Bruin in London

Piccadily Circus at Night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Four weeks into my study abroad experience via UC EAP at the London School of Economics, I have barely had time to write— London is constantly buzzing with things to do! I can’t even believe that I have midterms next week and finals the week after… this has definitely been one of the most exhilarating experiences thus far in college.

So first off, I’d like to chronicle my experiences in the fantastic city by location, rather than time. More to come later!

 

The London School of Economics

This school is one of the leading institutes in the world for economics and the social sciences. I’ve chosen to take two electives here: MG101 (Marketing) and MG133 (Management). These two courses have offered me a chance to get a glimpse of the theories behind strategic marketing and management tactics in the business world. Each course is structured with daily three hour lectures and one hour seminars (much like discussions at UCLA). I’ve had plenty of opportunities to interact with my classmates from all over the world and grow in the process. The fact that approximately a third of my classmates have real world experience working in major companies has further created opportunities to hear about what the adult life is like! These courses have definitely been intensive but definitely manageable, as I have had plenty of time to explore London in my time off! The school itself has a very different vibe from UCLA as it is not so much a college with a town but rather a big city that has a school planted right in the heart of the city. This has allowed me to fully integrate myself into the life here and experience “the true London”.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace—-Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Buckingham Palace is magnificent. It’s located near Victoria Station, only a short bus ride from the school. On our day off, a fellow Bruin and I traveled over to watch the changing of the guards, unfortunately, we picked the wrong spot to stake out and thus only saw the entry and exit of the guards. Yet it was still quite a sight to see as guards dressed in royal red and black outfits marched by and policemen galloped by on magnificent stallions. We also paid a couple of pounds to get an in depth tour of the state rooms, which were displaying the Royal Childhood Exhibition at the time. The splendor of the palace cannot be described… unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside the palace so I have attached a photo of the statue outside just to give you all a taste of the grandeur!

Musicals: Wicked and Mamma Mia

London has a vibrant arts culture. Every corner of each major street probably has a ticket stand selling tickets to various musicals in London, which run six to seven days a week. I was fortunate enough to see Wicked and Mamma Mia here! I was quite impressed with Wicked. The vocals were incredibly powerful and the storyline contained all the components of humor, romance, and friendship. It was definitely worth it! The stage itself was also a magnificent work of art: a dragon leered over the top of the stage and large stage props were automated so that they rolled in by themselves during transitions. I liked the twist the story put on the original story of the Wizard of Oz. For those who haven’t seen the musical yet, I definitely encourage you all to try it!

Covent Garden, Piccadily Circus & Oxford Street

Bruins in London!— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

These three places are probably London’s premier shopping destinations. Granted, London does have fashionable shops everywhere, but these three attract large crowds on a daily basis! Piccadily Circus even had a “Street Musician Month” where they completely closed off the length of the road from Piccadily to Oxford Circus and invited artists to perform and sing. It was quite a sight!

London Eye, Big Ben

Thames River at night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Of course my visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the most popular attractions here! I didn’t get to actually go on the London Eye, but even from afar the ferris wheel was majestic. Big Ben was quite on time. You can hear the chimes at the top of each hour from afar (even from my building!). One night, two other fellow bruins and I decided to climb the bridge looking over the Thames River in the dead of the night and the sight was so beautiful.

Oxford University

A friend and I took a 1.5 hr bus to take a tour of this top institution on a random weekend! Though we didn’t actually get to set foot in many of the colleges, the architecture from outside was still amazing. (Think Royce Hall meets Powell times infinity).

 

Well that’s a quick summary of a couple of the places I’ve been thus far in London! I’m so incredibly grateful to my parents and UCEAP for providing an opportunity for me to study in one of the greatest city in the world. I’m enjoying my time here and am quite sad that I only have two weeks left. London, you have truly taken my breath away with your fantabulous architecture and fast-paced lifestyle and men in suits. Now for midterms and finals…

Shoutouts to any Bruins abroad/ from abroad right now! Let me know where you’re from in the comments below. 🙂

 

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 🙂

  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!

