Scotland | Life in Edinburgh Part 1

BY CAITLYN PICKARD

I never moved anywhere before college. I lived in the same house for 18 years of my life. Then came college, where I realized, moving is kind of a stressful feeling. You begin to learn about the little quirks and secrets that your new community has to offer. Upon arriving, I wasn’t really sure of anything. The orientations provided by UCEAP and University of Edinburgh were beyond helpful, but there were still some unanswered questions I had. Where to buy groceries, how to explore Edinburgh, getting a new phone sim etc. Through trial, error, and some small financial mistakes, I found myself settling into my surroundings and making Edinburgh my temporary home.

THE BASICS

Phone Services

There are quite a few phone services to choose from, but the two that I researched were EE and Vodafone. EE is the UK company partnered with Orange and T-Mobile. Vodafone is a company frequently seen all over Europe. When using a new phone service while traveling for a short-period of time, it is best to use a pay-as-you-go plan. You will also need an unlocked phone. Depending on what service and type of phone you use in the U.S., you may want to check and see if they can unlock it for free. If you do not have an unlocked phone, you may want to buy a cheap phone to use for your time abroad. When you go to a phone service company, they’ll give you a new SIM card for you to use while using their company services. Below are two similar plans that EE and Vodafone provide:

EE – £15 Vodafone – £15
·      Unlimited text to UK numbers

·      500 min of calls to UK numbers

·      5 GB anything

·      Unlimited text & call to UK numbers

·      Unlimited Social Media data

·      5 GB of other data (internet, videos, etc.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these different options prior to purchasing a plan. I ended up getting an EE plan (at the Cameron Toll location). I could have changed it after learning about the Vodafone plan, but I found that the EE £15 plan suited me fine and EE has better coverage. There are a few other phone services so choose the one that suits your needs! Don’t forget, there’s free wifi everywhere so you don’t have to worry too much about your data limits J

Transportation

If you are a South campus major, you’ll more than likely have a few classes in King’s Building. This is a branch of University of Edinburgh, but it isn’t on main campus. It’s actually like a 20-minute walk from main campus, so if you are expecting to have some math and/or science classes, you might consider living at David Horn House or Kitchner. If not, then you might want to pick a different accommodation. I didn’t know this so I just went for the cheapest housing. Consequently, I am approximately a 30-minute walk from main campus and city center. I considered walking to main campus every day; I mean it’s the same amount of time for me to walk from my apartment in Westwood to North campus, but I’d also skip classes because it would become an excuse. Side note, don’t skip class here, you could get dropped from a course. Not worth it! SO, to avoid that, I decided to buy a bus pass. No excuses for me. A bus pass is £45 for 4 weeks. It’s really nice because I can go to and from campus and also explore Edinburgh without worrying about paying for a single ride on the bus (£1.70 one way). Also, I can use to to and from the airport (£4.50 one way)! Definitely worth it for me.

If you don’t want to walk but still want your exercise, you could buy a used bike in Edinburgh. It’s approximately $100. One other option is Uber. Yes, it is available here! But it does seem a bit more pricey than back in LA. Each ride is about £5 or more, even if it’s a kind of close distance.

Now if you’re strapped for cash, there’s always the free option: using those UCLA-hill conditioned legs.

Groceries

There are 4 main grocery stores that I’ll frequent: Sainsbury, Tesco, Lidl, and Aldi. I usually go to Aldi at Cameron Toll because it is close to my house, David Horn. If you’re more central to campus, there is Sainsbury, Tesco, and Lidl. Normally, Lidl and Aldi have the best deals and cheapest prices; HOWEVER, it really can depend on the things you’re buying. The prices vary from place to place, or can be exactly the same. I usually avoid Sainsbury unless Aldi is closed or if I’m too far away from Tesco or Lidl. On average, it seems to have higher prices. On the plus side, it’s open later and is also in Cameron Toll (for those living in David Horn House).

Hygiene

Boots and Superdrug are the two main stores where you can grab your pharmaceutical items and also any other toiletries you may need. Both have multiple locations in Edinburgh and some close to campus. I only recently found out that Superdrug was similar to Boots. From the outside, it looks like a beauty store. Compared to certain Boots locations, it may have a larger selection of beauty products than Boots. Also, it is a little bit cheaper based off the things I buy.

Clothing and Home Goods

In general, clothing and home goods can be found in Primark and various charity shops on Clerk Street. For clothing options, Primark is a chain retail store with reasonably priced items. Think of it like a European Forever21. They also have H&M a few stores down from Primark on Princes Street. Speaking of Princes Street, that’s the perfect place to go shopping for new clothes. Now, if you’re a bit concerned about your budget abroad, the charity shops are perfect. Their items are gently used and great prices, usually £5 or under. Plus, it goes to a great cause. Feel good and look great option. Primark and charity shops do have a few home good items, but that isn’t what the majority of their products are. If you can’t find what you need there or just need functional products, check out some of the bargain or PoundSaver stores. They have almost anything you’d need and are relatively cheap. There’s a few of these near campus on Clerk Street and also one in Cameron Toll.

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinbugh, Scotland, in Spring 2018: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/United_Kingdom_Scotland/Pages/host_EdinburghUKImmersion.aspx 

How to Vote From Abroad

BY CASEY LEE

UCEAP Switzerland 2017, UCLA ’18

We know there’s a lot on your mind as you’re beginning your fall semester abroad, but you also probably know that there’s an important election coming up on November 6th. Did you know that if you’re a US citizen, you can vote even while you’re abroad? It’s easy! We’ve put together some quick steps for you to follow so that you’ll be able to vote seamlessly from anywhere on Earth.

Note: This post will be geared towards California voters – if you’re not a California voter, select your state here, as different steps and deadlines may apply.

1.       Register to vote (Check your voter registration online and if you’re not, register first)

2.       Register and request an absentee ballot

a.       Request an absentee ballot by submitting a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election office before October 22, 2018 by email/mail/fax in one of three ways:

i.            FPCA Online Assistant

ii.            FCPA fillable PDF

iii.            Picking up a hard copy version from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate

b.       Note: You can use the FPCA to register to vote in addition to requesting the absentee ballot, but you must mail/fax the form back

1.       Returning your ballot

a.       Once you receive your absentee ballot from your State it must be returned according to by mail or fax to your local election office before the ballot return deadline:

i.            Mail: Postmarked by November 6, 2018

ii.            Fax: Received by November 6, 2018

b.       If you haven’t received your blank ballot 30 days before the election, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot to vote

Helpful Resources:

1.       Federal Voting Assistance Program

2.       U.S. Department of State

3.       Overseas Vote Foundation

Ireland | Transportation in Dublin

BY GRACE HEART

LEAPCARD/BUS SYSTEM

The easiest way to get around the city is through the bus system. Each student is given a LeapCard upon arrival at the program and it is preloaded with €5. With the LeapCard, you don’t have to worry about carrying exact change around wherever you go. Instead, you just fill up your LeapCard in advance and you’re good to go whenever you’re ready to explore.

The best place to fill up your LeapCard is at the Centra on campus before you leave. I try to have at least €10 on my card at all times in case I end up going anywhere I didn’t expect to go. On average, each ride usually costs about €2.05 with some of the longer trips being more. It is possible to fill up your LeapCard online, but DON’T DO THIS! If you fill up the card online, you have to take it in to Centra to verify the transaction anyway, so just save yourself the time and effort and go straight to Centra.

When you get on the bus, you can either “tap on” in which case you pay the max fee for all the stops or you can tell the bus driver your stop and he will only charge you according to the number of stops you will be going. Most times, I just tap on, especially if its crowded, to save time, but if you are only going a few stops, just let the bus driver know so you don’t get charged for the whole trip.

I know this was a point of confusion for several people when we started using the bus system, but some people were told that they needed to “tap off” if they “tapped on” when getting on the bus, but you DO NOT NEED TO TAP OFF. Some of my friends got charged a lot of extra money by making this mistake. Tapping off will charge you AGAIN for the max ride length which I’m sure you don’t want. When exiting the bus, you do not have to do anything.

Keep in mind that the bus stops running at 11pm usually. If you are going to be out after 11pm, just split a taxi with your friends. We’ve found it to be about €15-18 when coming from City Centre, which split between 4 people, does not come out to be too expensive.

Overall, the bus system is extremely easy to use and can get you pretty much anywhere, even all the way to Dun Laoghaire.

DART

If you are trying to go a bit further, but not across the whole country, take the DART, part of the Irish Rail system. I only took it a few times to get from City Centre to Dun Laoghaire or from Dun Laoghaire to Howth. It is usually a bit faster and you can still use your LeapCard or you can opt to buy a separate ticket.

IRISH RAIL

If you are trying to get to across the country, use the train! We took the train from Dublin to Galway and it was so incredibly easy and a very nice train ride as well. The train is very clean, with tables and comfortable seats. I would highly recommend heading over to Galway for a weekend by train! You should book these tickets ahead of time if you want to sit with friends. Our tickets to Galway were about €25 round trip. I know you can get to Cork and Belfast on the train as well so definitely check out the train for a few weekend trips!

These are the easiest and cheapest ways to get around Dublin and the rest of Ireland! Take advantage of all the time you have and travel the country because it has so so much to offer!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/ireland/Pages/science_engineering_summer_uc_dublin.aspx

Ireland | A Day in the Life at UCD Summer Physics

BY GRACE HEART

6:30AM – WAKE UP! I typically wake up around 6:30am and check social media for about ten minutes before rolling out of bed. It always seems like you miss a lot when you’re asleep for half of your friends’ days across the world.

6:45AM – RUN! By 6:45am, I’m ready to run. I love going for runs in the morning because it helps me wake up and it’s also just a really great way to explore the city. I typically run towards city centre and explore different neighborhoods along the way.

7:30AM – SHOWER! After I get back from my run and stretch, I’m shower and get ready for the day.

8:15AM – LEAVE ROOM! I leave my room around 8:15am every morning. It’s about a 10-15 minute leisurely walk to the science building from Merville (dorms) so you get to breakfast around 8:30am.

8:30AM – BREAKFAST! Breakfast is at the Pi Restaurant in the science building. There’s normally some sort of hot dish as well as fruit, oatmeal, croissants, yogurt, and granola to choose from.

9:00AM – LECTURE! We have lecture Monday-Friday from 9am to 11am. The professor usually gives us a short, ten-minute break around 10am so we can get water, go to the restroom, or take a quick power nap.

11:00AM – BREAK! After lecture, we have an hour long break until lunch. A lot of people study during this time, go to the gym, or just relax for a bit.

12:00PM – LUNCH! Lunch is served in the Pi Restaurant again (cafeteria-style). They normally have about three options for a hot dish and are very accommodating to different dietary needs. Salad and bread are available as well.

1:00PM – LAB/TUTORIAL! After lunch, you will either have lab or tutorial. My group has labs on Monday and Wednesday and tutorial on Tuesday and Thursday. Labs last about three hours and  tutorials last about two hours depending on the efficiency of your group. In lab, we do hands-on experiments that apply the information we have learned in lecture. In tutorial, we are given a set of five practice problems to work on in groups of three. Both labs and tutorials are turned in and make up about 40% of your grade together.

4:00PM – GYM TIME! After lab or tutorial, I’ll typically go to the gym and do strength or one of the workout classes. The gym is free to the physics students and there are several free workout classes. These classes last about an hour and are a great way to stay in shape while abroad!

5:00PM – DINNER! – After the gym, we head over to dinner back at the science building. Again, there are usually three options for hot dishes plus a dessert for dinner.

The rest of the evening usually consists of studying/taking notes/doing practice problems or exploring the city. It stays light until about 10:30pm so you’ll have plenty of daylight for exploring if you choose to do so during the week. I would recommend trying to do most of your Dublin adventures during the week so that you can take longer trips on the weekend!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/ireland/Pages/science_engineering_summer_uc_dublin.aspx

France | An Idiot Abroad: Yvan and Avignon

By BARRY YANG

A WEEK OF ACCIDENTALLY SAYING BAD WORDS IN FRENCH AND OTHER FUN THINGS

Throughout my years in school, I have seen and experienced my fair share of unique teachers. However, out of all these unique teachers, none have been as poignant as Madame Sophie. The professor for our 10 person Justice and Globalization class, Madame Sophie is probably one of the most confusing yet interesting teachers I have ever had. A non-believer of lecture material, she simply just talks for 2 hours and will actively think out loud and remind us to remind her to not to forgot to talk about certain topics. A enthusiast for books and authors that none of us students from the states have ever head of, Madame Sophie is constantly in shock when half the class responds with puzzled looks whenever she drops the names of supposed renowned modern day political thinkers.

The Tram station at Part Dieu. I make this stop everyday when I switch to my second tram to get to school.

This week was our second time with Madame Sophie, and although none of us really have any idea what is exactly going on in the class, the discussions she sparks are at times very interesting. There are students from Turkey, Finland, Germany, and Switzerland in our class. It is very eye-opening to hear the different perspectives that my classmates have and how their cultures have shaped those perspectives. For example, towards the end of the lecture, Madame Sophie posed a very interesting hypothetical and pushed us to consider the roots of fairness and how our views on fairness are shaped by our respective country’s political and cultural environment. The example was about 3 individuals (Bob, Tom, and John) and who should receive a flute. Bob made the flute. Tom is the only one who can play the flute. John is very poor and has much less than both Bob and Tom. I answered that Bob should have the flute because he made it, while the students from Finland answered that Sally should receive the flute. Madame Sophie then pointed out how my thinking was very libertarian and textbook American thinking whereas the Finnish thinking was more communal. I thought this exercise was very interesting and I am excited to see what other questions she brings up next week.

Madame Sophie is undoubtedly an expert in her field and very knowledgeable of the subject matter. I am very excited for the class to progress and for us to get a better handle on the things she talks about.

Our program has many interesting professors and I look forward to writing about the others in the blogs to come!

MEET MY FRENCH DAD YVAN

My host dad, AKA French Dad, is probably the coolest French person I have met in this country. Yvan is 43 years old and incredibly funny, kind, and genuinely caring. As a social worker for the French government, Yvan deals with many young people and the experience he has garnered from his job really shows when you interact and talk with him.

Always joking around with French and English swear words and not so PG jokes, Yvan is incredibly relatable and joyous. Although there is a pretty big language barrier between him and me, we still talk for hours about traveling, love, and sometimes his wife. He is an tremendously caring father to his kids and a great husband. Although he jokes around with his kids and wife, you can tell he takes his duties as a father and husband seriously. He is incredibly young at heart and thus very fun to be around.

Yvan has taken me on crazy bike rides around Lyon, shown me different types of cheese and wine, helped me find romantic restaurants and places to go with my girlfriend, and genuinely been there as a friend. I am incredibly happy I have this crazy French man in my life.

The rest of my host family is also very cool, and I look forward to introducing them in more detail in future blogs!

Yvan celebrating his birthday!

A WEEKEND IN A SMALL TOWN

Unlike our trip to Marseille, my girlfriend and I had an absolutely amazing time this pass weekend in Avignon. Avignon is a fairly small city in the Provence region of France. It is to the south of the Rhone river and home to many medieval remnants. Everyone we met in the city was incredibly nice. From our Airbnb host, to Majib our new friend whose owns the local bakery, to just store owners who find my inability to speak French and my girlfriend’s smile incredibly endearing. Everyone in Avignon just seemed to be more relaxed and very unpretentious. The food there was also much cheaper than Lyon and Paris.

You can easily see most of Avignon in a day, so the city is a very good place to go for a laid back weekend. We saw many beautiful castles and churches and tried a bunch of foods from the various little shops in the city walls (the city is literally surrounded by the ancient walls from medieval times).

Avignon is definitely worth visiting. It is cheap to get there. Accommodations are very nice and reasonable. The people are incredibly kind and laid back. The sights are amazing and the food great. What more could you ask for. I also got the opportunity to fly my drone and make a video of the small town; the video can be found here: https://youtu.be/ENg692XeUvc

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/france/Pages/default.asp

Italy | Coziness, Culture and Caffeine

By WILLA GIFFIN

Hello to all my readers (comprised of my mom, dad, and if I’m lucky, younger brother)!

I haven’t written in far too long, so I’ll try to catch you up on as much as I can, as succinctly as possible.

I’m absolutely loving my time here so far, largely thanks to my study abroad program, Accent. The program has facilitated tons of cultural immersion opportunities for us, that I would not have been able to find on my own. This weekend they took us to Pisa and you bet I took the stereotypical tourist picture. After, we went to the most quaint, charming, bicycle town, called Lucca, (the birthplace of Puccini) where our waiter took our order and then biked down the street to pick up fresh bread for us to devour with our meal.

On Tuesday, the program is taking us to the opera, and then on Wednesday to a pizza making class, where our instructors are fourth generation pizza makers from Napoli, who speak zero English! Next month, Accent is taking us to Siena and San Gimignano.

One woman who works in the main office has also helped those of us who have expressed interest, find internships in Florence. On Monday, I’ll start working in a third grade classroom, teaching English to Italian children… Wish me luck! I barely have a third grade mastery of English myself (thank you spellcheck for hiding my biggest flaws), let alone the ability to teach it to Italian students.

Also, during our first weekend in Florence, Accent took us on an incredible walking tour around the city. It was so beneficial to hear about the rich art and cultural history of all the monuments I pass by daily, and I also appreciated getting an insider’s guide on where to get the best focaccia and which gelato to avoid like the plague. The tour was fairly long, but because my feet were numb from the cold, I could barely tell I was walking at all!

My individual process of adjusting to the cold temperatures here has been interesting, especially because this winter has been uncharacteristically cold for Florence (temperatures haven’t dropped this low since 1985, when the Arno River completely froze over and the Florentines could skate across it). As a girl from Southern California, I never expected to be so excited by the upcoming warm front in the forecast: a whopping 40 degrees Fahrenheit!

I’ve actually really enjoyed the cold though. It’s nice to bundle up and feel so cozy. Plus, I rarely unzip my jacket, so I could have my pajamas underneath, and nobody would ever know. Also, I like wearing so many layers because I can zip my valuables securely in the pockets of my innermost layer, and not have to carry a purse or worry about pickpockets; no one is getting my euro, buried three jackets deep!  I’m also working on learning how to discern who is smoking a cigarette and who is just exhaling in the cold—so that’s a valuable party trick I’ll hopefully have mastered soon!

One day on my way to class, it started snowing—very, very minimally but it was snow nonetheless! This was the first time in a long time I had seen snow (not including the bubbles they drop on you at the end of the holiday firework show at Disneyland). It was absolutely magical. I was over the moon.  I walked the full 20 minutes to school with my head back and tongue out, bobbing and weaving in attempts to capture the sporadic flakes.

When I got to class, all I wanted to do was stare out the window, and will the snow to continue, and maybe even stick! It didn’t.  But then Cinzia (pronounced Chintsia), my Italian level 3 professor, walked in and immediately turned our classroom into a party, as she does everyday.

Originally, when I heard that my language classes were going to be Monday through Thursday, and three and a half hours long each day, quite frankly, I was worried. Often times at UCLA, no matter how interesting the material, I count down the minutes until my sometimes just bi-weekly, one hour long classes end. But this is so different. Cinzia is amazing, and apparently all of the other Italian professors in the program are too. She is 40 years old, but clad in her red leather jacket, cool leopard print boots, and a nose ring, she’s as hip and edgy as an 18 year old.

Cinzia always makes games out of our Italian lessons. Last week we played Pictionary with our new vocabulary of adjectives for personalities. Later that day, Cinzia placed Post-it Notes on our backs, labeled with celebrities’ names, our temporary identities. Without knowing who we were, we had to ask each other for hints as to who we were portraying, speaking only in Italian, of course. I was given Julia Roberts, but my classmates were little help in my attempt to guess my celebrity identity. Almost every question I asked—sono una atrice? (am I an actress), sono giovane? Vecchia? (Am I young? Old?) —was responded with, “Uh… I don’t know who that is.” They didn’t know who Julia Roberts was! It not only made me concerned that I was losing the game, but I was also worried about the future of our planet 😉

Cinzia’s loves to play Italian rock music for us, although her favorite band is Pearl Jam. She prints out the lyrics, has us stand in a circle, and makes us sing along with the song. Because we never know the melody, let alone the language of the lyrics really, our signing is usually an atonal, cacophonous mess, but a hilarious and fun mess, at that.

This week Cinzia split our class of ten into a group of five girls and five boys. She had us write our own Italian songs. Our girl group translated the lyrics to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” into Italian (Tuttle le donne single) and came up with ridiculous choreography to match. Cinzia videoed our performance, and I’m pretty sure she posted it on YouTube somewhere, but I’d rather that stay hidden in the deep dark depths of the internet (along with anything I posted on social media before the 9th grade).

Everyday, halfway through class, at 10:30, Ciniza lets us out for a 20 minute coffee break. The ten of us leave class and peruse the combined farmer’s market and flea market that is directly outside of the school’s entrance. Students pick up fresh produce for the night’s dinner and try on vintage coats for the next time they go to the opera. Then, without fail, we always go either to Ricchi caffè or Volume for the rest of our break.

At the caffès (which are often called bars here), we all order in Italian, completely humbled, as we hem and haw and stumble over each word. We eventually get the message across, with the assistance of pointing and other types of exaggerated pantomiming. I get a cappuccino, and more often than not, a croissant (un cornettoNOT corretto, which is a coffee with grappa!). We all stand at the counter because there is a “sitting charge” in Italy, plus it feels more sophisticated to stand at the bar. I sip and savor the liquid gold in my little cup, each swallow deepening my regret over time wasted on all past Starbucks orders.  When we’re finished sopping up the last miniscule puddle of cappuccino with the heel of our croissants, we meander back to class, feeling energized and ready for more singing in Italian.

I actually think I am most happy when I am in class here, which is something I was absolutely not expecting to say. Besides thoroughly enjoying Cinzia’s interactive teaching style, going to school, and other typically mundane tasks (like grocery shopping or taking out the garbage) elevates this adventure for me. It transforms this experience from being an extended vacation, to feeling like I’m truly living here in Italy.

I often sit in class, a room that has been standing since the 1400s (longer than the US has been a country, which really baffles me) and I just marvel at the intricately hand-painted ceilings that almost rival the Sistine Chapel (which I actually got to see in Rome last weekend!!!). So much of this experience so far has felt like one big dream, and I’m worried that it will never really hit me that I’m actually here. But moments like these, when I’m sitting in the classroom, or picking out yogurt from the local grocery store, ground this experience in reality for me, and make me really appreciate this time for how truly special it is.

Next time I’ll tell you about my History of Food course, which is on a whole other level of delicious excellence! To be continued…

Willa Giffin studied abroad in Florence, Italy in Winter 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/italy/Pages/language_culture_florence_quarter.aspx

Barbados | Eating Well

By ANGELA HOWARD
A common joke about living on a Caribbean island is that you learn to be a gourmet chef with very limited ingredients and spices (anything more than salt and pepper is fancy to me!). Food prices can be rather expensive due to the fact that all the food has to be imported. That being said, fresh vegetables (not frozen veggies, only fresh ones!) and fish lean more on the affordable side if you prepare them yourself. Even if the reason is strictly financially based, I’ve been regularly eating delicious and nutritious balanced meals for the first time in my college career!


However, it does get challenging when I walk the 20 minute walk down to the grocery store, only to see they are out of stock of their veggies. This is not me being picky. When I say “out of stock” I mean, they literally have no fresh produce on the premises.