Camarillo, USA: Welcome to California!
Question: So, you are at California State University Channel Islands. Um, how do you get off the island to shop and stuff?
Answer: Well, I usually jet-ski. Sometimes, I take the cruise ship or swim with the dolphins. One time, someone told me to take the paddle boat. That was not a great experience.
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Welcome to California State University Channel Islands, which is not at all located on the Channel Islands but near the charming Southern Californian small town of Camarillo.
Just an hour up the coast from the entertainment epicenter Los Angeles you can find the latest addition to the California State University system: a 5000-student campus, wedged between scenic hills and a beautiful coastal strip. This is where 25 lucky German MHMK students are going to spend their semester abroad.
CI (as it is called for short) is a rather small campus where everybody knows everybody: something we have already experienced first-hand: While CI has already hosted a number of international students over the past years, this year’s foreign exchange group is by far the largest batch the university has seen so far. The safest guess for any American who encounters a thick accent on campus this semester is German, simply because there is a lot of us. Your basic introduction goes like this: “Yeah, hi, I’m [name], I’m one of the Germans” and everybody instantly knows what you are talking about. Which is one of the great things around here.
CI is a close-knit community and, if you want to, you are part of it from the start. I have rarely met a more welcoming crowd. It seems that CI students, faculty and staff have made it their mission to make this the most unforgettable and amazing experience possible. I have no doubts that this will happen anyway but it is nice to feel that CI is as thrilled to have us as we are to be here.
CI is located a little in the middle of nowhere, to be honest: a 10-minute drive from Camarillo. So what happened is that people solved the accommodation issue differently. Some of us rented an apartment in Camarillo or Oxnard, some of us decided on the long-term stay option at the Residence Inn Marriot Hotel in Camarillo, and some of us live on-campus. A car, at any rate, is incredibly useful around here.
Whether you go on four wheels or give VISTA, Amtrak and Metrolink, the local providers of public transportation, a go, there is plenty to see in California. Los Angeles, for example. Need I say more? L.A. is not the prettiest of cities by any standard around here, though. There is nonetheless tons of fun stuff to do in the City of Angels, especially if you like the entertainment industry in any way, shape or form.
But for the real Californian experience you have other venues to cross off your list. Santa Barbara, a charming small town, only an hour from Camarillo. San Diego, a truly Californian gem, three hours from here. They also have the greatest baseball team in the USA (But then, I may be biased on this because my roommate really really hates the LA Dodgers and she loves the San Diego Padres). Disneyland. The national parks. And so much more. Buy a Lonely Planet, copy and paste the rest of the section on traveling in California right here.
As far as the educational aspect of this semester goes, all MHMK students take a couple of classes in marketing, history, economics, management and multicultural communications. We’re just coming out of the first week of classes so there is not much to say about that yet.
Now, just to mix things up a little, two fun facts about California:
1) Forever 18, the clothing store, is actually called Forever 21.
2) American printer paper has a different size. It’s called “letter” and it’s shorter than a DIN A4.
It will probably take us some time to adjust to the fact that California = home. Even if it’s just temporarily. But I have a feeling that it won’t be long.
All the best from the Golden State of the US and Cal State Channel Islands!