Interested in studying abroad? Read Charlotte's experience from studying in San Diego!

Charlotte in San Diego: No one has ever regretted studying abroad

We've had a talk with Charlotte who went on a study abroad semester at San Diego State University, and like many other students done the same, her best advice for you who are considering the same, is to stop hesitating and go! Read why that's her best advice in the full story below. 

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When did you study abroad in San Diego?

I was in San Diego from January 2022 until the end of May. I finished my Bachelor’s in the summer of 2021 and then I decided to take a gap year, where I first learned Spanish and then afterward, I did this study abroad semester. Now I am back home where I am studying for my Master’s in environmental engineering. I didn’t need any of the courses for my university, so it was just an opportunity for me to learn some new things as well while going abroad. I was originally planning to go abroad during my bachelor’s but because of Covid-19 that didn’t work out.


Why did you choose to study abroad in the first place?

I have been on a high school exchange in Australia when I was 17, and I really like traveling in general. I was also keen on the thought of going abroad for a longer period and not just seeing the highlights and then going home again. I was keen on living there and getting to know people and just seeing what fun daily habits you get when you live in a different place. Staying longer also gives you an opportunity to travel around the region and see more than just the place you stay at.

charlotte surrounded by sand in san diego


Why did you choose San Diego?

First, I wanted to go somewhere warm. So, I looked at the options and California stood out. I was also thinking about Hawaii, but what I really liked about California was the fact that there are so many things around the city that you can do such as road trips to other states and national parks. It’s so easy to travel while you’re there for a longer time, so I decided on California at first. Then I was choosing between L.A. and San Diego because I wanted a nice climate. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, I chose San Diego because it felt like a very nice city and not as busy as L.A.


charlotte by the beach in san diego


Did you travel by yourself?

Yes, I went completely alone. It was very exciting in the beginning, but I was also very nervous. I had some minor hick-ups where I couldn’t get my key at first, but everything got sorted out in the end. But of course, when you travel so far by yourself, you’re always a bit nervous.


Did you arrange all your accommodation before you left home?

Yes, I didn’t want to arrive without a place to stay although I think that’s what a lot of people did. But for me personally, I just wanted to know where I was going to stay so I contacted one of the student buildings near the university and eventually found a room that was available for the semester.


Who did you end up sharing the apartment with?

Two American girls. Officially it was a 4-person apartment, but the fourth had moved out but apparently still paid rent. I had my own bathroom and then we had a shared kitchen. It was a really good way for me to get to know the Americans too since usually it was just the international students hanging out together, but through these two girls, I also met a lot of their American friends. That can normally be a bit tricky since the local students often have their own group of friends and like when we’re at home they have a lot of other things to do.


Did SDSU arrange activities to allow the international students to get to know each other?

Yes. Especially in the beginning where they arranged certain activities on Friday nights, which by the way, were very well done. They also arranged a casino night and movie nights, but common for these events was that it was mostly international students attending, but they were really fun and I think there were maybe around 200 people for each of the events.


How do you overcome the barrier of going alone to these events?

Well, there were quite some groups on social media, where you would ask out if people were planning to show up, and then agree to meet with people when you arrive. But SDSU did a good job organizing an introduction day, and already there I met a bunch of new people, so it kickstarted quickly for me with getting phone numbers, Instagram, Snapchat, and all those things. The first thing we did was to create a group chat on Snapchat, and whenever people wanted to do something they just wrote in the chat, and asked if people wanted to join, and the good thing is that basically everyone is there by themselves, so they all wanted to join.


charlotte and two friends hiking in san diego


If we go one step back, which expectations did you build up before going and were they met?

I usually try not to set too many expectations, since it’s always hard to imagine what’s going to happen and what’s not. Of course, I was thinking about how easy it would be to meet people, I didn’t know my schedule, and a bunch of other normal concerns, I guess. But I expected good weather and lots of opportunities to go to the beach since it’s California and then I also had expectations for going on road trips around the state – and those expectations were met for sure.


How was your schedule during the week then?

Once I arrived, I could pick and choose between courses, so I ended up having class Monday to Thursday, but my Mondays and Wednesdays were only sports classes with self-defense and surfing, so those were my fun days. So only Tuesday and Thursday were actual lectures where I had to sit in a classroom and listen to the teachers. I knew that I wanted to take my Fridays off since most international students do that so they can go on longer weekend trips.


What other courses did you take?

So, my bachelor’s degree was in Electrical Engineering and I’m doing a master’s now in sustainable Engineering, but all my classes in San Diego were not related to that since I didn’t have to transfer the credits back home. So, I took courses in International Business & Diplomacy, Spanish, and Astronomy besides my sports classes. I chose Business & Diplomacy just because I think it’s a valuable topic to know, and I took Spanish to keep up my Spanish skills.


Okay, I need to know a bit more about the surfing. How was that?

Yeah, that was really fun! I didn’t enroll at first because the transport to the surf place was a bit difficult, but I changed my mind in the end and I do not regret that. It was a bit colder than expected though, but we were wearing wetsuits when surfing, so that was fine. The course itself is very tiring though, and you can really feel it in the muscles. I had self-defense in the morning and then surfing in the afternoon, so when I came home, I was completely done. Another good thing about these sports classes was that you met new people in a way you wouldn’t meet during normal classes. Here you’re all out having fun together, where you perhaps chat a bit with the people sitting next to you in a class. So, I definitely recommend everyone to do sports classes if it’s possible.


Good advice! How was everyday life in San Diego?

I only had normal classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so those days often ended up being a bit late. So I usually went out for dinner with some friends or went home to cook food in the apartment, but most of my weeks were very flexible in general. I didn’t have to study that much, so it was only a few times that I had to study during my Fridays or on the weekend, but for the most part, I tried to go on as many weekend trips as possible, so we visited a lot of the surrounding cities or went on hikes somewhere.


charlotte overlooking the rock


Which places did you get to visit when traveling around?

The biggest trip we did was during Spring Break, where we went to Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and then through Sedona National Park and back. We also did a big California road trip through Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, San Francisco, and down back to San Diego along the Pacific Highway. On the shorter trips we went to Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park and I also went to Mexico for a day.


Charlotte in yosemite national park



You hear so much about Spring Break – but how is it actually?

We did a big road trip, but a lot of people went to Mexico. Like, really a lot! They went to Cancun and just partied and got drunk by the beach. Apparently, a lot of Americans go to Costa Rica during Spring Break, but the break is a really big thing and almost everyone goes traveling. It’s something that people talk about, especially in the weeks prior to Spring Break. Everybody is curious to know what people have planned and where they are going.


Did you attend any other big events during your stay?

Yes, so most things happened during the beginning of the semester, but also the basketball games were a huge thing over there. That was quite frequent up until March when the season ended, so most of the bigger events were scheduled in the first part of the semester. But basketball is very big. As a student, you can go in for free, and there were a lot of people attending these matches. The arena is SO big. I don’t know much about basketball, but you can sense that university sport is just as big as adult sports in the US. I think that one of our players won some kind of award, and that was a big topic during my stay as well.


san diego state university basketball match


Do you feel you have changed as a person since you came back home from your study abroad stay?

Maybe a bit. I don’t think I have changed that much, but I learned that you have to do things you want to do, and not be so dependent on others. I had a few times when I wanted to plan something, but it didn’t fit other people’s schedule and, in the beginning, I was just pushing it aside and saying “Let’s do it another time then”, whereas, in the end, I realized I can also go by myself. And even though it was a solo trip, it was really fun and a nice way to travel without having to think about what other people in the group wanted. Especially at the end of the semester, it was tricky to align schedules with the other students, so when I traveled to San Francisco I did it with a friend all the way up there, until he wanted to continue northward, and I had to get back to San Diego to catch my flight home. It was surprisingly nice to plan everything just by myself.


charlotte in san fransisco golden gate bridge


If someone is reading this, and you should give your best advice what would they be?

You have probably heard it before - but just go. Don’t wait. Everything will be fine. There’s no need to stress and panic before leaving, and I don’t think anyone has ever gone studying abroad and not enjoyed the experience or ended up regretting that they were going. I can’t imagine that has ever happened. Everyone is looking for new friends, so you won’t be alone.

 charlotte hiking with a friend in san  diego


"I don't think anyone has ever gone studying abroad and not enjoyed the experience or ended up regretting that they went!" -Charlotte, student in San Diego