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.

Scotland | Places to Study


I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much a professional procrastinator. Studying is extremely hard for me because I can only focus for an hour max at a time. I have specific requirements for my study places: 1) not too hot, not too cold, 2) either complete silence, or coffee house feels, 3) upright sitting areas, and most importantly, 4) coffee and/or tea must be supplied at said location. I can never have one specific place I go to either. I need a change of scenery from time to time. So I usually bounce around from study areas every other day or so. Here’s a list of my favorite locations. Added bonus, all of these locations have access to coffee/tea for reasonable prices.

Main Library

The University of Edinburgh has the main library open 24/7 for THE WHOLE SEMESTER. So when you get that craving that we all get at 2am to study for our courses, the library will be there to welcome you with open doors. There’s a ton of different places available to meet your study needs. It is quite packed with students throughout the day, but there is always a space to study. Another plus to the university’s library is the café on the ground floor. You don’t even have to leave the building to get your caffeine fix. My favorite drink from here is the mocha. It’s the perfect balance of chocolate and coffee. Yum!

Black Medicine Coffee

This place can get quite busy during school hours and weekend afternoons. If you are able to find a seat at this popular café, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the array of drinks and pastries available while you get your study on. They have smoothies, teas, coffees, and various tasty treats. If you

Love Crumbs

Love Crumbs is a smaller café but a very popular location. It has a very communal feel. If you like a more busy environment to match your productivity, this is a nice spot to study in. You can sit anywhere you’d like, even if it’s a table full of strangers; it’s an addition to the ambience of this coffee spot. It’s a little more detached from the university, but still not too far. If you would like a little walking break before going deep into study mode, this is the perfect place for you.

Brew Lab

This is my favorite coffee/tea spot. Their carrot cake is amazing and I LOVE their lotus jasmine tea. The feel of this café is very laid back but also conducive for studying. They have a view couches and chairs that are for a more cozy feel. For those of you that don’t want to get too comfortable while studying, there are plenty of tables and more private corners to study in. This is my go to café for studying. It’s very close to campus with a warm environment.


This Asian street food establishment also has gourmet coffees and teas. The best part? Free cake with a hot beverage! Also, this is the cheapest coffee place I’ve found in Edinburgh. If you have a love for Asian teas, they have the classics here. I ordered a pot chrysanthemum tea here for £2.50. Definitely helped my cold feel better and remedied a bit of my homesickness.

During lunch time, it can get a little busy so maybe not the best study location unless  you go during off eating times. The Wi-Fi can be a little dodgy, but that’s a good thing if you need to focus without the constant lure of the interweb. I honestly love the feel of this place. And free cake. Free cake is a significant plus.

Side note: All of these places accept cash or card. I usually stick to plastic because I have some credit cards that waive the foreign transaction fee, so this is important to me at least!

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

Barbados | 10 Things I Learned While Studying Abroad


  1. The Golden Rule: No matter where you go, you will have a life changing experience.

I’ve lived in Germany, Ghana, and Barbados for extended periods of time. Three drastically different countries that speak different languages, are in different regions, and have completely different cultures. I’ve learned more about myself in the 6-12 months spent in each country than I had in years back in California. No experience is better or worse, they are all just different.

  1. Your food and people preferences will change.

Before leaving California, I was almost solely attracted to tall, lean Caucasian men (think baseball pitchers); however, now I find my preferences are all over the place. I also used to hate canned tuna, lettuce, black beans, plantains, and a wide variety of other foods that have now become a part of my daily diet.

  1. It’s possible to make a long-distance relationship work, but it can take away from your experiences.

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for the past four years. Three of the four years, we have been in a long-distance relationship (LDR). Fortunately for me (if you can call it “being fortunate”), I am already accustomed to not seeing him for months at a time so the biggest change for us has been living in different time zones; however, if LDR is new for you, be careful not to spend all your time locked in your room Facetiming/Skyping/Whatsapp-ing your better half. If it’s meant to be, it will work out in the end.

  1. You will learn what it means to be open-minded.

Even if you consider yourself to be open minded, this term will take on a whole new meaning. I find this to be if you live in a rural area on exchange, or in a third world country. People are different, food is different, daily life is different. And that’s just it, none of it is weird. It’s just different.

  1. Things that once seemed totally different to you have become completely normalized.

This has become a huge problem for me when telling stories about my traveling experiences. I might be telling a funny story about a bus ride I took, or a shopping experience, but I will make the mistake of mentioning an extraneous detail in passing (such as mentioning the monkeys who live in my neighborhood), and the listener will completely forget the point of my story and they will become completely fixated on the extraneous detail. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Angie: “As Rita and I passed the monkey who lives in the tree across the street from our house we…”


Angie: “Well, honestly, monkeys screech randomly all the time and often keep me up at night, but that really wasn’t what I was trying to tell you about…”

Listener: “But what are the monkeys like!? Do you pet them!?”

Angie: *sigh*

  1. You learn to be flexible.

In Ghana, we often didn’t have running water. We “solved” this problem by filling up buckets with water when it was running so that we would have a reserve supply. With our “bucket water” we could take “bucket showers,” flush the toilet, and even hand wash out clothes. It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work. We were being flexible.

  1. You learn to appreciate the little things.

When I came home from living in Germany, people would ask me, “Angie, what’s the biggest difference between California and Germany?” Obviously, the first thing that came to mind was that in Germany, people speak German. But before moving to Germany, I knew people would speak German so I mentally prepared myself for it. I wasn’t prepared for teenagers to talk about their sex lives over dinner with their parents. In Ghana, I wasn’t prepared for people to stop me on the street and ask me what my religious affiliation was and then be told why my beliefs are wrong. In Barbados, I wasn’t prepared to not be able to understand a single word spoken by some of my professors (even though they are technically speaking English). It’s all in the little things. The little things are the hardest to transition into because you cannot prepare for them, but they are also what makes your new country feel like home.

  1. The unofficial meaning of the term “third world country” is VERY subjective.

Formally a “third world country” is a country whose views are not aligned with NATO and capitalism. Informally the term “third world country” is used to describe developing nations, or as Urban Dictionary puts it “A country where McDonalds is not found.” The hashtag “#firstworldproblems” has become very common when people complain about things that are not “real” problems such as a barista putting the improper expresso shot amounts in a coffee drink. Before studying abroad in Ghana and Barbados, I incorrectly assumed that all countries with the label “third world” would be underdeveloped within similar levels. This is not the case at all. Even while living in the capital of Ghana, we frequently experienced no running water and rolling blackouts. While visiting Johannesburg, South Africa (another major city in a third world country), parts of the city made me feel like I was back in Los Angeles, whereas other parts made me feel like I was back in Ghana again. Barbados feels like I’m halfway in the U.S. in halfway in an undeveloped nation. I have drinkable tap water and electricity, but there are also very few sidewalks and at one point we got two flat tires from the same pot hole because the road infrastructure is so poor. There is so much variability when using the term “developing nation.”

  1. Some of the coolest people you meet will also be international students/travellers.

Have you ever heard the expression “birds of a feather flock together?” International students and travellers alike attract each other because they have core personality traits in common such as independence, flexibility, and a sense for adventure. Just try not to spend too much time with other travellers so that you have a chance to get to know the locals as well!

  1. Home is where your heart is, and my heart is in California, Germany, Ghana, and Barbados.

Angela Howard studied abroad in Cave Hill, Barbados, in Spring 2017:

Scotland | Life in Edinburgh Part 1


I never moved anywhere before college. I lived in the same house for 18 years of my life. Then came college, where I realized, moving is kind of a stressful feeling. You begin to learn about the little quirks and secrets that your new community has to offer. Upon arriving, I wasn’t really sure of anything. The orientations provided by UCEAP and University of Edinburgh were beyond helpful, but there were still some unanswered questions I had. Where to buy groceries, how to explore Edinburgh, getting a new phone sim etc. Through trial, error, and some small financial mistakes, I found myself settling into my surroundings and making Edinburgh my temporary home.


