De Berk à Bord – A Bordeaux Blog


Alison is a UC student whose Bordeaux blog, De Berk à Bord, was featured on UCEAP’s Bordeaux program page. We were totally entranced by the food, natural imagery, and adorable friendship stories Alison shared. We hope you enjoy them too!

Some of our favorite images are featured below. Be sure to follow Alison’s adventures at!

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Happy Travels – A Canterbury Blog


Mariya “Masha” Alimova is a junior UCSC psychology student currently studying abroad at in the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Her blog, Happy Travels, features alluring photographs of her adventures through Europe, along with some great insights into pubs, castles and other local attractions. I personally enjoy that each entry is addressed “Dear Blog…” and that the posts are named in same manner as Friends episodes (i.e. “The One With the Planes“).

Masha chose to study abroad in the UK because she had always wanted to go there. She thought living and studying in Canterbury would be much more rewarding than just visiting for a week or so. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new places like Paris, London and Scotland.

This week we featured her post, “The One About My Home,” below. Check out more of her Canterbury tales (haha) at

The One About My Home


Dear Blog,

I’ve been in Canterbury for almost a week and I finally have a second to calm down. I finally got to get out and explore the town and have some fully awake downtime and realize just how unbelievable lucky I am to be here. I am among so much history and beauty and everything I could ever want. It’s unbelievable that I haven’t had any time to take in all in. Everything has been so crazy! It’s like freshmen year all over again except for being completely on my own and instead of being 350 miles away from home, I’m 5,500 miles away. If it wasn’t so beautiful here, I might even think about fact that more. As it is, Canterbury is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in. It’s a bizarre mix of medieval and modern. The school itself is very new, everything is electronic and opens with a fob key. Everything is automatic (except ALL the cars which are stick-shifts). You can’t even exit my building without pressing a button. It’s a little insane and too futuristic. And it makes me terrified about power outages. But as soon as you leave the school everything looks different. The city is filled with castles and cathedrals and the views are absolutely brilliant. Rivers run through the entire city and everything looks old, possibly because it is. For example, one of the oldest pubs in the city is called The Unicorn Inn, and it was built in 1593 in 35th year of Elizabeth I. Everything is also TINY. The streets are narrow and the cars are smaller, except for the GIANT double-decker busses which make me terrified for my life. Even things you buy are smaller, from bread to shampoo. It’s not giant and bulky like it is in America. It’s meant to serve one person rather than a family of 5, which is how it seems to be in the US. It reduces a lot of waste.

I’ve met so many interesting people since I got here. The international community here is HUGE! 25% of the entire student population, which is about 17,000 people. I’ve definitely met more international students that those native to the UK. I met people from France, India, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Peru, South Africa, Nigeria and so many others. I live with girls from Cyprus, Florence, Hong Kong, Leeds (originally from Zimbabwe), Kent, and guys from Canada and London. We are certainly diverse.

My accommodation is really nice in general, I have my own (fairly large) room, but so does everyone else, so it’s not special. The nice part is that I have an en-suite bathroom, which is a dream come true.

This first week has been NUTS. The first week of term is called Freshers week, so there are parties EVERYWHERE and it’s getting exhausting so I’ve stayed in the last two nights.There are pub crawls almost every night and the people here don’t take a break. Also, a PINT of beer here is 16oz in the US and 20oz in UK. So it’s MUCH bigger. It’s also cheaper. Basically, the whole drinking culture is very intimidating.

Well, I’m off to the pub, so wish me luck!


Masha x

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Lauren Loves Noodles – A Hong Kong Blog


Lauren Kincaid-Filbey is a fourth year UCSC film and digital media student who studied abroad at The University of Hong Kong in Spring 2013. She chose Hong Kong because it was affordable, fairly Western (therefore, a little less scary for a first time traveler), and had great cinema studies courses! Hong Kong University is one of the most prestigious schools in Asia, and the program boasts a wide array of classes for every major. Lauren’s blog features Hong Kong festivals, daily life in the dorms, and her travels through Southeast Asia.

One of Lauren’s most helpful posts for prospective study abroad students is her 8 Things to Know About HKU, featured below. If you’d like to see more, visit her blog at

8 Things to Know About HKU

My journey through Hong Kong is almost to a close and I feel as if I’ve really gotten to know the area.  It’s incredibly safe, pretty affordable (if you don’t shop at Cartier/like eating noodles) and it’s easy to navigate for English speakers and Canto speakers alike. I am so happy I chose this destination because it’s wasn’t too intimidating for me as a first time traveler, yet it put me into situations where I had to try new things and be slightly uncomfortable, which made me grow up a little bit. Until you have to ask other people in line at the grocery store why the lady at the cash register is yelling at you, you’re not a real HK education abroad student. It’s safe to say that anything can happen in a place where you don’t speak the language, and being okay with that is probably one of the best lessons I’ve learned in Hong Kong. Ditch the fear and anxiety! Take control of your situation, even if it’s awkward and you have to use hand gestures!

For any folks who are thinking about studying abroad, I realize I’ve barely talked about the university that I’ve come to know and love! This is especially dumb of me, because the whole reason I created this blog was to show other undergraduates who were interested in education abroad in Hong Kong exactly what was going on, and essentially it became a bit more like a travel diary. No matter! I had to put those photos somewhere…

So! Hong Kong University! What’s up with that? Well, not to brag, buuut HKU is the top university in Asia and apparently, the 16th best university in the world. The students here are incredibly friendly, the classes are engaging and the teachers really love to see their pupils succeed. I thought the campus was beautiful (especially Centennial Campus, which was just built recently and the modern architecture is unlike anything I’ve ever seen!) and though it’s fairly difficult to find your way around at first, people are always willing to help out!

Here are a few fun facts that I wish I had known before studying abroad at HKU.

1. Starbucks has student discounts.

Seriously, try their creamy tea lattes…

So maybe it’s silly to start this list here, but when really thinking about it, this was the main source of my joy/money issues. Hong Kong University has two on-campus Starbucks locations. And both of them give you a discount. For example, my favorite, the matcha green tea latte is 28 HKD normally. With the student discount, it’s 19.5 HKD. If you bring your own tumbler, it’s 16 HKD. That is 2 US dollars for a Starbucks drink. Do not tell me that’s not incredible. They also have a special deal where you can add a muffin to your drink order for an extra 10 HKD (1.50 USD)! For me, this was awesome.

2. Choosing your faculty is important.

Main Building

When you are accepted to HKU, you have to start apply to a faculty and then to a major within that faculty. As a film student back in UCSC, I applied to the Arts Faculty. However, it’s important to note that there is no film program at HKU. “What?” you ask, “No film program? That makes no sense!” Ah, but there are film courses within other majors, and for my film degree, I only need two upper division film electives to transfer. So, I looked through all the faculties and majors, chose one that had numerous film courses (Comparative Literature), and applied to that. Since you have to get approved for courses here, and three of the five have to be in your faculty, it’s important to choose a faculty that has a lot of courses you are interested in/transfer back home. This sounds complicated, but they make it easy for you. Just remember, choose a faculty with classes you want to take! It’s important!

3. They offer great Mandarin and Cantonese classes for foreigners here.

Centennial Campus
Everyone speaks Cantonese in Hong Kong, but most people also speak some Mandarin and some English. So if you speak any of these languages, you’ll be fine around town. However, taking a Cantonese class was one of the most rewarding parts of being in Hong Kong. I was able to converse with locals (kind of) and we had awesome field trips to HK style cafes, dim sum restaurants and one day my teacher brought in egg tarts! During the lecture! For everyone! It was so great! If you can get into one of Chow Bun Ching’s classes, you’re set. She’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and she literally wrote the book on Hong Kong Cantonese. Some of my friends chose to take Mandarin because they can continue their studies at their home uni, but honestly, I felt more excited about using these skills now rather than continuing them later. Either way, take a language!

4. It’s helpful to ask other students about the classes they’re taking.

In front of Run Run Shaw Building

When I arrived at HKU, I was planning to take a documentary film appreciation course and a film/television production course, both of which were considered Journalism courses rather than Comparative Literature courses. Even though I applied for these classes way in advance, because they were outside my faculty, I wasn’t approved for either one. As a result, I had to scramble a bit to find some classes that worked in my schedule. When I spoke to other arts students, they all told me about interesting classes they were taking and I tried a few out. At the end of each one, I would go up to the professor, tell them I was really interested in the material and that I was an exchange student from California. Surprisingly, this got me into a couple of classes that I might have not been able to take otherwise!

5. The first two weeks of school are called the add/drop period for a reason.

Main Building Second Floor

At HKU, you have to be approved for courses. It’s not first come, first served, so there’s always a chance you won’t be accepted into your top choices. You find out within the first two weeks whether or  not you got in, and until you know, you’re not locked into any courses. I repeat. You are not locked into any courses. You can take anything you like, try it all out, see what fits you! I understand this is pretty uncomfortable for UC kids, since crashing and switching around your schedule once the quarter has started always feels a bit weird, but at HKU It’s always better to take a few random courses you may or may not be super serious about.  You don’t want to be stuck with too few approved classes at the very last minute!

6. The second semester is chock full of vacation time.

Main Building

Don’t spend all your money at the racetrack! The best part of studying abroad for me was definitely taking trips to Southeast Asia with my friends and the second semester at HKU gives you plenty of opportunities to do so. From a day off to a week off, we had time during Chinese New Year, Reading Week, Easter Break, Ching Ming Festival and Labor Day to do anything and everything. It’s pretty much the best thing an exchange student could ask for.

7. Finals week is a whole month long.

Chi Wah Learning Commons

Don’t start hyperventilating quite yet! Yes, finals week takes forever, but it gives you extra time to study and (if you have money after all those vacations) travel! As an arts student, I didn’t even have any final exams, just final papers, and as a result my semester ended as early as May 13th! One of my friends went back to his home country on May 4th! Your semester can be as long or as short as you want/your finals will allow.

8. HKU has an awesome location.

In front of Bijas Vegetarian Restaurant

Right in the heart of Hong Kong Island, you can really go anywhere in Hong Kong from HKU in less than an hour and a half. There are a couple of other universities here (CUHK, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Polytechnic), but I would say that HKU is far more geographically convenient. And it’s also, you know, amazing and wonderful.

Study abroad in Hong Kong. Seriously. Just do it.
Those are a few of my best tips/things to know if you’re interested in studying abroad at HKU. I hope you consider this destination because it really has been an amazing experience for me and I would recommend it to any potential exchange student, especially if you want to live in a city, love business, finance or kung fu movies, or if you are interested in Asian culture. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at I’ll tell you everything and anything I know!

Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Adventures – A Costa Rica Blog


Chad Oliver is a UCSC student currently studying abroad in Costa Rica, at the Monteverde Institute Tropical Biology and Conservation Program. Luckily for us back in Santa Cruz, Chad’s been documenting his adventures from the beginning, featuring animals, plant life and every exciting moment on his adventure (thus, the aptly named blog, “Adventures“). The program is known for being physically strenuous, with students lodging at field stations and backpacking as part of the curriculum. Outdoor instruction is the norm, and students will visit marine habitats, lowland environments and, of course, wet and dry forests.

Chad’s photography perfectly captures the incredible opportunities this program provides. Check out some of our favorites below!








Check out Chad’s blog at or drop by the UCSC International Education Office to find more information on how you can have your own Costa Rican adventure.

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Where the Locals At?: How to Meet Locals Abroad

Melibee Global has developed a new “How to Meet People Abroad” series on their website. For students who are looking to expand their friend groups abroad, this is a great way to find out how to get in with the local crowd.

Currently we have EAP Programs in Dublin, Paris and London, so for those of you going abroad in January, this could be a great resource. Or, if you’re going to be traveling in any of these cities, be sure to take a quick glance at their guide before getting on the plane. It could save you from an awkward interaction upon arrival.

Dublin, Ireland<>
London, England<>
Rabat, Morocco<>
Córdoba, Argentina<>
Paris, France<>
Beirut, Lebanon<>
Lake Yojoa, Honduras<>
Sofia, Bulgaria<>

Be sure to check out the Melibee Global website on the 15th of each month to see which cities they write about next! Mingling with locals is half the fun of studying abroad, so be sure to make friends with as many international and local students as possible!

Featured Program: Argentina


Land of the Tango, Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world, and one of the most popular destinations in Latin America. From the lively cafes of Buenos Aires to the natural delights of waterfalls and glaciers, Argentina has something for everyone.



If you’re a UC student, UCEAP has some great options for studying in Argentina. The Intensive Spanish Language Program at the University of Belgrano allows students of all language levels to learn and practice their Spanish in the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires. This is a great opportunity for students who have always wanted to learn Spanish, or have taken only a few quarters and want a more immersive experience. Flip your world upside down, Spanish students!

Get it? Because you’ll be in South America. Jokes.


For those of you who aren’t interested in studying in Spanish, another great option is the Latin American Studies program at the National University of Tres de Frebrero, where students can spend the summer learning about such subjects as Human Rights,  Argentine culture and history and Tango. This university is also in Buenos Aires, where you can experience cafes, museums and cinemas to supplement your Latin American curriculum.


Of course, UC students visiting Argentina should also take trips to visit such natural wonders as Iguazu falls, the Perito Moreno glacier and the beauty of El Chaltén village. There is so much to see and do in this fascinating country.

If you’d like to learn more about studying in Argentina, drop by the UCSC International Education Office in Classroom Unit Room 101. We’re open Monday-Thursday, 9-12 and 1-4, and we have peer advisors who would love to chat about your travel plans! 

Meet Spain Returnee, Eric Gutierrez


Eric Gutierrez is a fourth year UCSC history and latin american studies major who spent his 2013 Spring semester abroad at the University of Barcelona. Eric managed to stay in Europe for 10 months, and visit over 14 countries during his study abroad experience. Eric spends his time studying Spanish and History, dreaming about traveling, and wishing he was back in Spain. We asked him a few questions about his study abroad experience.

Q: What was the hardest part about moving to Spain?

Oh, okay so the hardest part of moving to Spain was adapting to their meal times and different meal portions. I was used to an American breakfast with pancakes, and eggs, and bacon, and toast… In Spain, the typical breakfast is a cup of coffee or orange juice. And a tiny muffin. Like A TINY MUFFIN. Also, dinnertime was around 9pm. And that was the hardest part.


Q: What’s one activity every student who studies in Barcelona should make sure to do?

Walk around the different neighborhoods in Barcelona. Every neighborhood is very different, for example, Gracia is a youthful, hip, and fairly new district, with great cafes and bars. This is were you will also find some of Gaudi’s artwork. L’eixample is where all the people who are native to Barcelona reside, where you can find cheap restaurants and the main street in Barcelona, Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes. The Gothic district is where you will find some ruins, amazing architecture.


Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?

At the end of my abroad experience, I traveled alone to Budapest, Hungry. I was afraid of traveling alone at first, but once I arrived in Budapest I was determined to make this 3-day trip worthwhile. After only being in Budapest for a couple of hours, I met a guy from the Netherlands who was also traveling alone. We became buddies and spent both of the days touring the city, eating meals together and going to the famous baths. The second night we went out to some local bars were we met some Australians and British travelers who were about my age. After hanging out for a whole night we exchanged contact information and hung out out my last night in Budapest. During my last night, I was having an AMAZING time in Budapest that I decided to stay with my new Australian and British friends after they convinced me to go with them to Sziget Music Festival- one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. My fourth day in Budapest was EPIC! I went with my new friends to a music festival…I LOVE MUSIC FESTIVALS. We raged so hard to Dizzee Rascal, Nero, Nicky Romero, Regina Spektor and Chuckie. After a whole day/night of partying with my new friends, it was time to say goodbye because I had to rush to my hostel to shower and rush over to catch a 7am train to Vienna. Budapest by far was a city that will hold a special place in my heart! I miss my Australian, British and Dutch friends!


Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to study in Barcelona?

I would say, do research in regards to the politics of Catalonia, which is one of the seventeen autonomous communities in Spain. People in Barcelona will usually consider themselves Catalan and it helps if you know about their history because they will essentially be more welcoming. Also, if possible, you might want to learn some Catalan before you go.

There is never a dull moment in Spain. Take every second in your abroad experience to explore the city and while you are abroad in Barcelona try to speak Spanish. It will help you become friends with the locals and meet new people. Also, be outgoing! Barcelona is an international city and the best way of meeting these international people is to be outgoing and start a conversation whenever possible.


Q: Why would you recommend Spain to prospective students looking to study abroad?

Because Spain is a beautiful country! It has a lot of history, art museums. The architecture is amazing! The nightlife is one of the best in all of Europe. You will fall in love with tapas and sangria. You’ll enjoy all the art you’ll come across, such as Gaudi and Goya. Spain is an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL country! It will change your life.

Eric Gutierrez is also a peer advisor at the UCSC International Education Office. If you’d like to chat with him more about his experience, come visit our office in the Classroom Unit Building during our drop in hours (Monday-Thursday, 9-12 & 1-4). 

Meet St. Petersburg Returnee, Katie Rees


Katie Rees is a fourth year UCSC linguistics student who spent her junior year abroad at St. Petersburg State University. Besides her interest in travel, Katie also is passionate about dance (performing with Rocky Horror, UCSC’s Tangroupe (Tango team) and Cabaret group, Guerilla Dance and UCSC’s Ballroom Team) . In Russia, she also practiced dance, spoke on television twice, and traveled to Moscow, the Ukraine and other cities.  She’s currently taking Chinese classes, and is interested in spending time in China before returning to Russia. We asked her a few questions about her study abroad experience.

Q: What was the hardest part about moving to Russia?

The hardest (and best) part about studying in Russia is that no one speaks English there. I had studied Russian for two years before leaving, so I guess I was forced to practice my Russian and there was no cushion if I couldn’t remember a word.


Q: Why would you recommend Russia to prospective students looking to study abroad?

Oh man, it depends on your hobbies. If you’re interested in ballroom dance (like I am), then it’s absolutely a great destination. There’s a reason all professional ballroom dancers are Russian. Dance schools are intensive and they have world champion teachers teaching for ten dollars an hour!

Also, if you want to be hired to teach English without any experience, they will hire you over the phone. I was a substitute English teacher in a private children’s foreign language school. I got hired multiple times to do this kind of thing. I even got offered full time jobs and was asked to join teacher’s unions.


Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from your study abroad experience?

A lot of them revolve around teaching English. I taught English weekly in a high school and I got to watch the Russian school assemblies. Before meeting me, many Russians had never met a foreigner before. People were usually really excited to meet me.


Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to students looking to study in St. Petersburg?

Even if you’re feeling culture shocked, or if you find the dark nights depressing, I always tell people not to go right home after classes but instead explore the city. Meet friends, do things. It might seem sad that it’s dark outside at 3pm, but it’s even more depressing to go home and sulk (don’t worry, it stays light until midnight by the end of the school year).

Katie Rees is also a peer advisor at the UCSC International Education Office. If you’d like to chat with her more about her experience, come visit our office in the Classroom Unit Building during our drop in hours (Monday-Thursday, 9-12 & 1-4). 

Featured Program: Indonesia

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, is the largest archipelago in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The country is known as “Wonderful Indonesia,” and for good reason. Travelers come from all over to experience the varied island cultures and beautiful tropical forests. Bali, Java and Borneo (home of the orangutan) are always incredible and popular places to travel.

When you study abroad in Indonesia through UCEAP, you’ll experience contemporary Indonesian culture in the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java. The city is known for gamelan music, shadow puppetry, the governor’s palace, mosques and temples, and the community is renowned for arts, culture, and education.




Indonesia - Java - Yogyakarta - Kraton (Kraton Ngayogyakarta Had

One of our peer advisors says this about Indonesia: When I studied abroad in Hong Kong, many of my friends traveled to Bali, Java and Borneo during our Chinese New Year vacation. All of those who visited told me that Indonesia was the most beautiful place they visited. The beaches are incredible and it’s really easy for a first time traveler to get around.

Though Indonesia can seem exotic to the first time study abroad student, it’s an incredible location that’s easily accessible. Check out the UCEAP program page for more information:

Adventure is out there!

Ask Our Peer Advisors!

Tuesdays are a time of reflection for all of us at the International Education Office. Fondly remembering those days at caa caa teng eating Hong Kong french toast, or the humid Spanish nights eating fried chipirones and paella with a glass of red wine (basically eating anything at all abroad), we peer advisors look for any excuse to reminisce about our glory days abroad.

This Tuesday, we ask the peer advisors to let us know why they think students should study abroad. See what they said!

Lauren (Hong Kong): Though the actual coursework was great, the real value of studying abroad  was getting out of my California comfort zone and feeling like I could thrive in an environment that was completely foreign to me. Also the food was awesome.

Eric (Spain): It’s just the best decision you can make as an undergraduate. It really is though. I learned so much from not actually being at UCSC, but just being somewhere new. I also got the opportunity to visit 14 different countries outside of Spain.

Hilary (New Zealand): I got to check life goals off a list I didn’t even have. Like I saw penguins and touched an octopus. Bazinga!

Jasmine (Spain): Studying abroad will always remain an integral part of who I am. It has helped me become more of a global citizen, more aware of the surrounding world.

Katie (Russia): You should definitely experience being a foreigner. Yeah, I loved it.

You can study abroad too! Come to our office hours Monday-Thursday 9-11 & 1-4 in the Classroom Unit Building Room 101. We’d love to chat with you more about our experiences and help you plan yours!