Scotland | Snow


It has a snowed once or twice in Edinburgh since I’ve been here. Each time, it has been magical. Like what is this white, beautiful pureness fluttering around me. As you can see, I don’t get out of Los Angeles too much. I’ve always loved snow and the chill. But last Thursday kind of changed my perspective. I got caught in what has been named THE BEAST FROM THE EAST.

This beast was not very friendly. It caused Edinburgh to go into a red weather alert. It was the first time I had seen actual traffic in Edinburgh. Buses were getting full and not allowing any new passengers. The University closed for the day. People were completely covered in snow, looking like a hoard of abominable snowmen/women. At first I thought, “Wow this is so cool. First snow day!”. Then I got home, looked at the remains of my fridge (a carton of eggs and a bag of tomatoes), and realized I needed groceries. Good thing the grocery store didn’t close ‘til 10pm. Obviously, my naïve self went to the grocery store, only to find out they had sent all their employees home because of the storm. So, eggs was the entrée for dinner that night.

The storm proceeded to continue to the next day. There were no buses running. Unfortunately, David Horn House is one of the furthest places from city center and also in a residential area. Not much to do or see. So, I spent a majority of the day studying… I said to myself as I opened up a Netflix tab. Honestly, the cold causes me to become a vegetable who drinks a lot of tea and snuggles into my duvets. Later that day, I got a message from my friend saying “Let’s build a snowman in the Meadows!”. Um, yes! I have never built a snowman before. Plus, I thought it would be good to leave bed and socialize. Mistakes … just kidding but building a snowman is HARD, dude. If Ana woke me up in the middle of the night to build a snowman, my answer would have been, heck no.

After a mini snowball war, my friends and I started rolling snowballs in the snow to get them bigger. By the end of it, I felt like my biceps tripled in size because we had made boulders at that point. My hair was icicles and I couldn’t feel my face or lips anymore. But, goal was accomplished. We built a snowman. His name was Gerald, who had the most personality out of all the snowmen in the Meadow.

I decided to call an Uber because I was a popsicle at this point. Of course, no Ubers. Anywhere. So, I proceeded to make the 30-minute trek back home in the snow. At the moment, I could not wait to get back to the warmth of my house and a hot cup of tea. But, I wouldn’t have traded a minute of those snowy days. Snow can be painful and scary, but I still love it. I just know to fear it a little more. Also, I miss California so much. I thought I always wanted to live in a place where it had real seasons, but this event has caused me to reconsider and appreciate the lack of winter weather in Los Angeles. Vacations in snow, yes. Living in snowy places, I think I’ll pass.

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

France | En Route to Paris


It’s 6:54AM in New York City where my plane is currently stationed, which means it’s 3:54AM in California. My flight crew decided to let off a disruptive passenger mid-flight, so my non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Paris was delayed with a pit stop in New York. They said one hour, but it’s been about three already, so I figured I’d take this time document all the little things I love about flying besides the thrill of the take-off and landing.

The greatest thing about flying is that it’s different each time—the food, the seat, the entertainment. New strangers with their own stories, a crew with a different dynamic. During this flight, the crew has been incredibly attentive and fun (a few of them are currently singing and dancing to Party in the USA in their plaid blazers and Norwegian accents).

One of the best things to do while traveling is to strike up a conversation with strangers. There’s a lot to be learned through another person’s perspective. Currently sitting next to me is the sweetest old lady who’s originally from Paris and now living in Orange County, California. She’s flying back to visit family and friends. In the row in front of me sits the most adorable, energetic French father-daughter pair.

During the flight thus far, I’ve learned that the lady sitting next to me studied chemical engineering at a graduate institution in Paris and recently retired from a multinational conglomerate. She’s lived in Canada and France as well as California, but she still prefers the Golden State and would not likely return to living in France. One of the main reasons was simple, France’s technology was just not as up to date as California’s, and it was catching up too slowly. The situation made living in France inconvenient. In regards to my trip, she advised me to focus on the food and the sights of France, not the shopping like many tourists do.

Even with random, unexpected delays, I can’t be upset. It’s always possible to fill the time with something enjoyable or productive, and in the end, it’s all a part of the flying experience.

