A Summer in Spain

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As a fourth year here at UCLA, I have had many memorable experiences that have helped to solidify my love for this school. However, one that truly stands out was my time studying abroad in Spain this past summer. It has been a dream since I was a tiny freshman in High School to travel abroad and soak in the language, food, and lifestyle of a foreign country. Finally this summer that dream came true.

I applied through UCLA’s travel study program during the fall of my junior year with high hopes of taking off across the world just a few short months from then. Upon the arrival of my email acceptance, I was ecstatic, but also REALLY nervous! I am lucky to have a family that has traveled with me to many international locations; however, this was the first time I would be taking on a foreign part of the world by myself. Winter and spring quarter rushed by and by the end of June it was already time to hop on a plane and begin my journey abroad. I decided to take advantage of the close proximity of countries in Europe and began my travels in London where I spent eight cold, wet, but beautiful days exploring the London eye, Westminster Abby, and training my pinky finger to be classy at High Tea. Although my days in London were wonderful and filled with lots of photo-taking and tube-riding, I was ready to get out of the rain and into the sun! The adventure continued in Venice, Italy where I met up with two of my closest friends who were also studying abroad for the summer. Venice was definitely a change with an abundance of sun, pasta, tanned bodies, and GELATO. While my friends would take class in the mornings I would take a vaparretto across the canals and find myself lost in a maze of tiny streets filled with vendors, street artists and little Italian kids playing handball in the courtyards. It was bliss; a bliss filled to the brim with pistachio and coffee gelato.

Barcelona was the next destination I found myself in and was also the start of my Travel Study program through UCLA. The first three days were spent in Barcelona exploring the city, meeting and making new friends, and beginning our intensive Spanish language program. Then we traveled to Madrid for two days and then on to Granada for five weeks. The program was big, 80 students or so, and I was worried that I would have trouble making friends and finding my group to travel with for the next six weeks. However, my worries shortly subsided as I met some of the most kind, exciting, and open individuals of my UCLA experience. Students mainly from UCLA and some from other UC’s came together to create a lively community of travelers each bringing something unique to the program.

My favorite part of being in Spain was learning the language. My professor, Juan-Jesus, was one of the best professors I have had at UCLA thus far and he made my experience with learning a language that had always stumped me, easy! I promised myself to try to speak Spanish at least 75% of the time that I was in Spain and doing so helped me excel in class and my studies. My most memorable moment in Spain was when my friend was sick with the stomach flu, and I went to the pharmacy to pick up medication for her. I felt so accomplished after I had to converse with the pharmacist in only Spanish! Over the course of the program, I became extremely close with many students in the program, and we were able to travel to new places on weekends, try new foods and drinks, and spend nights dancing our feet off in salsa clubs. It was an experience that truly helped me discover who I am and what I want out of life; an experience that I would encourage all students at UCLA to discover!

Work Study

Copyright 2013 Coral von Zumwalt

In the midst of midterm season, I thought I’d share a kernel of knowledge with you all about the work study experience, as I’ve been through a very thorough recruiting process this past quarter.

Work study is a federal program that allows students to hold a part time employment position while studying. Students who receive work study are given an allowance (aka the limit that you can earn). For instance, if you are given a work study allowance of 2000 USD, it means that you can work a student job with a pay rate of $10 for 200 hours or a job with a pay rate of $15 for approximately 133 hours for the school year.

What’s so great about work study?

First off, work study is subsidized by the government. The government essentially pays half of your pay check (so for every $10 you earn, $5 comes from the government etc.). This makes you a highly sought after employee because of your competitive pay rate.

Second of all, it allows you to gain job experience– without having to go off campus if you prefer. The great aspect of working right here at UCLA is that employers are generally more understanding of midterms and other commitments in college life. They are usually more lax about hours during midterms/finals weeks.

Last but not least, it is just as valuable as any other job. It bulks up your resume, especially during the years when you are not yet eligible for major internships. It gives you experience in working in a professional setting while still being a student. It also helps build relationships with your employers (many of whom are professors and administrative personnel on campus) and coworkers. In addition, a little cash wouldn’t hurt.

So how do I get a work study job?

You need to receive work study as part of your financial aid package to be eligible for the work study program. (You can refer to the financial aid website if you are not certain of your status, they’ll be able to help you out). If you are awarded the work study component as part of your financial aid package, take it. Even if you do not manage to secure employment, FA will not penalize you.

To start off the hiring process, refer to the work study bulletin and keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities. During the beginning of each quarter (fall, specifically), employers post job openings here. They are usually seeking work-study students, so you have an advantage. Prepare a thorough cover letter and resume, select a couple of job positions you are interested in, and contact the employer via email! If you pass the resume screening process, employers will usually invite you in for an interview (level of formality varies depending on where your potential job is located) and explain what the job entails.

If you are hired on the spot, congratulations! Usually employers take around a week to get back to you. If unfortunately the position is filled by another student, do not despair– we’ve all been there. Time to polish your A-game and contact more recruiters!

There are positions open in all fields– I’ve seen clerical jobs, research assistant jobs for both the sciences and the humanities, and tech support positions as well. The multitude of jobs available mean that not only can you get a student job, but also secure one that may align with your future career interests!

I’ve held two work study jobs thus far, and I can say that they have been the most rewarding experiences in my college life. I currently work at the Anderson Graduate School of Management, and the MBA environment I’ve been exposed to as a result of this job has helped me develop a better understanding of the level of professionalism required to pursue a MBA degree. In the past, I’ve also assisted an English professor on his publication, and it was incredibly rewarding as well. Being able to get a taste of the real world while still enjoying the perks of being a UCLA student is definitely eye opening!

Cheers, and good luck to all the students out there knee deep in midterm season.

Roadtrip to Berkeley for the Cal game

 

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This past weekend Bruins mobbed out to Berkeley for our football game against Cal. My group of friends left on Friday afternoon to start our adventure. On the way up, we passed winnebagos upon winnebagos of UCLA students, already pumped up for the game and cheering outside of the windows on the 5 freeway. We stayed at a friend’s place right next to Berkeley campus for the night and ran into Bruins when we went out for dinner, where we proceeded to 8-clap in the middle of all Berkeley students. It was awesome. On Saturday we tailgate hopped before the game and WATCHED THE BRUINS WIN. That night we relocated to a friend’s place about 30 minutes away, in San Francisco. He just graduated in the Spring and was a great host for our little reunion! Finally, on Sunday we had brunch and headed back to the best campus around- UCLA. After a long weekend and a great win, it’s good to be home!

Survival Kit for Premeds: MCAT prep

Inside Ackerman

Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Coral Von Zumwalt

After spending three long months of prepping for the MCAT, I wanted to summarize a few tips for prospective MCAT takers.
First of all, the format that you guys will probably take is different from the one that I just took. As you already know, AAMC is changing the format of the MCAT in 2015 that will incorporate a few more subjects and lengthen the exam by a couple of hours. The following tips regarding test prep will apply to MCAT regardless of the format.

Let’s jump right in:

1. “To take a course, or not to take a course. That is the question.”
Many people wonder whether prep courses are worth the bucks. Personally, I did take an online Kaplan course, partly because I was able to get a discount through a UCLA premed organization. If you could afford it, or get a discount off of it like I did, I would suggest that you take an online on-demand course, so that you could get access to their study materials but you are not bound by it. For Kaplan, there is a course called Kaplan Advantage-Anywhere, which allows you to go online to listen in on lectures at designated times. Given that they are live lectures, you could easily interact with the tutor. Or, you could also go online at any time and just watch the pre-recorded on-demand lectures. I personally just watched the on-demand lectures when I had time and emailed my tutor to ask about anything that was unclear. The best part of the course for me was the practice tests. Their PS and BS section tests were challenging, which expanded my knowledge and increased my speed. I really appreciated that they gave all of the AAMC practice tests, which I recommend that you finish by at least a week prior to your test.
If you do decide to take a course, be careful not to monopolize your study material on just one prep company. Aside from Kaplan material, I personally had workbook pdf for Berkeley review, Princeton review, and Examkrackers to refer to. Of course I did not read through all of them, but I did refer to them when I was struggling with certain concepts. Also, the lecture tests at the end of sections exposed me to a variety of questions and helped me to tackle topics from different angles.

2. “Before you start anything, make a schedule.”
Whether you take a course or not, you do need to make a schedule that will give you a general idea of how to spend the next three to four months. The sample schedule posted on SDN (Student Doctor Network) helped me, and I hope they make one for the new version of the MCAT. The schedule helped me to keep me on track, and it gave me an assurance that I was following through with my plans. With that said, I did not strictly stick with my schedule. I did change it up a little throughout the preparation to accommodate for my weaknesses.
Three months, or longer for some people, is a long time, and you definitely want to keep track of your work to make sure you will be ready by the test day.

3. “Don’t underestimate the ‘MCAT burnouts.'”
When I heard about the burnouts, I thought to myself that those are for weak bums, and I completely disregarded the thought of experiencing one of my own: arrogance.
Three months is short in the sense that you don’t have time to review EVERYTHING, but it definitely feels like forever when you are waking up in the morning, sitting in the same spot, reading and solving problems for hours on end until you find yourself reading the same line over and over again with nothing being processed in your brain. Challenging yourself is good. Having ambition helps. But that doesn’t make you a superhuman who can handle spending 10 hours a day for three months.
So make it as enjoyable and as sustainable as possible. Change it up a little. Get out of the house. Visit different libraries and cafés. Take short breaks in between studying. Definitely take a break during lunch and dinner to be recharged. Some people recommend taking a whole day off per week. I personally couldn’t do that, because taking long breaks made me more anxious than relaxed. But do whatever works for you. Be careful not to be too harsh or over-ambitious. Be realistic. Listen to your body.

Best of luck to you, premeds. If you have any questions, post away.

Farewell, Summer

Bruin statue

Photo Credit: Copyright 2013 Coral Von Zumwalt

This summer has been by far the longest yet most fulfilling summer I’ve had in years. As you may recall, I’ve taken a brief sabbatical abroad studying in the London School of Economics, headed over to Unicamp for a wonderful week of Woodsey fun, and returned to UCLA to get a taste of apartment life! One week ago marked my 365th day here in Los Angeles (I haven’t been home in over a year already). It’s been quite a journey! Fall is fast approaching (though the weather certainly doesn’t feel like it), and I am so glad that school is almost starting: you have no idea how much I’ve missed you all.

Anyways, I thought I’d update you all on a couple of resources I have stumbled upon in the past year that may help during the school year!

Writing Success Program at UCLA

The WSP program at UCLA is a wonderful writing counseling program here on campus! All the services are free of charge, and all you have to do to receive one whole hour of college-writing help is to sign up for a time slot at the Student Activities Center! I first came here when I was freaking out about my first college essay I had to turn in for a rather intimidating class- Comm 10, and my counselor was extremely helpful in helping me structure my writing and guiding me along the process of brainstorming! I sought my counselor out for not only writing help but eventually also interview and career help! She was truly not just a counselor, but also a mentor and a friend. (I’ll also be interning there this fall, so come drop by and say hi!)

Career Center 

The UCLA Career Center (located on Strathmore) provides free career guidance services to all UCLA students. They help you with perfecting your resume, prepping for interviews, and even have an entire library devoted for the job search. Periodically, they also host “sneak peeks” and “jumpstart” events, where recruiters from various industries come and meet interested students. It took me one whole year to take advantage of the resources here, but it truly is a goldmine, and I highly encourage you to go check out what they have to offer, regardless of your current class standing!

Bruinwalk

http://www.bruinwalk.com is an incredibly useful website for finding reviews of professors and evaluating what courses you may like to take.

The other physical bruinwalk is also a treasure trove, as there are tons of students flyering about campus events all the time. If you happen to not be in a rush for class, it wouldn’t hurt to take a couple of flyers and see if there’s an event you would like to catch!

CAC (College Academic Counseling)/ ASK Peer Counseling

This counseling center (located in Murphy) is extremely helpful for any lost souls who would like to figure out how to better structure their class load, or anybody who would like some guidance in their academic path (including extending units). I’ve visited this place numerous times over the school year to make sure I was on track. These services are free as well!

In conjunction with CAC, there are also the blue booths located all over campus called “ASK Peer Counselors”. These are peers who have been trained extensively and can handle all sorts of questions regarding class enrollment, deadlines and restrictions. If you don’t have enough time to drop by Murphy or just have a quick question, pop in and ask for help from one of your peers!

Ashe Center 

If you’re sick, this is the place to go. They also offer vaccines/TB Tests/additional medical services that are fully insured by UCShip. Stay healthy and take care of yourself! There is also a newly opened “U See LA” located in Ackerman that can help you out with vision problems.

Education Abroad Center

This center is also located in Murphy, and you can receive detailed information (academic and financial) all at this place. If you have any queries about studying abroad, this place has all the answers! I believe that college is one of the best times in your life to go abroad and explore. My summer in London was definitely one of the best summers thus far!

Dashew Center 

This is the center for international students. They can help international students out with any issue they may come across while studying in a foreign land. They also hosted Global Siblings, which is an incredible program: I met so many great friends through this program! (I actually ran into my sibling today so I’m feeling quite nostalgic.)

 

UCLA is a big school: just by the sheer size of the student population, it’s easy to feel intimidated. However, do not fear, because, as Dumbledore once said, “Help will always be given (at Hogwarts) to those who ask for it”. UCLA may not be called Hogwarts, but it truly is a magical place! Here’s to another great school year! Cheers!

Marina Del Rey

One other fun place close to Westwood is Marina Del Rey. It’s only a 20 minute drive a little south of Santa Monica and there’s a ton of fun things to do. UCLA Recreation even has its very own aquatic center there, where students can go kayaking, rowing, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, surfing and windsurfing. To celebrate some of the last days of summer, me and a couple of my friends decided to go stand up paddle boarding. We didn’t go with UCLA recreation, but we did find a sweet Groupon for a 2 hour rental under 30 dollars! We had a lovely day beating the heat on the water.

Home Game Opener

This past week UCLA had its first home game of the season! Even though we’re still on summer break, groups of UCLA students were still able to mob out to the Rose Bowl to cheer on our Bruins. Since not everybody is in town, we combined tailgates with my roommates, sorority sisters and friends from UniCamp. Tailgating was a blast and the game itself  was a ton of fun watching our team win another game and spending time with quality people. I’m super excited for the games to come!

Apartment Life

While dorm life is super fun and the food is unbelievably delicious, many UCLA students move into the nearby Westwood apartments by their junior or senior year. The apartments that students move into are also very close to campus, just behind the dorms. They’re usually a bit cheaper than dorming, and almost everyone living next to you are also UCLA students. To find apartment roommates, students either gather a group of their friends, or ask around on internet sites to see who needs another roommate (I’d suggest using UCLA Facebook groups made specifically for housing, for safety!).

My living situation was a little bit nontraditional compared to many other students. Instead of staying in the dorms for two years or moving into Greek housing my sophomore year, I moved into an apartment with my friends during my second year. I got super close to my roommates and our apartment actually became best friends with another unit just a couple doors down from ours. Our group of about 10 people had potlucks together, studied together, played Nintendo 64 together, and a few times we even put all of our mattresses into the living room for the night and had movie-sleepovers together. During long study sessions, we would sometimes play hide and seek in the dark as a break! Essentially we were just a big group of kids living together that studied sometimes. It was really fun!

After my sophomore year living in the apartments, I moved into my sorority house for my junior year where I actually appreciated HOW NICE it is to have someone cook for you and clean for you . My house had 53 girls living in it total, and my room had a total of 4 girls in it. I also got really close with my roommates and other girls in the house and it was a lot of fun!

Finally for my senior year I just moved back apartment-side into a nice place at the beginning of summer. My roommates are friends I made from living in the sorority house last year and other mutual friends. They’ve quickly become my best friends– we do everything together! We’ve also met and became friends with some other units in our complex, or realized that people we already previously knew have become our neighbors. When friends don’t live in the same complex as me, they’re an easy 2 – 10 minute walk away. Also, Westwood village is just 5 minutes away (AKA In-n-out is just 5 minutes away) so food is always accessible if we don’t feel like cooking. I’m super excited for a whole school year at this place, especially once everyone moves back to Westwood!

Here’s a picture of me and a couple of my friends who stayed over when they were apartment-less. They moved out of their old place and had a week before the lease at their new place began, so they couch surfed on different friend’s couches each night and took pictures with them each day. Friends in the apartments are always willing to help others out and let them stay on their couches for a night!

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A Weekend At the Bay

After a long week together at UniCamp, the volunteers in our session just can’t get enough of each other. So this past weekend we all got together and road tripped up north to hang out near San Francisco for a change in scenery. We had a wonderful time couch surfing at friend’s places from the area (and meeting their parents yay!) and adventuring around.

We began the trip with the Golden Gate Bridge, of course. Then we ate dim sum!

The next day we explored Haight and Ashbury, Dolores park and UC Berkeley.

On the last day, we ate TWO breakfasts (one made by our friend’s grandma and another by our friend’s friend from home.. so of course we couldn’t refuse) and stayed a bit north of the city where we went wine tasting in Santa Rosa and at our friend’s winery. We also visited Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” was filmed. It was a “grape” day!

 

Another wonderful week of Woodsey magic

One of the first organizations I joined at UCLA was UCLA’s official student charity: UniCamp. UniCamp gives children from low-income communities around the Los Angeles area the chance to attend an outdoor summer camp for a week at a reduced rate. At camp the kids get to try things many of them have ever done before, like rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, or simply seeing the stars at night. Children that attend UniCamp are encouraged to aim for a bright future through various character-building activities and the bonds they create with their counselors. UniCamp counselors are all UCLA students or previous UniCamp campers who fundraise and train throughout the school year to send the kids up to camp. At 80 years old, UniCamp is also one of UCLA’s oldest charities which fosters so many traditions and has changed countless lives.

Since I joined as a freshman back in Spring 2012, UniCamp is easily my favorite thing about at UCLA. For two years I was a counselor where I worked with a group of about 10 girls throughout the week and connected with them and formed irreplaceable bonds. This year, I decided to take on a leadership position as Head Counselor Assistant, where I helped to train a group of about 80 student volunteers and helped to plan a week of camp!

Throughout the year, I admit the position took up a vast amount of my time and energy and sometimes I couldn’t wait for the week of camp to be over so I could stop being so tired. However, once the week of camp came, I knew all the efforts of our leadership team were worth it. The kids were adorable and they loved camp. The volunteers and the kids got along so well and so many of our campers talked about how much they wanted to go to UCLA when they graduated high school. Countless amounts of games were played, songs were sang, and kids and counselors got to be kids for a week. Tons of “Woodsey marriages” happened, “prison ball” games between counselors and kids got heated, and so many “shout outs” were read. We hiked in the morning and at night (and one group of older campers and counselors called WALL hiked for multiple days), we swam during the day and once at 6:00 AM for the traditional “polar bear swim” (the water is warmer than the air!), we danced, we laughed, we enjoyed nature, and on the last day we cried saying our goodbyes.

Being back down the mountain makes me miss camp so much, but also feel so proud that we all did it and we got to meet so many amazing children. I can only hope that the kids we played with for a week will one day become UCLA student volunteers, too!

Here’s a few pictures from the week: 

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Some of the girls and counselors from “Unit 4,” our youngest girls unit.

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Campers “Pi” and “Butterfingers” showing off a painting.

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Archery rotation!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

More campers and counselors!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

Me and the rest of the session’s leadership team in front of the mural we put together at the end of the week. The mural incorporates all of the children’s artwork throughout the week and encompasses our mission statement unique to our session’s week of camp.

“Look around before you take flight.
All that surrounds you can impact your life.
Be confident, take chances, believe in your dreams.
Soar toward your future no matter how far it may seem.
This is your journey, there are no limits to who you can be.”

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