Bruins For Boston

At the end of a long week marked by the final capture of the second suspect of the mysterious marathon bombings in Boston, we send our deepest condolences to runners, spectators, and rescuers who unfortunately fell into harm’s way at the time of the explosions. On Tuesday, April 23rd in Bruin Plaza, UCLA and our surrounding community will come together to show our support for our friends in Boston who have been affected by the tragic events.

The event, hosted by the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC), is titled “Bruins For Boston”.  We will be holding a letter writing for victims and their families at 11am, a symbolic marathon starting in the plaza at 12pm, and a blood drive from 11am to 1pm.  We are deeply moved by the runners in the marathon who ran straight to the hospital to donate blood for victims that were harmed by the bombings, and will be hosting our own blood drive in symbolic fashion and in support.

For more information, please visit the event page here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/182388715245977

An Unlikely Place To Find A Mentor

One of the most popular questions I hear from prospective students and their parents in my time at Undergraduate Admissions is about the student-professor gap.  They want to know the steps UCLA is taking to bridge that gap, and what resources/opportunities are available to undergraduate students in that regard.  I would be lying if I said I never once worried about feeling lost in a big university amidst a sea of undergrad faces, but little did I realize that a “big” university means an even “bigger” diversity of resources that are available to students.

In one of those forwarded-and-forwarded-again emails that circulate the office, I caught wind of a mentoring program offered by the UCLA Emeriti/Retirees Relations Center.  I jumped at the chance not only to get to know a retired professor one-on-one, but also to engage and learn from such a unique perspective about our university, academics, student life, and life at large.  It seemed so esoteric (yay GRE vocab) yet so matter-of-fact that we should be seeking out unique opportunities like these.

Last month, I met with my Emeriti Mentor Dr. Paul Sheats for the first time, and had a wonderful time talking over lunch about overlaps in our academic interests, my post-graduation plans, potential career paths, his teaching career at UCLA, and so on.  It was great to connect over mutual interests in urban planning and classical choral experience.  This Friday, I will meet again with Dr. Sheats to pick up our conversation where it left off a month ago, and he plans to check on the progress I have made on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the quarter.

In addition to the research opportunities I’ve been given with some of the most brilliant minds at UCLA, I am most grateful for this mentoring program that brings together the university’s most experienced and its most sophomoric, creating a unique forum for interaction that is found nowhere else in the UCLA experience.

GO BRUINS!

Goals for Winter ’13

It’s a new quarter, and what better time to set some goals in addition to those New Year’s Resolutions?  After a wonderfully restful two and a half weeks spent in Vancouver with family, it’s time to get back in the groove of things.  I’m particularly excited about a few things coming up this quarter, including performances with my a cappella group YOUTHphonics, a research course with my GIS professor, GRE classes at The Princeton Review, and plenty of job hunting (I might be lying about being excited for that last one). My goals for the quarter include:

  1. Study hard for the GRE and achieve a score I am (and grad schools are) happy with
  2. Enjoy UCLA to the fullest in my second-to-last quarter of undergrad
  3. Find an apartment for next year
  4. Find a job related to my minor (GIS&T)

It’s that time of year when foot traffic around the Westwood apartments increases as students tour open houses and try to settle their living plans for the next year.  Two years ago, I was in the same boat as these prospective Westwood Village North residents, and my roommate and I traversed these streets looking for the perfect place to live.  Needless to say, it was difficult to find exactly that, but what we did find was a pretty nice alternative on Kelton Avenue.  It’s not cheap and it’s not big, but hey it’s Westwood, and it is five minutes from De Neve.  Who can resist the close proximity to the dorms (and dorm food)? 😀

Changing my graduation plans

Posing

It’s hard to believe that this very day three years ago, I had just finished my first round of finals as a freshman at UCLA.  It has been a long and hard (but rewarding) journey since then, and I can barely believe how far I’ve come.

In September, I began the quarter with the end in mind, that is, the end of my undergraduate career at UCLA.  My degree expected term was Fall 2012, as I would be taking the final procedures class in GIS for my major, and I had mentally prepared myself to graduate two quarters early.  However, halfway through the quarter I decided that my interest in GIS is too great to graduate without attempting the minor, especially since I am only three classes away.  So I decided to stay my full four years at UCLA to graduate with a second minor, a more technical one that complements my theory-based coursework.  And the procedure to change my degree expected term was simple as pie; it took me less than 2 minutes at the registrar’s office.

Well, UCLA, I guess you won’t be getting rid of me just yet.  It seems like I can’t let go of you and the opportunities you offer 🙂

Gourmet burgers at The Grove

This past Monday was the first time in my three-and-nearly-a-half years at UCLA that I had visited The Grove in Beverly Hills during the holiday season.  Before, I had only heard of it and never had the chance to actually see it in all its splendor during the time of year that it is decked out in Christmas decor.  No matter how much my friends tried to convince me, though, I seemed to have never found time to explore that corner of Beverly Hills.  That is, until now.

My life was changed Monday night (if not my life, at least my week) when my roommates hijacked our dinner plans for Persian food down Westwood Blvd and steered it towards Beverly Hills instead.  Apparently, the gourmet burger joint named Umami Burger that had been attributed legendary status amongst my friends has their 14th branch in The Grove, and we decided it was imperative that we went there to try it (despite that Umami had just opened a branch in Westwood which, my roommate swore in retrospect, is not as good as the one at The Grove).

Thus began our journey across Wilshire, and by the time we arrived at Umami and placed our orders, we were absolutely famished.  I’m not sure whether it was the first few bites into the buttery but fresh medium-rare patty, or the follow-up of their crisp sweet potato fries, or the novelty of having a shiitake mushroom in a burger… but it has certainly found a very special place in my heart (and stomach).

The rest of the evening was spent wandering up and down 1st Street (The Grove’s mini main street) and admiring all the work that was put into bringing so much Christmas spirit to a tiny corner in LA.  If other shopping centers think having a Santa’s Workshop is enough, try a suspended sleigh strung high across the plaza, complete with Santa himself, his presents, and reindeer mid-flight.  I’ve always stopped at decorations, but The Grove had a 100-foot tree and made it snow at 8pm (granted, it wasn’t actual snow, but the clumps of bubbles that floated down from the heavens and got lodged in our hair in a snow-like fashion were real enough for me).

It was a wonderful evening of good food and holiday cheer (although it always beats me why holiday decorations are thrown up before Thanksgiving is over, but I don’t mind).  Our fall weather has been slightly more temperamental this year, with fluctuations between gloomy days of 18-20°C (what my friends tell me is mid-60s in Fahrenheit) and warm weeks of close to 30°C (mid-80s F).  It’s as though summer is reluctant to leave its grip and give way to fall, and when it succeeds, we have days warm enough for shorts and sundresses in the middle of October.  As always, I can’t complain, since having spent most of my life in the tropics I appreciate warm weather that isn’t humid beyond disbelief.  Sadly, I will be out of town this weekend when it’s forecasted to be warm again, but experiencing the winter chill in neighboring Canada will be a nice change.

Beat ‘SC Bonfire & Rally 2012

What an incredible and spirited week it has been at UCLA!  In the final countdown before the big game with our crosstown rival, we prepared ourselves and made sure our entire campus community was feeling the spirit and enthusiasm it takes to give our team extra reassurance and strength to head over to the Rose Bowl and show them who’s boss.

This week’s Beat ‘SC Bonfire and Rally hosted by the Alumni Association was by far one of the greatest experiences I have had at UCLA yet.  One of the greatest UCLA traditions of all time, the day began with a car smash in Bruin Plaza, during which an old battered car adorned with kind words about our rival nobly gave the last moments of its life to a a band of enthusiastic students with a sledgehammer.  Then, the evening festivities were kicked off by the annual “Get the Red Out” t-shirt exchange, at which the first 700 students received a “Beat ‘SC” shirt by trading in any red item of clothing that would go towards a clothing drive.

Kicked off by student performances by Samahang Modern, Bruin Harmony, NSU Modern, Random Voices, and Kyodo Taiko, everyone was pumped up and ready for the rally which began at 6pm.  Appearances by the Spirit Squad, Marching Band, UCLA Olympians who had competed in the 2012 games in London and before, and the football team really brought home the feeling of what it means to be a Bruin.  Each Bruin’s wholehearted love for UCLA and everything it stands for, embodied in each t-shirt/face tattoo/8-clap, was really an incredible thing to see.  When the evening culminated in the lighting of the woodblock tower, I knew that no matter what happens on Saturday, I was already perfectly happy (although, of course, we are obviously going to win).

2012 Presidential Elections at UCLA

What a night!  The long-anticipated Election Day has come and gone, and the campus is left buzzing (along with the rest of the nation) through our Facebook status updates and Tweets, offering each Bruin’s own two cents on the race for the presidency.  Landfair Avenue, typically frequented by residents whose apartments line the hilly street, saw more traffic than usual today as students from all over the area visited the polling station closest to our home campus to make our voices heard.

The campus climate was positive and helpful.  Student organizations with political affiliations reminded others to vote and to make use of our voice.  A viewing party with three live feeds from CNN, FOX and MSNBC was held in our Los Angeles Tennis Center, inviting all students and staff to stop by anytime between 7 and 10pm to watch the unveiling of the fateful numbers.

For some, it was the first time we had cast a ballot that would be meaningfully read, counted and tallied; for me, it was the first time I was in a country when it held its elections.  Having watched the elections relevant to me on live television up to this point in my life and never having been physically present in the country in question, tonight was an incredible experience.  As an American citizen that has never lived in this country before until college, I had much to catch up on, and I spent this elections season making sure I researched the propositions, kept up with the presidential debates, and listened to the opinions of those around me.  Then, I formed an opinion that was mine and headed over to 500 Landfair Avenue to hand in my mail-in ballot that I had ordered weeks ago.

Filling in the circles on the ballot felt surreal for a number of reasons.  First, this was the first time I had participated in a democratic election, ever.  Second, it was the first time I was old enough to understand politics, the merits and consequences of certain policies by certain politicians, AND could do something about it, right away.  So I took advantage of it, and I voted.

At the end of the day, it’s not my “I Voted” sticker from which I derive this feeling of fulfillment; it is knowing that I had made important decisions based on my values and beliefs, and that at such a crucial turning point in American history, I took part in it, even if it was in the slightest way.

A Brief Road Trip to the North

This past weekend I traveled to San Francisco to attend my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding.  Although it was a very hurried trip (we left on Friday and returned on Sunday), it still was a great experience.  This marked the first time I traveled to northern California by car since I moved to southern California.  Although I had gotten recommendations to take the scenic route along the coast, we were a little pressed for time so we took the straighter, flatter route on the I-5 through the Central Valley.

I finally got to see, firsthand, the long drive my roommate and friends take up to the Bay Area when they are on their way home for Thanksgiving or winter break.  It was relatively straight (except the mountainous section of the I-405 before it meets the I-5), and we made good time both heading there and back.  It gave me a chance to sit back from the daily bustle of my final quarter at UCLA (!) and take in the view of the Coastal Range as we coasted down the I-5.

One day, I hope to make the same trip again, this time on the coastal scenic drive, and this time all the way up to visit my mom and sister in Vancouver, Canada.  Although that trip will not cross any time zones, I will traverse three states and one province, and hopefully many cities (and some national parks) along the way.

Summer travels in Asia

What an incredible summer it has been!  Over the past few months, I have embarked upon 14 flights, trodden the soils of six nations, crossed many time zones, and enjoyed countless foreign delicacies.  It has been a journey of journeys, one embedded in another, all of them combined to give me the incredible experience that was my summer before senior year.

First, Switzerland was breathtaking.  Among the daily trips to international organizations such as the UN and WHO, we took a weekend trip to the Alps (relevant post) and an academic tour of CERN.  The sheer density of visiting so many landmarks in just a month was exhilarating to say the least.  I must say, my favorite part of the program was the personalized UN pass we received and were allowed to enter UN premises with.  There is nothing like waking up in the morning and saying to yourself, “I’m going to study at the UN Library today.  I wonder which diplomat I will run into at the cafeteria there.”

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Then, my trip to Taiwan was one I had been anticipating and yearning for a long time.  It had been more than three years since I set foot in my home country, and it felt great to be back.  On top of visiting family and relatives I hadn’t seen for years, this was definitely a trip to make up for all the Taiwanese food I hadn’t eaten for the past few years, despite being on the West Coast of North America where authentic Asian food is aplenty.

Leaving Taiwan certainly wasn’t easy.

Next, we crossed the South China Sea to Bangkok, Thailand to visit my dad and friends.  It’s amazing how much has changed but the memories still feel the same!  It was two and a half weeks of amazing food, company and sightseeing.

We spent two weekends at beach resorts, one of which was on a beautiful island, unwinding from the stresses of daily life.  My sister and I enjoyed our first aromatherapy spa treatments and I regret not trying them earlier when I still lived there!

Of course, I had to pay a visit to my high school, International School Bangkok, and discovered they had installed a wonderfully dignified statue of our mascot:

Traveling in Switzerland

Greetings from Switzerland!  It has been more than 14 days since I have been in Europe, and everything is so dreamy that I am afraid I will wake up any minute in my bed in Westwood.  I am traveling with UCLA’s Travel Study program with the Urban Planning department on global governance, and it is an extremely rewarding, hybrid program of academics and fun.

In the past two weeks, I have probably seen more landmarks and important places than I ever have in my life in such a short period of time.  We have visited a number of international institutions based in Geneva including the United Nations (whose cluster of buildings here is gracefully named “Palais des Nations”), World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, UNDP, UNEP, and the Iraq and United States Missions.  Each weekday has seen a block of classes at the University of Geneva campus in the morning, followed by a visit to an institution in the afternoon.  The number of business formal and business casual outfits in my hamper at the end of the week is testimony to the frequency of our visits.

Since the beginning of the month, I have been so grateful to be a part of this program.  It is now in its fourth year, but according to our professor and fearless leader Dr. Leo Estrada (Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA), making this trip possible has not always been easy.  I am incredulous that a program as rich as this can run into any obstacles at all in the university’s approval process, but am glad to say that four years later, it is in full swing.

In addition to traveling all over Geneva and integrating ourselves into genevois life, this weekend we are also taking an excursion to the Swiss Alps to visit Jungfraujoch, the highest point in Europe, and a research center folded into the snowy peaks of this majestic mountain belt.  In fact, I write this from a quaint little ski lodge in downtown Gindelwald, a small alpine town surrounded on all sides by magnificent summits.  Tomorrow, we will go higher than 10,000 feet to Jungfraujoch.  Regardless of the thinner oxygen at such a high altitude, I’m sure my breath will be taken away.