University of San Diego

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1 AALTO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS University of San Diego Travel Report Johanna Pöyhönen Spring 2015

2 Before the exchange Applying for the exchange program of the University of San Diego (USD) requires a lot of preparation and paper work. It all began in September 2014 when the exchange program advisor of USD contacted the International Student Services (ISS) in Aalto University. I didn t actually get the first before mid-september, when the other Aalto student going to USD contacted the ISS and found out the had not been forwarded to us students. Hence we got the instructions for completing the online application to USD about two weeks late, but that didn t fortunately affect the process negatively. The from USD also included a program summary, outlining features of the program including cost, course selection, accommodations, etc. In the online application portal I had to complete Questionnaires (Academic Information, General Questionnaire, and Statement of Intent Essay) and submit the signature verification form. I was also asked to send material submissions (passport photocopy, letter from Aalto that confirms English language proficiency, learning agreement, official transcript and certification of finances) via postal mail. The ISS took care of sending the mail after I brought the documents in one complete packet to the office. The priority (final) application deadline was on October 10 (17) and the ISS advised us to bring the documents the latest on October 1 to meet the first deadline. The learning agreement included the course selection. Because information on the available courses in spring 2015 became available at the end of September, in practice I had only a couple of days to decide what courses to choose. On the other hand, course descriptions were pretty short so there wasn t much information to be used in making that decision. The biggest help were the travel reports and the course evaluations from the Aalto students who had previously studied at USD. I received the confirmation of my acceptance to USD on October 29 via . Next I had to complete the post-decision requirements in the online application portal before December 31. It also became possible to apply for the on-campus housing and I decided to do that. Only at the end of November, when I received the official acceptance packet including DS-2019 form, I was able to start the visa application process. Because I was going to travel before the start of the semester, my biggest concern was whether I can get my J-1 student visa on time. After all, I got my visa in about two weeks in December. One important thing to decide was whether to take the health insurance provided by USD. Because I chose a Finnish insurance I had to waive the university insurance plan that was automatically put on exchange students student accounts, and also provide proof of my insurance. Another thing to consider was whether to join the international buddy program of USD, which I decided to do, so I applied for that in the beginning of December. At times it was frustrating to deal with the application process. It required a lot of waiting and uncertainty about the schedule, but I probably just worried for nothing. I asked the program advisor for help multiple times and she always replied promptly. The small problems I had relate to the strict schedule when choosing the courses and the completion and submission of the health/vaccine online

3 questionnaire and the immunization forms because of the technical problems in the Student Health Center system. Day hike and picnic at the Torrey Pines State Reserve. Exchange studies Arrival & Orientation I got a shared apartment on campus and I wanted to arrive in San Diego whenever it would be possible to move in my room. That was on Tuesday, January 20. I flew from NYC, where I had been on holiday, to San Diego and took a cab from the airport to campus as advised. The mandatory check-in and orientation at USD began on the morning of Thursday, January 22. The orientation lasted for two days and the days were short and easy. The emphasis in orientation sessions was on promoting the university s health insurance plan and explaining how important it is to maintain the visa status. I was a bit surprised they neglected some topics in the orientation, such as the use of the online portals we had to use and information about some beneficial student services on campus.

4 On Thursday a shopping trip was organized for exchange students to a nearby mall. I didn t rent a car so it was a convenient way to do some necessary shopping. On Friday the orientation part finished already at 1 pm to give us time to run errands on campus. This was nice because many of us had to get USD ID cards, buy mobile phones or sim cards and so on. On Saturday we had a nice San Diego neighborhood tour organized by the international orientation team. The classes began on January 26, and they lasted till the final exam period in the week of May Courses I took five undergraduate courses at USD as Aalto required but many exchange students took fewer. I wanted to study different subjects so it was easy to find interesting courses. Courses at USD have many prerequisites but it s easy to prove you have the required background. In my case I was asked about my previous calculus studies. After all, almost all my courses could have been taken without much knowledge of the topic beforehand, in my opinion. Actually all exchange students I knew said that the courses at USD were easier than the ones at their home universities and I agree on that. I got four out of the five courses I had primarily selected and one as an alternate course selection. All my professors encouraged students to take part in the class discussion and most of my courses had an interactive part in almost every class. The schedule was the same through the semester. For the most part courses had an 80-minute class twice a week but in one course I had a shorter class three times a week. BUSN-377 Negotiation in Global Business, Edgar Ramirez (3cr) I was very excited about this course because it was my first negotiation class. Unfortunately in practice the lectures didn t give me as much as expected. The professor taught us theory of business negotiation that we applied to in-class exercises. The emphasis was on how to negotiate with foreign people in a foreign environment. We learned different strategies in dispute resolution and social dilemmas, on top of the strategies in typical two or multiparty business negotiations. The grading consisted of two group presentations, one group paper, pop quizzes, in-class role play exercises, a couple of other assignments, negotiation with a Mexican student and final exam. I think we could have learned much more if the professor had allocated the time in class better. We spend too much time on talking about some trivial issues but when it was time to prepare for a role play, we may have had only 10 minutes time to read our 10-page role play sheet and prepare a negotiation strategy. The professor was very nice and always asked exchange students to contribute in class but he didn t demand enough from students. The pace of introducing new topics was very slow making the course easy. To my understanding, the professor was a visitor from Mexico and lectured the course only this semester.

5 ECON-201 Intermediate Microeconomics, Jonathan Sandy (3cr) I ve never put this little effort on any course but still managed to get a very good grade. I had three short lectures per week and about half of the students usually skipped classes, especially the one on Friday. During the first three or four weeks I learned nothing I didn t already know from the mandatory economics course at Aalto. The main topics covered in the course were the theory of consumer behavior and the theory of firm (perfect and imperfect competition, game theory etc.) The professor just talked and drew curves on the whiteboard in lectures, asked some questions and told jokes or funny facts all the time. He didn t give any single assignment for us to do during the semester, and the final grade only consisted of three short exams. He was an old-fashioned professor with traditional teaching methods and strong opinions. I went to classes because his stories were funny but I don t think he was a good teacher. I bought the course textbook, which he didn t follow closely, to study for the exams. MGMT 330 Organizational Behavior, Cynthia Pavett (3cr) The course focused on the study of human behavior in organizational settings. Examples of topics covered in the course were personality, learning, motivation and stress. I was surprised to see how much I already knew from my psychology courses in high school. I really liked the professor, the open atmosphere in the class and many of the in-class group exercises we did. The grading was based on attendance, small personality test online, three exams and a group project. The only backside in the course was that some of the local students were very difficult to work with in a big group. I was surprised to see that in a management course, where we talked about effective team work itself among other things, some students engaged in social loafing! MKTG-330 Professional Selling, Carlton O Neal (3cr) This was absolutely the most challenging course. I was the only international student in the class and naturally because of my nonnative English, I wasn t at the same level with the other students in role plays and presentations. For example, I needed a lot of time to prepare for presentations and the vocabulary I used wasn t as competent as the language used by local students. In the course we covered all the phases of making a successful sales call, from prospecting and planning to giving an elevator speech and building a long-term relationship with a buyer. The final grade was based on class attendance and multiple different exercises and assignments. To mention some, we had an individual and a group presentation about a product or service we could freely choose, we had a final role play selling and four quizzes. The professor had impressive selling experience and he told interesting real life situations he had faced in his job. After all, the course was a very good practice in speaking in front of an audience and maybe more importantly, learning to listen to other people and their needs. For a Finnish student looking for a good way to polish English and selling skills I d definitely recommend the course.

6 MKTG-420 Consumer Behavior, Kristine Ehrich (3cr) The consumer behavior course had many connections to psychology and social sciences. We got a good overview of what it means to be a consumer in the market-oriented society and what as a marketer should we know about meeting consumers needs nowadays. The grading was based on two exams, small online project, written assignment, three quizzes and a team project. The professor was very enthusiastic about the subject and an excellent lecturer. The classroom was full of laughter and open discussion about multiple video clips, advertisements and pictures that we usually watched in class. The course was relatively easy, but I didn t have enough time to finish either of the exams because they were so long. In summary, it was a good or average course regarding the content, but the teaching methods and the professor s contribution made it very good. The view from the Ocean Beach Pier Living in San Diego The city and transportation The city of San Diego has strong Mexican roots, which can be seen everywhere. There are plenty of Mexican restaurants all over the city and many local people speak Spanish as their mother tongue. The

7 climate is very pleasant. Day temperatures are warm throughout the year and though the nature is very dry, dry air isn t a problem. I quickly noticed it s always windy there, more than I expected. I think it rained only on about ten days during the semester. There are several distinct neighborhoods in San Diego and about 1.4 million people live in the city. The distances between neighborhoods can be quite long and to see San Diego you naturally need a car. I didn t want to rent a car and I m happy I didn t have problems with that because so many of my friends had one. Only grocery shopping was difficult without a car: there were no real grocery stores close to USD so I had to ask when my friends were going to do shopping and always go with them. We rarely used taxis but different ride apps became very familiar in San Diego and we never had problems with those drivers. When nobody wanted to take a car or we didn t have one, these ride apps were a convenient and cheap option to get from one place to another. Public transportation seldom was even considered as a possibility among local students. I used trolleys and busses only for a couple of times. If you have time and patience, why not use them, but usually everybody prefers not to. Costs of studying and living Because of the disadvantageous euro dollar exchange rate in spring 2015, living costs were much higher than originally estimated. Before arrival I had to pay multiple USD student fees, altogether about $300. There are of course fees related to the visa application and on-campus housing application processes in addition to the mandatory student fees. My housing in a shared room in San Buenaventura cost $4300 for the semester. Not obviously the cheapest option, but an easy and good way to get the American college experience of living on campus. The campus has a bookstore which is the easiest but the most expensive way to buy textbooks. I bought one book from the store and the rest of them on Amazon and Ebay. Word-of-mouth and the textbook exchange group of USD students on Facebook are also good options for both buying and selling books. Depending on the course and the professor it s good to consider whether the book, or the newest or the American edition of it, is a necessary purchase. In my case I really needed the books in three of the courses. USD offers exchange students an option to buy a meal plan. It s however not recommended to buy it beforehand because it s good to try the food at dining facilities on campus yourself. I bought the smallest meal plan: 20 dinner buffets for $200. Separately the dinner cost $13.65 at the Student Life Pavilion (SLP). We Finnish students are so used to cheap student meals so food at USD may seem to be costly. I rather cooked for myself than ate on campus daily. The menus on campus didn t change during the semester, except from some special events, and I would have got tired of the food there if I had had a big meal plan. It s also good to remember that exchange students travel and eat out a lot which can make food expenses much higher than in Finland. Food in certain grocery stores is cheaper

8 than in Finland and naturally fast food restaurants are very cheap. Luckily, we also found for example some cheap sushi restaurants in San Diego. Sunset Cliffs Free time California is a good place for people who love sports. Because I lived on campus, it was easy to go to gym and the pool during my free hours. I lived in the same building with the Mission Fitness Center and behind our residence hall, located in the Valley, there is a natural park where I went running. Something I should have done more is water sports. I tried surfing and stand-up-paddling for the first time, but I could have tried many other things too. The beaches are excellent places to hang out and enjoy free time and no matter what kind of beach activities you want to do, you can find the best place for it. San Diego really is a surfers paradise. However, to be honest, it was often times very windy at the beach and e a little cold to sunbathe even though the temperatures were higher than 20 Celsius degrees. In addition to going to the beach, going on a hike is another nice outdoor activity to do. Close to San Diego I went to small hikes at the Torrey Pines and the Potato Chip Mountain.

9 Having tacos on Tuesday nights is popular and there are plenty of restaurants with good taco and drink offers. This phenomenon is called Taco Tuesday. Going out in San Diego in general is a lot of fun. Depending on the day and the mood, you can choose a more relaxed party and go out at Pacific Beach or go to fancier and more expensive parties in Downtown San Diego. From my experience, exchange students are very outgoing and some people are always ready to go out, also during the week. It was easy to get company to just to hang out at the beach and play volleyball, for instance. I joined the International Student Organization ($10) which organized weekly coffee hours, some dinners and events that many exchange students took part in. Traveling in the US During the five months I stayed in the United States I visited five states: California, New York, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. The first and the last place I went to, and also the second best city after San Diego in my opinion, is NYC. The other major cities I visited are LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami. I can recommend all of them, for different reasons though. Renting a car is easy and a good option for shorter distances, but in case of a weekend trip it s wise to try to avoid the peak hours unless you like to waste hours sitting in a car. I didn t take any domestic flights before leaving San Diego, but if there was no checked luggage, flights would ve been pretty cheap. During the spring break I did a California road trip with three other exchange students and my American roommate. We drove the famous road at the coast and visited many cities like Santa Barbara and Monterey. The last place we visited on that trip was San Francisco where we stayed for three nights and then drove a faster way back. Our 8-day trip was a bit short time for our plans exploring that part of California, leaving not much time to be spontaneous, but we saw a lot anyway. I could say a road trip is an obligatory thing to do when in the USA, and California is a good place to do one. The state also has many fun and theme parks worth visiting. The ones I went to are Disneyland, the Sony Pictures Studios and Six Flags in California. The 30-day grace period made it possible to easily explore the country a bit more after the semester. The Grand Canyon was on my must-see-list and I spent one day there with two French friends with whom I had decided to travel with before leaving the country. After that we went to Miami before flying home from NYC.

10 The must-see in the USA: the Grand Canyon Good to know It surprised many of us living on campus that some apartments were not free to stay at during the Spring Break. It was also a surprise we had to move out the latest one day after our last final exam. These were issues we had had no idea when we chose to live on campus. There are plenty of beautiful, nice spots to study or chill out on campus. Explore the campus and you don t have to spend any time reading in the library. USD also organizes campus tours. Keep your eyes and ears open and you find many nice events with free food on campus. My favorite was the strawberry festival! Final comments I absolutely recommend USD to other students as an exchange destination. USD may not be the university to choose to find the best business courses, but the campus itself and living in the gorgeous city in California outweigh any small backsides that I can hardly think of about the university. One small thing I could have done differently during my semester is that I could have tried to voluntarily learn new languages harder. I should also have gone to meet my professors more during their office hours which is what local students like to do every now and then. In the courses I mostly learned

11 beneficial work skills to be used in the future: different things from managing people through motivation to negotiating with a Mexican counterpart. The exchange semester was the longest continuous period abroad in my life this far. The spring included so much travelling and meeting new people from many different nationalities that it s clear I learned a lot about other languages and cultures. It s also evident that I learned a lot about myself and became even more independent than before. Actually I think we Finnish people already are very independent when we go on exchange in comparison to some other nationalities. After seeing many different standards of living, from all the homeless people in parks to some students fancy sports cars on campus at USD, I better understand the balance of my own choices, family background and pure luck in life. It s funny how one time you get free limo rides in Las Vegas and then again, you share one room with ten friends when traveling. I know I m able to adapt to changing circumstances easily and I like that traveling makes me get out of my comfort zone so often. I also respect the free education in Finland more than before. During my exchange semester at USD my hunger for traveling got to the next level. So what is the way my brain functions nowadays? All the time I m thinking about the next possibility to travel and meet the international friends I made at the University of San Diego.

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