More beach days in “winter!”

Since the start of winter quarter, there has only been a few “cold” ish days. So as usual, many UCLA students are still taking advantage of this beautiful weather.

One weekend me and my friend decided to take a trip to Malibu and visit Zuma Beach and Point Dume. It’s about a 30- 40 minute drive from campus, but I think it is so worth it! The beach is fairly quiet, there is more wildlife there (like dolphins and seals!), and you can climb up a short distance to the top of “point dume” where you get an amazing view of the beautiful beach.

Here’s a picture of the view from up top!

While I do hope for the weather to get cold sometime soon, these beach trips might be worth the absence of winter in Los Angeles.

Blu Jam Cafe

During the long weekend due to MLK holiday, I got to get out of the campus and enjoy a nice, relaxing Sunday brunch. To find a place to eat, I pulled out my excessively long bucket list that I had made over the winter break, and at the very top of my list was LA’s very own Blu Jam Cafe.

Blu Jam Cafe currently has two different locations: Melrose and Sherman Oaks. They originally started off with a little place in Melrose, but after seeing their success, they opened another location in Sherman Oaks between Kester and Sepulveda. Both locations are rather small, and they both have a very simple appearance. But man, their food is like no other.

Their most renowned dish is the crunchy french toast. They use thick slices of egg brioche, batter them, rolled them in corn flakes, and grill them to give a final product of crunchy outer coating and an inside that just melts in your mouth. The french toast is sprinkled with colorful berries and served with a homemade vanilla sauce on the side. The physical appearance alone is very impressive and mouth-watering. But the instant you just take a bite of that french toast, I guarantee that you’ll never want to let go of your fork and knife. I personally think that the corn flakes is the trick that makes this dish so unique and fun. It seems so simple and easy, but when it comes to great food, it doesn’t have to get all that complicated.

The place gets pretty crowded and you most likely will have to wait for about half-an-hour before being seated, but Blu Jam Cafe is definitely worth a visit. They have been voted several times as having one of the best brunch menus in LA, and they have been reviewed and complimented by numerous magazines. So take a trip to Blu Jam Cafe, and you won’t be disappointed!

Boba

I’ve been on a quest for some time now to find the best boba tea drinks in the city. Back home in the Bay Area, it had become a ritual to drink boba several times a week, so naturally I had to find a way to continue this behavior in Los Angeles.

At first I was pretty casual about finding boba. I took a few trips to Sawtelle, a restaurant-filled street near campus which holds a few boba shops. But each of these mini-outings produced so-so results. Pearl drinks in San Jose are freakishly delicious, and I was simply not getting that transcendental boba experience I was used to getting weekly at home.

I expanded my search to include boba tea places in other neighborhoods. A friend who grew up in Koreatown spoke to the quality of the boba there, so I filtered my Yelp searches appropriately. The bubble teas I came across in Ktown were certainly better, but making the trek out there on a biweekly basis was not a sustainable endeavor. I had to figure something else out.

There are always a number of groups out and about on campus selling food to raise money for whatever cause or clubs they are looking to support. Today a group called Project Wild was selling pumpkin pie and apple juice in the Court of Sciences and Hillel sells challah every Thursday on Bruin Walk. Luckily, boba is the most popular of the fundraising foods, and practically every day of the week there will be a club selling milk teas or Thai iced teas with boba somewhere on campus. And even better – these drinks come from all over Los Angeles. I asked one girl I was buying some tea from where it had originated, and she said Alhambra, a neighborhood that’s a 45-minute drive away on a day without too much traffic. Another group had bought their boba from a shop in Mid-City and another from Culver City.

With the help of these student groups, I’ve been able to consistently get my fix both for delicious pearl drinks and for LA exploration. Even though I may not be driving myself out to these boba places just yet, I still get to sample their drinks and perhaps decide which ones are worth going to. It’s almost as if the cosmos aligned, knowing I had a need for boba that couldn’t be met  by frequent 45-minute drives and then meeting that need by bringing the tea to campus.

Of course, I still try new places from time to time, but being a UCLA student has helped me realize my true potential of drinking boba to and from my classes on a regular basis. I’ve achieved my milk tea fulfillment.

Dodgers Stadium

 

Before coming to LA, I made a bucket list of things I want to do in LA that I never had a chance to do anywhere else. Recently, I crossed off one of them: watching a game at the Dodgers Stadium.

I never was a sports-watcher before coming to college. I did play/do multiple sports throughout my life, such as swimming, basketball, volleyball, ballet, and even gymnastics! But I never understood the point of watching games. The whole point of sports is to get some physical exercise off of it. If you are just sitting in front of the TV with a plate of wings and beer and just watching people play the game, you are not gaining anything except a few pounds around your waist. Well, at least that’s how I had felt about sports PRIOR to going to this game.

Going to the Dodgers Stadium changed my perspective on sports. Now I see why there are millions of people watching sports every night and I see why people are willing to pay over a hundred dollars to go watch a game.

Thanks to my boyfriend, a devout Dodgers fan, I got a chance to go to one of Dodgers games. I have to say, it was a whole lot different than what I had expected. First of all, I had no idea that stadiums were that big. I mean,,I knew they had to be big, but not THAT big. That Dodgers Stadium could fit over 55,000 people! Could you imagine how packed the parking lots were? There were so many cars there that we almost couldn’t find our way to the car after the game. Secondly, how do they keep the grass so green? It looked like every leaf of grass was grown and cut to perfection. And who would have thought there were that many varieties of hot dogs and burgers? It would take me years if I wanted to try them all.

It was definitely a good game to watch at the stadium, with Dodgers hitting multiple home-run’s and winning the game. And now that I got myself a Dodgers cap, I am now officially a Dodgers fan.

Let’s go LA Dodgers!

Exploring LA

It was a ritual freshman and sophomore year to talk about exploring Los Angeles. At the beginning of each quarter, each one of my friends and I would promise each other that we were finally ready to start taking LA discovery seriously and that we would Yelp as many restaurants and museums as we could, slowly devouring all of the city’s cultural offerings. But each quarter we would follow the same patterns of sticking around in the Westwood bubble, maybe hanging out in Santa Monica once or twice but mostly eating in the dining halls and fabricating elaborate horror stories about the public bus system to avoid having to ride it. On rare occasions I would find myself eating somewhere fun, like a Peruvian restaurant in Beverly Hills or a hotdog place in a railroad car, and my sense of self was so inflated by these types of outings that the non-exploration I was doing felt fine. I didn’t have a clue where Koreatown was during my first two years, but at least I went to a museum every other month. Having an OK knowledge of museums is sufficient in a big place like LA.

Now, though, I have a car and any excuses I used to make for myself about the difficulty of navigating bus schedules don’t make sense. The city is finally accessible, and after some time spent in a city abroad, I’ve internalized the importance of taking advantage of the cool, fun stuff that cities have to offer. Since school has started, I’ve ventured into the Angeleno landscape almost every day. Last night I went to a boba place (my fifth in the past month) and this weekend I visited the Craft and Folk Art Museum for LA’s free museum day. I’ve tried Korean barbecue in Koreatown and expensive iced mochas in Silverlake. I went to a plant nursery in Echo Park for some foliage for my apartment, and I drove over to a man’s house in Venice to pick up some Yucca trees I found on Craigslist. I’ve even started visiting downtown, which has historically been uncharted territory for me. I remember once during freshman year I made my way to Olvera Street, the Mexican street market across from Union Station. The bus commute took up most of my afternoon, effectively placing the downtown neighborhoods on a do-not-visit list. Even during summer, when I had the time to spend sitting in traffic on the 10, I still avoided venturing too far away from Westwood. But recently I’ve opened up to downtown. Last week I went to a gallery opening in Chinatown just a couple of blocks from Union Station. Two nights ago, I went with my roommate to an open mic night in Little Tokyo which is just a stone’s throw from Chinatown. I’m not only going to fun and easily accessible places, like Main Street in Santa Monica or Abbot Kinney in Venice, but now I’m also making my way downtown and beyond, past the comfortable Los Angeles that’s knowable by bus. And I’m having a lot of fun doing it. Hopefully my momentum won’t break any time soon and I can continue on my path of LA exploration. Because really, after having talked about it endlessly for three years, finally I’m doing it. I think that this really will be the quarter that I get to know Los Angeles.

Exploring the Other Side of Town

This summer I’ve been busy working in Downtown LA (the other side of town) as an intern for Teach For America. When I first realized I would be in Downtown I was both super scared and super excited. I was scared because I wasn’t used to navigating the area- Westwood definitely is not as populated and does not have as many huge buildings or one-way streets as Downtown- but I was excited to learn about this side of LA that is so close yet so far away from my college town.

One of the first things I did when I got off of work early one day was adventure to Bunker Hill with another intern and visit Tom’s bench from the movie 500 Days of Summer. This is one of my favorite movies, so I was super stoked to be sitting on the same bench that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel had sat on for the film. It was a beautiful view.

Another awesome thing about being in downtown (or LA in general) is the FOOD. Oh my gosh, the food. At first I tried to bring my own lunch to the office to save some money and to eat a little healthier, but seeing people bring these awesome plates back to the office during lunch made me super jealous and I ended up bringing money and trying a new place every day that I had my internship. There are so many awesome and hip restaurants to go to, but there are also a lot of cheap and delicious hole-in-the-wall places that are just as delicious. There’s also a farmer’s market in Pershing Square a couple of days a week that is super yummy and right across the street from my office! A few of my favorite things that I tried were a thai chicken sandwich and a maple glaze bacon donut (yes, that exists) from a diner nearby. On the last day of the internship all the interns and our managers went out for happy hour at a place called Public School where they had great deals on amazing food. Here’s their version of a hot dog (yes, there’s a hot dog somewhere in between all that food) that was only FOUR DOLLARS during their happy hour! So good.

Finally, one of the coolest things about being in downtown was actually the amount of my friends from UCLA that were also in the area for the summer! On the days before my internship I could text one of my friends that also had a summer internship nearby and we would meet up for lunch or dinner or coffee or boba and catch up. So many people I know are doing super cool things in Downtown- from fashion to accounting- UCLA students are super diverse. Here’s a picture I took when me and one of my sorority sisters met up and had a fancy dinner at Bottega Louie – a really yummy (but expensive!) and nice place that was a perfect middle-ground meeting spot between our offices.  They’re famous for their macaroons!

Although I had a great time in Downtown, I absolutely cannot wait to be back in Westwood (my move-in date is September 7th and yes I am counting down the days) to catch up with everyone I couldn’t see over the summer and prepare for the unbeatable Fall quarter with the super fun zero week, all the new freshman, and of course football games! Downtown was pretty awesome, but Westwood will always be my home and where my heart lies.

Still Transitioning?

 

I’m not quite sure how to describe being back at UCLA. I keep telling myself that I’ve long since left my transitional period and that I’m all settled in and that things are going great and that I’m getting things done and then I find myself having an existential crisis much like the ones that were so typical of my first semester in France. I’ve taken to listening to a lot of poppy self-empowerment music just to remind me to Be Good To Myself, as I often kind of forget to. Yet at the same time I’ve never felt so right. My days abroad were often spent aimlessly, riding buses just to ride buses and eating sandwiches because they were there to be eaten. Here in LA everything feels purposeful. Or at least everything is meant to. Restaurants in Lyon were elusive, and happening along a cute new coffee shop was an accomplishment that was milked over and over again (“this is the third time this week I’ve eaten a pain au chocolat at this cafe because I’ve just found this cafe and there’s pain au chocolat here”). Restaurants in Los Angeles rarely pop up on corners as you make your way about town. No, they start out on lists that you make after visiting endless Yelp pages and food blogs. Angeleno epicureans practically shout to you the various places you should be eating, and going out for food isn’t something to pass the time, it’s a race to explore the city. Eating at a new restaurant feels bizarrely productive, like I’m aptly performing my studentness and my Americanism. In fact, much of everything I do feels like that. Going on walks around campus is part of a regime that I’ve set for myself to get reacquainted with UCLA. I listen to music, I get the chills, I sigh heavily, I finish and pat myself on the back for the job well done (“wow, Charley, look at you, finding your way through campus again, right on schedule”). I’ve gone to the honors office to chat about getting credit for my special study project from second semester. I’ve turned in my notes from my anthropology class to my advisor so he can review them. I’ve decorated my room, and I’ve dutifully done all of my schoolwork for session A. And it all feels good? I mean, I suppose I am really very happy to be back, to be being productive and to be participating again in the same culture that I left behind. Purpose is good. And having so much purpose all the time feels very foreign that whenever I have a day that is markedly purpose-less (read: for fun only) I always sit up in bed that night completely surprised at how much fun I had despite not having finished all my readings or not having left Westwood in my never-ending conquest of California’s largest city. France was hyper unproductive, empirically speaking. I didn’t even gain any weight despite the sharp uptick in my caloric intake. But France was also the most in touch I’ve ever been with myself without the distractions of to-do lists or assignments or idealized visions of senior year. And so I’ve been working on keeping that sincerity, keeping up with my contentedness and my feels and me despite now also keeping up with a packed work schedule and regular outings in Santa Monica and biweekly parties and apartment decorating.

Being back at UCLA, my life has direction again. I’m no longer on an extended vacation. My days are there to be used. Now I’m just figuring out how to achieve the same excitedness for living that I had when there was nothing there telling me that being alive was exciting. I’m well on my way, so be expecting some posts that are more about the living I’m actually doing here at school and less about whatever funny post-abroad feelings that go along with them. I could be wrong, but after having spent a full session here I think I may finally be done transitioning back into normal, beautiful, UCLA life.

Internship Opportunities and Class Credit

While the classes I have taken on campus at UCLA have been incredibly valuable, one of the best experiences I have had is my internship class at a local elementary school. My goal is ultimately to become a teacher and having the chance to intern at an elementary for class credit has been absolutely amazing. Getting hands on experience in the classroom is one of the best ways to really get a feel for the teaching profession. The school is super close by and a bus ride only takes a short fifteen minutes. This has seriously been a life changing experience and inspired me to apply for Teach for America!

As a college student, organizing your schedule to fit internships can be challenging but UCLA has many opportunities that allow you to receive units for the internship. These off campus opportunities often involve a community experience mixed with relevant coursework. For example, on top of my hours spent at the elementary school I meet with a coordinator for reflection. I also complete readings and written responses. The academic mixed with hands-on experience is an awesome way to approach career interests.

My focus has been on internships involving teaching, but there are many other opportunities for other interests. For example, my roommate who is a science major gets unit credit for the research she does. Another program focuses on civic engagement and sets students up with internships with nonprofits or government work. Los Angeles is a prime location for finding internship opportunities because so many different industries are located in the area. There are chances to get involved in medicine, business, teaching, and many others as well. College is all about finding out your true passions and internships are an awesome way to help students figure this out.

Back to L.A.

By the time that you read this, I will be back in Los Angeles. It is the night before I make a sort-of-a-surprise trip down to L.A. to see my friends and see my campus who I haven’t seen for a very long time. And it’s more or less overwhelming. I spent much of my first semester dreaming about seeing UCLA again. I would take walks through south campus in my head during archaeology class. I would imagine tasting the first, hot bite of a Cafe 1919 pizette when I was hungry. If I was feeling especially fragile, I would look up UCLA’s campus on Google Maps and sit on street view, gazing at Royce Hall while my eyes got fuzzier and fuzzier.

But I haven’t felt like that in a long, long while. Sure, there was a time that going back was all I wished for. Food was better back home, memories were better, the earth was prettier. But second semester wasn’t like that. Walking around Lyon felt like walking in a giant house, everything was comfy like being indoors. I missed UCLA, sure, and my friends of course, but I was thriving without them. My mind had replaced the bricks of north campus with the intricate rooftops of France. My heart found the Red Bridge on the Soane and allowed it to take the botanical garden’s place, if only for those few months.

And so now it is the night before I get on a plane that will drop me in LAX in the hottest weather I will have experienced in over nine months. And I will hop onto the blue Flyaway bus and make my way to Westwood, which I’m sure will seem as strange to me as France did when I first arrived. I mean, of course I expect to be overcome by happiness the moment on walk on campus and see the neuroscience building towering proudly above me. And I know that I will swoon at my first stop by the south campus student center. I’ll be taking every one of my favorite walks, and I will, I know, be absolutely adoring it. But if the “reverse culture shock” that I encounter when I get down there is anything like what I experienced coming home to the Bay Area, I also have to be prepared for the inevitable alienation that will happen when I am about to face.

They always talked about coming back and being blown away by how the familiarity seems so foreign, but before you experience it firsthand, there is no way of knowing exactly what it feels like. I wait in a confusing and surreal anticipation for my reunion with the place that I have missed and loved and not been to for the past nine months. I hope everything turns out OK, even though I know it will. And it will, especially after my mind is able to grab hold of those lovely north campus bricks. It won’t be until I’m there that I know I am back.

Giving Back to Los Angeles

One of the most rewarding parts of my UCLA experience has been my involvement with Peer Health Exchange. Peer Health Exchange is a national organization dedicated to teaching 9th graders important and relevant health workshops. The topics range from drugs and alcohol, pregnancy prevention, mental health, nutrition, and many more. As a member of Peer Health Exchange I get the opportunity to teach a workshop once a week to students in the Los Angeles area. Teaching is my ultimate career goal and Peer Health Exchange has allowed me to get hands on experience in classrooms on a regular basis. I absolutely love being in the classroom and feeling like I am actually making an impact on the community.

UCLA has over 800 clubs which makes it super easy to find an organization that connect to your personal interests and goals. Peer Health Exchange not only offers me the chance to improve my teaching skills but also to assist students in learning pertinent health information. Another awesome part of PHE is the ability to see all different parts of Los Angeles. The schools we teach in are all over LA. PHE is definitely not the only club that allows students the chance to engage with the community outside of Westwood. Project Literacy goes to underprivileged communities and tutors students, the debate team which travel to competitions, and many others that do work in the surrounding communities. Community outreach is a major part of Bruin life that allows students to gain hands on experience while also serving those in need.  I had always thought teaching was the path for me, but after being in the classroom so often it completely solidified my choice. College is the time to explore options and truly figure out who you are and what you want to do. UCLA offers endless opportunities to investigate career paths and options for their students.