Thailand | Thammasat University


With midterms approaching soon, I wanted to focus more on my experiences with Thammasat University. Thammasat has two main campuses, but the international campus is called Tha Prachan, where almost all the international students attend. The campus is not too large and is located near the Grand Palace, which is about 5 miles away from the city center. It takes a little under an hour to commute to downtown Bangkok.
Thammasat has one main library and other libraries within each department. There is free printing and access to wifi throughout the campus. Classrooms are quite small, which is a large contrast from most classes at UCLA. My classes typically range from 15-30 students. Each professor has his or her own teaching style, but I find the pace of the semester system here to be slower than the quarter system at UCLA. Classes are taught in English and a large amount of professors are international professors who are experts in their field of study.
My political science and Thai language courses mainly focus on one midterm, several quizzes, a presentation, and a final. For midterms and finals week, students have the entire week off of classes depending on their department. Thammasat University has a lot more holidays than what we have at UCLA. These holidays, such as University Games and the Songkran Festival, are usually week-long breaks. This makes traveling much easier. This past break, I was able to visit Myanmar just before my midterms week. Below are some pictures from my trip.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017:

France | A Somewhat Comprehensive Comparison



After having spent nearly 3 months in France, I have gotten a pretty good handle on the sequences of French living and can clearly see and feel salient differences between the land of Francois and Donald.

I have talked about the French education system before. However, after three months, I have had a chance to experience all my classes and establish a more thorough and informed opinion. I am currently taking six classes this semester: five political science classes and one French language and culture class. Two of these classes do not last the whole semester and only run for six weeks at four hours per week. Only four of my classes actually run the length of the semester. I do not know if it is just because we are international students, but the classes also all end at different times; some end a week earlier and some 2 weeks later. The class sizes are also are very small. With the exception of the BREXIT class, every other single class is never more than about twenty students. One of the most forward differences between classes in Lyon and in the US are the final exams. Besides not really assigning any homework or readings, professors tend to ask students their opinion on the final exam and some will even make amendments to the exam depending on popular opinion. My finals for all my classes range from presentations to short in class essay and short take home papers. There is even one class that let us come up with our essay question for the final. The latitude in these classes is both good and bad.

While the relatively low workload allows many of us to travel more easily, the lack of work and structure at times detract from the education and sometimes I feel that there is more we could have learned. However, this is my first time in Europe and I am traveling all over the place so I really have no complaints.

In the states we are all use to bigger college campus that resemble small towns more than institutions. However, in Lyon, many of the universities and grade schools are just one building and not really campuses. There are not really dedicated places for students to eat (at least for those who brought their own food), there is no public gym, and the libraries are relatively small. However, these schools have much less students than the typical UC, so the infrastructure does not need to be as big. The university is also very integrated into the city. Instead of hanging around on “campus” after classes, students just wander into the city and lounge around in coffeeshops and small restaurants. This is a pretty good phenomenon as there are plenty of student friendly establishments that offer some great deals. There is a burger place that offers killer deals on Mondays and Thursdays where you can deluxe customized burgers for four euros.

Speaking of euros; living in Lyon is comparable to the US. Food, that is not fast food or kebabs, run around 12-14 euros a person. The portion sizes are very small and hardly filling. More authentic Lyonnais restaurants or “Bouchon” run upwards of 30 euros per person. Fruits and vegetables are more expensive than in the states and there is less variety. The thing that makes living in Lyon more expensive than the states is the inconvenience of making your own food. Living in a host family is nice, but only breakfast and dinner are provided and only during the weekdays. This leaves 11 meals that we have to figure out on our own. Most of the time we resort to eating out simply because it’s difficult to cook in our host families’ homes. For me personally, the time I get home is also usually around the time my host mom is cooking dinner and I do not want to be a bother and take up space in the kitchen cooking my own food for tomorrow. However, if you really wanted to, it is possible to cook your own meals. It is definitely not as easy as when living on your own or with your personal family. The inconvenience and low key awkwardness of cooking your personal food in someone else’s home helps induce a laziness to not make your own food.

The cars in Lyon are a lot smaller than those in the US, and so are the roads. People tend to kind of just weave through traffic and its hard to decipher whether traffic signs are actual legal signage or merely suggestions. Last weekend we took a ride in a BlaBlaCar (ride sharing service in France) and many drivers on the freeways were essentially tailgating each other and no one really signaled until the moment right before he or she changed lanes. The lanes are also very narrow and when you pass another car you get a real good look at the other drivers. My girlfriend and I are contemplating renting a car this weekend to explore the countryside surround Lyon. However, given the countless one way streets, turnarounds, and obscure traffic signs, I am a little hesitant as crashing a French car sounds incredibly unpleasant and I would really not like to get in any arguments with French drivers…I hear three day old baguettes hurt.

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

Australia | Mini Getaway to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary


A Little Recap

Hello friends! In case you missed the latest weather report, Cyclone Debbie hit northern Queensland this past week. TC Debbie made landfall approximately 800 miles north of Brisbane in Airline Beach as a category 4 storm on March 28th. Although the storm weakened, ex-TC Debbie caused significant damage to South East Queensland and north New South Wales. On March 30th, I received a text alert warning of severe weather in Brisbane and a message from the UQ Chancellor cancelling all classes for the day. Given the distance from the origin of the storm and Brisbane, I foolishly thought the precautions were a little exaggerated. But boy, I WAS WRONG. From 6am to approximately 11pm, Brisbane was consumed by 9 inches of rain, flash floods, and destructive wind gusts up to 62 mph. Luckily, no significant damage was reported in Brisbane and March 31st brought a new, safer day. To say this was something I had never experienced before would be an understatement and it definitely adds to a long list of memories I will keep of my time abroad.

Mini Getaway

It is currently Week 5 at UQ, otherwise known as the week where classes start getting harder because you have (almost) reached the half way point in the semester. To get rid of stress, I took a one-day trip with friends from the UQ Latin American Society to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland. If you take the bus from UQ to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the stop will leave you right in front of the entrance (the ride costs $1.28 and is approximately 43 minutes). At the entrance, I showed the clerk my UQ student ID to purchase an entry ticket at the student/concession price. A major note to anyone studying in Brisbane: you can receive a student discount on almost everything by showing your student ID – this applies to sporting events, theatres, museums, and amusement parks to name a few. Take advantage of this to save a few extra $ when exploring!

As I entered the park, I could not contain my excitement. At every corner, large enclosures contained heaps of Australia’s native marsupial: the koala! I had visited zoos before, but I had never seen a koala in real life, let alone one inches away from me. Most of the koalas were either fast asleep, eating eucalyptus leaves, or moving leisurely from branch to branch. A sign next to the enclosure read “Take a photo with a koala, today!” and I was more than ready for the opportunity as it was one of my biggest Australian dreams. While in line to purchase a voucher to take a picture with a koala, a kind local gave me a free pass (further convincing me that Australians are the kindest people on the planet).

After waiting for approximately 12 minutes in line, I got to hold my new best friend Guppy. The handler instructed me to cup my hands in front of me and remain still before casually placing Guppy on me. He felt soft, light, and had a distinct smell of mint (so strange, I know). Although the encounter lasted less than three minutes, it truly was one of the greatest moments of my life. Before moving on to the other animal enclosures, I collected my photo souvenir from the “Wall of Fame” among the likes of Nicki Minaj, Serena Williams, and President Ronald Reagan.

Next to the koala encounter was the Kangaroo Reserve – a large park filled with free-range kangaroos, wallabies, and ostriches. I purchase a small bag of kangaroo food for $2 from the convenience store and nervously entered the area. With each step, I noticed how massive the reserve was. Kangaroos were all over the field, either hopping freely from tree to tree or laying down, waiting for the next visitor to offer food or a nice rub. I anxiously approached a female kangaroo (noticing her enlarged pouch), stuck out a handful of food, and waited for her to react. As the kangaroo came to me and ate food from my hand, I turned to my friend with my jaw dropped. While I had seen kangaroos before in zoos, I had never been this close to one nor had I had the opportunity to feed one. The gums of the kangaroo (who I nicknamed Sophie) tickled my hand as she ate and I could not help but laugh uncontrollably. As Sophie ate, I extended my spare arm and brushed her fur (way smoother than I expected). One of the wildest things that happened while I fed Sophie was witnessing a kangaroo fight. Not only was seeing two male kangaroos stand up and position themselves like boxers utterly amazing, but I heard them bark. There is no exaggeration when I say these kangaroos barked exactly like dogs.

After running out of food to feed the kangaroos, the group explored the platypus, Tasmanian devil, and dingo exhibits. To end the night, the group opted to take advantage of the sanctuary’s free entertainment night. Finding Dory was shown on the picnic area and a food truck market was in full force in the parking lot. From German to Italian food, the options were endless. Although the trip lasted a few hours, I loved getting to check holding a koala and feeding a kangaroo off my bucket list!

The 411

Although it has been over a month since arriving in Australia, I am still getting used to the lingo. Here is your everyday guide into Australian slang:

Aboriginal = Indigineous people of Australia

Arvo = Afternoon

Bathers/Swimmers = Swimsuit

Cheers = Thanks/Goodluck

Course = Class

Exy = Expensive

Footy = Australian football game

G’Day = Hello

Good on ya = Well done

Heaps = A lot

How ya going? = How are you?

Hungry Jacks = Burger King

Keen = Interested

Lippie = Lipstick

Lollies = Candy

Macaas = McDonalds

Mate = Friend

Snag = Sausage

Thongs = Sandals

*Bonus: Tomato is pronounce to-mah-to rather than to-may-to.

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

Spain | The Art (?) of Spanish Bullfighting


On September 28, 2017 I saw my first (and most likely last) bullfight at the Plaza del Toros de las Ventas in Madrid. A few days beforehand, my program organized an informational conference to explain the history of the fight and introduce us to the different people and phases we would see during the event. (Skip to “Reflections” if you are already familiar with bullfighting procedures, history, and terms!)

A Brief History

Bullfighting in Spain has origins as early as 711 AD, when a bullfight took place to honor King Alfonso VIII. The bullfight at the time was not the same one that takes place in Spain today, as the fight was reserved for selected members of the Spanish aristocracy / nobility and took place exclusively on horseback rather than on foot. In the early 1700s, King Philip V prohibited nobles from taking part in bullfighting, as he believed it created a “bad image” in front of the common people. Despite this ban, commoners continued to practice the sport on foot. Almost a century later, the present version of Spanish-style bullfighting was introduced by Franciso Roméro in Ronda, Spain at the beginning of the 19th century.

The 3 Stages and Roles of the Fight

The entire event lasts for around 2 hours, including an opening ceremony and 6 separate bullfights. Each matadero (bullfighter) has 6 assistants who make up a caudrilla (entourage), and each group fights two bulls by the end of the night. The separate fights are broken up into three stages, each of which makes it easier for the matadero to kill the bull. The entourage knows when to transition from one stage to the other by the sound of a bugle that rings throughout the stadium.

  1. Tercio de Varas (The Lancing Third)

Once the bull * is released into the ring, the banderillos and matadero test out the ferocity of the animal in the first third by teasing it with the capote (pink and gold cape). Essentially, a group of men wave their capes to make the bull charge in their direction before hiding behind a small barrier close to the edge of the stadium once the bull gets close enough. The matadero will then test the personality of the bull by making a few passes with his capote.

Next, two picadores (lancers on horseback) come into the arena. They stab the bull in the nape of its neck with a vara de detener (pike) in order to weaken those muscles and draw blood. This step in the process forces the bull to hold its head slightly lower during the following stages, which will ultimately enable the matadero to kill the bull cleanly during the third stage of the fight.

*  The Spanish Fighting Bull is a special breed of bull known for its combination of aggression, energy, strength, and stamina. They are bred in large ranches in conditions as close to how they would live in the wild as possible. Since they typically reach maturity later than breeds of cow used for meat due to their muscular physique, bulls used in the fight are 4 – 6 years old. (Remember that these bulls are a special breed — this fact is used by many to justify the fight).

2. Tercio de Banderillas (The Third of Banderillas)

In the second third, each of the three bandilleros (men with colorfully decorated and short darts) stick two banderillas (the darts) in between the bull’s shoulders. This third further agitates, angers, and weakens the bull.

3. Tercio de Muerto (The Third of Death)

The final stage is a standoff between the bull and the matadero armed with a muleta (red cape) and espada * (sword). The bullfighter draws in the animal with his cape, trying to get as close to the bull as possible while guiding it around him. This ritual continues to tire out the bull and is considered the primary art form of bullfighting, as many claim that the movement of the bullfighter coupled with the danger of proximity between the two subjects shows the intimate relationship between human and beast. Ultimately, the matadero tries to maneuver the bull into a position where he can (ideally) cleanly stab the bull through the shoulder blades and into through the aorta and the heart for a quick death.

* The bullfighter originally starts with a wooden sword, since it is light and easy to maneuver, and then switches it out (with the help of his mozo de espadas, or sword page) for a real blade once he is ready to end the fight.

Closing Ceremony

After the death of the bull, three horses bring the corpse around the perimeter of the stadium towards the exit, and the sand is prepared for the next match.

Rituals & Prizes

Sometimes, although very rarely (especially in Madrid, since the stadium is one of the most prestigious out of the the four stable rings in Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, and Aranjuez), a bullfighter performs extremely well (see: has good technique, cleanly kills the bull) and is rewarded with either one ear, two ears, or two ears and the tail of the bull. Even more rarely, the matador will be carried out of the stadium by the crowd. Receiving any of these prizes is a high honor, and is ultimately decided by the president and the spectators.

At the end of a fight, if a matadero performs particularly well, supporters will stand up and wave white handkerchiefs to signal to the president that they think the fighter deserves a prize. The president takes this into consideration and then makes the final decision.

During the fight, there are also certain signs of approval or disapproval from the crowd. The way a spectator claps/whistles for the matadero determines their mood. Claps of approval are normally quicker and shorter, while claps of disapproval have longer pauses in between and sound more hollow. From my experience, the latter form of clapping occurs if:

  1. The matadero does not get close enough to the bull while making passes with his cloak.
  2. The picadores or banderillos do not pierce the bull in the proper area of its back when inserting pikes or darts.
  3. The matadero does not successfully hit through the heart of the bull the first time, resulting in a prolonged death.

Overall, angry claps/whistles condemn sloppy or improper technique of the matadero and his entourage.


Before September 28, I never saw man kill an animal with my own eyes. We were forewarned that six bulls would die during the fight, but hearing about it and seeing it are two completely things.

Watching the first bull fight was especially horrifying, especially since I did not expect poor technique from the matadero.

The bull ran out into the center of the ring at full speed, immediately chasing the first capote it saw until the cape suddenly disappeared behind a wall. Confused, the bull wandered until it saw another capote and ran after that one, just to have the same happen as the man ran behind the wooden shield. Sometimes, the bulls were smart and tried to get around the wall to pursue the moving object, but their horns were too wide to fit in between the crevice of the guard and the wall. I could only imagine the bull’s frustration when it thought the target was within reach, then suddenly disappeared without a trace.

When the picadores came out with their pikes and stabbed the bull in the nape of its neck, most bulls rammed straight into the horses that the picadores were riding. After some seconds of struggle, they would wait for the man to remove the pike and run towards the next cape they saw. After the hit, you could clearly see the blood matting the bull’s skin, even from the top levels of the arena.

The insertion of the six decorated darts by the bandilleros thankfully was over with quicker than the hits on horseback. By this point, though, you could see the bull obviously breathing harder, its stomach heaving with every breath. It was struggling but persevering to fight nonetheless. At this point I realized how majestic this animal was. To endure such pain showed its strength, its personality, its desire to live.

The final third, with just the matadero and the bull was the most problematic for me. This third is also the third that is most important for the matadero score-wise. It does not matter how bad his technique or the technique of his team is up until this third. If he doesn’t show mastery in the final third, there is no chance of acquiring the coveted prize of the ear.

The relationship between the matadero and the bull in the final third was described to me beforehand as an art, not also because of the elegant movement of the bullfighter, but also because of how man could control beast in this section. The closer the proximity between the fighter and the animal, the higher the stakes, the higher the appeal, the higher the artistic value.

I acknowledge that there are some artistic characteristics in the movement of the matadero, since he moves as if he were the lead in a dance and the bull his partner. It does seem elegant, and if the bullfight solely consisted of the part where the fighter and the bull dance with each other, I would likely hold different opinions. The problem, for me, comes from the attitude of the bullfighter.

If he controls the movements of the bull well enough to warrant loud “Olé”s from the crowd, the matador presents himself very pompously. He approaches the bull slowly and tauntingly, arching his back and leading with the muleta. In a series of movements that may be best described as erotic, the matador exposes himself in front of the bull, flirting with the idea of death and asserting his dominance over the animal at the same time.

Some people call this a display of courage. They point to this third when they describe bullfighting as an art. They savor the omnipresent danger that exists in the possibility that the bull may gore the bullfighter at any moment.

Personally, I see bullfighting as man’s attempt to control, manipulate, and assert his dominance over nature. The human race is by no means the strongest out of all the creatures that exist in the world. But as intellectual beings, we’ve built up an idea of superiority in our minds. Man is superior to all other things. Man is capable of thought, therefore man is in charge of the world. All things on Earth and beyond should bow to man, for man is supreme.

Through the matador‘s pompous approach to teasing the bull, we see this ideal of superiority shine through. But even in the context of bullfighting, our assertion of dominance is a hoax. Without the first two thirds of the bullfight, there is no way the matadero would stand a chance against the majestic creature before him. Only after sufficiently weakening and tiring out the bull does he stand any possibility of winning. And when this chance is given to him, he taunts the bull like an arrogant school-kid.

Under different circumstances, man is not more powerful than beast. And for this reason, bullfighting is a pure manipulation of nature to perpetuate our dominance over Earth and its creatures. It may be the largest display of ego I have ever experienced in my almost 20 years in the world.

You may have noticed that I use the term “bullfight” often without any qualifiers. Should I call it “the art of bullfighting” when the artistic bit of the whole spectacle serves to bolster our egos and our perceptions of dominance? Should I call it “the sport of bullfighting” when the competition is unfair and the trophy is death?

I’ve been struggling to find some appreciation for the cultural importance of the bullfight for Spain. A country’s culture should reflect the values of its people — I do not think that the values of modern Spaniards at all match those exhibited in the fight.

The most grotesque display of power comes at the end, when it is time for the matadero to stab his sword straight through the bull’s heart. If done properly, the bull should die in seconds. However, this is rarely done as it is intended to be, and the animal can suffer for minutes more, having to endure undue stress in the last moments of its life. During the entire process, the matadero stands proudly in front of the bull with his arm up, as if paying his final respects. He did it. He challenged nature, and he won.

I went to the bullfight because I was intrigued. I stayed through the whole thing to try to grasp a deeper understanding of the tradition and the culture. By the end, I was focusing solely on the technique of the matadero, hoping that he would have proper form and avoid causing the bull any more suffering than it had to endure.

I saw 6 bulls die on September 28 and I know many more have died on the same sand. Supporters of the bullfight see the death as a rite of passage. Since the Spanish Fighting Bull is a special breed of bull, supporters argue that this species would die out if it were not for the bullfight. I wonder, though, if 4-6 years of a “good life” is worth the 20 minutes of exhaustion, spectacle, and pain of the bullfight. For me, it’s definitely not. By keeping this breed alive, we are fighting against the natural order of the world. Death is bound to happen, but bullfighting glorifies death at the expense of nature.

If nothing else, the experience provoked some interesting thoughts:

  1. Why are humans so mystified with violence? With death?
  2. Does culture perpetuate atrocity? At what point do modern values overshadow ancient tradition?
  3. Does cultural change only occur with the maturation of a new generation?
  4. Should I feel the need to become a vegetarian? What is the core difference between killing animals for spectacle versus for consumption for me?

I don’t regret going, yet the lives of those six bulls burden my conscious. I wonder when the eradication of the bullfight as it exists today will come and how the views of the world will be different when it does.

Nos vemos pronto,
(We’ll see each other soon)

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

France | Attending Class Online


LA’s traffic is notorious—going east to west or vice versa can take an hour. Since my hometown is roughly three hours away from UCLA in morning traffic, I wasn’t exactly eager to drive there for the first two weeks of class.

Lucky for me, the International Business Law & Taxation program offers an online real-time class option for the first two weeks of the program. Last Tuesday, I found myself rolling out of bed at 8 a.m. to attend the first class right at home. With participation counting as 30% of the overall grade, students joining the lecture online are expected to contribute as much as the students in the classroom.

Students who are unable to attend the real-time options – online or in the classroom – can watch a recording of the lecture on their own time. In that case, students must complete an additional assignment to demonstrate their class participation. Given the options, the first two weeks of the program allow you to attend in class no matter where you are in the world!

Like most other video chat technology, the one Professor Freixes uses allows students at home to see and hear him, his powerpoint, and all the other students online. Professor Freixes and the students in the classroom can see and hear everyone online. This way, it is easy for everyone to participate.

I found myself more engaged in this online style of learning than in learning in a live classroom. Furthermore, the Professor often discussed current events and encouraged students to look up information on their own laptops/phones in class.

Like with most 3-hour summer classes, our class got a 15-minute break, during which I turned off my laptop camera and wandered into my kitchen to grab a drink and snack. Super cool and convenient. Of course, if you live close to UCLA or are on campus, attending the class at UCLA has its own advantages. For example, it serves as an opportunity to meet other students and the professor.

I encourage those who decide to enroll in the program to reach out to the students on the Facebook group prior to the start of the program. It’s a great way to meet students to travel with, study with, or even share books with. Understanding what others are doing in terms of travel, packing, and textbooks can be extremely helpful for your own preparations.

A few months prior to the program, I reached out to some fellow travelers, met up at a dining hall, and started getting excited for all the adventures we were about the have abroad. Later on, I found another student to share textbooks with (ebooks are the way to go!). I couldn’t be more pumped for the abroad portion of Travel Study.

Stay tuned!


Sherry Wang studied abroad in Paris and Strasbourg, France, in summer 2017: 

England | Differences From the United States


Europe is different than the United States. Very different. There were so many things that I was unaccustomed to that I decided to make a list of what was different here in London as opposed to the United States.


Enjoy your nice cheeseburger and side of ranch dressing because this is something that is hard to come by here in London. And if you do by chance find a cheeseburger here, it’s just not the same. I ordered a salad one night at Montague Pyke, a restaurant near the Soho area, and that was the first time I realized food here was very different. The ranch dressing isn’t our creamy deliciousness but instead it is watered down. It’s more acidic and has a tang at the end that I don’t find appetizing. Cafes line the streets and there are cute bakeries everywhere it’s just a matter of finding the one that’s for you. We have stuck to a diet of pizza and I think that’s the way to go! I’m still on the hunt for my go to restaurant.


There is no AC anywhere here. It can get unbearably hot and humid here in London and all you want to do is sit in a place that has air conditioning, but that is very difficult when restaurants, dorm rooms, stores and transportation systems lack AC. Staying hydrated is key especially in the tube where everyone is packed in like sardines in an underground tunnel!


Unfortunately, London is short on ice, especially when it’s hot outside. Most restaurants here are accustomed to serving room temperature beverages, making you appreciate the nice cold soda you can get from the U.S. Once we started asking for ice, we were finally able to get the cold drinks we were searching for. I found it really helpful to freeze a bottle of water before our walking tours and long day of class.

Trash Cans

Surprisingly, there are few trashcans that line the street like we are used to. In London, they don’t call trashcans trashcans, but rather they call it litter. If you go to a Starbucks or any other café for that matter, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a trashcan. You can simply leave your trash where you are siting and the staff will clean and remove the trash for you.


In the U.S. there are designated smoking areas, but as for the U.K. there are not. Many people smoke cigarettes in the street which I found to be an interesting difference from the United States.

Traffic and Transportation

Double decker buses are so cool here! I loved hoping onto a bus and going up to the second floor. The view is very nice from up there, and taking a ride on the bus is very helpful for understanding the streets of London. A double decker bus is the epitome of London. I didn’t think that the buses could get you from point A to point B, and that they were just tourist attractions, but they are very helpful and get you to your destination very quickly. The buses are also cheaper than the tube.

How to pay at a restaurant

It is a little different here than the U.S. If you use an American debit or credit card, which most people in the program did, the waiter/waitress brings out the ATM pin pad and inserts your chipped card to pay the bill. You pay the bill directly at the table, and are not obligated to pay tip. If you eat with a large group then you may see a service fee added to your bill, which is just the same as gratuity in the U.S. If you want to leave a tip you always can, but it is not mandatory nor do the workers expect it. Also after paying, you must sign the receipt in which they check your license or the back of your card to make sure your signature is the same.


Drving and crossing the street

I’m still trying to understand how the rules on the road work here in London.

Cars are on the opposite side of the street, drivers drive on the opposite side of the car, and when you cross a cross a crosswalk you look left, right, left. Cars usually do not stop because it is not pedestrians right of way like how it is in the U.S. Also, stop lights work a little differently. The light changes from red to yellow, which allows the stopped cars to slowly take off. It is important to make sure you clear the crosswalk in time, before the cars start to take off. Because crossing the street can be a little intimidating at first, make sure to find zebra crosswalks which are indicated by the black and white striped poles that have a large yellow bulb at the top. These crosswalks function as our stop signs which allows the pedestrian the right of way. Cars stop for you, but make sure to look both ways before crossing at all times!  


Believe it or not there are two lanes to an escalator! Although it’s a normal escalator the crowd divides into two sides: the right side is used for standing, while the left is used for walking. Because there are a lot of commuters who are rushing to get to their destination, it is important to move to the right side if you want to stand. If you are in a rush to catch a train or the tube, it would be best for you to use the left side and walk down or up the escalators with the rest of the rushing commuters!

Gas Stations

You would think that in a packed city with many cars there would be multiple gas stations, but we found it very interesting when we could barely find any. There is a gas station called BP within the city, and the only one we’ve seen by far. Good thing we take those buses!


In the U.S. you can use public restrooms practically anywhere you’d like. However, in London, not everywhere restaurant or store has a restroom to use. Some public places that do have toilets require you to pay to get in. I suggest to ask a restaurant kindly if they have a restroom, which they actually refer to as toilets, and they will more often than not allow you to use their restroom.

Savannah Shapiro studied abroad in London, England in summer 2017:

Norway | Arrival

By Rose Forster

I left for my UCEAP program from Sydney, Australia, because I like to shirk the status quo (and that’s also where I’m from). This was twenty-four combined hours of flying, including a layover in Dubai. Having just finished my sophomore year, I can safely say I’m used to doing fourteen hours on a plane given the similar distance between Sydney and LA. The extra ten hours of flying was the part that was difficult to enjoy. Regardless of the screaming children, the terrible food and the lack of sleep, (staples of any flight), I touched down in Oslo and tried to keep myself calm. I was terrified of the logistics of carving out a new life for myself in an unfamiliar city. I realize that I did exactly that at UCLA two years ago, but in LA I had family members and English. Oslo didn’t have the former, and I wasn’t sure of the extent to which it had the latter, so I was understandably nervous.

At the Airport

I was blessed with the fact that I could buy a SIM card with no difficulty at a kiosk at the airport. As it turns out, everyone I’ve met so far in Norway is a fluent English speaker. From there I bought a ticket on Flytoget, the express train from the airport, and went on my way. On the train, while trying to heave my enormous suitcase into the storage compartments there, I met a girl trying to do the exact same thing. We both discovered that we were from America (she’s from Colorado) and that we were both going to the University of Oslo. I didn’t realize how relieved I was that I now had a point of contact until I sat down on the train and allowed myself to breathe.


We had to pick up our keys for housing at the university campus, while the actual student villages we were living in were spread across the city. The only hassle I had with getting my house keys was rolling my suitcase over the cobbled street outside.

I’m living in a little studio apartment in Kringsjå.

It’s small and clean, and most importantly, properly heated for the winter months, although it’s been trapping the heat in summer anyway. Today I walked about ten minutes north of my village, and stumbled across the most beautiful lake. The Norwegians were making the most of the sunny summer day and were swimming in the water, laying out in the sun, and enjoying themselves. It’s no California heatwave, but it’s warm enough to merit bathing suits.

I only arrived yesterday, so my trip so far has been a whirlwind of logistics and jet lag. I’m trying to enjoy the 9:30pm sunset without the looming fear of the eternal darkness of the upcoming winter. My orientation program starts with a party tomorrow and then a week of activities, and I can’t wait to see what Norway has in store.

Ghana | First Impressions of Ghana

By Ashley Young

              Akwaaba! Welcome! It is the end of my first week in Ghana, and WOW it has been an adventure! Since arriving, I have been taking part in the UCEAP Ghana Orientation Class, a class that introduces students to the culture, history, economy, and politics of Ghana. Our UCEAP program staff, two Ghanaian student assistants, and a handful of professors from the University of Ghana, have been leading us through this practical and experiential course, which is a mixture of lectures, field trips, and personal interactions with the Ghanaian culture and people. Thus far, we have toured the University campus, acquainted ourselves with its surrounding neighborhoods, tasted many new foods, learned about Ghanaian culture, including the importance of dance and music, and explored the historical, social, and political contexts of the country we are living in.
              While I have only been here one week, it is clear that studying in Ghana will be an eye-opening experience. One thought that has captured my attention so far is the fact that Ghana, and Africa as a whole, does not lack resources. Before I came here, I was of the opinion that Africa was without: without the basic materials and items needed to sustain a flourishing continent. My first impression of Ghana confirmed this opinion – from the impoverished street hawkers, who walk between cars at intersections selling goods like plantain chips, laundry soap, water, and eggs, to open sewage systems on the sides of roads, to begging children who follow and hold on to you as you walk to your destination, to the inconsistent flow of running water in the University dorms – all of these sights seemed to confirm that Ghana lacks the important resources needed to serve its people.
              But this is not the case. AFRICA DOES NOT LACK RESOURCES. Ghana, in particular, is rich in fertile land for agriculture and cattle rearing, gold, diamonds, bauxite, timber, and even oil. Alack of resources is not the issue. The issue is access, and the efficient assemblage of resources to most benefit the country. One example of this issue was discussed in the orientation class: Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (the country neighboring Ghana to the West) produce between them 60% of the cocoa in the world market. However, they only make 5.7% of the market profit share. This is an extreme inequity, and unfortunately, not an anomaly in Ghana or the greater African continent.While at times, it has been difficult to be a personal witness to so many political and economic development issues, the Ghanaian culture is rich and there is much beauty to be found!Below, I have attached some photos of the places we have gone:
              All of these excursions have been facilitated by our UCEAP Program staff – Auntie Rose, Auntie Sharon, and Auntie Dorcas – as well as two Ghanaian students – Araba and JoJo. We call our staff our Aunties because in Ghanaian culture, the family extends far beyond the nuclear family that we generally acknowledge in the United States, and individuals call those older than themselves either “Auntie” or “Uncle” to show respect and/or signify a relationship. Additionally, the student assistants, Araba and JoJo, have received their names based on the day of the week they were born on. This is a traditional Ghanaian practice – Ghanaians believe that each day has a spirit associated with it, and that this plays into the character of the individual.
              In fact, the integration of traditional Ghanaian culture into the more modern Ghanaian society is quite interesting! There are many practices and customs alive in Accra that I have never heard of before, many revolving around important milestones in life such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Already, we have been invited to both a traditional Ghanaian wedding and a naming ceremony for a new baby; I am sure I will get to experience many new traditional customs at these events!
There are many practices and customs alive iI am excited to learn more about Ghana, and excited to share it with you as I go along. Enjoy reading!
Ekua (MyGhanaian name!)

Switzerland | Academics


I know you’re probably really excited to get past logistics and on to more fun things, but before we do I have an update on the bank account. Although the man at the front desk of Cite had told me I didn’t need one, I got an email the other day from Cite informing me that I didn’t have a bank account and needed to open one. So just open one at the beginning, it will save you the hassle later on.

The good news is you don’t need a full-fledged bank account! All you need is a depository account where your housing deposit sits. I went to Credit Suisse and it was super easy, at least it was once the woman reminded me that I needed my housing contract… So remember that and your passport and you’re golden!

Registering for classes at UNIGE is so much different than at home, and so much easier! At home I check my pass time as soon as it comes out and spend endless hours on class planner creating my perfect schedule, and then multiple backups. I have to figure out which classes I am eligible to enroll in on first pass, ask friends to hold classes for me, hope classes don’t fill up, and then beg for a PTE. But not here! Our classes started on February 20 and our final course registration wasn’t due until March 15. This took so much pressure off when trying to figure out my schedule. And registration was super easy too, I just submitted the classes I wanted to take on an online portal and I was enrolled. That simple! The first week I went to every class that I thought sounded interesting, and then was able to narrow it down from there. My schedule ended up being Tuesday-Thursday with two classes a day—I really can’t complain.

Everyone with UCEAP is required to take five classes; International Geneva, French and three additional courses. Coming from a place where three courses is standard and four is a lot I was a little bit worried, but since most meet only once a week it has turned out to be totally fine. Since my French is essentially nonexistent (I’m in A1) my choices were limited to classes taught in English, but people on the program with a higher level of French got to choose from classes taught in French as well. I ended up choosing International Institutional Law, Model United Nations Seminar, and Introduction to the World Trade Organization Legal System.

Even though International Geneva is our required course, it’s actually one of my favorites. We meet twice a week, but Thursday is usually a fieldtrip. I had a pretty good idea of what the class would be coming in, an overview of all the international institutions that are located in Geneva, but I hadn’t realized that residents of Geneva use the term “International Geneva” to refer to everything that goes on in the city relating to international affairs. Most of these organizations are located close together and some people even call this part of the city International Geneva as well.

The course is organized thematically, and our visits and guest lecturers have to do with the topic that we are on. So far we have covered the history of International Geneva, human rights and humanitarian law. Our guest speakers are all experts in their fields and range from academics to employees of international organizations. We have gone to the United Nations and this week we are going to the International Committee of the Red Cross. One of the reasons I really like the class is because I feel like we are taking full advantage of the unique location of Geneva since we wouldn’t have access to these people and places in LA.

