1. Information on the foreign university
1. 1 Brief introduction to the country and its education system
With an area of 9. 83 million square kilometers, the United States of America is the third largest state on earth. The 50 states of the United States have a total of 322 million inhabitants. The United States of America is a land of immigrants. It is one of the most multicultural and ethically diverse countries. The national language is English. Due to the high immigration of people from mainly Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in the past few decades, the majority of the residents speak Spanish in some parts of the USA. In Miami-Dade, for example, the mother tongue of almost two-thirds of the population is Spanish. About half of them speak poor or no English at all. Mastering the Spanish language can therefore not only be an advantage in cities like Miami, but also, for example, in cities on the border with Mexico.
If you want to study in a country that is not only diverse in terms of climate, but also of nature, the USA is the right place for you. I started my semester abroad in the western state of California, which borders directly on the Pacific Ocean. The state impresses not only with its beautiful beaches, but also with the high number of inhabitants that fills the state with life. With around 37. 2 million inhabitants, California is the most populous state in America and the third largest state in terms of area. Due to the year-round warm climate and the low rainfall, there is a drought in California, which often points to a reduction in water consumption (e. g. showers in sports facilities, use of washing machines and dishwashers).
Due to the federal structure of the United States, a large number of regulations are made by the individual states themselves. This also applies to the education system. The school system is basically divided into three areas: Elementary (Primary) Schools, Secondary Education and Postsecondary Education. A major difference to the German education system is that there is no vertical differentiation. Students are therefore not divided up according to their talents between different institutions such as secondary school, secondary school or grammar school. The state schools are financed by taxpayers’ money. The fees for the universities, however, have to be financed by the students themselves, which means that many students get into debt at a young age. Just under 70% of undergraduate students must take out student loans and have an average of $ 35,000 in debt. Overall, the country’s student debt stands at $ 1. 2 trillion. Compared to Germany, that is more than three times the German federal budget. Since the guidelines of the individual universities differ from state to state, the quality of the universities is measured using a university ranking. Another difference to the German system lies in the grading system, which is expressed by the letters A (very good) to F (failed). A key factor in the choice of university in the USA is whether the year is divided into semesters, trimesters or quarters. All three variants are offered not just by universities in California but across the country. For example, in order to receive financial support from the BAföG office, at least one semester, two trimesters or two quarters must be completed. In addition, the crediting options should be considered, because not only the course content can differ from the FH Dortmund, but also the points that are measured in units instead of in ECTS.
1. 2 General information about the university
Short for CSLA by abbreviationfinder, the California State University Los Angeles in 1947 to the east of LA founded in the University Hills. The university is also called Cal State LA, CSLA or Golden Eagles (name of the sports team) and is a state university. 129 Bachelor, 112 Master and three doctoral degrees are offered in various fields. The university is particularly suitable for students studying business, management and marketing, because the CSULA focuses on these areas. The university also impresses with its internationality. The majority of the 24,000 students are Latinos and Hispanics (approx. 60%) and Asians (approx. 16%).
Originally, an academic year at CSLA consisted of three trimesters. Since 2016, CSLA has switched the academic year to a semester system. This is a financial and time advantage, especially for international students, because it reduces the study time from 6 months (2 trimesters) to 4 months (one semester) and thus only a shorter stay in the USA has to be financed. In addition, so-called winter intersessions and summer intersessions take place, in which additional courses can be taken or exams can be made up.
1. 3 Motives and expectations
Because of the diversity of the United States, I have always been fascinated by the country. From many experience reports I have learned that, besides New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles is a city in which the marketing industry is very large. Since I want to specialize in marketing and also toy with the idea of doing my master’s degree in another country and ultimately also wanting to emigrate, Los Angeles seemed to me to be a very good choice for the semester abroad. Impressions from the study model in the States were therefore of great importance to me. I also wanted to know whether I have mastered the English language well enough to cope not only with everyday life, but also with studying and the associated application and understanding of specialist vocabulary. This ability would of course be essential to start a master’s degree. The selection of marketing courses at the university was also of particular importance. The broad spectrum that CSLA offers immediately won me over- From social media marketing to marketing analytics to international marketing relationships, everything could be found. For me there were many more interesting courses than I could take per semester. In order to have the semester abroad credited, 20 ECTS are required, which are often covered by 4 courses. It is up to you whether you want to take further courses. Each additional course would add an additional $ 960 to the tuition fee, which is $ 5350. From a financial point of view, this would not have been possible for me because of the BAföG office only up to € 4,600 can be paid and I already have to finance the difference for the full-time study (4 courses) myself. Even so, the CSULA tuition fees were less than the tuition fees of the other Los Angeles universities that would be eligible for me. This made CSLA my number one from a financial point of view as well.
The decision to do my semester abroad in Los Angeles was certainly shaped by being as close as possible to the hotspot on the west coast of the United States and the metropolis LA as the second largest city in America.
1. 4 Support and organization
I applied to CSLA with the help of MicroEDU. The agency supported me a lot with the application and selection of the university and provided me with all the information I needed. I would recommend this agency to every student who is interested in a semester abroad, as it not only charges no fees, but also helps you with its many years of knowledge and good contacts to a large number of universities.
Becky Bishop looked after me on site. She contacted me before I arrived and gave me some information. Becky introduced himself again on site and looked after me very well during the entire stay. A major organizational problem, however, was enrolling in the courses. International students have to do a so-called “class crashing”. This means that in the first week the desired courses are attended in order to ask the professors after the lecture whether one can join the course. However, since many courses were already fully occupied, it was sometimes not possible to take the desired courses. The process was a big mess. Some students from other universities were required to take certain courses, but they did not get them on site. Another problem was access to the CSLA’s online account. The professors work with a program called Moodle. The work materials are uploaded there and homework must also be submitted in some cases. Unfortunately, I only had access to the platform after a few weeks,
1. 5 SWOT analysis
- Wide range of courses
- Good on-site support
- Relatively low tuition fees
- High practical relevance
- Professors have a very broad knowledge of their subject and were very well prepared
- Large library and many places to stay for studying
- Free fitness center with classes
- Professors could also be reached easily outside of the lectures
- Very high time expenditure for the courses
- Expensive books had to be purchased that could not be borrowed from the library
- The location of the CSULA is not ideal (far from interesting areas such as Hollywood, Venice Beach etc. ) and there are no obvious opportunities to enjoy your free time
- Class crashing
- Few activities on campus
- The food corner consisted of several different restaurants, but the food was very expensive and there were no other options to buy food near the university
I have chosen 3 marketing courses (International Marketing, Global Business, Syntax of Social Media Marketing) and a finance course (Personal Portfolio & Risk Management).
The International Marketing course includes cultural and economic analysis of global markets, as well as marketing research, decision making and developing strategies in a global context. Dr. Houston, who herself worked in various marketing departments, offered this course. In the lectures, developing countries in particular were analyzed and compared in more detail and various marketing strategies were adapted to these countries. A special focus was also placed on the distinction between low-context cultures and high-context cultures. The course took place on Wednesdays in the form of a lecture and on Mondays online. For the online events, different materials (texts, videos, images, etc. ) were posted on Moodle every week and various questions had to be answered with a relatively high degree of difficulty. Simply reading the materials was not enough to answer, much more further research had to be carried out and the solution had to be found through logical and creative thinking. On Wednesdays, at the end of each lecture, different questions had to be answered in group work. In addition, two assignments and a video presentation were required. For the first housework, each team was assigned a developing country. My team, consisting of 5 people, got the country of South Korea. The task was to write a cultural and economic analysis of the country. The next housework took place in the same constellation and with the same country. The task was to find a marketing strategy for marketing Californian wine in South Korea. Among other things, we have developed strategies for the 4 Ps (Product, Place, Promotion, Price) of marketing. We also had to present the report on this in a video presentation. The basic requirement for the lectures and the work was reading the book International Marketing by Cateora and Graham.
The global business course took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:15 p. m. to 1:30 p. m. in the form of a lecture. The focus of this lecture was on the global connections of markets. In addition, it was examined how various factors such as the legal system and cultural conditions affect the markets, as well as the decisions to act in or with other markets. In addition, various trading theories were taught and analyzed. In addition to the lectures, case studies had to be solved every week and a test had to be taken in the lecture every Thursday. One case study dealt with, for example, how Ghana developed after independence from Great Britain and what connections the political system has with economic growth. Another case dealt with the current issue of bitcoins, its ethical justifiability and how dangerous Bitcoins are for “real” money and banks, as well as for the entire economy and politics. The case studies were always solved in the same teams of three that were put together in the first lecture. My team members were exchange students from Sweden and Asia. In addition, 3 exams were written and a group presentation was given. The course also included editing McGraw-Hill’s Global Business Today book and reading the Wall Street Journal daily.
The Syntax of Social Media Marketing course took place on Wednesdays. This course examined how companies can use verbal and visual content to attract customers or to achieve added value, to position the brand and to be able to establish a connection with customers. The basis for the event were the books Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Contagious by Jonah Berger. With the knowledge of these books, a content marketing audit, an analysis report, a social media content plan and two exams had to be written and a presentation had to be given. In addition, a request was made to create a fan media project on Tumblr and Instagram and to continuously increase the number of followers. This project was an example of how companies could position their products on social media platforms.
My fourth course in Personal Portfolio and Risk Management should give an understanding of the possibilities of short term and long term funding planning. The focus was on the areas of credit management, financing, pensions and legacies. In addition to the lectures that took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jeff Madura’s book Personal Finance had to be read and edited online. The processing was very time-consuming, as there were 21 chapters, each with several quizzes, homework and online exams. In addition, 4 exams were written during the lectures and a term paper had to be submitted. The term paper included a critical analysis of a mutual fund. I was allocated the Islamic fund Amana Growth. The course was taught by Professor Suber,
A main difference to the workload at the CSLA and the FH Dortmund was that consistently work in the form of presentations, homework, homework, quizzes or exams were required. In addition, some exams were written online and lasted over 8 hours. In addition, attendance was compulsory in every course. If there were multiple appearances too late or if they were absent, this was immediately reflected in the note. The teaching format also varied. The courses were all filled with 20-30 students and it was more interactive and involved a lot of group work. So I didn’t find any large lecture halls. From my point of view, interactive learning had the advantage that the content of the course became more understandable and certain topics were also analyzed together. The analysis of different incidents was reflected in the homework and exams. In contrast to the exams I have previously written at the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences, knowledge was not only queried, but you had to develop and analyze individual solutions yourself. This made the content clearer to me and I also felt more prepared for professional life in the field.
My typical week at university looked like this:
On Mondays I worked on my homework for International Marketing at home with the help of the course materials provided and made it available to my professor.
My personal finance day started at 9:25 a. m. on Tuesdays. After that, I had free time from 10:40 a. m. to 12:15 p. m. , which I mostly used to prepare for the next course. From 12:15 p. m. to 1:30 p. m. I had global business. The course always started with a current topic from the Wall Street Journal. That is why it was important to have read the newspaper beforehand, as the verbal participation was also reflected in the grade. After that I didn’t have any more lectures. That’s why I often went to the fitness center at university, to the food corner and / or did other homework for other subjects.
On Wednesdays at 12:15 p. m. I had International Marketing followed by Syntax of Social Media Marketing. After that, I usually did the case study for global business because it had to be handed out by Thursday.
My Thursday looked the same as my Tuesday. The rest of the week I didn’t have any more lectures, but I had to invest a lot of time in the required homework, presentations, etc. The finance course was particularly time-consuming due to the online processing of the book and the online exams, which lasted over 8 hours.
California is made up of very many different cultures, most of which are Mexican, Asian and of course American. Personally, I perceived the people as very friendly, open and helpful. When I had questions or needed help, I quickly found someone to support. I also found it a lot easier to get into conversation with people.
On the other hand, the many homeless people who asked for money every day and sometimes made very confused comments were somewhat frightening. I was already aware that Los Angeles was above the US average with an unemployment rate of just under 8%. In addition, there is no unemployment benefit from the state that we can enjoy in Germany with unemployment benefits and Hartz IV. Seeing live the fate of some Americans who live on the streets made me think a lot.
As I mentioned in the previous part, the lectures at CSULA were much more interactive. The students were integrated into the lecture and were able to ask questions throughout. In the global business course, a current topic that is currently on your mind could be mentioned at the beginning of the lecture. This was then analyzed in more detail, which made the content much more understandable and easier to remember.
The communication with the professors also differs in part from the German system. The professors were mostly addressed as Professor XY, whereas the students were addressed by their first name. This gave the professors a clear position and at the same time a very pleasant atmosphere for me, because I prefer to be addressed by first name.
Another difference to the FH Dortmund was the wide range of courses offered by CSLA. This is particularly beneficial in order to specialize in certain directions.
To get started with life at CSLA, the university offered an orientation day on the first day to provide important information and to get to know the campus and the other international students. After the orientation day there were other events for international students, which made it easier to exchange ideas and get to know other students. Furthermore, there are various associations at the university that advocate certain topics. They presented themselves on campus, especially in the first few weeks, to advertise themselves. Since joining a connection is very time-consuming, I did not join any connection.
The tuition fees for full-time study (4 courses) at CSLA are $ 5475. This is relatively cheap compared to other universities in the area, but expensive compared to Germany. Unfortunately, there was no student ticket included in the tuition fees, so I spent around $ 100 per month on trips to and from the university alone. Also the cost of living in the US is much higher, which also increases the gap between rich and poor in the USA – it is not for nothing that Los Angeles is often referred to as the city of the rich and the beautiful. Especially as a vegan, you will be overwhelmed by the prices in the supermarkets because fruit, vegetables and meat alternatives are very high in the price. The same goes for cosmetic items. $ 6 for a pound of mushrooms or $ 10 for deodorant are not uncommon.
However, there are also a few 99ct shops where a lot can be bought cheaply. Housing prices are also limitless. At first I lived in an apartment in West Hollywood. Even though there were four of me in the apartment and I even shared a small room, I was paying $ 860 a month. Cheaper alternatives can usually only be achieved with contacts and luck. The problem is often that a minimum stay of 6 or 12 months is desirable. Otherwise the price will go up sharply. . Nightlife is also much more expensive than in Germany – especially as a man. Admission to clubs is around $ 30 but can go as high as $ 250. Long drink prices range from $ 10 to $ 25. Women, on the other hand, often go to clubs for free and can drink for free, because there are many promoters for clubs. In some clubs, men are even denied entry if they don’t come with enough women or if they buy a table (= a spirit with mixed drinks) for $ 200 and upwards.
Financing is not possible without a loan or without the help of relatives and a lot of savings. The foreign BAföG grant of 60 € compared to the domestic BAföG is in no way related to the costs in the USA.
Overall, I found the semester abroad very good. I always wanted to travel to California and get to know life there at an American university. My expectations that I had with it were exceeded for various reasons. I found the range of courses particularly positive, which enabled me to expand my knowledge in certain areas that interest me. I also liked the city itself very much, because something new could be experienced every day and events were constantly taking place in different places. Everyone who decides to study in Los Angeles should be aware that it is a metropolis. The city is very fast and filled with life. These are exactly the regions that I strongly support and Los Angeles has confirmed me in that regard. Overall, I found the entire atmosphere to be much more relaxed, despite the many people – you are woken up by the sunshine, leave your apartment, see palm trees and people with a smile on your face and happily go to lectures that speak to you. According to a statistic, the USA is 9 countries ahead of Germany in the study after the happiest countries. This is exactly what I perceived and found to be particularly positive and empowering.
Basically, I would recommend a semester abroad to everyone, as you develop personally and expand your knowledge horizons linguistically and culturally. The only negative aspect is the high cost of going abroad to Los Angeles, which can definitely be seen as a good investment in one’s further life. If you choose the CSLA, the tuition fees are almost completely covered by the BAföG office, which means that this portion is no longer applicable. I would particularly recommend the CSLA to students specializing in business administration because she offers many courses in the subject and the professors are also very competent. If you decide to spend the semester abroad, you should be aware that it could happen that you do not get your desired courses and that the class crashing can be very unorganized. This negative aspect does not only apply to the CSLA, but to most foreign universities and should be made easier for the students. This would also be an advantage for the professors, as some of them are overwhelmed or annoyed by the foreign students.
In one respect, the CSLA did not meet my expectations: the sports program and activities at the university besides studying are very meager. Other universities such as UCLA have large sports teams that you can join and in general the affiliation and cohesion at UCLA is much greater. It was therefore difficult to get to know local students alongside the international students. This was reinforced by the fact that one was often united in group work with other international students, about 80% of whom were German.
Nevertheless, I would recommend studying abroad at CSLA to everyone. The well-trained professors and the wide range of courses make studying very interesting and take you very far in your specialist knowledge.
There are moments that shape you and a lot of experience that can be gained during a semester abroad. Personally, I would like to finish my entire bachelor’s degree there. I got along very well with the language during my studies and I liked the study system a lot better. Unfortunately, the high cost will probably prevent me from doing this. Nevertheless, I would like to try to do my master’s degree in Los Angeles with the help of a scholarship or something similar, as I had previously imagined.