Harvey: First Impressions at UC Berkeley

Before I begin first my post, I’d like to say that if you get into Berkeley, be prepared to work hard. If you’re looking for an exchange experience with a chill workload and have plenty of time to spare for other activities, don’t choose Berkeley. This school is exceptionally academically challenging (at least for engineering) and will push you to your limits. None of my classes have lecture recordings, and the number of resources provided to students is much less than back at home, especially for upper-division (3rd/4th year) courses. But if you’re thinking of exchanging here, you’re probably expecting to be academically challenged… right?

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View from the top of the Campanile

Most people know UC Berkeley or Cal as the number one public university in the United States, and Berkeley is geographically stereotyped as the campus “just 30 minutes’ drive” from San Francisco. However, in reality, the City of Berkeley is a stark contrast from the bustling high rises of San Francisco, being ranked in the bottom 20 for safest cities in all of California. Student housing here is very pricey, and the actual accommodation you get is not of high quality, considering the price you pay. The streets are dirty in comparison to Auckland, and you tend to see many homeless people in the area. That being said, I don’t feel particularly unsafe in the area, and the university offers plenty of services to make sure you get home safe. There’s quite a bit to cover here on these topics, so I’ll probably return to these in my future posts.

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Welcome to UC Berkeley!

GBO (Transfer Edition)

The first date on which the semester starts, according to the academic calendar, marks the first day of GBO (Golden Bear Orientation). As an exchange student, I attended the same orientation program as the other exchange students, rather than first-year students. Unlike UoA, where there isn’t a specific timeframe for people to transfer into the university, Berkeley transfer students typically move after the end of their 2nd year. Since I am also living on campus, my orientation group also consisted of people living in the same building as I was. This is great for meeting people that you’re probably going to see around a lot in the same building. I found this week to be quite enjoyable and met many friends that I now hang out with quite often. The activities sometimes ran until midnight but aren’t all compulsory, apart from the ‘bear pact’, which everyone must attend. Even though they are not compulsory, I recommend visiting some of the events just for the sake of meeting new people.

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GBO Group 607! (or what’s left of it by the end of the week)

Furthermore, as part of the transfer-student orientation, we can choose from a list of companies to attend a company tour or a tour of the Bay Area. Make sure you check the dates to see when the form releases, since spots from the well-known companies fill up very quickly! There are some great companies such as LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs, etc., and this presents an excellent opportunity to network. As I couldn’t find a company relating to my studies (I applied late), I visited an Australian architectural company called Woods Baggot, which was quite interesting.

American Football

Having never watched a football game in my life, I attended the opening home match between Cal and UC Davis. As you all know, football culture is huge in America. Hot dog stands line the streets up to the memorial stadium (where the match was being held), and everyone wears some form of Cal merchandise to support their team. I still don’t understand the rules, but it was fun to experience the school spirit!

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Grateful to be sitting in the shade

Overall, the first few weeks have been very full-on, but I have found the experience so far quite meaningful. Keep an eye out for my next blog post to follow my journey here at Cal. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions on the application process or anything in general about the university as an exchange student.

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Julia: First Impressions of the University of Georgia

“Oh New Zealand! That’s the capital of Australia, right?”

I’ve been living in Georgia for almost 2 months now and have heard that statement far too many times for my liking… However, aside from that, I am loving my American home and thought it was about time to share some of my first impressions with y’all!

The University of Georgia

It was honestly love at first sight when I arrived at UGA. The campus looks like it belongs in an early 2000’s coming of age film, and I’m definitely here for it. Built in 1785, the University of Georgia is the nation’s oldest state university, so is filled with gorgeous brick buildings and tall pillars, alongside the newer modern facilities. UGA has 22 dorms and 8 different housing communities, so there is naturally a thriving campus life! I’ve been loving living in the East Campus Village community – apartment style dorms that are just a stone’s throw away from village-summit dining and the famous Ramsey recreational center.

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“It was honestly love at first sight when I arrived at UGA.”

