Stepping into a new world at UCLA

by Jyotsna Hiranandani
Photo by Jane Huang

Photo by Jane Huang

A plethora of emotions to overcome,

As we step into ucla, a place to call home.

A little fear is always expected,

But BruinLife will always keep you connected.

To seize this newfound opportunity,

Here’s some advice from the Bruin community!

Around 12,000 international students call UCLA their home, but being home away from home is unnerving. As an international student, coming to UCLA is a dream come true, yet it is intimidating to navigate sudden changes. Having spent the last year at home, we freshmen and sophomores struggle with the cultural differences and the challenge of being miles away from family.

Afraid, nervous, agitated — you name it, we feel it. Miles away from home in a new world, we are looking for a bit of a nudge, hoping to succeed but slightly deluded. In times like these, people don’t just want to listen to an echo chamber of equally lost and confused sophomores; they want to hear from our very own seniors about their journeys, tips and tricks on how to survive the awkward transition years at UCLA.

The quarter system has all of us on our toes, and for most of us shifting from semester systems, this is all new and might be overwhelming. How do we get through this without mentally draining ourselves or drowning in coffee to overcome the sleepy nights? Here is some advice from our alumni and seniors on how to get through the fast-paced quarter without having frequent stress breakdowns:

— After being online for a while, or coming from schools less diverse and crowded, the long dining hall lines might be extremely overwhelming. A transfer student suggested how she has learned to avoid the lines by going to dining halls at times when most people would have classes. For example, she shares that going at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. is ideal, since these times have the smallest crowds. Another interesting tip is to go right when the dining halls open to get your hands on the tastier desserts!

— Taking all of your general education classes during the first few years might seem like the right thing to do, but when things get more challenging, having a class that acts as a break from the challenging concepts and works as a GPA booster can become a source of an easy A later in your college career. might seem a bit cumbersome, but when it comes to picking suitable classes, it is a goldmine. All you need to do is read a little about the professors you intend to take classes from; though you still have to end up putting in the hard work, having a good professor makes things easier.

— Coming to UCLA, we know that we have to do everything ourselves, but the extent to which we have to self-depend is sometimes frightening. In such systems, it helps to spread out the work you have planned and take things as they come. It is crucial to stay on top of your game because the chances of being crushed are much higher with the competitive culture.

— Attending office hours may seem like even more piling onto the already large volumes of work. However, attending office hours not only increases your knowledge on the subject but also allows you to make contacts with professors and TAs, serving as an excellent resource for future internships and lab work under the designated professors.

— While it might seem intuitive to study for fifteen hours a day the week before finals or midterm, it might not always work out well. Keeping up with lectures and homework helps prevent large amounts of cramming before an exam.

— Joining a peer learning facility is an excellent resource for classes that might be higher on the difficulty scale.

— Sometimes it is beneficial to just take a breath knowing that even if things aren’t sailing smoothly, there’s always the next quarter for you to pick up the pace and fix things. In the end, everything works out.

— For those new to campus, navigating through the Hill and finding classes seems like a bewildering task, but Google Maps almost always helps. When it doesn’t, make sure to look into where you’re going beforehand so you can anticipate your estimated time of arrival and plan accordingly. Using a Bird might seem fun, but walking is always the better option. It is cost-effective and if you plan, you will make it on time. UCLA has the most intoxicating surroundings, walking around might open up your mind and help you navigate and learn the curves and turns of our beloved campus.

UCLA is known for its traditions. From Tik Tok to Instagram Reels, videos of UCLA traditions break the Internet, each of them carried forward from generation to generation, each more interesting than the other. Leaving UCLA without taking part in these traditions is an incomplete journey.

Here’s a list of traditions that are not only fun to do but make your connection with this university even more robust.

— Annual Victory Bell Bonfire: UCLA and USC’s rivalry is heard of in the smallest of places. Each year, to make this rivalry a little more interesting, there is a bonfire to burn everything USC-related with programs from the cheer squad. The winner of the annual USC-UCLA football game is given the Victory Bell. The 295-pound bell, originally hung atop a Southern Pacific freight locomotive, was given to UCLA in 1939 as a gift from the UCLA Alumni Association. Cheerleaders ring the bell after each Bruin point.

— “Bruintizing”: During orientation or your first week on campus, it is a good omen to touch the water at the inverted fountain. It is considered bad luck if you feel the water again before graduation. Seniors generally jump into the fountain after taking their last final at UCLA. It’s an inspiring and enjoyable event since you can go with friends. People even bring inflatable tubes, beer and champagne to celebrate the occasion.

— Spring Sing: Every spring, UCLA hosts an enormous talent competition in Pauley Pavilion to showcase student musicians and dancers. Celebrities such as Ronald Reagan, Paula Abdul, Raven-Symoné, and Dennis Quaid have served as judges for the competition. Every year, the Spring Sing committee also awards The George and Ira Gershwin Award, a lifetime achievement award for musicians in the industry.

— Dance Marathon: The Pediatric AIDS Coalition of UCLA organizes a 26-hour-long dance marathon, and all the money raised goes towards a charitable organization.

— Undie Run: Finals week seems to get everyone on their toes, so letting off steam by participating in the Undie Run is just the thing to do. Each quarter at midnight in the middle of finals week, students will run around the campus in only their underwear. UCLA was the first campus to start this tradition.

— Midnight Yell: When your subjects frustrate you and all you want to do is scream, remember to hold it in until midnight. Students come out to their windows during every night of finals week and scream their frustration away. Hearing everyone scream makes you realize that we are all going through the tough exams together.

— Ice Blocking: The most straightforward yet fun tradition. Buy an ice block from your nearest store and head to the famous Tongva Steps. Sit on the ice and slide down; it is worth all the mud and the frostbite.

UCLA is home to some of the most wide-ranging cultures, minds and traditions, and although things might seem overwhelming, sometimes just sitting back and letting UCLA take you on this roller coaster ride ends up positively. At the end of your journey, you will always have advice to give or things about you that will have changed, but the memories and experiences will forever be there to hold. So instead of fearing it, dive headfirst into the ocean of UCLA and take in as much as you can of this astounding university we now call home.

Photo by Jane Huang

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