Go to America and get my own picture of the land of unlimited possibilities. It’s always been my dream. However, I never thought that I could actually make it a reality. Because that’s not as easy as you might think. Without proper advice, I initially had wrong ideas and unrealistic goals. But I didn’t want to give up anytime soon. I came across the answerresume advisory team on the Internet and after the necessary preparations had been made, I went to Northern California in August 2017 to deepen my English studies at Sonoma State University.
Application and preparation process
How do I finance the whole thing ? and how do I find the right university for me ? were at the top of my list of questions to ask the advisory team especially for semesters abroad in the USA. I decided to apply for BAföG abroad and since all the paperwork was not easy to understand and the processing took a few months, I was relieved when the step was done. After comparing the universities, I finally applied for the SSU’s “Semester at Sonoma” program and after a few days I received the email that I was accepted. You can surely imagine the joy.
With the I-20 that came in the mail, I went to the American embassy for my visa appointment. The interview was really not bad: after a few questions, including about my reason for stay, the application was confirmed and my passport including visa was sent to me a few weeks later.
Since I applied to a partner university through the advisory team, I was also able to apply for a partial scholarship. With nothing to lose, it was worth a try. The good news that I was selected as a MicroEDU Scholar gave me further financial security.
Courses and costs
By studying English as a major, I met all the requirements and had no difficulties choosing my courses (linguistics, mythological literature and creative writing). I was particularly looking forward to creative writing because my university in Germany doesn’t offer it. Unfortunately, the lessons only took place once a week per course and were therefore almost four hours long (including a break). However, the assignments are spread over the semester, so you don’t end up despairing of a mountain of work.
The tuition fees are quite low compared to other universities. In return, the cost of living (food, rent, etc. ) in the area should not be underestimated. Attention: taxes are usually not yet included in the prices of the products! Because there is W-LAN on campus, I only needed a cheap prepaid SIM card with a small data volume for emergencies. I can also recommend a meal plan for the cafeteria. It’s a bit more expensive than shopping and cooking yourself, but when you have a lot to do, it’s a lot faster and more practical and you can take it easy as often as you want.
The statement that you couldn’t get far without a car is exaggerated because there are buses that students can take for free, for example to go shopping. In addition, there has recently been a train, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), which I never took, but friends took it to the mall in Santa Rosa, which is a bit faster than the bus, which also doesn’t comes as often as I am used to in the big city. Sometimes we just rented a Zipcar (car sharing cars that are available in the parking lots) and shared the costs.
Life and care on campus
After I was so well advised and looked after in Germany, the same thing went on in California. From the airport in San Francisco I took an airport bus to Rohnert Park (journey approx. 2 hours depending on traffic) and the international coordinator picked me up by car, drove to the university campus and gave me more information and my key card for my apartment presented on the beautiful green campus. The residential housing is divided into small “villages” with suites-style houses.
After my five roommates moved in, they took me to parties every now and then and in general I felt culturally involved, which is a big advantage of living on campus. However, I got along best with the other international students, because we were all in the same boat and we quickly grew together thanks to the orientation days and lots of activities.
The Center of International Education was always there for us and planned excursions: hiking in the redwoods, for example, or a day trip to San Francisco. There we strolled along Pier 39, among other things. This is a kind of harbor promenade with all kinds of shops, restaurants and sea lions. We spent another weekend in a cozy cabin on the Nevada border in the beautiful, snow-covered nature around Lake Tahoe.
In addition to the trips from the international center, there was also a wide range of excursions, events and activities from Seawolf Living, where you could get (many free) tickets. However, they are limited and are given according to the motto “first come, first serve”, but you are informed in good time and sometimes people jump off and you get a place. Unfortunately, some of them were canceled because there weren’t enough drivers or the weather didn’t play along.
Since we were off around Thanksgiving, we planned to go to Los Angeles and luckily we could ride with friends who wanted to be nearby anyway. There we stayed in an AirBnB, went to Universal Studios on Hollywood Boulevard, went Black Friday shopping on Santa Monica Pier and admired the Hollywood Sign while walking.
And even if nothing big was planned, you could meet up after class in the Rec Center to play billiards, table football or do sports or just relax in the pool. Regardless of whether it is organized by the university or by yourself, the possibilities to see and experience are endless.
Overall, I can therefore recommend everyone to do a semester abroad with a clear conscience. The five months at SSU were one of the best and most unforgettable of my life. I have become a lot more independent, have made friends from all over the world and now speak English more confidently. But what is even more important, experience has shown me that sometimes a dream is not as unlikely as it seems.