Recipes for a Fulfilling Summer

It’s been a while since my last blog post. As I have now begun the latter half of my last quarter at UCSB, I feel it’s time to get off my butt and do something about this heinous crime of neglect. I’ll admit, I have been having an absolutely terrific time at UCSB, and I have numerous mixed feelings about approaching the end of it.

I’m not sure I’m ready to write extensively on all of them (or any of them for that matter…). When I come to terms with it, I’ll be sure to relate them as well as I can. I think any of my readers who are from my home university, and are about to go on the year abroad as well; or are looking into education abroad in general from wherever, the end of your time abroad is an unavoidable prospect. An unpleasant, unavoidable prospect.

By no means should it hang over your head from the get-go, of course. Seizing the opportunities that arise, and creating opportunities for yourself, are far more important. This should not be forgotten when you embark upon a year abroad.

Instead, for the moment, I’d rather talk about how people generally understand that huge block of potential we call the Summer Holidays, back home in the UK. This is because it is something I am also contemplating at this time of the quarter. I don’t know how you all feel, but planning for Summer is a pain. There is always so much you could do, yet those holidays have a habit of just slipping right by you. It’s depressing, but I always feel I could make more of Summer.

Acknowledging that makes me want to rectify this situation for 2013. Therefore, here are two polar opposite ways of approaching the Summer holidays, in recipe form. There are many other recipes out there, and who knows, I may write others if these are successful. Both have their distinctive merits. However, it may well be the case that a fusion of the two would be highly satisfactory too. Bon appetit!

The Solidly Sensible Summer

Ingredients:

  • A hunk of work experience and/or an internship
  • Lashings of reliable income
  • Stacks of savings
  • A couple of CV-enriching strings to your bows

Preparation:

  • Begin seeking employment or other beneficial work experience early, and leave applications to mature very early on, well-ahead of Summer.

Directions:

  • Upon successfully garnering a relevant internship and/or employment, engage with said task enthusiastically and confidently, culminating in a rich, useful experience.
  • If possible, draw income from the sumptuous experience, and place said finances into a secure place, a bank perhaps.
  • Deftly draw the most beneficial of these experiences from the overall whole, and construct into CV-enriching points, ready to add to your future job applications at a later date.
  • Meanwhile, maintain the deposited funds as much as possible during the Summer. Ageing these will be of use to you in the future, when petrol costs keeps rising and you realise numerous other expenditures loom on the horizon: such as books for that final year of university, or your Xbox Live membership which needs renewing in September. Preparedness is next to awesomeness, don’t forget.

Cooking time:

Several hours per day. Generally, work experience and internships will weigh in heavily against your free time. For all of those early Friday mornings at the office, there’s a Student Night at Lola Lo’s on Thursday that may have to be foregone.

Entire cooking process may well take up the entire Summer.

Temperature:

Socially-speaking- Very low to Low at most times. However, bursts of high heat will be required to maintain your sanity, potentially.

Notes:

The dedication and commitment required for this Summer recipe are not inconsiderable. Please do not undertake lightly. However, the end product is a highly rewarding dish, and should not be dismissed lightly.

Credit: http://www.commercekitchen.com/

The Socially Sizzling Summer

Ingredients:

  • Dozens of social events
  • A pile of petrol receipts
  • Numerous nights of debauchery
  • A couple of festivals
  • A large amount of sand
  • A generous overdraft
  • Several television series to catch up on (NB: Brand or type is unimportant here, but this recipe would highly recommend Breaking Bad, The Wire, Homeland, or The Walking dead).
  • A handful of lazy days, filled with very little at all.

Preparation:

  • Before finishing your last term at university, ensure you have all the necessary people lined up to contact, as soon as that last exam finishes.
  • It may well be the case that this recipe will require a steady in-flow of cash to fund it. Select either enriched pre-existing savings, or a secure a summer job, to help fund your activities. When selecting the job, ideally it shall be flexible, well-paid, enjoyable, varied and require relatively few hours of work on weekends. IE no job that existed for a young student ever.

Directions:

  • This recipe can largely be improvised, and quantities of the ingredients are usually dependent on the personal preferences of the Chef. Personal discretion is recommended here. This recipe tends to require minimal direction, and can quite often snowball delightfully of it’s own accord. 
  • During the cooking process maintain an open mind and schedule. Unexpected developments or social opportunities may arise at any given time.

Cooking Time:

Between 2-5 days per week, depending on the number of servings required. Depending on the size of said dishes, individual cooking times may vary. Here is a list of suggested cooking times for individual dishes:

  1. “A quiet one down the pub”: 2-4 hours, depending on how long you have to wait for that-one-friend to buy the rounds, who reliably never does.
  2. “Beach trip”: 4-7 hours, depending on several variables such as:
    – Temperature
    – Presence of rain (always a factor in any recipe for Summer in Britain)
    – Sunbathing tolerance
    – Supply of beers
    – Did you remember the frisbee?
  3. “Mildly-Disastrous Camping Trip to Washed-Out British Seaside Town”: 3 days to a week.

Notes:

Do not neglect the Socially Sizzling Summer for too long at any one time. The Sizzle may well just… fizzle out. Input is required, and often you may need to seek outside input. Sous chefs and other friends should be wielded effectively to propagate a fertile environment for social events to proliferate.

While an enjoyable dish, the Socially Sizzling Summer may well be devoured very quickly. Moreover, negative repercussions of this dish have been know to include the following:

  • Significant debt
  • Hangovers
  • Sunburn
  • Lost possessions at festivals
  • Parental frustration
  • Loss of brain cells
  • Did I mention debt?

However, please bear in mind that this dish may well bear some delicious fruits as well, including:

  • Unforgettable experiences
  • Touching the hand of that singer as they jump down into the crowd in front of the main stage
  • Brilliantly perceptive and insightful conversations in takeaways at 4 am, which you may or may not be able to recapture
  • Rekindling your love for Pinkman
  • Enjoying a cold pint on a summer’s evening, next to the BBQ 

Credit: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8155/7215313684_8608af2fc3_z.jpg

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Why I Loathe Beach Cruisers

So this is basically an interim post, which I wanted to get done while I’m still working on a longer post on my recent road trip to Yosemite. This post is solely dedicated to how infuriating UCSB’s most prominent form of travel, The Beach Cruiser, can be.

Grrrrrr…….

Source: http://dea-training.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/pink_lani_cruiser_pink_beach_cruiser_bicycle_1__89433.jpg

Here are my reasons:

  1. They’re obscenely big. 
    When parked in a bike rack, Beach Cruisers take up roughly 2 spaces: the space they park in, and half a space either side of them, due to their ridiculous handlebars. Inefficient use of space sucks, especially when people start flocking to the library during Finals Season, and there are spaces… you just run the risk of trapping yourself in a Beach Cruiser-cage when locking your bike up.
  2. You’re taking up all the road, man….
    Ok, so the riders are partly to blame for this as well, but linked to the above, if you’re unlucky enough to be caught behind some Beach Cruiser…. well…. cruising…. in the middle of the bike path, good luck with over/undertaking them my friend. You can hold up entire lengths of the bike path with one well-placed Beach Cruiser.
  3. They’re stupidly heavy.
    With one gear, large handlebars and frames, these leviathans move slower than this thing from Star Wars:

    Seriously, Beach Cruisers are SO SLOW. It takes about five minutes to get the buggers moving, and very soon you reach top speed- IE , just faster than a relaxed walking pace. Their ability to traverse gentle hills is almost non-existent. Essentially, they’re just an incredible waste of energy: the physical effort to resulting speed and mobility ratio is pathetic. Get a road bike, and eat the road before you, in comparison. You’ll never see cycling the same way again, promise.

  4. Chatty Cathys…
    Ok, so this one is definitely on the riders, but so many Beach Cruiser owners seem quite content to dawdle along the path, mobile phone stuck to the sides of their faces, snaking all over the path, and basically exacerbating/causing Number 2. This isn’t a problem until their reduced concentration, one-handed control of the handlebars or abysmal braking reaction speed causes numerous near misses at roundabouts/bottlenecks around campus. Save it till you get to your destination guys, show a bit of consideration- surely it can wait a few more minutes?!
  5. Overloaded baskets
    I guess one of the practical aspects of Beach Cruisers is the ability to attach baskets to them. Sure, being able to sling your bag or books into this basket is great. But when people start piling it high with backpacks, laptop cases, handbags and a Starbucks balanced precariously on top, things have gotten a tad ridiculous…. And when items begin to slip out mid-journey, and the riders make emergency stops, and lurch down to grab their escape-artist possessions, they wonder why the people riding behind them get miffed.

So, for these reasons, I absolutely loathe Beach Cruisers. Yes, their large seats are super comfortable. Yes, they look kind of cool. Yes, I think several people enjoy feeling like a boss as they cruise up and down sun-drenched Isla Vista streets, heading down to Sands Beach, or to Woodstocks for a pitcher of cold beer. But seriously, students of UCSB, please tell me- how many of you genuinely enjoy travelling on these things? Struggling to find parking spots among all the normal-sized bicycles? Arriving in class 5 minutes late, sweaty and red in the face, because your tank-esque bike is not friends with the hill near Student Health?

I’d wager quite a few.

Weather-Based Achilles’ Heels

I realise that a weather-based post is perhaps the most stereotypically clichéd blog post a Brit could possibly write on a year abroad, but I just couldn’t resist this.

All British citizens know that we are terrible at dealing with snow. The London Underground shudders to a halt, buses spontaneously conk out, the trains refuse to poke their heads out of the station, schools close due to broken heating systems, and you could probably start steering to the left about a mile before a curve and still make the turn, only you’d be taking it backwards. I think it was a few years ago that Suffolk ran out of grit for the roads because they hadn’t stockpiled enough to last the winter- proving that our local governments even struggle to successfully guide us through snowy conditions!

Of course, that is not to say that there aren’t many people throughout Britain who are well-prepared for snowy weather conditions, perhaps in places where that type of weather is more common (Scotland, mountainous regions of England, and hilly districts in Wales). However, I would be fairly confident in saying those people are in the minority percentage-wise in the UK.

This has been reinforced to me throughout the past week as I have been receiving emails from my family, seeing statuses posted by my friends on Facebook, and catching the occasional weather report on the BBC website; reminding me of how cold, snowy and wintry it can get back home. It’s somewhat hard too picture with the last few days of weather in Santa Barbara, because as of this morning/yesterday, the weather was suitable for sun-bathing, and I even got burned over the weekend! That was a strange experience, given my usual expectations of January!! Still, hearing about heavy snowfall back home did make me miss snowball fights and all the other fun stuff that comes with snow.

However, what makes matters worse is that we Brits see how well other countries like Germany, Poland, Sweden, Norway and Americans deal with snow. Chained tires, huge great vehicles which clear the roads, central heating systems which won’t freeze, etc. It’s not fun to be flailing around like a turtle on it’s shell while the rest of Europe (who regularly deal with snowy conditions) chuckles into their fur-lined gloves at how useless we are with snow.

snow meme 2Point proven.

Source: http://www.memecenter.com/fun/1068667/rmx-heavy-snow

Nevertheless. my time in California so far has demonstrated that we are not the only ones who are particularly rubbish at dealing with a weather event. Mid-to-southern Californians appear to SUCK at dealing with the rain. I cannot speak for northern Californians, and apparently the weather changes noticeably as you get closer to San Francisco and above. Therefore I would expect the ability to improve the further north you travel up the Highway 101. However, based on my own experiences in and around Santa Barbara, which perhaps says more about the student population more than anything, but I have noticed it among other people too, is that the rain is their Achilles’ Heel.

People seem reluctant to go out of their homes when it is raining persistently. I have overheard numerous students genuinely contemplating not going to class because it is raining. We’re talking about a bike ride onto campus of under five minutes here, and STILL people seriously consider that tremendous distance if it is drizzling harder than a fine mist.

Moreover, the roads seem to flood very easily around here, and the surface water that collects lingers for a long time. I don’t know if that is to do with their design, the road maintenance or another factor, but aquaplaning and the implications for cyclists must be quite serious here.

Before I’m accused of trying to deflect German/Norwegian/Swedish attention away from Britain by saying “You think we suck, you should see those Californians flail around in the rain!”, that is not what I’m trying to say at all. In fact, my girlfriend is dubious about these comparative blog posts full stop. She spent a year abroad in Brazil, and also wrote a blog while she was over there. Her argument is that you should treat your time abroad as a separate experience, and enjoy it of its own merit. Which I concur with, to an extent, she definitely has a point. Years abroad are so memorable and enjoyable BECAUSE they can be so removed from your previous experience, they enrich your cultural awareness, and of course, situate you in a completely different place to where you call home. I think she disapproves of what she sees as me haughtily sniffing at things as I make comparisons, which is not what I’m trying to do at all.

However, as a comparative studies student, I have to look at several different disciplines of study (history, politics and literature chiefly), and numerous regions (the Americas). As a result, I can’t help the tendency to be making comparisons in my head, critically evaluating trends and patterns, contemplating cultural anomalies, similarities and differences. It’s what I do, and I enjoy it. (… Sorry baby.)

Therefore, the observation that emerges from these two interesting aspects to Britain and California (they both have a weather-based Achilles’ heel), is that despite our extremely high levels of development; the money, resources and technology available to us, isn’t it amusing that such prominent Western societies still struggle with bad weather?

Halloween Hysteria

I knew Halloween was big stateside, but Santa Barbara/Isla Vista has to be an extreme example of Halloween Hysteria. People from a one hundred mile radius flock here to experience the craziness of Del Playa and to party hard. The celebrations began last Thursday, the 25th of October, and will probably last until next Sunday, the 4th of November. We hardly celebrate Halloween back home in England, so this was always going to be an interesting experience for me.

The actual day itself is lost amidst this period, and the weekends seem to be the main periods of celebration. Sadly, I actually missed the festivities yesterday evening as I had an 8am midterm this morning. Criminal or what? I was a bit gutted as I had wanted to celebrate the day itself, whilst I was in the US. However, my schedule conspired against me, as did illness. Damn priorities.

But I do find myself asking the question: what is behind the celebrations? What are we honouring with our costumes, parties, games, food and decorations? Halloween is said to have originated in the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light fires and wear outfits to ward off roaming ghosts. There are numerous other historical origins thrown around, but to me it just seems like a modern development of vague past celebrations.

Still, there is no avoiding the fact that Americans go about celebrating Halloween with gusto. The efforts put into costumes and decorating are huge.

For example, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Disneyland, organised by Tropicana Del Norte, on the 26th of October. It was heavily subsidised, and entry and travel set me back a mere $30!? Value for money or what?? The entrance fee alone can be $90 and up, so I’ve heard, so it was a fantastic opportunity. Moreover, it was their special Halloween celebration period, so the park was decorated and the rides had been altered with this theme in mind.

The most striking aspect of the experience was how much effort the families had put into dressing up. There was a family of four dressed as Kiss: spandex, platforms and all. Staff were also in costume. My favourite example had to be a family dressed up as Guantanamo Bay zombies– two parents, a young child, and a baby in a pram. However, they had made fake iron bars to put across the pram so it looked like the baby was in prison. 10 out of 10 for effort there! This all contributed to quite an atmospheric experience, when combined with the lighting, spooky music and artificial fog.

I admit, I had been a bit cynical as to what I was going to get out of the trip. I knew the rides were going to be enjoyable, but I also knew the queues would be long and it would be absolutely rammed full of people (both of which were true). However, I mentioned that the atmosphere was great, and I really enjoyed the experience of walking around the park: the rides and performances just added to it all.

Here are some photos from the trip. My camera’s night mode sucks, so some of these have been pinched from my suite-mate, the Great Dane, Emil Tang Ravnkilde Nielsen. (NB: I will not be typing that name out in full every time)

The Disney Castle, lit up and looking spooky (Emil)

The Nightmare Before Christmas was a key source of inspiration for the decorations, music and performances of the park.

The parade (Emil).

Undead Barbershop Quartet (Emil)

The Haunted Mansion.

The Great Dane himself, as Popeye, dancing with Pirate Goofy. You can’t make this stuff up. (Emil)

The Brits abroad- Giles and me being muppets, as per usual (Emil)

Having the trip to Disneyland was a good alternative to just getting dressed up, and going out to get wasted. However…. that part was still fun too. Even if I was sick and couldn’t really drink (but did, as you do). I had two nights out over the Halloween weekend before the day itself, and dressed up as an army guy and Alex from A Clockwork Orange respectively. It was fun, and there were SO many people out on DP.

Army Guy and the Beer Monster. What classy blokes.

Alex and Jesus. Yes I wore eye makeup. Yes it freaked me out when my patient next-door neighbour applied it. (Imogen’s photo)

Nevertheless, it wasn’t all about going out and getting drunk. I did take part in some traditional, All-American Halloween festivities, such as pumpkin carving. This was organised by our Resident Adviser, Alex Markovich. He sorted out enough pumpkins for each of his ground floor rooms to make 2 pumpkins, and he sorted the cutting and scraping equipment as well. Good man. This is just another example of our residential building wanting it’s residents to have a good time with their time spent here. This has been a key part of my year abroad so far, and having those chances there is excellent.

All these photos below have been taken from the Topicana Del Norte Facebook page.

John Sokol, Me, Alex Markovich.

So all in all, I have taken part in, and enjoyed several elements of the American Halloween Hysteria. Even if I missed the day itself, I don’t mind so much as there’s been plenty to do in and around it…..

….. and let’s not forget, there’s still this weekend to come too!

Wish me luck!

Shocking Spanish and Savoury Muffins

Classes are warming up and reaching full swing. Assignments and reading are developing. I’m acclimatising more and more everyday. It would appear my year abroad is gestating nicely.

I am thoroughly enjoying my classes, particularly my Public History module. It deals with how history is produced differently for academic purposes and for public consumption. It deals with museums, representation and a host of other issues that essentially look at alternative careers for historians. How might the National Park Service benefit from a historian that can research the various interest groups that lay claim to an area of forest it seeks to develop? To what extent do historians have to accommodate the memories of “witnesses”, and how can the museum’s intent and the witnesses’ sentiment be mediated into a satisfactory exhibit? This has to be my favourite class so far, it’s fascinating. Combined with my previous experience volunteering and working within the Norwich Castle Museum and Gallery, I find myself becoming more and more interested in this kind of field as a potential career. I’m not saying “Wow, I came to California and I have already found my dream job!”, which is ridiculous as the range of public history careers available are broad and diverse, merely that I have found something which really interests me and I am motivated to study for.

On the other hand, I have found the Spanish element to my education quite difficult. The American approach seems to be that from advanced beginner/ intermediate ability onwards, classes should be taught solely in Spanish. Back at Warwick, my teaching was largely English-based, and focused A LOT on grammar. This is fine when I need to put across basic sentiment, talk about the past/future, or whatever, but my vocabulary and ability to understand fluently spoken Spanish is a bit limited. Saying that, I have found my ability to understand developing exponentially quicker by immersing myself in the language. I still miss some vocabulary, and more intricate and developed statements; but generally I find myself comprehending the lessons and what is required of me. I just hope my spoken Spanish will catch up to my listening, as I pick up more and more vocabulary.

Speaking about not understanding certain things, I encountered my first ever savoury muffin yesterday. I was having a coffee with a friend who purchased a Bacon and Cheese muffin. Bacon and cheese… in a stereotypically sweet cake. It boggled my mind. We were at a new cafe called Chrushcakes, and they are big on cakes and what not, so I expected a diverse amount of SWEETS available, some light lunches perhaps, salads and sandwiches. But a bacon and cheese muffin!? That was weird.

The fact the muffin tasted pretty damn good was even weirder.

Welcome to UCSB

It has taken me longer than I intended to get round to this post, because there has been so much going on in my first week at Tropicana Del Norte, I haven’t just sat at my laptop for an extended period of time. However, as I wait for a Skype chat with my parents and sister, who’s leaving for her first year of uni tomorrow, I felt it was time to try and capture just a fraction of the amazing time I am having here in Isla Vista.

After my first few days in Anacapa Hall, I moved into TDN a week ago today, on the 23rd of September. Before that, I crashed on Imogen’s sofa (one of the other Warwick students here at UCSB) on the night of the 22nd. Getting to know Del Playa (DP) first-hand, with a house to stay in, even just for that couple of days, was really beneficial. I can imagine getting to know DP from scratch can be pretty overwhelming. Essentially it’s the party central for UCSB students, and is the main component to the night life here. The disconcerting thing is how people will just pile onto DP, “party-hop” from house to house, and many people just leave their doors open to people wandering in. I cannot imagine doing that back home, but it’s a lot of fun. House parties are the name of the game here, as it permits under-age drinking.  Speaking of which, due to the alcohol-related laws:

A) I’ve reverted back to that teenage phase where drinking is off limits, but here the consequences for me getting caught by police are much greater than the mere slap on the wrist I’d be likely to get in England. However, as I have been drinking for a few years, the crucial difference between now and the teenage phase is that it used to be kind of exciting for drinking to be off limits. Now it’s just a pain in the backside.

B) There is nothing more appealing than the idea of being able to have a cold Budweiser on the gorgeous beaches here, but public drinking is off limits. Which is frustrating.

Nevertheless, it has been like being a Fresher all over again, in a way, which I like. A lot. Getting to know loads of people, having far too many people packed into your room and chatting with them, going out to get nachos at 3am, signing up for sports clubs you will probably never join, and lots more standard Fresher-esque behaviour.

Re-freshed all over again!

But there have been other, non party-related elements to my first week which I have really enjoyed.

  • I’m not going to lie to you here- having a British accent. It’s a great conversation starter or ice-breaker, and can be greeted with a lot of… enthusiasm.
  • The people who live in my apartment are all really friendly, great guys. We get along fine and I have been very lucky to land among a good bunch of blokes.
  • Sharing a room with Giles has been an easy changeover, which is a good result too. Except for my annoyingly early starts (even though I got into bed at 4.30 last night, I still ended up waking up at like 7.30: my body clock hates me), which Giles is very good about- ie he sleeps through them- living together has been a breeze so far.
  • Playing football again, at intramural (casual) level. I had my first training sessions a few days ago, and am playing my first “pick-up game” at 4.30 today. Cannot wait.
  • Getting to know a whole new gym, with new machines, cable equipment, and other bits and pieces which make my inner Gym Monkey very happy.
  • Finding my way round campus, and finding unexpected areas or buildings.
  • Finally going to some classes so I have a vague idea about how the academic side of things will pan out.
  • Cycling around on Dante, my new bike, which I have been loaned by TDN. International students can get a loan bike for free here, which is a fantastic idea. Giles got one too, and his is named Seabiscuit. It feels great to cycle so often, and it must be having a knock-on effect for my fitness which is always an added bonus.

Dante, the Inferno.

Seabiscuit, Scourge of the Seven Seas.

  • Adopting a Betta Fish as an apartment. They don’t play well with others, and will eat other fish if put in the same bowl. So we have named our killer Betta fish Goliath!

Meet Goliath, the baddest fish you’re likely to meet. Well. Sort of.

  • Cheap food at take-outs, restaurants etc. Yesterday I went on a beach trip with some of my apartment buddies, and headed further afield to Santa Barbara beach. Afterwards, when we had built up an appetite, we headed to this amazing Mexican restaurant. The set-up was very basic, but plates of tacos or meat dishes served with tortillas were about $2.50-$.50 each. Interms of value, it was very good, but in terms of taste, it was excellent.
  • Did I mention the beaches?

 

  • Cruising along a sunny highway in a car full of new mates, mountains off in the distance, all the windows down, blasting out music such as this:

  • Hilarious American attempts at British accents. Some have been pretty decent… others have been horrendously bad.

Apart from all these wonderful things, there are a few differences with living here that I have to be wary of. These aren’t bad things, by any stretch of the imagination, but are just factors in the way of life I’ve stepped into that I need to consider.

  • You become wary of police all over again. Not only as I’m under-age  but because I cycle to most places. This include parties on nights out, and you have to be extremely careful about BUI tickets- Biking Under the Influence. These tickets cost a bomb, can get you into a hell of a lot of trouble, and I for one don’t want to risk my visa status because I was a bit tiddly on a bike. So I can bike to places, but it is wise to then walk my bike when I come back after the copious amounts of booze that will undoubtedly have been consumed. As a result, I think you have to develop what I call a “Podar”- police radar. You keep an eye out at intersections, tone everything down if police are walking along DP, and NEVER, EVER, sit on the curb. You’re asking for a night in the drunk tank if you do that.
  • As much as I love the unlimited fizzy drinks and ice cream available at my cafeteria, these two bonuses are representative of the larger issue of how easy it would be to eat massive meals, 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. I get all my meals covered here at TDN, and can make as many visits to the canteen as I’d like. The food here has been pretty good all told, but whereas at uni in England, I’d make do with a bowl of Special K and a banana for breakfast, here it is very easy to just have cooked breakfast everyday, for example. Admittedly, this is just a question of willpower, and from now on I will try and limit myself to a big dinner, lighter lunch and a healthier option for breakfast. But it’s just so easy, particularly after a heavy night out, to say to yourself “Well I need the energy to get through tomorrow, might as well load up at breakfast!!”
  • As my lobster-esque room mate is realising today, you have to be careful with the sun. Even just walking around between classes contributes to any sunburn you accumulate, and being wary of it doesn’t come naturally to pasty English boys such as Giles and myself.

So, as you can probably tell, I am having an absolutely incredible time, and am loving every minute I’m spending here. I know it sounds corny, but I do feel so lucky to be here, and it’s only just beginning!

Let the good times keep rolling!

Cultural Observations #1

So, I’ve spent exactly a week in California, and I am having the most fantastic time. I will do another post on my first seven days, but first of all I just wanted to note down the most glaring cultural differences between here and back home:

  1. Drivers are so much more cautious of pedestrians around Isla Vista (IV). Combined with the willingness of students here to just mosey along the street, cars often will just crawl along the streets or come to complete stops. In England, if you want to wander along the streets and cross the roads as casually as they do here, good luck to you.
  2. In contrast, if you try to cycle along a main road, out of town, you become an inconvenience and really have to have your wits about you. It’s technically illegal in California to cycle with headphones in, and it has quickly become apparent that this is with good reason. I never used to do it anyway, but you’d be silly to attempt it here.
  3. Medical marijuana cards. Completely alien. The idea you can go into a doctor’s surgery, and quite readily get one of these (if you say the right symptoms, which are quite well-known) ; then go into a special chemist and walk out with weed, is crazy.
  4. Handles” of spirits. Bottles of spirits that are so big they need a handle. 1.75 litres often sells for $19.99, or about £12.40.Crazy, right?!?! This has an impact on the drinking culture, and while I’d still say that UK student drinking culture is more of a binge drinking culture, the way you do shots from sober over here is weird. And pretty grim to be honest.
  5. The weather. Knocks the spots off miserable the typical September gloom in the UK. That’s a pretty obvious one, but is so enjoyable, I still think it deserved a mention. This isn’t a cultural observation per se, but there are obviously implications that come with better weather- more tanned people, different clothing is worn, it’s not so frowned upon for guys to walk around shirtless etc.
  6. Increased prevalence of joggers. While Warwick is a pretty athletic university, and many people go to the gym/take part in sports or are in sports clubs, there seem to be a higher proportion of people who will go jogging in this area. But with coastline rails and mountain views like ours, who wouldn’t?!
  7. SO many skateboarders. It’s like a constant Avril Lavigne video or something.
  8. Socks and sandals are morally acceptable, as are socks and flip flops (?!?!) The former is wrong, and the latter seems ridiculous and impractical at best, but I have witnessed both on several occasions. Moreover, high sport socks and shorts are also fair game. These are cultural anomalies that I just can’t swallow.
  9. Group involvement. Being involved in a sports team, or a member of some kind of club, is strongly emphasised here. In England, if you don’t want to be in a society at university, or play for a sports team, that’s all cool and your personal choice. However, so far at UCSB, I’m pretty sure I haven’t met one person who isn’t involved in some kind of club/sports team/extra activity. There must be some UCSB students who don’t get involved, but I have yet to meet them.
  10. Alcohol provision at parties. The attitude here seems to be that if you put on a house party, you buy a significant amount of booze for your guests. The idea being that the favour is returned to you when you stumble into the next random party along Del Playa (DP). In England, you bring your own, and safeguard your stash like a fiend. There are times when hosts will provide booze in England, but in terms of the general behaviour of students, I would say the feeling that we are so broke, you should look out for yourself is stronger.
  11. You don’t address your lecturers by their first names. Giles, my room mate, found this out the awkward way, and actually received an email where the professor corrected him on this pretty thoroughly. At Warwick, we always use first names with our seminar tutors, lecturers or other university employees. I think this is good because it shows a mutual respect. Here it feels a bit… like I’m back in  primary school or something. I realise that there should be respect for your teachers, elders, adults, whatever; but this seems a bit petty to me.
  12. Freshman’s entry into UCSB is vastly different to Freshers entering Warwick. At Warwick, it was abundantly clear that our first two weeks were what I’d call “alco-centric”: largely focused on getting wasted. Here, due to the lower drinking age (which, I feel, warrants a whole separate post, it’s infuriating), the activities available for Freshman are geared away from this. Obviously this does not stop Freshman walking down to DP and getting munted there. It just means that there are no organised equivalents of a Student Union night out, or society socials that entail mass consumption of booze on a grand scale.

That’s all I can think of so far, and none of them have been particularly jarring (except the socks and sandals perhaps). I’ll be writing in more detail about my first week soon, but I just wanted to get these down first. I start classes tomorrow, the first of which begins at 8am. This seems obscenely early, but I guess it shouldn’t. The earliest class I have had at Warwick was 9am, and that felt unpleasant. But the absurd thing is, I’m quite willing to get my butt out of bed and down they gym by 7am…. ironic huh? So, wish me luck with my early start tomorrow, I’m sure it won’t be so bad!