Italy | The Pantheon

By Andrea Zachrich

The Pantheon

I love the Pantheon, especially as a college student and a person who studies classics. As far as being a college student goes, its completely free which is awesome because many of the sites in Rome can get expensive. You can go back as often as you would like (I actually took 2 of my friends to the Pantheon while they were on vacation in Rome and my brother and went another time on my own). As a Classics enthusiast, the Pantheon is perhaps the best preserved ancient monument in Rome (and maybe even in the world). The structure, floors, and walls are all mostly original (with some restoration work and later Christian additions). While there have been some modifications in terms of the sculptures due to its conversion to a Christian church, what remains can really give you a sense of the grandeur and beauty of ancient Rome, which is difficult to imagine in many of the other ruins from antiquity, even in places like Pompeii and Ostia, where the buildings are very well preserved, because they have lost a lot of the stucco and marble facing that would have made them so incredible.


The Pantheon really has 5 main histories: 3 rebuildings in antiquity, it’s use as a Christian church from the end of antiquity onwards, and it’s modern history as a tourist attraction in Rome. This building was very influential during the Renaissance, and is one of the most popular sites for tourists (and locals) today.

Ancient Times

The word pantheon is actually Greek in origin. It roughly translates into “all the gods”. Pan means “all” and theon means “gods”. It is, as the name suggests, a temple dedicated to all of the gods. Some scholars, however, think that it was dedicated not to all the gods in the Roman pantheon, but to all the planet gods. Due to the removal of the Roman sculpture on the inside, however, we cannot be sure exactly which gods the temple was dedicated to.

The first Pantheon was built during the years 27-25 BC by Marcus Agrippa. Marcus Agrippa Agrippa was a powerful and influential man who was the right hand man of Emperor Augustus, and essentially served as co-emperor. He has a lot of building projects in the Campus Martius (which is where the Pantheon is). Originally, Agrippa had wanted to put a statue of Augustus inside the temple alongside all of the gods, but Augustus would not allow it, stating that he was not a god yet. Instead, Agrippa decided to put statues of Augustus and himself on the outside of the temple in order to show that they were favored by the gods.

This first Pantheon was destroyed in a fire in 80 AD, and rebuilt by the emperor Domitian. This second temple was again destroyed in 110 AD. Very little is known about these earlier buildings. No one is quite sure what they looked like or their decorations. Some ancient authors have written about them, but even these writings lack clues as to what the building may have been like. Some scholars have speculated that the original entrance actually faced in the opposite direction, but we really don’t know.

The Pantheon we can visit today was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, sometime from 117-138 AD, although most scholars agree that it was probably finished at some point during the 120s. We’re not sure because Hadrian actually put up the original inscription on the new building that reads (in latin of course) “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, during his third time as consul, made me”. Most believe that he put up this inscription because he wished to associate himself and his rule as emperor with that of Augustus.

Middle Ages and Beyond

The Pantheon was given to the Catholic Church in 609 AD by Emperor Phocas, who was the Byzantine emperor in the east. The temple was then turned into a Catholic church. While the church left most of the exterior and interior marble decoration intact, they did remove the pagan sculpture from the inside. Eventually, the marble that covered the exterior brick you see today was taken, as well as the marble decoration from the pediment. We can’t be entirely sure, but many scholars believe that the decoration on the pediment was that of an eagle based on the holes left from where the decoration was nailed into place.

The interior and exterior dome of the Pantheon, as well as the interior roof of the porch used to be covered with bronze. This bronze was taken by the Catholic church in the mid 1600s during the reign of Pope Urban VIII and was actually used to make canons for the Castel S’ant Angelo (known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum to us Classics nerds), and Bernini’s bronze baldachin that you can see inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican today. It must have been a marvelous looking building before the bronze was stripped away (although it is still quite impressive without it).

During the 1600s two bell towers were built on either side of the porch, but they were removed in the late 19th both because they were fairly unattractive (they were nicknamed the “ass’s ears”) and because they did not reflect the original design of the building.

Today, the Pantheon is still used as a Catholic church, although they only have services on Sundays (Saturday evenings for English speakers), and also do not enforce the usual rule of churches in Italy where you must cover your shoulders and legs down to the knee. It is treated much more like an ancient monument and much less like a typical church. It is, however, free to visit because it is still a church.

The Building

The structural integrity of the building has not been compromised in the nearly 2000 years since it was built. The building has managed to survive fires, earthquakes, invasions of the city, and floods without any worry by modern engineers that it will collapse, which really is remarkable.

The building can be divided into two main areas: the porch and the interior (with the dome). The porch is beautiful. It features monolithic columns of granite imported from Egypt. The word monolithic means that these columns are each made using only one piece of stone! They each weigh over 60 tons, and it would have been an incredibly costly and time consuming process to import them. The pink granite columns on the left side, however, are from the Baths of Nero and replaced the original ones in the mid 1600s .

As stated earlier, the interior of the porch roof used to be covered with bronze, and there were two giant statues of Augustus and Agrippa in the niches on the porch. While the decorations from the pediment and the bronze have been stripped away from the porch, it is still a very imposing and beautiful building to look at from the front.

The Pantheon is, of course, most famous for it’s dome. It was the largest dome in the world until the mid 1800s, and is still the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world. Roman engineers were able to accomplish this thanks to a well-made design and their choice of material: roman concrete. Roman concrete is particularly strong because it makes use of volcanic ash as one of the ingredients. The chemical reaction from using this material actually makes the concrete stronger over time. The design has also allowed the dome to stand for as long as it has. The supporting base of the dome is very wide, at 21 feet thick. As it climbs upwards, the concrete dome gets thinner and thinner until it’s only about 4 feet wide so that there is less weight to support as it gets taller. The dome is a perfect half sphere. The diameter across is as long as the dome is tall from floor to oculus. There is an oculus that’s about 8 meters wide at the top of the dome to allow in light and air. The photos show what the inside looks like today.

Two tombs of Italian kings (and one of their wives), and the tomb of the painter Raphael reside inside of the Pantheon. The tomb of Raphael is surprisingly simple for such a great painter; it simply has his coffin and statue of St. Mary that one of his students made. Even though his tomb changes the ancient design, it seems fitting that he would be laid to rest in such a beautiful place.

While we did not get to experience it while we were there, Professor Gurval says that his favorite time to visit the Pantheon is when it rains because rain will actually fall though the oculus (and all the tourists usually clear out). If you look closely, you can find drains built into the floor directly under the oculus. Originally, these drains ran out into fountains that lined the portico that surrounded the Pantheon.

Why I’m So Obsessed with it

The Pantheon is easily my favorite place in Rome. Besides having a courtyard on the outside with a fountain where you can fill up your water bottle and being close to my favorite gelato place in Rome (Giolitti’s), it really is one of the few places in Rome where you can really get a sense of the grandeur and wealth of ancient Rome. Most of the other buildings from antiquity are in ruins, and when they are not, they have been stripped of their decoration. The Pantheon still has all of its original interior marble decoration on the floors and the walls, and the impressive dome still stands in near perfect condition. It’s hard to walk into the forum, or even the coliseum, and fully grasp the wealth of Rome when all you see are dilapidated structures devoid of any sort of decoration, but walking into the Pantheon really shows you what ancient Rome would have looked like, and you get a sense of how powerful and wealthy the empire really was. It also helped me envision what the other sites would have looked like their prime, with beautiful, colored marble decorations and statues decorating the inside. The Pantheon may be one of the best preserved ancient monuments in the world, and it really allows you to get a taste of ancient Rome with much more accuracy than many of the other ancient sites.

Best Time to Visit

Unfortunately for those people who are not morning people, the best time to visit the Pantheon is right at 8:30 AM when it opens. I managed to drag myself here this early, and it really was incredible compared to the other times when I went in the middle of the day. There were maybe 20 other people inside with me (compared to the hundreds during other times). With less people there, you can really examine the floor and the walls (especially if you’re short like me), and admire the tombs and decorations without other people crowding you in. Additionally, with less people you really grasp just how large the structure is, it seems much smaller when you’re surrounded by people. The emptiness really allows you to take it all in.

In short, I love this place. It’s so well-preserved and really a beautiful site, and it’s completely free to visit. Definitely make sure to stop by if you’re Rome! It’s worth taking the time to see.

Italy | The Coliseum

By Andrea Zachrich

My first impression of the Coliseum was that it was smaller than the Rosebowl. My second thought after that was that the Rosebowl was unlikely to still be standing 2,000 years from now in the same way the Coliseum is. My third thought was awe at the fact that this incredibly large structure has withstood the test of time (not without damage, of course, but what’s left is still pretty spectacular).

The Facts

Its Name

I love the story of how the Coliseum got its name. During the reign of Emperor Nero, he commissioned a massive bronze statue of himself as the sun god that was often called the “colossus” because of its huge size. (It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). This statue, which was nearly 100 feet tall, stood right next to the coliseum (with various reworkings of the face for different emperors) until an earthquake in 1000 toppled it, but by then the name of the amphitheater had already been determined. So the name Coliseum comes from the word colossus and essentially refers to a structure that is near the colossus statue of Nero. The true name of the amphitheater is Amphitheatrum Flavium in latin, or Flavian Amphitheater in English, because it was constructed during the Flavian dynasty. That name, however, is rarely used, and the word coliseum with a lowercase “c” has even come to be used for other amphitheaters from the Roman world.

Ancient History

The Coliseum was started around 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and was completed by his son Emperor Titus in 80 AD following Vespasian’s death. The name Flavian Amphitheater comes from these emperors, who were a part of the Flavian dynasty. It was paid for by using wealth acquired from booty during war. According to ancient sources, the inaugural games of the Coliseum lasted a full month, and 9,000 animals were killed and there were hundreds of gladiatorial fights and other spectacles. Some scholars even believe that the amphitheater may have even been filled with water and used for mock naval battles, but other scholars believe that this may have only happened once at the inaugural games or not at all (the Romans did have these mock naval battles, called naumachia, but the location usually made use of existing bodies of water and thus the Romans may not have needed/wanted to use the Coliseum for this purpose). It could seat around 50,000-80,000 people depending on the amount of wooden seating at the top and how packed in the people were. The structure has a series of underground tunnels (you can see them today because the wooden floor no longer exists) that would be used to raise wild animals into the arena or sometimes gladiators from special trapdoors. It also had a canvas cover on the top of the amphitheater called the vela or velarium, the latin word for sail (like from a sail boat) that served to protect viewers from the sun or rain. All of the games at the Coliseum were free to attend and were usually paid for by the emperor, but you had to secure a token with a seat on it prior to the event in order to be allowed in. But, if you were an elite, you didn’t need this token. The emperor had his own box, the senators had marble seats (you can still see this section of seating today), and many elite families had their own boxes in the Coliseum from which to watch the games.

Materials and Architecture

The Coliseum is really a remarkable structure, and has stood for nearly 2,000 years with minimal damage aside from deliberate material robbing. The Coliseum is the largest amphitheater from antiquity. It is mainly made of concrete, tufa (a volcanic stone common in Roman building), and travertine (another stone commonly used by the Romans). It was faced with marble and had statues facing outwards in all of the archways in antiquity. It has three stone layers of seatings (with ionic, doric, and corinthian capitals on the outside) and used to have a top, wooden layer of seating that was the Roman equivalent of the nosebleed seats which most likely burnt down. These wooden seats required near constant maintenance in antiquity, and were frequently subjected to fires and other damages that come from being outside. The structure had a central wooden platform (now completely gone – probably because it rotted away over time) that would have been covered with sand where all the spectacles took place. As discussed earlier, there is an extensive system of tunnels under this floor that were used to place animals and people into the arena. Below are some photos that show the series of tunnels under the floor.

Modern History

During the early medieval ages, the arches of the Coliseum housed shops and were used as housing. There was also a chapel built in the structure at this time. Around 1200 AD, the Frangipani family took over the entire Coliseum and used it as a fort and to house their family. In the mid 1300’s, an earthquake toppled much of one of the sides, and the stones that fell were reused in other buildings around Rome. Similar to many other buildings in Rome, the bronze clamps that held the stone together were actually dug out of the stone, and you can still see the holes that this left on the structure today (and makes it even more remarkable that the Coliseum is still standing). In the mid 1700’s, Pope Benedict XIV declared the site to be sacred and forbid further quarrying because he claimed that Christians had been martyred in the structure. While the Roman did prosecute Christians for much of their history, there is no historical evidence that executions took place in the Coliseum, and many scholars believe that no Christians were ever killed there for the crime of being Christian. There is, however, still a large cross inside of the Coliseum, and this Pope’s declaration did help save the amphitheater from further damage. The Coliseum was finally fully excavated under Mussolini, and underwent a massive restoration project from 1993-2000. There used to be a ton of cats that lived in the Coliseum, but there aren’t as many today. I saw one when we went as a class, and none when I went with my brother. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, and draws in massive amounts of revenue for the Italian government.

Random fun fact: gattara is the Italian word for an old lady who takes care of cats on the streets, and its one of my favorite words I learned in Italian (along with cucchioli which means puppies or kittens which I learned when visiting my Sicilian family and their puppy!) Writing about the stray cats in the Coliseum reminded me about this word.

The Gladiators

Now we get to the good part: the gladiators of the Coliseum. Contrary to popular belief, only about 10 percent of gladiators ever died in battle or from their wounds in battle. It was still a very risky profession, but not as dramatic as is often depicted in movies. Gladiators often did not battle to the death because a gladiator is an expensive investment for their ludus, or gladiator school, because they must be trained, housed, and clothed. It would not be economical to own gladiators if your investments die half the time they were used for a fight. Most gladiators were slaves, although some people did choose to be gladiators. They occupied an interesting place in society. Many were wealthy, as they often got paid large sums to fight, and good gladiators had a type of celebrity status in Rome, but they also were denied the right to citizenship, and many were slaves (although they could often afford to pay for their freedom with their battle fees). They could not marry Roman citizens (although there are stories of particularly famous gladiators consorting with senator’s wives), and had tattoos to signify that they were gladiators. The fame and wealth accompanied with the loss of rights meant that gladiators occupied this strange limbo ground in Roman society.

Going There

Honestly, getting into the Coliseum is really quite a process. As with most tourist attractions in Rome, I would recommend going early and maybe even getting in line before they open. I would also get tickets in advance, or get the super ticket from the Forum the day before so that you don’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket here. When we went as a class, we got there quite early, maybe around 8:30 and only had to wait in line about 30 minutes. My brother and I went a different time and got there around 9:30, and had to wait in line for a little over an hour before we even got to buy our tickets. It takes so long because they send you through security (of which they should have more open) and then have you purchase your ticket after, which, as you can imagine, is a slow moving process. The price of the ticket isn’t terrible, i believe its only 15 euros to visit both the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

I really enjoy learning about the Coliseum. It is an iconic symbol of Rome, and reminder of the wacky types of entertainment the ancient Romand enjoyed. It’s name, history, construction, and the gladiators that fought (and died) here are all fascinating, and learning about them really enhanced my visit to this awesome place. It was even cooler to take my brother back a second time and teach him all of things that I had learned. In many ways, the Coliseum is symbolic of the ancient Romans: its massive and beautiful and opulent with a violent and bloody history.

Italy | Public Transportation

By Andrea Zachrich

Coming from Los Angeles, where the public transportation is seldom used and pretty inconvenient, I thought the public transportation in Rome was awesome. Yes, it was almost never on time, and yes, it was often crowded with people who couldn’t seem to figure out a bus map, but the whole month I was there it got me where I needed to be mostly on time.

So there’s three kinds of public transportation in Rome: the subway, the busses, and the trams. We mainly used the busses and the trams. There are only a few subway lines in Rome because every time they attempt to build a new line, some ancient monument or site is found and they have to stop construction. They’re attempting to build a new one by the Coliseum at the moment, but it has been slow going. They also don’t have any subway lines that go under the river and into Trastevere. I only used the subway twice the entire month I was there, so I didn’t find it particularly useful, but it could be if you’re staying near a stop. The trams are awesome, but there’s only 2 lines – the 3 and the 8. BUT, both lines go to very convenient places. The 8 ends in one of the main piazzas of Rome – Piazza Venezia – and goes to Trastevere, and the 3 has stops near the Coliseum, Largo Argentina (where Julius Caesar was murdered!) and other ancient sites. Another advantage of the tram is that it’s almost always on time. If the tram gets you to your location, it would be my first choice of public transportation to use. The busses are the most extensive type of public transportation in Rome and can get you almost anywhere in the city that you want to go. The one downfall to them, however, is that they are constantly running late. Sometimes they’re running so late that you think they’re on time because they get there at the time it says the bus after them should be there. There’s a ton of tourists on busses, because this is the form of transportation that stops at many of the main tourist sites, but as long as you’re not going as peak hours it’s usually isn’t unbearably crowded.

What I did

So, I was there for a month, and I knew I was going to be using public transportation extensively. If we ever used the bus as a class, those tickets were covered, but everything else was our own responsibility to pay for. So I decided to get a month long unlimited bus pass. Our program director offered to reimburse us the cost of all the tickets we would use as a class (16 euros) if we decided to purchase our own pass (which was 38 euros). It was a great deal. I definitely used the bus/tram more that the 15 times I paid for (in terms of individual tickets) and it was nice to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing I could always use it if i needed it. Also, with our apartment a 20-25 minute walk from where we met every morning, the bus pass was a god send. I used it to get around town when friends visited, my brother was here, or I just wanted to go out and explore. It made exploring Rome easy and fast, and I’m very glad I purchased one.

What you should do

If you’re just there for a few days or a week, and know you’re going to be using the public transportation system a lot, I would get one of the passes that will let you have unlimited rides. I think they have 1 day, 2 day, 3 day, and 1 week passes. If you don’t think you’re going to be using public transportation that much, then you can also buy individual tickets. They’re 1.50 euro and are good for 90 minutes. If you’re there for a month like we were, I would get the month pass. It really depends on the length of time you’re going to be there and the amount of public transportation you think you’re going to use.

Where do you buy bus tickets?

Italy is very unique in that you cannot buy bus tickets at the bus, and you cannot buy bus tickets at the bus station (unless you’re at one of the main ones such as Termini). You have to get them at Tabacchi. In English, these are translated into Tobacco Shops, and, even though they sell cigarettes, they also sell a lot of other items as well. Tabacchi are the place to go for stamps, snacks, bus tickets, occasionally SIM cards etc. It’s basically just a very specific convenience shop. Look for a white “T” enclosed in a blue square, and they should have public transportation tickets!

A photo of a typical Tabacchi shop I stole from the Internet

Some tips for the public transportation

Part of the reason using public transportation in Rome is so easy is because you can use Google maps to tell you the route you have to take. This is awesome, because in many places the public transportation system isn’t mapped out on an app like this. You type in where you want to go, and Google maps will tell you how to get to the station, how many stops you have, which stop to get off of, and how to get to your destination. They also usually provide more than one option of how to get there. I included some photos below.

So the way the tickets work is that you get them stamped by a machine as soon as you walk on the bus as a way to start the 90 minute time. You should always stamp your ticket. I know it seems like you might be able to get away with not stamping it and then reusing the ticket, but one of the students on my trip got a nearly 100 euro fine for not stamping her ticket (even though she had one!) If you have the passes for more than 1 trip, the officer will scan it to make sure its still valid (but they’re not really looking for you because most of the times tourists with those tickets don’t abuse them).

Another tip: watch you stuff closely. They’re aren’t a ton of pickpockets on the streets of Rome, but they are a lot on the busses and trams! One of the students in our group got here wallet stolen by a group of pick pocketers who had a baby with them, so don’t assume that just because people look like a family on vacation that they won’t take your stuff. Always zip your bags and hold it in front of you.

Public transportation in Rome is super easy! Have fun and be safe 🙂

Italy | Packing for Rome

By Andrea Zachrich

Packing: the dreaded but incredibly necessary part of any trip.

I thought that, since this blog is for future students going on this trip, having a post about packing would be helpful. I know that I wished I had a packing list so I wouldn’t have had to think so much about what to bring.

I’m not going to lie, packing for this trip was difficult. I needed to fit 8 weeks worth of clothes, toiletries, and school supplies in a carry-on suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. I am a notorious overpacker, so I really had to check myself here (I brought 6 pairs of sliders for our 3 day national soccer tournament last fall just to give you an idea). With some advance planning and a little bit of foresight, packing for this trip wasn’t too difficult, and I even kind of enjoyed the challenge of it.

Everyone’s packing is going to be unique, but below I highlighted some of the items I found essential and/or especially helpful by the type of item. I tried to add a little bit of my thought process in order to help my future Bruin travelers (or any traveler in a comparable situation) be able to think about their own packing in a similar way. It’s important to be thoughtful with your packing because you are going to be gone for an extended period of time with a limited amount of space especially if you want to save money and take a carry-on suitcase. It’ll save you unnecessary expense and stress if you think this out before you leave and pack well so that you won’t have to purchase things there.

School Supplies

First thing: check the syllabus for your class BEFORE YOU LEAVE UCLA’S CAMPUS! I actually had a few things that I had to get in advance, such as bluebooks, that I could only (easily) purchase while on campus. The syllabus will also tell you what books you need to purchase and other important information so, as with any class, your syllabus is your friend.

Almost forgot we had to school while abroad when packing

As you can see, I needed…

  • 2 bluebooks
  • Sketchpad and notebook for daily observations: The limoncello one is both tribute to my family, whom always make homemade limoncello around Christmas time, and seemed fitting for a trip to Italy. I found all of these at Marshall’s for extremely reasonable prices if you’re looking for one. I know they also sell them at Ackerman if you’re still on campus.
  • Syllabus: always a good idea to print out in advance. Professor Gurval’s syllabus reflects his typical organization and has a detailed schedule of site visits.
  • Pens and colored pencils: always important, especially since we have to sketch the monuments and keep a daily journal as part of our grade. Thankfully, the sketches aren’t graded because I can’t draw much more than a smiley face.
  • Camera: not necessarily a school supply, but necessary for my scholarship so I put it in this category.
  • Laptop: this one is a no brainer for me because I use my laptop for everything. If you think it will be useful in your studying after reading the syllabus, I would bring it.
  • Chargers: for everything (laptop, phone, camera, any other small devices such as a Fitbit or a Kindle).
  • Textbook: we had one for this class called Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide and an optional one entitled In Search of the Romans. I brought both because I happened to have them already from other classes.


You can get a lot of these things in Italy, but it might be cheaper to get some of these things at home. If you’re like me and your skin hates most products, it might also save you some stress to get these things in advance so you know you won’t have any sort of reaction while abroad.

I know that you really wanted a photo of my toiletries

  • My favorite things: shampoo and conditioner bar – these things are so cool and the employees at Lush say they should last at least 80 washes, which will easily cover the trip if you’re like me and don’t wash your hair everyday. They’re space saving which is great for someone like me who has a ton of products for my hair and skin, and no packaging will be going into the landfill, which is a win-win for me. They also only cost about 10 dollars each, which is about 25 cents per hair wash.
  • Medication: make sure you have enough of whatever it is that you need. I also brought some over the counter medications such as ibuprofen, Benadryl, and some cold medicine in case I needed them abroad.
  • Sunscreen: I have heard this is more expensive to buy in Italy, so I brought some with me. I can only use certain types of sunscreen because I break out easily, so I just made sure to grab the kinds I know wouldn’t make me a splotchy mess.
  • Chafe Balm: This stuff has saved my life on numerous occasions. Well, ok, that’s a hyperbole, but it has made my life way more comfortable. I use it for soccer games, walking around campus, hiking, etc. under my arms and on my legs. We’re going to be very active on this trip, so this is going to be essential for me.


I won’t go super into detail here, but there are a few strategic things to consider when packing clothes. First off: Rome is HOT during the summer. According to a quick google search, it’s around a 90 degree average temperature during the day and barely gets below 70 at night AND it’s humid as well, so keep that in mind when picking out your clothes. I tried to pick a lot of light and loose cotton fabrics.

All my clothes!

  • Shoes: I limited myself to 4 pairs – sneakers, walking sandals, running shoes, and heels for going out. This covered all my bases in terms of working out, walking around the city for class, and going out to eat and to bar, clubs, etc. I know it seems like a lot of shoes, but, since you wear one pair on the plane, they don’t actually take up too much space.
  • Clothes: I have been told that people in Italy don’t wear workout clothes unless they are working out (a ridiculous concept in my opinion), so I struggled to fit in both workout clothes and wandering around Rome clothes. This isn’t a super important point, but might be nice to think about as you’re packing. In general, I packed mainly dresses/rompers which are perfect for those hot Roman summers. I also had a couple pairs of jean shorts, some tank tops/t-shirts, skirts, and 2 pairs of jeans. I only brought 2 jackets, a jean jacket that I wore on the plane and a lighter sweater for the evenings.


  • Headphones: essential for the plane and when I run. I am planning on running a lot, so stay tuned for a few posts about running routes in Rome near the Accent apartments.
  • Converters: The first time I went to Europe in middle school I was shocked when I realized that the plugs are different. I got these converters on Amazon for around 10 dollars for 2 of them. One has USB plugs and the other has a regular plug. You’ll need the ones with two prongs.
  • Passport and ID: Obviously, these are very important and needed to get on the plane. Make sure to make copies in the unfortunate case that they get lost or stolen.
  • Euros: You can always exchange euros at the airport or when you arrive in Rome, but I did it ahead of time because my bank would exchange them for no fee. I mainly plan on using my travel credit card while abroad (there is a Visa card that will pay you back all of your international exchange charges if you’re looking for a credit card to use while abroad), but I thought it would be nice to have at least some cash.
  • Scarf: some places in Rome want you to cover your shoulders, so I brought this scarf with me for those places. It could also double as a beach towel.
  • Water bottle: you will be walking a lot, so a reusable water bottle is nice to have.
  • Sunglasses and hat: As stated above, its hot in Rome, so these are essential. I brought a fun sun hat and a UCLA baseball cap. #gobruins

Items I will be purchasing in Rome

I tried to buy the lease amount possible while there, but there are some liquids I just couldn’t quite manage to fit…

  • Laundry detergent: I thought about bringing some detergent sheets, but thought it would be easier to just use regular detergent and purchase it when I get there.
  • Lotion: I wanted a larger bottle for my very dry skin and it wouldn’t fit in my quart sized liquid travel bag.

Go forth and pack! I know it’s not the most fun part of traveling, but packing well will help you have fun later!

UK | Cheap Chap’s Checklist

By Chelly Jin


It’s undeniable as college students that financial concerns can have effects on stress and mental energy. It can definitely be overwhelming. But after being in London for a while, I’ve compiled my top tips on how to tackle London in a budget-friendly fashion !


The cheapest way to eat in London is to just cook in your accommodation.
Here’s an example of a breakdown:  

At Brick House (a lovely, lovely cafe near Brixton), I love to get the 2 eggs over easy, 1/2 avocado, toast which totals to £8.
But if you were to make the exact same dish with Sainsbury’s groceries, 6 eggs= 80p, 1 avocado = £2, 1 loaf = £1 : with the same single-size portion totaling £1.70
Even things like stirfry noodles are super cheap for £5 plates! But, making a simple stirfry noodle with pre chopped veggies and pre-made sauce (a simple chuck and cook) is still £3 total! And it’s bound to last for at least 3 meals.

However, if you are feeling a little lazy, here are some places to eat under budget:
just keep in mind, a lot of these place are to-go foods, so they make cheap&quick alternatives to late lunches or dinners : 

  1. Senate House Library/ Seoul Bakery : cheapest Korean food £3.50 bibimbap but cash only!! 
  1. Gino’s my pasta bar: 50% after 3:30pm / salad & paninis 
  1. itsu sushi : 15% off after 3pm (student discount) and 50% off 30 min before closing  (M-F 7:30-8p in one location, most are 8:30-9p) 
  1. Pod : 50% off 30 minute before closing (M-F 7:30-8p) // curry, pho, rice, dope salads 
  1. Abokado : 25% sushi and salads after 5p 
  1. Sacred : gourmet tea and coffee  
  • 50% after 5pm on sandwiches and salads 
  1. CHINATOWN : it’s pretty affordable, and for the price, you get huge portion sizes <3  


Definitely some of the cheapest, with proper quality items. I bought most of my sweaters here since I  didn’t own any good turtlenecks in LA. 

 If you search on Facebook, a variety of thrift store companies in London host massive sales: £15 fill-a-bag sales, £1 each item sales, or just generally cheap thrift stores. 
At Pop Brixton, they had a £15 per kilo sale where you page by the weight — and you could have as many clothes as you’d like within that weight!  

Personally, I didn’t bring jackets to London, simply because I didn’t own any. Buying clothes here in really manageable and affordable ways allowed me to search my style in London. Afterwards, I gave myself the option to throw away/ donate my clothes after the semester is over (since each item was cheap enough to justify it’s purpose for a few months) or if I really came to love a clothing item, I could ship them back home if they don’t fit in my luggage.


Just Walk It
It’s kind of self-explanatory, but walking is simply the cheapest and most affordable option. While, there are some days you just need to take the bus (due to rain) or the train (due to just being late college kids), walking provides a whole different experience. There is absolutely nothing better, for me personally, than feeling the chilly air on my cheeks and being able to just stop in my tracks to admire the beautiful city that I’m in.  


Oh my goodness, museums in London are free! They. Are. Free. 
There are some galleries with additional exhibitions that have an extra (but very affordable, and incredibly worthwhile fee). The Barbican Art Center has a show for  Basquiat: Boom For Real, and it was hands-down one of my favorite well-curated art shows by far. But museums like the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery are literally meters apart with whole collections free for all to see.  And don’t forget about that student discount! Most exhibitions have a cost, but they also have a discounted ‘concession‘ rate for students if you show your King’s ID.  All in all, London’s pricey ways can be daunting. But with a little extra time, effort, and searching, the world is at our smart budgeting fingertips! 

UK | Self-Care

By Chelly Jin

Imagine a girl, pampered by the California sun, who for the past three years continued to wear shorts in the winter and knows absolutely nothing about how to dress for ‘chilly weather’. And now imagine the same child under the cloudy, gloomy skies of London. Seasons changing moods has a history of science behind it. And even as a student abroad student for a couple months, it’s easy to suddenly feel it’s effects or, I guess, the sun’s lack thereof. LATELY, I’VE FOUND MYSELF CONSISTENTLY GETTING SICK and also, finding a lot of my fellow study abroad friends catching colds or flus too.  And these physical trials can easily start to make the mental game more difficult to deal with. Homesickness becomes more real when I’m stuck in bed or anxious behavior is more prevalent when I get a bad cough that interrupts class.  Here are some tips I’ve conjured up in my time here in London in how to combat those grey clouds blues.


I used to pull all nighters all the time at UCLA. All nighter as if it were a casual event. All nighters to go out with friends. All nighters to study. As a proper well-rounded UCLA student, I said why not both — why couldn’t I be a great student and a great adventurer. However, it sometimes just doesn’t work abroad. My body and mind weren’t used to all the stress that comes with a new environment and already dealing with a lot from the subconscious stresses of dealing with the things back home at the same time (i.e. apartment leases when I go back home, the clubs I’m still involved in back in UCLA, friends from home who still invite me to Facebook events knowing that I’m not in the country!)
I’ve been able to balance this out by being selective of my nights. I try to pick ONE night for fun until daylight. And if you’re not the one to hang out all night with friends playing rebel bingo, go home early. Sleep well. And pick ONE night to study all night. But I just couldn’t do both. Try to do readings during the day or right after class to get a week ahead start (heck, even right before class if you have to!) Try to start scheduling the nighttime activities a little earlier so the party ends earlier. 


This is an equally important one. Stress can lower your immune system, much like sleep and has indubitable effects on the quality of your mental health. Even when the excitement rushes through my veins and I don’t feel tired, my body is still managing behind the scenes to keep me together. So, make sure you take time for yourself to destress! Walk around, practice gratitude, meditate. Refer to my last blogpost on Best Places to Replenish My Busy Mind. ​ 


Ugh, I know — but meat and greasy potatoes are EVERYWHERE! But in the instant gratification of all the kebabs, late night cheesy chips, on the go sandwiches from Pret, I completely forget to just eat an apple every once in a while! Seriously, I actually forgot what a fruit was.
McDonalds 20 piece chicken nuggets have become a ritual meal with friends, but I try to combat that with keeping fruits and veggies in my fridge to munch on or pack as snacks during class days. Fruits on season at Sainsbury’s can be as cheap as a pound for a sack of pears or plums. The £3 meal deals at Tesco are a meal, crisps and a drink– and sometimes it’s just nice to swap out for a salad, crisps, and a green juice for the same price.


Like I said earlier, London isn’t sunny California. Feel free to invest in Vitamin D pills or daily vitamin supplements. I also have a stash of Emergen-C or Vitamin C Green Tea on hand for the days I start to get the sniffles. ​


Unless they, too, are sick. Just kidding. There is something naturally comforting about having friends who you can rely on. Luckily, my floor mates and I will make each other ginger root, honey, and lemon tea when we’re sick or buy each other hand soaps when the other forgets. It’s nice to have people who can help you when you just aren’t feeling your absolute best or even having someone to talk to when you’re head isn’t in the right space. ​ 

UK | Replenish My Busy Mind

By Chelly Jin

And the end of the year steadily roams around the corner, pressing on my brain the impending doom of leaving this marvelous city called London. And the papers I have due that are 100% of my grade. And the things I haven’t yet done in London because I’m still trying to travel to all the cities in Europe. And the friendships that I made that I don’t want to leave. And it all stresses me out. BUT I GUESS THESE ARE GOOD THINGS TO STRESS ABOUT. My mother would always berate me that I stress when things are too good. This claim is entirely true. If I were given two awful options, I would easily choose the lesser of the two and just get it over with without much resistance. But when provided the options of the many great things to do, suddenly the choice is so much harder. Looking at it from a bigger picture, if my stresses are whether or not to continue exploring London or visiting another city, or deciding which beloved friends to spend quality time with, life is really quite great. On top of the good stress can also be bad stress: papers, homesickness, and where to buy groceries when Sainsbury’s closes at 5pm on Sundays. The point is, the end of the term is the season of winter and stress — so here are the top places that I love to go to when my brain becomes cluttered and I need a good destress. 


I went to Hyde Park with a lovely friend of mine, who I actually got to know really well on my walk to Hyde Park. As we watched a photographer pose his children by the flowers, I realized that the best part of Hyde Park is just sitting on a bench and people watching while the sun set over all the little ponds. It’s a great place to get a breathe of fresh air.  


Look Mum, No Hands is a cozy, bicycle themed cafe near the Barbican Centre. It was one of the first cafes I visited when I came to London and one that I’ve come consistently to. Filled with quirky bicycle decor, the back of the cafe is lined with sofa seats, comfy pillows, and outlets to charge your phone. The whole place has books on bicycles with some good food and tea.  


Every Wednesday, I always look forward to the Ukulele Nights hosted at The Albany pub. There’s this cathartic nature about playing music with a group of people, alongside good food and drinks that will release any stress or resolve any busy mind. By the end of the night, I always end up walking away with more and more friends made too.  


Just walking around Southbank has always been my go-to de-stresser since the day I’ve arrived in London. With street performers around every corner, there is absolutely nothing more relieving than buying a donut or a bag of chips from a street vender and taking a seat by the Thames while listening to the world around.  


This is my most favorite place to come to. With bean bag chairs on the staircase, old bookcases surrounding the space, and little pieces of history floating all around the room to inspire you — there really is no place quite like this one to ease my mind. In a weird way, it has this sort of mess to it where there is so much going on at once, but it’s all in the best possible way where I feel like every corner has a little piece to discover. 

UK | Brexit Dinner

By Chelly Jin

As a recipient of the Global Blogger Scholarship, I had the kind chance to represent UCLA at an Alumni dinner event with members of the London Parliament to discuss Brexit and eat amazing Indian food. 

But first, before I even get into the event, I would just like to point out that I ended up on Nigel Huddleston’s Twitter… sooooo, I’ve peaked. 

Everyone, this is my college career peak. 



One of the most impressive things I’ve come away from the event was discovering the massive alumni network UCLA has to back up our students.  I’ve met incredible women who studied at UCLA for undergraduate, moving to UCB for graduate school, making their mark in cities like New York and London in Finance. Women who’ve studied in UCLA for undergraduate years and found themselves coaching important CEOs throughout the globe, traveling the world under the pursuit of careers they are passionate about. Meeting these individuals who came from the very same UCLA roots has given me a hope that  I, too, will one day stand up alongside these powerful women. 


Something I’ve been grappling with recently is this desire to move to London. I’ve genuinely come to adore London and somewhere in my heart I know I want to come back to live here. To really live here, not just ‘study abroad’. However, the reality is, is that most people I know in the US (from friends, family, and shout out to the parents…) express how they fear that by moving to London at any point in my life, I am indubitably throwing away any connection or network that I’ve worked so hard on as an out-of-state (but, now in-state) student.   

After speaking with so many distinguished alumni, I’ve realized that the network that UCLA has to offer is worldwide and not just limited to Los Angeles, or the United States, or maybe even Earth (Mars, I’m coming for you in 2020!) 


Yikes, the big elephant actually leaving the room.  Despite what you may think, the main event of the night was not the study abroad kids and I getting to meet delightful alum (haha). But, this was a night to discuss the topic of Brexit, both the pros and the cons — inviting Members of Parliament to simply chat in a world that seemed to want a brawl.  

Takeaways  I gathered from the chat was two things: 

1) Pro-Brexit: ”It’s not a question of ‘do we remain, rather it’s we are doing Brexit and it’s just when. The deadline is set and the transition will take place.”   

Essentially, it was argued that Brexit will already take into affect. Change will happen, and much like winter — it is coming. The more valuable way to approach the situation is to acknowledge that Brexit is happening and developing a transition that would become beneficial. 

2) Con-Brexit : “The best thing we have about Britain is no written constitution” 

On the other hand, it was stated that the best thing about Britain is that there isn’t one rule book that all must abide by. The politics of Britain are ever-changing, molding into the newest formations of society, constantly being managed, washing away the things that don’t work in this iterative cycle towards offering the best standard of living for all. Just because Brexit is set in motion does not mean it needs to be implemented.  

As for my feelings: As an expat to this country, there was definitely a sense of self-consciousness in my reasoning to attend such an occasion. I wondered to myself, “shouldn’t true King’s students who live here get this opportunity?” However, with the context of the current American political situation, there were so many elements that aligned. All in all, it occurred to me that we, as in the whole planet, are  kind of in this mess together.  

Brexit will not just affect residents of the UK, as Trump’s presidency will not just affect solely the American people, just as every country’s politics have made tremendous domino effects onto the entire globe. Their pain and fears are much like our own. Their confusion and inability to sort of see one another eye to eye in certain political issues are much akin to us. 

How I see it, we all want the same thing: pursuit of the best life for ourselves and those we love. How we aim to do this is uncertain, may it be accepting the problem and moving forward in a different solution OR utilizing the freeform nature of society and politics to its potential in overturning and igniting change. (And certainly not made any clearer from a twenty-one-year old college student writing a blog to other college students). But, as much as Brexit is divisive just as Trump’s election, it has become more evident than ever that we must be willing to listen, to accept, and to acknowledge all in a means of working together for the one common goal of a better life. 

Special thanks to Fiona Hanson for letting me share some of the beautiful photos she took that night! Another grand thank you to Jodi Anderson, Rhiannon Yee, Monika Kraska, and Violet Del Toro for such a wonderful event and all their  help! 

UK | Finding Community

By Chelly Jin

I remember when I first applied to UCEAP Study Abroad — I remember that the first thing I thought was how I desperately wanted to leave America and leave behind the need to be with anyone. As a fourth year, I wanted to find that place in my life where I could be comfortable in my own skin, independent and carefree. 

As I set my budgets and plans for London, I didn’t anticipate the crushing feeling of suddenly being alone. At first I wanted solitude, but when I arrived, all I wanted was a community, to join a society (which they call a club or organization), to make friends.

This blogpost is about my journey in finding a community in London, both the lows but the ultimate highs 🙂 Unfortunately, I’ve joined societies and met friends who don’t like photos of themselves being taken, so enjoy some beauty shots of King’s Strand Campus! 

The Struggles of Trying to Find your Place  
The search started with dance societies. King’s does this awesome thing at the beginning of the year, which is the Activities Fair. Go to it and sign up for EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid of signing up for commitment, because no one expects anything from you and all you get are extra opportunities to stay in the loop (top tip: use your King’s email to sign up for all these clubs so you don’t have to deal with it on your personal email!)

I came in with preconceived notions that I would join a dance team. The reality is, as a semester student, a lot of competitive team sports won’t allow you to audition or try out because the first semester is used for training while the second semester is used for competition. Thus, I showed up to dance society auditions only to realize that I wasn’t allowed to join. 

Ukulele Society 
Luckily, I had snagged a flyer from the King’s Ukulele Society booth at the Activities Fair — and although it wasn’t my initial first though when I came to King’s to join the UkeSoc, it ended up being the best!  
I didn’t bring my ukulele from home, but for a £20 deposit, they’ll let you borrow one for as long as you need! On Mondays, they have tutorials to teach you how to play (but for the people who’ve been playing for a while like me, we use it as a socializing time). On Wednesdays, we all go out to a pub called The Albany where they host Ukulele Wednesdays — a night of ukulele jamming with ukulele players all around London. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than screaming Purple Rain alongside 50 ukulele players, trust me.

Running A Mock 
Another serendipitous occasion was joining the comedy improv society, Running A Mock. And not only joining the society, but actually auditioning to now become one of the 6 improv troupe members. Prior to coming to London, I had never had any formal acting, theatre, nor comedy experience, but these people have been some of the most incredible (and hilarious) individuals I have ever met.  
Joining Running A Mock became the family that I didn’t realize I needed. Every week I look forward to the workshops on Tuesdays and improv rehearsals on Wednesdays, with jokes and silly games that remind me to keep my head high in London — to take everything with a grain of salt and a good chuckle.  

The most important thing I’ve learned through improv is the idea of ‘Yes, And...’ In improv, this is the first and foremost rule. We say ‘yes’ to accept the challenge, the situation, acknowledge our own ideas, respect other’s ideas. Then we say ‘and’ in an act to contribute, to be a part of the solution, to move forward in progress. And this is how I decided to treat my time here in London, to look at every opportunity with a ‘Yes, And...’ — not a ‘no’, nor a begrudging ‘yes’, but a true acknowledgement of the current situation and the willingness to add to its value. 

Improv has been one of the most formative experiences here in London and I couldn’t be more grateful to this community.