Lauren’s Madrid Routine: A Day in the Life

I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain through a Global Seminar during the summer of 2019. Quickly, I had to adjust to new customs within my routine, for example, menu del dias and siestas. A typical day would be waking up and getting ready to leave our apartment around 9:30. I would walk to the Canal stop and get off at stop Sevilla and a short walk to our building. I usually had a granola bar to eat on the subway for breakfast. Class was from 10 to 2. We were given a short break at 12 and able to go down to a local market for a snack or breakfast. I always got napolitanas from the local market, which is a very popular chocolate pastry. Once we finished class, my friends and I would go get menu del dia at local restaurants. In Spain, it is normal to have a three-course meal for lunch for around 12.10 euros. The first menu del dia was very hard to adjust to. My favorite meal would have to be paella! I was very thankful for how much walking we had to do throughout the day.

Paella! Madrid, Spain, 2019

Siesta would take place from 2 to 4, where after lunch most people tend to go back home for a quick nap. Most shops would close during this time, then resume their day after their nap. My friends and I would have to go meet up with the class to go to our next excursion from 4 to around 6. We would be dismissed and return back to our apartment. During this time, I either did some homework or just relaxed. Dinner was around 9 and dinner tends to be small appetizers, also known as tapas. My favorite tapas would have to be patatas bravas. Then, the sun would finally set around 10PM. This was a typical day in Madrid for me! 

Madrid sunset at 10 pm, Spain, 2019

Khaila’s Spotlight: Spicing Up The Summer

If I had to pick one thing I missed most about studying abroad, it would be the food. Don’t get me wrong, San Diego isn’t a bad spot to be for excellent food, especially excellent Mexican food, but the salsa game in Puerto Escondido blows San Diego out of the water.

Every restaurant had their own take on the tasty pre-meal snack and it was one of my favorite things about exploring new places to eat. My favorite restaurant was decided purely on the fact that their salsa was incredible. First of all the dish they served it in the cutest and coolest wooden container that had three separate areas for the three different salsas. They ranged in spice level and complex rich flavor that were delicious on their own or paired together. For real, I think about this salsa every single day and miss her dearly.

Khaila’s favorite salsa, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, 2019

It really was the most phenomenal thing I ate my entire time abroad and I have yet to encounter something that matches the smokey deliciousness (the orange one man, *chefs kiss*).

Nathaniel’s Tidbit: The Purr-fect Friends in Iceland

If you follow any travel or nature Instagram account, you’ll probably notice Iceland makes up more of their photo feed than any other country. From their great fjords to their black beaches, Iceland is renown for their beautiful photo-ops and serene wilderness. That being said it’s always nice to learn little tidbits about the overlooked culture of the Icelandic people.

According to 2019’s happiness annex report, the top 7 spots for the happiest countries are filled by Scandinavian nations, with Iceland at #4. So it’s no surprise to know they are very friendly and happy people. It may be because of their friendliness, their Atlantic fish diets, or even their amazing mochas; but the cats that inhabit Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, are prolific in numbers and equally as friendly.

There’s an ongoing joke suggesting that the cats of Reykjavik secretly run the city. You’ll even find that joke on hokey souvenir mugs and shirts. The best part is, stray cats aren’t even really stray, they’re more liberated than anything. They frequent parks and restaurants where locals are more than happy to play with them or feed them. It’s as if there’s an unwritten, unspoken loose ownership or adoption; they’re community cats. You won’t find a single “stray” skinny or unfed. Additionally, they’ve got voluminous manes, shimmering and clean; better coats than any house cat here. And there are so many of them, they even have an Instagram account dedicated to the cats of Reykjavik @reykjavikcats. Some honorable mentions I’ve come across my experience abroad are Petur (the chonker happy to pet), and Rosalind (the one that doesn’t look too happy to see me). Fortunately, we left on good terms.

Petur, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2019
Rosalind, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2019

Tiffany’s View From Above: Falling Sky-High

Tiffany wondering what in the world happened in the past 4 hours, Wanaka, New Zealand, 2018

4 hours before (one supposedly lazy afternoon in October 2018): My three friends and I walked into a travel agency hoping to kayak in the serene waters of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. Thirty minutes later, we were running down Shotover Street, saying “oh shoot, oh shoot, oh shoot” while scanning the crowd for our fourth friend who had wandered off to the waterfront.

3 hours before: We had ten minutes to hightail it back to our hostel, change into proper attire, find our wayward friend, and catch the bus that would take us to Skydive Wanaka.

2 hours and 50 minutes before: I spent the one-hour bus ride through the Crown Range from Queenstown to Wanaka silently piecing together the string of events that led up to us spontaneously skydiving:

  1. The travel agent told us that all kayaks were booked for the day.
  2. Upon seeing our disappointed faces, the travel agent asked how extreme we would want our alternative activity to be. We said that we were fine with anything.
  3. The travel agent offered us an unclaimed discount where we would get 3 skydiving spots for the price of two! We leapt at this opportunity, fashioning a story about how my friend won this amazing discount from a dance-off during a pub crawl.
  4. When the travel agent told us that we would be skydiving at 1 pm, we were like “oh yeah, we can make it tomorrow” and she said “no, no, no, it’s…TODAY and the bus is going to be here in ten minutes.”

I still have the 30-second recording of my friends and I telling this story to our very amused bus driver, with our voices filled with disbelief and punctuated with bouts of hysterical laughter.

1 hour and 50 minutes before: My friends and I apprehensively watched another plane take off after going through the orientation. Even the sign on the women’s bathroom door served as a reminder to us about our impending doom, showcasing a “skydiva” symbol. Our names get called and we bid farewell (hopefully not forever) to our fourth friend who promised to take plenty of photos from the ground.

Sometime while up in the sky: The opening photo was snapped right as my tandem skydiving partner and I somersaulted out of the small plane. I was the first to fall because I had lost to my friend in Rock Paper Scissors.

Tiffany’s proud moment–totally worth buying her photos, Wanaka, New Zealand, 2018
Another moment worth paying for: this stunning scenery. Snow-capped mountains, shining lakes and streams, idyllic green plains, and clear blue skies as far as the eye can see, Wanaka, New Zealand, 2018

0 hours and 0 minutes before: Touchdown! When I glanced up at the sky, I spotted my friends lazily spiraling towards me in their parachutes. For the four of us, this four-hour whirlwind of events was certainly a nice flig—ahem, free fall, but it was an even better story to share with our friends and families back home. After all, borrowing the bungy jumping AJ Hackett’s motto: it’s “Crazy if you do it, crazy if you don’t.”

Jackie’s Spotlight: Finding Comfort Food Outside Her Comfort Zone

From Sundubu JJigae to Dak Galbi to Bibimbap, Korea has a wide variety of delicious foods that I was lucky to be able to try in the country where it originated. My favorite food to eat on a daily basis was Sundubu JJigae, which was Soft Tofu Stew. It was often served with a bowl of rice and many many different kinds of sides and sometimes even eggs that you can break into the strew. Although many delicious foods were served in the campus cafeteria and off-campus, I often picked soft tofu stew because it was mildly spicy, but really tasty and suited to my comfort.

Bibimbap with delicious banchan, Jeonju, South Korea, 2019

Studying abroad brought many challenges I had to get used to and that included finding what I would eat on a daily basis, but I always told myself that it didn’t hurt to try new things. Being in Korea allowed me to discover what more there was outside of what I was used to. Little by little I adjusted to trying all kinds of dishes and sides I’ve never tried, and before I knew it, I discovered how delicious everything really was! This taught me to not be afraid to try new things and not to expect the worst, because chances are none of that was ever true. The more I dived deep into my study abroad experience, the more I learned how Korea really places an emphasis on their food culture. From restaurants to street food to specialized foods in different districts, Korea always gave me a reason to continue to explore. If I could return to Korea one day, having a meal there would definitely be one of my first adventures!

Jackie enjoying a meal, Seoul, South Korea, 2019

Elakya’s Summer Surprise: Up, Up, and Away!

My time abroad during summer of 2017 was in Costa Rica, which was an amazing, beautiful place, where I learned a lot about the world, but also where I learned about myself. Something unexpected that I learned there that has definitely shaped who I am now is when I accidentally found out about my fear of heights. Up until that point, I had never actually been in a situation where I was in danger of falling from a great height, so I had lived my life really never thinking about heights and amusing myself listening to people who said things like they were scared of the dark, or heights, or spiders. 

However, one of the excursions I had planned in Costa Rica was a large ziplining trip, including the longest zipline in South America, which was almost a mile long by itself. It soared over the canopies of the forest, with the tops of the trees seeming like tiny broccoli heads when one looked down. At first, I was excited, and the smaller sections of ziplining were quite fun. In the smaller sections, we ziplined like people do in the movies, where they’re basically sitting in the air and attached by a vertical hook. As the sections got longer, I started to get a little bit more apprehensive, especially the longer that we were above the expanse. I tried to convince myself it was just because I was inexperienced with ziplining, but as time went on, I started to realize it was the sheer height that was beginning to scare me. 

The view from the zipline, Costa Rica, 2017

Finally, the last leg of the trip was the longest zipline, and only after I reached it, I learned that we would have to zipline across completely parallel to the ground, with our arms and legs outstretched, facing down, as if we were superman. I was quite scared, but, at that point, I felt like it was too late to back out. I was unnaturally quiet as they buckled me up, and then suddenly, they pushed me off. It was incredible to see the large canopy, but as a few seconds went by, I realized the hook on my lower half of the body was loose. I felt my body slowly start to slide out of part of the harness, and especially at that height, I started completely freaking out. I still had about a minute left in the section, and I was convinced I would fall out before I could make it across. I started imagining newspaper headlines about the college student that had plummeted to her death on an innocent ziplining tour, and started crying.  I obviously ended up reaching the other end safely, as all the people preparing us for the ziplines were certified professionals and I had just been overreacting. I did end up getting some funny pictures of my crying on the zipline, and I also learned that I should just probably avoid heights in the future, so it was overall a great experience. 

Elakya realizing her fear of heights, Costa Rica, 2017

Kaylee’s Spotlight: Breaking Bread in Berlin

I Studied Abroad for 5 weeks in the summer of 2019 in Berlin, Germany, through a Global Seminar. I stayed in the district of Charlottenburg, and across the street from my hotel there was a German bakery. This bakery’s name was Zeit Für Brot (or Time for bread in English) and it was a must-stop on those early mornings I spent exploring the city. Their sweet buns were the perfect morning treat for slower days, croissants easy to eat before heading to class, and it was a quick stop in to grab a sandwich after class. I spent many mornings sitting outside writing in my journal reflecting on the day before and the day ahead. By the end of my stay in Berlin, I felt at home at Zeit Für Brot as it became an important piece of my study abroad experience. 

Zeit Für Brot’s Exterior, Berlin, Germany, 2019
Pastries from Zeit Für Brot, Berlin, Germany, 2019

Another place that I found myself drawn back to again and again was Lon Men’s Noodle House. After reading plenty of good things about this Taiwanese restaurant online, I came in with high expectations and an empty belly. Those high expectations were exceeded and this quickly became one of my favorite restaurants in Berlin. This is a place that I would recommend everyone go to because whatever you order will be amazing.

Lon Men’s Noodle House, Berlin, Germany, 2019

As a whole, I feel like food is such an important part of any experience abroad. As any foodie would say, good food can shape your experience when traveling for the best. Everywhere I went, the food in many ways reflected the culture of that area and with Berlin being such an international city, I never tired of searching for new things to try. 

So go abroad and EAT.

Rachel’s Life Lesson: Changes Come Wherever You Go

I studied abroad in Beijing at Peking University through UCEAP in Fall 2017, and something that surprised me when I arrived in Beijing and then also when I left to go back to the U.S. was the culture shock I experienced. 

When I arrived in Beijing, I realized that I was having a hard time adjusting to everyday life there. Everything about my everyday life there was vastly different from my everyday life back at UCSD. Although I was expecting to experience lots of change, I really didn’t know what to expect about what the culture would be like and how I would adjust to it. In order to adjust to the lifestyle and overcome my culture shock, I decided to learn as much about everyday life as possible and integrate myself into society to the best of my ability. I began to use Chinese apps rather than American apps on my phone for things like maps, I changed my messaging apps to Chinese language rather than English, and I tried to talk to as many locals as I could. Working to experience the lifestyle and culture significantly helped me adjust, and within the first month of my program, I fell in love with Beijing, Beijing lifestyle, Chinese culture, and everything else about my study abroad experience.

Rachel and her new friends at the Summer Palace, Beijing, China, 2017
Rachel at the Summer Palace, Beijing, 2017

The other surprising thing to me was what I felt when I came back to UCSD after living in Beijing and studying at Peking University for four months. I truly did experience reverse culture shock, which was very different from the culture shock that I experienced when I had first arrived in Beijing. Everything back at UCSD felt both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It felt the same as when I had left, but I personally had changed so much because of my truly life-changing study abroad experience. I wasn’t prepared for returning back home and what the adjustment would be like, and I missed China and my lifestyle in Beijing immensely. When I came back, I surrounded myself with friends and family and tried to do as much at UCSD as I could, to once again get used to my new lifestyle.

The most surprising thing about my culture shock experiences was that I wasn’t expecting them. Having traveled out of the country before, I thought I would be able to adjust quickly. But I wasn’t as resilient as I thought I was and had to put significant effort into adjusting by getting used to the changed lifestyle and doing other things to help such as journaling, both about my experiences in China and about my experiences returning back home. Taking the time to reflect on why I felt certain ways with the major changes that came during this span of four months was extremely helpful, and it is now a lesson I take with me wherever I go.

Nathaniel’s Spotlight: Summer in a Scandinavian Winter Wonderland

Iceland is beautiful; “the land of fire and ice” as our geology professor reluctantly put it. We’ve all seen photos of their black beaches, bright blue geysers, and their rolling green hills. It’s a land close enough to the north pole to house some of the most renowned glaciers while sporting a quirky Scandinavian winter wonderland magic year-round. Yet plumes of magma underneath render it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. It wasn’t until setting foot on the land of fire and ice, when I took a Global Seminar during the summer of 2019, that I truly witnessed how outlandish and alien this country was. As the only non-stem major on the trip, I was not only fascinated by the geological splendor, but also took a great interest in the culture.

Nathaniel with a local cat, Iceland, 2019

Nature-wise, my favorite experience was when a handful of us decided to bust a weekend mission. We took about an hour and a half bus-ride through green and black lands that looked like matcha-coated oreo crumble to a town that felt like a ghost town. Then we took an hour’s walk to the head of a hiking trail. The trail held beautiful views of rivers, landscapes, horses, and steep slopes. And at the end of the trail, was a natural hot-spring river, where we didn’t realize the further upstream, the hotter the water, so we quickly slipped back downstream with our lobstered skin.

Nathaniel appreciating the geological splendor, Iceland, 2019

Iceland truly is a majestic island of geological phenomena. But the Icelandic people are just as amazing. They are some of the sweetest people I have met; and it’s a genuine friendliness, not the U.S. fake-friendly. Where they lack in cuisine, they make up for in hole-in-the-wall fish ‘n chips and underground coffee shops. Their swiss-mochas alone are reason enough to go back.

I made a friend with a local out there, her name was Guðrún. It took about a week for me to recover from the jetlag, and it didn’t help that the sun literally never set (during the summer, they get 24/7 sunlight) the closest we’d get to night was a sunset and blackout curtains. But around 1 in the morning Guðrún picked me up and she drove me around, giving me a local’s tour. Later I got to meet her cat, Pétur, and she showed me a traditional Icelandic wool sweater she was knitting. It’s not uncommon for locals to knit their own sweaters.

Guðrún’s cat, Iceland, 2019

I was overcome by homesickness after about the 3rd or 4th week; which is ridiculous because after a couple of days of being back home in Orange County, I began to really miss Iceland. I’ll be back one day, during the winter though, for the aurora borealis and swiss mochas.

Khaila’s Fun in the Sun: Laguna Chacahua

In Summer 2019 I had the privilege of studying abroad in Puerto Escondido, Mexico which is in the state of Oaxaca. My trip was short (only four weeks!), but I managed to stay busy between clinical rotations, Spanish classes, dance lessons, and eating my way through the town. While every day certainly felt like an adventure, my favorite and only excursion was to Laguna Chacahua.

Khaila holding the smallest little baby crocodile, Laguna Chacahua, Mexico, 2019

Laguna Chacahua is a beautiful lagoon about 50 minutes north of Puerto and full of life. After arriving at the dock, my group was given a tour of the lagoon on a boat which included learning about the wildlife and the community of people who live in the islands of the lagoon. Eventually, we made our way to a crocodile sanctuary where we got to see crocodiles a little bigger than a water bottle to upwards of 20 feet long. Following that we had lunch at a small restaurant on the beach where they cooked delicious fresh-caught fish with fixings to build your own taco and we were able to swim near where the lagoon meets the sea. We spent a lot of time swimming, exploring on our own, and waiting for sunset so we could see the water light up with bioluminescence. The bioluminescence was incredibly cool and swimming under the moonlight in the warm lagoon water with my friends is one of my fondest memories from the trip.

Khaila with her new friends (from left to right) Jessie and Jordan and her partner Ashley on the beach where they had lunch, Laguna Chacahua, Mexico, 2019

To end a beautiful and fun day we rode back to the dock, eating fresh mango along the way and reflecting on our favorite parts of the day. If you ever find yourself in Puerto I highly recommend taking the trip up to Chacahua and experiencing the beauty for yourself.

Sunset in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, 2019