Cyprus | Week 2: 4th of July Celebration, Day Trip to Troodos Mountains


We just completed our second week of physics and we’re gearing up to take our first midterm next week! It’s so crazy to think that after two weeks we’re at the halfway point for our first course. The physics is getting even more intense and fast paced than last week since we have 10 chapters to cover for the first midterm, but luckily the first two chapters are review from calculus.

4th of July

This week we celebrated the Fourth of July with a small pool party! After lecture we made a quick stop at the hotel before we all headed to a local pool about five minutes away. There were a couple of students on other Global Semester programs so it was nice to get to meet new faces and hear about their experiences in Cyprus. The pool was decked out with red white and blue décor, and they served us traditional American food for dinner, hamburgers and hot dogs. The pool party was a really convenient way to blow off some steam and cool off, since it gets crazy hot in Cyprus.

We’ve just gotten back to our hotel from a day trip we took to the Troodos Mountains. The troodos mountains are the largest mountain range on the island. At first I was very apprehensive since I hate hiking but fortunately they had a bus pick us up and drive us around. The mountains were about an hour away from the hotel. Even though the roads were small and windy the view on the way up was so gorgeous. We were able to gaze down on the top of Omodos Village, a small wine town nestled amongst the mountains.

The first stop we made was at the Troodos Geopark where we got to look around the Visitor Center and learn about the local vegetation and geographic background.

After stopping at the Geopark we made our way to Troodos Square, which is the highest point in all of Cyprus. In the square there were tons of kiosks set up selling local nuts, berries, and other souvenirs. The kiosks gave out small samples of their food, and I went home with a bag of honey-glazed almonds that I basically finished before the day was over.

Before getting lunch we visited Lambouri Winery, a winery that specialized in producing a Cyprus tradition: Commandaria wine. Commandaria wine is a sweet dessert wine that is made from the grapes that grow in the Troodos Mountains. The wine is nicknamed “Wine of the Kings” and is the oldest wine in the world. While at Lambouri Winery we indulged in a wine tasting that culminated in trying Commandaria. This was my favorite part of the day, mostly because of the wine, and also because the Winery was so beautiful and scenic.

Once the wine tasting concluded we headed to Omodos Village for lunch and to explore. Omodos Village is cradled within the mountain ranges and is mainly known for producing wine. The village was so beautiful and quaint with really delicate cobblestone streets and rugged stone buildings. For lunch my friends and I stopped at Makrinari, which was a little bit further down from the main center. The streets were mostly empty and except for some shops, local artwork, and lots of cats.

We’ve just arrived at the hotel and most of us are already setting up in the lobby and prepping for our midterm. Wish us luck!

Arisa Dhiensiri studied abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus, in summer 2018:

South Africa | Why South Africa?


Back in 2013, my dad told me he was going to South Africa and invited me to come along. I grew up in Los Angeles, California, rarely learning or venturing outside of North America. I knew virtually nothing about Africa, and from what I had heard in the news and various media sources, I was a bit uneasy about it. However, I am adventurous spirit, and so I decided to head to Johannesburg, South Africa, with my dad, at the tender age of 16. What I didn’t know at the time of my arrival, was that it would be my favorite trip I have ever taken, up until recently (because another African country has replaced it of course).

The reasons I loved South Africa when I was here in 2013 were numerous. For starters, I was able to see Soweto, which is a township with a vibrant culture and it is also home to Mandela House. Additionally, I went ATV racing in the mountains and saw zebras, visited Sun City, which is an action-packed getaway spot, and saw Sandton, Johannesburg, which is the richest square mile in all of Africa. What I loved most about South Africa, however, was the people. Everyone was so nice, friendly, and willing to lend a helping hand. South Africa had captured my heart and I knew I had to return.

In college, the opportunity to revisit South Africa emerged. While UCLA does not have a program that allows you to study in Johannesburg, they have a partnership with the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. In contrast to my knowledge of Africa in 2013, by 2017 I had learned a lot about Africa, specifically South Africa, and its success, struggles, failures, and beauty. I have always wanted to learn more about South Africa and its rich, yet complex history, which includes Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and Trevor Noah.

I had read and heard that Cape Town was stunning and that it had a modern wonder of nature in Table Mountain, so I needed little convincing that this was the right decision for me. Additionally, since my last year of university was approaching, I knew I had to strike while the iron was hot. About a year ago, I applied to study abroad in Cape Town, and was accepted into the program. My South African journey awaited and I couldn’t wait to settle into my new life abroad.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018:

Ghana | Outside Accra: The Central Region and Cape Coast Excursions

By Ashley Young

After two weeks of living in Accra, learning about Ghanaian culture and society, and finally (finally!) adjusting our melanin cycles to the African sun, it was time to leave the Greater Accra Region and travel to the Central Region. The Central Region is situated on the coast, much like Accra, but due West of the University of Ghana by a few hours. The capital of the Central Region is Cape Coast, and near it is a town called Elmina. This is where we (the UCEAP students and staff) made our stay for the weekend.

Note: This trip was coordinated by our UC Study Center staff! I did not realize this when I chose to come to Ghana, but UCEAP includes many trips, meals, overnight stays, and excursions in the University of Ghana program! I’m not sure to what extent other programs or locations do this, but it is certainly worth looking into if you are considering studying abroad in Ghana or another country through UCEAP.

When we first arrived in Elmina, our staff took us to Elmina Slave Castle. The Elmina Slave Castle was built by the Portuguese in 1482 and was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea. Currently, it is the oldest standing European building south of the Sahara. While the castle was originally established as a trade settlement, it evolved into one of the largest stops in what is now referred to as the Triangular Trade, in which Europeans brought finished goods to Africa, traded for human slaves which they brought to the New World, and then produced raw goods in the New World which they exported to Europe. Elmina castle belonged to the Portuguese from 1482 to 1637, the Dutch from 1637 to 1872 (the slave trade ended during this time period, in 1814), the British from 1872 to 1957, and finally, Ghana, from 1957 to present.

While the pictures I have posted of the castle may seem beautiful, it is anything but. The horrors that occurred within its walls and as part of the larger Trans-Atlantic slave trade are truly awful. While visiting the castle was not a pleasant experience, it served as an important part of the UCEAP University of Ghana study abroad program and helped us to understand the past and current marginalization and exploitation of Africa by other nations.

Though our first day in the Central Region was somber, the next day was packed with fun and exciting activities! First, we took a beautiful drive to the Kakum Rainforest Reserve, which is part of Kakum National Park. There, we did a short hike and a canopy walk, where we moved through the trees on a series of long, tall, suspended bridges! Some of my classmates would describe the experience as daunting and risky; others would describe it as beautiful and totally awesome! Personally, I think that it was a good dose of both of these things, and I would certainly recommend the experience to others.

After our rainforest adventure, we headed back to Elmina and the Coconut Grove Beach Resort, where we were staying. There, we rode horses, had lunch and dinner at the resort restaurant, and swam in both the seaside pool and the ocean itself. The following morning, a few of us got up early to watch the sun rise over the waves. For me, this was truly the highlight of our trip. The way that the light fingered the clouds, the beautiful and serene pink and orange hues, the shimmering reflection of the sun on the waves, and the sound of birds awakening in the trees – it was a wonderful experience, and a peaceful way to reflect on our time in Ghana thus far.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post! The next post will be about another weekend trip coordinated by UCEAP to the Ashanti Region, so stay tuned!


Complimentary Twi Lesson!: In every blog post from here on out, I will be sharing some words, phrases, or sentences that I have learned for conversational Twi! This post’s words are:

Maakye! (Good Morning!)

Maaha! (Good Afternoon!)

Maadwo! (Good Evening!)

Cyprus | Introduction, Information and Formalities !

By Arisa Dhiensiri

Hi and welcome to my study abroad blog! Through this platform I’m going to take you along with me during my summer in Cyprus. However I thought it would be nice to go through some introductions and information on the program beforehand. My name is Arisa and I’m about to start my third year at UCLA as a Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major and a Global Health Minor. At UCLA I’ve been so lucky to find my home in organizations like Bruins Fighting Pediatric Cancer and Project Literacy, and I’m so excited to continue the Bruin experience outside of Westwood.

Me and my Baby Bruin from Project Literacy!

I just arrived in my hotel at Nicosia, Cyprus, and am really looking forward to settling in. I landed at the Larnaca International Airport, which is about an hour away from the hotel. Global Semesters, the program coordinators, arranged a group pick up from the airport at 6:00 pm, but since my flight came in after the pick up time they set me up with an individual taxi. En route to the hotel my taxi driver gave me a University of Nicosia Global Semesters bag filled with Cyprus brochures, a cell phone, and the daily schedule for the program.

UNIC Goody Bag

Through this program I’m going to be fulfilling my yearlong physics requirement, and finally completing all my lower division courses. This program was designed by UCEAP in coordination with the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, to fit an entire year of introductory physics into 8 weeks. We have Lectures every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then Labs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While cramming such a sheer amount of physics into a small window of time seems daunting and absolutely insane, I’m looking forward to never having to do physics again after this summer.

Cyprus is a small island in the Mediterranean with a steep cultural history. It’s said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love. It’s rumored that she washed up on the shores after being born from the foams of the Mediterranean Sea. During my eight weeks I’ll mostly be located within the capital, Nicosia, which is inland. Nicosia is the largest city on the island and like the rest of Cyprus it’s divided into a Turkey Cypriot side and a Greek Cypriot side. The program has been set up so that on the weekends we’ll be taking trips to beach towns like Paphos and Ayia Napa, and other areas like Troodos Village, to truly get acquainted with the island.

