Ireland | Get Ready for the Time of Your Life


To make the most of your time abroad, definitely do some research on where you’re going. I used Yelp, TripAdvisor, Pinterest, and just general google searches to come up with a list of destinations and restaurants I wanted to explore. If you’re okay with average, a simple word doc will do, but if you really want to take advantage of your downtime, USE GOOGLE MY MAPS! My roommate introduced me to this fall quarter of freshman year when I was telling her about my Los Angeles Bucket list and trust me when I say this, making your bucket lists on Google My Maps will absolutely change your travel game. Most of you probably already have a google account. All you have to do is go to your Google Drive and create a new “Google My Maps.” This document will allow you to add destinations to the map and allowing you to essentially store your bucket list in the form of the map. Not only does this allow you to keep track of where you want to explore, but it enables you to plan the most efficient adventure days by planning around location. I created a “food” category as well as a “places” category so that if I’m just looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, I can filter by category. I’m not exaggerating when I say this: your travel planning will forever be changed by this feature. If you’re too busy (or just too lazy) to create your own bucket list, I’ll link mine below! It has over 100 places/restaurants to visit so hopefully I won’t see a dull moment while abroad.

My Bucket List:


Please, please, please take my advice when I tell you to pack essentials in your carry-on. I know this doesn’t happen often but I had a lot of bad luck on my way to Dublin. My flight from St. Louis to Chicago was delayed, causing me to miss my international flight to Dublin. I sprinted through the airport because the gate agent booked me on a new flight that left in an hour. I got to security 50 minutes before the flight was leaving and was told I was too late because you must check in an hour in advance. I ended up staying overnight in Chicago because the next flight out didn’t leave until 5:50pm the next day. Sure enough that flight was delayed as well and when I got to the Dublin airport, I also found out my luggage had been lost. It was an adventure to say the least, but I ended up fine and made it to Dublin safely. The point of this story is to say I had all my essentials (toiletries, clothes, etc.) in my checked bag that had been lost so I had to replace these for the few days that I was without the bag at UCD. Granted the airline did pay for replacements, but it is definitely a hassle when you’re on your own in a new country and don’t know how to get around yet to try to find toiletries and clothes to get you through a few days.


  • International flights require that you check in at least an hour in advance so be wary of this
  • International flights close their doors 15 minutes in advance of departure time

In order to make your trip run as smoothly as possible, make a folder with all the documents you might need. I would include the following:

  • All boarding passes (if you have connecting flights, printing these boarding passes ahead of time will save you having to print a boarding pass at the airport upon arrival)
  • Passport (have this in a very accessible place; you’ll need it a lot)
  • Acceptance Letter from UCD (needed upon arrival at Dublin airport)
  • Directions from Airport to UCD (just reassuring to know where you’re going)
  • Airshuttle Ticket (prebook if you don’t want to bother trying to buy one there)

Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to follow my journey in Dublin! I’m so excited for what’s to come so stay tuned 🙂

Grace Heart studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland, in Summer 2017:

England | Living in Champion Hill



It starts really high. Before you even arrive, you see all the beautiful pictures and think to yourself, “Man, this place is gorgeous.”

And then you actually realize how far it is from campus.

Which stinks; it stinks, but, like most students here, you scramble to find other places to live. There IS a room swap that happens at KCL; but it doesn’t happen until October so that you can take the time to get acclimated, and really experience the residence for yourself.

I remember being really determined that I would for sure move out. But as time progressed, I started to really enjoy the people I was around. I formed great friendships with two girls who also were from UCLA on my floor. And also, I just started to become friends with everybody on this floor in general; building networks of kitchen cutlery, providing their pans and knives in exchange for my Sainsbury pots and cookie baking sheets. So, the line chart goes up again.

And again, like any great novel with complex plots — it goes back down when room swaps become available and you discover that the friends you just made are moving out. That one guy you look forward to talking to in the kitchen is moving away to another dorm (note: I wrote this a week ago, and I found out he’s staying– woo!) 

The reality is, I’ve now come to not only accept Champion Hill as my home, but also embrace it. And when I finally came into this mentality, I found coffee shops around (go to Mono — a  vinyl records only, cheap coffee shop with great pain au chocolat with comfy chairs, cute lighting and mini plants on your table).

I found Pop Brixton, a 30 minute walk with some of the greatest, cheap foods that I adore. Every time I miss a bowl of Ramen, Koi Ramen Bar has my back.

Sainsbury’s is only a five minute walk in our backyard for anytime you want to get a grilled cheese fix (that clearance sale bread for 70p, cheese, and never forget tomato soup).

As far as the bus, it’s about a 30 to 40 minute bus ride. I’m not gonna lie, it initially sucks. I can feel lost from the rest of London, but I’ve come to love the moment when crossing The Thames over Waterloo bridge. The mornings become the time I collect my thoughts before the day truly begins, the readings I didn’t read the night before, the meditation I needed to release anxiety, and to finally listen to those podcasts I never got around to.

Champion Hill has become the home of some of my favorite memories; eating dinner with humans from around the world who inspire me with their stories — the dude from Germany who traveled around the globe  —  the second year from France who never fails to make me crepes and makes fun of my silly American ways — the boy across the hall who laughs at me as we sing along to 2000’s music — the girl next door who I always can go out with — the fellow UCLA girl down the hall who became one of my closest friends. We sat together on the couch one day and thought about all the times we could’ve met at UCLA; how we went to the same parties, had so many mutual friends– but we didn’t meet until we both lived here in Champion Hill. And that was the thing, this serendipitous occasion of living here and meeting all the people I did, Champion Hill wasn’t a mistake at all. 

England | An Orientation of Orientation


To be entirely truthful, I’ve already been in London for 3 weeks : busy unpacking, acclimating, making friends, learning to ride a bus here or ‘top-up’ an oyster card, testing social cues, cringing at my own American English accent. So orientation was a while ago.

But, with some time and space, I feel that I can give a pretty good retrospective on the whole experience.


So here’s an orientation to the UCEAP Orientation at London, everything from what we did and what you can expect, and maybe some advice along the way.


Getting to London seems intimidating — the student visa process or the tier 4 visa process (eek!) But the truth is, 1) it really depends on the staff who interviews you at customs, 2) having your documents is the hardest part because it makes everything else a breeze. I was lucky that the staff who reviewed me was super kind; she looked at a few papers (but mostly my King’s acceptance letter — this will be your most important document. do. not. lose. this. because if you leave the UK to travel throughout the rest of Europe, you’ll need this letter to get back in!)


Day one of orientation was just getting to orientation; the plane rides, the Uber rides, the settling in and getting rest for the days to come.

Luckily, before leaving to London, UCLA holds a mini-orientation in Los Angeles for KCL abroad students. So, I had met fellow students to exchange numbers and we made plans to meet at the airport upon arrival at London. We Uber-ed together from LHR (London Heathrow Airport) to LSE Bankside, the UCEAP orientation.


So of course, orientation was, indeed, an orientation — consisting of various lectures on acclimating to London, the differences in academia between the US and the UK, and the US Embassy coming in to speak about what rights and services are applicable to us abroad.


But, they also scheduled guided tours for us at the Tate Modern.


We treated ourselves with peri-peri chicken and beer from the ever-so famous Nando’s.


We also got tickets to see ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, a theatrical comedy show about a running a murder mystery show — wonderfully hilarious, filled with nuggets of improv that I didn’t expect.

And on the night walk back to LSE Bankside, we couldn’t resist taking photos of the sunset which soon became a darkness only lit up by buildings along the Thames.



Yes, I ate this every morning for breakfast.

I walked a lot, okay.


We had a lovely tour guide who gave us a walk around the Thames; showing us graffiti art, famous buildings…

Tower bridge opening up in the morning…

and leading us to lunch at Borough Market.


And our last stop of the day was the London Eye, and the tickets were provided for us.


Initially, as young adults, there’s sometimes a hesitation in submitting to some sort of schedule. But, in the midst of the craziness that is a new environment, it was nice to have someone care for us. We were introduced to a new culture in a way that helped us immerse seamlessly; to answer questions we had immediately. UCEAP provided us resources that a lot of other students didn’t get, those who studied abroad from other universities or countries. And it gave us the opportunity to meet other UCLA friends that we can continue being friends with even after we come back from London.

Spain | First Impressions


¡Hola a todos! I am in my second full week of life here in Córdoba, España. So far it has been FANTASTIC, and a little challenging. I have so much on my mind already about my time here, so for this week I’m going to write about my first impressions of Córdoba and Spanish culture, what I’ve learned, and show you all a bit of Córdoba.

When you study abroad, you hear a lot about “culture shock” and how to prepare for being in a new and different environment. I haven’t really experienced culture shock yet-its mostly just “cultural enchantment!” Since I’ve been here I have discovered some things that Spain just does better- here are a few.

1.In Córdoba it is super hot in the summer (it gets up to 110 degrees F!) and around 50 degrees F in the winter, right now. One way people in Córdoba stay warm is by having lots of space heaters in their houses. In my apartment my host family has a space heater under the dining room table, and then a big tablecloth on the table. When we eat we put the tablecloth on our laps like a blanket and then our legs and feet get all the warmth from the space heater. It’s so warm and cozy! It seems pretty common here, not surprisingly.

2.Free food. In much of Spain, especially Andalucía, you receive a “tapa” with your evening beer or wine. People generally go out for tapas around 8-9, and when you order something to drink you get something to eat “gratis,” or free! It’s not a lot of food, but it’s a nice little snack to tide you over until that 10 o clock dinner. Also it’s super cheap- a glass of wine or beer usually costs around 1.50 to 2 euros, and you’re really getting a drink and food!

3. Pace of life. From only being in Spain for a few weeks I have really noticed a stark difference in the way Spaniards and Americans think about time, and furthermore their lives. In America the concept of “wasting time” is fairly pervasive. Especially as a hardworking college student looking towards the future, I find myself often thinking of how to maximize my time as much as possible, how to always be productive, and seeing “free time” and relaxation as something to be earned. In Spain the emphasis is not to do the most impressive things with your life or make the most money, but to enjoy your life. My host mom said it best to me the first day I was here: “En los Estados Unidos, la gente vivir para trabajar. En España, la gente trabajar para vivir.” “In America, people live to work. In Spain, people work in order to live.” There are many ways this manifests itself. Spaniards spend more time with their families, usually just hanging out and talking. Seeing extended family is not only reserved for holidays (this is aided by the fact that people tend to live close to where they grew up). People don’t usually entertain at home, they go out of their houses to socialize and thus meet and interact with more people. And in general the pace of life is slower, there’s less of the hurried sense that life in much of America has.

4. Attitude towards foreigners. Every Spanish person I have talked to has been so friendly and welcoming. Furthermore, many people are excited to talk with me even though my Spanish still needs a lot of work. If I apologize for not asking many questions or being able to communicate what I want to say they are really understanding and kind! I can’t help but compare this with the way many Americans think about immigrants or people who don’t speak perfect English. We definitely could learn a bit from the Spanish on this topic.

Ok, now a bit more about Córdoba! Córdoba was once the largest city in the world, when it was the center of Moorish society and the seat of the Islamic Caliphate in the 10th and 11th centuries. For hundreds of years, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived in Córdoba in harmony. Part of the city is the original antique city which is home to the famous Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter, or Juderia.

The rest of the city is fairly modern with a lot of Spanish charm sprinkled throughout. Córdoba is relatively small and it only takes about 30 minutes to walk from the northern area of the city to the river, where the old quarter is. As you walk through the city you’ll see plenty of cafes and bars (which are actually often combined in Spain), and people out with their friends and family. You might stroll through the park, Jardines de la Victoria, that runs along much of Córdoba’s downtown area. It has various statues, fountains, as well as a large indoor market, Mercado Victoria, in the center. The Mercado has food, bars, and even a discoteca on the second floor! Past the downtown center is Plaza de las Tendillas, which has a grand fountain in the middle and is surrounded by beautiful, old buildings. Once you walk through the Plaza you will enter the antique area of the city, where the Mosque-Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter are located. The cobblestone streets are narrow and the houses have large and elaborate doors. There are balconies covered in vines and plants on every building. It’s charming and as you’re wandering through the winding streets, you feel like you’re in another time.

I have had a great first two weeks in Córdoba, and I’m so excited to continue learning Spanish and discovering more about this city’s culture and history!

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

Spain | Getting Ready for Spain


¡Hola! Me llamo Celia, y estoy estudiando en Córdoba, España durante dos meses.

Hi! My name is Celia, and I am studying in Córdoba, Spain for two months. My program is called “Exploring Andalucia,” and I will be taking Spanish language classes as well as elective classes about Spain’s culture and history. I am a third year student at UCLA, studying Geography/Environmental Studies, and minoring in Urban Planning. I am from beautiful Oakland, California, I go on a lot of hikes with my dog, and I’m usually listening to music or a podcast. For the last month, I’ve been home visiting friends and family, as well as preparing for my study abroad program.

Here’s what I’ve done to prepare: 

  • Book a flight. Ok, so this didn’t happen in the last month. I booked my flight pretty much as soon as I knew I was officially accepted to my program. I decided to arrive in Spain a few days before the orientation in Córdoba. I’ll be in Madrid for three days before my program’s orientation in Córdoba, to explore and hopefully overcome the jetlag!
  • Book a hostel in Madrid. I booked through, which is definitely the best site for hostels. The website is easy to navigate, and you can sort by location, rating, price, and more! There are also plenty of pictures and reviews to help you make your decision.
  • Contact my phone carrier. Some friends of my mine who have studied abroad or travelled extensively abroad have bought a cheap phone once abroad or a SIM card for their phone, since they didn’t want to pay for an international data plan. My family’s T-mobile plan includes free international texting and data, so I can use my phone for free in Spain- just not for calls. It’s good to look into this before hand so you know what your options are-especially if you have to figure it out in a different language!
  • Contact my bank and order currency. I found out my bank’s partner in Spain so that I can use ATMs without incurring international transaction fees. To make purchases, neither my credit or debit card can be used without a transaction fee, so I plan to use cash as much as possible. I also notified my bank that I would be traveling so there wouldn’t be holds placed on my account. Finally, I ordered a currency exchange, which is easy to do online, at least through Bank of America. Now I am prepared to pay for necessities like taxis/public transportation, food, and other things without having to exchange dollars into euros once I’m there.
  • Bring all necessary documents, and make copies. I’m bringing my passport, of course, another form of ID and my UCEAP insurance card. I also made copies (paper and digital, stored in Google Drive) of my passport, credit, and debit card. This is something I wouldn’t have thought to do without UCEAP informing me, but it’s really helpful if you lose anything important! With copies made, you already have the information needed to fix the problem.
  • Ultimately, I ended up packing 7 pairs of pants (including one pair of leggings), 9 tops (short and long sleeve), 7 sweaters and turtlenecks, 6 tanks (mostly for going out), 4 dresses, 2 skirts, 4 jackets, and 5 pairs of shoes. I’m also bringing a few scarves and bandanas, some jewelry, pajamas, socks, and a pair of tights.
  • Talk to people with experience. Less of a specific task, this was something I tried to do as much as possible before I left. I reached out to friends of mine who had studied abroad, packed for long trips, done a homestay, or who had been to Spain. They all gave me invaluable information, tips, and encouragement. While I consciously made an effort to talk to people I knew would have good advice, I also learned a lot from many others. My study abroad trip made its way into many conversations in the last few months, and from just mentioning it people gave me ideas about where to travel, helpful websites, and more. Google is always a good source of information, but friends are even better.
  • Pack! This was probably the most daunting task for me. I am generally bad at “packing light,” because a) I really like clothes and b) I have a lot of clothes. Clear conflict here. The weather in Córdoba will be fairly consistent, which makes packing a little easier, but it will also be cooler, which means heavier and bigger clothes. For my flight, I have a checked bag that can weigh up to 44 pounds, and my carry on items (a 46L Osprey travel backpack and a day backpack) can weigh up to 22 pounds-and paying attention to weight limits is really important.

Other things I’m bringing:

All my luggage, minus my day backpack

a book

a journal

an attachable wide-angle lens for my iPhone

a reusable water bottle

my laptop

my phone


all the necessary cords and converters

toiletries & makeup

enough contact lenses for my time abroad

a backpack and a cross-body purse

earplugs & a sleep mask (I don’t go anywhere without these)

some pictures of my friends and family

a gift & card for my host family

  • And to prep for my flight I made sure I had lots of music, both new finds and old favorites, downloaded onto my phone. I also downloaded some podcasts and brought a book. I printed out my travel itinerary and made sure I knew how to get from the airport to my hostel.
  • Mentally prepare. This is harder to articulate and it’s different for everyone, but it’s important to do. Before you leave you will be really excited and probably a bit nervous. No matter where you are going or how long your program is, things will be different. You will have to make new friends, live in a new place, and possibly learn a new language. Take advantage and be grateful for those things you enjoy about home. Before I left I made sure to have my favorite types of food that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get in Spain. I did my favorite things in my home town, and I spent time with my family and friends (and dogs). And I got myself excited for a new and different experience!

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, seen from the Roman Bridge

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

Taiwan | Adventures in Food and Couch Surfing in Taichung


Whenever I told someone who had been to Taiwan before that I was studying there for a semester, a response I got from every single person was,

“Oh my God the food there is amazing.”

And having been in Taiwan for a little under two weeks I can confirm that yes, the food here is absolutely amazing. At first I was a bit skeptical, because the food is sold from vendors who set up small carts on the side of the road, selling a variety of items from dumplings to sweet potato balls to grilled steak to squid on a stick. The prices are also ridiculously reasonable which, at first, raises a few flags and occasionally makes me wonder where exactly the meat comes from and whether there’s any sort of health inspection process that goes along with selling food from these carts. However, then you taste the food and think, “eh, I suppose I can overlook the numerous sanitary violations that would probably not pass in the U.S.”

Along with the street food, I also had the opportunity to eat at some pretty… interesting establishments, one in particular called Modern Toilet located in Ximen. Now, the name of the restaurant could be misleading but trust me, it’s not. At Modern Toilet restaurant not only do you sit on toilets, but you also eat your food out of tableware representing all things related to the restroom. However, if the bathroom is a place that makes you feel queasy, then urine trouble because this place has all things dealing with the toilet life. (Let’s just take a moment to appreciate my previous pun.)

However in my opinion, some of the best foods here in Taiwan are found in the night markets. Night markets are essentially the Costco of street food except you don’t need a silly membership card to enjoy the free samples. One of the biggest night markets in Taiwan is located in the city of Taichung (台中)—a city two hours south of Taipei by train. During the long weekend a few friends and I hopped on the train and headed south hoping for less rain and warmer weather. Thankfully there was no rain, but it was still crazy cold in Taichung (and by crazy cold I mean around 55˚F). However, things warmed up once we reached the large crowd at the Feng Chia (逢甲) night market. To sum it up, Feng Chia night market encompasses three to four blocks each connected by numerous smaller alleyways with countless food stands and small clothing stores selling items for marvelously cheap prices. The only problem with this place is a) the massive crowd that swarms in around 5:00 pm. b) the myriad of food options—whether to get the duck bao or the fried tofu skewers (then, in the end, deciding on getting both) and c) having to practice self control because how the heck do you say no to a custard filled pancake wheel?

And the answer is you don’t, because it’s magically delicious.

Another one of the most famous tourist locations to visit in Taichung is the Rainbow Village. It’s not actually an entire village, more like a small clustering of tiny shelters next to a playground, but it was pretty adorable and even more impressive, the entire village was entirely painted by one man.

Overall, the weekend trip to Taichung went extremely well except for when we tried to check into the hostel we booked only to find out that our room had been double booked and thus, we had no place to stay at night. Normally, this problem is easily resolved by simply booking a room at another nearby hostel or Air B&B. However everything, and I mean absolutely everything was booked. At one point, I tried begging the dorm advisors at a local University to let us stay in an open dorm or in one of the lounges for the night. We even considered staying in a 24/7 KTV (karaoke room) for the night—an idea that I was actually very willing to try, and probably will end up trying just for fun.

In the end, one of my friends got in contact with someone from couch surfing. I’ll be honest, when we arrived at the location of the given address, I was extremely skeptical and was considering going to the KTV alone for a solo karaoke adventure, but it was already midnight and everyone was already tired from the previous events of the day. We entered the place and were immediately greeted by the smell before anything else. The place smelled entirely of stinky tofu, and for those that don’t know what stinky tofu is, it’s a traditional Chinese dish that tastes pretty good but smells like absolute garbage, like literal garbage. We were then greeted by a lady and a nine-year-old girl who immediately starts to make conversation with us in surprisingly well-versed English. The lady, whom we called 阿姨 (A yi–Aunty) seemed aghast that there was six of us, but regardless lead us upstairs to a small room with numerous blankets and pillows on the floor. The six of us crammed side by side on the floor in a space that was perhaps a little big larger than a king sized bed while the girl, 妹妹 (mei mei—little sister), talked with us until 2 am.

Mei mei introducing us to her pet mouse

Staying with A Yi and Mei mei was perhaps my favorite part of this weekend trip, getting to stay with a local Taiwanese family in a room above a stinky tofu shop. It really doesn’t get more authentic than that. This experience has once again reminded me of the kindness and generosity that Taiwanese people show towards foreigners.

Hailey Motooka studied abroad in Taipei, Taiwan, in Spring 2017:

Taiwan | Discovering Taiwan


I got off of the airplane having to pee badly. Like, very badly. I ran off the plane, through the gate, and into the nearest bathroom only to find out a) it was one of the squat toilets that basically resembles a hole in the ground and b) what the heck there was no toilet paper. If culture shock was a person, I had just been physically slapped in the face right then and there. So my first tip to any future travelers to Taiwan: buy your own toilet paper. Or, start practicing the “sit and shake” method because it really is a useful skill to have if you aren’t keen on carrying a roll in your bag.

The dreaded hole in the ground toilet

你好(Hi), my name is Hailey Motooka. I am a third year majoring in Biology and minoring in Asian Languages and I am currently attending the National University of Taiwan (NTU). I wanted to write this blog so that I may share my story with anyone who is interested in studying abroad in Taiwan, or anyone interested in studying abroad at all. I was born and raised in Hawai’i on the most fantastic little island, Oahu, and (in my unbiased opinion) it is one of the best places in the world. However, since it is a pretty isolated place in the smack dab middle of the Pacific Ocean, exposure to people from various cultures is rather limited. For this reason, I am more than ecstatic to be able to spend a semester here in Taiwan and immerse myself in this unique environment.

Before I left for Taiwan, however, I had to do a lot of preparation. I’m about to go into some logistical boring stuff so bear with me, folks, because I’m required to talk about this. Here are the main items:

  1. Passport—Now, this may seem obvious but for those of you that do not have a passport, or need to renew your passport like I did, the process can take up to eight weeks so prepare in advance.
  2. Health Forms—If you are traveling through the UCEAP program, they go over in extensive detail how to complete these. However, just a heads up that the NTU health clearance form requires a physical as well as a chest x-ray, both of which can be completed at the Ashe Center or with your local physician.
  3. Visitors Visa—The process to get a visitor’s visa doesn’t take nearly as long as a passport (around 1-2 weeks), but it does require the following items:
    1. Passport
    2. Acceptance letter from the University
    3. Travel itinerary—both departure AND return date
    4. Two recent passport sized photos
    5. Bank statement
    6. Visa application itself

Another thing I had to do before I left was sign up for my classes. This was probably the most stressful part for me because there wasn’t a lot of information on how the process worked, and all I remember thinking was “how am I supposed to physically fight people for my classes like I do here at UCLA when the other students are an entire ocean away?” Like, I couldn’t even bribe people to hold my spot in the classes I needed. Thankfully, getting classes at NTU isn’t nearly as competitive as getting classes at UCLA. Also, there’s an entire week after school starts that allows you to add and drop classes in case you don’t get the classes you need during the first and second registration periods. So don’t worry, there’s no need for violence or bribing of any sort! The orientation during the first week of school is also very informative and almost all questions will be answered during that time.

Orientation held for all International Students

Registration for UCEAP students

Once my classes were picked, however, everything else is very simple and UCEAP does a great job of making sure that you are prepared for the trip. The only thing that I was worried about was whether or not I would be able to make friends. I came to Taiwan not knowing a single person, which thinking back on it was probably the best parts about coming here. But don’t get me wrong, the idea of having no friends freaked me out at first, especially when I stepped on campus, had no idea how to get to my dorm with all my suitcases, and no one to call or ask for help. Thankfully, when I asked a student walking by if he could point me in the right direction, not only was he able to speak English but he also helped me carry one of my suitcases. Shout out to Gino, you’re probably never going to read this but dude, you’re the real MVP. It turns out that most Taiwanese people, despite their shy demeanor, are incredibly nice and helpful and very accommodating towards foreigners.

The dorms that I’m currently living in are the Guo Ching dorms. Now, I’m not going to complain about my living situation because I already did that for the first two days I was here, but the other dorms, the ShuiYuan Prince dorms, located on the complete opposite side of campus are more ideal (in my opinion). At first I didn’t like the idea of sharing a bathroom and shower with a whole floor of people as if I was reverting back to freshman year all over again. Not to mention the fact that there’s only one–THAT’S RIGHT ONLY ONE—toilet paper roll that runs out every Wednesday and gets refilled every Monday. So yeah, investing in toilet paper is key. On the bright side, the Guo Ching dorms do have a laundry room on every floor, a 7/11 right outside, as well as a restaurant and gym on the basement floor. It’s also significantly cheaper than the ShuiYuan Prince dorms if finances are a concern.

Interior of the GuoChing dorms

Some of the food served at the restaurant in the basement floor

Majority of international students are also assigned to the ShuiYuan dorms, so the atmosphere and dynamic between local and international students in the Guo Ching dorm is a bit different as well. It just means that you get to practice your Chinese more. But on the first day I moved in, the dorms were fairly empty so I decided to wander around the campus. Let me just tell you, the campus is absolutely stunning. One of the professors mentioned how she thought that National Taiwan University is one of the most beautiful universities in the world, and at the time, I remember thinking, “yikes, that’s bold you clearly have never been to UCLA”. However, as I meandered around the campus I stumbled upon beautiful ponds and greenhouses tucked away between buildings that are quite unlike any American university I have every been to before.

Eventually I got lost and ended up hopping onto a tour for international students. The tour was just ending so I didn’t really get an actual tour of the campus, per say, but it was here where I made my first friends. Most international students find themselves in the same boat in terms of not knowing anyone in Taiwan; so most people make an effort to put themselves out there. Like I said before, I was born and raised in Hawai’i so I was excited to travel and meet people from different places, but never in my life did I think I would become friends with people from Ghana, Croatia, Luxemburg, Australia, Spain, and so many other places that I am unable to point out on the globe mostly because my geography is lacking.

First day in Taiwan with the international tour group in front of the Main Library

People say all the time that they want their study abroad experience to be “life changing”, and of course I do too. I mean, who doesn’t want to come back from the study abroad travels feeling like a changed person? But realistically, I don’t think my life will be completely turned around, and I don’t think I will arrive at some epiphany that the world is somehow a better place now that I have lived somewhere other than America for six months. However, I do think that I will learn a lot and–in the words of one of the greats, Kylie Jenner—2017 will be the year of just, like, realizing stuff. And I hope I do realize a lot of…stuff, and I hope to try new things and meet new people and explore new places and most importantly I hope that you all keep on reading because I promise, it only gets better from here.

Hailey Motooka studied abroad in Taipei, Taiwan, in Spring 2017:

Sweden | Eight Things to Know About Food in Lund, Sweden

  1.  Fika is a must.

Sweden is known for their love of fika. Fika is a break during the day when you enjoy a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and a small pastry. Swedes have fika sometimes two to three times a day. Fika is usually offered at most club events, and even a lot of Swedish people take a break during the business day to enjoy a warm cup of coffee and dessert. I personally recommend a hot chocolate and a warm cinnamon bun. (Cinnamon buns are so popular that they even have a day—October 4th—dedicated to celebrating them!)

2. For Cheap Food, Go to The Nations

The nations are student organizations that run bars, clubs, sittnings (3 course meals), brunches, and lunches. These meals are open to all students who have joined a nation, which most students do within their first few weeks in Lund. There, you can get lunch starting at 30SEK, a brunch buffet starting at 40SEK, and a three course meal for about 120SEK. They have all sorts of food including: falafel, soup, Swedish desserts, waffles, burgers, and shakes. Practically every day, the nations have some event running where you can grab a bite to eat. You’re bound to find a nation that has food you love!

3. Swedish Cuisine Is Hard to Find

I have been in Sweden for about 3 weeks and have only seen one place that serves traditional Swedish food—Ikea. In Lund, I’ve seen American food, Italian food, Mediterranean food, Japanese food, and even Bulgarian food, but no Swedish food. So unless you want to travel to Malmö, don’t expect to be eating too much Swedish food, unless you want to make it yourself. While Swedish desserts are easy to find, actual Swedish meals are quite rare here.

4. Go To A Taste of Sweden

If you want to try Swedish food and don’t want to make it yourself or travel to Malmö, definitely go to A Taste of Sweden during orientation. You can try everything from caviar from a tube to sour milk to pickled herring. While not all the food may not be to your liking, you should definitely step out of your comfort zone and try all the dishes they offer at the event. Where else are you going to try reindeer meat cheese from a tube? The sweet potato mash and a ground beef dish resembling meatloaf with cabbage were two of my favorites. The sour milk, on the other hand, is definitely an acquired taste. It’s a small creamy side resembling yogurt, except its not sweet, so it’s like a blend between sour cream and yogurt. Even if you don’t think you’ll like a dish, I recommend trying it because you don’t know when you’ll have another chance.

5. You Don’t Look Far For Great Restaurants

Burgers, falafel, and pizza places are on every corner here in Lund. Often, you don’t even have to go to a separate restaurant to find these. There are shops that sell both falafel and burgers and pizza shops that serve pizza and burgers. It’s great for friends with different food preferences! I recommend trying Lundafalafel. They serve kebabs, falafel, and burgers, and they are open until 4am on the weekends. It’s a must have late night snack for people in Lund.

6. Not All Restaurants Have English Menus

While most people in Lund speak English, very few restaurants have English menus. It is not unusual to see menus entirely in Swedish. This leaves you with four options. One: learn Swedish, or at least basic Swedish food items. Two: ask the staff. The people working at the restaurant are usually more than happy to translate the menu for you, but I wouldn’t ask them to translate every item on the menu to you—that could get awkward. Three (my favorite!): use a translation app. These can usually translate the bulk of the words, but it isn’t perfect. There will still be some things that you have zero idea what they are—even Google can’t always save you. Four: be adventurous and just try something! All the food I’ve had at restaurants in Lund so far have been amazing. You can’t really go wrong with anything you choose!

7. American Food Is Easy to Find

If you are homesick—don’t worry—you can find American food here. Lund has a Burger King, a McDonalds, and lots of Subways. If you are craving some fried chicken, Malmö is home to a KFC. Malmö also has a Pizza Hut and Dominos. If your map app tells you that there is a Pizza Hut in Lund, don’t believe it. I walked across town while craving Pizza Hut, but there was no Pizza Hut there, just another pizzeria in its place. The pizza was absolutely amazing, but it was still disappointing not to have found Pizza Hut. Unfortunately, if you are missing Americanized Mexican food, you’re out of luck. There are no Taco Bells, Qdobas, Chipotles, or Del Taco, so fill up before you come. Even Mexican food ingredients are hard to find. It took days of searching to find black beans, and the Mexican cheese blends do not taste the same as back in the States.

8. Candy Stores Have An American Section

Missing Reese’s or Snapple Tea? You won’t have to go too far to find them in Lund. Most candy shops feature an American section that lets you find most of your favorites. Half of the display is usually devoted to different kinds of Reese’s products, which I am grateful for. The most entertaining thing of the America section is definitely some of the names. Want Cool Ranch Doritos? You won’t find them here—they are called “Cool American Flavour.” I highly recommend visiting the candy shops here whether it is to stock up on your favorite Swedish and American snacks or even if its just to see what Swedish people think of American junk food.