Review of a Year Abroad … in Santa Barbara, California
My degree at Kent was in English and American literature and because of the American lit I had the opportunity to study in the states. I studied at the University of California Santa Barbara and it was honestly the best year of my life. The campus is on the Pacific coastline two hours north from LA and Santa Barbara is fortunate to have its own airport a stone’s throw to the campus. The university is situated directly on the cliff tops and it is the only UC campus with its own beaches. This university was my first choice as I live by the sea at home and knew I would be completely happy here – who wouldn’t! Thankfully I achieved the grades to be accepted; you do need to show high grades in your first and second year to be considered for the UC system as places are very competitive.
I lived next to the campus in a student village called Isla Vista. I was twenty one within two weeks of arriving (I timed it well) and while searching for accommodation online I was told it was not a good idea to live on campus as the alcohol laws are very strict, even if you are legal. Living off campus was brilliant as everyone does it and only first years live on campus. I bought a beach cruiser and cycled to class every day and this was perfect for getting around I.V. (as you will begin to call it). There are many places to eat and get coffee, two bars and always a lot going on. Students mainly have house parties and they are not your average ‘everyone-cram-in-a-small-space’ house party. Just to give you an idea how good the house parties are, Steve Aoki went to UCSB and used to do DJ sets on the balconies. Other students now follow in his footsteps. There is the I.V. Foot Patrol which are the police designated to this student area so nothing can get too out of hand. As long as you don’t go outside with a drink in your hand you will be fine. If you search ‘Isla Vista Halloween’ or ‘Isla Vista Floatopia’ you can see how crazy the parties can get.
With my course I was able to take a film class in screenwriting, a theatre class in playwriting, even a ballet class, as well as obviously literature classes to make up my credits. The first week when the online class system goes live is called a passtime. You can then register for classes before they become full but for some classes you may need a validation code from the teacher to add it to your schedule.
The system over there is to just ‘crash’ a class and see if you can get in and generally as an international student they will let you take it. ‘Crashing’ a class is basically just going along to a class to see if you can get a space. It is a pretty hectic time and annoying if you don’t get the class you really want, so my advice is do some research on all the classes available before the date and time of your passtime. You can find all the class descriptions online or either you can buy a handbook from the bookstore. There’s so many classes you can take as well as the ones connected to your subject so if you fancied learning Chinese, now is the time. These classes come with their days and times attached so make a draft timetable of all the classes you want to “crash”. Go early and get a seat otherwise you will be sat on the floor. If you arrive and it’s super full but you know there’s another class on at the same time that could interest you instead, run/cycle to that one.
The one thing with southern Californian students is that they all abbreviate everything! Someone doing political science will say their major is poly sci, and the gym better known as the recreational centre is the rec cen. When my Irish housemate was trying to navigate her way around campus she asked a girl directions who replied, “If you go past HSSB and turn right towards the UCen, Psych is just ahead.” Obviously my housemate gave her a puzzled look which prompted the Californian girl to ask “don’t you guys abbrev?” *face in palm*
There was so many funny experiences in my year it’s hard to actually think of a specific one, however the one that springs to mind is when my other Irish housemate Barbara woke up to find someone had defecated on her beautifully decorated beach cruiser. It was disgusting but her bike was so perfect with tassles on the handles bars, painted daisies, a basket and even a number plate that we felt it was inevitable.
While you are abroad make sure you take as many trips with people as possible and see as much of California and the rest of America as you can as a year goes quickly. I travelled loads but I never got to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite.
A Final Word of Advice:
Don’t try and argue with the cops, they aren’t like English police. Although do use the accent to your advantage, in more ways than one!