Cyprus | Week 2: 4th of July Celebration, Day Trip to Troodos Mountains

BY ARISA DHIENSIRI

We just completed our second week of physics and we’re gearing up to take our first midterm next week! It’s so crazy to think that after two weeks we’re at the halfway point for our first course. The physics is getting even more intense and fast paced than last week since we have 10 chapters to cover for the first midterm, but luckily the first two chapters are review from calculus.

4th of July

This week we celebrated the Fourth of July with a small pool party! After lecture we made a quick stop at the hotel before we all headed to a local pool about five minutes away. There were a couple of students on other Global Semester programs so it was nice to get to meet new faces and hear about their experiences in Cyprus. The pool was decked out with red white and blue décor, and they served us traditional American food for dinner, hamburgers and hot dogs. The pool party was a really convenient way to blow off some steam and cool off, since it gets crazy hot in Cyprus.

We’ve just gotten back to our hotel from a day trip we took to the Troodos Mountains. The troodos mountains are the largest mountain range on the island. At first I was very apprehensive since I hate hiking but fortunately they had a bus pick us up and drive us around. The mountains were about an hour away from the hotel. Even though the roads were small and windy the view on the way up was so gorgeous. We were able to gaze down on the top of Omodos Village, a small wine town nestled amongst the mountains.

The first stop we made was at the Troodos Geopark where we got to look around the Visitor Center and learn about the local vegetation and geographic background.

After stopping at the Geopark we made our way to Troodos Square, which is the highest point in all of Cyprus. In the square there were tons of kiosks set up selling local nuts, berries, and other souvenirs. The kiosks gave out small samples of their food, and I went home with a bag of honey-glazed almonds that I basically finished before the day was over.

Before getting lunch we visited Lambouri Winery, a winery that specialized in producing a Cyprus tradition: Commandaria wine. Commandaria wine is a sweet dessert wine that is made from the grapes that grow in the Troodos Mountains. The wine is nicknamed “Wine of the Kings” and is the oldest wine in the world. While at Lambouri Winery we indulged in a wine tasting that culminated in trying Commandaria. This was my favorite part of the day, mostly because of the wine, and also because the Winery was so beautiful and scenic.

Once the wine tasting concluded we headed to Omodos Village for lunch and to explore. Omodos Village is cradled within the mountain ranges and is mainly known for producing wine. The village was so beautiful and quaint with really delicate cobblestone streets and rugged stone buildings. For lunch my friends and I stopped at Makrinari, which was a little bit further down from the main center. The streets were mostly empty and except for some shops, local artwork, and lots of cats.

We’ve just arrived at the hotel and most of us are already setting up in the lobby and prepping for our midterm. Wish us luck!

Arisa Dhiensiri studied abroad in Nicosia, Cyprus, in summer 2018: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/Cyprus/Pages/univ-of-nicosia-summer-science.aspx

Scotland | Snow

BY CAITLYN PICKARD

It has a snowed once or twice in Edinburgh since I’ve been here. Each time, it has been magical. Like what is this white, beautiful pureness fluttering around me. As you can see, I don’t get out of Los Angeles too much. I’ve always loved snow and the chill. But last Thursday kind of changed my perspective. I got caught in what has been named THE BEAST FROM THE EAST.

This beast was not very friendly. It caused Edinburgh to go into a red weather alert. It was the first time I had seen actual traffic in Edinburgh. Buses were getting full and not allowing any new passengers. The University closed for the day. People were completely covered in snow, looking like a hoard of abominable snowmen/women. At first I thought, “Wow this is so cool. First snow day!”. Then I got home, looked at the remains of my fridge (a carton of eggs and a bag of tomatoes), and realized I needed groceries. Good thing the grocery store didn’t close ‘til 10pm. Obviously, my naïve self went to the grocery store, only to find out they had sent all their employees home because of the storm. So, eggs was the entrée for dinner that night.

The storm proceeded to continue to the next day. There were no buses running. Unfortunately, David Horn House is one of the furthest places from city center and also in a residential area. Not much to do or see. So, I spent a majority of the day studying… I said to myself as I opened up a Netflix tab. Honestly, the cold causes me to become a vegetable who drinks a lot of tea and snuggles into my duvets. Later that day, I got a message from my friend saying “Let’s build a snowman in the Meadows!”. Um, yes! I have never built a snowman before. Plus, I thought it would be good to leave bed and socialize. Mistakes … just kidding but building a snowman is HARD, dude. If Ana woke me up in the middle of the night to build a snowman, my answer would have been, heck no.

After a mini snowball war, my friends and I started rolling snowballs in the snow to get them bigger. By the end of it, I felt like my biceps tripled in size because we had made boulders at that point. My hair was icicles and I couldn’t feel my face or lips anymore. But, goal was accomplished. We built a snowman. His name was Gerald, who had the most personality out of all the snowmen in the Meadow.

I decided to call an Uber because I was a popsicle at this point. Of course, no Ubers. Anywhere. So, I proceeded to make the 30-minute trek back home in the snow. At the moment, I could not wait to get back to the warmth of my house and a hot cup of tea. But, I wouldn’t have traded a minute of those snowy days. Snow can be painful and scary, but I still love it. I just know to fear it a little more. Also, I miss California so much. I thought I always wanted to live in a place where it had real seasons, but this event has caused me to reconsider and appreciate the lack of winter weather in Los Angeles. Vacations in snow, yes. Living in snowy places, I think I’ll pass.

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinbugh, Scotland, in Spring 2018: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/United_Kingdom_Scotland/Pages/host_EdinburghUKImmersion.aspx 

Ireland | A Weekend in Galway

By GRACE HEART

Galway was without a doubt my favorite place in Ireland. It’s a very small city that I wouldn’t want to live in long-term, but it is an incredible city to visit for a weekend. I’ll take you along for my weekend trip to Galway with three of my best friends.

GETTING THERE

In terms of transportation, the Irish Rail is the easiest and cheapest method. It was the equivalent of $30 round trip for last minute train tickets to Galway. The train is very nice and really easy to use. You can take the 145 Bus from UCD to the train station. I would leave about an hour and a half to get to the train station and print your tickets so you don’t risk missing it.

ACCOMODATION

I would highly recommend staying in a hostel while traveling anywhere abroad. Hostels are super cheap compared to hotels and while they are not extremely luxurious, they give you a bed to sleep in and that’s really all you need. You’ll be out exploring the town while you’re awake so don’t worry about finding luxurious hotels to stay in or anything. Also, you meet amazing people at hostels from all over the world. We met people from Switzerland, France, and Chile at our hostel and had really cool conversations with all of them!

NIGHT LIFE

The night life in Galway is incredible. There is live music everywhere and the town is so small that you can literally walk everywhere. I never felt unsafe in the small city. It’s very well-lit and there are people everywhere. Our favorite pubs were The Quays, King’s Head, and The Front Door. Walk home whenever you’re ready for bed for the night.

CONNEMARA

Having arrived Friday afternoon and experienced nightlife on Friday night, we decided to do a bus tour on Saturday! We used Lally Tours to see Connemara National Park on Saturday. I would highly recommend this company! We had a fantastic experience and all agreed it was one of our favorite things we had done in the month we had been in Ireland. The park is absolutely stunning and the tour takes frequent stops for photo opportunities, snack breaks, and/or stretch breaks. The main stop was at Kylemore Abbey which was stunning. We had time to hike around the property on the lake and see the stunning gardens as well as the mansion itself. Don’t worry about being tired from the night before because while you have to wake up early, you can always sleep on the bus (although I’d recommend trying to stay awake because the scenery is beautiful).

EXPLORING THE CITY

On Sunday, we wandered the streets of Galway in the daylight. There were at least ten different street performers. We would stop for twenty or thirty minutes to watch some of the artists before moving onto our next destination. If you won’t have time to see the Cliffs of Moher another weekend, I would recommend doing that on Sunday. You can use the same tour company which will drive you to the cliffs for a few hours and bring you back to Galway. The tours are usually about the equivalent of $50 or $60 per person so a pretty good deal considering all the sites you get to see.

That concludes our weekend in Galway! Thanks for coming along and I hope you set aside a weekend to see the beautiful city!

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/ireland/Pages/science_engineering_summer_uc_dublin.aspx

Spain | My New Spanish Family: Living in a Homestay

By NINA CHIKANOV

With the aim of improving my Spanish and getting the most out of my abroad experience, I jumped at the chance to stay with a Spanish family. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it, besides the fact that I didn’t have to buy my own shower towel and that breakfast and dinner would be provided for me every day. In fact, we had no idea who our host family was or what area of Madrid we’d be living in until program orientation once we arrived in Spain.

Turns out I’d be living with a family of four – Pura, David, and their kids Sofia and Pedro, aged 16 and 19 respectively. Another American student from New York named Jasmine was also staying with us in the other free room in the apartment. The location of my homestay ended up being really convenient for exploring the city as well as commuting to school or other areas of Madrid every day. I lived right off of a metro stop on the blue line and about a 10- minute walk from Sol – the center of Madrid – and a 20-25 minute metro ride from the study center in Chamberí. This was the neighborhood of Lavapiés, which I soon grew to know and love.

On the top, flower stands outside of the metro stop closest to my homestay. On the bottom, flowers I got for my host mom and her daughter on their birthdays.

As soon as I arrived, my host mom showed me to my room at the end of the hall. The whole unit consisted of 4 bedrooms, 1 master bedroom, a living space, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. While the apartment wasn’t super big, it made good use of space and was a nice place to live in the middle of the city.

My room came with a wardrobe with two drawers, hangers, and a top shelf as well as a desk, twin bed, and place to store extra blankets. The amount of storage was comparable to what I had in my dorm room at UCLA with slightly less drawer space. There was also space under the bedside table with shelving for books and space for a couple pairs of shoes. All in all, I had plenty of storage space for my things :-).

The best part of my room was that the window opened right out into the street – I definitely took advantage of this during the warmer months when the weather was absolutely spectacular.

I soon also found out that Madrid never sleeps, and being in an apartment in a rather trendy area close to the center of the city meant dealing with some rowdy (but goodhearted) people at night who thought they were destined to be on the next Spanish Idol – good thing I can fall asleep easily☺

I also had access to the bathroom next to the main entrance. It was smaller than the one I was used to at home and in the dorms, with enough room for a toilet under the sink, two storage cabinets, and some bins pinned to the wall, as well as a shower (box).

I’ve never really seen a shower box before, and this one came with a shower-head that was in no way attached to the wall, meaning I had to hold it with one hand while washing with the other. There was enough space for my body, but it was a bit difficult to move fully around with the allotted space. But again — there was space for everything I needed…it was just a tighter squeeze than usual 😛

I also had to be more mindful of my water usage, turning off the tap whenever I didn’t absolutely need it, since water is apparently more expensive in the city (as is electricity – this means turning off lights in rooms when not necessary and unplugging chargers from outlets when leaving the house). However, Madrid tap water is some of the freshest water I’ve ever had, so filling up my reusable water bottle was never a problem.

In terms of kitchen-use, getting tap water from the sink was basically the only thing I could do in the kitchen by myself. Since my host family prepared meals for me (even though breakfast was typically very minimalistic and included tea/coffee with a pastry, toast, or cereal), I wasn’t allowed to store food in the fridge or use the oven or stove.

For the most part, I didn’t really need to use the kitchen anyways since I ate lunch outside of the house in between classes, but I felt restricted since I couldn’t make myself tea as regularly as I normally do and lunch had to be bought the day of instead of prepared the day before. I wasn’t completely restricted from tea, but I had to ask my host family to boil water for me instead of doing it myself, which seemed a little unnecessary for such a trivial task.

Otherwise, I was expected to make myself part of the family and abide by already-set household rules. This meant laundry day was set on Fridays and all dirty laundry was to be placed in a bin and left out before I left the house for the day or for the weekend. Dinner was also set for 9 PM for me and Jasmine and would always be provided unless we notified our host mom that we wouldn’t be eating at home that night.

The set time – while late by American standards – was very typically Spanish and fit my schedule well, giving me enough time to run errands or explore after classes.

While it would vary day by day, dinners were also the most social part of my day with my host family. I found myself having long chats with Pura or David (my host parents) over meals and catching up with Sofia and Pedro (my host siblings) at times also. It was nice to interact with Spaniards my age since I could pick up certain slang from them and learn about relevant things that teenagers talked about nowadays in Madrid. They were also interested in my life at home and would ask me questions about California and my lifestyle, for example.

They also tried to help me out with my Spanish-speaking abilities and would answer any random questions I had. While we weren’t the best of friends, we definitely had some good laughs and bonded over mutual experiences.

I also really appreciated living with another American in the same homestay. Since starting college, I’ve always lived with roommates – so this was a similar situation. It was nice to have an English-speaker to share all the moments that I couldn’t yet properly explain in Spanish.

Jasmine was also there for the spontaneous midnight runs to the nearby alimentación when I was craving Oreos as well as the slightly more planned menu del día weekend meals.

We also bonded over the shared experience of getting locked out of the apartment because of the fidgety door, and we definitely lost socks to each other over the 4 months of living together.

While the homestay definitely exposed me to Spanish culture and helped me with my language development (not to mention saved me the meal prep time for dinner and let me explore traditional Spanish foods), the immediate sense of community that those living at apartments experienced was not initially present here. This isn’t to say I never hung out with those in the apartments, but I did have to coordinate meetups more often than I would have if I lived closer to them.

Regardless, I don’t regret my homestay experience at all. I don’t think my independence was in any way compromised by living with a family either. In fact, they encouraged me to go enjoy Madrid nightlife and explore other parts of the country, Europe, and surrounding areas (my host mom loved Morocco and gave me very excited recommendations when I visited).

Being with a family also helped create a cozy atmosphere. Of course I felt homesick at times, but having someone around to chat with made me feel more at home. ☺

All in all, I think homestay is a unique experience that all those going abroad should highly consider, especially for purposes of language development and forcing themselves out of their comfort zone. Living in a city apartment gave me an excuse to really get to know my neighborhood and do a lot of solo-exploring. The same element that made it difficult to hang out super often with those in apartments also made me more independent and fueled many of my solo adventures.

Lavapiés and Madrid have my heart, and I now have a family to keep in touch with abroad as well as a new American friend from New York to visit, whom I wouldn’t have met or bonded as much with otherwise.

David, me, Pedro, pura, and Sofía in the kitchen of my homestay☺

Gracias a mi familia Española por todo, y gracias Madrid. There are difficulties and nuances that come with a homestay, but the benefits far outweigh the strains.

Nina Chikanov studied abroad in Madrid, Spain in fall 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/spain/Pages/contemporary_spain_madrid.aspx

South Africa | Why South Africa?

By KELLI HAMILTON

Back in 2013, my dad told me he was going to South Africa and invited me to come along. I grew up in Los Angeles, California, rarely learning or venturing outside of North America. I knew virtually nothing about Africa, and from what I had heard in the news and various media sources, I was a bit uneasy about it. However, I am adventurous spirit, and so I decided to head to Johannesburg, South Africa, with my dad, at the tender age of 16. What I didn’t know at the time of my arrival, was that it would be my favorite trip I have ever taken, up until recently (because another African country has replaced it of course).

The reasons I loved South Africa when I was here in 2013 were numerous. For starters, I was able to see Soweto, which is a township with a vibrant culture and it is also home to Mandela House. Additionally, I went ATV racing in the mountains and saw zebras, visited Sun City, which is an action-packed getaway spot, and saw Sandton, Johannesburg, which is the richest square mile in all of Africa. What I loved most about South Africa, however, was the people. Everyone was so nice, friendly, and willing to lend a helping hand. South Africa had captured my heart and I knew I had to return.

In college, the opportunity to revisit South Africa emerged. While UCLA does not have a program that allows you to study in Johannesburg, they have a partnership with the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. In contrast to my knowledge of Africa in 2013, by 2017 I had learned a lot about Africa, specifically South Africa, and its success, struggles, failures, and beauty. I have always wanted to learn more about South Africa and its rich, yet complex history, which includes Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and Trevor Noah.

I had read and heard that Cape Town was stunning and that it had a modern wonder of nature in Table Mountain, so I needed little convincing that this was the right decision for me. Additionally, since my last year of university was approaching, I knew I had to strike while the iron was hot. About a year ago, I applied to study abroad in Cape Town, and was accepted into the program. My South African journey awaited and I couldn’t wait to settle into my new life abroad.

Kelli Hamilton studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, in fall 2018: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/south_africa/Pages/univ_of_cape_town.aspx

Switzerland | Differences

By IZZY PAXTON

I was on the phone with my dad the other day when he asked “is everything over there totally different?” My initial gut reaction was of course not! But, when I asked what he meant, I realized that maybe things are more different than I had realized. (He asked me if the microwave is different, and by the way it is.) Switzerland is a Western country, and is incredibly similar to the United States in most ways, but there are small things that feel really different.

Outlets. I have taken for granted the abundance of outlets whenever I need them. Sure, usually there aren’t outlets easily accessible in lecture halls, but I can always find one in a smaller classroom, in the hall or in any study spot on campus. I have yet to find an outlet at UNIGE. Are there any in lecture halls? Nope. In smaller classrooms? No. In random places in open areas where I could maybe sit on the ground and charge? No again. I am genuinely starting to think that Swiss electronics just never die, because in addition to the lack of outlets at UNIGE, they’re absent from pretty much everywhere.

I love going to coffee shops to study. Not only am I more productive since I’m not in/near my bed, but I also like the activity happening around me, and the proximity of another latte. But, this is dependent on the battery life of my computer. At home this is no problem, when my battery is running low I just move seats or find the closest outlet to plug into. But not here – in my favorite study spot I have found exactly one outlet in the entire café. Word to the wise – always leave home with fully charged devices.

Boreal is quickly turning into my favorite place to work. But I still don’t understand how people can work here on their computers forever with no outlets

Less than 24 hours after landing in Geneva we had to find our way to orientation at Uni Mail (the mail UNIGE building) in room R050. I was jet lagged, sleep deprived, stressed, and felt like it was hard enough just getting to the building, let alone finding a room that definitely did not have a clear floor number.

It turns out that a room such as R050 actually does have a clear floor number, 0. In Geneva, as with probably many other places, the ground floor isn’t the first floor – the one above it is. Just think of how many flights of stairs you have to walk up, and that’s the floor you’re on.

The ceiling of the main area of Uni Mail

As a north campus major I’m used to my final grade being made up of many different components; participation, papers, maybe a midterm and a final with ways to boost your grade thrown in every once in a while. Fall quarter I was in a Poli Sci class that calculated your final grade from two things, 50% midterm and 50% final paper. Honestly, this terrified me because I knew that doing poorly on one meant doing poorly in the class. As it turned out, this was a great stepping-stone into Swiss education. The final grades for all five of my classes are based 100% on the final. If you’re not the best test taker, like myself, this is incredibly daunting. Also, not all finals here take the same format. I have some written open book finals, some written closed book final, and an oral final where we have 15 minutes to answer two questions to the best of our abilities. The hard part about having my entire grade based on the final, other than you know the final, is staying motivated to stay on top of all my reading. Obviously it’s necessary, but it’s definitely easy to fall into the trap of “oh I can always catch up later…” I’m definitely not trying to think too much about the finals since they’re so far away, so I’ll give an update once they’re done.

At home I never have cash. Everything goes on my card, and I rely on venmo to pay other people back for things. If we’re being honest, I really don’t remember the last time I paid for anything in cash, and definitely am never carrying anything larger than a 20 if I have anything. And on the rare occasions that I do use cash I always forget about coins – the only time I use them is paying for the parking meter. While the only two places that I have found in Geneva that do not take a card are a Thai food restaurant and a small news stand, I try my best to use cash for everything. My only reasoning behind this is I would prefer to pay the conversion charge as infrequently as possible – and when you put things on your card you have to pay it every time. For this reason, I take out larger amount of cash from the ATM than I would at home, and to my surprise this means bills larger than a 20.

The first time I used a Swiss ATM I actually didn’t know what to do when it produced a bill worth CHF200. Actually, I was terrified. I felt like giving it back to the machine and demanding it give me something smaller and more manageable that I actually knew how to deal with. But, of course, that’s not possible so I gingerly took it and went on my way. (Side note, as bills here increase in value the physical piece of paper gets longer. It’s kind of cool.) The plus side to ATMs giving you larger bills is that everyone here is able to deal with them and doesn’t look at you like you’re crazy if you pay for your coffee with a 100.

The thing that is the most different about Swiss money is the coins. Gone are the days of coins lying in my wallet forever and never getting used. The smallest Swiss Franc bill is a 10, meaning that coins can equal CHF5, 2 and 1 in addition to the smaller coins. This was weird at first but I actually kind of like it! It’s definitely nice to be able to get rid of heavy coins more regularly.

On the morning of orientation at Uni Mail, the first thing I noticed was the fresh OJ machine in the middle of the large open space. The machine literally squeezes orange juice for you while you stand there. I thought this was the coolest/ weirdest thing, and definitely did not expect to see another one. Well, it turns out that the Swiss must really like freshly squeezed orange juice because I’ve seen similar things all over, and there is even an identical “vending machine” in the lobby at the Cite. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is on my list to try while I’m here!

The OJ machine. At CHF2.80 it might be one of the cheaper options…

France | An Idiot Abroad: Finals on Finals

By BARRY YANG

FINALS

This past week I officially finished all of my classes, with the exception of Political Islam which I still have a take home final for and Politics of Humor which just commenced. The final for Professor Porter’s Imperialism class was quite straight forward. He gave us a variety of questions to choose from for our in class final essay which allowed for a great of latitude in our responses. He also provided us the questions at the very start of our class so we had the whole duration of the course to prepare and research our answers. Needless to say the procrastination bug hit like it always does around finals and most of us waited until the week or even days before the exam to begin preparing our essays. The questions asked and the exam style were very similar to their counterparts in the states. You get a couple questions from which you pick one to write about. You are allowed two hours for the essay and you may leave whenever you want. I personally chose to write “to what extant did imperialism cause the fall of the Chinese Empire in 1911” and discovered some interesting primary documents that showcased the conditions of the era in very bleak and non-academic manner. Being of Chinese decent myself, I never really had an understanding of the effects of imperialism on China or exactly what caused the Opium Wars (other than of course the obvious Opium). Professor Porter’s class really spurred me to look more into my culture’s history and understand the nuances of the era. For a long time, in middle school and high school, we were taught that imperialism is bad and the “white man’s burden” was more destructive than constructive. Imperialism was blamed for the plight of many nations and attributed as the reason for some’s decline. However, through Professor Porter’s class, we were taught to look at things from a different perspective; to engage in the question of imperialism from a not so black or white angle, but more so a grey one. Yes imperialism created many problems in the nations that were imperialized and yes imperialism produced devastating consequences, but it would be inaccurate to say that was all that imperialism did. It would be shortsighted to say that imperialism was purely bad, because there are moments of good and progress that were generated as a result of imperialist activities. Not all locals suffered and it was not always just the imperialists wreaking havoc. As through seen through China, the national government played a key role in the empire’s downfall and imperialism only highlighted the empire’s shortfalls but did not directly induce its fall. Professor Porter stressed to us the need to examine primary sources from both sides, the imperialists and the imperialized, and that imperialism cannot be blankly categorized as good or bad for all situations.

Our final for the Justice and Democracy was much more different than our final for Professor Porter’s class. The final for the former involved a group presentation where we picked a topic of our choosing and applied the theories we learned throughout the term to the topic. I was in a group of four with my girlfriend, Anna (fellow American), and Tom (our hilarious German friend). We focused on overpopulation and utilized the theories of Habermas, Sen, and Schlosberg to discuss the economics, environmental implications, and social effects of overpopulation. Our presentation was over forty minutes (as requested by Professor Sophie) and essentially a student lecture for the class. Although we were all a bit stressed the moments before the presentation, everyone did an amazing job and the professor was very pleased with what we had to say. The presentation was a great way to end the week of finals and my girlfriend and I hopped on a train bound for Italy the next day.

ITALY

After finals, our week of break of began. For ten days my girlfriend and I planned to go to Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice. At the time of writing of this blog we are currently in Florence for Easter Sunday.

Unfortunately I was sick in Milan (although we were only there for a day because it was the cheapest place to travel from in Italy) so we did not see much other than the Duomo, gelato, and a weird Chinese-Italian combination restaurant. It was such an amazing sight to see a Chinese chef making a pizza while another cooked up some Chow Mein.

This morning in Florence we got to see the Explosion of the Cart right in front of Santa Maria Del Fiore. It was a magnificent sight and a ton of people from all over came to see it. We managed to finesse VIP tickets from a nice Italian man and got real up close and personal with the fireworks. Never have I seen so many tourists and selfie sticks in such a small area. Today is our second day in Florence and it has been much better than the first. Yesterday my girlfriend and I, along with a German couple, were unfairly fined by the ATAF controllers for riding the bus “without a ticket.” Upon arriving in Florence we asked multiple individuals where to purchase bus tickets, everyone said you can just buy them from the bus driver. When we got on the bus the driver said something in Italian and motioned that he did not have any tickets and waved us back. We thought that this meant it was okay…but apparently not. After about two stops, two men dressed in plain clothes got on the bus (these were the employees of the public transport system). They specifically only went up to my girlfriend and I as well as the German couple to check tickets because we had luggage with us. Needless to say none of us had tickets because the driver did not sell us any. We were then forced off the bus where they issued us tickets and said that the fine could only be paid in cash. When asked if we could pay later today they responded that their offices are closed on Saturday and Sundays and paying on Monday would be more expensive (I later called and found out that their offices were actually open on Saturdays). When we tried to explain them our situation and that we simply did not know where to buy the tickets because there was no machine or advertisement, they responded with “you buy ticket at tobacco shop” and words in Italian that no one understood. There is absolutely no way for tourists who just got into Florence to know that you buy bus tickets from tobacco shops without prior research. This experience was a lesson that taught us that we definitely need to do more research about new countries. However, the Florentine system is also rigged because after speaking with the local workers at our hostel they said that the controllers specifically target tourists because the majority of them do not know that tickets are sold at tobacco shops.

All in all, the trip thus far has been great despite the tickets. It was a definite learning experience and we will proceed through the rest of Italy’s public transport with much more caution and information.

Barry Yang studied abroad in Lyon, France, in Spring 2017: http://eap.ucop.edu/OurPrograms/france/Pages/default.asp

England | The Halfway Mark

By Emma Skinner

Wow! As cliché as it sounds, time really flew by. The Pembroke-Kings Program has been extremely fast paced, but in a good way. Not a day goes by where I sit around with nothing to do! From an entire class in three weeks to endless event opportunities, I thought I’d share with you my top seven highlights from Cambridge so far;

  1. Formal Hall: As I prepare for my second formal hall this evening, I remember how exciting this event was for me. Our first formal was held on the first full day of classes and it was such a great way to get to meet everyone. Plus, a three-course meal in the fanciest dining hall ever could never go wrong. Now that I’ve gotten to know such amazing people, I can’t wait for tonight with those I now call my friends!
  1. Evenings by the River Cam: Having a river run through university is one of the best parts of Cambridge. There is plenty of space to sit alongside and enjoy the view and the people! I’ve had quite a few memorable moments spent along here, from photo shoots to picnics to incredible firework displays. The River is also a great place to meet new people as there are always friendly faces punting along that stop to say hello!
  1. Nature Walks at the Mill: One of the things I love most about Cambridge is the multitude of wildlife you can find within a short radius of the school. The Mill, a popular restaurant and pub in the area, sits right along the River Cam and is home to a very friendly group of cows. Just beyond the Mill are plenty of walking paths you can take and explore all the natural beauty England has to offer! Further, the cows roam wild and are more than happy to befriend you!
  1. Day Trips: Thanks to England’s amazing public transportation system, traveling anywhere within the country is quite easy! A few of us in the PKP program took a day trip to Norwich per recommendation from our taxi driver to the train station. We were quite surprised to find such a beautiful area. The Norwich Cathedral and our hike to a lookout point were definite highlights from this trip!
  1. Hot Numbers: This may seem somewhat confusing at first. What is a hot number you ask? The best coffee shop in Cambridge! It sits right across from the Engineering building where most of our classes are held. From beautiful matcha pancakes (pictured) to the best oat milk latte in town, this café has it all. Further, its prime location makes it the perfect social spot. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t run into someone I know here! The friendly staff also make for the perfect environment.
  1. Castle Mound: This hill originally held a castle in England but the stone from the building gradually began to be taken for other uses. Now, all that remains is the pile of Earth and an amazing view of the city. Sunsets at castle mound make for some great bonding time with friends and beautiful views!
  1. The people: Of course, my top highlight is the people I have met through studying abroad! From all around the world we came together to be a part of the PKP program. I am so thankful to have made relationships I know will last forever.

Cyprus | Week 1 and Paphos Weekend Trip!

By Arisa Dhiensiri
We just finished the first week of classes! It’s definitely going to take some time to get used to a full day of physics lectures but our professors are so sweet. The first day of class was a little jarring since we had to jump into so much material immediately, but it’s to be expected given the nature of the program. The nice thing is that every week class ends on Thursday so we get to enjoy a long weekend. This weekend we took our first weekend excursion as a class! The bus picked us up at 9:00 am on Friday and we headed for Paphos, a beach city about two hours away from the capital. Before heading to Paphos we made a stop at Petra Tou Romiou, the birthplace of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty and it’s rumored that she was born from the foam of the sea and washed upon the rocks along the beach. The coastline along Petra Tou Romiou is really gorgeous and so we stopped to take some pictures and admire the scenery.
According to legend, if you swim around the rock naked three times
under the full moon you’ll gain eternal beauty and find true love.
Unfortunately our tour guide didn’t let anyone try it out for themselves before we headed for Paphos.

After visiting Aphrodite’s Rock we arrived in Paphos and had some free time to walk along the pier and explore the main part of the city. One of the places we visited was the House of Dionysius Mosaics and the Paphos Archaeological Park. The area is the preserved ruins of a wealthy Roman villa, and is lined with mosaic paneling depicting scenes from Greek mythology. The main villa is the House of Dionysius, named after the multiple mosaics paying homage to Dionysius, the god of wine. Directly outside of the House of Dionysius are three other villas. In The House of Theseus the main structure of the villa is really well preserved and there are beautiful column ruins.

After getting lunch at the pier and visiting the mosaics we got dropped off at the Anemi Hotel and were given the rest of the weekend to explore and relax. For dinner my roommates and I walked to a restaurant called The Corner about five minutes away from the hotel. The Corner was directly across the beach and served a lot of seafood, so we all got fish and chips. My roommates and I took this weekend to relax on the beach and hangout near the pool, a much-needed break from the week of intensive physics we just had. In the end this weekend was exactly what we needed, a little bit of sun and rest to recharge.

Tokyo | Tokyo & Rakuten Open

By Deran Chan

Over the past few weeks, I had the opportunity to attend both the Rakuten and Tokyo Open tennis championships. I’m a huge tennis fan and I was super excited to attend a professional tennis tournament outside of the United States. The last few months of the year constitutes the “Asian Swing” of the tennis calendar and first stop: Tachikawa. The Tokyo Toray Pan Pacific Open is held by the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and is the largest international women’s tennis tournament in Japan. Headlining the tournament was Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka. After her recent triumph at the U.S. Open over Serena Williams, Osaka became an overnight sensation and Japan’s first grand slam champion. The event was held about an hour from my university, and I successfully made the trek with my brief knowledge of Japanese transportation! The venue was held indoors, and a general admission ticket gave me access to all of the matches.

I went on the first Saturday of the tournament and watched former World #7 Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) play local favorite Moyuka Uchijima. I managed to sneak to the front row, and as you can see, had the best seat in the house. After her win, Genie was kind of enough to take a photo with me and I definitely didn’t freak out. On the way home from the tournament, one of the most exciting things happened. I was across the street from Tachikawa Station, and I thought I recognized a familiar face. Standing in front of a 711 was World #1 and Grand Slam Champion – Caroline Wozniacki. Starstruck, I asked for a picture and asked her how she liked Tokyo (while trying to keep it together of course) and wished her luck throughout the tournament. What an experience.

A couple weeks later I went to the Rakuten Open, the first Asian tournament of the year hosted by the ATP men’s tour. Walking up towards the main stadium, fans were greeted by tents showcasing traditional Japanese food, oversized tennis rackets, and popular sportswear. It was raining out but that didn’t stop waves of Japanese locals and tourists alike from watching their favorite players. A sold-out crowd packed the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza, but somehow my friends and  I managed to sit together. We witnessed Japanese player Kei Nishikori win on home soil with the help of an electrifying crowd – to reach his 3rd final at this tournament.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures with the players this time but the immaculate tennis stadium and modern architecture definitely made up for it. There is no doubt that fans are awaiting next year’s Rakuten Open which will return to Ariake Coliseum, a newly renovated stadium undergoing preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.