 

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“The campus looks like it belongs in an early 2000’s coming-of-age film, and I’m definitely here for it.”

Orientation

One of the things that initially attracted me to UGA was their week-long international student orientation. During this week, around 100 of the international exchange students stayed together in the beautiful Rutherford Hall in central campus. Orientation provided lots of necessary information about campus life and academics, but mostly it gave all of us exchange students the chance to make new friends, through events like a Ben & Jerry’s icecream social, a pool party, and a pizza night. We also joined in with the freshman class of ’23 in creating the iconic G at Sanford Stadium!

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“One of the things that initially attracted me to UGA was their week-long international student orientation.”

 

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“We joined in with the freshman class of ’23 in creating the iconic G at Sanford Stadium!”

Athens, GA.

UGA is located in the college town of Athens, about 40 minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Athens is your quintessential college town – independent coffee shops, funky bars, cute boutiques, and the iconic Georgia Theatre. The streets are always bustling with college students at any time of day or night. On any given nondescript Wednesday there will always be something going on downtown, which is the beauty of living in a college town!

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Football

To say that America is football-crazy is honestly an understatement. During the fall semester, Saturdays in Athens are dedicated to cheering on the UGA Bulldogs, with over 90,000 people packing into UGA’s Sanford Stadium. As a kiwi gal with no previous interest in football, I didn’t know what to expect of game days, but I can say without a doubt that they have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and doubtless ever will again after this exchange. Football is more than a game at UGA – it is culture, tradition, and community. I’m looking forward to all the games to come! Go Dawgs!

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“During the Fall semester Saturdays in Athens are dedicated to cheering on the UGA Bulldogs, with over 90,000 people packing into UGA’s Sanford Stadium.”

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I can’t wait to see what new adventures the next few months bring. Feel free to follow my journey on Instagram (@juliabudler) and reach out if you have any questions!

Arohanui,

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Nakita Daniel – Undergraduate Leaders Programme (July 2019)

The 2019 APRU programme I had the privilege of attending over July was not only the highlight of the year so far, but also an exceptional life experience. With two exams the day before flying out, I hadn’t had much time to think about expectations. I was open to everything that was going to be thrown my way, ready to meet new people, hear their stories, and share my own.

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What first seemed like a long time, when it came to saying goodbyes twelve days later, definitely did not seem like remotely enough. I left the programme feeling educated, empowered, challenged, connected and ready to apply my new skills at home. Our twelve days in Oregon consisted of workshops on communication, the design process, scientific and systemic thinking. We were split into groups and tasked with a challenge from one of the three community partners. I was in the environmental degradation group and was tasked with the challenge to reduce food waste in Lane County by our community partner BRING Recycling. We tackled this issue by developing an annual education programme for elementary school kids to educate the youth of tomorrow about the importance of reducing waste and composting today.

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“One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about.”

Overwhelming at times, the experience from this programme helped me realise the different components that make up leadership and community development. I was also able to refine skills in research, communication, presentation and organisation through the various activities we did each day. I can safely say that I was constantly challenged: whether that be through learning patience when trying to communicate with people from different countries, developing, researching and refining our solution on a tight time crunch, or actually presenting our idea to all the community partners and attendees, I learnt how to adapt to different situations.

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One of the key takeaways from this programme was learning how to make global issues more accessible in order to tackle the problems we are most passionate about. Before attending this programme, I often found myself with this energy and drive to make change happen but never fully understanding how to make a tangible difference. However, through working with real-life community partners, I was able to zoom into particular aspects of the issue and tackle things in smaller segments than get overwhelmed by the big picture. I learned how to set and achieve smaller goals, successfully work with a team of like-minded individuals, all while consistently applying an interdisciplinary lens to the issue; I was then able to apply that skill through my degree here at the University of Auckland. This programme both reinforced my current skillset in a real-world setting and also exposed me to global perspectives from all the other group members. Everyone had something to bring to the table. Being able to learn from each other and combine different elements from ideas around the world was something truly unique.

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In addition to the programme itself, one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole experience was developing new connections. Once strangers, the fifty-five other individuals I met were nothing but phenomenal. I was blown away by not only their amplitude and passion for making a difference, but also their constant kindness, generosity, and support. We all enjoyed the planned cultural excursions, as well as our own little discovery trips around Eugene, having shared both the stress and joy and everything in between. It’s surreal to think I now have a base all around the Pacific Rim, just as anyone coming to Aotearoa would have a place to call home here. I would highly encourage and urge every single student to make the most of this opportunity. University is all about learning and putting that knowledge into practice. This experience has not only allowed me to do this in an international setting but also exposed me to various other opportunities in my field of interest and connected me with lifelong friends who share similar passions and are no doubt the change makers we need right now.

Nakita Daniel

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Tana: Home

Hi guys!

This blog has been especially hard to start writing because I refuse to come to terms with the fact that my exchange is now complete and I am back home in New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to be reunited with my family and friends, but at the same time a little bizarre. In Berkeley, I felt as though that was my new life, and I had gotten so comfortable with my routine. In fact, I think it’s the little things that I’m going to miss the most like walking to class with my friend Amelia or lying down in the glade and admiring the night sky while my mates and I reflected on life. To come to think of it, I have now become very dependent on social interaction and don’t know how I’m going to cope for the next couple of weeks since my friends here are busy studying for exams.

Regardless, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this exchange and spend the semester studying at UC Berkeley. For any of you who are reading this and still haven’t decided on whether or not you should go on exchange, my advice to you would be to definitely take the plunge. It has been the experience of a life time and I would not trade these past couple of months for anything else!

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Another serene sunset in Berkeley

Not only have I made unforgettable memories and lifelong friends, but I have also obtained a greater passion for my studies and am further motivated to secure a successful career. Next semester, I plan to join more clubs on campus and diversify my skills. Additionally, I have gained a stronger desire to continue travelling and have already started learning Spanish so as to be able to speak four languages! Most importantly though, I adapted to live independently and by doing so, I now have more confidence in myself and my abilities.

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How am I supposed to say bye to such a beautiful campus?

I’m so thankful for the 360 Exchange Program for helping me expand my horizons and attain a new outlook on life.

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My first roommate and newest best friend!

I hope my blogs have given you some useful insight on what to expect at UC Berkeley. Thank you all for reading and to those of you who have emailed me!

So long!

-Tana

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Tana: Memorable Activities and Places

As is always the case in university, it can be very easy to get caught up in your school work and forget about enjoying life outside of the library. However, since I am on exchange this semester I am trying to make an active effort to get myself away from the books and out into the world. And I do feel like I have done a fairly good job of that if I do say so myself. So for this blog, I am going to highlight a few of the memorable activities and places I have explored while on exchange so far.

Road Trips:

One of my favourite things about California is that there are so many cool places within driving distance which makes it so easy to go on spontaneous adventures. So far, I have been to Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Diego, Yosemite, San Francisco, Oakland, Davis and even Mexico! Of course, some of these places took more planning than others.

Places like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are fairly easy to get to because of their close proximity to Berkeley. For those of you who are wondering how to get there: the Bay area has a train system called the BART which allows for easy transportation from Oakland to San Francisco (which goes through Berkeley). There is also a bus (free for Cal students) that leaves from UC Berkeley and goes straight to San Francisco.

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The beautiful city of San Francisco at night

If I had to suggest one place not to miss while here in Northern California, it would definitely have to be Yosemite. My friends and I planned a weekend trip to the breathtaking national park during the National Parks Week which allowed us free entry into the park. Despite the place being packed with tourists, we were still able to appreciate the falls in all their beauty. As you can probably imagine, there was no photo we could have taken that would have done justice to the serenity of the views we witnessed. Nonetheless, I am inserting photos to give you a vague idea of what to expect.

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Top of Nevada Falls
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Be prepared for your legs to hurt for several days after

Mexico was another fun trip that we did during Spring Break. It in itself is a whole other story, but I would 100% recommend visiting Mexico because it was both cheap and fun. If you would like more information about how we got there and what we did, feel free to email me, and I’d be more than happy to pass on some tips.

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Post-surf
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Taken in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico

Basketball Games:

As many of you probably know, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a huge deal here in America, and so when I was presented with the opportunity to attend two of their games, I knew I had to go. The second game I attended was the Golden State Warriors versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. I could not believe the insane talent that was playing on the court. To top it all off, I managed to get court side seats which meant I could literally see Stephen Curry’s facial expressions while he played. This was hands down one of the best nights of my life.

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Tristan Thompson trying to focus while the entire crowd “boos” him
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The remarkable Stephen Curry

As you can see, there are plenty of exciting things to do here in Northern California to keep you busy on the weekends. Not only does San Francisco constantly have events going on, but even Berkeley itself offers entertainment throughout the semester. In fact, just last week we had llamas on campus. Truly never a dull moment.

Anyways, I’ve got to go study for finals now; I can’t believe the semester is already coming to an end. Next time I write my blog will probably be back home in New Zealand.

Thanks for reading!! 🙂

Tana

Bani: Final Impressions – a Home Away from Home

Before I knew it, my time at Berkeley had come to an end. I did go through the process of extending my exchange into the next semester but was unable to on account of some technical difficulties with my courses. Do let me know if you need any help with this process!

Between Classes Sunbathing at the Glade!

The University of California, Berkeley, gave me friends and memories that I will cherish forever. From Golden Bear Orientation to study week (known as dead week) and finals week (which just butchers you), my 4 months at Berkeley went by in the blink of an eye.

Some final thoughts, ideas and tips about spending a semester abroad!

  1. You’re going to miss home. Make sure you have a little memento from home you take with you, I took my Minnie Mouse stuffed toy which I’ve had since I was eight years old with me. Whenever I felt like I missed home, I just looked at it and felt much better.
  2. You’re sometimes going to be too busy to call home! But do take out a few minutes of your day, just to let someone you love back home know that you’re okay.
  3. Dead week is going to be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. It’s okay, take a deep breath and go to office hours! I can’t stress this enough. Office hours and consulting GSIs and professors probably helped me more than anything during this period. It helped me focus, take a step back, and actually evaluate how prepared I was. Berkeley is a difficult school and the pressure will come as a surprise.
  4. GET INVOLVED! There are hundreds of clubs at UC Berkeley, from those who beer brewing to photography, mental health and so much more. There are so many research opportunities at this school available at both an undergraduate and graduate level. Find your niche, get involved! Being part of 7Cups at Berkeley, the Marvel Cinematic Universe DeCal, the Harry Potter DeCal and research at the Language and Cognitive Development Lab helped me meet so many people who loved the same stuff as I did!
  5. Remember to tip! Keep in mind that most workers make money off their tips, and it may feel weird that you’re obligated to tip, but do remember to leave 12-20% depending on service!
  6. And most of all, make some lasting memories.
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My Roommates!

This is all from me for now! If you have any questions regarding exchange, you can reach out to me through my Auckland email ID: bseh764@aucklanduni.ac.nz. And since I ate burgers at too many places to count at the end, I’ve got a small list of burger places around the Bay Area that you should try too!

BURGER FEATURE(S)

Berkeley Social Club California Burger: 9/10

Spruce Burger: 9.5/10

Nopa Woodgrilled Burger: 10/10

Eureka Chesseburger: 8.5/10

The Snack Shack Cheeseburger: 8/10

These were, in my opinion, some of the best burgers I had the pleasure of eating. Do visit these places (across San Francisco and Berkeley). You won’t regret it!

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Tana: Cultural Differences

As you may or may not know, I attended an American high school which means I was already exposed to the American school culture before coming on exchange. In my opinion, the “college culture” is simply an extension of this high school culture. In saying that, it’s still vastly different from the culture back home in Auckland, so I thought I’d write this blog to give you an idea of what it is like over here.

Right of the bat, I’m going to say that the school spirit is contagiously high here at UC Berkeley. In fact, I genuinely don’t think you could go anywhere on campus without seeing a sculpture of the Golden Bear, people in blue and yellow merchandise, Berkeley stickers or even just hearing someone say “Go Bears”! Even the bathrooms here, all have the “Cal” logo on their soap dispensers which I find comical even now after being here for more than three months.

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These bears sure do love posing for photos

As you all have probably seen in movies, the school spirit at college is tremendous during football games. Unfortunately, football games only happen during the fall semester which is during the second half of the year and I’m on exchange during the Spring semester. None the less, I have still been able to experience a portion of this excitement at a basketball game I attended which was against Stanford (our biggest rivals). It was definitely very exciting to be a part of such a passionate crowd!

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We got free shirts at the Basketball game!
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UC Berkeley vs Stanford (let’s not talk about the score)

Apart from the school spirit, I have also noticed other cultural differences that I don’t think I would have ever encountered at the University of Auckland. I think the best way to sum it up, is that the community at Berkeley is very understanding and accepting of all people. They work hard to create an inclusive and comfortable environment. To illustrate, it’s a common practice here at Berkeley to include your preferred pronouns (she, her, hers or he, him, his) when introducing yourself.

I have also noticed that the Berkeley culture encourages people to talk about their feelings with one another and acknowledge how certain things make them feel. This was especially prominent during the Golden Bear Orientation.

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Taken at the Golden Bear Orientation

The most common example of this was an activity that I encountered many a times wherein we were all given various descriptions, and if we fitted the description we were asked to stand up (if we felt comfortable doing so) and then we had to “notice who’s standing, notice who’s not, and notice how we feel” before sitting back down. And although this sounds like a minor activity it actually got me actively thinking about things I didn’t even know I could think about so deeply.

Another thing I would like to point out is how open-minded people are over here. Whether it be about a new idea or about other people, Berkeley truly is very accepting of everyone and everything.

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UC Berkeley’s Indian Holi Festival

So yes, even though America is an English-speaking country, there are still prominent cultural differences that have stuck out to me and broadened my horizons about things I hadn’t actively thought about before.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to flick me an email.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tana

Bani: CalTech, UCLA, and Holi!

Hi everyone! I’m back.

In this blog post, I want to talk about how I’ve been unwinding at UC Berkeley.

During the second weekend of March, two of my friends and I headed to CalTech or the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. We were there to observe a hackathon that was happening there. A hackathon is an event that usually lasts about 48 hours where computer programmers come together to make something new.

What followed was one of the greatest weekends I have spent in California!

We started the weekend with an open mic night at one of the residence halls. From death metal, to self-composed acoustic songs, opera songs, and whistling, the students at CalTech showed us what it really means to enjoy music! The night ended with hundreds of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which obviously, is a great way to end any night.

The next day, we headed out to LA where we walked around the city. Even though it rained the entire time we walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was quite an experience. We then went on to UCLA, which is a beautiful university with one of the best campuses I have ever seen! Our day in LA ended with a trip to Santa Monica pier and then home cooked Indian food at my friend’s cousin’s place.

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UCLA
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Walk of Fame (David Bowie’s star!)

Our next morning was spent at Venice beach, which included mangoes, strawberries and basketball games. LA is a fun, vibrant city with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. All of our Uber drivers had something fun to tell us, they were all from different parts of the world, with different stories and opinions about the world.

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UCLA
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Venice Beach!

 

The next big thing at Cal was Holi which is the Indian festival of colours. Hosted by the Indian Students Association, Cal’s Holi celebration is the biggest one on the west coast. Hundreds of kids get together, from every culture, ethnicity and country, and use water and colours to give rise to one of the most colourful celebrations of all time. As you can see in the photos below, taking a shower was quite a pain afterwards (but it was 100% worth it!).

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Before Holi!

Cal has one of the most diverse student populations in the world and it is amazing to see them embrace all members of different communities to form one big Cal family. Holi was one of the most memorable days I have spent at Cal and I will never forget how unique, heartwarming and wholesome the whole experience was!

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Holi Aftermath!

BURGER FEATURE

Shake Shack: 11/10

Sadly, I did not get a picture of the burger I ate at Shake Shack in LA simply because I could not wait long enough to click a picture before I dug in. It was one of the most delicious burgers I have ever tasted and the only word I have for the shake is scrumptious. I think everyone who loves burgers needs to try Shake Shack at least once!

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Bani: LA and Irvine – Tips on Travelling in the States

Hello hello!

My fourth blog post is dedicated to my wonderful trip to Los Angeles and Irvine, where I visited a friend from high school for about six days. She goes to UC Irvine, so I also got to see another UC Campus. As mentioned in my bio, I am super obsessed with anything Harry Potter related so the main purpose of this trip at the end of the semester was to visit Universal Studios, Hollywood and also eat some wonderful food around the Los Angeles and Irvine area.

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UC Irvine’s Cotton Candy Sky!

I would also like to mention some tips on travelling around the United States. One of the things that was an absolute shock to me when I was booking my flight tickets to Los Angeles was that you have to pay extra for baggage when flying domestically. So, be prepared to pay USD 40-60 (per suitcase!) for checked in and carry on luggage when flying somewhere.

Further, you could also take Amtrak within states, or across state lines since it’s not that expensive and the railway system is really well developed. It’s quite fun to watch the Californian landscape through the upper berth of Amtrak trains. Further, there are tonnes of cheap bus services available with prices as low as USD 5 if you book the tickets in advance. Even if you do end up booking the tickets much later, a trip as far as San Diego should not cost more than USD 40.

My trip to Los Angeles was full of experiences from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, some wonderful food, and the Hollywood Sign hike. To go to Universal Studios, I would suggest reaching around 10-11am. Look at the weather forecast earlier and if you can afford it, definitely invest in the Express Line passes (since most rides have a wait period of 2-3 hours on a busy day). If possible, try to go on a date where you can catch a cool light show at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (we happened to see the Dark Arts one and it was beautiful).

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HOGSMEADE!

Los Angeles and Irvine also have some delectable food. The Anaheim Packing District near Irvine was full of small food-court-style restaurants which offered a variety of cuisines from Southern American, to Mediterranean and Vietnamese. Los Angeles’ Melrose Avenue and Sunset Boulevard are well known for their picturesque landscapes and delicious brunch food.

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Of course, when in Los Angeles, do visit Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park. There are three routes around the Hollywood sign, varying from easy to hard difficulty. Start out the hike around 4:30pm and make it back to Griffith Observatory around 7pm to catch a beautiful sunset. If the night’s a clear one, try to spot a constellation or two through the many telescopes inside the observatory which is free for everyone! There’s also a bus there that takes you outside the park where you can then call an Uber.

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Hello Hollywood!

A word of advice though, there are some coyotes roaming around this area around the evening (and my friend and I were unlucky enough to encounter two!) but if you stay calm, walk with a group and ignore the coyotes, they’ll ignore you right back!

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View from Griffith Observatory!

California truly is the golden state, so make sure you do end up seeing as much of it as you can. Eat some tacos in San Diego, take a bus to San Jose, wear your Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland Anaheim, and check out the sparkling Lake Tahoe! Travelling is quite fun, be sure to bring your camera so you can capture the gorgeous sunsets this state offers.

BURGER FEATURE

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The Butcher, the Baker, Cappuccino Maker: 10/10

A wonderfully delicious, perfectly medium rare burger at this eatery at Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. Slightly pricey, but nothing people from Auckland aren’t used to. You won’t regret it! The meat was juicy and tender, the fries were crunchy, and the cheese was too die for!

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