Fall means Retreat!

 

At UCLA, the best part of being in clubs is getting to know people and working together for a common cause.  Being in a club or two also means retreats! It’s only week 5 and I have already been on a retreat this quarter.  The first one was with the Academic Affairs Commission (part of USAC) which is a new club for me to be involved in.

The AAC retreat was at the beach with about 25 people. The retreat provided great bonding time, friendships, and coffee.

Going on retreats can be a big leap of faith. It can be intimidating to go to a retreat with people you don’t know and it can be difficult to take time away from studying. Regardless, retreats are always a good idea. Why?

  • They provide a chance to get out of the city and do some exploring!
  • You can make a ton of new friends
  • …or deepen friendships with old ones!
  • You can connect with people who have similar passions and interests
  • They help you feel more connected and invested in the organization as a whole
  • Ice breakers make everyone come out of their comfort zone
  • Road trips to retreats are where memories are made!
  • Who wouldn’t want to study for midterms at the beach or in the mountains?

What ever your club is and whatever your reservations are…retreats are a blast! Take a chance: find a club and go on a retreat!

Fall means New Friends

This weekend I had the opportunity to say at a beach house in Sunset Beach with 25 people I did not know.  Needless to say I was a little bit nervous, but I walked away with 25 new friends!  What was I doing that put me in that situation? I was on a retreat with the Academic Affairs Commission (part of USAC- our student government)!

The first couple weekends in every quarter is always really fun because there is still minimal homework and no tests to study for.  Because of this unique situation, I could go on the AAC Retreat with no worries! I brought my kindle along to do some reading for a class, but other than that I was able to focus my energy on meeting new people and getting to learn all about the purpose and structure of AAC and USAC.

The retreat was so much fun!  Sure we had to learn about logistics and details, but I also got to begin planning some of my events for the year.  My committee and I brainstormed all kinds of fun activities for Stress Free Days and created puns for fall themed festivities.  If that was not enough, we got to go to the beach on Saturday afternoon!

What started out as a weekend of planning, turned into a weekend of fun, friends, and games!  I definitely recommend checking out some clubs early on and having your own retreat experience!

Leap of Faith

479

I really love the outdoors and adventures.  After a week of being flyered and seeing old friends, all while starting classes, this weekend my friends and I were able to go on an incredibly spontaneous adventure in Angeles National Forest.

At 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, one of my friends ran to my apartment (from just down the hall), yelled “Cliff jumping in 5 minutes, come!”, before quickly leaving.  After standing there a moment in indecision, I put on my bathing suit and packed a hiking bag.  A few minutes later, we were on our way to Glendale/Arcadia area and made our way up a mountain.  After a few questions about whether or not we would make it before it got too cold or before the sun got too low, we began our hike.  The hike itself was not very long, but the last bit required some actual rock climbing.  With shadows falling heavily on the mountain, we made it to the pool of water!

The water was cold. Very cold.  While the sun was still in the sky, the pool was not in direct sunlight.  After putting our feet in, my friends and I chuckled nervously.  Had we come all that way for nothing?  We decided that we would all get into the water, no matter what it took!  Each of my friends jumped off a small rock into the freezing cold water.  I was the last one, but I did it!  When first hitting the water, it wasn’t that bad…but after 30 seconds in the water I had to get out!  Next we tackled the 20 foot cliff!

It was such a fun adventure (and a great way to start senior year)! The water was cold and it was a bit scary, but so are a lot of things in life.  This year I hope to jump off more cliffs (both literally and metaphorically)!

Zero Week!

 

Balloons everywhere, flyers left, right, and sideways, herd of new students, Greek shirts…it must be ZERO WEEK.

I cannot believe the start of the school year is already here.  It seems like just yesterday campus cleared out for summer vacation.  I still vividly remember my first Zero Week as a Freshman at UCLA.

I am so excited to welcome new students (both Freshmen and Transfers).  I have already spent several hours of my week passing out flyers and bouncy balls  as well as sporting some USAC stickers.  However, I am just one of many.  UCLA has nearly 1,000 clubs and organizations and this is the week for them to start recruiting new members.

It is easy to feel lost in the midst of all the madness, but so long as you’ve got a friend or a roommate it can be a lot of fun!  One of the best parts of zero week is that (as a new student) you are not alone.  Every new student is looking for a community, while every club is looking for new students.  They give out free shirts, bags, frisbees, and food just to make you feel welcome!  I know I definitely snagged a new draw string backpack and a few pens today.  I’d count that as a success any day!

Zero week is definitely crazy, but it is a great way to jump into the school year! I cannot believe this is my last one!

Back in time for Senior Year

 

Well, its’s that time of year again….students have already started moving in, band camp has started, RAs are here, and the apartments are surrounded by furniture being moved in and out.

I love Fall- as a season and as a quarter.  I love that the weather starts too cool off (theoretically) and all of my friends start returning.  LA is still hot right now, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will cool down soon.  Fall is also great because, like an elementary school student, I love the start of school….but up until Saturday I didn’t know if I would make it back in time to start Fall quarter of my senior year.

If you have been watching the news, you may have heard of the flooding in Colorado.  I, along with six other Bruins, were trapped in the middle of it.  We were at my grandparents’ cabin for a fun week of hiking and exploring, but the day before we were supposed to leave a dam broke leaving us stranded without electricity, water, and phones.  We were told we could be there for 3 days.  Then a week.  Then months.  Everyone who heard we were students said we would probably be late for classes.

After three days of rationed food and low water, the US Army showed up to lift us out.  It was nothing short of a miracle.  We were such a low priority area compared to the destruction in the rest of the state that we should not have been the ones to get out.  The elderly and sick got one of the first three chinooks that came, all the while being told that everything was weather dependent.  Finally, after a few claps of thunder and some light rain a fourth helicopter came to get the 7 of us who were left.  We were airlifted to a red cross shelter in Fort Collins.

By late Saturday night, I was back in LA and in my apartment.  I was so incredibly thankful to get back for the school year.  We had expected to hike the 30 miles down the mountain in a week or wait months to be evacuated.  I’m coming into this year with a new perspective and hoping I can use this experience in someway this year.

Starstruck!

This weekend I got to cross to MAJOR things off my bucket list.  The first of which was my UCLA Bucket List and was planned…the second is my “Before I Die” Bucket List and was a complete surprise!

For those of you who have never been to the Hollywood Bowl, it is an experience! It is an entirely outdoor venue where LA Phil hold their events.  This weekend’s event was the music of John Williams played by LA Phil and conducted by the man himself- John Williams!  John Williams is a famous movie composer.  If you’ve never heard of him, maybe you have heard of his work which includes the famous Star Wars score, the Indiana Jones score, ET, Superman, Jaws, and Harry Potter.  Needless to say he is a legend!  It was awesome to hear him talk about what it’s like to work with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas throughout the years.  He even talked about his with with JJ Abrams on the new Star Wars!

As incredible as that experience was THAT was the planned event!  I bought my ticket to the Hollywood Bowl specifically to see and hear John Williams.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Hollywood Bowl and as it is my last year at UCLA I had to make it happen!  The surprise (to me anyways) was the woman narrating the event.

I had the absolute privilege of seeing the Queen of Genova at the Hollywood Bowl.  She greeted us with an elegant wave as she said “Hello, Hollywood Bowl People!”  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the narrator was Julie Andrews! I was completely speechless when I saw her name on the marquee.  Speechless.  Julie Andrews is a movie legend and has starred in so many amazing movies (The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins to name two of my favorites).  She is elegant, beautiful, and amazing!  Seeing her not only made my day, but also made my year!

Endings and Beginnings

Since being at UCLA the way I view summer has changed drastically.  When I was in grade school I anxiously waited for summer vacation because it meant more time to hang out with friends and less time spent on homework.  Now, I have mixed feelings about summer.  One one hand I love it! The weather is nice, I have no homework, and can explore LA.  On the other hand, it can be an interesting time of transition.

This is my second summer spent in LA.  While I have thoroughly enjoyed both of my summers, I always look forward to the end of the summer because it means all of my friends will be returning to UCLA.  It is at the end of summer that I will finally be reunited with my friends who went home for the summer or went overseas.  This summer I had friends in Japan, Italy, Bolivia, Hawaii, and various other locations.   During the school year we all have homework and clubs and work, but we always find ways to hang out…even if that just means studying in the same location.  We also always make sure find times for our “family dinners” when we get together and cook dinner together- some of our more ambitious meals have been jambalaya, shepherd’s pie, and bacon fried rice!  The start of the school year means the start of a new year with my friends.  Some of my favorite times at UCLA have been the few days before classes start when my friends and I can swap summer stories without the burden of school work.

Does this mean that summer is depressing and lonely? By no means!  The summer after my first year I was in Ft. Collins, CO on a trip.  After my second and third years I was in LA and enjoyed getting to know people in a different setting.  Between my friends, my friends’ friends, and subleasers in apartments both of these LA summers have been eclectic in terms of community.  I have had some wonderful adventures and made many new friends.

But summer is a transition.  At the beginning of summer I moved into a new apartment and in a week two of my roommates are moving out to start living in “the real world”.  While I am going to miss them so much, I am excited for the new beginnings that they are getting ready to face.  We celebrated the end of summer and their finding jobs last night by making homemade enchiladas and playing apples to apples…and talking about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs!

Every ending is a new beginning and I cannot wait to see what this new chapter holds.

Free Kayaking!

I don’t know if you can tell, but I love the outdoors! I love running, hiking, going to the beach, and now….KAYAKING!

UCLA students get two free hours of kayaking down at the Marina Del Rey Aquatics Center.  This is something that I’ve heard about numerous times, but have never taken advantage of.  Recently my friends and I went down to Marina Del Rey to try out this free kayaking and it was awesome!  There was free parking, easy sign in, a locker room, and life vests all provided for us.  Once we were ready to get in the water, our friend who works there helped us get our kayaks off the dock and sent us off!

We got to kayak all around the marina.  We had to watch out for boats, other kayakers, and paddle boarders, but that was all a part of the adventure.  It was definitely a workout, but I also got a great tan.  I brought a waterproof camera, so we got to document our experience as well.  About an hour into our time, some of my friends got really tired so we just held on to each other’s kayaks and float for a while.  Once we were ready to get back to kayaking, we explored a bit more and made our way to a nearby beach.  Finally, we had to head back.  Lifting the kayaks out of the water was much more difficult after two hours of kayaking, but we made it!

I wish I had taken advantage of this free kayaking sooner, but I have the rest of the summer and next year to go again!

Not so Gloomy Afterall!

In LA we may not get extreme weather, but we do experience a natural phenomenon known as “June Gloom”.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, June Gloom refers to the spring/summer cloud cover that happens most mornings in June.  This may not sound all that extreme, but the weather in the mornings looks entirely different from weather in the afternoons.  While it rarely stays cloudy for the entire day, the cloud cover reappears every morning, regardless of how clear it was the night before.  Even though it is July, we are experiencing some June Gloom residuals even now.

While June Gloom sounds terrible and…well…gloomy, it’s really not that bad!  I don’t know about you, but I hate waking up in the morning feeling sweaty.  It leaves me feeling lethargic and slow.  When it is cloudy in the mornings (and consequently cooler) I am able to enjoy my cup of coffee better.  June Gloom also makes runs a lot better!  This morning I was able to go running at 7:30am and did not feel like I was sweating buckets.  Cloud cover makes running the hilly perimeter quite enjoyable!  Last week when I talked about hiking, we experienced some June Gloom but our hike was fantastic!

All that being said, June Gloom does not get in the way of all of the fun things to do in LA (even when it persists into July)!  You can still get tan (and burned) when there is a cloud cover…so make sure you wear sun screen!  I have been to the beach four times over this last week and a half.  Each time it was cloudy and each time it cleared up by the afternoon.  This past weekend we even saw dolphins swimming within 50 feet of the shore in Santa Monica!  If I had to pick between June Gloom and swimming with dolphins, I’d pick dolphins.

Conclusion: June (Okay…July) Gloom does make for cooler weather, but that’s what happens when you live so close to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  It’s such a bummer to have to see dolphins on a cloudy day or enjoy a cool run at a reasonable time in the morning.  I guess you have to make sacrifices wherever you live, right?

Hikes and Hobbies

One hobby that I never thought I would discover and develop while in LA is hiking.  When most people think of LA they imagine the beach, downtown, Hollywood, and other LA landmarks.  While all of these iconic places are part of what makes LA so unique, we also are blessed to be surrounded by several wonderful mountain ranges!

I grew up hiking with my family in Colorado, but I never thoroughly enjoyed it.  Colorado is known for it’s mountains and for hiking, but I could not appreciate it at all.   I was always the child dragging my feet and wondering when we would get to the top so that we could start the hike back down.  I’m sure my dad felt like he was pulling teeth to get my siblings and I to go on even a short afternoon hike.

Since coming to LA three years ago now, I have discovered that hiking can be fun and that I do actually enjoy it!  I have been on tons of hikes in Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and Santa Monica.  Whenever I go on club retreats to the mountains, I take every opportunity I can to go hiking.  One of the great things about hiking in LA is that no matter where you go (on the west side anyways) the top always has an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean!

Last Saturday, I organized a hike with a group of friends who are around for the summer.  We hiked near Pacific Palisades on a trail called Los Liones.  You know you are hiking in LA when there is a real parking lot at the trail head! We met some friendly people at the bottom of the trail who took a picture for our group then told us that they were taking an alternative route and would race us to the top.  We ended up winning!

The hike was 7.3 miles there and back.  We began at 8:45am and got to enjoy an overcast but warm day.  We had a view of the ocean throughout the entire hike! It was awesome!

I am looking forward to doing a couple more hikes in LA this summer!  More importantly though, I am looking forward to the end of summer when my friends and I are going to Colorado to my grandparents cabin for a whole week of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  If you had told me that I would be going to Colorado to voluntarily hike for 5 days when I was ten, I would not have believed you.  I would believe you even less if you told me it had been my idea!

Thanks to all my LA hikes and my upcoming Colorado trip, I finally got my own pair of hiking boots!