Auslandssemester CSU Northridge: Interview mit Patrick Colabucci

Ein Auslandssemester in Los Angeles (USA)? An der California State University, Northridge kannst Du die einzigartige Atmosphäre Kaliforniens hautnah erleben. Weitere Informationen zu den Vorzügen eines Semesters in L.A. bietet ein von uns geführtes Interview mit Patrick Colabucci, dem Director of Global Studies and International Pathways an der CSUN.

Patrick Colabucci zu Gast bei Academic Embassy

Q: Welcome to Germany, Patrick. Maybe you can tell us something about the quality of teaching and the success of California State University, Northridge? What is so unique about your university?

A: Well, absolutely. It is a great question. Well, first of all, the CSU'S (California State University System) are campuses that are dedicated to high quality teaching and helping students to learn and get a degree so that they can get high quality employment. So we are very good at that. Some of the successes we have had at CSUN: More students from CSUN passed the California Bar Examination to be a lawyer than any other CSU. We also are the number one in regards to number of students going from our psychology program to Ph.D. programs in California, so we think we do that very very well.


Q: A lot of German students want to come to California and spend one or two semesters at an American university. Which subjects are particularly strong and popular at CSUN?

A: Well, the most popular programs are probably engineering and business. There are many different areas there; in business you can actually earn degrees in marketing or finance or several other areas. So it is not just business, it is got a range of management. And our business program is AACSB accredited, so we are sure that all the credits that you will take are transferred back home. And our engineering department has won competitions nationally in “robotics” and “automation”. So the engineering program is very good. One of the unique programs we now have is Engineering Management, which is something managing big engineering projects. That is very popular and very successful.


Q: CSUN offers a very unique approach for study abroad students. That is that students, when they come to campus, they pretty much have all their schedule already taken care of. Maybe you can explain how this works and what is the idea behind that?

A: Well, the idea is that study abroad experience is really important to get the academics right. We know students want to hit the beaches and surf and drive around California – we think that is great. But at the end of the day they are making this investment in their education. So in our application process it is a little bit more work for the students than applying with some other schools. We require the students to send us the transcript and a list of courses they wish to take at CSUN. We make sure they need the prerequisites, for example if they want to take “Marketing 300”, maybe they needed to take “Marketing 200” in Germany. So we do our homework at that end.We look at the transcripts and then we contact the department at CSUN saying “Hey, there is a German student who meets your requirements. Can he or she be in your class?” So, we have been very successful with that so far.


Q: And that is pretty much unique, in comparison to other schools in California?

A: As far as I know, we are the only school that does that. And while we cannot say as a guarantee I can say that you can ask the students who have come they have all had very good success.


Q: Your school is a pretty big school, about 40.000 students. There is a lot to experience on-campus and also off-campus. Maybe you tell us about that a little bit?

A: Well, we are the largest CSU. We have 39.000 students this year, so it has been good growth. Also, we have almost 3.000 international students, also the largest number of international students in the California State University System. So, we think this reflects the fact that we have high quality education and high quality services for both American students and international students. And all of our students, if they are here for a semester abroad program or matriculated seeking a degree are welcomed to join and not just welcomed – encouraged – to participate in a club. There are football clubs, basketball clubs, there are clubs that work on citizen television, there are clubs that go biking or hiking, there are clubs that are dedicated to travel, there are clubs to do volunteer work and go out and help retired people or the elderly or underprivileged kids. There is a student recreation center about 100.000 square foot, it is huge. And they have intramurals, you know: soccer games and you form a team, you can do Pilates or everything. So, we really encourage our students to integrate into the community.


Q: German students tend to be very independent. I know you offer on-campus housing, although this is maybe not the preferred form of housing for German students. What else is there that you can recommend?

A: Well, I think this is a key decision for students. We have almost 6.000 beds on-campus, but with 39.000 students we are not really serving even 20 percent of our students. But this is very typical of California. I think when a student comes to Northridge, really what they doing is coming to L.A., and they have to look at where they want to live. Los Angeles does not have a huge city center with the skyscrapers that many cities do. We are a collection of neighborhoods, so for example, I live in West Hollywood, many students live in North Hollywood and other students choose to live in Santa Monica. There is also Burbank, Studio City, Culver City; all of these are part of Los Angeles. But they all have a slightly different flavor. So, students do really think, do they want to live right next to campus or right on-campus? That is very good during the school weeks, but on the weekend, if you really want to go somewhere or you want to have sort of a different nightlife or starting something away from your university, a lot of students choose to live in other places.


Q: You just mentioned Los Angeles, a big city with more than 12 million people. Can you tell us a little bit about how international students can stay mobile? How can they come to campus and leave campus to experience free time activities?

A: From the airport there is a shuttle that runs to campus. So, most of our students will take that the first time or back to the airport. Los Angeles is not known for public transportation. I am from Washington D.C., where – like in New York – trains and subways run everywhere, but in Los Angeles that is not the case. The majority of our students, international and Americans, usually have a car. And they typically share that car with one or two other people. Gasoline is not expensive in the United States. We are about three Dollars a Gallon, which is less than a Dollar a Liter, so for the Europeans they think it is a good deal. So most of our international students go by car.


Q: German students that come to your campus – just like any other nationalities - have their particularities. What can you say about the German students that have been on campus? What is important to them and what do, as someone who works with a lot of international students, think is typical for German students?

A: Well, it is interesting. The Germans are one of our more sophisticated groups of students. When I say sophisticated, I mean they have traveled before. Maybe not to California, but they have been to places in Europe or Asia. So they have this certain comfort level when they travel. And the Germans are very enthusiastic about sports and about activities. So in my experience with the Germans in California, they are always looking to get on a soccer team or they are looking to take up surfing or they are looking to take up activities, which really integrates them into the entire community. So, they are integrating into the university’s community for their classes. They get to know the professors; they get to know class mates. But more than that, they really get involved. They usually do really well!


Thank you so much for this interview, Patrick!