France | Edible Art: Food in Paris


I have one slice of cake, I mean, one slice of advice for you, be adventurous with food in Paris! I recommend trying the classic french staples, that everyone in the world knows about, but then I challenge you to move forward and try new things. Ethnic food, unique bakeries, unfrench like food! I say this because Paris is a diverse and multicultural city, and as much as trying french food is almost a requirement, I want to push you to press those boundaries and go further than the classic french.

A chocolate and salted caramel crêpe at a family establishment

One of my favorite meals was a falafel wrap in Le Marais (the Jewish quarter). Every establishment claims to be the best, but I found every place there delicious. (L’as du Fallafel is a good place to try.)

I also tried a Persian restaurant in the 14th Arrondissement where I lived called Le Chalizar. It was delicious.

Push yourself to try new things. Discover the diversity within Paris by experimenting with food.

A juicy burger and pomme frites

Profiteroles – A classic french dessert which is a “must taste”

A Falafel from the Marais

A pizza from the Italian square

The best hot chocolate in Paris is not at the tourist filled Ladurée. I found my favorite cup at Café Laurent.

Above were my two favorite desserts in Paris and must visits. First is a meringue cake from Le Merveilleux de Fred. These bakeries are scattered around Paris and the famous Merveilleux is a must-try, perfected by Frédéric Vaucamps.

Second is a chocolate St. Honoré from the oldest bakery in Paris, Stohrer. I recommend trying anything from this bakery. St. Honoré aux Chocolat was my favorite, and I had the best chocolate éclair here.

Persian food from Le Chalizar

Decadent homemade icecream and sorbet from La Crème de Paris

Crème brûlée

Sarah Brandenburg studied abroad in Paris, France in summer 2018:

France| Want to Relax in Paris?


After a long day in Paris, hop onto metro 1 line and take it to the last stop, Chateau de Vincennes. The quiet and peacefulness of this park is a beautiful place to unwind. Perfect for reading, writing, photography, or just to experience a live painting.

The park is filled with activities for people of all ages. Carousel rides, a zoo, rowboats, and pathways for bike riding are only a few of the activities offered. My favorite part of the park was a “Weeping Willow” tree we found at the edge of the lake. It was a beautiful addition to a peaceful place.

The next time you are in Paris, I recommend taking a boat ride here or having a picnic on the green grass surrounded by the shade of trees.

Sarah Brandenburg studied abroad in Paris, France in summer 2018:

Peru | Brisas del Titicaca


Music and dancing are integral aspects of culture in Peru. Traditions have been passed on through generations that keep the culture of music and dance alive. Lima is a cultural hub in which people from all across Peru bring their unique traditions with them. In order to experience some of this rich culture, our professors brought us to “Brisas del Titicaca”. This lively center brings together traditions from all across Peru, creating a diverse performance of dance and music.

The artists here were not only extremely skilled but also expressed their passion and pride through their performance. The performers bring the audience through a journey to the various regions of Peru by portraying the folklore dance and music from each location. Every dance was energetic and bold with equally bold costumes and choreography. The audience sang along with popular songs and every dance ended with an exuberant round of applause. A mixture of colorful lights, costumes, movements, and sounds created a lively energy between the performers and audience members.

Not only were we able to enjoy this performance as spectators, we were also encouraged to participate in the dancing. Throughout the show, audience members were invited to enter the stage and dance. I was amazed to see that the majority of audience members eagerly approach the stage every time we were given the opportunity. Dancing with other audience members made the experience all the more immersive as there was no divide between the stage and the audience. This unique performance gave me a glimpse of the depth and diversity that resides within Peru and I hope to continue to learn about the traditions and culture in Peru.

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018:

Peru | What to Wear in Lima


Mornings in Lima during the winter are usually crisp and foggy. During the day the temperature ranges from the high 70ºF to the low 50°F. However, the humidity in Lima makes it feel a bit colder than that. For a typical day going to class or walking around Lima, I usually threw on a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt, a light sweater, and a warm fleece or light down-jacket. My friends and I walked almost everywhere throughout Lima so I either wore comfortable leather boots, hiking boots, or tennis shoes.

For sight-seeing or excursions, I would fill up a bottle of drinking water at the hotel (you can’t drink tap water in Lima so this helped me save money on bottled water). I brought a thin fanny pack everywhere I went and wore the fanny pack under my clothes. I may have looked like an absolute tourist but it was definitely worth it to feel like my money, passport, phone, and camera where always safe. In addition to the fanny pack, I would bring a small bag to carry things like brochures, maps, and sunglasses. During our program we also often took trips to more remote areas and healthcare centers. For these outings I found it useful to have a small drawstring backpack to carry snacks, water, and a small notebook to take jot down information and reflections. For these locations it was also important to have shoes that I didn’t mind getting dirty and had good traction for walking through muddy areas.

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018:

Peru | Introduction to Peruvian Food


For our first group excursion in Lima, our professors decided to take us out to a traditional Peruvian lunch. In Peru, it’s common to eat larger lunches and smaller dinners. Lunch may be a three-course meal with appetizers, a main course, and dessert. I had heard that the food in Peru was amazing but the mouth-watering, jaw dropping, taste-bud loving food that we ate far exceeded my expectations. When we sat down we were immediately served chichi morada: a common drink in Peru that is commonly served warm. Chicha is made from purple corn, lime, cinnamon, clove, pineapple, and sugar. I quickly gulped down several large glasses of this sweet drink and sense then have looked for chicha at every restaurant I go to. After we were served drinks, heaping plates of steaming food were brought out to us. What appeared to be a full meal was actually only the appetizers. Below is a list of all of the incredible appetizers we ate.

  • Anticuchos: Tender cow hearts marinated in vinegar and spices and served with Peruvian yellow corn
  • Causa Rellena de Cangrejo: Yellow potato rolls with avocado, lime, onion, and yellow chili pepper
  • Papa a la Huancaína: A common dish served cold with yellow potatoes, quail eggs, olives, and a popular Huacaína sauce made from ají amarillo paste, various white cheeses, garlic, and milk

Although the appetizers certainly satisfied my hunger, soon after we were brought more heaping plates of food for our main course. Our meal included:

  • Arroz con Pollo: Pulled chicken with cilantro rice, peas, carrots, and bell peppers
  • Lomo Saltado: Strips of steak cooked with grilled peppers and served over yellow potato fries
  • Ají de Gallina: pulled chicken serves with Huacaína sauce, and olives
  • Carapulcra: A modern version of an Incan stew made with tender pork, papa seca (dehydrated potatoes), ají panca, garlic, and cloves

Finally, our meal ended with a grand finale: dessert. Peruvian “dulces” are often very sweet and creamy.. I was overwhelmed by how incredible everything tasted. Here’s a list of some of the desserts we

  • Picarones: Fried dough made from squash and sweet potatoes
  • Leche Asada: Baked milk pudding made from eggs, milk, and vanilla
  • Pan Tres Leche: Sweet, moist, cake made with three types of milk (hence the name) evaporated mile, condensed milk, and heavy cream
  • Arroz con Leche y Mazamorra morada: Sweet, rice pudding served with thick, purple corn pudding
  • Manjar Blanco (Dulce de Leche): A sweet, carmel-like pudding made into a sticky dessert with milk, vanilla, and sugar

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018:

France | A Historic Ballroom in the Musée d’Orsay?


I spent a cloudy morning in Paris exploring the famous Musée D’Orsay. The sculptures and paintings inside the museum are breathtaking, but the building itself is a piece of history and a work of art. This museum used to be a railway station called Gare D’Orsay, and the main hall of the station is now lined with sculptures from the past. This extraordinary building adds to the grandeur of the museum.

I made my way through the creative workings of humans from the past. What depth of expression can be communicated without a word being spoken. What emotion that transcends space and time is revealed in a simple painting or sculpture.

After exploring the museum with a guided tour, my friends and I stumbled upon a ballroom covered in gold and embellished with crystal chandeliers. It was exquisite. I felt as though I had walked into a time machine and was visiting Paris at her prime. This ballroom, La Salle des Fetes, is where general de Gaulle hosted a press conference in the year 1958.

The ballroom is rented out for events and parties now. I wonder who the people are that rent out this palace.

Sarah Brandenburg studied abroad in Paris, France in summer 2018:

France | France won the world cup (when I was in Paris)


History was made. France won the World Cup for the second time in history. And I was in Paris. The streets were crowded, noisy and loud, and being in the heart of France during this historic event was an experience I could never create.

Here are photographs to give you a glimpse into Paris at this time.

Sarah Brandenburg studied abroad in Paris, France in summer 2018:

Peru | Packing for Summer Abroad


Helpful Tips:

  • Roll all of your clothing so that it fits neatly into your luggage or buy packing cubes for good organization
  • Put all of your liquids into plastic bags
  • Pack light (most students brought one larger suitcase that they checked and one carryon backpack)
    • Note: for our program we went to Iquitos for a week. It’s helpful to have one smaller duffle bag or suitcase that can be used to pack your things for a week. Bringing a large suitcase or checking a bag is a bit of a hassle for shorter trips.
  • Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and a hairbrush on the plane (it’s a long flight and especially if you’re on a red-eye these items are much appreciated)
  • Don’t forget to download music onto your phone (if you use Spotify this is especially helpful to remember before you leave Wifi)
  • Keep all of your valuables and an extra pair of clothing in your carry-on (incase you loose your luggage)

Fully Disclosed Packing List: (note that I decided to stay for the entire summer in Peru instead of just the length of the program so this list is for 3 months of luggage)

  1. Clothing
    • 3 pairs of jeans
    • 3 pairs of comfortable leggings
    • 1 pair of warm sweatpants
    • 7 long sleeve shirts/light sweaters
    • Several layers of warm jackets: a fleece or light down jacket are the most common layers that students brought
    • 4 t-shirts
    • Hiking pants
    • 2 hiking/workout material tank-tops
    • 1 good layer to keep mosquitos away: a thick flannel or light jean jacket is helpful
    • 1 rain jacket
    • 1 pair of jean shorts
    • Clothing for Iquitos (includes many of the items mentioned above)

I was fortunate enough to spend one week in the Amazon area of Iquitos. During July it is summer in Iquitos which is very hot and humid. Having light linen clothes helps the most with the heat but it’s also important to try to completely cover your skin as much as possible to protect from mosquitos. Most students wore leggings or linen pants, and a long sleeve shirt or flannel when we went into the Amazon. Hats, sunglasses, and a small day-bag for excursions were also very helpful.

  1. Shoes
    • Good walking shoes with traction; the streets in Lima are all polished cement and the morning rain makes the pavement slippery (sounds a little ridiculous but I fall an average of about twice every 4 blocks)
    • Comfortable boots; for going to nicer dinners and cultural events
    • Hiking boots (there are several great hikes nearby Lima and this is especially necessary for Machu Picchu)
  2. Toiletries (a lot of these items can be bought at the stores in Lima in case you forget)
    • Mosquito repellent
    • Anti-itch cream
    • Sunscreen
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Shampoo/conditioner (the hotel has free shampoo and body soap)
    • Deodorant
    • Body/face wash
    • Medications (remember to bring enough to last the entire trip)
    • Pepto-bismol
    • Lotion
    • GermX
    • Contacts/glasses
    • Electronics
    • A small camera for videos and pictures
    • An adapter for outlets; most outlets work with phone chargers or regular two-prong plugs

When packing for me study abroad trip, I tried my best to make sure I was thinking of all possible scenarios I would be in and all of the different types of places I would need clothes for. Lima also has many shopping malls around Miraflores so if anyone forgot anything it was very easy to buy it in a nearby store. Around Parque Kennedy are several clothing and department stores that had many options for a relatively good price.

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018:

Peru | Settling in to a New Home


After a stressful week of finals and many goodbyes to recent graduates, it was definitely as hectic as it was exciting to finally pack my bags and head to the airport for Peru. I arrived 2 hours early for my flight and wore a UCLA t-shirt so that other students in the program could pick me out of the busy LAX crowd. At the gate I soon ran into several of the other students who were on the same flight to Lima as me. After 8 hours of flying we landed in our new home for the month. Customs went quickly and getting our luggage was simple. Just outside of the luggage area we found the desk for the Green Taxi Company that our professors suggested that we use. It was only 100 soles (about $32) to take an hour-long shuttle for 7 students.

As we drove to our hotel we were able to catch our first glimpse of the city. Foggy white skies, sea-side cliffs blanketed in bright green vines, and crisp ocean air greeted us as we weaved through the urban roads. We arrived at our hotel about 5 hours early but they were extremely accommodating and checked us all into our rooms shortly after we arrived. The hot showers were a warm welcome after a long day of travel. Our goals for the first day settling in were to (a) exchange money (b) eat (c) buy large jugs of bottled water and (d) buy SIM cards for our phones.

(a) We immediately found a bank located just across the street from our hotel. Buuut, unfortunately we realized that it was a Sunday and all of the banks were closed. Luckily most restaurants and stores take Visa and Mastercard and we were able to easily exchange money at the ATM the next day.

(b) There were plenty of food options very close to our hotel in the neighborhood Miraflores. We decided to eat at a restaurant near Kennedy Park, about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. Kennedy Park is in the center of Mira Flores and is surrounded by an assortment of cozy coffee shops, lively sports bars, and restaurants with traditional Peruvian food.

(c) As we are Americans whose stomachs can’t handle the tap water, we immediately needed to buy a lot of bottled water. There was a grocery store just across from our hotel where we bought groceries, snacks, and toiletries.

(d) Many students in our group, including myself, decided to buy Peruvian SIM cards so that we could communicate, call Ubers, and use our google maps without Wifi. Buying a SIM card is definitely one of the cheapest options compared to some of the international plans for Verizon and AT&T. The journey to buying a SIM card was a bit of an adventure… After wandering through Lima fora an extended period of time, we finally found a Claro phone store near Kennedy Park where we could buy SIM cards. We all received our Peruvian numbers using a data package that included unlimited Facebook and Whatsapp Messaging along with 4GB of data. All of this cost no more than $10. The address for this phone store is listed below:

LIMA, Av. José Larco 652, Miraflores 18, Perú

The first couple of days in Lima were filled with a lot of wandering, getting lost, meeting new people, learning new social norms, and practicing some rusty Spanish. Despite the small hiccups in navigating a new city, I immediately felt comfortable in the beautiful neighborhood of Miraflores. With the ocean only a 15-minute walk from our hotel, surrounded by countless incredible restaurants, and accompanied by 25 adventurous UCLA students, I felt nothing but excitement for the next 4 weeks living in Lima.

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018:

Italy | Water Fountains in Rome

When I talk about water fountains in Rome, I’m not talking about decorative fountains (although there are quite a few of those here in Rome), but about drinking fountains! At first, I was hesitant to drink out of these fountains, but was assured by some locals that it was safe to drink. Since then, these have been a god send in this brutally hot Roman summer when walking or running around the city. You can fill up your water bottle or, if you don’t have a water container, can put your hand under the stream to stop it and water will shoot out of a hole on the top of the water spout just like a water fountain in the US. Pro tip: if the fountain is running a little slowly, you can also cover this hole with your hand to up the pressure and the water speed.

If you look closely, you can see the hole in the top of the fountain spout where water shoots out to drink from!

The water comes from the mountains and follows the line of an ancient Roman aqueduct. (Say whatever you want about the ancient Romans, but those guys really knew how to move, heat, and use water well!) It’s tested for quality by the city multiple times a day in various locations, so its always fresh and its always cold!

You will basically see these fountains everywhere. They can be found in tiny alleys and big main roads. I still haven’t quite figured out the placement, and, to be honest, it seems a bit random. There are two main types of water fountains: the nasoni which are the “big nose” fountains that you see everywhere, and the fontanelle which are the less common, more decorative fountains. I definitely made a mental note every time I came across one, especially in central places such as in Trastevere, near the Pantheon, on my favorite running routes, etc. If you can’t manage to remember all the locations, fear not because you can actually get an app on your phone called “I Nasoni di Roma” that tells you where all of them are, which can be incredibly useful if you’re thirsty. You can also google it if you’re in a pinch, and the website for the city’s water provider should come up with a map of where they are.

When I first arrived, I was bit distressed to see that these fountains were continually running. The Californian in me panicked a little bit thinking “Oh my god that’s so much wasted water!” But some basic research informed me that the water that isn’t used for drinking is used for fountains, gardens, industrial purposes, etc, so please don’t think it’s just not being wasted after it runs through the nasoni! Additionally, because the water in regular, decorative fountains is recycled, its not recommended that you drink water from those fountains. There are, however, places at the Trevi fountain and at the fountain near the Spanish steps where they have nasoni attached to the fountain, and feel free to use those!

In a country that makes you pay for water every time you sit down to eat at a restaurant, the abundant free water in Rome is definitely appreciated. I’ve seen these in other cities in Italy (Milano, Torino, Catania), but no other place has as many or as cold of water as Rome does. Make sure to use it while you’re there! I know I will miss this city feature when I arrive home in Westwood.

Andrea Zachrich studied abroad in Rome, Italy, in Summer 2018: