In this article I will discuss my first week doing study abroad. I'll talk about my experience as a solo traveller in San Diego, including my first experience in an American hostel, adapting to the American culture and having my independence challenged. Perhaps I can help you come to a decision when planning on doing study abroad - choosing where to stay short term before moving into your accommodation, what things to consider when researching, where to visit and what to prepare for. I hope you enjoy reading, and remember – if you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them.
Having to arrive in San Diego before my student housing was available at first was a stressful for me as I was worried about finding the cheapest, nicest and most feasible short term accommodation whilst wanting to be located as close to University as possible. Of course, it wasn’t easy to find one that ticked all these boxes, therefore I had to choose a place that had good reviews, close the airport and an OK distance from the University. After browsing the web for hours on end, I came to the decision that I’d say in a hostel for a week which was located in Downtown (the City Centre). It's approximately a 10 minute drive from the airport and costs $12/£9.50 per night (a relatively cheap price compared to the hotels and the host family option in that area).
Alternatively, the University in San Diego did offer an “early move in” option, however that became expensive; therefore it was a no brainer for me to stick with the hostel. Staying in one does have many advantages; you get to meet new people, gain independence, have fun whilst living very cheaply. Lucky D’s Hostel is located in the cultural hub of Downtown (San Diego’s City Centre). Arguably, Downtown is a cultural capital, having tonnes of different restaurants, bars and cafes. It also has blocks and blocks of shops selling a variety of clothing, food, beverages and souvenirs; therefore for me it’s the perfect location to enjoy and explore.
Downtown is also very close to many popular destinations such as Balboa Park, Old Town, Little Italy and Hillcrest; all easily accessible via the trolley (the tram), by foot or by electronic scooters; Lime and Bird. So, I decided to stay in Lucky D’s Hostel which situated within a 5 minute walk away from the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and Convention Center Station; both located within the Downtown radius.
I had to attend University at least three times within my first week for orientation. I travelled by trolley as the station was only a 5 minute walk away, with the fair only $5.00 for the day. Again, no brainer. I simply used google maps to find the station’s location, and off I went – enjoying the environment around me whilst sipping on an exotic fruit smoothie that I bought from a nearby café.
For me, Orientation was fun. I met some other international students, making lots of different friends. Straight away I spoke to people and exchanged social media accounts and numbers; making it easy to get in contact with them later. During this experience, I also got to meet my buddy, Cassidy, who was paired with me through SDSU’s buddy system. This system required myself and many others to create a bio about ourselves, including hobbies and course. Based on the information provided, SDSU then matches you with a student that studies there full time, whom also has similar interests. Luckily for us, Cassidy and I got on really well straight away. She gave me lots of advice about the American education system, money, social life etc. She also helped me move into my apartment, took me shopping, bought me my first In n’ Out burger, took me to the beach and generously gave me useful essentials such as bedding and a towel which helped me out a lot. Not only this but she introduced me to her friends and consistently keeps me up to date with SDSU events and opportunities. Therefore I am so happy that I signed up for the buddy scheme as I received a lot of help from a local, whilst also forming a great relationship – I definitely advise you to do the same.
Overall, my first week living in San Diego wasn’t as scary as I thought. I never thought I’d meet such kind and outgoing people so quickly who now I call friends; through both the hostel and the SDSU buddy scheme. Finally, I also never thought I’d experience cultural shock or jet lag – but guess what, I did.
Consider the time difference between Britain and California; there is an 8 hour time gap, San Diego being behind. Prepare yourself for waking up at early hours in the morning, and going to sleep really late. Also consider having to wake up at the crack of dawn if you want to contact people from back home. One of the things that took me by surprise was and still is, food prices. The standard of living in San Diego is relatively high, therefore the minimum wage is also quite high. So, be mindful that most things could be a little more expensive than back home, depending on the region you come from. Therefore you may have to bargain buy, and look out for the deals. The “Grocery Outlet Bargain Market” is super cheap for seasonings, bread, eggs, pasta, vegetables and water; so I recommend that you take a visit. There is one located Downtown and another located on 54th Street, which is a 5 minute bus (215) journey from San Diego State University Transit Center on campus; both are easily accessible by public transport.
So, my advice to you if you're considering studying abroad is; be prepared for changes whilst maintaining an open mind, encountering as much as you can. Venture out into the unknown, challenging your comfort zone because you never know what great opportunities you can come in contact with. And finally, if you do decide to study abroad – you do it for a reason, and that is to experience another way of life – embrace it and enjoy it.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and I look forward to informing you about my first week as an international student, attending classes and experiencing some more cultural shock.
Thank you for you reading,