A Guide to Getting Involved at UCLA

[Image of young woman with backpack leaning over while standing on a rock]

Hi everyone and welcome to UCLA! YOU DID IT!!! My name is Claire Glendening and I am a 4th year Math/Economics major with a specialization in computing. I was born and have spent most of my life in New York City, but I have also lived in Virginia and Connecticut. Moving across the country was a big change for me. I had only come to California once before getting accepted to UCLA. The idea of moving over 3000 miles from my family was something that both scared me and excited me at the same time. My fellow friends and peers have been the most incredible part of this entire moving experience. To learn from and make lifelong relationships with the people I have met here has led me to grow so much as a person. I’ve had the chance to join some incredible organizations and through them, have been able to share my passion with other Bruins. 

Tip 1: Join clubs and organizations that you are passionate about. 

UCLA is a big school! That comes with many opportunities and special chances, but it can be a lot at first coming into it. Joining clubs throughout my four years here has led me to find an inner UCLA community that shares my interests, passions, and much more. My second year, I joined the Pediatric AIDS Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating the UCLA and Los Angeles community about pediatric HIV/AIDS and helping raise money for related resources and research. It has been an incredible experience to learn from people of such different backgrounds and share a collective passion. My membership in UCLA Campus Tours has also given me the chance to share my love for UCLA with both outside visitors and other students. 

I have found that a way to get all the perks of going to a large university, while also getting the close knit relationships and small circles that are more common from a smaller school is by joining organizations that I am excited to be a part of. You may have to test the water and join a couple before you have found the one, and that’s okay! The organizations you participate in your first year might not be the same ones you leave being a part of as you graduate. But with over 1200 clubs and many outreach events throughout the year at UCLA, there will be one that feels like home. You will develop incredible friendships and will grow so much in the process. 

Tip 2: There are so many cool people living in the dorms! Reach out to them

Living in the dorms was probably my most transformative experience as Bruin. Roughly 97 percent of first years and 75 percent of second years live on “the Hill”, what we call our community of dorm buildings. Most schools have academic buildings scattered in between student housing, but at UCLA, all dorms are located on one side of campus and spaces where you take your classes are on the other side. I appreciate this so much because it makes the Hill seem like a little city. It makes it so much easier to make new friends and go to the dining hall with others because everyone is living in the same area. 

I spent my first year living in a classic triple style dorm room. That means that I had two other roommates and the bathrooms were shared among other people living on my floor. UCLA housing put on so many fun activities in our lounge, such as a fancy Oscars party, a cookie and art night, and even a trip to go ice skating. There is truly never another time in your life where you will have the opportunity to live with so many people your age who all come from so many different places and have so many different interests. I made friends with the people who lived on my floor and we made a Co-ed soccer team, would spend late nights studying together, and would take trips to the beach. My advice to you, reach out to your neighbors! They’re coming into this school just like you. Some of my best experiences of my first year were going to eat at the dining halls with whoever was also hungry on my floor, and then spending hours talking and learning about each other’s lives.  

Tip 3: Bruins come from so many different backgrounds. Go to shows, events, and performances they put on

Take advantage of all the incredible events UCLA has to offer! Attend culture nights, acapella shows, athletic games and more. UCLA prides itself in its diversity of thought, passions, and . cultures. Attending these events is a great way to get a taste of something you may have never seen before. I grew up never knowing much about musicals, but now two of my roommates are theater majors. I have had the most amazing time going to their shows, meeting their friends, and seeing another side of this university that would’ve stayed unknown had I not explored it. Part of college is about learning about new parts of yourself and others. There is truly no better place than college to see so many talented people who are passionate about where they come from. I feel so grateful that my perspective and understanding of the people around me has been broadened since coming here. By attending my friends’ cultural performances, poetry nights, and music circles I have found so many new things I love to do and have met so many wonderful people along the way. 

Tip 4: Explore Los Angeles!

California felt foreign to me when I came into UCLA as a first year. There was so much I wanted to explore around me outside of UCLA’s home of Westwood. I grew up taking the Subway to class in middle and high school and was very excited to test out the public transportation in Los Angeles. 

The Big Blue Bus system is incredible! You can get on a bus from multiple stops within UCLA’s campus and can travel to Santa Monica, Venice and more. The metro can also take you as far south as Long Beach or more east to Downtown LA. I’ve had so much fun taking the bus with my friends or bringing a book along the way to spend a day at the beach and walk the boardwalk. There are so many incredible art museums like the Getty, LACMA, and the Broad Art Museum all within a bus ride away. Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city with many distinct neighborhoods. It has been a blast discovering this city and brings me back to the way I love the vastness of New York.

Tying it Together: 

The friendships I have made these past four years will stay for the rest of my life. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by people that make me want to be the best version of myself. I hope that the words I have given you above are helpful when starting your experience here. I wish you the best in experiencing all that UCLA has to offer. It is truly your fellow Bruins who will define this school for you and what you will remember most about college years in the future. In fact, my next step in life is already with one of the friends I’ve made here! We’re spending the next six months backpacking South America and I can’t wait to experience even more out of our friendship.