Phone Services

There are quite a few phone services to choose from, but the two that I researched were EE and Vodafone. EE is the UK company partnered with Orange and T-Mobile. Vodafone is a company frequently seen all over Europe. When using a new phone service while traveling for a short-period of time, it is best to use a pay-as-you-go plan. You will also need an unlocked phone. Depending on what service and type of phone you use in the U.S., you may want to check and see if they can unlock it for free. If you do not have an unlocked phone, you may want to buy a cheap phone to use for your time abroad. When you go to a phone service company, they’ll give you a new SIM card for you to use while using their company services. Below are two similar plans that EE and Vodafone provide:

EE – £15 Vodafone – £15
·      Unlimited text to UK numbers

·      500 min of calls to UK numbers

·      5 GB anything

·      Unlimited text & call to UK numbers

·      Unlimited Social Media data

·      5 GB of other data (internet, videos, etc.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t know about these different options prior to purchasing a plan. I ended up getting an EE plan (at the Cameron Toll location). I could have changed it after learning about the Vodafone plan, but I found that the EE £15 plan suited me fine and EE has better coverage. There are a few other phone services so choose the one that suits your needs! Don’t forget, there’s free wifi everywhere so you don’t have to worry too much about your data limits J


If you are a South campus major, you’ll more than likely have a few classes in King’s Building. This is a branch of University of Edinburgh, but it isn’t on main campus. It’s actually like a 20-minute walk from main campus, so if you are expecting to have some math and/or science classes, you might consider living at David Horn House or Kitchner. If not, then you might want to pick a different accommodation. I didn’t know this so I just went for the cheapest housing. Consequently, I am approximately a 30-minute walk from main campus and city center. I considered walking to main campus every day; I mean it’s the same amount of time for me to walk from my apartment in Westwood to North campus, but I’d also skip classes because it would become an excuse. Side note, don’t skip class here, you could get dropped from a course. Not worth it! SO, to avoid that, I decided to buy a bus pass. No excuses for me. A bus pass is £45 for 4 weeks. It’s really nice because I can go to and from campus and also explore Edinburgh without worrying about paying for a single ride on the bus (£1.70 one way). Also, I can use to to and from the airport (£4.50 one way)! Definitely worth it for me.

If you don’t want to walk but still want your exercise, you could buy a used bike in Edinburgh. It’s approximately $100. One other option is Uber. Yes, it is available here! But it does seem a bit more pricey than back in LA. Each ride is about £5 or more, even if it’s a kind of close distance.

Now if you’re strapped for cash, there’s always the free option: using those UCLA-hill conditioned legs.


There are 4 main grocery stores that I’ll frequent: Sainsbury, Tesco, Lidl, and Aldi. I usually go to Aldi at Cameron Toll because it is close to my house, David Horn. If you’re more central to campus, there is Sainsbury, Tesco, and Lidl. Normally, Lidl and Aldi have the best deals and cheapest prices; HOWEVER, it really can depend on the things you’re buying. The prices vary from place to place, or can be exactly the same. I usually avoid Sainsbury unless Aldi is closed or if I’m too far away from Tesco or Lidl. On average, it seems to have higher prices. On the plus side, it’s open later and is also in Cameron Toll (for those living in David Horn House).


Boots and Superdrug are the two main stores where you can grab your pharmaceutical items and also any other toiletries you may need. Both have multiple locations in Edinburgh and some close to campus. I only recently found out that Superdrug was similar to Boots. From the outside, it looks like a beauty store. Compared to certain Boots locations, it may have a larger selection of beauty products than Boots. Also, it is a little bit cheaper based off the things I buy.

Clothing and Home Goods

In general, clothing and home goods can be found in Primark and various charity shops on Clerk Street. For clothing options, Primark is a chain retail store with reasonably priced items. Think of it like a European Forever21. They also have H&M a few stores down from Primark on Princes Street. Speaking of Princes Street, that’s the perfect place to go shopping for new clothes. Now, if you’re a bit concerned about your budget abroad, the charity shops are perfect. Their items are gently used and great prices, usually £5 or under. Plus, it goes to a great cause. Feel good and look great option. Primark and charity shops do have a few home good items, but that isn’t what the majority of their products are. If you can’t find what you need there or just need functional products, check out some of the bargain or PoundSaver stores. They have almost anything you’d need and are relatively cheap. There’s a few of these near campus on Clerk Street and also one in Cameron Toll.

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

South Africa | Arrival and Getting Settled in Cape Town


The day had finally come. I was off to South Africa. After arriving late to the airport due to the daunting Los Angeles traffic, I was in line at Qatar Airways waiting to receive a ticket, an hour being take-off.  To my surprise and delight, however, the plane had been delayed. Once I got my ticket, I said goodbye to my mom and went through security. After a 16-hour flight, I was in Doha. After I snapped out of the daze that the stunning Doha Airport put me in, I headed to the Transit Accommodation Desk. Qatar Airways has a deal that if you have a layover that is longer than eight hours, they will put you in a hotel room, free of charge. The hotel room was lovely and featured two showers. I decided to explore the country with the free time I had so I headed to Souq Waqif, a popular square in Qatar. It was 100 degrees outside but the architecture was what took my breath away. After a few hours, I headed back to the airport to board a plane to my final destination of Cape Town, South Africa.

Qatar during layover

After another 11-hour flight, I had finally reached Cape Town, a city I had been dreaming about studying in for over a year. I joked with the immigration officer that he needed to endorse my visa and passport correctly so he didn’t have to see me again and I was off to my home in the Southern Suburbs, where I was to reside for the next four months. I was the first one to the house so I got to choose my room and of course I chose the master bedroom with a fireplace in it. The house was so cute, clean, and homey, so I was ecstatic! I met my three other housemates, one girl from UCSB, a guy from Boston College, and another guy from UC Davis, and we all gelled. I knew it was going to be a great few months in Cape Town.

Home for the next 4 months!

My Cape Town room!

That same evening, we decided to take a tour of our university before sunset. The University of Cape Town, a ten-minute walk from our house, was STUNNING. We got to see the sun set over Table Mountain, which is conveniently right behind the school, as Capetonians played rugby. I could hardly contain my excitement for orientation the following day. At the orientation, student leaders performed dances and got the international students.The highlight of the orientation was the drumming lesson! We had local South Africans play drums for us and then they distributed drums to every single student to play along. It was the best orientation I ever attended. The subsequent days we enrolled in classes. The process of getting pre-approved for courses was a bit challenging, and something everyone should look into during study abroad, but ultimately everything worked out. I was ready to immerse myself in Cape Town academic and cultural life, and I knew this was just the beginning of my wonderful South African journey.

University of Cape Town Stunning Campus

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

Thailand | First Two Weeks in Bangkok


My name is Rachel Tang and I am currently participating on a UCEAP in Bangkok, Thailand. I will be studying at Thammasat University for the spring semester of 2017.

It has been exactly two weeks since I’ve arrived in Bangkok and I could not be happier with my decision to study abroad here. What compelled me to move halfway across the globe was a different way of learning that combines the traditional academic setting with real world experiences. As a Political Science major with a particular interest in Southeast Asia, I chose Thailand due to its unique history and culture. I am eager to learn as much as I can within the next several months and hope to inspire others to see the world and study abroad as well.

My pre-departure experience was quite smooth. Submitting the required materials was simple and I was off to Thailand sooner than I knew. Once I arrived, however, navigating my way from the airport to my apartment was slightly more challenging. The taxi is one of the common modes of transportation in Bangkok, which is something that I was unfamiliar with before. Regardless, I was lucky enough to encounter friendly Thais who assisted me in finding my way.

Once I arrived at my apartment, I began to settle into my spacious single (moreso a studio than an apartment). There is no kitchen, but it works out quite well because eating out at restaurants and vendors here is delicious, convenient, and inexpensive. I didn’t know anyone prior to arrival, since I was the only UCLA student participating on this program; however, I met many other UC, out of state, and international students the following day at the first orientation. It has only been two weeks, but I can say that I have befriended such great individuals who all have similar interests to learn, travel, and contribute positively to this world.

There were three mandatory orientations: one for all spring international students, one for all UC students, and one for your respective department. Although they seem overwhelming, each one was particularly useful, ranging from basic cultural knowledge to enrollment of courses. My favorite was the UC orientation, where we got to meet our abroad liaison, Professor Thanet. He was extremely kind and helpful, going as far as setting up internship opportunities for us.

I had my last orientation only several days ago, as my official first day of classes don’t begin until this Wednesday. I’ve had quite a bit of time to settle, in which I chose to travel and explore. My friends and I have made a trek last week to Chiang Mai and Pai up north, and to an island called Ko Samet this past weekend.

There is so much to do and so much to see in this country—several more reasons as to why I chose to study abroad here. I’ve had an incredible time exploring caves, waterfalls, canyons, snorkeling, etc., all in the span of one week. My friends and I are already planning our next few trips on our weekends and holidays.

Despite all of my adventures that I have been enjoying, I am excited for classes to start. I will be taking 4 Political Science courses and 1 Thai language course. I’m very interested in learning not only about Thai government and politics, but also politics of other regions through a Thai perspective. I also am eager to practice my humble Thai language skills. Through my experiences so far, it is fun and rewarding when you make an attempt to speak in your host country’s language. For the remainder of my time here, I am making it a goal for myself to seize any opportunity to learn and immerse myself.

Rachel Tang studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, in spring 2017:

France | An Idiot Abroad: From the Classroom to Real Life



Throughout high school we all learned about the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust. The heartless ways in which millions of people were slaughtered hold a salient place in my mind. However, it is not until I saw the grounds where these atrocities took place that I gained a deeper and more powerful understanding. The concentration camps of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau were the biggest concentration camps created by the Nazi regime and responsible for more than one million deaths. It is one thing to look at pictures of these places in textbooks, but another completely to experience in person. The sadness, despair, and violence permeates from the dirt and brick floors. It is a solemn moment to stand among the trees that millions also stood just moments before they were herded off to the gas chambers and mindlessly murdered. One does not even need to have knowledge of the Holocaust to feel the distinct sadness present in these concentration camps. Seeing the exhibits and just imaging how life must have been like in these camps was enough to bring me, as well as many others, to silence and tears.

It is unfathomable how humanity could be so violent and heartless to itself. Auschwitz preserves this inhumanity and serves as a reminder and lesson for future generations to never repeat this part of humanity’s past. The blackhole of mankind, Auschwitz is an experience and lesson that has been the most poignant for me on this study abroad experience thus far. It would be incredibly regrettable for anyone participating in a European study abroad program to not visit these momentous grounds. You will be left in tears, and you will be left speechless. It will force you to contemplate the past and question the nature of humanity.

Visiting Auschwitz is not as expensive as one would expect once one is in Europe. A weekend in Krakow can easily be done for under $150 USD (this includes plane ticket, public transportation, housing, Auschwitz visit, and food). There are not many resources online that provide an easy to understand and direct guide to visiting Auschwitz on a mega- budget; below I will try to give some tips that my girlfriend and I learned from our experience.

Flying into Krakow is relatively cheap through EasyJet. We spent about $80 USD (per person) for a roundtrip ticket departing from Lyon, France (this price could be less if you are flying out of a bigger city). A train ticket going directly from the airport to the city centre is about $3 USD and takes only 17 minutes. Once in Poland, find an ATM and pull out cash there. DO NOT let the ATM machine choose the conversion rate for you, simply delay the conversion and let your bank take care of it (there is an option for this on the screen). I saved about $10 dollars in fees letting my bank do the conversions rather than the ATM. Buying things in Poland really makes you proud to be an American. One US dollar is approximately four Polish Zlotys. To give you a sense of the dollar’s purchase power: 3 bottles of Polish beer costs $2.50 USD, a plate of very filling great Polish food costs $3-4 USD. We only ate at “Milkbars.” These are traditional Polish restaurants with communists roots that serve traditional food at very budget prices, catering to students and commoners.

In terms of lodging, there are hostels for as little as $5-7USD a night. My girlfriend opted for an Airbnb studio apt. that ran about $20USD/night. Krakow centre and the surround areas are not very big so it is very doable to get around by foot. Public transportation is really only needed going to and from the airport and Auschwitz.

There are countless tour groups in Poland that offer transport and guide to Auschwitz. These typically run around $30 dollars per person. However, these tours are completely unnecessary as there is public transportation that drops you off directly at Auschwitz for around 4 USD (MDA transportation company). Entrance into Auschwitz and Auschwitz- Birkenau is also completely free if you do not want a guided tour. There is also a free shuttle that takes you from Auschwitz to Auschwitz-Berkenau and takes about 10 minutes. I felt that experiencing Auschwitz without a guide was a lot better. My girlfriend and I got to see everything we wanted and take as long as we needed. We also did not have to move around with a huge group of people. Auschwitz is one of those places that is better experienced on your own terms and independently. Too many people simply distract you from the essence of the sites and may honestly even piss you off. There were quite a few people talking very loudly, taking pictures when signage specifically marked no photos, and posing for selfies at very inappropriate locations. I personally felt these actions were incredibly disrespectful and was glad that I did not partake in a tour or else I might have actually hit someone.

It was an amazing experience to see what I learned in class in real life. There are not enough words or pictures that can fully encapsulate the Auschwitz and Krakow experience. It is something that one must do themselves to truly understand; everyone’s experience is different and unique. All in all, Krakow is beautiful little city with very friendly people, amazing cheap food, and a poignant history.

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

Spain | Recollections


Saying goodbye and going through periods of change is always difficult. Studying abroad is like living in this sandwich of big changes and big goodbyes, with a bunch of amazing experiences in between. Two months may be short, but it’s enough for cities, for people, to sink their hooks into you. The last week I have spent wandering the streets of Córdoba (in between studying for finals, of course) and soaking up as much as I can from this place. As I have reflected on my time in Córdoba, my travels throughout Spain, and my whole experience here, I leave you with these 5 lessons, thoughts, and recollections.

1. Be open.

This sounds really corny and obvious but it’s honestly one of the best things about traveling and being in a new place. Some of the best moments I’ve had in Spain have been striking up conversations with strangers, in the library or in a hostel. In my experience, people Spain (and especially Andalucía) are really friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Many Spanish students are studying English and looking for chances to practice, so they would just start talking to me if they heard me speaking English! I really enjoyed having these conversations with locals. Traveling and staying in hostels is also a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. You may be traveling with your friends from your program, but make sure to take advantage of hostel culture and talk to people! First of all, the people who work in hostels are usually young travelers who work in return for free room and board. They will usually know the city fairly well, so ask them for recommendations! And there are so many different people staying at hostels as well. I met a mom and her daughter, a guy biking from Amsterdam to Southern Spain, and other study abroad students from America and London.

These may not be lasting relationships you make, but their amazing little slices of what it’s like to travel, to open yourself to new people and new experiences. In a similar vein, be open to spontaneity in general. Planning out your day is helpful, especially when you’re traveling, but make sure to leave some time to just let the day unfold. Some of the best moments I have had in Spain have been unplanned.

A lot of potential new friends await you everywhere…

And no matter what you’ll have your friends from your program!

2. Take time for yourself.

Studying abroad comes with this whole new group of friends, who have a similar background to you. On top of that you have so many shared experiences and you are all going through this experience together. You also have a host family, maybe an intercambio and some local friends. Oh, and studying! There’s a lot going on and a lot of people to experience it with. For most of my program I was always doing things with other people, exploring Córdoba or another city with my friends in the program. I really enjoyed those shared experiences – but by the end I realized I was really craving some alone time. I started to seek out quiet moments, moments where it was just me. I took out my headphones and looked around. And by doing so, I noticed so much more and had more time to just think and feel. Some of my best memories are from times with other people – and now I also have memories from times spent alone. One of the most important things I learned while abroad was how to take more time to be alone with myself and my surroundings.

Take time to wander, you never know what you’ll find.

3. Ask for and accept help.

Being in a foreign country, there are so many things that you just won’t know. You might not know where to buy shampoo, or if you have to print out your train ticket before you get to the station, or where the locals go to eat. Especially if you are learning a new language, it can be scary to ask for advice. You can probably figure out most things on the internet anyways, right? Ok, some things you can, but a lot of the time you’ve got to ask someone. In my UCEAP program I had a wealth of people who could help me with things like this – our program coordinator, my professors, and my host family. These people know the city you’re in a lot better than you and they want to help you! So let them. The same is true when you’re traveling – people in hostels are almost always really helpful. Being open to accepting help will make your life easier and your time better spent.

4. Make yourself available to your host family (if you have a host family).

My expectation of what it would be like to live with a host family was definitely different than the reality. I expected that we would do a lot more “Spanish” things, in a way I expected them to be like my informal tour guides of Córdoba. What I learned is that host families are normal people with normal lives, and so they didn’t have a ton of free time to do a lot of things with me. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and my family did still do things with me, as well as introduce me to their friends and family. I realized that if I really wanted to do something, it was more likely to happen if I asked about it. Another aspect of this is to spend time at home, especially some weekends. Obviously weekends are a great time to travel, but I’m really grateful I spent some of my weekends in Córdoba. Not only did this allow me to explore Córdoba, but it also gave me more opportunities to do things with my host family.

This hike with my host family & friends took a few tries to plan, and it was so worth it!

5. Record your experience.

When I started my program, I told myself I was going to keep a journal during my time here in Córdoba. Unfortunately, I am really bad at consistently writing in a journal, and so that didn’t really happen. I did write a number of times, but I would have liked to write more. However, I did take a lot of pictures and videos, and writing this blog helped me keep a sort of journal during my program. Studying abroad is full of so many wonderful experiences that you will want to remember. You may also find yourself changing as a person during your program, and that is valuable to be able to record.

There was a group of cats that lived in an empty lot near my house, and I photographed them whenever I could. These cats are one of the many things I will miss about Córdoba!

I hope that if you can study abroad, you will. I have learned so much, grown as a student and person, and made amazing friends during my time in Córdoba and Spain overall. ¡Hasta luego España!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017:

Australia | Getting Settled in Brisbane


My name is Monica Martinez, I am a current second-year double majoring in Political Science and Geography/Environmental Studies. I am the lone UCLA Bruin studying at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia for Semester 1, 2017. Born and raised in the city of Los Angeles, I was more than excited to travel internationally for the first time, especially to a country (and continent) that is seven thousand miles away. I arrived in Brisbane three weeks ago and I have had the greatest experience thus far! Reflecting on my own experience, I would highly recommend that you take the time to plan and budget now, to ensure your time abroad is as stress-free as possible.


Flights to Australia can be expensive, reaching prices over $1,000. While it is important to secure your arrival to Brisbane by the mandatory date set by the university, I found there is no immediate need to purchase your plane ticket right away. I searched for months on STA Travel, a flight agency that provides discounted fares for students, and I noticed sudden fluctuations in prices depending on the month of purchase and day of departure. While I did see prices go up to $1240, I purchased a round-trip ticket two months in advance for only $735. Although not having a flight months ahead of your program can be frightening, I suggest investing time to search for the best deal because it can result in you saving money (in this case hundreds) that can be used later towards other expenses.

After securing your flight, take the time to check your baggage allowance and required travel documents to guide your packing. An important note: LESS IS MORE. Flying with Virgin Australia, my baggage allowance provided two 23 kg (50lbs) checked bags and one 7kg (15lbs) carry-on bag. While the combined allowance of 115lbs seems plentiful, everything does add quickly.


DO take your most essential items (medication, passport, electronics) and then move on to clothes. I arrived in Brisbane in February and I planned to stay here until July – although this time frame is equivalent to Spring/Summer in Los Angeles, it is equivalent to Fall/Winter here in Australia because it is located in the Southern Hemisphere. MAKE SURE TO TAKE NOTE OF THE WEATHER or else you will find yourself wearing a jacket when it is 90F (from personal experience, I can tell you that this is not fun!) Pack clothes that you would typically wear every day to school, while also remembering to add a business-casual outfit for a future presentation or university-sponsored event, an outfit (or two) for a night out with friends in the city, and outdoor/swim wear for when you go sightseeing. The same idea would apply for shoes (take what you need rather than taking your whole closet).

A crucial piece of luggage that you need to bring before you come to Australia is an outlet adapter. I heard the words adapter and converter interchangeably, which was rather confusing, but they do not mean the same thing. You only need a converter if your appliances/chargers are not listed as 120-240V (which most American devices are). Purchase an adapter, either one strictly for Australia or an international adapter if you plan on visiting other countries during your time abroad. Additionally, IF YOU CAN feel free to bring toiletries, school supplies, cosmetics (makeup is SUPER expensive here, I recommend stocking up before arriving), and a first-aid kit. If you are reaching the weight limit, feel free to skip these as these can be bought here at a local department store.


From the Brisbane Airport (BNE), the main UQ campus is located in the suburb of Saint Lucia. While you can either get a taxi or Uber to take you to your accommodation, UQ provides a free service for international students known as the International Student Airport Reception. After receiving your login, you can access the portal to sign up for a free airport pick up (you will quickly learn that free things are the best things). At the airport, student ambassadors from the university welcome you, answer any questions you may have, and even provide a few freebies to make your transition to Brisbane stress-free. The service collects all international students arriving in Brisbane between the designated time frame, making this a great opportunity to meet other students who are on the same journey as you. I found it comforting to find other students who shared the same anxiousness and excitement I did. From here, your driver will take you to your accommodation and you will be ready to settle in!


Now, you are probably wondering what the word accommodation means: Accommodation = housing. On your pre-departure checklist, #3 states “Please note that you must arrange and pay for your semester housing. It is not included in the fees you pay to UCEAP and is not reserved or arranged for you.” This is where UQ Student Accommodation steps in! The website lists a host of housing options for prospective students, ranging from on-campus colleges (dorms) to UQ rentals. Living on-campus is a great opportunity for you to meet others, especially because each individual college is themed and hosts events throughout the year to make your experience memorable. BUT, be aware of the cost because securing your space in a college can cost a minimum of $10,000. To reiterate, you are looking at spending $10,000+ just for housing.

I chose to arrange my housing for the semester through the UQ rental option, selecting to live in a shared-house with other international students. This option provided me with the opportunity to meet other students, while living on a budget. Again: invest, invest, invest! Invest time in looking through the rental options to find the best fit for you! My accommodation is located a 10-minute walk to campus and 15-minute ride to the Brisbane Central Business District (CBD). I have my own individual room, bathroom, while sharing the kitchen, living room, and laundry room with three other students. The process was not easy, especially because the notion of having to pay rent every week instead of month was intimidating and because I was so accustomed to heading down to BPlate for food instead cooking my own, but it was so worth it!

I absolutely love it here in Brisbane! For anyone reading this and is nervous to go abroad, do not be because it will be the greatest experience of your life.

Stay tuned for the next post to read about my adventures here in the land down under!

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

Scotland | Airport Woes and Getting to Scotland


Having traveled internationally more than once and having had my share of interesting experiences while travelling, the beginning of my travels to Scotland began a bit rocky and challenged my travel experience. I decided to depart approximately a week before the program start date in order to insure that I’d arrive in Scotland on time. My mom, who has never left the country, and I decided to travel to Europe for the holidays. My flight was cancelled/delayed for about 5 hours. That was okay because I found out about it before leaving for the airport; unfortunately, the new route had a layover of 23 hours in Russia. I’ve done long layovers before but I really didn’t want to do that; especially because the 23-hour layover would be on Christmas day. Airports are not a conventional Christmas destination and also not particularly fun. Go figure. Upon arriving at the airport, I asked about our airline rerouting us onto the quickest flight to my destination, or at least something that didn’t have me stranded at an airport. Luckily, they found something that would have a short layover and have us arriving on Christmas day. We arrive at the airport to check in with our rerouted airline… who then tells us they do not have a ticket under our names. Of course, I begin to panic because the original cancelled flight had departed hours before. Neither our original airline or our new airline knew who we were supposed to fly with. Thankfully, everything was eventually situated, although we are still not quite sure what happened. All that mattered was that it was fixed.

After the holidays, I flew to Scotland and arrived at 1am, exhausted from travelling. The flight attendants began passing around visa forms that needed to be filled out before arriving at the visa stations. After exiting the plane, I rushed to the front of the line. My nice, warm hotel bed was calling my name. I got to the passport control officer, handed all the documents to him. He then asked, “Where’s your acceptance letter from the university?”. I pointed to the document I printed out and he said, “No, that isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t have the start and end dates of your semester program.” I then apologized because I didn’t realize it had to have the dates. He proceeded to tell me that all the other documents I had brought to him didn’t matter. I was thoroughly confused and starting to worry; what happens when you fly to a country and they don’t let you in?? Luckily, I didn’t have to find out. He let me through with a warning and my visa for Scotland perfectly stamped into my passport. I have been preparing for this trip for months. Prior to Scotland, I was studying abroad in Senegal. I thought I knew what to expect and all the things I needed for a smooth arrival. But, even in my plethora of lists, I still wasn’t fully prepared. Travelling is a finicky trickster, and it’s necessary to be flexible throughout the journey. Eventually, everything works out.

Traveling can be a scary thing, but it can also create the most interesting stories that tests your patience and flexibility. This may be a stretch, but the traveling to point A to B really adds to your character and teaches you a lot about yourself and interactions with other people. Although going to the airport and flying internationally can be stressful, I always look back at the downside and find that all the stress and worry I possessed at that moment turned out okay, sometimes even wonderfully.

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