UCLA Chamber Ensemble

UCLA Gluck Jazz Combo: Julian Le

Copyright 2011 Pamela Springsteen


For the past three quarters, I have been a part of the UCLA Chamber Ensemble.
Sounds pretty fancy, huh?
But surprisingly, you don’t have to be a musical prodigy to be in it. It is actually a class that is open to UCLA students of any major. The only requirement is that you know how to read/play music, and that you have a love for music. Not many people know about it, and many of the non-music majors shy away from taking the class. But my experience has been truly valuable and enriching. It has been amazing to see how music can connect people of vastly different majors, interests, backgrounds, and beliefs. It is always a joy to come together as a group once a week to produce music that we love and to be able to share it with others at the end of the quarter through a performance.

The course is called “Chamber Ensemble,” and to enroll into the class, you have to first contact Professor Gary Gray and tell him that you are interested in taking his course. He usually asks students to make an appointment with him to hear you play. There is no need to be stressed about it, because he mainly wants to see if you know how to read/play music on your instrument!
So you music-lovers out there, join the UCLA Chamber Ensemble! When else will you get a chance to play music with fellow UCLA students? Take advantage of the opportunity.

Bucket List: Freshman Year

Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

As the school year draws to a close, seniors in flowing graduation gowns can be seen all over campus, posing for graduation pictures. I can’t believe that my first year at UCLA is almost over (except for finals, bleh). As UCLA prepares to send off a fourth of its population off into the real world, it’s time to welcome the freshman class.

It’s hard to believe that a little less than a year ago, I was the bright-eyed freshman who stepped foot on this campus for the first time. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, and it seems as though this year has just been a blur. Now it’s time to take a look back at a fraction of the bucket list I composed right after freshman orientation and see what items I’ve crossed off. I was inspired by a youtube clip I had watched shortly before I moved here ūüôā

  1. Take part in the Color Run 2014(I ended up participating in Run or Dye with some good friends this May).
  2. Study abroad for one quarter + (I’m studying abroad in LSE this summer! I’ve never been to Europe before, and I’m counting down the days till I’m there!)
  3. Join an a cappella group¬†‚̧¬†(Awechords A Cappella, you have given me the experience of a lifetime. I’m so glad I get to sing with you all for the rest of my college career!)
  4. Volunteer for an educational cause (Project WILD, Unicamp, I am so incredibly lucky to be able to volunteer with you)
  5. University Chorus, UCLA Chorale, Chamber (Performing in Royce was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had during my undergraduate career. As Dr.Neuen’s last choral class, getting to perform the Beethoven Mass inside UCLA’s best venue was incredible.)
  6. Tour Guide ( I served as a tour guide for Bruin Day! Despite getting stranded outside the elevator from my tour group and having to scour the building for them, it was an exhilarating experience)
  7. Experience Spring Sing (Best show ever!!! More to come on this later)
  8. Figure out what major I want to be (This actually turned out to be not that difficult once I was able to figure out what I was really passionate about!)
  9. Thanksgiving in Beverly Hills ( I had the fortune of dining with an alumni for Thanksgiving since I couldn’t go back home, thanks to the Dashew Center!
  10. Road Trip (LOL my friends from my floor dragged me to San Diego during Winter Quarter amid midterm craziness. I am so grateful they persuaded me, that was definitely an fun-filled adventure!)
  11. Learn something completely random¬† (Wow. I’ve taken a couple of classes purely for the sake of learning outside my academic career and they were some of the best courses I’ve taken thus far.)

So these were a couple of the things I’ve managed to cross off my list. The rest are little goals or checkpoints I will work towards during the future, and I’ll definitely keep on expanding the list! So for anyone looking to create a bucket list: be as deep, as insightful, or as crazy as you’d like: college is what¬†you make out of it! Set a goal to take a random class, do something you never thought you’d do (like leap off a pole on the top of a mountain), meet some incredible people, and get ready for the ride of your life!

A Whirlwind of a Quarter


This has been a busy couple of weeks!

The end of the quarter is finally in sight and I cannot wait for this marathon to be over!

All that said, it has been a spectacular quarter so far.  I have been taking 4 of the most interesting classes that I have ever taken at UCLA, met some amazing people, started planning for my summer, and have been getting things for Relay for Life in motion.

One of the most rewarding things about UCLA is how diverse and personal it is.  I know that those two things sound like contradictions, but even though my quarter has been busy, I have loved every minute of it.  My classes are specific to what I WANT to take , which is really nice.  Applying for summer shenanigans is always hectic, but really rewarding.  It looks like I will be spending quite a bit of time in the Eastern Hemisphere this summer!  Relay for Life (while so far) is getting closer and closer and it has been cool to see how students from all over campus can come together for a common cause.

Sometimes, however, it is nice to just take a break! ¬†This weekend I got to go to Pacific Palisades. ¬†It was a nice break from school and a time to just hang out with some awesome girls. ¬†We were close enough to school that it didn’t feel too much like a vacation, but it was a different enough environment to not be distracted by school work. ¬†It was a great weekend and a nice change of scenery.

A lot of semester school kids wonder how we do it all in 10 weeks. ¬†It’s all about keeping a level head and keeping focused. ¬†10 weeks can go by really quickly, so it’s important to keep calm and take time to smell the¬†coffee roses.

French Classes vs UCLA Classes


I’ve already talked about the class-choosing process¬†as a study abroad student in France and how it is different from UCLA, but I haven’t yet discussed the differences between the actual classes at a French university and back home.

The largest difference is definitely the amount of time spent in class. At UCLA, most classes have at least two lectures per week and perhaps a discussion section. In Lyon, each class only meets once a week for an hour and¬†forty-five minutes. This semester I’m taking four courses for a grand total of seven hours of class per week. It’s lovely. And if the minimal class time wasn’t enough, the French university system runs on semesters, but unlike the semesters that you would find at Berkeley or Merced, ours are only twelve weeks long with a finals week at the end.

Despite the shorter amount of time spent in the classroom, classes here can be pretty¬†rigorous. Last semester, I took a class where I did more reading than I had ever done at class back home. And studying generally takes a little bit longer when you have to decipher the French you scribbled down in your notebook. Cramming a week’s worth of material into one two-hour lecture means lots of fast talking and not a lot of powerpoint slides, so the note-taking in France is generally very hurried, something the French students can do and I can’t (at least not without lots of spelling errors).

But the French students have had lots more practice than I’ve had at taking the kind of serious, super-fast notes that are¬†required¬†in a French classroom. At UCLA, we have lots of choice when it comes to figuring out what classes to take and when. Sure, we have requirements and timelines, but I was¬†undeclared¬†well into my sophomore year, something that the French students couldn’t dream of. You are what major you are in France, and you have to follow a very specific path. Choosing classes doesn’t really exist in the same way it does in California. I have friends at UCLA who will be taking GEs during their senior year. French students could never take a lower level course that late in the game.

Interacting with French professors is also rather different than it is back home. In France, there are no office hours. After class, professors are perfectly happy to take your questions, but if you can’t stick around for an extra five minutes your chance to ask a question is lost until next week. Emailing is totally acceptable but not as frequently used. There¬†just¬†isn’t as much emphasis on the teacher-student relationship, which makes chatting with French profs ¬†so much fun. They are always tickled that a student wants to talk (and not just about when the exam is).

Things are very different over here. Teaching styles, student interaction, note-sharing culture, all of it is foreign to our way of life at UCLA. And it’s such a pleasure to experience.

Choosing classes

I have now finished my introductory French courses and have moved on to the full-blown real-life university courses here in Lyon. At UCLA, choosing your classes happens long before you ever get into them (in most cases – you can always drop and add), but here the course system works differently. ¬†French students all have a structured plan that tells them all the classes they have to take every semester according to their major, and French students really don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to picking classes, especially not between different departments. Because our American program doesn’t work that way, we get to spend a few weeks browsing around for different options, and we get to sample courses from more than one department. By the beginning of October, we are supposed to have nailed down our semester’s schedule. Right now, I have picked about six or seven classes that I’ve been going to to help me make a¬†decision.

Today, I had class from ten in the morning until six in the evening with fifteen minute breaks every two hours. It was very intense – I haven’t had that much class time in a single day since high school (or maybe ever), but the good news is that I’ll only keep half of the classes I went to today, so my schedule won’t be too hectic or long.

The classes I’ve been to so far all seem very interesting. I went to a debate class this morning – but I don’t think my French is good enough yet to keep up with the French students in the class even though I would love to stick with it. You have to be able to talk pretty fast during an argument. I also went to a couple of art history courses – one about photography and one on modernist paintings. Both of those seemed pretty cool – the only sort of art history class I’ve taken at UCLA was history of electronic dance music, and we learned about funk and dubstep, not about paintings and photographs. Yesterday, I went to a geography of landscapes class because I had a friend who was interested in checking it out. I’ve never taken a geography class before, but I’ve always been curious. When we got to the class, we realized that our program didn’t provide us with the most up-to-date class schedules and titles because instead of a landscape geography class about France, it was a geography of Anglophone landscapes class taught in English. Because I’m here to practice my French, I don’t think it’s a good idea to take the class even though it was a lot of fun to attend. I wish it was taught in French!

I have more classes to look at tomorrow (architecture and anthropology), and then I start whittling down my schedule next week. I’m excited to do this, so I can really get into the swing of things over here. I guess this is just kind of like my French version of zero week!

Done with my first week of classes (kinda)


I am now finished with my first week of classes here in France! It feels a little weird to be starting school so early because back at UCLA the quarter system doesn’t get going for another few weeks. I haven’t started my official classes quite yet, though – the ones I’m in right now (for another week) are part of an intensive language program designed to get your French gears turning after not using them during the summer and also to teach you a little bit about the French university system.

I’m enrolled in several classes. One works on your oral abilities with French, so we do a lot of talking in class and sharing stories with partners. Our exam is going to be four minutes talking about pretty much whatever we want to – very excited for that. I’m also in a class that works on our written skills, and we have been doing a lot with relative pronouns (almost too fun (maybe not)). But in general, I really like my language classes because I feel like I am learning (or re-learning) lots of French stuff, and my teachers are super duper fun to learn from.

I’m also taking a (sort of) political science class that teaches you how to take real poli sci (or “sciences po,” in French) classes at the university. We get to learn about stuff like the happenings in French politics and what format essays should be written in – all very interesting!

The coolest part of taking classes so far has been discovering another campus. The University of Lyon has many different campuses, but I get to take my classes on one that is right on the river, so walking to class is always very beautiful. The campus is made up of a bunch of old buildings with gardens in between and in courtyards. Every day feels like a postcard! And there is a little cafeteria where you can get some bread or a sandwich (and there is a machine that gives you coffee in plastic cups).

The first week was great. I am super looking forward to next week and for when I start real live Frenchie French classes. !!!

Interview with a Phobic

In lieu of an in class midterm examination, my psychology of fear requires an interview of a subject with a phobia with a six page write-up of the interview. This has been quite an interesting assignment. I have very little psychology background knowledge, so I have been doing a little bit of extra work just to make sure I fully understand the discussions we have been having in class.

Needless to say, this assignment has been quite entertaining despite the challenges. First came to find a subject with a phobia. Not a problem, I discovered a friend who was terrified of gutters to a friend deathly afraid of bees. This led to a rather fun interview, where I got to uncover the root of the fear. Next, I had to ask leading questions to develop a background of the fear. Finally, I analyzed the interview in reference to some of the crucial points of the psychologists we read in class.

This midterm is quite different then what I am used to. Regardless, I have enjoyed the challenge. This is after all what college is all about!

Go Bruins!

Spring Quarter Classes

At UCLA, we have the first two weeks of the quarter to change class times, sections or perhaps classes in general. Now that we are well into third week, schedules are finalized.

This quarter I am taking four classes.

1)      Phy Sci: Continuation of the core series for my major. This is the last class of the core series, but I will have to do the lab component in the fall. We are already ready for the first midterm on endocrinology!

2)      Honors Seminar: Psychology of Fear. I am taking this course to fulfill my honors collegiums requirement. It is taught by a practicing psychologist. It is a bit different then my normal classes, but very relatable.

3)      Biostats: This course counts as an upper division physiological science class and fulfills that statistics requirement for medical school. The professor is great, and many of the topics are very relevant to the research I do.

4)      History of Modern Europe: Upper division history course. So far, the material is similar to one of the lower division courses I took, but it is by a completely different professor. It has been interesting to hear similar information presented in a completely different manner.

Pretty broad mix, but it should be a great quarter!

Go Bruins!

Schedule Planning

Decisions. Decisions. As soon as the schedule for winter quarter classes comes out, deciding what to take and when to take a class becomes a seemingly cumbersome process. I thought, this shouldn’t take me long, I’m a third year now, shouldn’t I have limited options of what classes to take? Wrong. In fact, even now after my enrollment periods have passed, I am still debating what classes to take.

One of my majors, physiological science, is much more mapped out. There are several classes which have to be taken, and some are offered only one quarter of the year. Meaning I don’t really have an option, I need to take it. One lecture, solves the problem of when to take it. Still there’s a choice involved, which discussion should I be in?

History is much more open. The requirement is 10 upper division classes, of which I still have six to do. There are about 40 options per quarter! I love how many classes there are but it sure makes making a choice hard. Do I take one that I know I will love the subject material? Or do I need to pick one that fits better with my schedule? Good professor reviews? Final times? As you can see, lots of factors to consider. This quarter was further complicated because I plan on preparing for the MCAT. I decided to try to have my class load be a bit lighter to give myself ample time to prepare, and perhaps take an MCAT class.

Now, just to address a big UCLA myth… It is possible to get your classes! If you can’t tell from all my inner rambling, not only do you get your classes, but probably the ones with the professor and times you desire.

Go Bruins!

The horribleness that is getting your textbooks

Do not freak out. Normally, getting your textbooks for your classes is super easy. In fact, all three quarters last year began with beautifully orchestrated textbook transactions (and cheap, too!).

This quarter is different. This quarter, the books I have to buy are not only expensive, but also carry a lot of confusing baggage.

I will start off by saying that my anthropology class has two books, which I am buying from my friend, so everything is not totally bad. Next is French, which requires a book that is over $100. One would imagine that this would be an √ľber-thick textbook with a dazzling hardcover, but no, this one is a shrink-wrapped paperback that is not even a centimeter thick. The only thing I can say in its favor is that, I am pretty sure it’s the book for the next two French levels.

Really, that other stuff is not even bad. The real horror was the process of getting my psychology textbook. I’m not the type to pre-order my books from the ASUCLA bookstore even though all of my friends do and constantly tell me how easy it is. Whatever, I don’t fully understand it, and I like waiting in the long checkout line. Every quarter, I head over to Ackerman and find my books under those funny five-letter signs. This quarter, when searching for my Psych 10 material, I came across the books for the other section of Psych 10 (sometimes, one class is being offered at the same time, with different professors, to accommodate more students). The other class got to read two fun books about people going mad. I had a hefty textbook. In my head I thought, “me likey real books, no wanna have dense text.” Unfortunately, this silly internal debate over which class I would enjoy more, made me skip out on buying my textbook. I spent the next day, talking to anyone who would listen about my problem – should I try to switch sections, so that I could read about insanity from two paperbacks, or read about insanity from one hardcover? Eventually, I realized my own insanity and figured the textbook would be awesome. But, of course, the drama could not stop there. When I had gone to Ackerman the first time, I saw that my psych book was offered as an e-book, that could be accessed on the computer. This became my new dilemma- I made sure to go over every pro and con of buying the “e” version versus the real thing. Ultimately, the fact that you could do a “control F” and search the e-book, didn’t convince me that a copy I could hold in my hands, wasn’t the way to go.

So, boom. I’m set. I’ve now decided that I can get the regular book – probably used because it’s cheaper. There is no line in sight, when I get to the bookstore, and I bring my book up the first open counter. This counter turns out to be the place to rent books, not buy. I’m not in any hurry, so I chat with the cashier about the benefits of renting, mull over the details in my head, etc. Finally, I decide to rent my book, but when I try to, it appears that I am ineligible. Apparently, my tuition payment had not gone all the way through, so I had to come back the next day. The next day came and went, and I was busy at work all day, so I had no time to get my book. The next day comes and even though I had things going on in the morning, I was determined to get my book in the afternoon – especially since I had checked the course syllabus, which had assigned reading to be done by the first lecture on Thursday. So, I get to Ackerman, and it is closed. Now, I have to buy my book after my first class , read my reading in three hours, and rush off to lecture. It all will work out, just in more of a hurry than I would have liked.

I suppose that getting my textbooks hasn’t be “horrible” – especially since I created a lot of the horribleness in my head – but, it just shows that getting your books can be a sometimes anxiety-filled experience. I offer you this piece of advice: just buy your stinking book first thing, you can return until the end of Week 2, anyway.