Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the university of california, los angeles, part 3: interviews @UCLA!

At last...the long awaited Part 3 of my 3 part series, 'My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA' has come.  What an adventure it has been!  If you've missed out on the whole story, check out Part 1:   a dead battery forces me to the cafe I have shunned since I moved in.  Part 2: a humorous bus ride turned art gallery.  And Part 2 1/2: campus architecture!

Now its time for the best part of my day, the interviews!  

When I first stepped on campus, I looked around amazed at the luscious green escape that UCLA offers.  I ran into some students waiting for the campus bus and asked where the best place is on campus to find people lounging around (the perfect type to interview!).    I was pointed in the direction of 'janns steps' named after the real estate developers who sold UCLA the land the campus now rests on; the Janns brothers.

I found four willing candidates to chat with around campus, lets start with the two lovely ladies studying psychology; Natalie and Eva!

          Natalie                                         Eva

Natalie and Eva are both fourth year Seniors studying psychology.  Both girls are 1st generation Persian-Americans, and both girls chose UCLA as their college for the same reasons; 

'So what brought you to UCLA?'

1.  love the location of campus!
     -socal, los angeles, the ocean beaches, sunny weather
2.  friends also attend UCLA
3.  great psychology program
4.  UCLA is known as a particularly prestigious university to attend among the Persian community
     -thats pretty cool!

The girls explained that after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, there was a large Persian immigration to the U.S. and many chose either the East coast in NY or the west coast in California!

'What do you like most about UCLA / campus life?'

both girls live off campus and don't spend much time on campus other than class, but they did say that the campus is...

Eva: 'pretty!  It's a good place for the college experience, you get the prestigious experience and UCLA lives up-to the name!  It's very diverse on campus, you don't feel discriminated against no matter who you are.'

Natalie:  'relaxing!  We are proud to have come to UCLA, everyone is always wearing their UCLA sweaters and stuff like that.  (she wasn't lying, I've never seen a campus like this, where every single student is wearin' their school colors so proud and confident!)  And people don't judge you here.  Everyone has their own identity.'

'What do you enjoy the most about SoCal?'

The girls tag-teamed this one!

They explained how they love the weather, the people and how easy and laid back they are.  They also enjoy having everything at their fingertips, ocean, desert and mountains.  They also said they like how LA is a good balance of city & suburb.

To Natalie and Eva, thank you for taking some time to share your stories with me.  I thank you for the conversation, and good-luck on your mid-terms!

Next, Jia and Raman, two 1st year Grad Students!

Jia                                                                  Raman

'ok guys so I got your names already...Ramon right?'

Raman: 'It's like R-A-M-A-N.'

Jia:  'like top ramon, but with an 'A'!'

'Annnnd...I'm sorry I forgot your name...'

Jia:  'Jia, with a 'J'.'

'Ok perfect!  Got your guy's names, whats your year and currently studying?'

Jia:  We're first year Grad Students in Architecture for the M Arch 1 Program (Masters in Architecture)

'And what did you guys study as undergrads?'

Jia: 'I went to UCSD (UC San Diego) for Art history'

Raman:  'I did architecture at The University of Texas in Arlington.'

Jia:  'This is like our first professional interview!  Once we start a collective, it will be like this everyday!' Raman:   laughing!

'ok great, so what brought you guys to UCLA?  I guess some of the usual things are family tradition, location, friends, possibly the degree program...'

Jia:  'Yea thats the biggest, the most important one.'

Raman: 'Yea it was definitley the degree program.

'so architecture is big at UCLA?'

Raman:  'Well for me it was a balance of the faculty and the quality of the degree program.....and the weather!'

Jia:  'Or like, I'm from LA, so the few schools I ended up applying to, LA was 1 of 4.  And I wasn't living in the city [when I applied].

'was it only schools in California that you applied to?'

Jia:  'One in California, and three on the east coast.'

'oh, why the east coast?  just want to kind of get away?!'

Jia:  'I don't know actually...well I was working with an Architectural Collective and I was living in Berlin, so I only wanted to come back to the States if I was going to be in the top programs.  I applied to Harvard, MIT, and Penn and I got into Penn and UCLA.  So it was between those two and UCLA was just a better program actually.  It's much more interesting, much more artistic and Penn was more technical I felt...And I'm more of a west coast girl!'

'west coast girls!  thats what this blog is kinda all about!  that easy laid back west coast culture you know?'  

Jia:  'I didn't actually know that it was so different, I never really spent any time on the east coast when I was little, so when I went over to visit a few schools this year it was so weird!  Its all about the traditions over there, its crazy!'

'ok so what do you guys like most about UCLA?  We kind of already touched that you guys enjoy the weather, and being Grad Students you are too busy to really soak up the campus experience.  But, what would you say you like about campus the most?'

Raman:  'I would say the naturyness of it!'

Jia:  'It's like a proper academic setting.'

Raman:  'Yea!  You feel like you have history on this campus, it's been here awhile!  The thing we do criticize about the campus is that its so segregated between Westwood (city UCLA is Located) and campus.  It is hard to mix your academic and social life

Jia:  'The other thing is that UCLA, well there is a mountain behind it and then in front there's the most expensive property in all of Los Angeles and its all residential (Beverley Hills Area).  So its a really weird and bad dynamic to have.  

Raman:  'Yea we are surrounded by a sea of residential!'

Jia:  'Yea like USC, it's not in the best neighborhood, but its in an interesting neighborhood.  It's a neighborhood for students!'

'ok so sometimes you guys kinda feel...trapped on campus?!'

Both:  'Yea, yes definitely!'

'hmmmm I wasn't expecting that answer!  but I applaud you guys for thinking outside the box!  Ok so moving outside of UCLA, what do you guys enjoy about southern california in-particular?  Jia, you're a local girl, lets start with you!'

Jia: 'Well I just got back from SF, and I love SF!  But I also realized that LA is like so ugly, that its pretty.  Like, you can still get lost in LA, whereas cities like NY and SF, you feel like everyone has seen and been the the places you've been to.  There's no discovery, and there's so many parts of LA you can still discover!'

Raman:  'For sure!  Well from an outsiders point of view, the thing that I like about it is that its like 10 different cities in one area, and the diversity and the authenticity that you get from one area to another, its pretty unreal.  Unless you're in NY or you know, another large city, you're not gonna get the same quality you get at like k-town.  And the the histories behind the districts, its pretty intriguing.  The food is amazing, there is the most authentic, diverse types of foods, infusions of them!'

Jia:  'And you have to work hard to find LA...'  <----------  poetry!  :)

Raman:  'That and you run into so many people that you can relate to because of where you are.  It's kind of like the New York of the west coast.  There's alot of cool people with a-lot of interesting stories.'

'ok so thats all my questions, did you guys have anything you wanted to add?  Something my readers might like to know about SoCal?'

Jia:  'You should mention that LA has a river!' 

Raman:  'Well LA has a really awesome music and art scene...'

Jia:  'Yea, it's all concrete an-- (Jia proceeds to shift the conversation away from Raman's rather relevant topic of LA's music and art scene in favor of the forgotten Los Angeles River!) 

'--and I think the river is the most overlooked part of of LA, and the most ridiculed!

(me and Raman are both laughing!)

Raman:  'She is on this crusade for the river!'

Jia:  '...and I think its the most fantastic place of Los Angeles because...you can go to parts of the river in San Fernando Valley that aren't covered with concrete and you can go kayaking there!  But you can also go for walks in the river!  
You can look for this one group called Urban Rangers they are really interesting because they do a lot of tours of Los Angeles, of like the beaches people think are private, but they are public beaches where owners have put up fake signs that say its private property!  They uncover a lot of aspects where it should be public but has become privatized.  And the river should be public!  Even though it's concrete and terribly ugly, its an interesting site to go and see!  
There's an underground tunnel off Santa Fe where you can walk into the river!  It used to be really nice because people used to go graffiti there, but they covered it all up earlier this year.  I mean, whats the problem with graffitying concrete, like its a river!  No-one's lookin at it!  I don't understand at all!

'ok cool, well thanks so much for the conversation guys!  let me know when you're headed to the bars downtown!'

To Jia and Raman, thank you for sharing your stories with me, goodluck in your graduate studies and get out and see more than just the campus coffee shops!  

I hope you all have enjoyed 'My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA!'  I look forward to another successful trip to USC in the coming weeks, and who know's where else...

Thanks for reading!

               - j

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the beautiful campus of ucla! part 2 1/2 of 3 'campus architecture'

The Architecture of UCLA

Stay tuuuuuuuuuned...Part 3, the final chapter of My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA is next!

Thanks for lookin!

           - j

Monday, October 17, 2011

my serious adventure to the beautiful campus of ucla! part 2 of 3

UCLA's Royce Hall
Hello and welcome to Part 2 of My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA!  While my morning was full of dead batteries, closed banks and a reluctant stop at The Stray Cat Cafe (which turned out to be the best breakfast I'd had in some time).  I had an afternoon reservation with LA's public transportation system.

In my opinion, Los Angeles has a great system.  Multiple 'Metro' lines (under/above-ground train/subway thing) connect all the corners of the city, while various bus lines (rapid, express, downtown etc.) connect to the local areas of the t-m-z (tmz stands for thirty-mile-zone, basically the radius of LA).  However, despite LA's (...now take this next bit with a grain of salt, because traffic here is still just awful...) efficient public transportation system, I usually elect to take my car on these various adventures of mine.  Why?  I guess I'm just American and I love to drive my car.  I waited my whole life to own a car I love, and I love my bmw 330i, simple!

But I've also been itchin to jump on the bus or train!  $1.50 per destination or $5 for an all day pass and thats it.  No worrying about traffic, dealing with other crazy drivers, but best of all, no stressing about parking!  Parking space is a huge issue in this town and it can be very expensive to pay for parking to go to the simplest of places sometimes.  And even better, I live in the heart of downtown so any train or bus I need to catch is just blocks away.

To get to UCLA (about 15 miles west) I only had to take 1 bus, 2 blocks from my apt. and it runs every 10 minutes.  I stepped on the bus, paid my $1.50 and went on the prowl for an empty window seat.  It was one of those huge double-length buses so it took awhile to reach the back.  And what do I see when I get there?  Ugh, no window seats!

I sit down and across from me are three older gentlemen holding what appeared to be a conversation, in Spanish.  I did my best to translate, but the one guy that was talking the most was difficult to understand.  I couldn't figure out why none of his words were making sense, I mean usually I can pick out a few words from my limited Spanish vocabulary!  It was then that I noticed the open 16oz. beer he was holding  :)  Ohh boy, drunk on da bus!

The one guy keeps 'talking' as the other two listen and occasionally nod their heads.  The next stop, this drunk guy stumbles to his feet, slaps hands with the two others and steps off with his beer.  I am glued to the two other guys for their reaction and I couldn't help but smile!  They looked at each-other like, "whaaaaaaaaaaa??!"  and started spouting off something about how drunk and crazy this other guy was.  I could only understand the jist of their conversation, but they were definitely having a good laugh about how wasted and incoherent he was!  They saw me chuckling too, but didn't seem to mind  :)

Feeling nice and full from breakfast, and now getting a good laugh in on the bus, it was only fitting that the day was going to get better...on the next stop this double-length bus full with people completely cleared out.  I got my window seat after just 2 stops and according to google maps, I still had an hour to get all my bus photos before we arrived at UCLA, yes!

Stay tuned for the Final Chapter:  Part 3 of My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA.  Photo's of campus and Interviews with locals & students 

Part 3  UCLA Campus

Thanks for reading!

                - j

Saturday, October 15, 2011

my serious adventure to the beautiful campus of ucla! part 1 of 3

UCLA's Royce Hall
This saturday started out like any other.  Planning my rare 'day off' I decided to venture out on LA's public transportation system and caught the downtown bus to UCLA's campus on the west side, towards the pacific ocean.  All packed with supplies & camera, I was headed for the bus when I remembered that my little Canon Rebel XS is totally dead from my last photo session walking around SoCal's other big University, USC.  I figure I'll let the battery charge while I grab some breakfast...but first I need to grab some cash...

Through a long and pretty boring series of events, I've been without a debit card for about 5 months.  So when I need cash I talk to a teller inside the bank.  But it turns out the bank I go to (where I promised the teller Cynthia I would finally open a California account at) is closed all day saturday!  C'mon Cynthia, killin me!  Too lazy to trek to the next closest bank for cash, (plus I needed to get to UCLA by mid-day for my best shot at interviews!) I decide $9.57 cash will do for todays adventure...

The Stray Cat Cafe, dtla

So I head back home, searching for any place I can get breakfast with a credit card on the way (not many choices downtown!).  The only place I could think of was the Stray Cat Cafe.  A cafe I have been completely intrigued and curious about because it looks so tasty and its right across from my apt.  But a cafe I have been totally avoiding because when I first started Germy-in-SoCal @StrayCatCafe began following me on twitter one day...I was so excited to have this random cafe across the street that liked my blog about SoCal!!  Then, the next day, they un-followed me...so weak!

But, due to the circumstances, I could avoid the Stray Cat Cafe no more.  I walked in and sat down at a great raised table facing the busy intersection of 5th and spring.  Oh the women that walked past this window seat! They were enough to make me love the Stray Cat Cafe already!  Things got even better as I noticed the wait staff was full of cute girls too!

I ordered an orange juice and 3 blueberry pancakes.  The orange juice was the freshest, most satisfyingly orange beverage I've ever tasted.  And the blueberry pancakes!  Each cake was perfectly warm, and perfectly sized.  The blueberries were warm and plump with blueberry juiciness!  And they gave me more maple syrup than I knew what to do with!

Needless to say, the breakfast was so deliciously scrumptious, it inspired me to split this post into 3 parts, and turn a simple saturday tour of UCLA into My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA!  I hope you have enjoyed part 1; stay tuned for part 2, a hysterical bus ride across Los Angeles,

Part 2, squint hard enough and see me sitting in the back window!

and finally part 3, photo's and interviews straight from UCLA!

Part 3 Coming Soon!
And to you. @StrayCatCafe...even though you un-followed me...I love your cafe!  Great work, I love having places like you downtown.  I will be back soon  :)

Thanks for reading!

              - j