelming and euphoric at first. Regardless, there will come a point where this can turn into the daunting opposite.

Especially having witnessed the political changes ultimately ending with the presidential election in November 2016. Above all, I tried to engage in as many conversations with all kinds of different people, asking about their political view. While this resulted in eye-opening communication most of the time, it equally left me with such an uncomfortable feeling. Despite being in one of the most liberal states of the U.S. the election result definitely tainted that carefree feeling. Evidently, as soon as during the first hour of Trump being president CSULB students had already received two university mails, trying to offer support and speaking up against any discriminative behaviour. Subsequently, the shift in mood and feelings was distinctively noticeable.

Though I still considered it as important to do well academically I nevertheless wanted to make sure this experience was also going to have a lasting, more significant impact. I consciously sought out to seize the multitude of opportunities that come with having access to such lively cities. So eventually, I spent most of my spare time trying to travel and to take it all in. In retrospect, this helped me to gain a better understanding of the culture, the people and its intricacies. In fact, this, to me, is now far more valuable than the certificate I earned.

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