So here I am, stationed and delayed in New York City, feeling grateful for this experience and not at all feeling like I’m going to be in Paris in ~7 hours (7 hours!!). The fact that I’m studying abroad STILL hasn’t hit me, and I suppose it won’t until I’m sitting in class tomorrow morning, a bright and early 9 a.m.

Until next time,


P.S. While passing through French customs—which is a quick process unlike in the U.S.—I met some other students in my program. I also met a street photographer with an older model of the camera I recently bought for the trip, and he taught me some new camera tricks. How cool is talking to strangers?

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

Ireland | A Weekend in Galway


Galway was without a doubt my favorite place in Ireland. It’s a very small city that I wouldn’t want to live in long-term, but it is an incredible city to visit for a weekend. I’ll take you along for my weekend trip to Galway with three of my best friends.


In terms of transportation, the Irish Rail is the easiest and cheapest method. It was the equivalent of $30 round trip for last minute train tickets to Galway. The train is very nice and really easy to use. You can take the 145 Bus from UCD to the train station. I would leave about an hour and a half to get to the train station and print your tickets so you don’t risk missing it.


I would highly recommend staying in a hostel while traveling anywhere abroad. Hostels are super cheap compared to hotels and while they are not extremely luxurious, they give you a bed to sleep in and that’s really all you need. You’ll be out exploring the town while you’re awake so don’t worry about finding luxurious hotels to stay in or anything. Also, you meet amazing people at hostels from all over the world. We met people from Switzerland, France, and Chile at our hostel and had really cool conversations with all of them!


The night life in Galway is incredible. There is live music everywhere and the town is so small that you can literally walk everywhere. I never felt unsafe in the small city. It’s very well-lit and there are people everywhere. Our favorite pubs were The Quays, King’s Head, and The Front Door. Walk home whenever you’re ready for bed for the night.


Having arrived Friday afternoon and experienced nightlife on Friday night, we decided to do a bus tour on Saturday! We used Lally Tours to see Connemara National Park on Saturday. I would highly recommend this company! We had a fantastic experience and all agreed it was one of our favorite things we had done in the month we had been in Ireland. The park is absolutely stunning and the tour takes frequent stops for photo opportunities, snack breaks, and/or stretch breaks. The main stop was at Kylemore Abbey which was stunning. We had time to hike around the property on the lake and see the stunning gardens as well as the mansion itself. Don’t worry about being tired from the night before because while you have to wake up early, you can always sleep on the bus (although I’d recommend trying to stay awake because the scenery is beautiful).


On Sunday, we wandered the streets of Galway in the daylight. There were at least ten different street performers. We would stop for twenty or thirty minutes to watch some of the artists before moving onto our next destination. If you won’t have time to see the Cliffs of Moher another weekend, I would recommend doing that on Sunday. You can use the same tour company which will drive you to the cliffs for a few hours and bring you back to Galway. The tours are usually about the equivalent of $50 or $60 per person so a pretty good deal considering all the sites you get to see.

That concludes our weekend in Galway! Thanks for coming along and I hope you set aside a weekend to see the beautiful city!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

Spain | My New Spanish Family: Living in a Homestay


With the aim of improving my Spanish and getting the most out of my abroad experience, I jumped at the chance to stay with a Spanish family. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it, besides the fact that I didn’t have to buy my own shower towel and that breakfast and dinner would be provided for me every day. In fact, we had no idea who our host family was or what area of Madrid we’d be living in until program orientation once we arrived in Spain.

Turns out I’d be living with a family of four – Pura, David, and their kids Sofia and Pedro, aged 16 and 19 respectively. Another American student from New York named Jasmine was also staying with us in the other free room in the apartment. The location of my homestay ended up being really convenient for exploring the city as well as commuting to school or other areas of Madrid every day. I lived right off of a metro stop on the blue line and about a 10- minute walk from Sol – the center of Madrid – and a 20-25 minute metro ride from the study center in Chamberí. This was the neighborhood of Lavapiés, which I soon grew to know and love.

On the top, flower stands outside of the metro stop closest to my homestay. On the bottom, flowers I got for my host mom and her daughter on their birthdays.

As soon as I arrived, my host mom showed me to my room at the end of the hall. The whole unit consisted of 4 bedrooms, 1 master bedroom, a living space, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. While the apartment wasn’t super big, it made good use of space and was a nice place to live in the middle of the city.

My room came with a wardrobe with two drawers, hangers, and a top shelf as well as a desk, twin bed, and place to store extra blankets. The amount of storage was comparable to what I had in my dorm room at UCLA with slightly less drawer space. There was also space under the bedside table with shelving for books and space for a couple pairs of shoes. All in all, I had plenty of storage space for my things :-).

The best part of my room was that the window opened right out into the street – I definitely took advantage of this during the warmer months when the weather was absolutely spectacular.

I soon also found out that Madrid never sleeps, and being in an apartment in a rather trendy area close to the center of the city meant dealing with some rowdy (but goodhearted) people at night who thought they were destined to be on the next Spanish Idol – good thing I can fall asleep easily☺

I also had access to the bathroom next to the main entrance. It was smaller than the one I was used to at home and in the dorms, with enough room for a toilet under the sink, two storage cabinets, and some bins pinned to the wall, as well as a shower (box).

I’ve never really seen a shower box before, and this one came with a shower-head that was in no way attached to the wall, meaning I had to hold it with one hand while washing with the other. There was enough space for my body, but it was a bit difficult to move fully around with the allotted space. But again — there was space for everything I needed…it was just a tighter squeeze than usual 😛

I also had to be more mindful of my water usage, turning off the tap whenever I didn’t absolutely need it, since water is apparently more expensive in the city (as is electricity – this means turning off lights in rooms when not necessary and unplugging chargers from outlets when leaving the house). However, Madrid tap water is some of the freshest water I’ve ever had, so filling up my reusable water bottle was never a problem.

In terms of kitchen-use, getting tap water from the sink was basically the only thing I could do in the kitchen by myself. Since my host family prepared meals for me (even though breakfast was typically very minimalistic and included tea/coffee with a pastry, toast, or cereal), I wasn’t allowed to store food in the fridge or use the oven or stove.

For the most part, I didn’t really need to use the kitchen anyways since I ate lunch outside of the house in between classes, but I felt restricted since I couldn’t make myself tea as regularly as I normally do and lunch had to be bought the day of instead of prepared the day before. I wasn’t completely restricted from tea, but I had to ask my host family to boil water for me instead of doing it myself, which seemed a little unnecessary for such a trivial task.

Otherwise, I was expected to make myself part of the family and abide by already-set household rules. This meant laundry day was set on Fridays and all dirty laundry was to be placed in a bin and left out before I left the house for the day or for the weekend. Dinner was also set for 9 PM for me and Jasmine and would always be provided unless we notified our host mom that we wouldn’t be eating at home that night.

The set time – while late by American standards – was very typically Spanish and fit my schedule well, giving me enough time to run errands or explore after classes.

While it would vary day by day, dinners were also the most social part of my day with my host family. I found myself having long chats with Pura or David (my host parents) over meals and catching up with Sofia and Pedro (my host siblings) at times also. It was nice to interact with Spaniards my age since I could pick up certain slang from them and learn about relevant things that teenagers talked about nowadays in Madrid. They were also interested in my life at home and would ask me questions about California and my lifestyle, for example.

They also tried to help me out with my Spanish-speaking abilities and would answer any random questions I had. While we weren’t the best of friends, we definitely had some good laughs and bonded over mutual experiences.

I also really appreciated living with another American in the same homestay. Since starting college, I’ve always lived with roommates – so this was a similar situation. It was nice to have an English-speaker to share all the moments that I couldn’t yet properly explain in Spanish.

Jasmine was also there for the spontaneous midnight runs to the nearby alimentación when I was craving Oreos as well as the slightly more planned menu del día weekend meals.

We also bonded over the shared experience of getting locked out of the apartment because of the fidgety door, and we definitely lost socks to each other over the 4 months of living together.

