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Exchange Tips for Studying in San Francisco!

Hey there UTS bloggers and bloggees. My name is Angus Peniston-Bird and I’ve been studying at SFSU now for over two months in the Spring 2013 semester. It has been such a great experience so far and if you are on your way to study here in the future you are in for a treat. I’ll post up some tips that I think/hope will make your experience a little more smooth so that your prepared for what SF has to throw at you!

1…> Start Craigslisting early! San Francisco State is NOT exactly what you may expect from an American college. On campus accommodation is limited and overly expensive for the quality (from reports around $1000/month). The big student areas that are affordable and easily commutable to ‘school’ include the Sunset and Inner Richmond areas ($700-$900/month) although if you are willing to spend a bit more the Mission or Haight/Ashbury areas are fun to live around but will be upwards of $1000 a month unless you are very lucky. In the middle of the ‘CBD’ or ‘Downtown’ areas are also happening places to live around AND easily accessible but will be even more expensive.

2…> Get invloved in the IEEC committee at SFSU early! These guys are students at the school and organise some great social nights when you first get into town that give you an opportunity to meet people from around the globe. Do not underestimate the importance of having friends dotted around the world if you want to travel more in your lifetime! The IEEC committee (for which you will be involved in) also plans weekend trips around the state (Tahoe, Yosemite etc.) for which they get great deals on accommodation/rental cars that are passed onto you, making a relatively inexpensive trip.

3…> Do not fret about your classes until you actually get here! Sign up for your classes at the specified date back in AUS but within the first week or two of school you are allowed to ‘crash’ classes that you may want to take instead when you change your mind. Providing the class has room and you get in early, a talk with the class’ teacher in these first two weeks is sometimes all it takes to switch your classes.

4…> If at all possible, plan any trips outside of SF early. Plane tickets on sites such as or cheap can be really cheap when you book early, then begin to rise by about 20-40 dollars a day closer to the date. Same with bus trips using (rather than greyhound if possible, there are some stories floating about regarding this bus company that may turn you off incl. 3 hour late departures and interesting passengers), a $5 bus trip can quickly turn into a $50 dollar one.

5…> VISA INFO! Make sure when you apply for your J1 visa that you also inquire into a B1/B2 visa. This will give you an extra 3 or so months that you can either work or travel around and cost you an extra $120ish, the J1 only gives you another 30 days after an arbitrary date that SFSU determines the semester is finished. You can apply for this online at the same time as the J1 and when you get to the consulate you can pay then for both.

6…> Be prepared for some cold weather. SF gets some nice sunny days but it is Northern California, the majority of the sunny Californian weather you hear about is in ‘So Cal’ (LA, Santa Barbara etc.). Also the ocean water here is very cold and even in summer is rarely swimming temperature. Surf is also 4/3 weather year round with the main Ocean Beach being sometime the most insane paddle out in the world (took me half an hour one day) and big currents. If your mobile get north to Fort Point underneath the bridge when the tide is almost negative low or Pacifica which is south for a bit of shelter from the grunt of the ocean. If you love your winter surfing this is your place, if not then head to Ventura/OC/San Diego.

7…> Join an intermural sports team if you wish, it is really easy and a bunch of fun, just make sure your games aren’t on the weekend because you will not want to play and if you do, you will be doing so ridiculously hungover the majority of the time.

8…> Get into the music here. Go to and scope out some local shows at places like Mezzanine/1015 Folsom/Rickshaw stop etc. there are so many big acts that come through here and all the shows have such good energy. MAKE A CALANDER.

I hope all these tips help and if you guys have any questions email me at

Take it easy travelers!

Angus PBImage


Global Exchange, US

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