France | Au Revoir Paris!

By Jason Vu

After three weeks of travelling and learning, this was it. Our last week in Paris would not have as much activity as the others since we would have to start packing, but we did have some final chances to say good-bye to one another and France. On the morning of our second to last day in Paris, we woke up bright and early to head to Montsouris Park for a class picnic. While we were excited to spend our last morning together with French pastries and freshly pressed orange juice provided by Prof. Behdad, we were not so keen to be stuck in the middle of a Parisian heat wave. Temperatures reached just above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and while that might sound bearable in California, much of France has never experienced such high temperatures in its history. As a result, there was barely any air conditioning anywhere in the city.

Nonetheless, we made it out to the park where we proceeded to begin our final class discussions. While our travel study program was coming to an end, our final assignments were just beginning. Once we got home, we would have a month to write two papers that would be due at the beginning of September. As such, our class picnic was meant as both a chance to spend time together as a class while also preparing for our final essays. Due to the size of our class, we were split into two groups, one led by our TA Mariam and the other by Prof. Behdad.

After a lively session of brainstorming research topics, we concluded our picnic by eating our remaining pastries and cleaning up after ourselves. With breakfast out of the way, many of us headed back to our rooms to finish cleaning up and prepare for our upcoming departures.

After a couple of hours, it was time for our class to reconvene at Mansouria, a famous Moroccan restaurant in the 11th arr. of Paris. This would be our final time gathered together as a class before heading off in our own directions.

Prof. Behdad started off our meal with a short speech thanking all of us and our TA Mariam for helping make this class fun and engaging. Our meal that night was of course covered by our program, but the thought and care Prof. Behdad showed in choosing such a nice place for us was something else. In fact, I wanted to take the opportunity right now to give Prof. Behdad and our TA Mariam a shoutout for being such amazing faculty and taking care of us all month long!

After a wonderful meal of traditional Moroccan dishes, we concluded our night with a final round of applause and soon headed off in our own directions. For me, the combination of heat and packing had worn me down, so I decided to head back to my hotel to get a night’s rest before my long flight the next day.

Luckily, being that tired meant that my body ignored the scorching heat of my AC-less room right until 8am the next day. With all my bags packed up from the day before, I checked out of my dorm and made my way to my final metro ride from Cite Universitaire to Charles de Gaulle Airport. At about 1PM, I boarded my flight and bid a final adieu to the City of Lights. I was sad to see the city go but excited to come home to friends and family to share all that I had experienced on this wonderful trip.

Au revoir, Paris! À la prochaine!

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Descending the Catacombs

By Jason Vu

Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort! Stop! This is the empire of the dead! These words greeted my friends and I as we approached the entrance of the infamous Catacombs of Paris. Opened to the public in 1809, the Catacombs were established as a place to store the remains of Paris’s many cemeteries due to the health problems associated with them. After years of deaths and burial, ancient remains from as far back as the Medieval era had to be transported over to the Catacombs to prevent the overcrowding of dead remains in the city.

After passing the entrance, we began our 5-story descent into the lowest point of the city of Paris. The tunnels we walked through were quite low but they were also a welcomed escape from the scorching heat of the Parisian summer. Luckily for us, the catacombs stretched for about 1.5 km, meaning we’d be in these tunnels for at least one hour.

After passing the entrance, we began our 5-story descent into the lowest point of the city of Paris. The tunnels we walked through were quite low but they were also a welcomed escape from the scorching heat of the Parisian summer. Luckily for us, the catacombs stretched for about 1.5 km, meaning we’d be in these tunnels for at least one hour.

Yes, these are REAL skulls and bones. 

The first stretch of tunnels we passed by were mostly made of stone and brick, but about at the halfway point, we stopped by something … unusual. Instead of stone walls, we started seeing bones and skulls stacked one on top of the other. At first, we couldn’t believe that all of these bones could have belonged to real people who died hundreds of years ago. Being surrounded by thousands of skulls was chilling to say the least, but at the same time, I was so intrigued by the history of location and had to keep exploring.

A…”cute” gesture?

Eventually, as we kept seeing more and more bones around us, we began noticing that some of them were arranged in patterns like hearts and crosses. I personally thought having these strange designs made the catacombs all the more interesting, but a part of me also felt that if one of these skulls were mine, I’d prefer not to be put on display like this.

The final aspect of the catacombs that stood out to me were the many stone plaques with quotes in both French and Latin. These quotes were drawn from a combination of the Bible and famous writers such as Virgil and Dante. The quotes varied from hopeful about the prospect of death to fully dreading the idea. What they all had in common, though, was that they acknowledged that death was a reality that we would all have to confront at some point in the future. Perhaps that was another reason to build such an intricate place to store the remains of the dead; it was a reminder that we all eventually pass on.

After we finished exploring the rest of the Catacombs, we made our way back up the long staircase to the surface. Whether you’re fascinated with death or in for a little scare, I’d highly recommend visiting the Catacombs on your trip to Paris!

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Day Trip to Versailles

By Jason Vu

Along with the regular 3-day weekends of our program, our last week included a 5-day long break for us to travel and explore all on our own. On the first day of this break from class, a group of friends and I decided to go on a day trip outside of Paris to the famous Palace of Versailles. Although Versailles is one of the most well-known places in all of France, I didn’t realize how far it was from Paris until we got on the hour-long train ride! Nonetheless, we eventually made it to the small town named after the grand palace.

 

Arriving at the entrance courtyard to Versailles, we were met with a long line of at least two hundred people. While this seemed quite daunting especially with the French heat wave upon us, my friends and I braved the long line to enter into the former seat of the French monarchy. Luckily for us, the line moved quite quickly and within an hour, we were at the security checkpoint to enter in. 

My friend, Allyson, trying to avoid the sun in line for the entrance

 

Upon entering Versailles, we were introduced to the estate’s spectacular history. Originally an old hunting lodge constructed by King Louis XIII, his successor Louis XIV decided to expand the lodge into a palace fit for a king. Versailles would not just be any palace though; Under Louis XIV and his successors, the palace would serve as the central seat of government from the mid-17th to late-18th century. As such, it would house not only the King but much of the French nobility who were eventually ousted during the French Revolution.

Statue of the “Sun King” Louis XVI, first king to reign from Versailles

 

Our tour of Versailles began at the royal chambers on the palace’s right side. These included the rooms of King Louis XIV, Queen Maria Theresa of Spain, and the rest of the royal family. In addition, we also got to see the chambers of some of the King’s mistresses. Each room was more ornate and gaudy than the last, with great portraits and grand sculptures decorating the entire area of the room. Once my friends and I finished going through the main rooms, we headed out to the courtyard in front of the palace’s frontside. 

Front of the Palais de Versailles

After taking some time to admire the palace’s architecture, we stepped back inside to see one of the main attractions at Versailles—the Hall of Mirrors. Known as “La Grande Galerie” in French,  the hall was filled with grand frescoes lining the ceiling and glass mirrors meant to reflect light from the windows into the hallway. The room was filled with tourists when I got there, but I managed to grab a picture that captured most of the halls extravagant beauty. Given that it was designed to show off the glory of France, I would say that the Hall of Mirrors, along with the rest of Versailles in fact, does quite well in fulfilling its role.

“La Grande Galerie” or the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Quai Branly

By Jason Vu

Only a few meters from the Eiffel Tower lies a small park with trees and plants not native to anywhere in Europe. With windy dirt paths and flowing creeks, I forgot for a moment that I was in the middle of one of the most bustling districts in all of Paris. Even stranger, this jungle-like environment was the entrance to my class’s final excursion together—La Musée du Quai Branly.

 

Opened in 2006, Quai Branly was designated as a museum featuring the indigenous arts and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. While a good number of visitors come to see the many unique items showcased in its exhibits, this museum was definitely no d’Orsay or Louvre. Given that it’s not as well-known, I appreciated the fact that Prof. Behdad set up this group visit to expose us to this museum that most of us would otherwise have missed.

Introduction to La Musee du Quai Branly by Prof. Behdad

Starting promptly at 2pm, our class met at the outdoor auditorium of the museum where Prof. Behdad shared a little about the history of Quai Branly and how objects that originated outside of Europe ended up in one of its most famous cities. This history was on that involved trade, colonization, and the construction of the French nation-state. After an interesting discussion on these issues, our TA Mariam returned with our entrance tickets and we soon went on our way.

Ritual Objects from Southeast Asia

 

The museum’s exhibits were divided based on their specific region of origin. Since there was no particular order in visiting the museum, I decided the first thing I would see would be the Southeast Asian art section. I was impressed by the array of items featured in the exhibit and particularly the ones that originated from the many indigenous tribes of Vietnam. Beyond pots and traditional clothes, what stood out to me the most was the elaborately designed ritual objects used in all kinds of sacred activities such as ritual sacrifices and incense burning. Given my own Southeast Asian ancestry, I saw a lot of parallels between these objects and the ones my family has used before as well.

Fresco of the Virgin Mary and Jesus painted by Ethiopian Christians

 

Following my visit to the Southeast Asian wing, I made my way to the cultural objects of Africa. Of the many intriguing items featured here, what surprised me the most were some ancient Ethiopian Christian paintings sectioned off in their own little space. These artworks surprised me because they dated back far before Europeans sent missionaries to their colonized territories to convert them to Christianity. That meant that Ethiopia had Christians far before Europe began spreading Christianity around the world, a fact that I did not know beforehand.

Hot pot meal made of paper for “Paradise Palace” Special Exhibit

 

Finally, to conclude my visit, I checked out the Quai Branly’s temporary exhibit titled “Paradise Palace”. This exhibit featured several pieces of traditional Taiwanese art called “zhizha” or Taiwanese funeral objects. These objects were made of paper and shaped to look like common everyday places and objects such as meals or bedrooms. In Taiwanese tradition, these paper effigies were burned as an offering to deceased relatives and ancestors to grant them these comforts in the afterlife. “Zhizha” are often very intricate and well-designed as evident by the hot pot meal pictured above. While I liked this piece because of how well it was made, I was especially drawn to it because hot pot happens to be one of my favorite meals. Staring at the delicious meal before me, I knew it was time for me to leave the Quai Branly and head to dinner with my classmates.

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Sacre Coeur

By Jason Vu

On my last trip to Paris, one of my favorite places to visit was the hill of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. At the top of this hill was the beautiful white-domed Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, known more commonly as the Sacre Coeur. Completed in 1914, the Basilica was built as an act of penance for what was seen as the moral decay of the city following the Franco-Prussian War and the rise of the Paris Commune. Now back in Paris, I was determined to make another visit to this extraordinary shrine.

 

On an early morning before our regular class meeting, I made my way to Montmartre using the metro. The stop I left at led directly to the base of the tall hill and from there, I made my long trek up the hundreds of stairs leading to Sacre Coeur.

Me at the bottom of Sacre Coeur, getting ready for the hike up

 

Needless to say, I was sweaty and tired when I reached the top of the hill, but it was more than worth it to arrive at the highest point in Paris. After taking in the view for a little bit, I made my way into the Basilica to take a closer look at the sacred space. Due to the strict rules on taking any pictures at all inside, I was unable to snap any shots but believe me when I say the interior was as magnificent as the exterior!

 

Upon finishing my tour of the inside, I stumbled upon another to enhance my experience of Sacre Coeur. For just 7 Euros, I could climb 300 stairs to the top of the central white dome of the Basilica. Given that this was most likely the highest point in all of Paris, I decided that I needed to go. Starting at the very bottom of Sacre Coeur, I began to climb up the long stairs that led to the summit of Paris.

Halfway to the top of Sacre Coeur!

View from the top of Sacre Coeur’s main dome

 

Out of breath and sore, I had lost track of time until reaching the top of the dome. Instantly, my legs felt like jello being so high up and I remember gasping aloud when I looked down to see how far up I was. Nonetheless, the view I was treated to was like nothing I’d ever seen before. In the distance, I could see some of Paris’s most well-known monuments—the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe—dwarfed by the immensely higher Sacre Coeur. After taking a moment to sit in the stone benches provided for visitors to rest in, I began my trek back down to the ground.

 

With about a thousand stairs climbed all before lunch, I decided that I needed to take a break from climbing stairs for a bit. Luckily, Montmartre provides a small tram that goes up and down the hill for those who don’t want to climb the stairs. Even better, the Navigo Transit Card that our program provided us allowed me to use this service for free! With my morning visit to Montmartre complete, it was time for me to head to class. While this meant I had to say goodbye to Sacre Coeur, this would definitely not be the last time I come back!

The funiculaire going down from Sacre Coeur to Paris

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Vive la France! Vive la Republique!

By Jason Vu

On July 14th, France celebrated La Fête Nationale (The National Day). In English, we know it more commonly as “Bastille Day”. In 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison in Paris to free prisoners and acquire weapons. The action marked a significant turning point in the French Revolution, marking the end of the monarchy in France. Given the importance of this occasion, the celebrations in Paris were sure to be magnifique!

 

Festivities began bright and early in the morning with a grand military parade on the Champs Elysée. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, the parade showcased France’s military marching from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Even though I got there pretty early, I still had to jostle my way up to see the parade. In the end, I was able to snag a couple of shots of the passing troops, but none were as spectacular as the cavalry that trotted by.

Bastille Day Military Parade on the Champs Elysée.

 

After the end of the parade, I wanted to try out another perk of Bastille Day in Paris. In celebration of their cultural heritage, France marks Bastille Day by granting free access to all its museums and monuments that would normally cost around 10 Euros or more. Since Bastille Day also commemorates the troops who defend the French Republic, I decided to stop by Les Invalides, France’s national military museum and monument.

 

To say that Les Invalides was just like any other French monument would be a great understatement. Instead of being known for one thing or another, Les Invalides is actually made up of several buildings that either serve as museums of French military history or monuments dedicated to fallen French soldiers. Some of these buildings include La Musée de l’Armée, La Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and two churches connected back-to-back. These two churches were my favorite parts to see of the complex mainly because of their rich history and artistic design.

 

The older of the two was the Cathedral of St. Louis-des-Invalides, which was intended to be a chapel for veterans of France. Constructed under the reign of Louis XIV, the church was built in a Baroque-style and featured the flags of France’s enemies throughout history. On the other side of a glass wall was the Dôme des Invalides, another church that was eventually turned into the resting place of the late Emperor Napoleon I. Surrounded by statues of angels and portraits depicting mythicized scenes of his life, the tomb of Napoleon was made into the center of the Dôme and visitors have flocked to honor le petit caporal ever since.

The Cathedral of St. Louis-des-Invalides

The tomb of Emperor Napoleon I in Le Dôme des Invalides

With afternoon getting nearer, I eventually made my way out of Les Invalides and headed to the Pantheon for another feature of Bastille Day. All over Paris, free public concerts were taking place in historic monuments and churches to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. At every event, you could hear the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, being played proudly for all to hear. The concert I was going to was composed of wind instrumentalists from the French military academy who were playing several famous French pieces of classical music. I don’t remember the names of the songs they played, but being there was something I won’t forget!

Celebrating Bastille Day with a free wind instrument concert in the Pantheon

 

To conclude my first-ever Bastille Day, I met up with some friends at Trocadéro Park where we would watch the firework show from the Eiffel Tower. The show lasted a whole 30 minutes and every second of it was fantastic! Not only were fireworks being shot through the sky, but the show featured light effects and music to celebrate the end of a national day of celebration. Now I’m a big fan of 4th of July fireworks back in the States, but I have to say, we definitely can’t compare our shows to fireworks of Paris…

Bastille Day Firework Show at the Eiffel Tower

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

France | Brussels + Amsterdam Weekend Trip

By Jason Vu

Although our program has plenty of class time for us to learn in, we also get plenty of leisure time to explore on our own! On one of our three-day weekends, my friends and I decided to book a Flixbus to see the cities of Brussels in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It may have been a bit crazy to fit so much into one weekend, but I think we saw plenty!

Our first stop on this weekend was Brussels, which was about a two hour drive from Paris. First thing we did after settling into our AirBnb was head out in search of Belgium’s famous waffles. Using the city’s metro system, we made it to the main square and were surrounded by Belgian waffles. I made my way to a store with reasonable prices and was treated to a thick waffle covered in whipped cream and nutella. Truly, I’ll never eat waffles the same way again…

Me with my life-changing Belgian waffle.

After gulping down my entire waffle (and half of my friend’s), we continued to wander around the square, stopping by the town hall and some art museums on the way. We soon found ourselves at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Serving as the main Catholic church of the city, the cathedral boosted a grand Gothic design with two towers in the front reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris. We walked in to see great pieces of Baroque art including paintings and sculptures that adorned the church’s walls. Our visit to this cathedral was truly worth the sites, and given that entrance is free, I’d highly recommend!

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels

 

Our final stop in Brussels before calling it a day was the city’s botanical gardens. Filled with beautiful plants, garden mazes, and statues, the garden was a joy to wander around, especially with the region’s temperate weather. While wandering was fun, my favorite part personally was sitting by the cool ponds scattered around the garden and taking a rest from walking. With the last leg of our Brussels trip out of the way, we went back to our apartment to get a little rest and prepare for Amsterdam.

Botanical Garden of Brussels (ft. friends wandering in front)

 

Bright and early the next morning, we woke up and got back on Flixbus for a two-hour ride to Amsterdam. The first thing we did when we arrived was looked for somewhere to eat. Fortunately, we stumbled upon Meneer Pannenkoek, a Dutch omelette and pancake restaurant that boasted huge portions for decent prices. I ordered a large omelette stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, and bacon that, for me at least, was worth 2 meals. With our bellies stuffed, my friends and I made our way to Dam Square, the main plaza of Amsterdam.

My first Dutch meal in Amsterdam

 

Wandering the city through until the night, we got to see much of the city including the Flower Market and the Dutch Royal Palace. The best part of the city for me, however, were the many bridges that offered great views of the city. Even with all the sites we did get to see, only one day in Amsterdam was definitely not enough, so I’ll definitely be back in the future!

Nighttime view from a bridge in Amsterdam

Jason studied abroad in France in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-France/

New York | Reflection

By Kyra Baffo

There is something about studying abroad in your own country. Although we only switched coasts, New York felt like a new world. At the conclusion of the program, I honestly felt like I hadn’t even scratched the surface of all the city had to offer, nonetheless, traveled to neighboring Boston, Philly, or D.C. If you are planning on embarking on your Travel Study experience, I urge you not to rule out domestic locations. I must say, it was nice to know we did not need to deal with new international rules and customs, passports, or language barriers. The familiarity made it our experience more seamless and flexible. New York is a great city to dissect, and I can assure you that you will have just as much (if not MORE) more fun than your peers studying abroad in other locations. Plus, if you are participating in the Global Studies Travel Study program, you will be in the best location to learn about primary international institutions that govern our world.

All in all, my experience in New York was unforgettable. Our cohort of 25, whom many I did not know upon starting the program, became some of my closest friends. The lack of a “campus” at NYU meant that as soon as we left the comfort of our dorms, we were fully immersed in the hustle and bustle of Greenwich Village. Washington Square Park was a city in itself, and was the study spot of choice for those of us looking to get some fresh air and people watch. The sheer accessibility of everything in the city due to the incredibly efficient transportation system made exploring new areas a breeze, and stumbling upon hidden gems happened constantly. I will leave you with my biggest words of advice for prospective NYC Travel Study Participants:

  1. Don’t overpack. Yes, you will be here for a month. But most of the items you’ll need for your dorms can be purchased at CVS/Target/Kmart upon arrival and it will help you avoid having an overweight suitcase.
  2. Stay ahead on the readings and make sure you familiarize yourself with the speakers beforehand.
  3. Try something new in the city everyday. And don’t be afraid to explore on your own. It’s not the scary, dangerous city that is often depicted on television. It really is quite safe, especially since you will be based in Greenwich Village. So, don’t be afraid to do a little solo traveling.

4. Eat lots and lots of food. If you are a ramen fan and/or if you are ready to try the greatest ramen of your life, check out Tabetomo. Deli fan? Katz Deli is your spot. In the mood for delicious falafel, lentil soup, and baklava? Check out Mamouns (Right around the corner from the dorms!)

5. Enjoy the city’s nightlife. Rooftop venues never get old.

6. Bring a camera. Time flies when you are on this program and before you know it, you’ll be flying back to LA. You will want to cherish every memory because when else will you be having the time of your life in NYC with your peers.

7.Don’t take the shuttle to the airport. Slight chance you might miss your flight.

Kyra studied abroad in New York in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-NewYork

New York | Final Days & the Final

By Kyra Baffo

I’d be lying to you if I told you that our last week ½ wasn’t mildly stressful in preparation for the final. We weren’t sure what to expect and the idea that 10 units was on the line definitely didn’t ease anyone’s worries. But as a survivor of the program, I am here to tell you not to worry. I’ll offer you my best tips and advice for studying, as well as some of my favorite parts of the actual course content we went over.

First, you must recognize that how you do in this program does not define you. I know that sounds cliche but honestly, it’s true. Regardless of how well you end up feeling about the final, this program is 100% guaranteed to transform your academic experience at UCLA. You are in a new city, with new friends, intimately studying and meeting people who you’ve only heard about on tv and books. You will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with accomplished UN officials, reporters, activists, and academics who have dedicated and successful careers in international relations. For many of us, this was a defining moment in our own career trajectories, and determined whether or not we were still interested in pursuing a path in foreign diplomacy.

So, as your prepare for the final, just remember how meaningful this experience truly was. For me, I realized that I actually have ZERO interest in pursuing a career at the UN for the simple fact that I did not want to relocated to New York City (Yes, it’s either D.C or New York for any serious work in international relations!), and I am not much of bureaucrat. I have renewed respect for the organization, and believe that despite the criticism is receives, the organization has withstood the test of time (thus far), and has been critical in shaping global norms and responsibilities, and has created a platform for international dialogue and agreement. But yeah, not for me. Thanks to the program, however, I have more of interest in private sector opportunities within diversity and inclusion and organizational development.

So, I would say that my favorite material and experiences from the course were: Learning what the UN is and how it actually works (many of us came in with no prior academic experience studying the UN. So do not be intimidated if you have less surface level knowledge than your peers); How nonprofit organizations like Human Rights Watch influence policy and political actors; human rights based approaches to international intervention; and structural reform in the UN. These topics each spoke to the challenges of the current state of the global order, and how institutions are both navigating this and calling for deep, structural reform. Powerful.

Interestingly enough, one of the most helpful tips when studying for the final is being able to outline these core themes. There is lots to learn in just a few short weeks. You are basically assigned two full books, plus journalistic and academic articles each week. So, studying should involve and combined effort of reviewing authors and readings, guest speakers and excursions, and trying to attach those authors and readings to the overarching themes of the course. Also, don’t be fooled by the open book/open note approach to the final. That is not a free pass to avoid studying. In fact, I found that having an open book final put more pressure on making sure my answers were great. It can be distracting to have so many notes and authors you could potentially refer to throughout your exam. So, try not to rely on that too heavily. Ultimately, the final isn’t bad at all. The biggest takeaway with studying: Connect themes! Don’t worry, you’ll do great. 🙂

Kyra studied abroad in New York in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-NewYork

New York | 4th of July

By Kyra Baffo

There is no better time to be in New York than for the 4th of July! Well, except maybe New Years. Some of us had initially planned to spend the 4th in Boston or D.C. but instead decided to explore what activities were going on in the city that day. As expect, Washington Square Park was vibrant with red, white, and blue throughout the day.Ourmission for the day was clear and simple. Find a great spot to watch the annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. We took the train down to Battery Park, a super cool park right on the southern tip of Manhattan. We were welcomed with scenic views of the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, Jersey, and Brooklyn. The park itself has a number of fun activities, ferries, carousels, oyster bar, memorials and monuments, and it happens to be a great spot for biking.

We arrived with about an hour left before the fireworks started, and due to our mediocre navigating skills, weren’t entirely sure we were in the right place. We eventually ran into hoards of people camped out at the end of the park, facing the water and statue of liberty. We decided to try our look and get an even closer spot. We dove passed herds of crowds heading in every direction imaginable. Every seemed to think they knew the best angle to catch the fireworks. The NYPD had blocked off significant portions of the city surrounding the park, making it difficult to locate a better spot. We quickly grew anxious. We had about 10 minutes until the fireworks show was about to begin, with no consensus on the best angle to watch. We were holding hands and we tried to stick together while maneuvering through crowds.

Finally, we found what appeared to be enormous storage containers right behind the South Ferry Station. We proceeded to climb on top of them (you know, for the best view) and thus, found our perfect 4th July viewing spot. For future Global Studies cohorts, I do not advice you to try this method. It’s probably a better idea to just arrive on time! Turns out, our determination inspired others desperately seeking a great view, and by the start of the show, we were joined by a few other groups.

It did end up being worth it in the end. The views were priceless and we were able to avoid huge crowds for the majority of it. After the works ended, we headed towards the Oyster bar. On our way, we decided the only way to celebrate our favorite holiday was to proceed in patriotic song and dance, and a few 8 claps. We literally skipped through the streets of New York City singing Party in the USA and My Country tis of Thee. And believe it or not, we got TONS of people to join in our singing. People cheered us on from the sidelines, and a group of kids even joined our group for awhile. Shocking, I know.

Kyra studied abroad in New York in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/GlobalStudies-NewYork