While the homestay definitely exposed me to Spanish culture and helped me with my language development (not to mention saved me the meal prep time for dinner and let me explore traditional Spanish foods), the immediate sense of community that those living at apartments experienced was not initially present here. This isn’t to say I never hung out with those in the apartments, but I did have to coordinate meetups more often than I would have if I lived closer to them.

Regardless, I don’t regret my homestay experience at all. I don’t think my independence was in any way compromised by living with a family either. In fact, they encouraged me to go enjoy Madrid nightlife and explore other parts of the country, Europe, and surrounding areas (my host mom loved Morocco and gave me very excited recommendations when I visited).

Being with a family also helped create a cozy atmosphere. Of course I felt homesick at times, but having someone around to chat with made me feel more at home. ☺

All in all, I think homestay is a unique experience that all those going abroad should highly consider, especially for purposes of language development and forcing themselves out of their comfort zone. Living in a city apartment gave me an excuse to really get to know my neighborhood and do a lot of solo-exploring. The same element that made it difficult to hang out super often with those in apartments also made me more independent and fueled many of my solo adventures.

Lavapiés and Madrid have my heart, and I now have a family to keep in touch with abroad as well as a new American friend from New York to visit, whom I wouldn’t have met or bonded as much with otherwise.

David, me, Pedro, pura, and Sofía in the kitchen of my homestay☺

Gracias a mi familia Española por todo, y gracias Madrid. There are difficulties and nuances that come with a homestay, but the benefits far outweigh the strains.

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

Switzerland | Differences


I was on the phone with my dad the other day when he asked “is everything over there totally different?” My initial gut reaction was of course not! But, when I asked what he meant, I realized that maybe things are more different than I had realized. (He asked me if the microwave is different, and by the way it is.) Switzerland is a Western country, and is incredibly similar to the United States in most ways, but there are small things that feel really different.

Outlets. I have taken for granted the abundance of outlets whenever I need them. Sure, usually there aren’t outlets easily accessible in lecture halls, but I can always find one in a smaller classroom, in the hall or in any study spot on campus. I have yet to find an outlet at UNIGE. Are there any in lecture halls? Nope. In smaller classrooms? No. In random places in open areas where I could maybe sit on the ground and charge? No again. I am genuinely starting to think that Swiss electronics just never die, because in addition to the lack of outlets at UNIGE, they’re absent from pretty much everywhere.

I love going to coffee shops to study. Not only am I more productive since I’m not in/near my bed, but I also like the activity happening around me, and the proximity of another latte. But, this is dependent on the battery life of my computer. At home this is no problem, when my battery is running low I just move seats or find the closest outlet to plug into. But not here – in my favorite study spot I have found exactly one outlet in the entire café. Word to the wise – always leave home with fully charged devices.

Boreal is quickly turning into my favorite place to work. But I still don’t understand how people can work here on their computers forever with no outlets

Less than 24 hours after landing in Geneva we had to find our way to orientation at Uni Mail (the mail UNIGE building) in room R050. I was jet lagged, sleep deprived, stressed, and felt like it was hard enough just getting to the building, let alone finding a room that definitely did not have a clear floor number.

It turns out that a room such as R050 actually does have a clear floor number, 0. In Geneva, as with probably many other places, the ground floor isn’t the first floor – the one above it is. Just think of how many flights of stairs you have to walk up, and that’s the floor you’re on.

The ceiling of the main area of Uni Mail

As a north campus major I’m used to my final grade being made up of many different components; participation, papers, maybe a midterm and a final with ways to boost your grade thrown in every once in a while. Fall quarter I was in a Poli Sci class that calculated your final grade from two things, 50% midterm and 50% final paper. Honestly, this terrified me because I knew that doing poorly on one meant doing poorly in the class. As it turned out, this was a great stepping-stone into Swiss education. The final grades for all five of my classes are based 100% on the final. If you’re not the best test taker, like myself, this is incredibly daunting. Also, not all finals here take the same format. I have some written open book finals, some written closed book final, and an oral final where we have 15 minutes to answer two questions to the best of our abilities. The hard part about having my entire grade based on the final, other than you know the final, is staying motivated to stay on top of all my reading. Obviously it’s necessary, but it’s definitely easy to fall into the trap of “oh I can always catch up later…” I’m definitely not trying to think too much about the finals since they’re so far away, so I’ll give an update once they’re done.

At home I never have cash. Everything goes on my card, and I rely on venmo to pay other people back for things. If we’re being honest, I really don’t remember the last time I paid for anything in cash, and definitely am never carrying anything larger than a 20 if I have anything. And on the rare occasions that I do use cash I always forget about coins – the only time I use them is paying for the parking meter. While the only two places that I have found in Geneva that do not take a card are a Thai food restaurant and a small news stand, I try my best to use cash for everything. My only reasoning behind this is I would prefer to pay the conversion charge as infrequently as possible – and when you put things on your card you have to pay it every time. For this reason, I take out larger amount of cash from the ATM than I would at home, and to my surprise this means bills larger than a 20.

The first time I used a Swiss ATM I actually didn’t know what to do when it produced a bill worth CHF200. Actually, I was terrified. I felt like giving it back to the machine and demanding it give me something smaller and more manageable that I actually knew how to deal with. But, of course, that’s not possible so I gingerly took it and went on my way. (Side note, as bills here increase in value the physical piece of paper gets longer. It’s kind of cool.) The plus side to ATMs giving you larger bills is that everyone here is able to deal with them and doesn’t look at you like you’re crazy if you pay for your coffee with a 100.

The thing that is the most different about Swiss money is the coins. Gone are the days of coins lying in my wallet forever and never getting used. The smallest Swiss Franc bill is a 10, meaning that coins can equal CHF5, 2 and 1 in addition to the smaller coins. This was weird at first but I actually kind of like it! It’s definitely nice to be able to get rid of heavy coins more regularly.

On the morning of orientation at Uni Mail, the first thing I noticed was the fresh OJ machine in the middle of the large open space. The machine literally squeezes orange juice for you while you stand there. I thought this was the coolest/ weirdest thing, and definitely did not expect to see another one. Well, it turns out that the Swiss must really like freshly squeezed orange juice because I’ve seen similar things all over, and there is even an identical “vending machine” in the lobby at the Cite. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is on my list to try while I’m here!

The OJ machine. At CHF2.80 it might be one of the cheaper options…

France | An Idiot Abroad: Finals on Finals



This past week I officially finished all of my classes, with the exception of Political Islam which I still have a take home final for and Politics of Humor which just commenced. The final for Professor Porter’s Imperialism class was quite straight forward. He gave us a variety of questions to choose from for our in class final essay which allowed for a great of latitude in our responses. He also provided us the questions at the very start of our class so we had the whole duration of the course to prepare and research our answers. Needless to say the procrastination bug hit like it always does around finals and most of us waited until the week or even days before the exam to begin preparing our essays. The questions asked and the exam style were very similar to their counterparts in the states. You get a couple questions from which you pick one to write about. You are allowed two hours for the essay and you may leave whenever you want. I personally chose to write “to what extant did imperialism cause the fall of the Chinese Empire in 1911” and discovered some interesting primary documents that showcased the conditions of the era in very bleak and non-academic manner. Being of Chinese decent myself, I never really had an understanding of the effects of imperialism on China or exactly what caused the Opium Wars (other than of course the obvious Opium). Professor Porter’s class really spurred me to look more into my culture’s history and understand the nuances of the era. For a long time, in middle school and high school, we were taught that imperialism is bad and the “white man’s burden” was more destructive than constructive. Imperialism was blamed for the plight of many nations and attributed as the reason for some’s decline. However, through Professor Porter’s class, we were taught to look at things from a different perspective; to engage in the question of imperialism from a not so black or white angle, but more so a grey one. Yes imperialism created many problems in the nations that were imperialized and yes imperialism produced devastating consequences, but it would be inaccurate to say that was all that imperialism did. It would be shortsighted to say that imperialism was purely bad, because there are moments of good and progress that were generated as a result of imperialist activities. Not all locals suffered and it was not always just the imperialists wreaking havoc. As through seen through China, the national government played a key role in the empire’s downfall and imperialism only highlighted the empire’s shortfalls but did not directly induce its fall. Professor Porter stressed to us the need to examine primary sources from both sides, the imperialists and the imperialized, and that imperialism cannot be blankly categorized as good or bad for all situations.

Our final for the Justice and Democracy was much more different than our final for Professor Porter’s class. The final for the former involved a group presentation where we picked a topic of our choosing and applied the theories we learned throughout the term to the topic. I was in a group of four with my girlfriend, Anna (fellow American), and Tom (our hilarious German friend). We focused on overpopulation and utilized the theories of Habermas, Sen, and Schlosberg to discuss the economics, environmental implications, and social effects of overpopulation. Our presentation was over forty minutes (as requested by Professor Sophie) and essentially a student lecture for the class. Although we were all a bit stressed the moments before the presentation, everyone did an amazing job and the professor was very pleased with what we had to say. The presentation was a great way to end the week of finals and my girlfriend and I hopped on a train bound for Italy the next day.


After finals, our week of break of began. For ten days my girlfriend and I planned to go to Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice. At the time of writing of this blog we are currently in Florence for Easter Sunday.

Unfortunately I was sick in Milan (although we were only there for a day because it was the cheapest place to travel from in Italy) so we did not see much other than the Duomo, gelato, and a weird Chinese-Italian combination restaurant. It was such an amazing sight to see a Chinese chef making a pizza while another cooked up some Chow Mein.

This morning in Florence we got to see the Explosion of the Cart right in front of Santa Maria Del Fiore. It was a magnificent sight and a ton of people from all over came to see it. We managed to finesse VIP tickets from a nice Italian man and got real up close and personal with the fireworks. Never have I seen so many tourists and selfie sticks in such a small area. Today is our second day in Florence and it has been much better than the first. Yesterday my girlfriend and I, along with a German couple, were unfairly fined by the ATAF controllers for riding the bus “without a ticket.” Upon arriving in Florence we asked multiple individuals where to purchase bus tickets, everyone said you can just buy them from the bus driver. When we got on the bus the driver said something in Italian and motioned that he did not have any tickets and waved us back. We thought that this meant it was okay…but apparently not. After about two stops, two men dressed in plain clothes got on the bus (these were the employees of the public transport system). They specifically only went up to my girlfriend and I as well as the German couple to check tickets because we had luggage with us. Needless to say none of us had tickets because the driver did not sell us any. We were then forced off the bus where they issued us tickets and said that the fine could only be paid in cash. When asked if we could pay later today they responded that their offices are closed on Saturday and Sundays and paying on Monday would be more expensive (I later called and found out that their offices were actually open on Saturdays). When we tried to explain them our situation and that we simply did not know where to buy the tickets because there was no machine or advertisement, they responded with “you buy ticket at tobacco shop” and words in Italian that no one understood. There is absolutely no way for tourists who just got into Florence to know that you buy bus tickets from tobacco shops without prior research. This experience was a lesson that taught us that we definitely need to do more research about new countries. However, the Florentine system is also rigged because after speaking with the local workers at our hostel they said that the controllers specifically target tourists because the majority of them do not know that tickets are sold at tobacco shops.

All in all, the trip thus far has been great despite the tickets. It was a definite learning experience and we will proceed through the rest of Italy’s public transport with much more caution and information.

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

England | The Halfway Mark

By Emma Skinner

Wow! As cliché as it sounds, time really flew by. The Pembroke-Kings Program has been extremely fast paced, but in a good way. Not a day goes by where I sit around with nothing to do! From an entire class in three weeks to endless event opportunities, I thought I’d share with you my top seven highlights from Cambridge so far;

  1. Formal Hall: As I prepare for my second formal hall this evening, I remember how exciting this event was for me. Our first formal was held on the first full day of classes and it was such a great way to get to meet everyone. Plus, a three-course meal in the fanciest dining hall ever could never go wrong. Now that I’ve gotten to know such amazing people, I can’t wait for tonight with those I now call my friends!
  1. Evenings by the River Cam: Having a river run through university is one of the best parts of Cambridge. There is plenty of space to sit alongside and enjoy the view and the people! I’ve had quite a few memorable moments spent along here, from photo shoots to picnics to incredible firework displays. The River is also a great place to meet new people as there are always friendly faces punting along that stop to say hello!
  1. Nature Walks at the Mill: One of the things I love most about Cambridge is the multitude of wildlife you can find within a short radius of the school. The Mill, a popular restaurant and pub in the area, sits right along the River Cam and is home to a very friendly group of cows. Just beyond the Mill are plenty of walking paths you can take and explore all the natural beauty England has to offer! Further, the cows roam wild and are more than happy to befriend you!
  1. Day Trips: Thanks to England’s amazing public transportation system, traveling anywhere within the country is quite easy! A few of us in the PKP program took a day trip to Norwich per recommendation from our taxi driver to the train station. We were quite surprised to find such a beautiful area. The Norwich Cathedral and our hike to a lookout point were definite highlights from this trip!
  1. Hot Numbers: This may seem somewhat confusing at first. What is a hot number you ask? The best coffee shop in Cambridge! It sits right across from the Engineering building where most of our classes are held. From beautiful matcha pancakes (pictured) to the best oat milk latte in town, this café has it all. Further, its prime location makes it the perfect social spot. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t run into someone I know here! The friendly staff also make for the perfect environment.
  1. Castle Mound: This hill originally held a castle in England but the stone from the building gradually began to be taken for other uses. Now, all that remains is the pile of Earth and an amazing view of the city. Sunsets at castle mound make for some great bonding time with friends and beautiful views!
  1. The people: Of course, my top highlight is the people I have met through studying abroad! From all around the world we came together to be a part of the PKP program. I am so thankful to have made relationships I know will last forever.

Denmark | 5 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad in Copenhagen

By Chloe Zgorzelski

Denmark: a cycler and pastry-lover’s paradise. Often lovingly labeled the “Venice of the North”, Copenhagen is a city known for its charming canals and waterways, pastel Lego-like buildings, delicious (albeit sometimes hard to pronounce) pastries, and love of hygge [pronounced ‘hoo-gah’: simply put, the Danish art of cozy, comfortable, and content living]. These are just a few of the many reasons why I chose to study abroad in this captivating city. After living here for a little over a month, it is no surprise to me that the Danes are consistently ranked among the happiest people in the world. I have already experienced, been challenged, and grown in so many ways during my time here, so I figured I would share five things I have learned that will help future UCEAP students make the most of their study-abroad adventure in Copenhagen.

  1. The UCEAP – University of Copenhagen Program is Unique: When compared to other UCEAP programs, a semester abroad at the University of Copenhagen is special because all students are required to participate in a three-week intensive Danish language program during the month of August. As a student who has never spoken or heard an ounce of Danish before my arrival in Copenhagen, this class was challenging for me at times, especially since it is so fast paced. However, the class size is small (approx. 25 exchange students from all over the world in each section) which means the professors have the ability to give you the individualized attention you need to help you succeed. You are also able to take the class Pass/No Pass if you wish.
  2. You Don’t Have Know How To Speak Danish to Study Abroad in Denmark: Studying abroad in a foreign country can be difficult, especially when you chose a country where a language other than English (or your native language) is spoken. Prior to my arrival in Denmark, one of my fears was that I wouldn’t be able to communicate well with anyone due to my lack of Danish knowledge. However, most Danes speak English! UCPH’s Intensive Danish Language Program will help teach you many basic Danish phrases that you can use in day to day life, but if worse comes to worse, all you have to do is start speaking in English and the Danish people will flawlessly switch over to English to communicate with you.
  3. Eating Out in Denmark Can Be Expensive: Unfortunately, Copenhagen is not one of those cities where it is feasible to buy a coffee and a pastry from a cafe every day on a student budget (A coffee, on average, costs around $7 USD). Eating Out at Restaurants can also start to add up after a while. However, it is significantly cheaper to shop at grocery stores (Netto, Aldi, and Fatka are my personal favorites) and cook your meals at home. If you visit some grocery stores before closing, many will sell their leftover pastries to you at half price! My friends and I organize group dinners, where we go shopping and cook a meal together. This way we can split the cost and still spend time with one another. Many of the dorms in Copenhagen organize group dinners as well.
  4. You Don’t Have to Buy Furniture + Kitchen Supplies for your Dorm: If you book your accommodation through the UCPH Housing Foundation (as most UCEAP students do), then your cozy, new Danish Dorm is already outfitted with basic furnishings (desk, bed + mattress, closet, kitchen table etc.) and kitchen utensils (pots, pans, dishes, utensils etc). However, you will be responsible for buying your own pillows, towels, sheets. These items are easy to find and relatively inexpensive at stores like Fotex, Jysk, and Ikea.
  5. There is No Uber in Denmark: As of Spring 2017, Uber no longer legally operates in Denmark. But have no fear! Denmark and the Copenhagen area in particular has a very reliable and user-friendly public transportation system. There are only two metro lines and they run 24/7. Copenhagen is also notorious for being a very bike-friendly city. Most Danes (and many UCEAP students) choose to bike as it is a reliable and relatively inexpensive form of transport here in Denmark.

A Few Helpful Apps….

  • Rejseplanen: extremely helpful when trying to figure out how to navigate Denmark’s bus, metro, and S-train system. After downloading and enabling location services, the app will recognize your current location. All you have to do is type in your destination and the app will provide a you with a list of the fastest ways to reach it.
  • Google Translate: for when you want to read a sign, or need help reading the packaging in the grocery store
  • UCPH Map: provides you with an interactive map of all four University of Copenhagen campuses, which is extremely helpful especially during the first weeks of school
  • DOT Mobilbilletter: allows you to buy transport tickets for the bus, train, and metro from your phone, which is great when you are running late or in a pinch
  • TooGoodToGo: in an effort to reduce food waste, local restaurants/bakeries/grocery stores sell their leftover food at a discounted rate. All you have to do is pay through the app, and it will give you a time that you can head to the chosen location to pick up your meal!

England | A Home Away From Home

By Emma Skinner

How to get to Cambridge from Paris and a short walking tour of the college town

I’ve never been somewhere outside my hometown that has felt more at home than my arrival at Cambridge.

After a week trip in Paris, it was a nice break to take the Eurostar from Paris, Gare du Nord to London, St. Pancreas International. My family, who kindly joined me in my adventure to Cambridge, and I headed right across the street to King’s Cross where we hopped on the train to Cambridge Station, a short 45-minute ride. Though I first tried to read, I was taken aback by the beauty of the English countryside and found myself staring out the window the entire time.

A family friend who had visited Cambridge previously recommended Black Panther taxi service. Upon arrival at the station, I downloaded the app and was easily able to get a taxi, just like requesting an Uber. From there, it was a short drive to our hotel, the Hilton Cambridge City Center.

This is where my love for Cambridge truly set in. I was amazed at the huge, old buildings that stood around me. The cobblestone streets and a gentleman playing the alto saxophone truly set the scene. As I wandered around my new home, I realized just how lucky I was to be a part of the Pembroke-King’s College Program this summer. Besides a large nearby mall, there were plenty of little shops that caught my eye. I stopped off at Fitzbillies, half café and half coffee shop. I was truly excited to see iced lattes and coffees on the menu, a refreshing break from the constant espresso and lack of café américain in Paris. From there, a short walk by the River Cam and a necessary visit to the Cambridge gift shop to buy souvenirs for my family completed the tour. We finished off with a quick dessert crêpe from Benet’s Café, directly across from King’s, and headed back to get some sleep at our hotel.

Just from the short time I have been in the city so far, I already can tell how amazing this experience is going to be for me. As someone who has wanted to live in England since I was little, I can genuinely think of no better place to begin my adventure than Cambridge. With move-in on Saturday, orientation on Sunday, and classes beginning on Monday, I know the next few days will really help me adjust to my new life for the next two months. Already I have made plans with other students in the program via our Facebook page to meet up and work together on our classes. The friendly atmosphere and serene setting of Pembroke and King’s could make anyone feel at home, even on the other side of the planet.

As I wrap up this entry, I’m reminded of a quote by John Steinbeck who said, “People don’t take trips, trips take people”. From here on out, I well let the city guide me and show me its beauty. I will allow this journey to carry me along with it and enjoy every little moment in the process. I can’t wait for you to join in these moments with me, reader.

See you soon,


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: