France | An Idiot Abroad: Hola, Barcelona!



This past week of class has been fairly steady and non-exciting. Our French classes continue as normal as I struggle to learn the imparfait and differences between qui and que. Recently we received a new group of Japanese students in our French class. Straight from Tokyo and Meiji, our Japanese friends are very much in the same boat I am in. Seven out of the eight of them have no previous French experience and are just as lost as I am in the class. Our professor, Christophe, seems to be struggling a bit with the discrepancy in French levels as he must now accommodate students on a much wider spectrum. Though it is kind of nice having some people in the class who are just as clueless as I am. Our European Imperialism class is going very well and Professor Porter has introduced us many new and interesting insights on British overtures in China during the 19th and 20th century. Having learned broadly about the Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion, and the spheres of influence established by western powers in China, it was very nice to get a more primary source centric lecture that dove more in depth into personal accounts; this really helped me get a much through understanding of the era. An animated man with a lively presence, Professor Porter never creates a dull moment. One can really see that his enthusiasm is genuine. This week was our class for Political Islam, Professor Addi ended the class on an interesting note talking about various terms in Arabic and discussing their historical and religious roots. I have always wanted to understand Islam, better but never took the time or opportunity to learn about it. This Political Islam class gave me a deeper understanding on how Islam affects matters of the state and the many nuances of the religion. While I wish the course would have had a more formal structure, it was nonetheless a great experience that broadened my perspectives. Professor Addi was a very nice teacher and even gave us three options for our final. One, take an in class essay exam. Two, do an at home essay on one of the books he provided in his syllabus. Three, do both and have the better score count. These are more options than they have at a French buffet! I have never heard of anything like this in the states and probably never will. Our last class, Justice and Democracy, is also about to wrap up and we will soon begin presenting our topic (overpopulation) as part of the final. Professor Sophie gave us interesting perspectives on the injustices that result from environmental pollution. She introduced various environmental theories and approached the matter of global warming from philosophical lenses. While I do enjoy Professor Sophie’s class, I sometimes feel that the theories she presents are just very common sense observations wrapped in pretentious vocabulary. Though I do not think that this is so much her as it is the philosophers she is teaching us about. We have another class beginning next Monday; it is weird that then commencing class will only last a month as that is only about a third of a standard UCLA quarter.


After all of our classes on Thursday, my girlfriend and I hopped on a plane to Barcelona (we do not have class on Fridays). The most simplistic method to get the Lyon airport is via a tramline called the Rhone Express. This is also the method of transportation suggested to us by UCEAP when we first arrived in Lyon. While the Rhone Express is incredibly easy to ride and convenient, it is not the cheapest. A few years ago Lyon’s public transport could take you to the airport. From Part-Dieu (the main train station in Lyon) one could simply take Tramway 3 towards Meyzieu Zone Industrial and then take a bus which stops at the airport.

All this would have only costed 1.80 euros (Lyon’s public transport tickets work for 60 minutes upon first validation so you can use it as much as you want on all the methods of transport within the hour). The bus has since been scrubbed so now the Rhone Express remains the only option besides driving. However, we recently discovered a car service that essentially has taken over the role of the bus. For 7 euros (student price) a shuttle service will pick you up at the Meyzieu Zone Industrial tram stop and drop you off at the airport. Even with the tramway ticket factored in, the total only comes out to 8.5 euros which is still

almost 5 euros cheaper than the student Rhone Express ticket. The Rhone Express, for a lack of a better word, is really just there to make more money off both tourists and local Lyonnais. There is absolutely no reason why a train or tramway line can not run to the airport, especially given the fact that there is literally a new train station inside the airport. These sentiments are also shared by Lyonnais locals. After speaking with my host family and a old French couple on the shuttle service, it was quite clear that no one is very pleased with the Rhone Express.

Anyways, after a tramway, shuttle service, flight, my girlfriend and I arrived at Barcelona. Our weekend trip was incredibly fun and I got to see sights that I never thought I would actually get an opportunity to see. We walked by the economics university in Barcelona, which was actually my first choice for study abroad, but I did not get my application in on time. In hindsight though, I am very glad I chose Lyon. Barcelona is too big of a city and there is just too much going on. After a very exciting weekend filled with much sightseeing, and sangria, we were both excited to return to our home in Lyon.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017:

Australia | Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall


The week has been consumed by massive thunderstorms, but the weather here in Brisbane is under 80! To say I am happy would be an understatement. I completed my first week of classes at UQ and I could not be more excited with the courses I am taking (Environmental Policy, Gender and Global Politics, Global Population Crisis, and Australian Foreign Policy). I am fortunate enough to have class only on Tuesday and Wednesday (meaning I have a five-day weekend) but it is definitely a major challenge to have 12 hours worth of class in two days. Keep reading to gain an insight into daily life as an official student at UQ.

Pre-Departure Enrollment

Prior to arriving, I had to enroll in classes using the system (you receive your student login information on your Unconditional Offer for Incoming Exchange Program). Although enrolling classes while in California went smoothly, I found the task to be confusing (and a little intimidating) because of the of steps you need to take to enroll.

Here is a step by step guide to ensure you classes you are interested in:

  1. Begin by looking at the list of Courses and Programs offered during your semester abroad. Under refine search, select ‘Undergraduate’ and ‘Internal.’ Most importantly, under the course option select the ‘Show only pre-approved courses for Study Abroad students’ to ensure the courses you take will transfer over to your home university for academic credit.
  2. After selecting the courses you are interested (write down the course code for each), log in to your my.UQ portal. Select mySI-net on the left side of your screen to be redirected to the enrollment page. The page will first prompt you to provide your personal information (address, contact number, email address) before allowing you to enroll.
  3. On the main page, select Add Course and enter the course code (for example, POLS3115). Click the ‘Add Course’ button and you are all set! Continue to do this step until you have included all the courses you need.
  4. Important Note: In terms of enrolling in the class, you are done. But, you will need to enroll in your discussion sections (at UQ, these are referred to as tutorials or workshops). Return to the main page on mySI-net and click the Sign On button. The page will list the classes you have chosen to enroll in, while listing the respective enrollment dates/times for your tutorial/workshop. If under SignOn Status you see ‘Not Applicable,’ you are all done!
    1. If you need to SignOn (enroll) in a tutorial/workshop, note the date/time listed is based on Brisbane time. Make sure you are on the page and it is fully loaded at least 10 minutes before your designated time because spaces go fast. One neat thing about class enrollment is there is no cap (meaning as many students interested can enroll) but tutorials/workshops are limited.
    2. Do not freak out (as I did) if you see your enrollment for a tutorial/workshop is after your first lecture. This is normal for popular classes!

One of the most helpful resources in picking your courses for your time abroad is the Electronic Course Profile (EPC). You can find the Course Profile for each course on the Courses and Programs website. On each EPC, you will find all the information you need: course syllabus, date of assessments, weekly learning activities, and contact information. Moreover, if you are wondering how I ended up with four classes and three tutorials in two days, here is your answer. When enrolling in classes on mySI-net, the day/time the class takes place is not provided. You will only be able to see when your class meets if you add it to your timetable on your my.UQ portal – DO THIS BEFORE ENROLLING TO AVOID CLASHES BETWEEN CLASSES.

Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

Daily life at UQ is not much different than daily life at UCLA (except for the absence of the hill and Janss Steps). Depending on how far from the campus you live, you can either walk, ride the bus, or take a ferry (yes, you read that right). To take either a bus or ferry to campus, all you need is a GoCard. A GoCard can be purchased at any convenience store on campus and then registered online to secure student concession prices. To use you GoCard, you tap on when entering and tap off when exiting the bus/ferry, it is that simple!

Classes are held in lecture theatres and tutorials/workshops are held in group learning rooms or computer labs. The only noticeable difference between how classes function compared to UCLA is that classes here are recorded. If you are sick and cannot attend lecture or if you missed an important part of the lesson, you can view/hear the lecture online on your my.UQ portal at your disposal. Lecture recordings are uploaded on the site and will be available until the end of the semester. Use these to supplement your learning! Professors are more than available after class and during office hours to discuss assignments and in-class material.

After class, you can find a plethora of study spaces and restaurants to meet your needs. From Indian Feast to Burger Urge, you will find anything and everything. One important note to the future student who seeks iced coffee – do not, I repeat, do not order an iced coffee at a café. An iced coffee is equivalent to a coffee milkshake (it literally has a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream). If you are looking for iced coffee, order an iced latte! Additionally, the student government graciously provides free breakfast at the UQ Union Student Hub on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Free dinner is also provided on Wednesdays. Take advantage of these opportunities and save money every week!

20 Minute Getaway

If you need to destress or need a phenomenal study spot for a major exam, head to Brisbane CBD or Southbank. At Southbank, you can dive into the beach (man-made, of course), visit the Queensland Museum of Art, or ride the Wheel of Brisbane with some friends. Brisbane CBD is filled with stores, restaurants, live-music, and a bowling alley (similar to Santa Monica Pier but with a more intimate feel). The largest Brisbane City Library is also located along the riverbank and offers a perfect study spot!

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017:

Spain | First Things First


September 4, 2017

Over my first few days in Madrid, I quickly identified some first week essentials to help me settle into a new country.

  1. Phone Plans
  2. FOOD
  3. Toiletries / Electronics
  4. More shopping areas

Phone Plans

I purchased a phone plan from a European provider primarily so I could use Google Maps to navigate the streets J. However, I have friends who opted to bypass the phone plan and rely primarily on Wi-Fi and asking for directions, which has worked out pretty well for them thus far…so it’s up to you what route you want to take!

If you do decide to get a phone plan, ACCENT staff typically recommend heading to The Phone House to purchase a SIM card if your phone is unlocked since they typically have a wide variety of options. They have multiple locations around Madrid, but I went to the one nearest to my homestay in Sol (address: Calle de Preciados, 19, 28013 Madrid) to check out the different plans.

At the time, the Phone House only had plans from Orange, but I had heard from friends that Vodafone and República Mobil were also popular options and wanted to look around a bit more. Across the street at El Corte Inglés, you can find every cellular provider on one floor of the store!


For 20 euro, you get 7 GB of data and 80 minutes of call time. Roaming is also included, meaning that the SIM card should work in other countries in the EU. While there are options to get 5 GB and some minutes for 15 euro and 3 GB and less minutes for 10 euro, the first time you purchase a card they require that you buy the “biggest option” for 20 euro. At the beginning of every month, you can reload with either the same or a smaller plan online, in store, or over the phone.

I also recently found out that the aforementioned plans are only good for the first month! After that, the plans reduce by half to become 3.5 GB for 20 euro, 2.5 GB for 15 euro, etc. You can always change providers after a month if you decide to though!

For 20 or 22 euros a month, you get 7 GB data and 60 minutes of calling. I’ve heard that Vodafone is similar to Orange in terms of Roaming plans for other countries in the EU!

With República Móvil, you benefit from 15 GB & 100 min calling for 20 euro a month! From a friend’s experience, the plan did not immediately activate outside of Spain (roaming) but after calling customer service she made it work outside of the country. I didn’t opt for this plan because I thought 15 GB was excessive and was worried about the possibility of it not working outside of Spain.

Regardless of which phone plan you choose, all of them should activate immediately after you enter in a PIN and configure your phone again. The entire process took less than an hour and so far, I’ve only used 2.5GB for 3 weeks…so needless to say 7 GB is a little much for me for the month, but it’s always good to figure out how much you typically use and then update the plan accordingly.

Food 🙂

My homestay family gives me breakfast (around 9 AM) and dinner (around 9 PM)…but that means I’m mostly on my own for lunch around 2 – 5 PM (not necessarily a bad thing! Spanish food is yummy!)

The first few days I was on the hunt for delicious, authentic Spanish cuisine and stumbled across The. Best. Thing. Ever. Menú del día. Typically, the menu of the day lets you select two dishes from a preset menu and includes a drink, bread, and dessert on top of the two entrees. So far, I’ve seen menus that are as cheap as 7 euro and as expensive as 15 euro, depending on how touristy the area is. The meal is also more expensive in some places if you opt to sit outside instead of at the bar.

For my first full meal in Spain, I found a place off a side street near Plaza del España with a 10.50 euro menu (13.50 when sitting outside) and decided to splurge.

First course, bread, and drink with the menu! They also brought me a tapa (small plate) with my drink of a piece of bread with tomato spread…but I ate it before taking the picture 

Secondary course of Menú del Día: chicken and potatoes

Dessert included…flan!

The menu is definitely the way to go if you’re really hungry and want to sample a large variety of foods while getting the most bang for your buck. You will leave happy and full (maybe too full), I promise you! Also take note that at any sit-down establishment in Madrid (and Spain in general), they do not bring you the receipt until you ask for it. This means you can sit and relax for hours after your meal if you want, and they likely will not ask you to leave unless they’re closing soon. J

While eating out is delicious, it gets a bit pricy to eat out every day. To save some money, I typically only splurge on a full meal a couple days a week and head to the other alternatives for grab-and-go around town other days.

At a supermarket like Mercadona or Express, they have pastries, prepackaged salads, bread, fruits and veggies, yogurts and more for a quick bite! My typical lunch consists of a grab-and-go salad or wrap, a peach, and yogurt, all for around 3-4 euro, sometimes less! There are also options for tapas for around the same price (I recommend 500 Monteditos…they have a lot of inexpensive and tasty options, and there are a ton of locations around Madrid!)

4 Euro meal at 500 Monteditos: Nachos to share, 2 sandwiches, and a drink!

Definitely make sure to save a day or two to try all the menus places have to offer – hot food and good conversation can’t be beat!

Misc. Toiletries / Electronics

I grabbed some power adapters for my electronics (laptop, phone) when I got here, since Europe doesn’t agree with the style of US plugs J Luckily, these are available at the nearest Bazar (Spanish equivalent to a dollar store with a random compilation of snacks, toiletries, school supplies, and more!) for 2-3 euros each. I would recommend buying more than one adaptor initially since one of mine somehow broke after 3 uses…good thing they’re inexpensive!

For shampoos, conditioners, and other toiletries, a Bazaar has some options, but a supermarket often has a greater variety. There are so many options in terms of general stores so I found what I needed close by! In times when my search proved to be futile, ACCENT staff were extremely helpful with recommendations J

More Shopping Areas

(yay wallet! $$$)

Along Calle del Preciados in Sol

Sol is the center of Madrid and has an overwhelming number of places to buy clothes, shoes, electronics, household items, and more! Gran Vía, the center of shopping near me, is just a 5-10 minute walk from Puerta del Sol and has all the large Macy-esque multilevel shops that your heart desires. If you’re looking for smaller shops, there’s a strip of stores and restaurants off of Tribunal metro station as well.

Puerta del Sol: beginning of shopping areas past the plaza

Luckily, the end of August into the middle of September marks rebajas season (read: MID-SEASON SALES!!!) Lots of things are 10-70% off…so treat yourself to something nice. You’re in Spain and that means dressing like the Spaniards do (which is more business-casual business-chic than we usually dress in the United States)!

Those are the four categories I found I wanted more info on within the first few days of arrival to Spain…so hopefully that helps orient you! Don’t worry, everything is within reach. 🙂

Hasta la próxima,


Nina Chikanov studied abroad in Madrid, Spain in fall 2017:

Switzerland | Logistics


More logistics. While I know that logistics aren’t the most fun to read about, there’s been a lot I’ve had to figure out in my first two weeks in Switzerland. In retrospect most of this stuff was actually super easy, but it was pretty hard to figure out on my own. My hope is that this info will make it easier for anyone who comes later!

Health Insurance

I know that I talked about this in my last post, and it might seem kind of boring, but figuring out Swiss health insurance was my #1 source of stress during my first week in Geneva – so here is everything I learned so hopefully it’ll be easier for you!

How do I know which company to pick? During our orientation on our first day in Geneva UNIGE had worked with various insurance companies to come to the university and to give us information about their student rates. Health insurance in Switzerland is compulsory and, like pretty much everything else in Geneva, expensive. Since there is no getting around purchasing health insurance it was nice that UNIGE had 3 or 4 companies with much cheaper premiums come so that we had some idea where to begin. Obviously you can choose whichever company you think will work best, but after looking into all of them Advisor seemed to make the most sense. With a CHF 100 deductible, the monthly premium for Advisor is CHF 86. Although this might sound like a lot, it’s within a few Swiss Francs of the other companies and nowhere near as expensive as the monthly premium that normal Swiss residents pay. The main reason that Advisor seemed like the best choice was that I didn’t have to open a Swiss bank account. I’m definitely bummed I won’t be able to say that I have a Swiss bank account in my name, but it turns out that being an American college student makes it pretty difficult to open one.

How do I sign up? Advisor has an easy online application system that you can do in French or English (this was key). Even though it was in English I still spent countless hours trying to figure it out. It turns out you can leave the bank information section blank (which I did) if you don’t have a Swiss bank account. What confused me the most was on the final page it told me I would be insured for a year. While some other people on the program were able to change their dates, I couldn’t and got increasingly worried that I would have to pay for insurance past my stay in Geneva. As it turns out, they emailed me as soon as I submitted the application to ask how long I would be staying and told me that I wouldn’t have to pay once I left- such a relief knowing it was so easy!

How do I pay? After all the stress and confusion surrounding applying for insurance I didn’t know it would be hard to figure out how to pay as well. Advisor sent me an envelope with a piece of paper for each month I would be in Geneva with a detachable potion at the bottom. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but later found out that if you bring it to the post office, along with money, they’ll pay your insurance for you. Honestly so simple now that I know! Now the only challenge will be remembering to pay it every month.

A post office near the lake. The building was so pretty I didn’t even realize what it was!


Nothing has made me more appreciative of my phone than only being able to use it on wifi in an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language. I didn’t have a Swiss SIM card for my first couple days in Switzerland and I felt so dependent on the people around me who already had working Swiss plans. Sure it’s nice to be able to Snapchat friends about what you’re doing or scroll through Instagram on the bus, but I really felt the inability to text and use Google Maps. I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out on my own knowing that I would have to rely solely on a screenshot of Google Maps to know where I was going and wouldn’t be able to text anyone or look anything up if I got lost.  As silly as it sounds, I really felt that having a working phone gave me the confidence to go out and explore the city on my own – which is something that I couldn’t recommend more!

There are two main phone companies in Geneva that offer good prepaid plans—Salt and Sunrise. The main difference is that with Salt you pay $2/day for unlimited data and then a certain amount per text and call. In contrast, with Sunrise you pay a certain amount every month depending on which plan you want. This felt more like what I was used to at home so I ended up going with Sunrise. I got a plan that gave me unlimited 4G data within Switzerland as well as unlimited texts and calls (to the US too!!) and a small amount of international data for weekend trips. One thing that I learned the hard way – make sure you know how to turn on/ off roaming. Since Geneva is so close to France my phone automatically connected to a French tower the first day I had it and I used up a chunk of my roaming data without even knowing it.

Housing Deposit

Ok so this one is still a little up in the air…. When you check into the Cite when you arrive one of the first things you do is give them a security deposit. Ideally they want you to open a certain kind of bank account called a depository account where your deposit stays during your stay. But, like I said before, I’m trying to avoid opening a bank account at all costs. The man at the front desk assured me that it would most likely be fine for me to just put my deposit on my American Visa, but I guess we’ll find out at the end of this when I try and get my CHF 400 back!

Scotland | Joining a Society


Upon arriving, University of Edinburgh had a ‘Give it a Go’ week. This week was dedicated to introducing  the variety of functions and societies that the university has to offer and encouraging students to partake in free samples. But what exactly are societies? Societies are the equivalent of the clubs we have on campus. Most societies require that you purchase a membership, which varies depending on what society it is and what they offer their members with or without additional costs. Below are some of the popular ones I’ve heard about and my own preferences:

Baking Society

I went to the Baking Society’s Give it a Go event and had a blast! Recipes and ingredients were provided. If you like baking and eating baked goods, this society might be the perfect fit! For weekly meetings, everyone brings along baked goods and just enjoy the deliciousness and good company. Every month or so there are themed baking events, where everyone bakes a specialized treat at a central location. A membership for this society is £5 and certain event’s cost for ingredients.

Unfortunately, I didn’t join because I have no idea how to work the oven at my house. It’s just mug cakes for me this semester…

Murder Mystery Society

The Murder Mystery Society is one of the best societies on campus. It has the most lovely people and also it’s loads of fun! Every month we do a murder mystery that has been written by one of the members. What exactly is a murder mystery? Well, basically, you sign up for a character and, when the murder mystery draws near, you receive a character sheet. This character sheet says who you are,  what your secrets and motives are, and what kind of actions you can perform. It’s role play but also very strategic. Even though the ideas are written, it never necessarily has the same outcome. Alliances are made. Trust is broken. And murder everywhere!

Also, they have this going away weekend in Spring semester to the Highlands, where we play a plethora of board games and, of course, a murder mystery. This is by far my favorite society. Definitely worth a look!

Membership to this society is £3. After that, going to most society events are free! If you’re unsure of joining, each murder mystery is £1 for non-members.

Pole Dancing Society

I joined the Pole Dancing Society because I always loved how majestic pole dancers look when doing their dances. It truly is a form of art, graceful and beautiful. That’s definitely not how I looked during my first class, but a girl can dream, right?

The Pole Dancing Society provides classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced levels. They provide poles and loads of advice on how to learn the basics of pole dancing. They also offer flexibility workshops and ‘sexy’ workshops throughout the semester. Everyone is super sweet and the instructors are very skilled and patient. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to pole dance or even just want to find a new form of exercise, check out this society! It’s way cheaper than any pole dancing classes you’ll find in LA!

A membership for this society is £6, with most classes being £3 each. Classes go online every Thursday at 6pm. Set an alarm because beginner classes fill up within the first 10 minutes!

FAQ: Card and Board Games Society

If you like playing board games, this society is for you! They meet almost every Tuesday at a pub to play board games for hours on end. They have a plethora of board games and everyone encourages a friendly, competitive environment. They’ll occasionally have bowling nights or join with the Murder Mystery society for some nights. I LOVE board games so going to board game nights on a Tuesday night is a fun way to stress relieve after a long day of school. A membership for this society is £3.

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinbugh, Scotland, in Spring 2018: 

South Africa | Camps Bay, Lion Head and Penguins


Before school started, I had about a week to explore Cape Town, and I did just that. The first day of exploring, my housemates and I ended up at Camps Bay next to Clifton Beach. We went with the intention of surfing, but Cape Town winter weather got the best of us and told us to just stay on the sand.

We climbed some rocks and took in the fresh air and beautiful water. After a while we headed to Camps Bay. Lucky for us, we came at the perfect time to watch the sunset. Table Mountain was so stunning and close that it looked fake. The mountain exuded a reddish-brown hue against a slightly purple backdrop. The sun setting on the water was spectacular. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

The following day, the IDACA program, which included about 26 students from different University of California campuses and Boston College, hosted a hiking day up Lion’s Head, a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. It took us about two hours to reach the top, but the views were more than worth it. We were able to see the entire city, especially where the water hits the land, and it was a sight to see. That day we also watched the sunset at Signal Hill which was a jaw dropping event.

In our action-packed week, we also managed to see penguins. Yes, I too, did not know that there were such a thing as African penguins, but I was pleasantly surprised. My housemates and I were able to interact closely with penguins and chase them around the beach at Boulders Beach. We even got to swim with a few of them. If you make your way to Boulders Beach one day, be advised that they do bite and if they position their necks a certain way it is best to stay out of their line of vision.

The last stop of our busy week was Cape Point. The IDACA program went on a bus with about 100 other international students. We drove from UCT, through a township, and ended at Cape Point. In the township, we saw a talent show and had a delicious lunch, which was an awesome treat. After that we headed to Cape Point, which was marvelous. The sun was shining and the sand was cool (temperature wise), not to mention the water was a beautiful aquamarine-turquoise mix. We got to see baboons in person too! I did not know that they screamed so loudly (lol). We also visited Bo-Kaap, and saw an array of colorful houses. Overall my week of exploration was one for the books, and I could hardly contain my excitement about getting to see more of Cape Town.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018:

France | An Idiot Abroad: Super Mario Go, Coin!



This past week Professor Porter took us to a very famous Lyonnais museum (Musee de Beaux Arts, which literally translates to “museum of beautiful arts”). He wanted to do our last lecture outside of the classroom and have us experience more of Lyon. The museum is an architectural master piece and composed of beautiful gardens, reliefs, and lots of marble. A former nunnery, the Museum came to be after locals raided the it during the French Revolution. The nunnery was known to have housed many artifacts and deemed too extravagant by locals for a place of God. The state eventually took control of the nunnery and overtime a museum was established. Not only are the artifacts housed in the museum a part priceless history, but so is the building and location itself. In fact, in the Hotel de Ville – Louis Pradel plaza right outside the museum, over ninety people were executed by guillotine during the revolution.

The reason why Professor Porter took us to the museum was to show us a Matisse painting that he had been researching about for the last three months. The painting depicted an art dealer with a very particular beard. Professor Porter spent two hours in front of the exhibit telling us a very convoluted, but extremely interesting, timeline of the paintings imperialist history and his theories on some of the imperialist symbology depicted in the painting. The passion Professor Porter had during this lecture was immense; it was incredibly clear that he was teaching and talking about a subject matter he genuinely cared about. His research on the Matisse painting was not commissioned by the school or an organization, but done simply out of his own interest and curiosity. Professor Porter has been one of the most enjoyable professors I had during this study abroad experience. Many of the other UC students also enjoyed Professor Porter’s class. I feel very lucky to have been taught by someone who so genuinely cares about his subject matter and I hope to meet more professors like Professor Porter in the future. As an end of the term celebration, Professor Porter has invited all of us to see a mime in a traditional Lyonnaise theater and enjoy some beers with him and the theater troupe afterwards. Honestly, what a cool guy (he literally wears a suit everyday but rides around on a scooter).


This study abroad experience has truly been holistic. Not only have I hung out and enjoyed drinks with local Lyonnais and French individuals, but I have also had the opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world. I have had the opportunity to learn about life in Germany, Turkey, Finland, Japan, Ireland, Scotland, London, and many other countries. The stories I have heard and the friendships I have made on this experience will be something that I take with me for the rest of my life and look back on with extreme fondness and nostalgia.

This past weekend the Japanese students in our French class invited us all to their apartment for a party. When we arrived we were greeted with plates of traditional family style dishes. One of the Japanese student’s mother was in Lyon visiting for a few days and she was in the kitchen Gordon Ramsey-ing it up for everyone. There was a lot of camaraderie and shared responsibility amongst all the Japanese students as everyone was doing something to help set up the party. Some were preparing drinks and others were helping in the kitchen. There was not an idle hand and everyone took part in something. We must have had 9 or 10 different dishes that night. The mother even brought some ingredients in straight from Japan. There was a seafood soup that was incredibly savory and nutritious. They prepared a kind of hash brown pancake, but it was topped with dried fish. It would take me too long to describe all the food, but needless to say it was all very delicious. My knowledge of Japanese cuisine expanded greatly after this experience as now I know more than just ramen and sushi. We played some traditional Japanese drinking games as well and it was incredibly fun seeing people from America, Finland, Germany, Turkey, and Japan all bond over food and games. One of the drinking games our Japanese friends taught us was literally called “Super Mario Go, Coin.” Essentially everyone would be in a circle and take turns saying one syllable of the phrase “Super Mario, Super Mario, Super Mario, Coin!”

The “coin” would increase after every time the phrase is said. After the first completion it would be one “coin,” second completion would be two “coin,” and so on and so forth. If someone messed up on what he or she is suppose to say then he or she would drink. These games were really fun because they seem to be designed with the intent of getting people to know each other and create bonds rather than just to get people drunk. We all had a really good time at the party and I got to learn a lot about Japanese traditions and cuisine. It is moments like these that make me really enjoy studying abroad; being able to bond with a diverse group of people over simple foods and finding that common link that bridges all cultures and divides is part of what made, and what continues to make, this study abroad experience so fun and eye opening. There are so many hidden gems within every culture, but it is not until you can embed in the culture and have authentic experiences with locals that these gems become discoverable.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017:

Australia | Orientation Week


The first week here in Brisbane, Australia can only be described in one word: brutal. The spirits of Brisbane surely wanted to provide me with the warmest welcome, hence the 90F weather the week I arrived. One would have guessed I would have adapted well to the weather, but nope – I ended up getting heat stroke the second day here (absolutely amazing and possibly record breaking, I know). Anyway, here is a little insight into UQ’s O-Week.


Prior to arriving in Australia, I received an email from the UQ International Student Office with information on the compulsory Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange Orientation. The session would take place on Tuesday, February 21 at 8am in Building 50. The day before orientation, a plethora of questions ran through my mind:

             “How many students would attend?”

            “Would I be one of the only Americans/Californians there?”

            “Would I feel intimidated, welcomed, or a mixture of both?”

The next morning, I arrived early to the lecture hall to secure a seat in the first row. When I arrived, the total number of students in the room did not exceed 20. But each passing minute introduced a new wave of eager, diverse, and nervous group of students. By the start of the first presentation, the lecture hall was overfilled with more than 300 students. The director of the office kicked off the session by asking students to cheer for their respective region/country. After cheers for Asia, Europe, South America, and Canada, the biggest roar erupted when she said “America.” More than half of the room erupted into a massive and load “WOOOO” and it was truly extraordinary (and a little painful).

After a general introduction informing us about the academic, career, and health services available on campus, a professor from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Department led us in a traditional Australian chant. Performing the chant with hundreds of students from all over the world was one of the greatest experiences and to hear the words “Welcome to UQ, this is your new home” was the ultimate cherry on top. At the conclusion of the orientation session, student ambassadors from the center divided students into little clusters for a campus wide tour. I remembered viewing the campus from the airplane, looking at how the Brisbane River provided the perfect border. I did not, however, anticipate the size – a campus filled with over 89 buildings, nine libraries (five are open 24/7 hours and are fully equipped with sleeping pods, showers, a kitchenette, and vending machines with packages meals), nine playing fields, and a lake. To say it differed from UCLA would be a major understatement. I also got to get my University of Queensland student ID, making the exchange tangibly real.

Following the tour, the Queensland University Exchange Student society (QUEST) hosted a Welcome Sausage Sizzle to end orientation day. Other than hearing the phrase “Shrimp on the barbie” in reference to Australian food, I had absolutely no idea of what an authentic meal would be. After patiently waiting in line for 15 minutes, I received a sausage placed diagonally on a single slice of white bread (yes, you read that right) topped with caramelized onions and ketchup. I initially concluded that given the size of the group, the club ran out of hotdog buns, but nope – this was it. I tasted the sausage sandwich and it was fantastic. Also, the greatest part (by far) about the Sausage Sizzle was the mini farm featuring llamas and baby pigs. SO CUTE!

Market Day

The day following the International and Exchange Student Orientation, an event known as Market Day consumed the Great Court. Market Day transformed UQ into a festival filled with stalls, giveaways, and performances. All of the clubs and societies at UQ had a booth set up and eagerly tried to encourage students to become a member of their organization. From the UQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society to the UQ Surfers, the range of clubs extended every social, departmental, cultural, and sporting interest. As I walked toward the Great Court, I felt overwhelmed by the hundreds of clubs and thousands of students there. I surveyed the major tents at the center of the Great Court because of the giveaways available. UQ Union, the largest student organization on campus, provided students with welcome totes containing school supplies, a planner, and information pamphlets outlining the host of student support services. Before moving on to the clubs, I picked up a reusable water bottle from the UQ Sustainability department and a free University of Queensland t-shirt from UQConnect.

After circling the Great Court and talking to representatives from clubs I felt interested in, I officially became a member of UQ Volunteers, the UQ Latin American Student Association (LASA), the Queensland University Exchange Student Society (QUEST), and Law Society. Here lies a major distinction between joining a club at UCLA versus joining a club at UQ. While at UCLA’s Enormous Activities Fair, a student can simply fill out an information sheet to be added to the club’s mailing list, a student at UQ must pay for their membership in a club. The price varies depending on the resources/benefits the club promises to provide to members and its overall popularity. To gain membership into the clubs listed above, I paid a total of $15 (which is equivalent to $11.50 USD). Although the idea of paying to join a club/society seemed strange, the cost ultimately is returned through club activities throughout the semester.

UQ Union’s Ignition Party

O-Week finished off on Friday night during UQ Union’s Ignition Neon Party. Held on the Forgan Smith Lawn, the party featured live acts, lots of neon paint, and free food. Tickets for the party sold for $10 and students were encouraged to purchase neon paint. Comparable to UCLA’s Bruin Bash, the festival was an equally massive success. To paint the picture for you (pun intended), you are alongside hundreds of students on a large lawn on campus, dancing to the music of up and coming artists, while getting drenched in neon paint. The paint gets everywhere– (hair, shoes, mouth, eye, etc.) and no place is safe.

Reflecting on orientation week, I can genuinely say UQ does its best at ensuring every single student feels welcomed and supported. Although I am more than seven thousand miles from UCLA, I truly feel at home here at UQ.

Monica Martinez studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia in Spring 2017:

Spain | ¡Buen viaje!


September 2, 2017 – September 3, 2017

¡Hola compañeros! My name is Nina, and I’m here to guide you through all the nuances and memories of my study abroad experience with UCEAP’s Contemporary Spain Program at the UC Center in Madrid. 🙂

Bright and early on September 2, my parents drove me to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where my journey begins. With a final destination of Madrid, Spain, my itinerary also included stops in Boston and in Lisbon with some layovers in between. Needless to say, I had a long journey ahead of me, but I was excited nonetheless. After months of telling friends and family that I would be spending a semester abroad in Spain, the time had finally come to make the trek.

I tried really hard to fit all my clothes and shoes into a carry-on sized backpacking bag. I mean I really, really tried. But after consolidating articles of clothing and trying to pack for a month of heat (all of September) as well as three months of cold (October – December), my mom and I decided to fit the backpacking bag into a larger suitcase and check the bag instead for less hassle. Even though I would probably need to get rid of some clothes and the suitcase before my planned European backpacking trip after the end of the program, that was a problem I was willing to deal with in December.

The first thing I had to do was check into my departing flight from Seattle to Boston. I flew with JetBlue and for some reason I had not been able to check-in online the night before. They told me that, since I was travelling with an American passport and did not purchase a round-trip ticket, they needed some verification that I would depart from Spain before they checked me in. Apparently, a plane, train, or ticket for any other form of transportation showing my exit date from Spain would work, but travelling with an American passport requires that you have proof that you will not stay in the country forever.

Thankfully, I had made plans to leave Spain for Fall Break (you get one week of break!!) and showed them my plane ticket that would take me out of Madrid. I’m not sure if this is a common experience for everyone, since many of my friends had no problem checking in. However, in order to avoid the hassle, I would suggest either booking a round-trip flight or buying a ticket to leave the country prior to leaving the United States.

The flight from Seattle to Boston was around 6 hours long and was otherwise uninteresting. I had a layover of about 2 hours in Boston, which gave me enough time to grab a bite to eat before my next flight to Lisbon with TAP Portugal. Before boarding the connecting flight, an attendant checked my passport one last time and verified my final destination. Then, I was off! One flight down, two more to go!

This airplane was bigger than the domestic one, by virtue of international travel. However, there wasn’t that much space underneath the seats so I threw my school-bag in an overhead bin and was very glad that I had checked my bags for the journey. This flight also took around 6.5 hours, for a total time of 12-13 hours in the air since I left Seattle. Since this was a night flight, they fed us dinner on the plane 🙂

When I stepped off the plane in Lisbon, I had one more connection to catch straight to Madrid. However, the layover in Portugal was very short and left me with thirty minutes to go through customs before boarding started. Yes, you have to go through customs after your flight from the United States into Europe. This is the only time they check your student visa and put you through a border check. If you fly straight into Madrid, it’ll most likely happen there, but if you have a connecting flight somewhere else in Europe beforehand, be prepared for a long line to enter the country.

So…ready for a plot twist? I missed my flight from Lisbon to Madrid because of the long customs lines and short layover (nooooooooo). Even though I asked the workers at customs to let me go in an expedited line, they prioritized other flights over mine while reassuring me that there was no way I would miss the plane. By the time I passed through customs and another round of security, the gate for my flight was already closed and there was nothing they could do to get me on the original flight. When booking your flight, try to ensure at least 2 hours of layover, especially if connecting straight from the United States to Europe.

The next direct flight from Lisbon to Madrid left at night and would arrive at 9 PM instead of the 9 AM original time. Since I had plans to meet Raquel at the UC Center (also called the ACCENT Madrid Study Abroad Center) for orientation before classes, I wanted to get to Madrid as soon as possible. So, as a workaround I was rebooked for a flight with Iberia Airlines to Milan that connected straight to Madrid by 6 PM. In the meantime, they reassured me that my checked luggage would be sent straight to Madrid and I was given a 6-euro voucher to get breakfast before my next flight.

After 4 separate flights and unnecessary layovers, I landed in Madrid in one piece! Whew! When we landed, I went straight to baggage claim to look for my luggage. Surprise, surprise, it had not arrived to Madrid yet. I filed a missing baggage report with the Iberian Airlines help-desk where I gave them the address of the ACCENT Center and my e-mail address to contact me. They said that once my baggage was found, it would take 2-3 days to send it to the address I provided.

Make sure to ask what kind of policy the airline has for lost baggage. I later found out that Iberian Airlines will reimburse up to 50 euros a day for any clothes, toiletries, or other necessities you need to buy while the luggage is missing. (Update: they delivered my bag 10 days later…still waiting on the reimbursements J)

Additionally, pack an extra outfit (including underwear and socks) along with travel toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, contacts, glasses, etc.) in your carry-on in case your luggage disappears for a little bit. While you can buy what you need in Spain, it’s better to have a base set of necessities with you. Even better, try to fit everything into a carry-on bag if at all possible, especially if you have multiple layovers before your final destination. That way, you’ll be sure to have what you need as soon as you arrive.

To get to the ACCENT center, I took a taxi with a flat 30-euro rate from the airport to anywhere in Madrid. Since I arrived a week later than everyone else, Raquel and I took care of all the logistics in one go instead of over the course of two days. I also missed the walking tour of the area, but since then have done plenty of exploring on my own to get situated J

Armed with tons of pamphlets with information about homestay customs, how to save money during study abroad, a language “quick guide” with handy Spanish phrases, a map of the city, important dates, and more, I made my way to my homestay location with the metro. UCEAP provides everyone on the program with an all-expenses-paid transport card that works for metro, train, and bus within Madrid – a true lifesaver!

Naturally, with no cellular data and no sense of direction, I started walking in the completely wrong direction as soon as I exited the Metro…but 30 minutes later I was greeted with open arms by my host-mom, Pura, and fed a delicious Spanish dinner of chicken and potatoes J I guess the good thing about traveling for over 24 hours is that I completely missed jetlag and got accustomed to the 9-hour time difference between Spain and California right away!

Hopefully you gain some vital travel insights from my struggles…I know I’m definitely more prepared for next time I travel!

More stories to come soon 🙂

Hasta luego,


Nina Chikanov studied abroad in Madrid, Spain in fall 2017:

Switzerland | Pre-Departure and Arrival in Geneva


Hi from Geneva!

After being here for a week I am getting into a routine and understanding the logistics of living in Switzerland. Our first week was hectic and heavy on administrative tasks, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t time for exploring!

Pre Departure

I started planning for this study abroad a LONG time ago, so it always felt like it was really far off. If you’re like me, you know that it’s hard to complete anything in a timely manor if you feel like you have forever to do it. This is one of the many reasons I am so thankful for all of the help and guidance of the UCEAP office. The provided us with all the documents and forms (usually with an English translation!) that we needed and gave us clear deadlines about when we needed to turn things in. When planning a trip that is as long as this one all of the logistics can seem incredibly overwhelming, but the UCEAP program breaks them into manageable chucks so that I never felt behind or overwhelmed.

After having been here for just a week I have learned that Swiss administration uses a lot of forms that seem similar but are slightly different. It’s incredibly helpful that we had most of these filled out before we came because it meant that the Cite and UNIGE had them prior to our arrival, and were able to give them to the right people, like the migration office.

Equally important to pre-departure as all these forms is packing! My packing journey began when I realized that, having lived in California my entire life, I wasn’t prepared for winter that involved snow and temperatures under 50. This meant I had no real winter coat or really warm jackets, no hats, and no gloves. Although everyone keeps telling me that this year Switzerland’s winter is unseasonably warm I am so glad that I invested in warmer clothing. I have yet to leave my dorm without a scarf and a warm jacket at the very least.

I have never been the best at packing, so packing for over six months spanning cold winter and hot summer proved to be quite the challenge. In addition to clothes and shoes, a friend of mine who had studied abroad previously gave me the tip to bring toiletries that I might want as well. I have been so thankful for this suggestion because that I had everything like advil and toothpaste right away. Additionally, Geneva is expensive, so even though it seemed expensive at the time, buying these things at home saved a lot of money.

When I was done packing my entire life into the suitcases I had filled two checked bags and a carry on. From what I can tell, this is about average for what other people brought as well. You definitely would not need any more, and if you’re better at packing and being selective in what you bring than I am you definitely could get away with less!

At the airport and ready to go!

Departure & Arrival

To anyone reading this with the intent of going on a study abroad program – make sure to pay attention to weight limits for carry on bags!! I had been too buy making sure my checked luggage wouldn’t pass the 50lb mark that I had completely disregarded the section of the airline website saying that carry on bags had weight limits as well. This was quite the surprise when I got to the airport and found that while my checked luggage was completely fine, it was my carry on that was too heavy! After some rearranging the crisis was averted, but I wish I had paid more attention earlier.

Everyone always reminds you that you shouldn’t bring more luggage than you can handle on your own. While I understand this I don’t think I really appreciated it until I got to baggage claim in Geneva. Luggage carts could only be rented with Swiss Franc coins, of which I had none, so I was left dragging my luggage down to the train. I was lucky enough to be met by a friend of my mom’s who lives in Geneva and who helped me navigate the trains as we made our way to the hotel where I would be spending the first night. Geneva’s public transportation system is fantastic, but to someone who has been traveling for 13 hours and doesn’t speak French it was definitely overwhelming so I was glad to have a helping hand.

After our orientation at UNIGE the next day (I’ll talk about academics in a later post) I once again gathered all my luggage and hopped on public transportation – this time en route to the Cite Universitaire where we are living. After getting lost, filling out more paperwork and paying the deposit I finally got my room! When I thought of a dorm I was picturing my cramped freshman year triple, but our single rooms are huge with lots of desk space and big windows. The only downside is that there aren’t drawers, but there are plenty of shelves to make up for it. The best part of the room, in my opinion, is that each one has a sink.

My room! The desk is enormous

Good closet space and so many shelves!! The sink is to the left of the door, around from my bed.

Actually, even better than the sink is definitely the view from my window. My room looks out over the street, and I have a direct view of snow-covered mountains. They are breathtaking, and I am treated to a spectacular sunset every night.

View from my window

Having my own space is a really nice change from always having a roommate in college, and had made it easier to organize everything I need for various logistic matters. As it turns out there is a lot that the country of Switzerland requires that you do in your first week in the country. The two most important things are getting health insurance and getting a residence permit. As long as you pay attention to emails and respond in a timely manor the residence permit is no big deal! UCEAP organizes everything when you go and it is significantly easier than trying to do it on your own. Healthcare is slightly more difficult. I ended up going with Advisor’s student rate. It took some trial and error, and more than a few panicked phone calls to my mom, but it ended up working out. Give yourself time to figure this out since it is time sensitive, and you feel so much better once you’ve taken care of it! Another logistic that I am still working out is whether or not I need a bank account. As cool as it would be to say I have a Swiss bank account it’s not so easy opening one! I’ll keep you all posted on that one.

Even though my first week has been filled with forms and logistics, I know this is all necessary administration that will make the rest of our program run smoothly and I am so excited for the next 6 months!