Self-study Abroad

I am done with school. More or less. I am still working on a research project I’m doing through my program, but all the other classes are totally terminé. I have now spent eight months in France doing lots of eating, a solid bit of traveling, and next to no schoolwork. This is, of course, not to say that I did not have any “study” in my study abroad experience, but I think that the name generally leads people to believe that us study abroaders are doing most of our learning in the classroom (which is just absolutely not the case). Sure, there are people who do enjoy and benefit from their classes. I even use the knowledge I gained during my French linguistics class on a biweekly basis. But one’s time in a foreign country features quite a bit more self-study and reflection. Without the handy extracurriculars of home campus and the quarterly events like Spring Sing, study abroad students are allowed a lot of time to sit and ponder their humanity. I think that during the first semester, I averaged around three existential crises a day. Last October, I watched more TV than I have ever watched in a single month, and I began to worry my host mom with all of the conversations I had aloud with myself. By second semester, first semester’s long and often bizarre road to self-discovery led me to a sunny patch where I could thoroughly enjoy the country I was living in because I was so thoroughly enjoying being myself. Sure, I enjoyed me back in LA, but how could I not when I spent my days strolling through the botanical gardens? Spending a semester in France showed me who I was when I didn’t have the luxury of weekly treks through the palm court of Bunche or delicious lunches from Cafe 1919.

And like I said, second semester was really one giant, comfy, sunny patch. Never has there been a period of time where I have found so much pleasure in eating food or starting new fun habits. The doodling I was doing in my school notebooks became increasingly stunning. Larger scenes, more detail, feeling! With my friends, too, I had become so happy, so satisfied. Everyone I talked to had something to teach me. I was hardly in a classroom, and, in fact, my courses were anything but intellectual (remember my puppeteering class?), yet day by day I could feel myself becoming more and more in tune with my academic interests. I was living in a party, one that was filled with beautiful, yummy, informative things.

And I suppose that’s what study abroad is. It isn’t about learning a foreign language or taking classes in another university system. It isn’t about getting to know a foreign culture or meeting the locals. It’s about meeting you, getting to know your own culture. It’s about having talks in your head, becoming fluent in your own voice. And it took me a while to see that and understand that, but now I know that what I learned about myself this year abroad was something I could not have found in a classroom back at UCLA.

It took me leaving to know exactly why I am more excited than ever to go back. So here I come, senior year. I know I will love you as much as I love me.

UCLA in España

 

I finally finished up my travels this past weekend with a trip to visit friends who are studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. After trekking around Paris, London, and Luxembourg, my friend Sasha and I had a few days of rest before hopping on a tiny plane that took us across the border into the land of tapas and sangria. We were lucky enough to be visiting Madrid at the same time as another American who is studying in Lyon, too, so the three of us had a nice plane ride and she helped us figure out Madrid’s metro system after our flight got in.

On Thursday night when we arrived, we met up with Sasha’s sophomore year roommate who took us out for our first taste of Spanish food – cheese, bread, potatoes, and lots and lots of ham. The night continued with more food, some delicious tinto de verano (which was kind of like a carbonated sangria), and meeting some of the other UCers in the Madrid program. It was too fun; I met some from Santa Barbara, Davis, and a handful from UCLA. At this point, my friend Michelle was able to meet up with the group. Michelle is one of my coworkers in the campus tours program, and it was great to reminisce and look forward to seeing the other guides after our programs finish.

Friday and Saturday were spent with Sasha’s cousin who lives in Spain with his wife. He toured us around the Spanish countryside and took us to two small towns (one of which has a castle that helped inspire Disney’s Cinderlla castle). We ate magnificent (and very meaty) meals of pork, leg of lamb, and fish. We even got to eat in an old monastery that served food traditionally eaten by the Spanish monks. Genial.

It was nice to see some of Spain outside its capital city, but Sunday we got to spend the entire day just exploring Madrid. Our UCLA buddies took us to Madrid’s huge Sunday market, we stopped by the arboretum in the Atocha railroad station, we rowboated in the huge park, and we finished up our day by sharing a pitcher of the tastiest sangria. Sasha and I weren’t quite ready to head back to our hostel even though our friends had to go the homestays for dinner, so we went to another restaurant for more tinto de verano and tapas and grabbed some churros con chocolate for dessert. Still not ready to call it a night, Sasha and I wandered into a cave-bar (this place was the definition of hole-in-the-wall (if that hole leads you underground)). We were one of the only ones there along with a group of students, a very much in love Spanish couple, and a man who played piano. It was the perfect end to a very perfect trip, sipping (even more) sangria, listening to piano in a cave, and being very very grateful for study abroad.

I won’t be going on another big trip until December when a good friend from UCLA visits, so until then, bon repos!

Toussaint

Ahhhh, I have just gotten back from a ten-day trip to Paris, London, and Luxembourg. I know I’ve written a little bit about traveling around before, but this was my first big trip outside of France. And it was a blast.

The week break came in the middle of the semester and was for a holiday called “Touissant.” It seems that not all French universities got the full week off, but I guess I got lucky with my school! Lots of students (both Californian and French) decided to take mini-vacations. I went on mine with  a friend who goes to UCLA but who I met here in France, and we had an absolutely marvelous time. I hadn’t been to Paris yet, and going with my friend was great because she lived there in high school so she got to show me around her old stomping grounds. Normally when I go to big cities I end up doing a ton of touristy stuff without ever getting to ~experience~ the city as a local. Not this trip! I felt like I was surrounded by locals the entire time. We went to museums I hadn’t heard of and to neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed (French class at UCLA only tells you so much about Paris). We ate ice cream even though it was in the forties and walked along the city’s prettiest bridges. And I am pretty sure I spent as much time in the Tuileries as I do in the botanical gardens back at UCLA.

Up next was London. I have never been to London before, and this time we didn’t really have an experienced tour guide. We saw a lot of the sights – Big Ben, the classic phonebooths, Buckingham palace (which was less impressive than I thought it would be), and we also got to ride around in the big double-decker buses. We also met up with a girl my friend knew from UCLA, which was too fun. I always get a kick out of meeting Bruins especially if it’s halfway across the world. I ate a lot of yummy food in London (my two favorites – the Indian food and the English breakfast) and had a fab time riding the tube. Leaving was sad, but I know that next semester I will be making a week-long trek out to London. No worries.

Luxembourg was last, and it was absolutely charming. We were only there for one full day, but we took a lovely hike around in the woods and explored the village where we stayed. It only had about 400 inhabitants and the only business in the town (besides the hostel) was a pizzeria where we had to order our food with broken French and hand signals (they speak a lot of different languages in Luxembourg, unfortunately French wasn’t one that our waitress really knew).

It was a great time! And this coming weekend I look forward to heading off to Madrid to see some UCLA friends studying there. Bon voyage.

A potluck with the host families

This week there was a potluck get-together with all of the host families from my program. Studying in France with EAP, you have the option to live in a homestay with a “famille d’accueil” (or in English, a host family). A host family is there to help you practice your French and to acclimate you to your surroundings in a foreign country. The first weekend I was here, my host mom helped me get my metro pass and also drove me around Lyon to get me acquainted to the city. Homestays are great because you learn so much about French culture (and you get to eat a home-cooked meal every night).

Most of the students in homestays hear tons of stories about each other’s host families, so having a potluck was a great way to meet everyone’s host parents. Every family brought a plate of finger foods, so we got to nibble on things as we practiced our French.

I got to meet my friend’s host mom, which was super cool. She’s a neurological doctor, and she owns her own practice. She does paintings in her free time (some of which I’ve seen when I went over to my friend’s house for lunch). We also discussed our mutual love for comedies and her love for classical music (I can do Mozart from time to time, but I wouldn’t say I love it).

Besides chatting up host families, we were lucky enough to be joined by a few professors and the director of our program. It’s always fun to be able to talk to French adults in low pressure situations – talking to teachers after class can be challenging! I’ve mangled many sentences asking about when homework is due or how long a paper has to be. It was nice just to chat.

Now that I have met all of my friends’ host families, I can start coming over to everybody’s houses more often! It’s way too fun to look at French houses, and I would love to get to know other families better. Homestays are cool – I’ll be sad to leave mine at the end of the semester. But I’m sure I’ll come back for visits and hopefully there will be more soirees like the potluck.

Choosing Classes (Part 2)

 

 

When I last talked about shopping for classes, I still hadn’t nailed down all of my choices. It took a few weeks (I would say two and a half in total), but I finally decided on the classes I’ll be taking this semester. Like I said in my last post, picking classes in France as a foreign student is a whole lot different than getting your classes at UCLA.

I started by picking a handful of classes that looked interesting and went to those for the first two weeks. After attending each class and getting a taste for its format, I picked four that I liked the best and that could give me credit for my major and minor when I got back to school. This semester I’m taking an archaeology class, a sexuality class, one on French linguistics, and finally that geography class in English (I needed a fun one to keep me grounded). My archaeology will (hopefully) count for my anthropology major and linguistics will count for my French minor as will my sexuality class (which I am stoked about – I get to take a sex and gender class for French credit!).

Once I decided on the classes I was taking, I needed to have all of my professors sign two different papers (one set for my EAP advisers and one for the University of Lyon). On the papers, I had to record the classes registration number, if it was a lecture or discussion, the time, and finally a description of the course. Luckily, a few of the classes I chose have been taken previously by EAP students, so I didn’t need to make a new description, and when I did have to do one it was a fun exercise in practicing my official-sounding writing.

I had to turn in one set to the main office for foreign student affairs (which took me a long time because my penmanship is unreadable, and I copied down like all of my class codes wrong), and I turned in the other set into my EAP advisers. A couple of weeks later, I had a meeting with my advisers where we went over all of my choices, if I am getting credit, how I’m liking things, all of that good stuff. They also asked me if I wanted to stay another semester, which I said I did and all I had to do was sign a couple papers and boom I am officially here for the year.

Even though it was a little weird to choose my classes by just going to them instead of relying on reviews from friends or knowing I needed them for a pre-req, it was a fun experience. And I’m glad I got to meet all of my professors by going up to them to ask for a signature. Now I know how things work for next semester, so it should be a little less confusing (and I know to pay close attention when copying down class codes). But hurrah! I am a legitimate student now.

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:

Geneva

Last weekend I went on yet another day trip – this time to Geneva. Weekends in LA are spent going to LACMA and eating Chipotle in Westwood. Over in France all I ever do is hop on trains and eat fancy food is European cities.

Like most of my day trips, this one was planned at the last minute. My friend Sasha and I wanted to do something with our Friday (no school on Fridays, yippee!), and we decided that leaving the country was the best idea. Tickets were actually not very expensive at all, which made me happy because spending less money on a day trip is always a nice thing. But the money luck stopped with the train ride because apparently Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Nobody told me. I didn’t even think to pack a lunch, so I ended spending around $24 on a plate of orange chicken and rice (which on the plus side made me feel like a swanky businessperson). Geneva’s priciness did, however, have the lovely side effect of making it one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in. Lake Geneva looked fun to swim in, which isn’t really the case for Lyon’s greenish rivers.  The buildings were all tall with pretty roofs, and the stores all had signs with some seriously fancy font. I loved it.

We spent most of the day taking a long walk through Geneva’s cobblestone streets. We stopped for coffee at a tea shop that was immaculately decorated (probably by the same person who did all the landscape design for Alice in Wonderland), and we always took breaks at the city’s many drinking fountains (which are, in fact, actual fountains that spray potable water). Geneva is also home to the Jet d’Eau, a giant jet of water that shoots straight up into the air. It was almost too much. But then again seeing that much airborne water at once was very cool.

We finished up the day with a trip to the UN (we only got to see the outside because we missed the last tour by three minutes), and a visit to Geneva’s museum of ceramics and glasswork. I absolutely loved the museum – there was a special exhibit on Langenthal, a company that has made tons and tons of teacups. All very pretty.

After that we grabbed dinner (which was thankfully slightly less expensive than lunch) and then got back on our train. I’ve done a lot of traveling recently, so I will glad to rest at home a bit this weekend. But I do have a week off from school coming up soon, so be prepared for my traveling stories in a few weeks!

Wine tasting with EAP

The Education Abroad Program is great for a number of reasons. All of the classes you take abroad count for units when you get back to your UC, the cost of tuition is about the same, you get to meet other California kids, and (in my case) your program includes a free day in the French countryside for you to drink wine and bake your own bread.

Last weekend, I was bused with fifty other UCers to Beaujolais, a wine-producing region of France. Beaujolais was beautiful with all of its vineyards and hills and non-rainy skies (we escaped a drizzly Lyon that day). After an hour-and-a-half bus rude, we arrived at a small winery owned and operated by a lovely, smiley, brunette French couple. We de-bused and headed straight into an underground cave named after the owner’s grandmother. We all sat in wooden chairs while we were given a lesson in wine tasting. Tasting, we learned, was really only a small part of the experience. First you have to smell the wine about seven different ways, taking short, swift sniffs and twirling your glass to “release the wine’s scent” or really just to look sophisticated. You also have to tilt your glass so you can see the wine’s “true color,” which in our case was ruby – we were tasting a red. Finally we were all able to have sips – very delicious – and munch on some rosemary bread.

After the tasting, we left the grandmother cave and sat in a charming dining room for our lunch, a lunch that lasted two and a half hours and consisted of course upon course of foods grown nearby and wine made in the room next door. We were given cloth napkins, which was kind of a shame because I had to wrap up my leftover cheese in an advertisement flyer I found on the back table instead of a nice paper napkin.

Immediately following lunch we were brought out to the bread-making area where the couple taught us how to properly cut and place bread into a stone oven for baking. We all watched in awe as they worked together to load up the long-handled spatula and thrust the bread deep into the oven. We then were told a little bit about the bread-making and baking process, why it’s good to have a humid oven, why you need to cut slits in the tops of loaves, etc etc. After all of the bread was baked up, each of us got to take home a piping-hot hunk of bread (which many of us burnt our fingers on).

The day finished with a quick tour of the fermentation room and a walk in the vineyards. The day in Beaujolais was absolutely marvelous. I feel very lucky that I’m in a program that gets to do stuff like this. Our next EAP outing is a Frenchified Thanksgiving dinner at the end of November. I can’t wait!