When I heard I was going to be spending my year abroad at UCSD I felt like I had won the lotto! I had always dreamed of seeing California, the university looked incredible and who wouldn’t want to spend a year living in sunny San Diego? So that September I packed my bags and set off on a 20 hour journey to a country where I knew nobody!
UCSD’s beach-side campus will make you wish you were born in California. The campus is huge (1,976 acres)- I tried to walk it and never even made it from one side to the other!
It boasts over 550 student organizations, 2 outdoor pools, jacuzzis, an indoor pool, two huge gyms, tennis courts, ball fields, a running track, multipurpose fields, climbing walls, an outdoor climbing
center (similar to those found in Irish adventure centers), gymnastic facilities, squash courts, badminton courts, dance rooms, a theater and jogging trails through a wood – it’s hard to think of something they don’t have! And all free for students!
The year starts opens with university organised beach parties. Several huge outdoor campus parties are held throughout the year. The best known being the Sun God
Festival; the line-up when I was there included: Snoop Dogg, STRFKR, Jhene Aiko, OK Go, Mike Czech, DJ Demon.
House parties – Due the drinking age being over 21, night clubs are much less popular than in Ireland. Instead most people go to house parties – these are exactly how they look on TV with people drinking from red cups and playing beer pong! The hosts generally provide all the food and drinks. However, rules on campus are much stricter than in Ireland with quiet hours being enforced after 11pm on weekdays and 1am at weekends. After these times the on campus police appear (in uniform!) and anyone caught is given a warning. They even have an online lesson on alcohol abuse to be completed. You don’t necessarily have to be caught drinking to get this punishment – to my surprise I found myself having to do it for simply being in the room with underage drinkers! While the quiet hours rule seemed annoying at first, I actually began to like it; parties start earlier and end earlier so you still get to have fun, a night’s sleep and have a productive tomorrow.
Sororities / Fraternities – with 24 fraternities and 19 sororities there are lots of opportunities to discover Greek life! Unfortunately being a member is incredibly expensive; average price being $330 per term (there are 3 terms in the year) plus the joining fee of $200 – this doesn’t include accommodation. However, I discovered it is possible to attend lots of their parties/events without joining (there are open parties and if you have friends in sororities they can bring you to some events). The party locations are often unforgettable – situated in fabulous La Jolla houses or even on a yacht!
I wasn’t in a sorority but rumors I’ve heard include:
- To join a sorority (girl’s group) you have to attend their recruitment events, here you chat to them and figure out which one is the best fit for you – not everybody gets accepted into the one they would like to join!
- Once a member you are paired with a sister (your designated best friend and you go to most events with them. Being used to Irish student culture this seemed like an unusual concept – however I noticed that it really helped people to make friends).
- There seems to be a lot of rules involved with behavior at social events (eg. don’t share taxis home with boys, if your sorority sister is too drunk you are sent home with her.)
- You can be fined for missing an event or meeting.
- Dress code is important as you are instructed about what to wear to each event eg. a teal dress – you will be doing a lot of shopping!
- A song and rule book exists for each sorority which you need to learn and will be tested on.
- They also raise a lot of money for charity.
There truly is no better way to start the day than by heading down to the beach to surf.
In UCSD, surfing between classes is common practice; students carrying surfboards through campus is a regular sight. Having typical Irish skin I found that I attracted a lot of attention on the beach – on numerous occasions strangers offered me sun cream and warnings to stay out of the sun! Skateboarding to class is the most popular mode of transport – it’s no surprise when they whizz past you!
Study is more regulated – they gave marks for homework at the classes I attended; you won’t pass by relying on last-minute exam cramming. If you don’t consistently achieve good grades you will find you are no longer allowed to participate in sports teams, sororities etc.
Accommodation and food – Basic survival is much simpler here. There’s no need to worry about cooking as the on campus dining halls provide a wide array of good food – any extras can be found in the campus shops. The campus apartments are immaculate on your arrival and because of the cleaner’s regular visits they will never be dirty! Due to the hot weather laundry is much simpler – no need to worry about drying! There are also no limits on electricity, hot water and heating (not that you’d need it).