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.

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.

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,

Emma

Norway | Arrival

By Rose Forster

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

At the Airport

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

Housing

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

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

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

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

Ghana | First Impressions of Ghana

By Ashley Young

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

Spain | A Very Spanish Weekend: Sevilla

by Celia Cody-Carrese
A Very Spanish Weekend: Sevilla
Animated chatter morphs into hushed murmurs as the staff pushes out a hearty “shhh” across the room. It’s starting. Sevillanos and tourists alike are still searching forany bit of open space where they can sit and watch the show. The guitar starts, before the room gets quiet enough to hear it clearly. Next comes the clapping, soft and quiet at first. The singer lets out a long, high cry, his voice weaving in and out of the handclaps and guitar. There is pain and passion in his voice, that hooks into your ears and won’t let go. Seated next to him is the dancer, a woman wearing a red top, long purple ruffled skirt, and a red scarf tied around her waist. Her lips are red and she wears red and white flowers in her hair, parted down the middle and worn in a low bun. She is the picture of flamenco. Her white shoes begin to tap on the floor, along with the rhythm of the hand claps. Something beyond my understanding occurs which signals her to stand and take her spot in the center of the small wooden tablon, or stage, laid out on the floor. Maybe it’s a line in the song, or maybe it was just the feeling of the moment.She is larger than life – her feet strike the floor at a speed that seems inhuman, her arms twist and sweep across her body, her hips ground all her movements. But her face, her face is what says it all. She doesn’t ever flash us a dancer’s smile –instead,her face shows the effort behind everything. The pain and joy of the music, the sheer difficulty of what she is doing. By the end of the second song, a sheen of sweat covers her face. She’s not here to look pretty. She’s here to emote, to dance, and to do something really difficult, really well. This is true for the guitarist and singer as well–they don’t put up a front, it’s just raw emotion and effort. And that’s what made my first time seeing flamenco so incredible.

Flamenco at La Carbonería in Sevilla

Sevilla is the capital of Andalucía, and maybe rightfully so (but don’t tell anyone in Córdoba I said that!). It’s home to some of the best flamenco, best gastronomy, and biggest displays of Spanish architecture. My favorite place in Sevilla is the Plaza de España, a grandiose building and plaza designed by Sevillan architect Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossorio, constructed for the Iberian-American Exposition in 1929.Walking up to the Plaza is pretty breathtaking there are so many elements and details that I couldn’t decide what to look at first.

Aníbal González’s architectural genius is matched only by his fantastic mustache

Plaza de España, Sevilla

The Plaza de España is made up of a huge plaza, obviously, and an equally huge building that curves around the outside of the Plaza. Along the front of the building are murals made of intricate hand painted tiles, which represent different cities and regions in Spain.Within the plaza is a moat-like body of water, where ducks floating between rowboats. Over the water are four bridges, featuring brightly painted balustrades (theside part of the bridge). The whole thing is pretty stunning. We spent about an hour just walking around and staring at everything, and then rented row boats for half an hour. Fun fact! The Plaza de España was used as a set in Attack of the Clones,  the second film in the Star Wars prequels. Anakin and Padmé can be seen walking through the Plaza, which in the film is on the Planet Naboo.

Córdoba’s mural at the Plaza de España

Next to the Plaza de España is another impressive display of something Spain does really well-parks.Walking through the Maria Luisa park takes you through tropical landscaping, beautiful fountains, and ponds filled with birds, including two large andfriendly swans. (Feed them grass, they won’t bite!) Scattered throughout the park are various structures, including a dome topped gazebo and a beautiful building which houses the Museum of Arts and Traditions. Every corner holds something different, and simultaneously the whole park fits together beautifully. It’s historical, lush, and whimsical.

Parquede María Luisa

What’s a weekend in Spain without delicious food? Sevilla is home to a lot of great restaurants, and in total has over 3,000 tapas bars and restaurants! 3,000! My favorite place we went to was an old bar called Casa Morales, complete with giant barrels of vino and huge legs of jamón hanging over the bar. I don’t eat meat and the pig legs kind of weird me out, but they also feel so Spanish! I had espinacas Andaluz stew of spinach and garbanzo beans served with bread. It was delicious and so filling for only a small tapa! We also had amazing gelato right next to the Cathedral -my flavors included basil-lime, coconut, and almond.We sat in the plaza enjoying our gelato, watching horse drawn carriages pass by. Nearby a young woman warmed up for a street performance, where she danced hip hop and contemporary.

Tapas at Casa Morales

Something I have grown to love about Spain is the street performers. Many cities I have been to, including cities in America, have some pretty hokey street performers. Often they are talented, but there is too much schtick thrown on top of whatever art form they are doing. However, in Spain the street performers are a bit humbler and more original. In Madrid I saw roller skaters dance like they were on ice and jump over a row of about 8 people lying on the ground. In Córdo bayou can often see a man who plays saxophone on thePuente Romano, as well as various guitarists in the center. In Toledo outside a church, flamenco rhythms from a man’s guitar softly filled the air. The young dancer we saw in Sevilla left out candies in a box next to the hat she used to collect donations. Other notable sights in Sevilla include the Real Alcazar, a palace complex with Mudéjar (Moorish), Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles.Within the Alcazar rare beautiful and extensive gardens,which a raised, covered walkway runs along.The Alcazar, along with the Plaza de España, are still in use today for royal and government purposes, respectively. And as with any Andalucían city, meandering throughout the narrow and winding streets is never a waste of the afternoon.

Mudéjar architecture in the Alcazar

Sevilla truly has a place in my heart, along with every other beautiful place I have been able to see during my time here in España!

Italy | If This is School, Let’s Have Class on the Weekends

BY WILLA GIFFIN

If This is School, Let’s Have Class on the Weekends

One of the most central aspects contributing to my time in Florence has been my elective class: The History and Culture of Food in Italy. I’ve mentioned it in past blog posts, but haven’t given this once in a lifetime class nearly the attention that it most certainly deserves. So here it goes… I hope I can do it justice.

Months before my departure to Florence, after reading descriptions of the culture courses my study abroad program offered, I decided that I wanted to take the food class (the other options were Art History and the Sociology of Love– both of which students in my program are currently thrilled to be taking).  In reality, after seeing the word “food” in the course title, no further reading was necessary; the class chose me.

The enrollment period came around in December of last year, and having had friends go through my exact study abroad program in the past, I was advised to set an alarm for an ungodly hour in order to sign-up immediately, and ensure my spot in this highly coveted class.

Due to the different time zones, unsure of when the enrollment email would find its way into my inbox, and mostly because I am neurotic, I set an alarm to go off in twenty-minute intervals starting at 3:45 am.

After almost two-and-a-half hours of 8 jarring alarms, I received the enrollment notice at 6 am. It was a slightly tortuous night of restless sleep—but I reserved my place in the food class, and boy was it worth it!

Once in Florence, at orientation, Dr. Peter Fischer, the enthusiastic and beyond knowledgeable food professor, was only described to us as being, “very German and very loved.”

On the first day of lecture it became crystal clear why, Peter (as we call him), was so raved about. He passed out the class syllabus that set the tone for the incredible class and instantly deemed all future syllabi disappointing bores. Most thrilling was the class date labeled, “Midterm Exam Followed by Gelato Tasting.”

Class itself is always something to look forward to. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Peter begins lecture by asking us students to share stories of interesting food experiences that we’ve encountered since our last meeting. We talk about new dishes we’ve tried, look for the cultural reasoning behind why the waitress rolled her eyes when we asked for a to-go box after dinner, or tell stories of how when we’d tried to order a caffe coretto (espresso with a shot of liquor) but, lost in translation, received what we had accidentally asked for: cornetto (a croissant).

In class Peter brings Italy to life for me through analyzing the history of the food—one of the most central aspects to human survival in general, and encompassing even more grandiose, far-reaching meaning in Italy, where the meals taste like memories.

Peter has taught us some Italian food survival skills, like why a true Italian will never ever drink a cappuccino after breakfast (because the high milk content is thought to be hard to digest). And, I specifically, learned the valuable lesson that an Osteria is not a restaurant that sells oysters, like I’d originally thought and told a friend (sorry Sofia), but rather, typically, a less expensive restaurant.

Peter has lectured on a variety of fascinating food facts, like the American fast food movement, and the Italian counter-movement, Slow Food, which was sparked in protest of the opening of the first McDonalds in Rome in 1986. Californian chef and Farm-To-Table advocate, Alice Waters, is the Vice President of the international movement today.

We learned that potatoes, tomatoes, and corn originally came to Italy from the Americas, but Italians considered the Native Americans to be cannibals and initially refused to eat the food of “savages.” It wasn’t until a food shortage that the Italians turned to using these American vegetables, however, they made sure to disguise the foods’ original form, transforming potatoes into gnocchi and corn into polenta.

We learned that Italy wasn’t politically unified until 1871, and wasn’t culturally united for many years after that. Italians attempted to create a sense of solidarity through their cuisine. Pasta functioned as a unifying symbol, as its different shapes, sizes, and ways of being prepared, represented the regional diversity, but its same basic ingredients signified a one-ness.

We learned that during the first wave of Italian immigration to the United States, Italy was not culturally unified, thus there was not yet an archetypal “Italian.” It wasn’t until migrating to America, that Italians, as outsiders, honed their identity and discovered what it meant to be “a true Italian,” all while learning how to be “American” at the same time. Studying this, led me to examine what I think it means to be an American, through my own experience as an outsider in Italy.

Last week we all turned in our research papers that we wrote with the freedom to discuss the food related topic of our choice. If you have to write a paper, what better topic than food to write about? As long as you have snacks handy in the drafting process. My essay was titled “Dinner the Implications of the Italian Verb and the English Noun” and writing it, made me even more enchanted with the Italian family style dinners.

Besides learning in the classroom through remarkably engaging power points and lectures, Peter has taken us on numerous field-trips (like on a chocolate tasting!!) that I will remember even more fondly than the crunchy, savory, taste of my most favorite panini.

This Thursday, Peter walked us over to the Florentine Community Garden. The old running track, turned herb garden, was covered in raised plant-beds, and pink flowering trees (happy spring!).  We met Giacomo, the gardener, at the entrance, and in his hip, plaid flannel shirt and light blue jeans, he looked more like he belonged in San Diego than amongst the other peacoat- enthusiast, leather-shoed Italians.

Giacomo showed us around his sustainable herb garden, focusing most proudly on his composting, his rainwater supplied bathroom sink, and his fishpond that serves as mosquito repellent. We walked around the garden, admiring all of the unique hybrid herbs Giacomo was growing– lavender mint, cranberry sage, tangerine thyme, just to name a few.

As a class, we decided on six herbs to pick, and then we each took turns chopping them up as finely as possible. Once the herbs were hacked to a pulp, Giacomo brought out a stash of fresh, homemade ricotta, separating it into three small bowls. We then combined two chopped herbs into each bowl of cheese and stirred thoroughly. We were given delicious bread and slathered it with ricotta, along with various salts to add if we wished. All three of the herbed ricottas were absolutely delicious, but my favorite was the lavender mint and chive with a pinch of black, Greek salt to top.

Two weeks ago, our class of twenty took a daylong field trip to a small winery in the most enchanting chianti countryside. Chianti Classico wine maker, Paulo, walked us around his vineyard and taught us about growing grapes and the fermentation process. He brought us into his old stone house and showed us his downstairs cellar. The electricity was out, so we did our tour and wine/olive oil tasting by candlelight. It was a far cry from any school field trip to the local library I’d ever been on.

After the winery, Peter took us to a small town to eat lunch and drink some more wine at a bustling, down-to-earth Trattoria where we (definitely) over-indulged in a four-course meal. Our giant meat and cheese plate, was followed by a heaping portion of pasta e fagioli (pasta in white beans). A mixed-meat tagliatelle was next (I’m always a little weary of “mixed” meats, mostly because I’m afraid of eating horse… but if I didn’t think about it too much, it tasted good). Then came the pork stew, which was followed by the dessert wine, delicious biscotti, dense chocolate cake, and the concluding coffee, of course.

By the end of lunch, none of us could walk straight—mostly because we were so full (as if we had eaten a horse) but also the wine certainly didn’t help.

Somehow, we managed to waddle back to the bus that carried our very full bodies back to Florence. On that ride home, feeling happy, plump, and satisfied, I stared out the window as we wove and winded through the most breathtaking Tuscan countryside. Seeing the vineyards that braid their way up the mountainsides, come and go from my line of sight, I couldn’t help but think about how this was unlike any day of class I have experienced, or will ever experience again in my life.

I am one lucky foodie.