An Alternative Summer

While most students spend their summers studying abroad or going home or taking extra classes, I spent the last 5 weeks of sunshine inside a classroom, tutoring high school students on SAT prep. At first I thought I was making a sacrifice, but I quickly discovered these students were actually making much more of a sacrifice– their summer breaks were much shorter than mine (I still have over a month left of break and they’re going back to school next week!), and they still dedicated their precious time off to the SAT. My students were all low-income and they got to take this course for free. Statistically, low-income students usually score lower on the SAT, which could partly be because they do not have the money to afford SAT prep classes much like this one. Although the material on the SAT was not very fun or very interesting, I absolutely loved getting to know each of the students. They were all college-bound and each one had their own specific goal or dream they were already working toward. Many of them even hoped to apply to UCLA and loved hearing about my experiences as a current student. I loved giving them a look into how it was to be a college student, and I hope to help many of them apply to UCLA in the Fall. While these past 5 weeks would have been fun if I were abroad or watching Netflix, meeting these kids was just as enriching and fun than those things,  and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

Here’s a picture of my students and I!

Photo Credit: Jamie Campbell

 

Back in time for Senior Year

 

Well, its’s that time of year again….students have already started moving in, band camp has started, RAs are here, and the apartments are surrounded by furniture being moved in and out.

I love Fall- as a season and as a quarter.  I love that the weather starts too cool off (theoretically) and all of my friends start returning.  LA is still hot right now, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will cool down soon.  Fall is also great because, like an elementary school student, I love the start of school….but up until Saturday I didn’t know if I would make it back in time to start Fall quarter of my senior year.

If you have been watching the news, you may have heard of the flooding in Colorado.  I, along with six other Bruins, were trapped in the middle of it.  We were at my grandparents’ cabin for a fun week of hiking and exploring, but the day before we were supposed to leave a dam broke leaving us stranded without electricity, water, and phones.  We were told we could be there for 3 days.  Then a week.  Then months.  Everyone who heard we were students said we would probably be late for classes.

After three days of rationed food and low water, the US Army showed up to lift us out.  It was nothing short of a miracle.  We were such a low priority area compared to the destruction in the rest of the state that we should not have been the ones to get out.  The elderly and sick got one of the first three chinooks that came, all the while being told that everything was weather dependent.  Finally, after a few claps of thunder and some light rain a fourth helicopter came to get the 7 of us who were left.  We were airlifted to a red cross shelter in Fort Collins.

By late Saturday night, I was back in LA and in my apartment.  I was so incredibly thankful to get back for the school year.  We had expected to hike the 30 miles down the mountain in a week or wait months to be evacuated.  I’m coming into this year with a new perspective and hoping I can use this experience in someway this year.

Starstruck!

This weekend I got to cross to MAJOR things off my bucket list.  The first of which was my UCLA Bucket List and was planned…the second is my “Before I Die” Bucket List and was a complete surprise!

For those of you who have never been to the Hollywood Bowl, it is an experience! It is an entirely outdoor venue where LA Phil hold their events.  This weekend’s event was the music of John Williams played by LA Phil and conducted by the man himself- John Williams!  John Williams is a famous movie composer.  If you’ve never heard of him, maybe you have heard of his work which includes the famous Star Wars score, the Indiana Jones score, ET, Superman, Jaws, and Harry Potter.  Needless to say he is a legend!  It was awesome to hear him talk about what it’s like to work with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas throughout the years.  He even talked about his with with JJ Abrams on the new Star Wars!

As incredible as that experience was THAT was the planned event!  I bought my ticket to the Hollywood Bowl specifically to see and hear John Williams.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Hollywood Bowl and as it is my last year at UCLA I had to make it happen!  The surprise (to me anyways) was the woman narrating the event.

I had the absolute privilege of seeing the Queen of Genova at the Hollywood Bowl.  She greeted us with an elegant wave as she said “Hello, Hollywood Bowl People!”  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the narrator was Julie Andrews! I was completely speechless when I saw her name on the marquee.  Speechless.  Julie Andrews is a movie legend and has starred in so many amazing movies (The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins to name two of my favorites).  She is elegant, beautiful, and amazing!  Seeing her not only made my day, but also made my year!

Endings and Beginnings

Since being at UCLA the way I view summer has changed drastically.  When I was in grade school I anxiously waited for summer vacation because it meant more time to hang out with friends and less time spent on homework.  Now, I have mixed feelings about summer.  One one hand I love it! The weather is nice, I have no homework, and can explore LA.  On the other hand, it can be an interesting time of transition.

This is my second summer spent in LA.  While I have thoroughly enjoyed both of my summers, I always look forward to the end of the summer because it means all of my friends will be returning to UCLA.  It is at the end of summer that I will finally be reunited with my friends who went home for the summer or went overseas.  This summer I had friends in Japan, Italy, Bolivia, Hawaii, and various other locations.   During the school year we all have homework and clubs and work, but we always find ways to hang out…even if that just means studying in the same location.  We also always make sure find times for our “family dinners” when we get together and cook dinner together- some of our more ambitious meals have been jambalaya, shepherd’s pie, and bacon fried rice!  The start of the school year means the start of a new year with my friends.  Some of my favorite times at UCLA have been the few days before classes start when my friends and I can swap summer stories without the burden of school work.

Does this mean that summer is depressing and lonely? By no means!  The summer after my first year I was in Ft. Collins, CO on a trip.  After my second and third years I was in LA and enjoyed getting to know people in a different setting.  Between my friends, my friends’ friends, and subleasers in apartments both of these LA summers have been eclectic in terms of community.  I have had some wonderful adventures and made many new friends.

But summer is a transition.  At the beginning of summer I moved into a new apartment and in a week two of my roommates are moving out to start living in “the real world”.  While I am going to miss them so much, I am excited for the new beginnings that they are getting ready to face.  We celebrated the end of summer and their finding jobs last night by making homemade enchiladas and playing apples to apples…and talking about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs!

Every ending is a new beginning and I cannot wait to see what this new chapter holds.

Not so Gloomy Afterall!

In LA we may not get extreme weather, but we do experience a natural phenomenon known as “June Gloom”.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, June Gloom refers to the spring/summer cloud cover that happens most mornings in June.  This may not sound all that extreme, but the weather in the mornings looks entirely different from weather in the afternoons.  While it rarely stays cloudy for the entire day, the cloud cover reappears every morning, regardless of how clear it was the night before.  Even though it is July, we are experiencing some June Gloom residuals even now.

While June Gloom sounds terrible and…well…gloomy, it’s really not that bad!  I don’t know about you, but I hate waking up in the morning feeling sweaty.  It leaves me feeling lethargic and slow.  When it is cloudy in the mornings (and consequently cooler) I am able to enjoy my cup of coffee better.  June Gloom also makes runs a lot better!  This morning I was able to go running at 7:30am and did not feel like I was sweating buckets.  Cloud cover makes running the hilly perimeter quite enjoyable!  Last week when I talked about hiking, we experienced some June Gloom but our hike was fantastic!

All that being said, June Gloom does not get in the way of all of the fun things to do in LA (even when it persists into July)!  You can still get tan (and burned) when there is a cloud cover…so make sure you wear sun screen!  I have been to the beach four times over this last week and a half.  Each time it was cloudy and each time it cleared up by the afternoon.  This past weekend we even saw dolphins swimming within 50 feet of the shore in Santa Monica!  If I had to pick between June Gloom and swimming with dolphins, I’d pick dolphins.

Conclusion: June (Okay…July) Gloom does make for cooler weather, but that’s what happens when you live so close to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  It’s such a bummer to have to see dolphins on a cloudy day or enjoy a cool run at a reasonable time in the morning.  I guess you have to make sacrifices wherever you live, right?

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.

Summertime Travels

I love summer because there is a lot of freedom to do something exciting!  This summer I have friend on every continent (except Antarctica)!  I have tons of friends studying in France and Italy, a friend studying in Austria, a group of friends on a trip to East Asia, a friend going to Indonesia, a friend volunteering in Bolivia, some friends working in Australia, and I went to Africa!  It’s so crazy to me to thank such a small group of people are able to go so far! And that’s just my group of friends!  There are countless other UCLA students who are all around the globe right now taking classes, doing humanitarian work, back packing, working at camps, and doing a number of interesting things.

If you want to go overseas at some point, UCLA provides you with tons of options!  I cannot tell you how many emails I get each day from the English and History departments with volunteer and studying opportunities both state side and overseas.  Some of your options include:

  • Studying Abroad
  • Travel Study- where you go with a UCLA department overseas
  • Volunteering with Education based non-profits
  • Volunteering with Medically based non-profits
  • Mission trips
  • and many more!

I have loved my summers as a UCLA student!  A lot of people study abroad during the school year, but I love being at UCLA too much to miss out on even one quarter of the action here on campus.  Summer is the perfect time to start collecting stamps on your passport!  While there are always tons of students on campus either working or taking classes, summer at UCLA tends to have fewer students around a lot of summer camps and orientation groups.  When you go abroad in the summer , you don’t feel like you are missing out on the UCLA traditions.

Reasons to go abroad:

  • Learn a new language
  • Immerse yourself in a different culture
  • Do something worthwhile: volunteer!
  • Get some cool stories
  • If you like trains then going abroad is for you
  • Delicious food
  • New friends!

Going abroad changes your perspective and summer is a great time to test the international waters!

Can I go home now…?

I had planned to go home to NorCal the day after my last final, and leave for Korea the morning after to spend my first two weeks of summer vacation there. I thought I could just take a few hours the night after my last final to pack my things in my dorm and take off in the morning. Well, it did not go as smoothly as I intended it to.

First of all, I could not find a place to store my dorm stuff. The person who was supposed to hold onto my things for the summer was not able to anymore and I had to search for another person less than 24 hours before my flight. I called multiple people in my address book to ask if they had anymore space left to store a few more boxes. Not to my surprise, they already had previous arrangements to store things for other people and they did not have any more space left. I totally understood that it was definitely too late to ask for this and I should have had a backup plan. I was mad at myself.

The packing process was quite a stress. I started packing the day before my flight and I had underestimated the time. I did not know where to even begin. The amount of clothes seemed to have doubled and tripled since the time I first moved into my dorm room, and I had no idea how to fit my closet into two suitcases (which definitely seemed to have shrunk since I last saw them). The time was 10PM. At this point, whether I could go home the next day was questionable.

I was frustrated. I was frustrated that I did not have anywhere to store my stuff for the summer. I was frustrated that I did not have a backup plan. I was frustrated that I had too many clothes. I  was frustrated that I could not fit all of my stuff in my suitcases. I was frustrated that my suitcases were over the weight limit to go through the airlines. I was frustrated at the time for keep ticking.

Luckily, I eventually found someone to hold onto my stuff for the summer, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found that person. I was able to magically fit my clothes, shoes, and etc, in my suitcases, with some help from giving them away to friends and for donation. It was a stressful process, especially after a series of finals, but I did safely come home that next day.

If I learned anything from this experience, it is this:

Give yourself plenty of time, at least 2 days, to pack your stuff. Prearrange where you will store your things over the summer, and always double check BEFORE you have to leave for your flight.

I never knew anything could be so stressful.

Summer lovin’

After a stressful finals week of catching up, writing papers, and drinking coffee I am so happy to finally be on summer break! To kick off summer, my roommates and I decided to take a celebratory trip to Lake Havasu- bordering Arizona and California- for a few days to spend some time in the sun. After a five hour road trip filled with junk food, naps, and various Pandora radio stations, we finally made it there. We unloaded our car into a cabin we stayed at near the lake and immediately jumped in the water. For the rest of the trip we did not spend much time outside of the water or the sun- we road around on jet-skies and a boat and took turns getting pulled on a raft during the day and each night we came back to the cabin to cook dinner for each other, watch silly reality TV shows and compare our sunburns- all things that we aren’t usually able to do during the school year! Unfortunately, UCLA students always fill their summers up with obligations other than vacationing, so we couldn’t stay forever. Eventually we came back to Los Angeles to start exciting new jobs, internships and summer classes. I had such a great time away from LA, but I’m also so excited for the other things coming my way this summer!

Summer is upon us

It is finally here. The abstract and unknown “UCLA summer” that I have been dreaming about since fall semester in France has arrived, and I am very quickly getting deep into it. I’ve started my linguistic anthropology course (an exciting and oddly familiar way to jump back into things (academia, I’ve missed you)). And, I started giving tours again this week. I’m really looking forward to starting my RA position in July. I get to read up on Madagascar and look at the language used in the politics of its capital city. Cool stuff.

But summer is also much much more than doing cool research or taking a fun class or giving tours. I finally moved into my new apartment, which (I hope) I will begin decorating very soon in preparation for having friends over for potlucks and soirees. I’ve already went on a summer weekend trip to San Diego to watch baseball, hang out at the beach, and go jetskiing (a fantastic way to get reacquainted with American Summer). I’m meeting new friends and getting to know old ones better.

My favorite thing, though, is being on UCLA’s campus again. I have gone on a walk every day, most times twice a day, to check in with my oldest college pal. I have taken many strolls through the botanical garden and will, of course, continue to do so until I’ve touched every plant in the place. Since I’ve been gone, the garden has gotten two new succulent plots with some of the cutest miniature cacti and trees I’ve ever seen. I’m redoing all of my favorite walks and making news ones up. Lots of the construction projects that were happening my first two years at UCLA have been finished and now I can walk freely in spaces that were formerly blocked off with orange tape and chainlink fences.

This weekend I’m going to the Marina Aquatic Center to go kayaking. Today I visited a friend’s apartment. It is summertime. Finally, after having the longest vacation of my life in France, I am on my last UCLA summer break. And while I’m still transitioning over into a new normal, everything feels very hopeful and very exciting. I’m back, babe.