France | An Idiot Abroad: Super Mario Go, Coin!



This past week Professor Porter took us to a very famous Lyonnais museum (Musee de Beaux Arts, which literally translates to “museum of beautiful arts”). He wanted to do our last lecture outside of the classroom and have us experience more of Lyon. The museum is an architectural master piece and composed of beautiful gardens, reliefs, and lots of marble. A former nunnery, the Museum came to be after locals raided the it during the French Revolution. The nunnery was known to have housed many artifacts and deemed too extravagant by locals for a place of God. The state eventually took control of the nunnery and overtime a museum was established. Not only are the artifacts housed in the museum a part priceless history, but so is the building and location itself. In fact, in the Hotel de Ville – Louis Pradel plaza right outside the museum, over ninety people were executed by guillotine during the revolution.

The reason why Professor Porter took us to the museum was to show us a Matisse painting that he had been researching about for the last three months. The painting depicted an art dealer with a very particular beard. Professor Porter spent two hours in front of the exhibit telling us a very convoluted, but extremely interesting, timeline of the paintings imperialist history and his theories on some of the imperialist symbology depicted in the painting. The passion Professor Porter had during this lecture was immense; it was incredibly clear that he was teaching and talking about a subject matter he genuinely cared about. His research on the Matisse painting was not commissioned by the school or an organization, but done simply out of his own interest and curiosity. Professor Porter has been one of the most enjoyable professors I had during this study abroad experience. Many of the other UC students also enjoyed Professor Porter’s class. I feel very lucky to have been taught by someone who so genuinely cares about his subject matter and I hope to meet more professors like Professor Porter in the future. As an end of the term celebration, Professor Porter has invited all of us to see a mime in a traditional Lyonnaise theater and enjoy some beers with him and the theater troupe afterwards. Honestly, what a cool guy (he literally wears a suit everyday but rides around on a scooter).


This study abroad experience has truly been holistic. Not only have I hung out and enjoyed drinks with local Lyonnais and French individuals, but I have also had the opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world. I have had the opportunity to learn about life in Germany, Turkey, Finland, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, London, and many other countries. The stories I have heard and the friendships I have made on this experience will be something that I take with me for the rest of my life and look back on with extreme fondness and nostalgia.

This past weekend the Japanese students in our French class invited us all to their apartment for a party. When we arrived we were greeted with plates of traditional family style dishes. One of the Japanese student’s mother was in Lyon visiting for a few days and she was in the kitchen Gordon Ramsey-ing it up for everyone. There was a lot of camaraderie and shared responsibility amongst all the Japanese students as everyone was doing something to help set up the party. Some were preparing drinks and others were helping in the kitchen. There was not an idle hand and everyone took part in something. We must have had 9 or 10 different dishes that night. The mother even brought some ingredients in straight from Japan. There was a seafood soup that was incredibly savory and nutritious. They prepared a kind of hash brown pancake, but it was topped with dried fish. It would take me too long to describe all the food, but needless to say it was all very delicious. My knowledge of Japanese cuisine expanded greatly after this experience as now I know more than just ramen and sushi. We played some traditional Japanese drinking games as well and it was incredibly fun seeing people from America, Finland, Germany, Turkey, and Japan all bond over food and games. One of the drinking games our Japanese friends taught us was literally called “Super Mario Go, Coin.” Essentially everyone would be in a circle and take turns saying one syllable of the phrase “Super Mario, Super Mario, Super Mario, Coin!”

The “coin” would increase after every time the phrase is said. After the first completion it would be one “coin,” second completion would be two “coin,” and so on and so forth. If someone messed up on what he or she is suppose to say then he or she would drink. These games were really fun because they seem to be designed with the intent of getting people to know each other and create bonds rather than just to get people drunk. We all had a really good time at the party and I got to learn a lot about Japanese traditions and cuisine. It is moments like these that make me really enjoy studying abroad; being able to bond with a diverse group of people over simple foods and finding that common link that bridges all cultures and divides is part of what made, and what continues to make, this study abroad experience so fun and eye opening. There are so many hidden gems within every culture, but it is not until you can embed in the culture and have authentic experiences with locals that these gems become discoverable.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017:

Australia | Orientation Week


The first week here in Brisbane, Australia can only be described in one word: brutal. The spirits of Brisbane surely wanted to provide me with the warmest welcome, hence the 90F weather the week I arrived. One would have guessed I would have adapted well to the weather, but nope – I ended up getting heat stroke the second day here (absolutely amazing and possibly record breaking, I know). Anyway, here is a little insight into UQ’s O-Week.


Prior to arriving in Australia, I received an email from the UQ International Student Office with information on the compulsory Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange Orientation. The session would take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 8am in Building 50. The day before orientation, a plethora of questions ran through my mind:

             “How many students would attend?”

            “Would I be one of the only Americans/Californians there?”

            “Would I feel intimidated, welcomed, or a mixture of both?”

The next morning, I arrived early to the lecture hall to secure a seat in the first row. When I arrived, the total number of students in the room did not exceed 20. But each passing minute introduced a new wave of eager, diverse, and nervous group of students. By the start of the first presentation, the lecture hall was overfilled with more than 300 students. The director of the office kicked off the session by asking students to cheer for their respective region/country. After cheers for Asia, Europe, South America, and Canada, the biggest roar erupted when she said “America.” More than half of the room erupted into a massive and load “WOOOO” and it was truly extraordinary (and a little painful).

After a general introduction informing us about the academic, career, and health services available on campus, a professor from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Department led us in a traditional Australian chant. Performing the chant with hundreds of students from all over the world was one of the greatest experiences and to hear the words “Welcome to UQ, this is your new home” was the ultimate cherry on top. At the conclusion of the orientation session, student ambassadors from the center divided students into little clusters for a campus wide tour. I remembered viewing the campus from the airplane, looking at how the Brisbane River provided the perfect border. I did not, however, anticipate the size – a campus filled with over 89 buildings, nine libraries (five are open 24/7 hours and are fully equipped with sleeping pods, showers, a kitchenette, and vending machines with packages meals), nine playing fields, and a lake. To say it differed from UCLA would be a major understatement. I also got to get my University of Queensland student ID, making the exchange tangibly real.

Following the tour, the Queensland University Exchange Student society (QUEST) hosted a Welcome Sausage Sizzle to end orientation day. Other than hearing the phrase “Shrimp on the barbie” in reference to Australian food, I had absolutely no idea of what an authentic meal would be. After patiently waiting in line for 15 minutes, I received a sausage placed diagonally on a single slice of white bread (yes, you read that right) topped with caramelized onions and ketchup. I initially concluded that given the size of the group, the club ran out of hotdog buns, but nope – this was it. I tasted the sausage sandwich and it was fantastic. Also, the greatest part (by far) about the Sausage Sizzle was the mini farm featuring llamas and baby pigs. SO CUTE!

Market Day

The day following the International and Exchange Student Orientation, an event known as Market Day consumed the Great Court. Market Day transformed UQ into a festival filled with stalls, giveaways, and performances. All of the clubs and societies at UQ had a booth set up and eagerly tried to encourage students to become a member of their organization. From the UQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society to the UQ Surfers, the range of clubs extended every social, departmental, cultural, and sporting interest. As I walked toward the Great Court, I felt overwhelmed by the hundreds of clubs and thousands of students there. I surveyed the major tents at the center of the Great Court because of the giveaways available. UQ Union, the largest student organization on campus, provided students with welcome totes containing school supplies, a planner, and information pamphlets outlining the host of student support services. Before moving on to the clubs, I picked up a reusable water bottle from the UQ Sustainability department and a free University of Queensland t-shirt from UQConnect.

