How can I afford UCLA
University of California Los Angeles Extension
Motivation and application process:
I decided to do a semester abroad at the University of California because I am studying cultural studies and American studies and had lived on the East Coast for a long time. For funding, I applied to the DAAD (www.daad.de), which, as an “undergraduate”, financed a partial scholarship that was “only” sufficient for a state university in America. In my private life I couldn't have afforded the stay, the tuition fees alone were around € 6,000 per quarter, the cost of living is very high. However, I had to take care of admission to a university on my own. Since it can be difficult to complete a semester / year abroad at a US university on your own (most of them only cooperate with permanent partner universities or, for example, within the European Exchange program), I decided to contact College Contact. Fortunately, a new program has just been launched here with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Study Abroad at UCLA program. This was developed by the UCLA extension, which offers courses for working people or language programs, but is not officially part of UCLA. There is, however, the possibility of taking the so-called “course crashing” courses at UCLA and also having these recognized, which was no problem for me and the other participants, but I'll come back to that later.
To apply, I had to present a letter of motivation, evidence of good to very good performance and knowledge of English, and a letter of recommendation. I would definitely recommend doing a TOEFL, you have to pay attention to the test deadlines. I myself was a special case because I lived temporarily in America and went to school there, but still had to look for a lot of evidence to prove my language skills, but a TOEFL is always accepted. The I first sent documents to College Contact, where they were checked again and then forwarded. The team was on hand to answer any questions or concerns, by phone or email - thank you very much again at this point.
When my approval came about 6 weeks later, I was able to go to the consulate to apply for an (F1) visa. It is recommended to apply for this at least two months before your planned departure, as there may be delays in issuing the exhibition, especially in the summer months. Fortunately, I was well prepared for the somewhat more complicated process at a DAAD seminar. To get a visa, you first have to register online - it took me a good 3 hours because the website was under renovation at the time and kept crashing along with the data I entered. I suppose that has improved in the meantime.
I got the visa in Berlin, I had to wait a relatively long time there, so take something to read with you! Oh yes - cell phones are not allowed in the consulate, but there is no way to hand them in anywhere. I had to store my cell phone at a bakery in the subway station for € 2. The “job interview” then lasted about 2 minutes, I was only asked what I wanted to study in the USA and where I study here in Germany. The visa came about a week later by post.
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Arrival, organizational matters, the city of L.A.
There are cheap flights for students at www.studentuniverse.de. From Berlin Airberlin and Swiss were the cheapest, around 600 € round trip.
The "Flyaway" buses cost about $ 7 and go from LAX once directly to Westwood, another also goes to downtown L.A. to the "Union Station" subway station.
Unfortunately I was unable to organize a room in Los Angeles from Germany, although I had been busy looking at www.craigslist.com. That's why I spent the first 12 days in a hostel in Santa Monica, right near the beach.
Regarding the housing situation: I would say that 98% of all “undergraduates” (BA students) at UCLA live either in Dorms directly on campus or around campus in Westwood Village. The rooms there are relatively expensive, but it is normal for two or three people to share a room. If you choose this option, you have to reckon with around $ 500 for a shared room or $ 600-800 for a single room. Because UCLA Extension is not administratively part of UCLA, it was not possible to get a dorm on campus. But there were always lots of offers in Westwood on craigslist.
L.A. is as big as the Ruhr area and also has an infrastructure that is more structured in such a way that several independent cities or suburbs (Beverly Hills, Venice, West Hollywood, Los Angeles) coexist and are connected by highways. Anyone who lives there has to forget any European understanding of “city”. There are several underground lines in the east of the city, but not near the university. Buses run, often during the day, but in the times between 8-10 and then again 14-20h, on Fridays even earlier, the notorious L.A. Traffic increases all travel times by three to four times. That's why I would strongly advise against moving further away from campus than West L.A, Santa Monica, or Culver City. Even from Venice you need an hour by car. The buses are relatively sparsely occupied even after dark and are actually only used by people who are too poor, too old or too sick to be able to afford a car. Exceptions are perhaps the “Big Blue” buses that go to the “Beach Cities” (Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey) or the “Culver City” buses.
I'm not a fearful person and I walk around in Berlin pretty much any time of the day without worries, but in Los Angeles I always got queasy in the evenings on the streets (with the exception of Santa Monica and Westwood, which are known to be very pedestrian-friendly) because it was just there are no pedestrians. Everything is done by car. I didn't have one myself, but often got the tip to just search craigslist and plan about $ 2000-3000 for the purchase.
However, it's also important to note that cycling is growing in popularity - it's common in Westwood, there is a bike rental shop on campus, and you can see a lot of cyclists all over Los Angeles. The metro is also making an effort: A new east-west subway connection is planned and the costs for buses and trains are unbelievably cheap: a trip costs only $ 0.30 - $ 1.50. With the “Red Line” you can also take a trip to see Hollywood or Koreatown, which I have often done. I preferred not to take the "Blue Line", which runs through South Central, Compton, etc. to Long Beach ...
As a general rule you have to equip yourself with a lot of time, energy and openness for the city. The fantastic weather helps of course.
In order to be able to take regular UCLA courses, I first had to check online whether there were still places available in the courses I wanted. Then I had to send a list of my desired courses to the UCLA Extension Team. After the lectures had started, I had to go to the individual course leaders and ask whether I was allowed to attend. If so, they had to sign a form for me, which I then had to hand in to UCLA Extension. That wasn't a problem for me at all Lecturers were all very friendly and welcoming. The supervising UCLA Extension Team was also incredibly helpful and courteous. You never really feel left alone with any questions.
The courses were relatively small (about 20 participants per seminar), the contact with the lecturer was much more personal than I was used to from Germany, the students also seemed much more motivated and ambitious to me, there were always lively discussions. However, also regular homework and performance assessments, which I had to adjust to again first. Most of the students were a lot younger than me. At my age, at 23, many have already finished university and are working, or at least already doing a master's. Sometimes it made me feel a little back in time to school and also a little out of place.
For my courses, I had to hand in 8-10-page homework at the end of the day, within the lecture period. One of my 3 courses (3 courses correspond to approx. 12 units, as much as the visa requirements allow) was connected with an internship at a union in Pico Union. That was very interesting, but I was there for about 10 hours a week. So you have to invest a lot of time in the university.
I also took a bouldering course at the Wooden Center (sports center) for $ 30, which was great fun. If you are interested in working groups and other activities, you are in paradise at UCLA. The F-1 visa also allows a certain number of working hours "on campus", but the jobs are quickly gone. I didn't take care of it in time, but a friend of mine got a job, for example, setting up and dismantling events, which was fairly well paid.
It was a little difficult for me to escape the UCLA campus universe. You have to be aware that, at least at the undergrad level, pretty much every aspect of social life happens on campus or in Westwood. I found that a bit one-sided at times.
As for the university itself, I was very enthusiastic about the content of the courses, the relaxed nature of the lecturers, the unbelievable social commitment of the students and the extensive support from College Contact as well as on site. So I can warmly recommend the Study Abroad at UCLA program.
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