Opportunities Abroad

Reflecting on the time I have spent at UCLA, I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I was given. With such a diverse student body, there are so many ways to give back to the community, celebrate different cultures, undergo professional development, and more. This variety of resources allowed me to enrich my studies and experience personal growth.

Hi, my name is Tara Ostad and I am a fourth year student Physiological Sciences major. I’m from Woodland Hills, California and I have loved the last four years I have spent as a Bruin and I’m sad to leave.

When I was applying to college, I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I did not think I would have the chance because most programs I was familiar with were more geared towards humanity majors or language courses, which I had tested out of. Upon arrival at UCLA, my dream was pushed to the back of my head as I immersed myself in the plethora of organizations active on campus, my studies, exploring Westwood, and the new and exciting world of college. That changed when one day, I noticed the UC Education Abroad Program advertising on Bruin Walk and, on a whim, decided to ask them about any STEM programs I could take. The one program that really caught my eye was one that allowed me to complete the entire 3-course physics series I was required to take, during an eight week session over the summer.

Flash forward to the end of my sophomore year when I was packing my bags and heading to Glasgow, Scotland! During the flight over, I grew more and more excited, but also more and more nervous. Most of my friends chose to go to different cities offering the same program, but I always wanted to go to Scotland, so I hopped on the plane to live on my own for the first time in a new country with no one to turn too. However, upon arrival to Glasgow, I immediately was surrounded with other nervous students my age. I quickly met a bunch of new and awesome people from Berkeley, UCSD, UCI, UCD, and even fellow Bruins I hadn’t met before!

The program was intense for sure, I mean, it was covering a year’s worth of physics in eight weeks instead of thirty, but it was hands down one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. During the day, I would attend class and had would work through practice problems with my discussion group. During the afternoon, however, my new found friends and I would experience as much of the local culture as possible, whether it was learning to dance at a Ceilidh (traditional Scottish folk dance), singing our hearts out at a local karaoke bar, trying the mysterious haggis, or testing our knowledge at a pub trivia night. The night before an exam, we would take over the gorgeous university library and go over concepts and equations while taking the occasional impromptu (silent) dance party or coffee break. Over the weekends, many of us would either run to the airport to explore more of Europe, or stayed locally to explore more of Scotland. The program took us on excursions to see Edinburgh, the capital, to see the cafe J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, St. Andrew’s to play a round of golf in the game’s birthplace, and Oban to eat some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. One weekend I got to even live out my childhood dream of visiting Loch Ness in the hopes of seeing Nessie, a beloved local myth!

UCEAP, on top of providing such great opportunities, deeply cared for our wellbeing. The staff was incredibly friendly and worked tirelessly to make the preparation process as stress-free as possible. Those services transferred over as I crossed the pond. My first week in Scotland, I caught a nasty cold, and the staff graciously provided me some cold medicine and checked in with me regarding my recovery. They also created a lovely guide to acquaint us with our local grocery stores and pharmacies, and also included some local hotspots to check out on our own time because they knew how scary it can be to move to a new environment. If finances were an issue, they worked with the student to find and apply for scholarships and other financial aid resources. They were there for us 24/7 and that constant reassurance allowed me to relax and not be as stressed.

Besides allowing me to truly appreciate a different culture, studying abroad allowed me to grow as a person and become more independent. Not only did I knock out a huge major course requirement, but I also made long-lasting friends I still keep in touch with and was able to experience life in a different country. I look back on the memories I made in Scotland fondly, and highly recommend that anyone studies abroad if the opportunity arises, whether it be for physics or to fulfill another requirement, because I believe the experience helped shape the person I am today. As I graduate and head on to life’s next adventure, I bring with me the memories and life lessons I learned from my time abroad and eagerly face the unknown