For the first two weeks of the program I’ll be staying at the Altius Hotel in Nicosia. The university apartments are currently getting renovated so we’ll be moving into the apartments later on. Global Semesters, the program coordinators, have scheduled a bus to take us from the hotel to class every day until we relocate to the apartments.

Altus Hotel Lobby

Cyprus | Orientation, Exploring Nicosia and Touring UNIC

By Arisa Dhiensiri

Today we had a jam-packed day filled with museum tours, orientation, a nice welcome dinner and lots of walking. We started the day by eating breakfast at Altius Hotel before heading over to the Cyprus Archaeological Museum. The museum ended up only being a ten-minute walk from the hotel but in the heat it felt like miles. When we got to the museum we were separated into two groups and led on a tour guide. The museum houses the largest collection of Cypriot Antiquities in the world and it was really fascinating to learn about the history of Cyprus. Cyprus, being in the middle of the Mediterranean, is a cross section for so many different empires such as the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Persian, as well as having really strong Greek roots and influences. The tour guide explained how Cypriot art from specific time periods reflected the empire Cyprus was a part of at the time.

All of us at the Cyprus Archaeological Museum

After the museum tour we walked to the Old City of Nicosia and we were able to see the divide between North Nicosia and South Nicosia. Nicosia is the only divided capital in the world, the North being Turkish occupied, and the South as part of the European Union. The Green Line is No Man’s Land, and is the distinction between North and South. Directly around the border is the old town, Nicosia’s historic center. Old City is enclosed by Venetian Walls and a little removed from New City, Nicosia’s more modern side. The streets in old town are cobblestone and filled with beautiful historic churches and buildings that are very reminiscent of Greece.

A church in Old Town

Exploring Old Town

For lunch we were able to walk around Ledras Street in the old city. Ledras Street is kind of like LA’s Abbot Kinney, super cute and chic, usually where people go to hangout, and filled with picturesque cafes and restaurants. The tour guide from the Museum came with us to old town to explain the buildings and give some restaurant recommendations that I’m excited to try later on.

Ledras Street

After getting to know Nicosia, we walked to the University to start our orientation and get a campus tour. The university was mostly empty because there aren’t that many students taking classes over the summer. Compared to UCLA, The University of Nicosia is pretty small, however it has a really modern feel. On the university tour we passed by our future apartments and got to check out the restaurants included in our meal plan. Since they are getting renovated we’re staying at the Altius Hotel for the time being, but they told us that future programs would be staying in the new dorms for the entire time. The program coordinators also provided us with meal vouchers that work as our meal plan. The meal vouchers are good for 3 different restaurants located 5 minutes away from the university, and a 24-hour bakery.

We concluded our day with a welcome dinner in Old Town at To Anamma Traditional Restaurant. Here they served us Mezze, which is a huge collection of small dishes. The dishes include a variety of meats, a Cypriot Salad, dips, pita, and halloumi, traditional Cyprus cheese. Through dinner we were introduced to traditional Cyprus food and the rest of the people on the program. The program is mostly comprised of UCLA life-science students, however there are 3 people from UC Davis. The mezze was really the perfect way to end such a long day.

Tomorrow we begin our first week of classes and honestly I’m a little scared for the physics! See you next week!

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!)

South Africa | UCLA vs UCT


I knew the University of Cape Town was a great school before I got to South Africa, but little did I know it was the best university on the entire continent. UCT’s campus is also stunning, as it is right in front of Table Mountain. The differences between classes at UCLA and UCT are plentiful, as are the similarities. Nonetheless, both experiences have been fun, wherein I feel as if though I have been academically challenged in both places.

In terms of similarities, UCT and UCLA both have a plethora of social clubs. I joined the squash team since I play squash at UCLA, and that was cool since I got to play with and against South African squash players. I went to UCT’s squash formal with an American and S. African too. Additionally, I decided to leave my comfort zone and join the canoe team, and it has one of my best decisions in CPT.

Another cool aspect about UCT is that similarly to UCLA, the campus and its students are socially aware and very active concerning social issues, such as mental health awareness and LGBQT issues.

If you are also worried about not having Janss steps to congregate on when you study abroad (if you decide to head to Cape Town), they also have their own version of it called the Jammie Steps, which I must say, gives UCLA’s steps a run for their money.

The biggest difference between UCLA and UCT, however, are the grading scales. At UCLA an A+ is a 97-100, an A is a 93-96, and A- is a 90 to 92 and so on and so forth. At UCT, I received a 75 on an assignment. I was disappointed and went to talk to the professor, until I learned that UCT had a totally different grading scale. First pass, or an A, is anything from 75 to 100, 70-74 is the second pass first division, or an A-, and 67-69 is second class second division, or B+, and the grades descend from there.

The class size difference at UCLA and UCT is also noticeable. The average class size for the courses that I was enrolled in at UCT was around 60 to 70 students. At UCLA, they have ranged from 75 to 300 students. Another difference is how much each assignment is worth (percentage wise). At UCLA, final exams usually range from 25 to 40 percent, but in contrast, at UCT, all of my final exams were fifty percent of the grade.

UCT may be different than UCLA in some regards, but it still felt like a home away from home, and it was an interesting and informative academic and social experience.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018:

South Africa | Camps Bay, Lion Head and Penguins


Before school started, I had about a week to explore Cape Town, and I did just that. The first day of exploring, my housemates and I ended up at Camps Bay next to Clifton Beach. We went with the intention of surfing, but Cape Town winter weather got the best of us and told us to just stay on the sand.

We climbed some rocks and took in the fresh air and beautiful water. After a while we headed to Camps Bay. Lucky for us, we came at the perfect time to watch the sunset. Table Mountain was so stunning and close that it looked fake. The mountain exuded a reddish-brown hue against a slightly purple backdrop. The sun setting on the water was spectacular. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

The following day, the IDACA program, which included about 26 students from different University of California campuses and Boston College, hosted a hiking day up Lion’s Head, a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. It took us about two hours to reach the top, but the views were more than worth it. We were able to see the entire city, especially where the water hits the land, and it was a sight to see. That day we also watched the sunset at Signal Hill which was a jaw dropping event.

In our action-packed week, we also managed to see penguins. Yes, I too, did not know that there were such a thing as African penguins, but I was pleasantly surprised. My housemates and I were able to interact closely with penguins and chase them around the beach at Boulders Beach. We even got to swim with a few of them. If you make your way to Boulders Beach one day, be advised that they do bite and if they position their necks a certain way it is best to stay out of their line of vision.

The last stop of our busy week was Cape Point. The IDACA program went on a bus with about 100 other international students. We drove from UCT, through a township, and ended at Cape Point. In the township, we saw a talent show and had a delicious lunch, which was an awesome treat. After that we headed to Cape Point, which was marvelous. The sun was shining and the sand was cool (temperature wise), not to mention the water was a beautiful aquamarine-turquoise mix. We got to see baboons in person too! I did not know that they screamed so loudly (lol). We also visited Bo-Kaap, and saw an array of colorful houses. Overall my week of exploration was one for the books, and I could hardly contain my excitement about getting to see more of Cape Town.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018:

South Africa | Arrival and Getting Settled in Cape Town


The day had finally come. I was off to South Africa. After arriving late to the airport due to the daunting Los Angeles traffic, I was in line at Qatar Airways waiting to receive a ticket, an hour being take-off.  To my surprise and delight, however, the plane had been delayed. Once I got my ticket, I said goodbye to my mom and went through security. After a 16-hour flight, I was in Doha. After I snapped out of the daze that the stunning Doha Airport put me in, I headed to the Transit Accommodation Desk. Qatar Airways has a deal that if you have a layover that is longer than eight hours, they will put you in a hotel room, free of charge. The hotel room was lovely and featured two showers. I decided to explore the country with the free time I had so I headed to Souq Waqif, a popular square in Qatar. It was 100 degrees outside but the architecture was what took my breath away. After a few hours, I headed back to the airport to board a plane to my final destination of Cape Town, South Africa.

Qatar during layover

After another 11-hour flight, I had finally reached Cape Town, a city I had been dreaming about studying in for over a year. I joked with the immigration officer that he needed to endorse my visa and passport correctly so he didn’t have to see me again and I was off to my home in the Southern Suburbs, where I was to reside for the next four months. I was the first one to the house so I got to choose my room and of course I chose the master bedroom with a fireplace in it. The house was so cute, clean, and homey, so I was ecstatic! I met my three other housemates, one girl from UCSB, a guy from Boston College, and another guy from UC Davis, and we all gelled. I knew it was going to be a great few months in Cape Town.

Home for the next 4 months!

My Cape Town room!

That same evening, we decided to take a tour of our university before sunset. The University of Cape Town, a ten-minute walk from our house, was STUNNING. We got to see the sun set over Table Mountain, which is conveniently right behind the school, as Capetonians played rugby. I could hardly contain my excitement for orientation the following day. At the orientation, student leaders performed dances and got the international students.The highlight of the orientation was the drumming lesson! We had local South Africans play drums for us and then they distributed drums to every single student to play along. It was the best orientation I ever attended. The subsequent days we enrolled in classes. The process of getting pre-approved for courses was a bit challenging, and something everyone should look into during study abroad, but ultimately everything worked out. I was ready to immerse myself in Cape Town academic and cultural life, and I knew this was just the beginning of my wonderful South African journey.

University of Cape Town Stunning Campus

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018: