Spain | The Party’s Just Begun


What do you know, another Cheetah Girls reference for ya.

But really, this is how I would express my thoughts the moment I got settled into my new residence for the next 3 ½ weeks. I got a corner room, so my roommate and I lucked out with a larger room than normal. It had 2 twin-sized beds, lots of desk space and windows, a small kitchen and a bathroom. The evening I landed Barcelona, we had a short orientation with the professor and TA going over the unique layout of the course — which included a guided tour of the city the following afternoon!

One of the coolest parts of this program is that half the time, our classroom is the city and country itself via tours. Luckily, this city tour included all the major ‘touristy’ attractions Barcelona has to offer, so we easily got to check them off our list right at the beginning. It was great because the I didn’t feel pressured to go see these all the remaining of the trip on my own time. Here are some of the places we got to visit 🙂


Montjuic is a mountain that stands over the city. It literally translates to “Jewish Mountain” because that is where the Jews were thought to settle in the late 1400s. It was the first time I got a good look at the skyline as our tour guide was pointing out particular buildings and areas I would soon come to know on my own.

There were people selling souvenirs, which was common to find in this tourist attractions. Others were just picnicking on the hill or set out blankets to relax and enjoy the view among good company. Our tour guide continued to tell us about the Olympic Stadium that was reconstructed for the 1992 Olympics that were held in Barcelona and practically reshaped the image of the city to the world. It is now currently used for concerts, sporting events, or music festivals.

Park Güell

This place was the one I was most excited to see for various iconic Cheetah Girls 2 reasons (y’all thought I was kidding huh?). It was created by Antoni Gaudi, whose work I soon began to recognize and fall in love with. He has this style of organic architecture that was inspired by the idea that nature was a creation of God.

Park Güell was originally built for residential housing, hoping that the wealthy families would want to live up on the hill with one of the best views of Barcelona. Unfortunately only a couple of families bought into this idea, so the remaining space was decided to be used as a public park. The beautiful arches and artwork of Gaudi, including the fairytale-looking houses and mosaic dragon, can all be seen here!

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is probably one of the most iconic landmarks of Barcelona today, and Gaudi’s most well-known masterwork — it just so happens to not be finished yet. It has remained an active church, except for during the Spanish Civil War period. The construction of this beautiful monument began in 1882 until Gaudi took over in 1883 and worked on it until the end of his life. It is still a continued project and is now projected to be completed in 2026!

From a birds-eye view, the finished shape of the church is supposed to be the cross. There are going to be 3 facades once it is finished representing The Nativity, The Passion and The Glory. Staring at the Sagrada Familia, you can see the endless details all around. One of the clearest views of the church is from the Plaza de Gaudi.

Paulina Hernandez studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2018:

France | Step Inside a Painting


A short train-ride outside of Paris there is a tiny town called Giverny. This village is where Claude Monet lived, and he created some of his most iconic paintings in these gardens.

The gardens in Giverny, where Claude Monet used to paint, are still cared for splendidly by talented gardeners. The little pond he used in his paintings still exists and there was a certain nostalgia in visiting a place I had only seen in impressionistic paintings.

Monet’s impression of the gardens is what catapulted a simple pretty and calming place into an iconic landmark. The place is beautiful, but Monet made it so.

My classmate enjoying the gardens at Giverny

The pond that Monet famously painted

I tried to capture an impressionist style photograph

Another classmate standing on the famous green bridge

The famous lily pads

A photograph trying to be a painting

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

Spain | Eat. Pray. Love.


I just saw Eat, Pray, Love for the first time on this plane ride to Barcelona. I am flying by myself across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I accidentally mixed creamer and sugar into tea because I thought it was coffee for the first time. Lots of first here on this July 5.

I am a believer in everything happening for a reason.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a 21 year old college gal who is used to being away from my family for long periods of time because, you know — schoolwork, organizations, friends, mental health, social life, church — it catches up to you. But being home for 2 1/2 weeks before my trip made me feel like I was a high schooler again, in the best way. I was really going to miss my parents and the crazy kiddos I call my siblings. When I hugged my mom goodbye as I went up the escalator, I tried so hard not to cry. I have been so excited for this trip for months, I didn’t anticipate the nerves to come as much as they did. But that was okay, too.

So was my flight being delayed almost 2 hours.

It was one of those very hot days in LA and even though I was nervous to board, I was ready to leave — but our plane wasn’t. We had already pulled away from the terminal when the pilot says an engineer needs to double check something on the plane. But hey, better that than something going wrong on your first flight across the Atlantic right?

I was lucky enough to get the window seat, even though this dude was sitting in it hoping no one showed up (sorry I need the window seat lol). But the real lucky part was that the two guys sitting next to me are locals from Barcelona, Spain who came to travel the coast of California to surf! They speak Spanish and Catalan (which I was trying to learn via DuoLingo as I tried out the 10ish words I knew). It’s cool to speak Spanish with them because even though it sounds a little different (and faster) we are able to communicate, which is the super cool thing about learning multiple languages. A friend once described to me that once the language barrier is broken, the personality can soar. I want to show my personality to Spain, who I am.

I journaled this a little before I boarded, but without having my expectations or hopes too high, I am ready for this life-changing experience everyone keeps telling me I am about to have. I don’t need to rediscover who I am because I already love who I’ve become, BUT I am excited to see the ways in which I grow, the only way God can teach me in the place I am about to explore. Vengo por ti Espana.

Hasta luego,


Paulina Hernandez studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2018:

Spain | Studying Abroad in Spain


If you’re new to my little corner of the internet, hey there and thanks for visiting! I’m Paulina and am blessed to be able to study abroad THIS SUMMER to my dream destination: Barcelona, Spain. I am participating in the University of California (UC) Summer Travel Study program “Barcelona: The Story of a City, Its Art and Cultures” all of July. I will be completing two upper division Spanish courses going towards my Spanish minor, though any major or minor is welcomed to the program. This program is particularly exciting because part of my classroom will be the beautiful city of Barcelona!

A little bit about myself: I am a proud Latina and UCLA Bruin majoring in Statistics and double minoring in Spanish and Chicano Studies. I am SoCal born and raised (and yes, I freeze below 70 degrees). I love to dance all kinds, experience new cultures, am obsessed with Disney and mini marshmallows, love Jesus and my family dearly, and am probably the only Mexican-American girl who listens to country while eating spicy chips. If you decide to stick around, you’ll quickly realize how much of a dork I really am. I’m excited to document and share my travels in Barcelona with y’all + keep an online journal for reminiscing and inspiration, or just for fun!

It all started when…

I was a baby freshman who knew two things: I wanted to major in STEM and study abroad in Spain. I cannot tell you how many times I came to Murphy Hall to schedule an appointment with a study abroad counselor since my first quarter. I came into UCLA with all of my general education classes and foreign language requirements completed, so it was not as easy to find a study abroad program in Spain that would count towards my major. For Bachelor of Science majors, it can sometimes seem impossible to find a program that: 1) won’t be a waste of time or money or 2) won’t take up 100% of your time abroad because the experience is just as valuable as the education. It was not until the beginning of my junior year when a specific counselor, Sergio, helped me realize I could pick up a Spanish minor so the classes I would be paying for would transfer for some credit. It was honestly the best thing I could have done; I do not know why I didn’t think of that before! So if you’re in the same boat as I was (south campus major that didn’t want to take math/science classes abroad), I highly recommend adding a language minor.

Truthfully, the sole reason I wanted to travel to Spain was inspired by The Cheetah Girls 2 movie (and if you have not watched it, you are either below the age of 12 or have not checked Netflix yet). But in reality, this city and its country are full of immense history, culture and beautiful people that I CANNOT wait to witness and experience with my own two eyes and feet!  

Paulina Hernandez studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain in summer 2018:

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: