Petra Schultz, from Germany, is studying at College of the Desert in sunny Palm Springs, California. She is completing the first two years of her bachelor’s degree at College of the Desert before transferring to a university.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
Before I came to the USA, I attended a vocational college in Cologne, Germany. I realized that I want to do more than just be a graphic designer. I always wanted to live in another country. I decided that the USA would offer me the opportunities I was seeking.
Why did you choose College of the Desert?
I applied at College of the Desert (COD) five months before the semester started. Three months later, I had already received my acceptance package from COD. I chose College of the Desert mainly because of the starting time, as well as the location and low tuition fees.
What do you like best?
Palm Desert is not a big city, which can be difficult. But, it’s easier to focus on your studies and make friends. If you need a change of scenery, you can organize day trips to the beach; Los Angeles and San Diego are about two hours away.
I like the international program, because it gave me the opportunity to get to know a lot of people from all over the world. It makes it easier to be surrounded by friends when you are far away from home.
What do you miss most?
The things I miss most are of course my family, as well as my pets, my mother’s food and the small European cafes, where you meet friends.
How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?
Studying at a community college was a good choice because the classes are smaller. I can talk with the professor and meet students easily. The teachers are so friendly and nice. This has been very helpful for me.
What was your biggest surprise?
The professors are different. They are more likely to help you pass the class or get a good grade. You still have to study for your grade and do the work.
... your biggest disappointment?
The food was one of my biggest disappointments. The huge food portions was strange and the food is also very sweet.
How have you handled: ... finances?
I found a job on campus, but of course this is not enough. Before I came here, I saved money and my parents are supporting me.
Apply for every scholarship that you can. A lot of scholarships don’t get used. Students aren’t applying because they are intimidated by the requirements or don’t know about it. So, check every possibility to get a scholarship.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
I was not aware that I have to take general education classes in order to graduate with a university degree. In Germany you finish these classes in high school.
What are your activities?
When I started at College of the Desert, I lived with a host family. I would recommend a homestay for new students. Host families have good tips.
The international program plans activities, such as a trips to the beach and theme park, and coffee hours. I am also the event planner and historian of the International Club.
The desert is a good area to bike and hike. My first summer break I planned a road trip through California and Nevada, which was very exciting and interesting. I got to see the diversity of California, and enjoyed it a lot.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
It is easy to meet new people in the USA, but it’s harder to get closer to Americans. There are just a handful of people that I consider my good friends. I think that is usually the same [everywhere].
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My career goal is to graduate with an associate of arts degree and do optional practical training (OPT) for one year. After, I plan to transfer to a four-year university to obtain my bachelor’s degree.It is very important to study in a different country and gain knowledge about how different countries work. It is an experience that not everybody has, and in Germany, employers favor this kind of experience.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
Be prepared for your assessment testing in English and math. It will save you time and money, if you get placed higher. You should keep in mind that your classes are all in English; therefore, you should prepare yourself. This will make your life more enjoyable.