Queen Mary Economics with a Year Abroad student, and Turing Scheme grant recipient, Jasmine Kaur offers some insight and handy tips for those looking to study abroad at UCLA.
Before I began the exchange, I thought academically that UCLA would be very similar to Queen Mary in terms of their system. Queen Mary has two academic semesters whereas UCLA has three academic quarters. In terms of final exams, this meant that UCLA had three final exam periods in comparison to Queen Mary’s two examination periods. When I began UCLA, I realised they put a great deal of focus on participation in their classes and it could make up a significant portion of your final grade. I study Economics but at UCLA, I only had to pick one Economics module per quarter and the other two courses each quarter could be from any other school I wanted. I would say that this was one of benefits of studying abroad as you have more academic freedom to explore different courses. For example, I ended up taking a Communications class which I felt improved my public speaking skills and a Psychiatry class which taught me about mental health. One thing I recognised is how important traditions are at UCLA and in US universities in general. For instance, there is a midnight yell each night in finals week to let out the stress from exams.
Campus and Housing
The UCLA campus is stunning and has so many facilities. Janss steps was one of the best places on campus for me as it had an incredible view where you could sit on the grass and watch the sunset. It is a go-to spot for many students on sunny days. Other cool places on campus for me included Pauley Pavilion, which is where UCLA basketball games were held, and this arena seated nearly 14,000 spectators. Watching a UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl stadium was another highlight for me. Sports is a huge deal at UCLA, and I would recommend attending some games as they are a great way to get involved in the university spirit. A tip for future exchange students would be to not purchase the Den Pass which is
a season pass for all UCLA football and basketball games. The reason I say this is because most exchange students who ended up buying one didn’t get as much use out of it to justify the price as typically, they were out on game days exploring LA or even California. A hidden gem on campus was the planetarium.
I lived on campus in an area called Sunset Village and had a meal plan. The area where the residential buildings and dining halls are located is called the “The Hill”. “The Hill” is a short walking distance from campus. A tip for exchange students would be to try and get on-campus accommodation as then you have access to the study lounges in these buildings especially when study spots such as Powell Library or Kerckhoff Hall get too busy. The meal plan is also a major benefit as you have plenty of dining halls to choose from which offer a variety of different cuisines from Italian to Mexican food. If you want even more choice, UCLA has regular food trucks which come by. The Turing grant helped me cover some of the cost of this meal plan which I am grateful for as the meal plan was very convenient. A hidden gem on “The Hill” is Sunset Village Recreation Center where there are swimming pools and volleyball courts.
Leisure and Travel
The university town which is a 10–15-minute walk from campus is called Westwood. This is useful as it has different food options, grocery stores and cinemas. There is also a bar called Roccos in Westwood which is popular among UCLA students on Thursdays. The typical party nights for UCLA students are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays which is when there is usually something going on in Westwood. On the way to Westwood, there is fraternity row. Typical amongst US universities, UCLA also has a sorority row. Bel Air is right outside the UCLA campus, and anyone can walk along the residential streets of Bel Air to see quite impressive views as it is very uphill. This is one thing I would recommend exchange students to explore
since its just outside the campus. Other places I would suggest that future exchange students visit would be Beverly Hills and Santa Monica which are both relatively near the university. The Turing Scheme allowed me to have more financial flexibility to travel to places such as San Francisco, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite which I never thought I would get the chance to see so I am very thankful for this.