The next class that everyone has to take is French. Everyone was able to put themselves in the level that they felt was appropriate, and since I am very confident in my lack of French I am doing A1 (the lowest level). There is an A1 class just for UCEAP students, which is really nice. I haven’t taken a beginners language class since I was 10, so I was definitely a little bit worried. Our first day of class put all my worries to rest. Our teacher is a wonderful woman who speaks almost exclusively in French, but switches to English when it’s really necessary. We are learning really helpful and practical phrases and grammar here and there. Since most of us are only taking French for a few months I feel like she’s giving us the most helpful lessons possible. Even though I definitely still get nervous every time I have to talk to someone in French, each week I add a few more phrases and words that I can use to make my life a little bit easier.

The first elective that I knew I wanted to takes was the Model UN seminar. I participated in one MUN conference my senior year of high school and really enjoyed it. I never had the time to do it again in high school or in college so I was really excited when I saw that this was one of the classes we could take. My class is about 30 people, which is much smaller than my classes at UCLA. After only a few weeks I feel like I have already gotten to know our teacher (a PHD student) better than most of my professors at UCLA, and I can recognize pretty much everyone in the class.

Since having done MUN is not a prerequisite for this class we are spending the first half learning about procedure. There is a certain way that delegates conduct themselves in debates and when drafting resolutions, and so we will be focusing on that until spring break so that we will all be familiar with it. After spring break, we will each be assigned a country and we will spend the rest of the semester debating climate change and ISIS as if it was really MUN.

The next class I am taking is about the WTO legal system. Coming into it I had a basic idea about the WTO and what it is, but that is about it. The title sounded a little daunting, and the first class was definitely overwhelming, but it has turned out to be incredibly interesting and easy to follow. Our professor is a lawyer for the WTO so she is obviously very knowledgeable about what we’re learning. She makes it really easy to follow along and understand daunting concepts, probably because she uses a lot of helpful real world examples of things that have happened in the WTO. The coolest part, in my opinion, is that we get to have one of our classes at the WTO and then get a tour afterwards.

My final class is International Institutional Law. So far it is definitely the hardest and I know that it will take the most work to understand. Most of what we are learning has to do with case law, which is not the easiest to read, but I am sure it will get easier. I have International Institutional Law in Uni Bastions, which is the original UNIGE building. It is unlike any other school building I have ever been in. I’m still amazed every time I get to walk in.

Scotland | Places to Study


I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much a professional procrastinator. Studying is extremely hard for me because I can only focus for an hour max at a time. I have specific requirements for my study places: 1) not too hot, not too cold, 2) either complete silence, or coffee house feels, 3) upright sitting areas, and most importantly, 4) coffee and/or tea must be supplied at said location. I can never have one specific place I go to either. I need a change of scenery from time to time. So I usually bounce around from study areas every other day or so. Here’s a list of my favorite locations. Added bonus, all of these locations have access to coffee/tea for reasonable prices.

Main Library

The University of Edinburgh has the main library open 24/7 for THE WHOLE SEMESTER. So when you get that craving that we all get at 2am to study for our courses, the library will be there to welcome you with open doors. There’s a ton of different places available to meet your study needs. It is quite packed with students throughout the day, but there is always a space to study. Another plus to the university’s library is the café on the ground floor. You don’t even have to leave the building to get your caffeine fix. My favorite drink from here is the mocha. It’s the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee. Yum!

Black Medicine Coffee

This place can get quite busy during school hours and weekend afternoons. If you are able to find a seat at this popular café, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the array of drinks and pastries available while you get your study on. They have smoothies, teas, coffees, and various tasty treats. If you

Love Crumbs

Love Crumbs is a smaller café but a very popular location. It has a very communal feel. If you like a more busy environment to match your productivity, this is a nice spot to study in. You can sit anywhere you’d like, even if it’s a table full of strangers; it’s an addition to the ambience of this coffee spot. It’s a little more detached from the university, but still not too far. If you would like a little walking break before going deep into study mode, this is the perfect place for you.

Brew Lab

This is my favorite coffee/tea spot. Their carrot cake is amazing and I LOVE their lotus jasmine tea. The feel of this café is very laid back but also conducive for studying. They have a view couches and chairs that are for a more cozy feel. For those of you that don’t want to get too comfortable while studying, there are plenty of tables and more private corners to study in. This is my go to café for studying. It’s very close to campus with a warm environment.


This Asian street food establishment also has gourmet coffees and teas. The best part? Free cake with a hot beverage! Also, this is the cheapest coffee place I’ve found in Edinburgh. If you have a love for Asian teas, they have the classics here. I ordered a pot chrysanthemum tea here for £2.50. Definitely helped my cold feel better and remedied a bit of my homesickness.

During lunch time, it can get a little busy so maybe not the best study location unless  you go during off eating times. The Wi-Fi can be a little dodgy, but that’s a good thing if you need to focus without the constant lure of the interweb. I honestly love the feel of this place. And free cake. Free cake is a significant plus.

Side note: All of these places accept cash or card. I usually stick to plastic because I have some credit cards that waive the foreign transaction fee, so this is important to me at least!

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinbugh, Scotland, in Spring 2018: