The Optimists: Ah Lim Lee

Have you met the UCLA Optimists? Over the next several months, the Bruin Blog will be highlighting our student Optimists. These current UCLA undergraduates will give you insight into the application process and tips, student life and culture, and what it means to be a Bruin.

IMG_3227.JPGWhen I was younger, I frequently had a hard time coming to terms with my cultural identity. I am a South Korean citizen, but I was born and raised in Indonesia due to my parents’ employment, and so I went on to attend Jakarta International School for all of my formal education. This odd mixture of being disciplined through Confucius ideologies at home but learning about Western principles at school, while immersing myself in the Indonesian culture through my everyday interactions, gave me an appreciation for my multi-faceted identity, but also created a conflict within myself. I constantly asked myself, “where do I belong?” or “with whom do I belong?”.

On the other hand, despite internal conflicts, one thing I knew for certain was that since I had grown accustomed to it, I wanted to continue my American-style education. On the other hand, coming to UCLA was a bit of an unexpected surprise. However, there was one moment when I knew that UCLA was the school for me. After receiving my acceptance offer from UCLA, I browsed through different resources on the UCLA Undergraduate Admission website to learn more about UCLA, and I came across a motto that really hit home: “WE, The Optimists”. Growing up, my parents always used to tell me that anything was possible with perseverance and hard work, that there was no barrier you could not break if you really put your heart into something. Over time, I came to take these optimistic and forward-looking words to heart as a guiding principle on how I aimed to live my everyday life. Given that, when I read those three words, I knew I wanted to be a Bruin because I had met the school that captured the spirit of who I was and who I wanted to be.

My first year at UCLA, I put aside my little identity crisis and focused mainly on integrating into UCLA campus life and culture, making new friends, and exploring Los Angeles. My first quarter I joined a Professional Pre-Law Fraternity called Kappa Alpha Pi to explore the possibility of law school. When I was in high school, I was convinced that I wanted to study international relations because of my love for Model United Nations and it made sense given the context in which I grew up. But through my involvement in Kappa Alpha Pi, where I served as the Director of Professional Activities, I was given many opportunities to connect with law students and seasoned lawyers in various fields of law which sparked my interest in a more legal than political career. To my pleasant surprise, I found not only an organization that provided me professional development opportunities in my prospective career field, but I also found a community of friends, both domestic and international, who helped me feel at welcome and at home. This made my first year a lot less daunting and lonely than it could have been for an international student 8,972 miles away from home.

Although Kappa Alpha Pi exposed me to the idea of practicing domestic law, it did not fully satisfy the side of me that still wanted to learn more about international relations. It came to my surprise when I discovered that the Political Science department offered a class in International Law (PS 123A) for undergraduate students. For those interested in international law and international relations, this class is the perfect merge between the two because the course material and readings include cases from a variety of international courts and institutions and scholarly articles by political scientists about principles and theories explaining the variation between international courts. Not only that, this class is unlike the traditional university class, which compose of large lectures and minimal participation. Professor Leslie Johns actively encourages students to participate and ask questions, which I love! In fact, usually one lecture each week is dedicated to discussing a case or an article and the whole lecture will be based on Professor Johns asking questions and students responding to the questions. This class has probably been one of the most engaging and interesting class that I have taken and it has prompted me to look for more law related classes that may be relevant to my interests and career plans.

Towards the end of my first year as a UCLA student, I stumbled upon a job opening at the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars (DCISS), which beckoned at me and appealed to my desire to connect my present to my past as an international, third culture kid. I have been working at the Dashew Center for over seven months now and to this day, I am so grateful that I came upon this opportunity because it has given me a space to share and express my identity as an international student. Just last week, I had the opportunity to serve as a panel speaker for a Colleague Training that the Dashew Center organizes every year for staff, faculty and administrators at UCLA. There, I was able to speak about my experience at UCLA as an international student and it empowered me to learn that I could use my unique story to advocate for and emphasize the value of international students in fostering global awareness and education here on campus.

I will say that it is not a walk in the park to be a student in a foreign country. Many days I miss home and my family. It is difficult only being able to see my parents once, maybe twice a year if I’m lucky, and I crave my mom’s home cooked meals, especially when I get sick. But I think what keeps me going every day is the gratitude and happiness I feel being at UCLA. I am grateful for the many and diverse people I have met and connected with, the tremendous and generous opportunities through which I was able to grow as a person, and the fact that I get to learn about the things that spark my curiosity and inspire me to work towards something. There is obviously no replacement for home, but for now, I am proud UCLA is my home away from home.

Ah Lim Lee is a Second Year originally from South Korea, but grew up and went to school in Indonesia.
She plans to graduate in three years.

The Optimists: Brad Fingard

Have you met the UCLA Optimists? Over the next several months, the Bruin Blog will be highlighting our student Optimists. These current UCLA undergraduates will give you insight into the application process and tips, student life and culture, and what it means to be a Bruin.

Brad Fingard.jpgUCLA is frequently rated one of the best public higher education institutions in the country and there are many factors contributing to this success. Yes, we do have some of the most innovative and intelligent professors in the country. Yes, we do have an ample supply of funding for research allowing faculty and students to make breakthroughs in virtually every field. Yes, we have a rich history of athletic excellence with the most NCAA Championships in the country (113, if you’re wondering). Yes, our alumni are leaders in every field imaginable and continue to support their alma mater. And yes, we do have THE BEST dining halls in the country. While all of these factors contribute to the eminence of UCLA, I personally do not believe that any of these markers are what makes us one of the best schools in the country.

I believe that what separates UCLA from other schools in the United States is our unmatched diversity. UCLA is arguably the most diverse elite institution in the country with about 29% of our undergraduate population coming from low income backgrounds. Almost a third of our students are the first in their families to go to college. In addition, UCLA is home to people of varying racial and ethnic communities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender expressions. The increasing diversity on our campus hasn’t just happened. In addition to efforts by the University of California system, the success we have achieved is due in part to student initiated, student run access and yield projects for underrepresented student populations to provide opportunity to all high school graduates. There are also dozens of student groups and organizations where you are able to discover, connect to, and explore your identities further, such as Hillel, Afrikan Student Union, Muslim Student Association, First to Go, or one of the organizations within the Queer Alliance – just to name a few!

Fortunately, UCLA administrators are also proactive in addressing the varied needs of our diverse undergraduate community. In 2015, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), led by Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang, was created to implement changes within our institution and I have had the honor of serving on the inaugural Student Advisory Board. As members of the board we have been tasked to serve as advisors to EDI, liaisons to the campus community, and problem solvers for the any number of issues facing undergraduate and graduate students. In my role, I have had the opportunity to help write a funding application for diversity related programming, which seeks to bring attention to a multitude of marginalized identities as well as encourage sustainability and collaboration. I have also been developing a training program for men aiming to critically engage male undergraduate students in sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention. Another ongoing project I have been involved in seeks to create a standardized EDI training module for all students as well as frequent follow-up trainings as allyship is an ongoing process. The work I have been able to do seems to really make a difference and it is encouraging that our administration and leadership take the student voice so seriously.

Equity is something to be pursued as too many people have been denied access to opportunities, too many people have been dealt with unjustly by society, and too many people continue to experience these hardships on a daily basis. Diversity is something to be celebrated as each of us comes from a unique background. We have all had our own experiences informed by our identities. The expression of these varied experiences may challenge others’ worldviews, but it is only through challenge that we are able to grow. My own worldview has been challenged through my experiences in the classroom and through my activities around campus.

Here at UCLA, the students, faculty, and staff community members are among the most diverse and the best and brightest, but we are all human. We constantly push ourselves to be better than we were the day before. We can always learn more, do more, and love more and that’s what we as Bruins – The Optimists – try to do on a daily basis.

Brad Fingard is a 3rd Year from Chicago, IL
majoring in Political Science with minors in Public Policy and Education.

Hello World!

Photo Credit: Project WILD UCLA


Hi everyone, I’m Cheechee, the newest contributor to the UCLA Life Blog! I am thrilled to be writing for you all and I really hope that my posts will help shed some light on the day-to-day life at UCLA. Coming here was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that this institution has bestowed upon me.

A little bit about me: I’m a first year hoping to study Communication Studies with a specialization in Computing! I truly feel that human interaction is a wondrous thing and I value the power of being able to communicate well with others. I am particularly interested in the Internet and its impact on society as well as education, and my vision is to someday bring technology to all parts of the world. In my spare time, I sing in Awechords A Cappella as well as the University Chorale and volunteer with UCLA Unicamp and Project WILD (a volunteer project that tutors kids from immigrant families). I also serve as the marketing director for World In-Sight, a mini world exposition devoted to showcasing all the diverse cultures of the student body here at UCLA (more posts to come on this soon!). Career wise, I work as the research assistant for the Center for the Digital Future, which is currently focusing on a study researching the effects of the Internet, and the UCLA English Department, where I am assisting a professor in his study on Anthony Hecht. I love music and kids, and I am thrilled that UCLA has so many student organizations that align with my interests.

I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Taipei, Taiwan when I was ten, attending local schools there. This unique life experience has blessed me with a strong proficiency in Mandarin, and though overcoming the language barrier was initially challenging, it was also life changing and gave me a much deeper understanding of my heritage. This identity has also proven to be confusing at times, as I never have the answer to “Where are you from?” or “Are you international?”. Yet I wouldn’t give up my background for the world! I am forever grateful to the unforeseen circumstances in my life that allowed me to be acquainted with my culture!

UCLA truly has been an amazing experience so far. Though I’m super involved and busy all the time, I still find the time to balance between my various extracurriculars, schoolwork, and friends. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, but I’ve discovered that it’s helped me become more efficient at various tasks. I can’t wait to see what the next three years will bring me, and I am so excited to share with you all the stories of my journey through college and beyond.

Well that’s about it for now 🙂 and I really look forward to writing for you all! Comment below, I love getting messages 😀

3 Day Weekend and Adventures!


As a friend of mine put it: “Winter is my favorite week of the year!”  Despite the cold snap we had last week, this week has been nothing but blue skies! I’ve been able to do a lot on particularly sunny weekends, and it was all so close by!  Seeing as it is only week 3, most of us Bruins had little homework and a lot of free time for adventures!

Taking the Big Blue Bus down to Santa Monica is always fun.  There you can rent bikes, go to the beach, do some shopping, or eat at some of their great restaurants!  I’ve always been a fan of Cafe Crepe!  Hiking in Malibu is another fun option where you can climb up waterfalls and explore some cool boulders!  If you’re not a serious hiker, you could always hike to the Hollywood sign which is more of a nice walk.

While I’ve done a lot of things over my weekends here in LA, one of my favorite things to do is try new places to eat!  This weekend, I got to finally try out a local gem called “Bombay Bite”! I’d never had Indian food before this weekend, but after eating some lamb korma I definitely want to try it again!

In short, there is a lot to do (and a lot that I have actually done)!  The three day weekend gave me the time to do a lot of different things, while still feeling relaxed.  Personally, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my friends between eating Indian food, going to church, making a delicious tarte tartin, and going to the movies!  I even had time to sit down and enjoy the sunset! It was the perfect weekend!  I’ve never felt more blessed to be a Bruin!

A Cold Snap

They say that stereotypes were meant to be broken….that may be true.  However, it may also be true that the stereotype of Southern Californians are not capable of handling cold weather.  The high of the past week has not been above 60.  I may be from Northern California, but I have definitely gone soft since being here.

Despite the cold, the weather has been beautiful!  The skies have been clear and the sun has been bright!  On Saturday, I got to spend my day with some middle schoolers and high schoolers.  After going through some writing exercises with them, we got to take a stroll about campus.  We must have looked a bit comical piling on our coats and hats to walk around campus at noon!  It was a beautiful day (even if it was a bit cold!) and I loved sharing my stories on campus with the prospective students.

Naturally, at night it has been quite a bit colder so I’ve had to bundle up more for outdoor events!  Fortunately, however, I’ve got a plethora of hot tea and blankets!

For any out of state readers: please don’t judge us LA folk….57 degrees might as well be 15 to us! We also tend to not have the adequate clothes for this kind of weather.  Hats, gloves, and scarves have made a much larger appearance at UCLA over the last couple days….hopefully it will warm up soon!!