Pre-Californian Dreams

Having got a lot of things in order I thought this would be the perfect time to fill everyone in on my experiences with
  • Getting visa for travel to California
  • Selecting courses at UCSB (Univerisity of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Finding housing

So, getting visa as you’ve probably read from the other blogs, it isn’t that big a deal. I realise it’s easier said than done, but as long as you have the necessary documents ready (see Visa Information), there’s no reason for them to reject your application. The interview which you’ll have to attend either in London or Belfast is actually a 5 min affair where they’ll ask you very general questions like “Have you ever been to the US before?” and “Purpose of your current visit?” Also, be prepared to wait for at least 2 hours before you actually give an interview so have a book/newspaper ready! Also, if you have a passport from a different country it is recommended that you go back to your home country and apply there.  This rule did apply to me as I actually have an Indian passport and as I was holidaying in India for 4 weeks of this summer, I actually got my J1 visa processed in Mumbai. The procedure was exactly the same as that in London, and I got my passport back with the J1 visa stamped on the very same day! Basically, don’t worry or stress about the visa procedure at all! It’s tedious to say the least but it’s one of those things you just have to do! Your stress is better spent on things like “do I need a pair of cool sunglasses” or “what clothes should I pack”….kidding!

Right, let’s move on to the issue of choosing courses at the institution abroad. For psychology students who plan to do their 3rd year abroad, please refer to Dr Frank Pollick’s website. This provides full details on which institutions you can apply to as well as what courses you should sign up for. Now, obviously this site cannot be updated every year as all the institutions abroad are continuously updating/removing/renaming their courses, so it should serve as a guide as opposed to God’s word 😉

Students from other departments may have similar websites created by their respective lecturer in charge of Study Abroad Students. At this stage, all I can say is, it really does help to be proactive about finding and adding compatible courses by liaising between the International Coordinator in your department at Glasgow and the International Advisor at the institution abroad. You’ll generally find that the advisors abroad are really friendly people who are more than willing to help in any way they can. As for me, I really started stressing when I saw that the courses offered abroad didn’t match up with what we’d been told to sign up to at Glasgow. I immediately started emailing the psychology dept at UCSB and was soon put in touch with the undergraduate advisor there. She very kindly explained the procedure for adding courses via the UCSB Gold system, which is similar to websurf. She also suggested alternative courses that could easily substitute the ones that were not being offered for this academic session. I discussed these suggestions further with Dr. Pollick and we eventually worked out a schedule that could work. Be prepared for some serious emailing 😉

You basically want to make sure that all the courses you do abroad are credited by Glasgow, as you don’t want to come back and then be told that you have to resit a year due to not completing an adequate level of statistics for example!

And finally, the issue of housing. My goodness, if you want to imagine my experience with finding housing, just imagine the week or even days before the summer exam when your stress levels are through the roof and you’re just waiting for the exam to be over. I really do regret to say, finding housing in Santa Barbara has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride which has yet to finish! Umm… yeh you can probably tell I’m not the happiest bunny right now! Me and another exchange student from Glasgow, started looking for housing as early as June. We were both declined student housing at UCSB, not because we’re a bunch weirdos but UCSB didn’t have any space!

Isla Vista, which is the area closest to UCSB is probably the most expensive place to stay followed by Goleta and down town Santa Barbara. So, we decided a budget of $600-700 per person which is quite a lot, but trust me when I say Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive places to stay in after LA. The cheapest option which we stumbled across on Craigslist was a family home, that had working parents who were leasing 2 separate rooms. This was ideal as usually we’d be expected to share a room. Obviously the down side to this option was that, we’d have restricted independence and a set of rules to follow. We decided to keep this as a backup option and continued scouting for other apartments. A few weeks later we found the perfect place which was being leased by a person in London, to shorten a long story, we were being duped. When the owner asked me to wire transfer money to I realised that this was not authentic as do not deal with money. Lesson to take home, if it’s too good to be true it probably is and more importantly just be on the guard because you’ll be looking for apartments from the UK and you may not even realise you’re being led on. The silver lining to this rather dark cloud was that we didn’t lose any money.

In conclusion, I’m still looking for a place to stay, perhaps a bit disheartened but eventually something will turn up! I realise the title of this blog is Pre-Californian Dreams and it is to an extent still a dream as, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I actually got selected for the Study Abroad Programme as well as the fact that I got into the Psychology Department at Glasgow. The Psychologists amongst you will know the challenges of getting a place on the honours programme with limited seats! All in all, these stresses don’t even come close to the the rush of endorphins that are released each time I think about the fact that in a matter of weeks I’ll be in California!!


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