Tokyo | Tokyo & Rakuten Open

By Deran Chan

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to attend both the Rakuten and Tokyo Open tennis championships. I’m a huge tennis fan and I was super excited to attend a professional tennis tournament outside of the United States. The last few months of the year constitutes the “Asian Swing” of the tennis calendar and first stop: Tachikawa. The Tokyo Toray Pan Pacific Open is held by the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and is the largest international women’s tennis tournament in Japan. Headlining the tournament was Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka. After her recent triumph at the U.S. Open over Serena Williams, Osaka became an overnight sensation and Japan’s first grand slam champion. The event was held about an hour from my university, and I successfully made the trek with my brief knowledge of Japanese transportation! The venue was held indoors, and a general admission ticket gave me access to all of the matches.

I went on the first Saturday of the tournament and watched former World #7 Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) play local favorite Moyuka Uchijima. I managed to sneak to the front row, and as you can see, had the best seat in the house. After her win, Genie was kind of enough to take a photo with me and I definitely didn’t freak out. On the way home from the tournament, one of the most exciting things happened. I was across the street from Tachikawa Station, and I thought I recognized a familiar face. Standing in front of a 711 was World #1 and Grand Slam Champion – Caroline Wozniacki. Starstruck, I asked for a picture and asked her how she liked Tokyo (while trying to keep it together of course) and wished her luck throughout the tournament. What an experience.

A couple weeks later I went to the Rakuten Open, the first Asian tournament of the year hosted by the ATP men’s tour. Walking up towards the main stadium, fans were greeted by tents showcasing traditional Japanese food, oversized tennis rackets, and popular sportswear. It was raining out but that didn’t stop waves of Japanese locals and tourists alike from watching their favorite players. A sold-out crowd packed the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza, but somehow my friends and  I managed to sit together. We witnessed Japanese player Kei Nishikori win on home soil with the help of an electrifying crowd – to reach his 3rd final at this tournament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures with the players this time but the immaculate tennis stadium and modern architecture definitely made up for it. There is no doubt that fans are awaiting next year’s Rakuten Open which will return to Ariake Coliseum, a newly renovated stadium undergoing preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Japan | Fruits & Fast-Food

By Deran Chan

I’ve been in Tokyo now for about 2 weeks. I moved into my dorm at International Christian University (ICU), started my classes, and played tennis indoors for the first time. This is my study abroad experience. Once I got to Japan, I needed to stock up on snacks (priorities) so I started at the local markets. If you didn’t already know, fruits and vegetables in Japan are SO EXPENSIVE. This mango peach costs 600 yen at the supermarket (roughly equivalent to $6 in the U.S.) and this is because Japan gets a lot of their fresh produce imported from around the world.

After my Japanese produce haul, I ventured into the world of fast-food. Just a 10 minute bus ride away from campus, Musashi-Sakai Station offers a wide range of restaurants and shops. So where did I go?

McDonald’s. Yep, that’s right. I travelled to the other side of the world to eat the most “American” restaurant known to man. In my defense, the menu is completely different, but more importantly it’s way better. The McNuggets taste like actual chicken and the whole experience feels like anything but fast-food. I also tried their grape float since their ice cream machine was actually working <shocker> and I was pretty satisfied overall.

A few days later, I went to a chain called “MOS Burger.” The burger was really flavorful and I could tell that MOS Burger was the In-n-Out of Japan. Unlike the United States, a lot of Japanese restaurants will have a second story for additional seating. When you’re done eating, make sure you put your dishes and trash in the appropriate area. In Japan, you are required to sort your trash into different categories: combustibles, non-combustibles, bottles, plastics, etc.

Thailand | Thammasat University

BY RACHEL TANG

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: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx

Australia | Mini Getaway to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

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: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx

Thailand | Cuisine of Thailand

BY RACHEL TANG

One of the most enjoyable things about living in Thailand has been my experience with its cuisine. What makes the food even better is how inexpensive it is. Depending on where you are, meals typically range from 50 baht (~$1.40 USD) to 200 baht (~$5.70 USD). One can easily find other types of food (such as Western, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.), but I believe Thai food is an experience of its own.

Ordering food is quite easy, as menus will typically have English next to Thai script. Pictures also make it easy to order. A typical sit-down Thai restaurant will often have simple rice/noodles/soup dishes accompanied by a type of meat cooked a certain way. Thais love to stir-fry their food, which is delicious but also makes finding fresh vegetables difficult.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of foods here aren’t terribly spicy; however, some dishes may be unexpectedly and extremely spicy. It’s useful to learn how to say “not spicy” in Thai (mai ped), depending on your preferences. I’ve had some friends here who were vegans and vegetarians; being a vegan here is difficult but my vegetarian friends have gotten by just fine because there are tofu dishes, curries, etc.

“Pad Thai Tip Samai” is a very famous place in Bangkok for pad Thai. What I ordered was pad Thai wrapped around in an omlette, and it has been my favorite pad Thai here so far.

The food court at Thammasat University also offers a large variety of dishes. My favorite is a simple dish of stir-fried water spinach mixed with pork, served with rice. The meals at university are even cheaper than normal prices because the school receives subsidies. Most meals are around 35 baht (~$1.00 USD). I also love to order desserts and snacks during my breaks in between classes. My favorite is this warm, sweet banana topped with coconut milk.

Below are some more of the desserts I’ve had.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx

Australia | Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

The week has been consumed by massive thunderstorms, but the weather here in Brisbane is under 80! To say I am happy would be an understatement. I completed my first week of classes at UQ and I could not be more excited with the courses I am taking (Environmental Policy, Gender and Global Politics, Global Population Crisis, and Australian Foreign Policy). I am fortunate enough to have class only on Tuesday and Wednesday (meaning I have a five-day weekend) but it is definitely a major challenge to have 12 hours worth of class in two days. Keep reading to gain an insight into daily life as an official student at UQ.

Pre-Departure Enrollment

Prior to arriving, I had to enroll in classes using the my.UQ.edu.au system (you receive your student login information on your Unconditional Offer for Incoming Exchange Program). Although enrolling classes while in California went smoothly, I found the task to be confusing (and a little intimidating) because of the of steps you need to take to enroll.

Here is a step by step guide to ensure you classes you are interested in:

  1. Begin by looking at the list of Courses and Programs offered during your semester abroad. Under refine search, select ‘Undergraduate’ and ‘Internal.’ Most importantly, under the course option select the ‘Show only pre-approved courses for Study Abroad students’ to ensure the courses you take will transfer over to your home university for academic credit.
  2. After selecting the courses you are interested (write down the course code for each), log in to your my.UQ portal. Select mySI-net on the left side of your screen to be redirected to the enrollment page. The page will first prompt you to provide your personal information (address, contact number, email address) before allowing you to enroll.
  3. On the main page, select Add Course and enter the course code (for example, POLS3115). Click the ‘Add Course’ button and you are all set! Continue to do this step until you have included all the courses you need.
  4. Important Note: In terms of enrolling in the class, you are done. But, you will need to enroll in your discussion sections (at UQ, these are referred to as tutorials or workshops). Return to the main page on mySI-net and click the Sign On button. The page will list the classes you have chosen to enroll in, while listing the respective enrollment dates/times for your tutorial/workshop. If under SignOn Status you see ‘Not Applicable,’ you are all done!
    1. If you need to SignOn (enroll) in a tutorial/workshop, note the date/time listed is based on Brisbane time. Make sure you are on the page and it is fully loaded at least 10 minutes before your designated time because spaces go fast. One neat thing about class enrollment is there is no cap (meaning as many students interested can enroll) but tutorials/workshops are limited.
    2. Do not freak out (as I did) if you see your enrollment for a tutorial/workshop is after your first lecture. This is normal for popular classes!

One of the most helpful resources in picking your courses for your time abroad is the Electronic Course Profile (EPC). You can find the Course Profile for each course on the Courses and Programs website. On each EPC, you will find all the information you need: course syllabus, date of assessments, weekly learning activities, and contact information. Moreover, if you are wondering how I ended up with four classes and three tutorials in two days, here is your answer. When enrolling in classes on mySI-net, the day/time the class takes place is not provided. You will only be able to see when your class meets if you add it to your timetable on your my.UQ portal – DO THIS BEFORE ENROLLING TO AVOID CLASHES BETWEEN CLASSES.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Daily life at UQ is not much different than daily life at UCLA (except for the absence of the hill and Janss Steps). Depending on how far from the campus you live, you can either walk, ride the bus, or take a ferry (yes, you read that right). To take either a bus or ferry to campus, all you need is a GoCard. A GoCard can be purchased at any convenience store on campus and then registered online to secure student concession prices. To use you GoCard, you tap on when entering and tap off when exiting the bus/ferry, it is that simple!

Classes are held in lecture theatres and tutorials/workshops are held in group learning rooms or computer labs. The only noticeable difference between how classes function compared to UCLA is that classes here are recorded. If you are sick and cannot attend lecture or if you missed an important part of the lesson, you can view/hear the lecture online on your my.UQ portal at your disposal. Lecture recordings are uploaded on the site and will be available until the end of the semester. Use these to supplement your learning! Professors are more than available after class and during office hours to discuss assignments and in-class material.

After class, you can find a plethora of study spaces and restaurants to meet your needs. From Indian Feast to Burger Urge, you will find anything and everything. One important note to the future student who seeks iced coffee – do not, I repeat, do not order an iced coffee at a café. An iced coffee is equivalent to a coffee milkshake (it literally has a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream). If you are looking for iced coffee, order an iced latte! Additionally, the student government graciously provides free breakfast at the UQ Union Student Hub on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Free dinner is also provided on Wednesdays. Take advantage of these opportunities and save money every week!

20 Minute Getaway

If you need to destress or need a phenomenal study spot for a major exam, head to Brisbane CBD or Southbank. At Southbank, you can dive into the beach (man-made, of course), visit the Queensland Museum of Art, or ride the Wheel of Brisbane with some friends. Brisbane CBD is filled with stores, restaurants, live-music, and a bowling alley (similar to Santa Monica Pier but with a more intimate feel). The largest Brisbane City Library is also located along the riverbank and offers a perfect study spot!

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx

Thailand | First Week at Thammasat University

BY RACHEL TANG

This past week, I started school at Thammasat University under the Faculty of Political Science. Although I had almost two months worth of winter break, it was refreshing being back at school again. I am taking five courses here (the majority of them focused on international relations). I was able to fit all of these classes from Wednesday to Friday, therefore I will have four day weekends. A good thing about having classes only three days a week is the fact that I won’t have to go to campus as often. My apartment is a 25-minute walk away from campus, which can be uncomfortable when the weather becomes even hotter and more humid. I also have the option of taking a ferry to class, which is fun but it takes about the same amount of time to walk. If I’m running late to class, I can take a taxi but try to avoid using it every day, since it is the most expensive option. The cafeteria food at Thammasat is very delicious. There are many options and all of them are cheaper than most street food, which is already quite inexpensive. Although all of my classes are three hours long, each one of my professors allow 15-25 minute breaks. I will usually have lunch in the cafeteria in between my morning and afternoon classes, and then return to the cafeteria for a snack between each break.

I also met my Thai buddy this past week. Her name is Belle and she has been extremely kind and helpful. We decided to go to a shopping plaza in central Bangkok. She showed me how to take a speedboat (which is a faster version of the ferry aforementioned) and the sky train (which is like the metro but it’s elevated above ground-level). The shopping plaza was called Siam and consisted of over 4 different shopping malls/areas. The malls here are beautiful and remind me a lot of home. I’ve noticed that a lot of Thai students enjoy going to malls after class, where there is so much shopping and a wide variety of food options in the food courts.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx

Australia | Orientation Week

BY MONICA MARTINEZ

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.

Orientation

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: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/australia/Pages/host_Queensland_AustraliaImmersion.aspx

Thailand | First Two Weeks in Bangkok

BY RACHEL TANG

My name is Rachel Tang and I am currently participating on a UCEAP in Bangkok, Thailand. I will be studying at Thammasat University for the spring semester of 2017.

It has been exactly two weeks since I’ve arrived in Bangkok and I could not be happier with my decision to study abroad here. What compelled me to move halfway across the globe was a different way of learning that combines the traditional academic setting with real world experiences. As a Political Science major with a particular interest in Southeast Asia, I chose Thailand due to its unique history and culture. I am eager to learn as much as I can within the next several months and hope to inspire others to see the world and study abroad as well.

My pre-departure experience was quite smooth. Submitting the required materials was simple and I was off to Thailand sooner than I knew. Once I arrived, however, navigating my way from the airport to my apartment was slightly more challenging. The taxi is one of the common modes of transportation in Bangkok, which is something that I was unfamiliar with before. Regardless, I was lucky enough to encounter friendly Thais who assisted me in finding my way.

Once I arrived at my apartment, I began to settle into my spacious single (moreso a studio than an apartment). There is no kitchen, but it works out quite well because eating out at restaurants and vendors here is delicious, convenient, and inexpensive. I didn’t know anyone prior to arrival, since I was the only UCLA student participating on this program; however, I met many other UC, out of state, and international students the following day at the first orientation. It has only been two weeks, but I can say that I have befriended such great individuals who all have similar interests to learn, travel, and contribute positively to this world.

There were three mandatory orientations: one for all spring international students, one for all UC students, and one for your respective department. Although they seem overwhelming, each one was particularly useful, ranging from basic cultural knowledge to enrollment of courses. My favorite was the UC orientation, where we got to meet our abroad liaison, Professor Thanet. He was extremely kind and helpful, going as far as setting up internship opportunities for us.

I had my last orientation only several days ago, as my official first day of classes don’t begin until this Wednesday. I’ve had quite a bit of time to settle, in which I chose to travel and explore. My friends and I have made a trek last week to Chiang Mai and Pai up north, and to an island called Ko Samet this past weekend.

There is so much to do and so much to see in this country—several more reasons as to why I chose to study abroad here. I’ve had an incredible time exploring caves, waterfalls, canyons, snorkeling, etc., all in the span of one week. My friends and I are already planning our next few trips on our weekends and holidays.

Despite all of my adventures that I have been enjoying, I am excited for classes to start. I will be taking 4 Political Science courses and 1 Thai language course. I’m very interested in learning not only about Thai government and politics, but also politics of other regions through a Thai perspective. I also am eager to practice my humble Thai language skills. Through my experiences so far, it is fun and rewarding when you make an attempt to speak in your host country’s language. For the remainder of my time here, I am making it a goal for myself to seize any opportunity to learn and immerse myself.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/thailand/Pages/thammasat_univ.aspx