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San Diego Tips for International Students in San Diego

Posted by marialeite on July 16, 2008

This is a must read for International Students living in San Diego. After moving here from Brazil, one year ago, I have learned many tips and tricks that I would like to share with you.

Choosing location to live

If you are studying at UCSD Extension, the best neighborhood  to live in is La Jolla/UTC. There is a very good mall (Westfield Mall UTC), many grocery stores (Vons, Ralph’s, Trader’s Joe, Whole Foods), movie theater (AMC), good restaurants (PF Chang’s, CPK, Sammy’s Pizza), pharmacy (CVS), hospital (UCSD), public transportation around the neighborhood and most important it is close to the beach (La Jolla Shore).


A car is a must-have item in San Diego. There is a lack of public transportation in San Diego. It works to go to and from UCSD, but you cannot get around the city with a bus. You will see San Diego with different eyes if you have your own car! If you are planning to stay for a short time, you can choose to rent a car. And, it is not so expensive if you use the rental car only inside San Diego County.

The bus is free for UCSD students. You will get a free sticker on your UCSD ID, which costs $15.


You must be 18 years old to buy and smoke cigarette.

Do you smoke? Ok, here is my advice: First, don’t think about throwing away your cigarette from the window of your car! It is a $1,000 fee. Second, you cannot smoke in Del Mar! It is not allowed to smoke there!! Third, don’t smoke so close to any building. Fourth, you are not allowed to smoke at the beach.


You must be 21 years old to buy and drink alcohol.

San Diego has many clubs and bars, but my suggesting is to take a cab. If a cop catches you driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be in trouble, a lot of trouble. You will go to jail!


I recommend getting an ID from the DMV even if you are not planning to drive. With this ID that costs only $27, you can leave your passport at home and not be concerned about losing it. If you are planning to drive, you must get your driving license from DMV. I know that if you have a valid driver’s license from your country, you don’t need to obtain a California Drivers License. However, I already passed some problems with friends that a cop did not know about this, and then my friends had to go to traffic court to dispute the ticket. It is not worth the risk!

Parking at UCSD

If your program is on the Summer quarter, it is useful to buy the parking for a full quarter (space for students “S”). However, during Spring, Fall and Winter quarters, you will need to go one and half hours before class to get a parking space. My opinion in this case is to pay per day so you can park your car on “S” and “B”. Just carpool and take another student with you to school and share the price of the parking ticket. Maybe even your new roommate!

English exam – TOIC and TOEFL

I am currently student at UCSD Extension and taking the Business Certificate Program since January. However, I studied English there for 6 months last year.

When some of my friends left their country, the travel agency that planned their trip to San Diego said that because they were going to take the English Program at UCSD they would not need to take the English exam to prove that they have enough English to start a certificate at UCSD Extension. This is not true!!!! You need to take the exam! Many friends missed the opportunity to take the certificate because they did not have the right information.

The TOIC exam is much easier than the TOFEL exam. Check which one you need to have before taking. Also, the Institutional exam, that you can take at UCSD, is much easier too! Do not miss the registration date!

I hope this was helpful for you! I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, let me know. I will do my best to help you! And, enjoy you time in San Diego!


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