Erfahrungsbericht: Christopher Chvalina

Christopher Chvalina
„If you want me to only give you one advice, it’s as simple as the Nike advertisement: Just Do It!“

If you are reading this, I assume you are thinking about spending one semester abroad at the wonderful CalState San Marcos. If you want me to only give you one advice, it’s as simple as the Nike advertisement: Just Do It!

You could stop reading after the next sentence and head into the life-changing experience without further information and experience the good and bad on your own and be proud of solving and enjoying everything - just like I did. It’s an amazing feeling and an adventure and it sometimes makes you wish you would have prepared yourself but it’s worth it, because you will grow so much as a person, so enjoy!

If you are a planning type and you would like to know, what’s going on, here are some impressions, advice, tips, do’s and don’t’s that might help you imagine how incredibly magnificent, magical and literally overwhelming your time in Cali could be and it might provide you with useful information to realize the power and uncountable benefits you will receive of studying at CSUSM.

CSUSM Students
CSUSM Students

1. Easy Things can be difficult in a different country Face it, you are leaving home. Which means you are leaving your comfort zone. That includes your friends, family, university, grocery stores, your beloved dishes, your favorite bar/club, your bed etc. But hey, it’s really beautiful out there, especially in North San Diego County! Just be prepared that it might be different and thus sometimes difficult - but never (!) impossible.

Believe me, you will find yourself in situations you’ve been in a trillion times in your life and they were easy - but they appear to be different in this new country. For example how things are handled in university and in class. It starts with “course crashing” which I have never heard of in my life. Honestly, it’s time expensive but easy. Don’t be too scared after you’ve heard of it, it sounds way more ugly than it finally is!

Next thing that might be different for you is the size of your class, the expected participation by the professor and the way you will get credits for it for your final grade. It felt like a time machine was beaming me back to when I was 15 and the teacher had to take care that I understand the subject by making me doing homework and collect it to grade it. I wasn’t used to it in the beginning and it was honestly kind of annoying, I am a grownup who can take care of himself and I really disliked being in this amazing place called California and sitting in the library to do homework, but that’s just me. Anyway, you might like it or you are already used to it or you don’t mind it but if not, at least you already know now and you can prepare yourself - other than me.

Very important to know is the fact that the ALCI office with their amazing staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. They always know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask! They will always come up with a solution that will satisfy you (shoutout to Brooke, Erin, Grant and Ryan, thanks for everything!).

Things outside of university also might be different for you and might seem to be awkward, strange and often totally senseless. It’s the US, get used to it. I mean, could you come up with a solution that’s satisfying for over 400.000.000 people in one country? You see, almost impossible. So don’t be angry if you fill up the tank of your car (you should buy one and resell it after your semester, worked out perfectly for me, especially for my empty wallet) and after your tank is full you see a gas station charging 50 cents less per gallon just across the street. Happens to all of us, don’t you worry. Trick me once, blame’s on you, trick me twice, blame’s on me. It’s the same with almost anything you can buy. You will always find it cheaper somewhere else, mostly after you bought it. But rather spend time at the beach than spending a whole day comparing prices for batteries or a snickers or a towel. Which leads me directly to the most important advice I can give you:

2. Time is the thing you should value the most. The land of freedom has so many things to offer that you can’t visit it all even if you have 4 lives. So, here’s the thing: spend your time right! Yes, your main reason why you are in California is because you are going to school. But don’t you dare to thing that’s the only reason! Go out, visit places, try new things, see what this place has to offer and be astonished by the beauty of it. Be an explorer, an adventurer, be a risktaker! Be curious, confident, chaotic and courageous!

Ausflüge sind im Auslandssemester ein Muss.
Ausflüge sind im Auslandssemester ein Muss.

Even if you weren’t that type of person back in your home country, remember you are out of your comfortzone, so behave this way. For example: You will arrive without having any friends in this place. Zero. Luckily, americans are outgoing, overwhelming, talk a lot (really, a lot) and they are always friendly while being interested in you. They will take the first step and they will talk to you, even if you didn’t expect it: at the supermarket, the restroom, on the beach, everywhere. You know what? Take advantage of it. Either appreciate their openness and make friends this way or adopt this outgoing behavior and try it for yourself. Out of your comfort zone you got to do things different than you used to. Leave old habits behind and widen your horizon. It will help you in any way. Either you discover a whole new side of your own personality that you really like and you are happy that you’d discover it. It’s also possible that this whole stepping into someone’s face and ask them about their whole life isn’t your thing - but then at least you found out and you will become more confident in the way you present yourself and how you want to interact with people. It helps either way, just be brave, even you might struggle in the beginning and it doesn’t work out at all and you feel bad or you feel like it’s not working out for you. Really, This is also crucial to know:

3. Bad things will happen. This is life! Bad things always happen, even in fairytales, so face it. Again, you leave behind everything you were used to and step into a whole new world. Different language, different manners, different driving rules, different law, different area you live in. Of course, you will struggle sometimes. You will find yourself in uncomfortable situations due to language barriers, lack of information about certain things, people who will try to take advantage of you being a foreigner and so on. It could be the car dealer who will tell you lies about the car or use words you can’t understand but they sound great and then he will sell it to you over value (shoutout to John from Infinity Motors in Carlsbad). It could be a problem with things mentioned in your bank account contract that you have signed and weren’t aware of and now you don’t get the $100 promotion (shoutout to Nick from Wells Fargo in San Marcos, avoid this place and go to Bank of America!) Or it’s as simple as the driving law called “unsafe lane change” that you weren’t aware of - but the police caught you and kindly ask you to pay $300 for it. It’s the truth and it happened so I have to tell you that. My advice: simply know that those days will come where everything seems to go wrong, you can’t explain yourself the way you could in your first language and due to that you will pay too much for something that’s in the end not what you wanted or your food is still frozen in the oven because you forgot about the celsius-fahrenheit-exchange-issue and you will be hungry and in a hurry leaving for school, additionally traffic is killing you and you will be late for class and miss the quiz.

Don’t be frustrated though and don’t think about giving up, that’s what happens when you are living your life. And that’s what you will do in California, you are living there. It’s not a ten-days-in-a-5-star-all-inclusive-hotel where you can hide yourself the from the real world and the real world problems behind your Bahama Mama at the poolbar. You will live in California, that includes bad days with disappointments and frustration. Get over it, go to the beach, watch the calm ocean, call your parents or friends, tell them about it - and then call it a day, go to bed and move on the next day with waking up happy because you realize: you are in Cali and you are living a dream, most people can’t even imagine to dream about.

Another important point regarding your parents and friends and living in California: don’t try to live in both countries, the US and your home country. You will miss out things in California because you are trying to be in touch with aaaall your friends back home, trying to get all the news from everybody, all the rumors about who is dating who, who lost his job and who was drunk again last weekend at the houseparty. Sure, be in touch with your friends, tell them about everything that’s important to you. Tell your parents you are fine and everything is working out great. Skype from time to time to see and hear those people that are important to you. Don’t forget where you are from. But don’t try to live in Cali as well as in your homecountry, too. You are not there. What I mean is I saw people being on the phone all day telling everybody what happened the last days instead of making more memories with real people who are right in front of them and who are great characters. And then their friends were doing something different, they were going out with other friends, experience things without them - and it’s good for them. But then, those people were sitting at home, doing nothing because they prioritized their friends back home and now everyone in California is already unavailable.

You won’t be in touch with your friends as frequent as you were used to. But never mind, good friendship will hold on through distance and time, that’s for sure. And you will meet awesome people with great personalities and stories and you will become friends with them and make memories that will last for a long time. (Shoutout to Moritz, Ayupan, Felix, Markus, Marco, Natasha, Clemence and Edmée, thank you guys!).

CSUSM International Students
CSUSM International Students

Well yeah, that’s about it, a little insight on how I see the things. Pretty laid back and easygoing if you don’t take life and everything in it too serious. Enjoy your time and go to the beach at least 4 times a week, there’s always time for sitting at the beach, watching the sunset and appreciating the decision you’ve made when going abroad and studying at CSUSM.

I would do it again, the same way, without changing anything. Those memories will last forever and I am glad I did it. Oh, and travel, a lot, even after your semester if your schedule allows it. The Caribbean islands are breathtakingly beautiful (: Shakabra!

Chris

P.S.: Almost forgot the Do’s and don’t’s:

Do: -Look people in the eyes and smile and say “Hi!”, they will do the same and it will make you feel welcome and lighten up your day. -Hang out with people from other Countries and talk about their daily life and habits. You will be astonished how people can handle things, it’s genius (sometimes). -Enjoy every second and tell yourself, that you are here because you made that decision, and be proud of yourself.

Don’t’s: -Don’t drink and drive! -Don’t be too shy, go out and meet people, they are amazing (sometimes). -Don’t think too much about home, your in freakin Cali!