Spring Break in Cabo

Spring Break really needs no introduction, but in case you haven’t watch any American ‘college’ movies, here’s what it is:

Spring Break is normally a week holiday (yes only a week!) that kinda correlates to the UK’s Easter weekend, but it doesn’t always. Spring Break is notorious for college students descending on countries with warm weather, beaches and cheap booze, or places where the drinking age is 18. One of my friends who I met at Davis at our study abroad orientation, joined a sorority, she told me and another study abroad friend about plans to go to Cabo in Mexico for Spring Break. Naturally we hoped on board as we wanted to have the full American college experience.

The weekend that finals finished, off we jetted to Cabo. As soon as we stepped off the plane we felt the heat! We decided to book our trip with an all-inclusive company, with a wristband that meant breakfast and drinks were included in a reasonably priced hotel room. When we first arrived we have to go through an orientation where we got said wristbands, some free merch, and had a safety talk run by ex-cops. They emphasised the 3 big no-nos in Mexico: no drugs, no going anywhere alone and no urban peeing. Once that was over we got a shuttle bus all the way around to where our hotel was.
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Our hotel was lovely, and only a 7 minute walk to the beach. The first night we watched the sunset on the beach, and then got some yummy tacos and margaritas. I have to say as much as we wanted to have the Spring Break experience, we also prioritised just doing what we wanted in order to make the most of a holiday with friends. So for the majority of the week we spent lazing on the beach or by the pool, reading our books, working on our tans, and trying out different restaurants along the strip. At night we would pre-drink in our hotel room, and then go to a few of the bars our all-inclusive wristband had scheduled. Then we would hit El Squid Roe, one of the weirdest and most unique clubs I have ever been to. El Squid Roe had booths all along the sides and smaller tables down the middle, filled with people dancing. There were three stories and upstairs was like a balcony running the whole way round.  Basic club house remixes blared from the speakers, and every inch of the space was filled by bodies dancing away. My favourite club was called Mandala, it played pop and RnB music and had a decent sized dance floor.

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I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about going on Spring Break, my usual choice on holiday is somewhere with a bit more of a traditional cultural experience, with sightseeing etc. If it hadn’t been Spring Break perhaps Cabo could have been more like this, but at the time we went Cabo was overridden with college students, giving it a much different feel. From what I had seen in movies, a lot of Spring ‘Breakers’ can be very entitled and rude to local people and I did not want to be lumped into that crowd. Luckily my friends and I managed to steer clear of anyone that gave off those vibes, and we had a fun holiday together.

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Overall I would definitely recommend going on a Spring Break holiday with your new friends, its a way to bond about more than just classes or being study abroad students, and a fun way to spend a holiday off uni. I would also recommend Cabo as a destination, we had a lot of laughs and fun on the beach and walking up and down the strip.

Life in a Co-op

Part of the reason I chose to apply to study abroad in University of California, Davis campus was because of the opportunity to live in a co-op. A co-op is a form of alternative housing, whereby each member does ‘chores’ in order to live in the house. These change weekly, so one week you will cook for the whole house, the next week you would do the food shopping for the house, in Davis co-ops this would be for around 12-15 people.   Each co-op also has a particular social justice focus, for example LGBTQ+ issues/rights, or POC/Black Persons issues/rights.

Unique to UC Davis are The Domes. The Domes community is made up of  13 liveable domes, (and one dome office); two people live in each dome. The Domes are part of the tiny house movement, and are made from polyurethane-insulated fibreglass. The Domes were created as a way to provide affordable housing for students on campus, and they were created in 1970s. The Domes were designed by UC Davis students, each dome has a slightly different layout because of this, making each dome unique! Once the foundation of the dome was created, the wooden platforms and structure inside was built and finally the dome structure was placed on top.

The Domes functions a little bit differently from other Davis co-ops, as they are mini homes rather than one big house. The Domes focus is on sustainable living, environmental consciousness, while also discussing social justice issues. The Domes have been a very interesting place to live. I am constantly learning new things about the environment, sustainability, people’s view points about ethical behaviour, race/ethnicity, class, ableism, and oppression and its deep rooted forces.

At The Domes we have a weekly meeting where we discuss anything going on with the domes, and have a social justice check-in. A social justice check-in is where two people present a topic for example, the intersection of poor environment and people in a low socio-economic position, and we all discuss and give ideas about the issue at hand. This helps increase awareness, provides learning and creates a space to voice and share about different topics. Unique to The Domes is its land. The Domes has land in order to grow its own produce and to make produce more affordable for its members.

We also have potluck dinners Monday – Thursday, this is where 4-5 people each night cook dinner for everyone. This is one of my favourite parts about living in the domes, as this is where everyone comes together to eat and catch-up on their day, and you get an array of tasty food each night!

Living in a co-op has been an experience. Co-op life is not for the stubborn, living in a co-op is about compromise, constantly having your ideas and opinions challenged and self-reflecting on behaviour (you most likely took for granted).

However, I have had the opportunity of a more typical ‘American College’ experience of having a roommate (although we call it a domemate, and my domemate is great!); made local friends (in the sense of California raised) as well as international friends; been challenged and exposed to differences in British and American issues or viewpoints. I would 100% recommend trying to live in a co-op as part of a study year abroad experience, even as general life experience, as you will understand and learn so much about the country/culture you are situated in, as well as learning about people, and community building.

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Questions and comments always welcome 🙂 Izzie xxx

 

First Impressions

I’ve been in California for just over a month now but I thought I would backtrack to the beginning: my September arrival. I am lucky enough to have family friends who live in Oakland, California, so I was able to stay with them for the first week. This helped enormously with getting acclimatised to Californian time (8hrs behind the U.K), setting up an American bank account and getting a sim card, all essential things for a year abroad.

Staying with family friends also gave me the opportunity to experience family and school orientated activities for example, I was able to go to freshman high school volleyball matches, middle school Saturday soccer matches, and see a high-school American football game, complete with the high school band. We also took part in East Bay’s 5k run! My family friends often laughed at me when I would be so excited at certain things they said or did, because for them this was normal life, whereas for me this was ‘soooo American’, and I had only seen those things on social media/films.

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During my week in Oakland, I also got the opportunity to visit Angel Island, an island that was used as a military base in order to keep California protected from Spanish explorers in the late 1890s, and provided protection from the Japanese during WW2. The island was also where Asian immigrants would have to report to, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (banned from entering America) was passed – an event I was truly shocked to hear happened. As well as its interesting history, Angel Island provides for some amazing views of the Bay Bridge, the San Fransisco skyline and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

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My second week was spent moving into the Domes, my chosen housing for the year. Numerous University of California campus’ have cooperative housing initiatives, which aim to be socially inclusive, promote social justice, and often have a particular focus, the domes focus is community and sustainable agricultural practise. I think I will do a whole separate blog post on the domes because they are such a unique housing and community scheme. Moving in was a little stressful, but that is to be expected when you move anywhere new.

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I have found it a little hard to make friends here, because of how late classes start, many people had still not moved in, societies weren’t running and there was not a lot to do as the university was coming out of summer mode. However I did have orientation with other international exchange students, and I have made friends, a couple are from the U.K and one is from Sweden, but actually studies in the U.K as well. We bonded over being in the same situation, and have spent time together exploring downtown Davis and the campus. Unlike Manchester, Davis really is a college town, so when there aren’t students around it is not hip-and-happening. On the other hand, it is really pretty and quaint and am I excited to see how it changes when all the students arrive, I really feel I will be able to get to know Davis well and feel at home here!

I decided to wait to post this till I had had my first full week of classes, in order to give an academic perspective… so here it is:

Due to the American schooling system, students have a large scope of subjects, meaning people can take pretty much any course (despite prerequisites), this means that there are biological sciences majors in my anthropology classes. This can be interesting as people from different academic disciplines can bring different viewpoints to discussions, however this can also mean that we take up a lot of time going over the basics “what is ethnography? what do anthropologists really do?” etc, two years into an straight anthropology degree can be a little tedious.

There is a lot more emphasis on group working and group learning than I have experienced in the U.K. In one of my classes this quarter we are having to create presentations with other class members, almost in a workshop style, about our weekly readings, and global health institutions. People also study together (in Starbucks or Peets Coffee), in fact they find it really funny that people in the U.K study alone!

In classes students are also much more willing to openly discuss, answer questions, and ask question. This might be partly because in many classes a percentage of your grade is specifically for class participation. Another reason could be because of the pricing of university here, people are really wanting to get their money’s worth! All this discussion and question asking is a great way to share ideas and get clarifications, but it can slow the class down.

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Overall I am enjoying my time here, the quarter system is very quick – I have my classes twice a week, so I’ve already had 7 of each class, compared to back home where I would only have had 3. This is also feels like there is not as much free time, because it’s always onto the next reading!