After circling the Great Court and talking to representatives from clubs I felt interested in, I officially became a member of UQ Volunteers, the UQ Latin American Student Association (LASA), the Queensland University Exchange Student Society (QUEST), and Law Society. Here lies a major distinction between joining a club at UCLA versus joining a club at UQ. While at UCLA’s Enormous Activities Fair, a student can simply fill out an information sheet to be added to the club’s mailing list, a student at UQ must pay for their membership in a club. The price varies depending on the resources/benefits the club promises to provide to members and its overall popularity. To gain membership into the clubs listed above, I paid a total of $15 (which is equivalent to $11.50 USD). Although the idea of paying to join a club/society seemed strange, the cost ultimately is returned through club activities throughout the semester.

UQ Union’s Ignition Party

O-Week finished off on Friday night during UQ Union’s Ignition Neon Party. Held on the Forgan Smith Lawn, the party featured live acts, lots of neon paint, and free food. Tickets for the party sold for $10 and students were encouraged to purchase neon paint. Comparable to UCLA’s Bruin Bash, the festival was an equally massive success. To paint the picture for you (pun intended), you are alongside hundreds of students on a large lawn on campus, dancing to the music of up and coming artists, while getting drenched in neon paint. The paint gets everywhere– (hair, shoes, mouth, eye, etc.) and no place is safe.

Reflecting on orientation week, I can genuinely say UQ does its best at ensuring every single student feels welcomed and supported. Although I am more than seven thousand miles from UCLA, I truly feel at home here at UQ.

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017:

Spain | ¡Buen viaje!


September 2, 2017 – September 3, 2017

¡Hola compañeros! My name is Nina, and I’m here to guide you through all the nuances and memories of my study abroad experience with UCEAP’s Contemporary Spain Program at the UC Center in Madrid. 🙂

Bright and early on September 2, my parents drove me to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where my journey begins. With a final destination of Madrid, Spain, my itinerary also included stops in Boston and in Lisbon with some layovers in between. Needless to say, I had a long journey ahead of me, but I was excited nonetheless. After months of telling friends and family that I would be spending a semester abroad in Spain, the time had finally come to make the trek.

I tried really hard to fit all my clothes and shoes into a carry-on sized backpacking bag. I mean I really, really tried. But after consolidating articles of clothing and trying to pack for a month of heat (all of September) as well as three months of cold (October – December), my mom and I decided to fit the backpacking bag into a larger suitcase and check the bag instead for less hassle. Even though I would probably need to get rid of some clothes and the suitcase before my planned European backpacking trip after the end of the program, that was a problem I was willing to deal with in December.

The first thing I had to do was check into my departing flight from Seattle to Boston. I flew with JetBlue and for some reason I had not been able to check-in online the night before. They told me that, since I was travelling with an American passport and did not purchase a round-trip ticket, they needed some verification that I would depart from Spain before they checked me in. Apparently, a plane, train, or ticket for any other form of transportation showing my exit date from Spain would work, but travelling with an American passport requires that you have proof that you will not stay in the country forever.

Thankfully, I had made plans to leave Spain for Fall Break (you get one week of break!!) and showed them my plane ticket that would take me out of Madrid. I’m not sure if this is a common experience for everyone, since many of my friends had no problem checking in. However, in order to avoid the hassle, I would suggest either booking a round-trip flight or buying a ticket to leave the country prior to leaving the United States.

The flight from Seattle to Boston was around 6 hours long and was otherwise uninteresting. I had a layover of about 2 hours in Boston, which gave me enough time to grab a bite to eat before my next flight to Lisbon with TAP Portugal. Before boarding the connecting flight, an attendant checked my passport one last time and verified my final destination. Then, I was off! One flight down, two more to go!

This airplane was bigger than the domestic one, by virtue of international travel. However, there wasn’t that much space underneath the seats so I threw my school-bag in an overhead bin and was very glad that I had checked my bags for the journey. This flight also took around 6.5 hours, for a total time of 12-13 hours in the air since I left Seattle. Since this was a night flight, they fed us dinner on the plane 🙂

When I stepped off the plane in Lisbon, I had one more connection to catch straight to Madrid. However, the layover in Portugal was very short and left me with thirty minutes to go through customs before boarding started. Yes, you have to go through customs after your flight from the United States into Europe. This is the only time they check your student visa and put you through a border check. If you fly straight into Madrid, it’ll most likely happen there, but if you have a connecting flight somewhere else in Europe beforehand, be prepared for a long line to enter the country.

So…ready for a plot twist? I missed my flight from Lisbon to Madrid because of the long customs lines and short layover (nooooooooo). Even though I asked the workers at customs to let me go in an expedited line, they prioritized other flights over mine while reassuring me that there was no way I would miss the plane. By the time I passed through customs and another round of security, the gate for my flight was already closed and there was nothing they could do to get me on the original flight. When booking your flight, try to ensure at least 2 hours of layover, especially if connecting straight from the United States to Europe.

The next direct flight from Lisbon to Madrid left at night and would arrive at 9 PM instead of the 9 AM original time. Since I had plans to meet Raquel at the UC Center (also called the ACCENT Madrid Study Abroad Center) for orientation before classes, I wanted to get to Madrid as soon as possible. So, as a workaround I was rebooked for a flight with Iberia Airlines to Milan that connected straight to Madrid by 6 PM. In the meantime, they reassured me that my checked luggage would be sent straight to Madrid and I was given a 6-euro voucher to get breakfast before my next flight.

After 4 separate flights and unnecessary layovers, I landed in Madrid in one piece! Whew! When we landed, I went straight to baggage claim to look for my luggage. Surprise, surprise, it had not arrived to Madrid yet. I filed a missing baggage report with the Iberian Airlines help-desk where I gave them the address of the ACCENT Center and my e-mail address to contact me. They said that once my baggage was found, it would take 2-3 days to send it to the address I provided.

Make sure to ask what kind of policy the airline has for lost baggage. I later found out that Iberian Airlines will reimburse up to 50 euros a day for any clothes, toiletries, or other necessities you need to buy while the luggage is missing. (Update: they delivered my bag 10 days later…still waiting on the reimbursements J)

Additionally, pack an extra outfit (including underwear and socks) along with travel toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, contacts, glasses, etc.) in your carry-on in case your luggage disappears for a little bit. While you can buy what you need in Spain, it’s better to have a base set of necessities with you. Even better, try to fit everything into a carry-on bag if at all possible, especially if you have multiple layovers before your final destination. That way, you’ll be sure to have what you need as soon as you arrive.

To get to the ACCENT center, I took a taxi with a flat 30-euro rate from the airport to anywhere in Madrid. Since I arrived a week later than everyone else, Raquel and I took care of all the logistics in one go instead of over the course of two days. I also missed the walking tour of the area, but since then have done plenty of exploring on my own to get situated J

Armed with tons of pamphlets with information about homestay customs, how to save money during study abroad, a language “quick guide” with handy Spanish phrases, a map of the city, important dates, and more, I made my way to my homestay location with the metro. UCEAP provides everyone on the program with an all-expenses-paid transport card that works for metro, train, and bus within Madrid – a true lifesaver!

Naturally, with no cellular data and no sense of direction, I started walking in the completely wrong direction as soon as I exited the Metro…but 30 minutes later I was greeted with open arms by my host-mom, Pura, and fed a delicious Spanish dinner of chicken and potatoes J I guess the good thing about traveling for over 24 hours is that I completely missed jetlag and got accustomed to the 9-hour time difference between Spain and California right away!

Hopefully you gain some vital travel insights from my struggles…I know I’m definitely more prepared for next time I travel!

More stories to come soon 🙂

Hasta luego,


Nina Chikanov studied abroad in Madrid, Spain in fall 2017: