Ola, studying abroad at University of California Santa Barbara, USA.
74 days into my year abroad at University of California Santa Barbara is the perfect time to write this blog post because today marks the date that instead of saying “to-mah-to”, the word “to-MAY-to” escaped my lips. This may well be due to the fact I have spent the past few days with a real life LA family, (Thank)fully immersed in a perfect pool of turkey gravy, cranberry sauce and fine Californian wine (livin’ the 21+ dream).
Tempting as it is to indulge in detailed description of how delectable a Thanksgiving I just experienced, I imagine most of the people reading this are either considering whether or not they want to include California in their list of year abroad choices, or are trying to decide which UC campus to apply to, so instead I will do my best in communicating a concise insight into my experience of UCSB life so far.
If you’ve heard anything about UCSB before reading this, it’s probably related to its infamous party school reputation. However, if the idea of frat boys chugging beer and fist pumping to the EDM beats of misogyny does anything but fill you with delight, then you need not be alarmed. Greek Life makes up a mere 12% of the undergraduate population here, so there is plenty of counter culture to be explored in Isla Vista (the student town where UCSB is situated – about a half hour bus ride from Santa Barbara itself).
The best piece of advice I received (shoutout to Bertie!) upon learning that UCSB is where I would be spending my year abroad was that I should apply to live in the co-ops (Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-operative). If you enjoy BASc music/spoken word nights and generally open-minded, welcoming, community vibes, then the co-ops are the place for you. (Learn more here)
If you are looking to turn your year abroad into an escape from London’s concrete jungle to the great outdoors then UCSB is definitely worth considering, but a quick Google image search will tell you as much. Providing you befriend someone with access to a car, you could find yourself switching from surfboard to snowboard all in the same day.
My personal highlights to date include sunset hiking, swimming with seals between classes, American Halloween, driving down the 101 to LA with the OC soundtrack blaring out the windows and getting academic credit for learning how to sail and ballroom dance.
It sounds (and feels) a bit like an amazing extended holiday at times, but I am yet to mention the plethora of fascinating classes available – often in departments that don’t even exist at UCL. You could find yourself skateboarding (everyone cycles or skateboards here) from a Black Studies class on the Obama phenomenon to a Communications class about deception. I’m particularly looking forward to a class called Symmetry and Aesthetics in Contemporary Physics, which will include visualising scientific concepts through art.
And on that interdisciplinarily mind blowing note, I leave my twitter handle (@olaforman) for those of you who want to know more about what it’s like to replace Scandinavian Section snuffles with the UCSB Library’s Pacific View Room (yep, it is exactly how you’re imagining it, but hey, good for you too if you actually managed to find a seat in the Main Library).