GIC Podcasts

As you make your transition to our university, the Graduate International Connection site will be a helpful tool. Curated, and produced by fellow graduate students, these podcasts will give you an insider’s perspective on life at UCI and around Irvine.

Transcript of Podcast #1: Interview with Aimee Jiang

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Melisa Perut (she/they)

Melisa: Hi everyone! Welcome! Today we are with Aimee, the International Student Officer. Right? That’s who you are. Aimee and I’m Melisa your host for the podcast. I’m coming to you live from the pink roof. Hi Aimee, it’s so great to have you today. How have you been doing? It’s been a busy week

Aimee: It’s been a very busy week, but doing well.

Melisa: Great, so as we jump into our podcast, so the podcasts are here for international students, so they can get to learn about GIC. They get to learn about the programs, and it’ll make it easier for them to transition into their lives here at UCI. These are available to all of the students, international students more particularly. That’s who we’re gearing the podcast to be, for this our first episode. So we’re very excited about it. Our hope is that we can grow as a community. We can learn from each other. We can share our experiences and use podcasts as we’re washing our dishes or doing our laundry to learn more about life here at UCI, as we make our transition. We’re glad to have Aimee here with us, and I would like to begin with our first question for Aimee which is can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at GIC. 

Aimee: Yeah so I am originally from Washington State, which many people get confused with the capital. So it’s not where all the presidential stuff is. It is in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Very mountainous, and also ocean beach. So I really love being down here because I still get some of that kind of beach atmosphere and the mountains aren’t too far away. But I love being in California, I love Orange County, and so I’m excited to welcome you all to this area. My role as the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division is to not focus on any part of immigration, but to really focus on the holistic support of a student while they’re here. So that can be from difficulty transitioning, there’s a lot of feelings that come along with that. Some is, you know, excited, but also there’s a lot of worries, so I’m here to support students through that. And then I’m here throughout their journey to support them along the way because many times those feelings come and go, you know, sometimes big things happen in our lives, and we want to be home for them and so I’m here for students through that, through getting to talk about careers as you get towards the end of your time here, which is what we’re all here for, is to graduate at some point right? We all want to finish our program. I’m here for that journey as well. But part of my role is to coordinate the Graduate Interconnect Program. So training mentors and walking them through the program for them to support our incoming students. I have a master’s in college counseling and student development and I know what it’s like to be a grad student. I know how hard financially it was for me to be a grad student but also just feeling separated from my friends, who maybe weren’t in grad school. So I know some of those feelings and emotions that come along with it. So I always love supporting my students through these experiences.

Melisa: That’s really cool. Most of you will see that not a lot of your previous institutions might have had somebody like Aimee, so it might not be familiar to have somebody in this role, which was the case for many of the graduate students here. But you’ll see that Aimee is a great resource that you can reach out to. She will try support you in the best way possible, or if she doesn’t have the resources, she will direct you to the correct resources as well. So she is a part of GIC so can you tell us a little about GIC and the role of GIC for international students? 

Aimee: Yeah so I definitely encourage people to take part in GIC. It’s a once in your time here experience to be a mentee within the program. So this program is created to help you from the moment you say yes to the end of your first quarter. So we want to walk you through all of those feelings during the summer to have someone to talk to all the way to I’ve arrive on campus and you feel maybe a little lost or like it’s just kind of an overwhelming experience, even if you’ve already been in the U.S.before. To be in a new maybe town, to maybe be your first time at campus, and how do you navigate your way around? So, knowing you have someone here that has guided you, who is here for you, who’s maybe only an email way. “I’m really lost, and I don’t know where to find this kind of grocery. Can you help me?” You have someone there with you if you participate in the program. And then for your first quarter. First quarter is always kind of the most difficult in your transition, especially getting used to the quarter system. So maybe new holidays that pop up in our year for students that maybe haven’t been in the U.S. before and so, having someone again, just is there for you to walk with you and to make this experience easier for you is really what this program is designed for.

Melisa: And GIC also has mentors. Can you tell us a little bit about the role of mentors as a part of GIC? And what you just mentioned. 

Aimee: Yeah, so signing up for GIC means that you get partnered with someone who’s a current graduate student here. A lot of our mentors are international students, but some of our domestic students participate as just wanting to encourage their peers who are international and learn more about maybe, where you’re from. Maybe it’s a new country that they don’t know much about, and so we do have some domestic peers as well. But everyone is a current student, so they all know what it’s like whether you are starting from coming from L.A. or you’re coming from the other side of the world. Everyone has a transitional process when they start grad school, and so they all know what that’s like, and they’re here to support you.

Melisa: That’s really cool, and it’s not just for like when we say graduate students, it’s not just Ph.D. students, but also masters students right?

Aimee: Any student that is not within law or the School of Medicine or within the business School masters programs are eligible to participate in GIC, those other programs have their own version of a nurturing program like this, and some of them start in different time periods. So that’s why they don’t participate.

Melisa:: And you know we would like to have them. Of course it’s not we that we don’t. But there are some technical issues. 

Aimee: Some technical issues, it’s funny when you’re talking to some of the business students that start in the spring. Then you’re like. How about housing? And they’re like I figured that out long time ago. So you know, just logistically doesn’t make sense for them to participate. But we do encourage them to check out some of our events in the Fall Quarter, and participate in International Education Week, which you’ll hear more about, so we do hope to get that community still looped into what we do. 

Melisa: That’s that’s great. And you also mentioned housing. So I wanted to ask you what kind of concerns do international students come to you. And what are the common questions that you respond to? 

Aimee: Yeah, I think, before students get here the most common questions are housing, food. Where do I find food? What’s good food? A lot of fears about what American food is. I think we have. We have a lot of kind of images of what our food is throughout the world. That but Irvine and Orange County in general, I think, has a little more of a healthy mentality around food. So there’s a little more diversity, a little more fresh veggies, and fruits that you can find pretty easily here. So yeah. Housing, food transportation. L. A. Is known for not having great transportation, and so public transportation can look a little different in Orange County. But what does that look like? Do I need to drive? Do I need a car? Finances? And then I would say, to like health insurance, health insurance in the U.S. can be very different from students that are maybe from a place that has more of a universal health care plan. So how do I use it? What vaccines do I need before I get there? Do I need them before? Or is there like a grace period? And there definitely is a grace period. So those kinds of things, I think, are generally the biggest kind of logistical thing students ask before they get here. But then, once students are here, it’s a lot more of how do I build friends and community? How do I get over the fact that I’m really missing home? How do I balance being still connected to the people back home and building community here. Life goes on back home without me. So it feels weird when I go back home like those kind of more kind of emotional parts of a graduate school journey.

Melisa: Wow! So you’re doing a lot. But that’s great that we have a resource that is able to respond to our questions, and a wide range of questions as well. So just as you know, a word of encouragement to incoming international students. There are resources for you, and there will be people that will try to help you and get the answers that we need for your questions. So you can feel a little bit more comfortable coming in, and we’re excited too, of course. Have you all? And then I want to ask Aimee what advice do you have for incoming international students as they start thinking about their transition as they start packing their bags and getting ready and saying goodbye to some of their friends and getting ready to make this big move to UCI.

Aimee: Yeah, I think one of the things is to ask questions. I have a lot of students that I talk to that are afraid to ask questions, or they don’t feel like anyone else is asking the same question. But a lot of those questions are built off of those emotions you feel coming here, and that’s a very common thing. You know. We’re all excited to try something new right to go on a big new adventure in grad school, especially grad school in Irvine is a big new adventure for a lot of people. So ask the questions that you need to make that the most comfortable journey for you. But you’re still going to be nervous like, you know. If you’re flying here, you might have flight, anxiety like me, but you also might be nervous about just what do I do when I land? What is that gonna be like? So ask your mentor what that experience was like for them, or recommendations that they would have, so that you feel you have a little bit of a safety net in how to get to campus. What is that gonna look like? What do I need to do in my first week? So attend panels, ask questions but understand, too. I think the biggest thing is just knowing you’re not alone and feeling those things. So you’re not the only one that’s nervous or scared or like, am I making the right decision? We all ask those questions on big adventures like this. It’s okay to ask those questions but don’t let it stop you if you’re also really excited and wanting to pursue something at this level.

Melisa: That’s that’s great to hear, and also cultural barriers can also be a thing where you don’t want to overburden the person by asking those questions and what you have to say to those people that feel like they shouldn’t be asking too many questions Aimee.

Aimee: Very common. It’s my job. It’s literally my job to answer your questions, and I love my job. So ask your questions. I think it’s really important to know that that is available for you. Our professors, a lot of our staff members we answer the same questions all day long, and if I answered your question and it wasn’t really the question you asked, maybe ask it again, or say, hey, that didn’t really answer what I’m looking for maybe let me clarify, because sometimes I think we’re asking a question. I know the technicals of answering it but what you’re asking is something different. So try to re-ask questions. If you’re not getting the answer, don’t go. Okay? Well, that didn’t answer it, but too bad. I’m not gonna try again keep trying, because sometimes they’re just yeah different ways of asking something that might actually get you the right answer

Melisa: Yeah and there are so many things that you can learn from just one simple question, because Aimee has a lot of information and ideas, and you will get a lot. So don’t be afraid to ask. That will be my advice to everybody that’s coming in. So we kind of talked about GIC and life at UCI as incoming international students and it seems a little bit daunting. So now I want to move into what’s fun and what to do when you come to UCI, and what should international students expect as they make their transition. And I want to, you know, direct that question to you, Aimee, by asking, what do you like to do? Living in Southern California living in Irvine. What do you do? And what should international students be on the look at for? 

Aimee: Yeah, if you like to go outside, this is a great place for hiking, running, biking, taking long walks. I love doing all those things. I usually will get a nice cup of tea and go on a walk. Go on a hike, especially this season, right now. Take your allergy meds, and then go on a hike because it’s blooming all of the beautiful flowers everywhere, but it’s stunning to be able to see those flowers. I love getting outside. So kayaking, just going down to the water, too. There’s something really calming for water to me. And so I love just going and sitting at the beach and listening to the waves. We have really beautiful beaches down here. I just recommend that you try and find a way to get there without parking, because parking can be kind of a nightmare and expensive. So yeah, I think I like to go outside a lot if you like to shop there’s really good shopping centers here. I have a lot of really good food. I really love eating around here, and I have dietary restrictions. So eating there’s a lot of like vegan food, a lot of vegetarian food, and that makes it easy for me to eat around here.

Melisa: Well, that’s so exciting, you know, and everybody just be on the lookout because we’re going to have more episodes, talking about different places to eat, and what kind of documentation you might need for certain things like what kind of passes you might need, for parking somewhere, National Parks or State Parks. So we’ll talk all about those as well in upcoming episodes. But we want to thank you all for joining us. Thank you, Aimee, for joining us today and joining the first episode of our podcast. We apologize If we made any mistakes on the way. Hopefully, everything worked out, and you’re able to listen. So we’re excited, and always feel free to reach out to Aimee. If you have any questions, if you have any questions regarding the podcast feel free to reach out to me as well. You’ll have all of the information, but we want to thank you all, and have a great rest of your day and enjoy, Take care.

Transcript of Podcast #2: Groceries 101

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Balam Benitez Mata (he/him)

Melisa: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another Gic podcast episode. Today, we’re going to talk about grocery stores 101. We have Balam Benitez-Mata with us. He is returning mentor he’s been with GIC for 2 years, this is his second year. We’re excited to have Balam. Balam, can you introduce yourself? Oh, and also, before we begin, I should also introduce myself. My name is Melisa Perut. I’m coming back to you as another GIC episode, podcast, organizer. So yes, we have along here today. We’re excited to have you Balam. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Balam: Sure. Thank you very much, Melisa. Hello everyone my name is Balam. I’m a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, as Melisa mentioned, I’m a second-time GIC mentor, and I was also a mentee when I first arrived to UCI. So this is a nice way to kind of like return the, not the favor but just be happy to participate on the other side this mentorship program.

Melisa: Awesome. Where do you call home Balam?

Balam: Sure. Well, a little more about me. I’m from Mexico. I’m also an international student. I grew up, I was born and raised in Mexico central part of Mexico. Then I moved to the northern part of the country for my undergrad, and then I moved to the U.S. for grad school. So I’m just moving up north every time I can more or less. And some other things that I really enjoy, that I like is, I’m like a very active person. I love doing sports. I love weightlifting, going on hikes, playing basketball. If you invite me to go to the beach and play sports, I’ll probably say yes, if you invite me to a barbecue and play sports, I’m probably gonna say yes, if you invite me to do sports at all. I’m gonna say, yes. Also, I love playing board games. I’m terrible at them but like it’s just fun for me to just be there trying to understand rules. And also it is you have so many different games here in the U.S.. So it’s a very interesting and entertaining to explore new activities and new games.

Melisa: Excellent! Oh, thanks so much Balam for giving us a little bit more insight. And Balam is great at sports, by the way, so if you ever want to have like a soccer match a volleyball match, I think Balam is your person. He’s great, so again, we’re going to talk about grocery stores today. And I want to start off with asking, What are the main grocery stores around campus, and something that distinguishes them from the rest of them Balam can you tell us?

Balam: Sure. That’s a great question. So for my experience, there are really good stores near campus, especially close to housing communities, which is very important for us, because when we first arrived we might not have a means of transportation. So walking, biking, it’s basically our main transportation option when we first arrived. So the stores that are close to campus that are gonna be Albertsons, which is a little pricey. But you can find almost everything that you need for your home. You can also find target what you can find essentials of basically everything. It’s not. They don’t have like a lot of things. But you can find like, oh, maybe I need a little of these little of that. You’re gonna find it there. Some items are gonna be a little pricey, but you could just find some good stuff. Then we have Trader Joes. This store I really like it a lot, because it has a lot of organic items, and they have, like different options for dietary options. You can find some gluten-free items. You can find some vegan items you  can find X, Y or Z depending on your preference and these are really close to campus. I think from, I live in Campus village, from campus villages, it’s 15 min – 20 min walk from Palo Verde and Verano Place, it’s like 5 min. – 10 minute-ish walk. If you’re living in some other little like outside of campus communities that are still close, it might take you maybe 25 – 30 minutes, but still is walking distance, and you can still carry all the things back to your place, with no big effort. And lastly, I would like to mention Wholesome Choice, which is a store that it’s close, well relatively close if you take the bus or if you bike, but if you decide to walk than it’s gonna take you some time. But this store is amazing because they have a lot of options for Middle East items and for Mexican or Latin items. And it’s relatively cheap compared to the other stores that I just mentioned. And another great thing is you can get a discount. You can get a student discount when you show your UCI ID. So you, whenever you’re gonna pay, you tell them, ‘hey, can I get the student discount” and just show your ID and boom! You get a discount? And people there are very nice. All the workers in that store are internationals. So they’re really used to talk to internationals, help them, and even give some recommendations on products.

Melisa: Awesome. Thank you so much, Balam and Trader Joe’s also has like to go lunch items as well. So for our lunch break, you can also go to just Trader Joe’s if you want to grab something quick. I think it’s a great option as well. Wholesome Choice has fresh bread. They have this Middle Eastern bread that they bake, and it’s really great, and everybody’s waiting in line to get the fresh bread because they have them out but then they can also, like get one that’s really fresh. That just came out of the oven. So Wholesome Choice is, it’s a great place, and I shop there as well. So Balam you kind of gave us a sense of grocery stores that are close to us. What if we want to explore a little bit further? If you want to like, drive, or take a bus, what kind of options are there for students that want to expand a little bit more in distance?

Balam: Right, so there are couple of stores that, are, we can divide them in, whether you have to take the bus, or you can still bike to them. So if you want to bike, you can find Whole Foods, Ralphs, and I think probably Wholesome Choice. Those 3 are the ones that you can bike and it’s not really far. It might take you some effort to bike back with all the weights that you’re coming from groceries. So it’s gonna be Ralph’s, which we have like couple of stores in like Irvine, you can find different items as well. I, personally, usually don’t do groceries there, just because I usually go to the cheapest options. Ralph’s you can find a variety of other items. I don’t know the actual range prices for it, but I know I’ve seen like people really like it for some items in a specific. Then we have, I mentioned? Whole food, Whole Foods it’s also near campus. Going to Whole Foods. You’re gonna find if you’re bike it’s gonna be down hill but then, if you come back, it’s gonna be like a little steep, the slopes. So you might want to think twice on that one. But if you have a really great condition, if you really love biking that could be, that could be a great option. And Whole Foods, it’s known for having high-quality items. But with high-quality items comes also higher prices. So if you are really into buying a high-quality items and just finding, like a very specific things that you might want to cook or to eat, then Whole Foods is gonna be your option. And then, if we want to take the bus, then we have some other options that you can still bike but for me, biking to these stores is gonna take at least 30 – 40 min, which is just better to take the bus. So we have Walmart, which obviously you can find a ton of different items. You can find from produce, meat, bread, canned stuff, stuff for your apartment like appliances, pharmacy. It’s really a big store where you can find everything and you can take the bus. You could take the bus that stops in front of the campus, and there’s some other stops near the housing communities. And it’s only one bus so it’s really quick. We can also go to Grocery Outlet. Grocery Outlet, it’s amazing because they have cheap products all year round. And quality is good. Maybe you’re gonna find some products that are like a little that might have, like some defects. But that’s totally fine. They’re still gonna sell then and they’re like in good quality. And you may want to take a bus, or in some cases you can take a like combination of bus and just an Uber, just to make sure that you get really in front of the store. And we have 2 other options H-Mart which is the store specialized in Asian items. For that one you have to take between. Well, depending on the time you go, you take one or 2 buses, and that store is amazing, because you can find a lot of Asian items that are either from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan. Well, at least those are the languages that I recognize in the store but I’m pretty sure you can find some other things to. Also produce that it’s very well known in Asia. You can find it in h-Mart and maybe you’re not gonna find it at Walmart or at some other places. And finally, we have Costco. Costco, I would say, is a sort of the the further from campus. You really have to take one bus, and it’s gonna probably like an hour or hour and a half depending on the time. Or you can just drive or take an Uber or Lyft. And Costco is mainly known for buying in bulk. You can buy in bulk almost anything that comes to your mind. Produce, canned stuff, appliances for home, and some other things that you need from for your pantry. So that’s a great option. If you want to buy in bulk and still save some money. But you gotta like think twice. Because you’re gonna bring a bunch of things with you. So either riding the bus or taking an Uber on your way back, it’s gonna be the smartest thing to do.

Melisa: Yeah, Costco is a great option if you need to buy something that doesn’t go bad easily. For example, milk. I buy plant-based milk from there, and I buy them in 12 packs, and I just store them in my pantry. And it’s cheaper because I buy them in bulk and I don’t have to do as many trips for them as well. So it’s something that you can share a ride with somebody, especially if they have a car. I know many Gic mentors who would drive together with other mentors to go and do grocery shopping at Costco because you also need a membership. So one person at least needs to have a membership from your group. For all of you to buy, but it is great, and all of the other options that Balam has mentioned they have a variety of goods, and we’ll talk a lot about them in upcoming episodes as well. But there, there they have. We have a variety of stores around here, and you can find pretty much anything that you’re looking for. But there’s also at least from the culture that I come from. I go to a lot of Farmers Markets, because that’s where you get your produce and maybe Balam, do you have any recommendations for those that shop from Farmers Markets, or prefer to buy from local sources or local farmers when they’re buying their produce?

Balam: Yes, there are actually couple well, not a couple of like 3 or 4 different Farmer Markets around Irvine. We have, Tanaka Farms, which is open all week all week long, and you can find different produce items. It’s like very local farm, and you can also have like a small tour in the farm, just to look at what the produce they have. You can even like, do the strawberry picking some other items? You can, just, you can basically live the experience of picking your own food and produce. So Tanak Farms, it’s really close to campus. Unfortunately, there’s no way to get there by bus, so you have to either bike or share a ride, you can take an Uber or Lyft. But you can just share an Uber or Lyft with some friends. You’re gonna find fruits, vegetables, very local items such as I usually get honey from there, and some other like snacks. They really have good snacks there, and I think well, they have some other stuff that I don’t remember right now.

Melisa: Like bread. They have bread.

Balam: Oh, the bread is really good. They have different types of bread, and it’s fresh.

It’s not bread that’s been like in the store for days, which is great. And then we have some other Farmer Markets that will be established depending on the day of the week. So we have the Saturday Farmer’s Market but it’s literally 10 min from campus if you bike but like 5 min from campus, if you drive, I don’t know how to get there on bus though, because I think it’s a little tricky to get there. But if you have someone else that’s gonna that is driving, taking the bus, or even walking, you can get there very easily. And that one is on Saturdays. They have a lot of items from different places around Irvine and OC. And the prices are gonna vary a little depending on what items you’re gonna buy. But you can definitely find more variety of organic and local products that you’re not gonna find in the big markets. And I know a couple of other Farmer Markets that will sell around campus. I think there’s one Farmer Market that it’s part of one church, one church community that I haven’t been there, but my roommate. He used to go there, and he recommended it a lot. I don’t have the details about that one, but maybe in the next episode we can share a little more about it. And then we have some other Farmer Markets like in Orange County. You might have to drive a little. I think the closest one well the big one is near Great Park. If you can take the bus, you can drive well, you can definitely bike, but it’s gonna take a long time. But yeah, and we just share a little more about those in the next episodes. I don’t know, Melisa if you have what I think you have a little more information about them.

Melisa: Yeah, so there’s one in Newport Beach that’s relatively small but they do have fresh fish if you’re interested in that. The one or the one that’s close to campus also has fresh fish, and there’s always a huge line for fresh eggs. When so a lot of people also buy the eggs from there. So those are the ones that like, if you want to get fresh fish and eggs, those are close. Then there’s also one in Santa Ana. That’s so the one in Newport Beach is also on Saturdays, the one in Santa Ana, I think it’s on Wednesdays. It should be on Wednesdays. Unless they sometimes they change the dates, but you can always check online. The Santa Ana one is also very good. You’ll find more of diverse cuisine of Latino, South American kind of cuisine, related foods there as well, which is a great market as well, and you’ll also get to be able to get snacks as well, so it’s not just produce but you can also buy like coffee, or bread, or snacks, so there’s a wide variety and it’s a nice experience to go and walk around the market and see what people are selling, and you can get to taste things as well. So Farmers Markets are great options, for all of us. So Balam kind of told us about the variety of stores, their proximity, and I wanted to ask you, is there anything like if you’re looking for something specific let’s say, if you’re looking specifically for halal foods, where should we go? If you’re looking for specific like spices, what would you recommend? Are there any like stores that you kind of have a sense of, and would recommend to incoming students?

Balam: Right, yeah, that’s a great question. As an international we all miss the food from our country from our homes, and finding something close to that. Okay. It’s kind of just like we really need it. For example, for halal food. I know Wholesome Choice has some options, but you will have to ask the employees like, Hey, like, I’m looking for this halal item! Do you have it? Do you have it or not? And then they’re gonna tell you, direct, if they have it. I’m not really sure if some other stores will have halal food. I have maybe Trader Joes are gonna have some specific items but I’m not really sure. Other than that you might have to, maybe Google, some other places that are very specific for this type of just food because I’m not really familiar with it but I know Wholesome Choice might have. It’s the best chance for it. Now, if you’re looking for some other type of feel like more Asian food then H-Mart, it’s your place to go, H-Mart. It’s literally a store that sales a lot of Asian products. I’ve been there couple of times to buy some vegetables, some different drinks that you cannot find in Walmart and some other places. And they have, like, really, a lot of variety of Asian items. And finally, you can also try Trader Joe’s. It’s like a very well known chain for organic products, and sometimes they have, like very local products as well, that are either from animal cruelty free some others that are like very friendly with how they collect the produce. Some gluten free options. Some other like different items, as well. You might have to really make a good research on very specific items. If if you really want to find it. And then finally, as you Melisa mentioned, some like Latino, South American stores you can also find in Wholesome Choice but if you go to Santa Ana, then you can find couple of stores that are, I don’t remember the name right now, but not but literally the full store is dedicated to sell Mexican or Latin products. And during that then you can also go and find, like a different spices type of spicy food, etc. Now I know a lot of people like to cook with spices and you can definitely find spices in all these different store that we talk about. I haven’t had like a hard time finding spices in any of these stores, so you can literally find a little of everything. Yes. Well, also, the Farmer Markets are really great options for spices, because they are fresh, and you can also just get some tips from the farmers like, hey, how can I take care of these little spies so you can last longer, or how should I prepare my foods with these spice. So that’s also a great option.

Melisa: Yeah, that makes me also think about herbs. I use a lot of like fresh herbs in my cooking. So parsley, dill, oregano, so all of that. I always use it fresh, and I buy that from the Farmers Market. It’s harder to find. You can’t find it at like for example, target, you have very limited and very small quantities in Trader Joe’s Albertsons will have some of them in organic and regular form. So the thing is what we what I would recommend, and I think Balam would do the same, too, because we’ve explored so many grocery stores is just go and try to shop at different grocery stores. We’ll talk a little bit about you know, budgeting and how to like go to grocery stores and what you should prepare yourself for. So you don’t overspend in future episodes. But it’s a good idea to like try out different stores, maybe compare prices as well, so you kind of know what to buy from where, and then also, like try to see if you like, the convenience of taking the bus somewhere or taking the bike somewhere. So you get to experience a different grocery stores and buy different items. So things to keep in mind. We kind of went through a lot of options for all of you, but just so that there’s just so many options and so many availabilities around here that you can go to. I mean, we haven’t even broached going outside of like Irvine and Santa Ana. right like there are many, many different ethnic group related grocery stores that you can go to and shop from. You can always Google, if you’re looking for something and you’ll be able to like, see which store is selling what you’re looking for. But on top of that there’s also buying online and getting it delivered. So maybe, Balam, you can tell us a little bit about that, and how like students don’t really have to leave their houses to get some of these goods.

Balam: Right? Yeah, so this was actually kind of shocking when I first came to the US. Because back in Mexico, we don’t really have back then we didn’t have these delivery services for groceries. So it was for me, kind of like amazing, especially during the pandemic, where we had to really stay isolated. So deliveries, grocery deliveries, it’s a big thing in the US and we have, like different options. And I’m gonna mention the options that I’ve seen on campus. I know there are like some other options that you can find online, but the ones that I know will deliver on campus are Instacart so Instacart you can basically order stuff from any store around OC, Orange County. You dont need to have a membership to buy through Instacart and you can select as many items as as you want. The catch here is that delivery fees can vary a lot depending on the location of the store, and also how many items you are selecting, but also there’s this membership option where you pay a membership for a year and then you get discounts on delivery fees, or just like the fees in general. So you only get to pay for the products that you are buying. We also have Amazon grocery delivery, or AmazonFresh, which is a very nice option. If you really want an item like urgently, and you don’t have a way to get it. There’s also a membership fee if you want to opt for that but there’s like the different version where you can also just pick stuff from any of the store work from the Amazon store, and then it wil get delivered to your home and deliver it, usually around $10 per order, and some other fees will might add off, depending on the items that you are selecting. And the nice thing about Amazon is that there’s a like if you’re really really need the item, like, within an hour, 30 min, you can pay an additional fee or price to get it asap. And you’re missing one item you can just get it from AmazonFresh right away. Walmart also has delivery, which is amazing, and for Walmart, you don’t really want well you can opt for the membership fee, but also you can just get it, the option for free, and the orders, the deliver, the delivery it’s gonna be free for orders above $35, and then you will pay for the items that you order. What else we have. Oh, we have imperfect fruits. This option it’s very, it’s very nice, because it’s cheap compared to the other options that I’ve mentioned. But also, part of the imperfect food strategie is to sell, produce, or products that were not sold in the other big markets, because they have some defects. So maybe you’re gonna find one or 2 apples that have one or two issues with their structure and they have, like a little bruise but they’re still, you know, they’re still in good conditions. You’re gonna find some other canned products that might have a little dent but there’s still in good conditions. Maybe you’re gonna find some meat, fish, or some other products that are expiring date is gonna be suit like a week from now. Or maybe 2 days, 30 days from now. But there are cheap, and you can still eat it within that timeline. So that’s like a very nice option. If you are, if you want to go cheap and deliver it to your home. And finally, we have, I don’t know how to pronounce this one. It’s Wee!. It’s like w and eee like 3 Es, and the amazing thing about this delivery service is you can buy, you can buy specifically for items that are Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian, and Asian. So, if this is like a like company that is targeting these ethnic groups that are looking for specific items from their home countries, and I really haven’t used this one. This option, but I’ve seen them deliver it around campus and the delivery fee is gonna vary a little, depending on where the store is or where they’re delivering to and you can also pay for a membership which is gonna give you some extras or some benefits when you buy items. Those are the ones that I know deliver on campus. Maybe they’re gonna be some more other options that are not that popular. Such as there’s some services that will send you prepared meals, and do you like frozen prepared meals and you will just have to store them in the freezer and whenever you want to, it’s just gonna put them into the microwave. And you’re gonna have a nice meal, and those are usually they’re not too expensive. They’re not too cheap either. They’re just like in the middle range of prices. And then you don’t have to cook if you’re not into that. That’s a really good option as well, and it’s delivered to your apartment too.

Melisa: Yeah, well, these are great, and also, and on top of a similar to imperfect foods, Tanaka Farms also has a membership where you can get produce delivered, or pick it up from a pickup location. So they put a box together with seasonal fruit fruits, and vegetables for you to like just pick up you pay a monthly fee for that, and you get your box, which is great, and I have a lot of friends that use that I use very traditional vegetables from my own culture. So I kind of that package doesn’t work for me. I use very traditional vegetables from my own culture so I kind of that package doesn’t work for me most of the time, especially because you might get the same type of like cabbage for 2, 3 months, because that’s what they’re growing on the farm. But with Weee! I call it, whenever I see it, because it’s w triple e exclamation point right? So whenever I see it, I always say, Weee!, I don’t know. For some reason it just makes me, you know, excited. You can also, when you go to the website, you can select, you know, the ethnic group, the culture of foods that you’re looking for so it will sort things for you, so you don’t have to go through looking through all of these items that you’re looking for. So it will sort things for you. So you don’t have to go through looking through all of these items to figure out what you’re looking for so and it’s very it’s very convenient to order things online. I ordered a lot of things online when I was going through illness, because I just didn’t have the capacity or the will to go outside and, you know, make others sick. So it’s a great option, and it’s something to consider if you’re looking for something to consider. If you’re looking for something, and you’re, you know, dealing with your qualifying exams and you don’t have time to go out and shop. So if these are, these are great options. So before we let Balam go, I want to ask, Balam which store did you go last? And what was the favorite thing that you bought from that store?

Balam: Right. So I usually do if possible, I use the Instacart membership cause I can have access to different stores. Traditionally I do Costco. I usually do Walmart, and Wholesome Choice. Those are my top, 3 stores, and then every now and then I go to the Farmers Market, and I think the last, the last item that I was like really excited about to buy was it was oh, it was honey! It was honey from Orange like orange flower, it was like one of those citrus flowers, cause I like to like toast, toasted bread, and then just put some honey on top of it. Maybe some cream cheese as well, and it’s like a really great dessert. That was still one of the last items that I wasn’t really excited to buy. This item you can find at Tanaka Farms, but also you can find it in some other stores. Oh! And before I forget, there’s actually 2 other small stores where you can find really cheap things especially if you’re like in a budget, you can find some canned goods at Ross which is totally different store that it’s not for food, but you can still find some cheap stuff and at the dollar store. The dollar store believe it or not, you’re gonna find cheap canned stuff in some locations, you’re gonna find cheap produce. So that’s also like a really great option if you’re in the budget. Last time I went to the dollar store I bought mangos, which is really like ripe like good, sweet, which is a hard thing to find in Irvine, and I was so excited, so happy to buy those mangoes cause they were like literally ready to eat that same day, which was amazing. Yeah, so those are my to go stores. These are some items that I really love buying this last time that I went there.

Melisa: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Balam. It was great having you, and we really appreciate your time and everybody that’s listening in hearing about all these grocery stores please don’t feel overwhelmed. This is just to give you a sense of what’s out there. What kind of options you have, and of course all of the mentors are here to help you through the challenges when you’re, you know, going to the grocery store for the first time, and if you heard something and you want to learn more about it, you can always reach out to us, and if you have any further questions just yeah, feel free, to reach out, and again, thank you so much, Balam, for being here, and we look forward to hearing from you again, and see you in the next episode.

Transcript of Podcast #3: Grocery Stores by Campus

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they), Sukriti Kapur (she/her) & Sharanya Bashyam (she/her)

Melisa: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. This is another episode of our GIC podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about grocery stores in Irvine, specifically. We have Sukriti and Sharanya with us who are going to talk about the stores that they like, the stores that they go to, which is pretty common for a lot of graduate students here. So we’re very excited to have their experience. But of course they also have their own particular grocery stores that they like. So we’re going to hear a little bit about something, some grocery stores that we haven’t heard about, and again, it’s your host, Melisa. As you always know. I always forget to introduce myself at the beginning, so I’m here again. So we’ll have Sukriti introduce themselves, and then we’ll move on to Sharanya.

Sukriti: Alright. Thank you for having me here, Melissa. Hi, everyone! I’m Sukriti and I’m a third year in the Chemistry Department. And I am from New Delhi, India, and I am a first time mentor with the GIC and when I started my grad school I was a mentee and I really liked the experience that I got as a mentee. So I came back like a year later to be a mentor here, and I am having a good time so far, and one of the things I like to do in and around Irvine is go to the beach, catch a nice sunset. Southern California has a lot of amazing sunsets, great weather, and so you can get coffee from like places near the beach and then watch a nice sunset. So Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, are all pretty close accessible, and very nice.

Melissa: Nice.

Sharanya: Hey! Hi! Everyone sorry for cutting you out there, Melissa.I am Sharayna, I am so excited also to be on this podcast. Iam a first year Ph.D. student in the Cognitive Sciences Department, just going to finish my first year soon. And I am from Hyderabad, India, and I was a mentee with the GIC when I started the program last fall, and it was in a very nice hand holding experience that I’ve had sort of transitioning from transitioning sorry transitioning into grad school life. So very excited to sort of give back and help other people transitioning into UCI. I have a similar experience. My favorite things to do around Irvine are for to go for walks. The campus is very beautiful, and we also have a lot of hiking trails nearby, and apart from just enjoying the weather and nature around, I really like going and hanging out at a Irvine Spectrum Center, which is this huge outdoor mall pretty close to campus and has a lot of restaurants and shopping, and a huge giant Ferris wheel that you can ride on.

Melisa: Yeah. Oh, yeah, that’s a great way of describing the Spectrum Center. And when you all arrive in Irvine you’ll notice that there are a lot of open air shopping centers around here, because it’s the weather’s always so nice, which was something that was really weird to me, because I lived in cities where it was always like closed. But it’s so great having you both thank you so much for introducing yourself. So we get to know a little bit about you and thank you so much again for coming here and talking to us about grocery stores. Which is something that I’m always interested in. So I’ll start off with our question of what are some unique offerings and popular products that are available at the 2 closest grocery stores around us. Trader Joe’s and Albertsons, and these are walking distance right? So what do you go to buy and maybe carry back home? Can you talk a bit about that with us?

Sukriti: Yeah. So I think when I came here, my first like store that I’d gone to was Target. And then I used to pick up like the standard stuff that you need, you know, for cooking. Just the veggies and snacks and stuff, and it was sometime until that I discovered Trader Joe’s, and my life has changed after that. I liked Trader Joe’s more than anything else, unless, like you’re trying to buy like some standard brands that Trader Joe’s may not have. For example, milk, because they’ll have everything of their own brand. But Trader Joe’s has a lot of seasonal snacks, and they keep coming up with a lot of, you know, just different food items from different parts of the world but give it their own little twist, so I wouldn’t say they’re like a hundred percent authentic. But they’re pretty good, and I think my recent discovery at Trader Joe’s has been this sauce or a dip that has cilantro in it, and like, it, tastes a lot like what we have in India. But it’s I think it’s it’s not. It has, like some Merititerranean ingredients, and so it goes really well with sandwiches, and you know, even as a dip, and I don’t know if I’m gonna pronounce this correctly but it’s called zhoug. So I don’t know how. It’s exactly pronounced, but that is my recent most favorite. And then their dumplings are pretty good. Their frozen food section has some amazing desserts. The Indian food is pretty nice, like, aso that’s frozen. But I think, yeah, it’s anything you pick up at Trader Joe’s is mostly a hit than a miss.Yeah.

Melisa: Nice. Yeah, and I know exactly the sauce that you’re talking about. It’s great, and I’ve also use it in pasta, too. I think it’s a great sauce absolutely.

Sukriti: It’s my go-to sauce for like any easy sandwich that I’ve done, made. And I’m like, Okay, I’m running late. Just put this with veggies and you’re good to go.

Sharanya: I feel like whenever people ask me, what’s your favorite thing about life in America? My top answer is, Trader Joe’s, followed by the Public library system. I think Trader Joe is the best thing that has ever happened in the world, because they have such amazing food items and it’s not just the things like the snacks that Surkiti mentioned. They’re great because you have multiple varieties of whatever snacks you can think of, and multiple varieties of snacks that you can’t even imagine. But another thing that I really like about is that they have a lot of cut and chopped or shredded vegetables available which comes really handy when you’re trying to cook. So, for instance, you have peeled and boiled baby carrots. So you know that’s a very easy, quick snack. Then you have shredded carrot and shredded cabbage, which is so much easier than you know buying a big head of cabbage and cutting it on your own save so much of time. They also have other sort of salad kits, and I really also appreciate the fact that Trader Joe’s has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options in most of their food, because I’m a vegetarian and I’ve never once felt like I’ve run out of options and Trader Joe’s. Albertsons, on the other hand, also has a huge frozen food section, but Albertsons is more like a regular grocery store and they sell out. They sell different brands, Trader Joe’s usually sells their own brands. Albertson’s the one thing that I’d say, Albertson’s, has that I like better than Trader Joe’s is that they have a larger variety of fresh produce, so they have a lot of fresh veggies and lots of greens available, lots of fruits also. Coming from a tropical country. I was, I miss eating the variety of fruits that I get back at home. Albertson’s has been able to sort of provide me with at least some varieties of those, and there’s also the Albertson’s app which, if you download on your phone, you can sort of clip deals and get discounts on orders.So, yeah.

Sukriti: I think that happens with Target as well. So Target has a reward system that if you sign up for and you can check what the deals are.

Sharanya: Yeah.

Sukriti: So, yeah, I think that’s a very good suggestion.

Melisa: Absolutely and especially if you are looking for large quantities of fresh produce Albertson’s is a much better option then, because at Trader Joe’s you’ll find like a small watermelon. But at Albertson’s you can get like a large watermelon, or if you’d like a bunch of herbs like, if you need mint, for example, you’ll only be able to get it in a small package at Trader Joe’s. But you’ll be able to get it as a bunch at Albersons, so there’s a variety. And of course the frozen food section is much, much larger at Albertson’s, and you might be able to find more. But both of them are frequent like I go to both of them quite frequently. One thing I’ll mention is that when we go to Trader Joe’s you won’t be able to find, like some basic household items like batteries. You won’t be able to buy batteries at Trader Joe’s. They don’t have those. I’ve never I’ve never seen them. Maybe they do.

Sukriti: I honestly haven’t thought about it till you mentioned it.

Melisa: Yeah, right like, or light bulbs. You won’t be able to find those, but you’ll find them at Albertson’s and Target. So it’s it’s quite interesting. But yeah, but oh, I’m sure we both all of us love them. But yeah.

Sukriti: No, that’s true. I think. Yeah. Trader Joe is my go to place for snacks and fruits, because I don’t buy a lot. I think one of the problems that I want to bring up early on into this podcast is that the U.S. Has crazy quantities for everything, and I was not used to that, and living by yourself, you end up buying more. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. First rule, and you end up buying so much more and you’re not able to finish it and sometime it like it goes bad, and there’s like so much guilt about wasting that food. And I think over time. I’ve overcome that guilt, or you know, I’ve just become more desensitized. I don’t know, but I think that’s a big problem. So I would say that, like, you know, have, if you happen to have a group of friends you could shop for groceries together, or, you know, like buy stuff that’s not in bulk. So I like Trader Joe’s fruits and everything so I’ll just pick up like an apple or 2 and then go back again when I have to, rather than buying like a whole bag and then letting it rot, and so I think Trader Joe’s is good in that sense. Of course Albert sounds as Sharanya said, have, like a lot more greens, and in that bakery section is pretty good, and sometimes they have like discounted deals and stuff on items that are just about to expire. So they’re not bad. But you can get like, you know, some desserts, for like a way cheaper price.

Melisa: Yeah, absolutely. And since we’re talking about, you know, buying in large quantities, can we talk a little bit about maybe tips of what to buy in bulk and what to buy in small quantities, since they go bad. And you know Sukriti you mentioned a little bit of cost, effective strategies like not going to the grocery store hungry is a huge one. But yeah, so how can we utilize first of all our time so we buy the stuff that we need in bulk efficiently and like not waste a lot of, great ways and spend too much money. So do you have any ideas about that?

Sukriti: I think it depends on how often you cook at home, and what is the kind of food that you cook, because I can only speak from my personal experience that you know, if I’m cooking a lot of Indian food, it will need a regular supply of tomatoes and onions. That’s the bare minimum that you will need for everything you make. And so you can buy onions or potatoes more so, in like bulk, so it’ll be cheaper, and you can like split it with your friends. But any food or fruit, for that matter, that would go bad quickly. I would suggest not buying it. So like when my roommate moved in. I think over time we had this understanding that okay, we can shop for groceries together, and that has kind of worked in our favor because, you know, we can get like cartons of milk or something and we know we’re both gonna drink it so it won’t go bad as compared to when I was living by myself, I would buy milk, or you know, I don’t have a car, so I would just order it off of Instacart, and they would send me like 2 big like 2 gallons of milk, and I’m like I will not finish this, and it’ll go bad. So it’s just things like that. I think just understanding that nobody really wants to waste food, is important. So if you can split it with your friends that’s good. Fruits and veggies I prefer buying fresh, and now that I have a car, it’s definitely way more accessible for me to go back and forth at grocery stores. But yeah, I think if you are regular like on fruits, you could buy bigger boxes. But I prefer the smaller ones, because I’d rather pay a little more than having to waste food. So it’s always a balance, but I think with like snacks or spices, or you know, things that really have like a longer shelf life, you can always, you know, buy in bulk or buy a bigger packet, because those things are cost-effective but it mostly boils down to are you like a person who likes to have frozen food more? Or, you know, just order in versus. Do you want to cook? And how much do you want to cook? So over time? I’ve just come to realize what works for me is just visiting grocery stores more regularly and buying like things in smaller batches rather than having it all like you know, like a 2 week worth of grocery, and then not cooking and then ending up, wasting it so I don’t know if Sharayna more insights to add.

Sharanya: I also follow a similar strategy. But I one thing which I would say is, since I also cook a lot of Indian food, I make sure that I have bulk supply of rice and lentils at any point of time. All the lentils that I cook with, because I keep making different kinds of dals, or lentil soups. Those things, they make sense for me to buy in bulk or and also flour, a wheat, whole wheat flour, which we make our rotis. Those things I always keep in bulk because they’re always cheaper. You buy it and bulk. I also every, I don’t have a car, so I go once a week for grocery, shopping, and I hit up Target, Trader Joe’s, and Albertson’s all on my walk. But one thing which I do is I always try to make sure every week I have at least one or 2 emergency frozen foods in case I don’t, in case I’m late or I don’t feel like cooking, or just I just don’t want someone to, you know cook for me, that it’s. It’s very nice to have that emergency frozen food that I can just heat up and eat. But yeah, for everything else. It’s helpful to, you know, because I also feel very guilty when I’m wasting food so some like it. I guess that once you move in to Irvine and once you move into UCI, once you go to all these 3 different places, you’ll sort of figure out what things you have preferences from, and where because, like for instance, milk, I always get from Trader, Joe’s because I just like the taste of that milk a bit better, no other reason even though it’s a farther walk for me and it’s heavier to carry like a one gallon, liter. Sorry, one gallon carton of milk, but I just like that taste better. So I do it in that way. So yeah, you’ll come up with your preferences. You’ll have your favorite Trader Joe’s snacks. You’ll have your favorite Albertson bakery item also. So yeah.

Melisa: Oh, that’s great! And that’s a great reminds me of a great recommendation. So, if something is seasonal buy them in bulk, because Trader Joe’s won’t have it until the next season. So you have to wait till next summer to get that same product again. So something to keep on.

Sharanya: The lemon, the lemon flavored ice cream, absolute favorite.I bought 4 cartons of it, finished them, bought 4 more again, and now it’s gone. So.

Melisa: That’s amazing.

Sukriti: You have these Takis that are so spicy, and they’re like those roll Takis that are like pink and green packet. And those are my favorite, and I think they run out of it at some point. But I had stocked like 5 packets before, and I kept some at my friend’s place because I was like I’ll eat them so whenever I need them I’ll take them from you. Yeah. So that’s a good suggestion. And I think there are a lot of like, Tiktok or Instagram pages, or even websites that just talk about what’s hot at Trader Joe’s. So you can always look up something that’s, you know a favorite.

Melisa: Yeah, I follow a vegan one. A vegan Trader Joe’s one. That shows me all the new vegan products. So it’s very exciting.

Sukriti: I’m vegetarian, too, so I think that’s what the 3 of us have in common.

Melisa: Yeah, nice. So do you have any favorite frozen foods from any of these 2 stores that you really like?

Sharanya:  Garlic naan from Trader Joe’s can, it’s reminds me of garlic naan’s that I had hot hot at restaurants back in India. It’s so good. You can, and you can just pair it up with anything. And it’s also very quick emergency food, because it’s, you know, it’s like, it’s like an accompanying accompaniment. I don’t know how to say that word, but for any sort of vegetable that you’ve cooked, any lentil soup that you’ve made, or just sometimes with a dip, because it’s just so tasty that’s my go-to favorite food Trader Joe’s food. Another thing that I really like is the Thai Vegan Panam curry, the yellow curry one that’s so, yummy and so warm and just so perfect.

Sukriti: Ohh I love that!

Sharanya: I also really like the lemon bars frozen lemon bars, which are very yummy to have, and also, like I mentioned before, the lemon ice cream. But the lemon bars are not seasonal, but the lemon ice cream, unfortunately is. And I’ve honestly, they also have pretty good options for frozen Korean food, which is also Vegan. So you get good fried veggies, you get japchae, which is glass noodles, and you also get a tofu kimchi soup bowl, which are again all great options. As you can probably tell I am a great fan of lemon flavored desert, so another desert that I really like is their key lime pie. It’s frozen, but it tastes amazing. And one thing which I’ll say for Trader JOe’s is that you will never not find anything for yourself in the frozen food section. They have something for everyone, no matter what, your dietary restrictions are. So that’s why I really like that inclusiveness that they have. Oh, sorry! One more thing. The vegetables, Samosas the frozen vegetable Samosas also, which they have, amazing. And they also have these Indian chart roles, or something.

Sukriti: Spring rolls!

Sharanya: Those spring rolls. They’re also super good. They also have very nice vegetable pockets and Thai banana fritters. I’ll stop now before I list every single dish on the frozen section aisle.

Sukriti: I think you covered everything so well, and I love lemon-based deserts as well, so I’m glad to get more recommendations I have just had the lemon bars but every time I look at the key lime pie, I don’t pick it up because its so huge and I’m like I’m never gonna finish this ever. .

Sharanya: We should split it up as some point and share it, because it’s it’s amazing.

Sukriti: Absolutely.

Sharanya: The crust is very biscuity, like, and crumbly, and the top part is very lemony, and it just makes me it’s so sour, and you get that tang of the lemon. It’s amazing. If you ever need someone to split it up with, we should do that.

Sukriti: I’ll keep that in mind. But yeah, I think, apart from all of that, there is this one like they have the vegetarian dumplings.

Sharanya: Oh yes!

Sukriti: And I am a big fan, because one of the street foods that I used to get in Delhi is basically dumplings. And I was like, it’s an Indianized version, very different for those who know will know.

Sharanya: Yes!

Sukriti: We call it as Momos, and so they used to serve that with, like, you know, hot sauce, and like other, like some cream on the side. And I always miss that here, and then I tried like dumplings from different places, but nothing was really like getting close, so I think Trader Joe’s the veg dumpling, and I think the other one is like Shrimp. So those are pretty good. They have, like some pizzas that my roommate used to pick up. I’m not sure. But basically, whatever frozen food after I’ve tried, I kind of like to keep it lesser on the frozen side. So I don’t buy a lot of frozen foods. It’s just for emergency, or, you know, like some cravings. But I like to buy food fresh so. But other than that, I think, yeah, Sharanya knows best in this case. But yeah, I think I would definitely add the dumplings. Apart from all that she mentioned.

Sharanya: This is my every week I mix up what my one emergency food will be.

Sukriti: That’s a great strategy!

Sharanya: And yeah, so that way I have cycled through.

Sukriti: I think I keep. Yeah, I keep a lot of Indian brands that I know as emergency food. So those you get up more like, you know, different Indians, stores, or stores that are a little further away from campus.

Sharanya: Yeah, those that frozen food. Yeah, I guess we can also talk about.

Melisa: Yes, so the exact. This is a perfect segue, because I was going to ask about Indian grocery stores that are close to campus, that international students can access. And what kind of ingredients? Because I think some of the bulk ingredients you mentioned that you buy from specifically from Indian stores, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that for us.

Sharanya: Yeah, the one store that I think is closest, which is not just Indian, but has a lot of international foods available is Wholesome Choice. It’s also accessible by bus from campus. It’s just a one bus like you don’t have to switch buses.It’s just a you like the bus just drops you off at Wholesome Choice, Wholesome Choice also has excellent variety of fresh vegetables available, and sometimes they are cheaper than what we get closer to campus. Not that much of a difference, but slight difference also Wholesome Choice has an entire aisle of just Indian foods of Indian ingredients, so you can get your spices, you can get raw rice, lentils, other ingredients like sooji, rawa, and rice flour, and for people from India will know this kind of instant noodles that we really like maggi. We have biscuits that are that have come from Indian brands. We have Lays chips with the flavors that are very Indian. You get like you, I sometimes, when I walk through that aisle, I don’t feel like I’m in America, because it has everything that I would see at a store back home, something which Sukriti also spoke about a little in the last section that we were talking about. They also have a frozen section full of Indian foods, which include frozen cut vegetables that you otherwise won’t find in the veggie section. So vegetables that are from India, I don’t know if they’re from India, but they’re just like it’s very difficult to find them otherwise. You have cut okra available, you have other vegetables that I only know the local Telugu name for it it’s called, kundru or parwalI think, yeah. And then you get like, yeah, so basically, a lot of frozen cut Indian vegetables which you otherwise wouldn’t get. And their pretty easy to cook also, because they’re already frozen and cut so all you have to do is just soak it in water and do the regular things. They also have very nice frozen Indian sweets, which is very useful and helpful during times of festivals. They also have frozen stuffed Indian breads like parathas.So you have mixed vegetable ones. You have specific vegetable ones. You also have ready-made chapatis or rotis that you just need to heat on the you just need to heat for them to be cooked. You also have. My personal favorite is a sweet filled roti kind of flat roti, or flat bread, called puran puri, which I that is also one thing that I stock up on.

Sukriti:  Yeah, I think I have a bunch of things to add here. But the all these things that you mentioned Sharanya are all that I’ve tried, and I know they’re great. So Wholesome Choice  I discovered it pretty late, but, thanks to my friends, who took me there one day. They have a lot of fresh veggies, but I don’t think that fruits are the best, so I would say, get your fruits from some place nearby but they will have like a lot of Indian veggies that you won’t find in grocery store nearby, and then, of course, the Indian aisle will have all your supplies, and then, if you’re listening to this podcast before you move to the U.S. I would say, don’t get spices, or don’t stock up on spices from India unless there is like something that is specific or a spice blend, that you get near your home because I bought like so many packets of just standard brands from India thinking that you know I won’t get them here or I had no idea I was just, you know, moving, and I knew I would get them but when would I get them? I don’t know. So this was a very refreshing change that I could find. Like everything nearby, and they will have all the brands that you want. So save some luggage space for other things, and get your spices here, and then, yeah, they have the frozen food. So paranthas are my favorite, and there’s this one particular brand that a lot of Indians will know it’s called Haldirams. And so anything you see by that brand is definitely gonna be good. So you know that you can stock up on their food. And then there’s this Indian cottage cheese paneer, that also you can get over there, which is the closest that you can get, because no place on campus will have that. And so if you’re a vegetarian like us, and that’s your source of protein, apart from lentils, they have all of that. And then, yeah, Wholesome Choices gives you a 5% discount if you show your UCI ID. So that’s something to keep in mind. And then they have this live food counters for different cuisines. So the Indian food counter in recent years has gone like gotten better. So they have, somosas, and they have, like, you know, just curries and other dishes. You can get packed, and then, you know, you can just cook the bread at home and have it as a quick meals. So some days, when I don’t want to cook, but I still want to eat healthy. I will just get like, you know the veggies from there for like 2 or 3 days, and then just cook the rotis at home, and then have those. So I think Wholesome Choice is pretty nice in that sense, and of course you get to like, look at what other cuisines or other you know, cultural foods are around there, and you can always try those one of my favorite stores. That is a little further away from campus. But it’s just an Indian grocery store. It’s called India International Bazaar, and that’s in Tustin. So I mean, if you get a cab, that’s great. If you have friends who have cars, they can take you. It’s a little further away, and I know there are grocery stores that are closer also, like Namaste Plaza. I’m just gonna drop names here. There’s Namaste Plaza. There’s India International Bazaar. There’s I forgot. There’s another one that’s nearby, but these 2 are pretty good. If you want like, you know, if you have a lot of breads or rotis and stuff, if you like, I, personally don’t take the flour and then cook them, or like knead the dough, and then cook them so you can get frozen rotis and stuff, and all you have to do is like take one out and just cook it, and they’re pretty good. But India International Bazaar will like it will have all of the, you know, smaller things that you won’t find at Wholesome Choice. If you’re looking for something very, very specific, or like oils, or you know anything else that’s even even like, I think some Indian like face washes or brands, or stuff that is just like an Indian brand you can find at these stores. And of course there’s gonna be more variety, because it’s just an Indian brand. But they have a live food counter again, and so there, you can get a lot of Indian Street food and snacks, and I think they have a buffet for like lunch. They have like buffets and stuff, and so I like going there because you can get your grocery stock. You can get a bunch of things that you won’t find at other stores, and you can get fresh food or snacks that you won’t find elsewhere. So that’s my personal favorite.

Melisa: Nice I and I think so Wholesome Choice also has, like a dessert aisle which has a lot of Middle Eastern desserts like Baklava and kunafa So all those kinds of things because I think it’s I think. It’s, I think Wholesome Choice, primarily Persian, and then also has other international foods as well. So it’s very similar to my culture as well, and it has a lot of foods from Turkey as well. So it’s great that you can even find rose water there, and that’s it’s very common in Turkey stores but it’s very hard to find anywhere else. So it’s I like Wholesome Choice in that sense. And I also like the baklava section like, if I’m having people over, you know, always go and get some baklava from there. And Namaste also has, like a dessert counter as well, where they have fresh desserts. So lots of great options for all of us. So before we kind of move on to the end, I was wondering if you have any recommendations for the Farmers Market that’s also close by, and if you benefit from the Farmer’s Market at all, I because it’s walking distance. But yeah, do you have any ideas or tips?

Sharanya: I’ve personally never been to the farmers market yet. But it’s my aim to at least go there once over the summer. What I have heard from people in my department is that they have a lot of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, and they might be a little more expensive than what you get at these grocery stores, but there’s a to last longer, because they’ve and they’re also just tastier in with. So. Yeah, but I haven’t been there yet, so.

Sukriti:  I’ll take you.

Sharanya: Thank you.

Sukriti: I am a Farmer’s Market pro at this point. I just like going there, because it’s a nice Saturday morning activity, so it’s not even that you have to buy things. It’s just you can get coffee, walk around, and there’s someone playing music. So it’s a nice change. My go-to places in the Farmers Market are the hummus guy, who will have a lot of dips and chips, and they also have stalls on like UCI Campus during like on the first, or like the springfest or whatever that is. They will give you 4 dips, or like 4 items for like $20, and their hummus and their dips are pretty good, and I go for that. A lot. So if you like that, I would suggest you go there. A lot of bakery items are really fresh. So, my friends really like this. I think Parisian bakery, and they will have this almond croissant. That’s super good. So you can get that, and then there’s this other guy who sells like banana bread, and he has the strawberry banana bread or sourdough, or Jalapeno bagels, and they’re all again, pretty good. Yeah, I think I’ve tried a bunch of things that are like around there. My friends really like the kettle corn. So, and that’s like made fresh. There are like, There’s this, little truck that has good coffee or another one that has Vietnamese coffee, and in recent times there’s this one popup that’s come up that has, like juices and stuff, and they’ll be you like you can try samples and buy whatever you want. You can buy a lot of fresh food as a vegetarian there, but I think for non-vegetarians there are like lines and lines of like for people buying hot dogs or something. I’m not sure what. I have not bought a lot of fruits, and veggies from there, because then again, I’m just scared of letting them go to waste. But if you buy peaches, or like some seasonal veggies or plums that they have, they are pretty good. And then, yeah, I think it’s mostly for me. It’s the hummus guy. It’s the bakeries, it’s the breads that are always, you know, going to be fresh, and it’s a good time overall. So yeah, Farmers Market is definitely worth a visit.

Melisa: I agree, 100%. And I think if you haven’t tried it yet, there’s an mpanada stall that has a Vegan empanada. So you can also have that and it has jack fruit in it. It’s pretty nice, so if you want to try that out, I highly recommend. But I want to thank you both for your time and for being with us here, and sharing all of these wonderful tips, because this is completely new information for everybody, and we really appreciate your insights. So thanks again for joining us, and we’re and I’m sure everybody’s looking forward to meeting you when they come to UCI at social events, and at other events as well. And maybe do a grocery haultogether. So thanks so much.

Sukriti: Thank you for having me.

Sharanya: Thank you for having us

Transcript of Podcast #4: Off-Campus Housing

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Ramses Trigo Torres

Aimee: Hey, welcome everyone our next episode of the GIC podcast my name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and I am excited to host the podcast today. We will be talking about off-campus housing. Things like utilities, renting expectations, how do we find off-campus housing, and so we’re excited to have you join us today. I am going to pass it off to my co-host to introduce himself.

Ramses: Hey! Thank you very much, Aimee. I’m excited to be here. Talk about something that is really important for all of us students, and probably not only students nowadays, you know, like staff member, postdocs it can help a lot. My name is Ramses Trigo. I’m a BME Ph.D. Candidate from UCI. This is, I’m about to start my 7th year, actually, and that’s something I will like to mention also that I have experience moving now several times. I have been navigating through all the UCI housing system a lot, at least for my first 4 or 5 years. So it has been a long, long path for this. But there are a lot of things, tips, that I can give to you guys to be more helpful, easier for you to get something

Aimee: Perfect. I think the first question that we want to talk about is just what is the major difference between an on campus and off campus housing.

Ramses: So this is this a great question is something that usually students when you get the first the first time to UCI. It’s a bit confusing, because in campus and off campus physically are in the same place. That’s something that most people don’t know. We we see off campus, and we we think that it’s like, Oh, it’s like 4 or 5, 10 miles away from school, but it’s not. The reality is, the off campus is actually next next street. It’s like, it’s in front of UCI. So it is something that you don’t need to be worried about. It’s walking distance, bike distance at least. But but there are major differences that actually attack your budget mainly on the rents, on utilities, on how your lease works. For example, for UCI in campus. Usually all your utilities are embedded into your rent, so it’s a flat rate rent. You pay only once, and you cover for gas, Internet, electricity, water, etc., etc., etc.. For off-campus you actually need to think about depending on the community, some communities they include the electricity they include in gas. They include Internet, some others don’t. You need to actually contact the a third party at a different provider, and make the contract yourself, so that that some some extra steps you know on this, and also, since not from UCI, the rent is higher. So that’s something that we’ll look around here, which is the most important thing, like if it’s closer, it might be more expensive while if it’s far might be cheaper, but might have less amenities, more amenities. You know there are pros and cons really for all those. And also, since it’s not from UCI you need to keep and look for scammers. So that’s a really big big thing here. Well, actually, everywhere. But we’ll we’ll keep it here.

Aimee: Yeah. And so we talked about scammers. And I think that’s important. So when we’re searching for housing, we always want to be mindful of that and make sure that we’re looking at, you know, kind of more specific places that maybe UCI is offering. Does UCI offer support to students who are looking at off-campus housing?

Ramses: Yes, actually, this something to have has been a changing through the years and at least for these past 2, 3 years. UCI has put a lot of effort on this. Before they had a simple website, just with a couple of landlords, we were like, say, like some couple of communities, but not much information. It was more about you going through Facebook looking for people offering a rent or going directly to the office of these communities. But today they have this really useful website, which is https://offcampus.housing.uci.edu/ where they actually list rentals. They list roommates. They list all the communities they are they are related to, and they offer these useful scammer safety tips for you, which I will like. I would like to read to you. There are 6 tips that they offer. Pretty simple. Some that are more common sense. Some other might be kind of tricky if your new to, if you’re new to you, to the U.S., The United States. It works differently, probably, from your your home country. If you are domestic, it will differ as well from your hometown or anything. There’s always different things. So what they say like for look out for this, scams. First of all, if you see some rent that is off or below the market, so you will see all the rents around the same price like 100 plus less than the others. But you sometimes may see something that is 300, 400, 500 less, than the usual rent, like the trend. That’s a red flag. It’s something might be fishy there, so keep a look on that. As a second option some require you to wire money before actually even looking at the at the place. So that’s a big no, no, here, I mean why, I’m paying you. If I’m not seeing the place I I have. I don’t even know you, so don’t don’t give them much, you know, trust. If there’s nothing like tangible like something you you actually saw. Third one some I mean same same thing. They they list some services, they ask for money, they they ask for a certain way to give them money. which is not like a direct transfer, or a check, or something like that. They offer like a third party like, yeah, give it to this person, then give it to this person. So that’s fishy. I think that’s the common sense, like, why do I need to triangulate all the you know, all the services. As a fourth one they usually claim that they are affiliated to UCI. So right now, with this website is really easy to knock that off. Tf they say like, Oh, we, we are affiliated with UCI blah blah blah. Okay. Ask for the name, ask for the company, ask for whatever they have as a title. And look at. Look at, for here, at UCI. If it appears okay, we’re good. If not, then well, that was a lie. Don’t trust. A fifth one. It. This is something. That I have seen personally some landlords. They tell you a dramatic story like oh, I had to move out because a family member had an accident, and I have a business trip. If I have something blah blah blah blah! I need to leave, so I’m renting out my room. I’m renting out my apartment, and sometimes it’s cheaper, a little more expensive, depending on the community. If the community exist. And they will tell you this compelling story to convince you like, Hey, you need to rent this for from me. I need the money I’m like, it’s urgent. So I will try to go away from that. But I even if it’s true sometimes it gives more problems in the future. So just stay away from that. and last, but not, you know, not less important. and I think this is the pretty, most common sense that they say that they can’t, or they won’t meeting in person. This is a huge thing right now. People that this happens a lot on Facebook posts, because there’s a group of Facebook where you can look for sublease, you can look for apartments, you can look for roommates, etc., etc. And when you ask them like, Oh, I want to see the apartment. I want to see the room. They say, like you know what I can’t, because there’s someone else there, so I I don’t want to disturb them, or they say like, Oh, I won’t meet with you, because it’s dangerous, like I don’t know you. You might do something. You know, when you’re selling these kind of things for real estate. Seeing in person is a big thing, you know, is a big thing for trust. So if they won’t meet, then just stay away from that like this has to be something in person, not something online. I know that in some situations, if you’re not in the country. It’s hard but try to stay away from this. I mean, just take less risk in this kind of scenarios.

Aimee: You could even tell them that you have a friend that would like to see it while you’re out of the country. And if they say oh, no, that doesn’t sound safe to me, that’s probably it, thats probably a red flag right there. 

Ramses: You can just cross it from the list. Exactly. Exactly 

Aimee: Yeah, no, thank you. Move on to the next. Yeah, no. This website super helpful. I’ve used it as a staff member living in the Irvine area. I live, in what is also known as off-campus housing because I have students that live in my complex and I live just 2 miles away from campus. So definitely have utilized this website, and I’m super glad that we have it. I think off-campus housing you mentioned earlier it it’s it can be more expensive or expenses look different. So what can you expect, per expenses for off campus housing?

Ramses: So There are a couple of them. There are a couple that they share from in campus. In some they are not share from campus, mainly something that is share is they are most of them, they are unfurnitured, and that’s something we’ll touch later on on a pods, on another podcast after this one. But most of them they don’t come with furnished. If they’re unfurnished they might be cheaper but it comes with extra cost, because you need to be, you know, looking for a bed looking for this, looking for whatever else you need. If they have furniture, most of the cases they do have a bed, they do have a desk but I mean, don’t expect to have a sofa, for example, or if you expect to have a sofa, you you expect to have like living room furniture, kitchen furniture, or whatever else that is not your own room, you should expect to have higher rates for this. I mean, these are like on the high end of the off campus, a housing situation. If we talk about money like, usually what I have seen and I I actually seen at the website. They go from 2.5 k (thousand) to 3 k (thousand), like for unfurnished. And this is for, like one or 2 beds, like basically one or 2 rooms but they can go up to 4, 5, 6 k (thousand). For more room for for furniture. You know these kind of things. Also the extra expenses. That’s something I mentioned before, depending on the housing community. You might need to have these extra utilities expenses. Mostly for us students, it will be water, gas, electricity, and Internet. Internet, I mean right now, with. we can’t work without our Internet nowadays. It’s not even for fun. It’s actually for work. So that’s the thing that you must have electricity. I don’t need to explain to you why we need it. Water, gas, the same thing. So those are the ones that will come extra, and that’s something. I will love to give you numbers, but it’s a tricky place. Because it also depends on which providers you have. Something that we have in the U.S., that you have. You can have different providers for these services. So you need to. Actually, you know. take a dive in, do a little research like some they they may offer like some special pricing because it’s student housing. Some others don’t. Sometimes you might be able to split it in the and you know, within the household sometimes, if you have your own apartment well, there’s nothing else you can do around there, right? But yeah, these are the kinds of things that you you should expect to to have this extra expense. These are monthly, furniture is something that you can buy just one time. But other than that, I I mean, I think those are the main ones you you you can have also. The prices might go up or down depending on. If you have a family it’s not the same, if you are a single. It’s easier if you are single, because most of them are looking for single people. but if you have a family, if you have a partner that comes in a different scenario. Some some people did some landlords. They don’t want to have couples. Or if they all of it, then you need to pay more because it needs to be divided between the house members, not by the rooms. And we we when you come to the kids, it’s a a different story. Or because it’s more people. In that case you might be looking for an apartment for yourself, so that increases the the price. There’s also, if you don’t have a family, but you might have a pet, even if it’s an emotional support, pet. Some places are not pet friendly. You can’t expect from all of them to be pet friendly, even though it’s a emotional support. They will try to not have the pet in there. And you know, depending on the pet will be a different story. It’s not the same thing for a cat than for a dog than for a fish like for a bird. I have no people with different pets, and they have different problems with this, because the neighbors, because because of the landlord, because they have to pay extra because you need to pay the license. Blah blah! Blah! You know this can, these are the extra expenses you might you might have from this, and you need to look around with the landlord. What is the, you know, the the perfect deal? You might come up with them, if they are open to it. If not, then you need to look more.

Aimee: Yeah, I will say for utilities for the place that I live in now. We asked them when we moved in kind of what was the average and they couldn’t tell us for electricity, because that varies. You know, we don’t really use a lot of air conditioning, but some people have it going all day long, and that obviously takes a lot of electricity. But they did charge us, they do charge us trash and water, and our complex charges it by person. So again, if you’re like on your own, they’re gonna charge you a little bit less for the buildings use of the water and trash. But if you have a family, even young kids, they’re gonna charge you per person into the usage of the building. And so you always want to ask those questions like, How do these utilities work? Which companies would I be utilizing? That way you do kind of have a heads up. Some places, especially if it’s maybe more of a private landlord might be able to give you an idea of like, oh, the last person that lived here, this is what their utilities looked like. So you can kind of guess based on that. But again, it’s up to your usage to. So those things to make a difference. I will say. I think we utilize probably way less electricity than a lot of our neighbors. I can hear their A/C machines going all the time. So it does definitely depend on your needs in in terms of that as well, and the off-campus housing is more likely to have air conditioning. So that is something. If you are really not comfortable in a hot weather. I will say that is one of the benefits of paying more to maybe like off campus.

Ramses: Yeah. And actually, you mentioned something really important, like, the A/C is one thing that’s something that in campus does don’t have, I mean, the more. The closest thing is like ceiling fans. But for off campus you do, you do have A/C, and also now that the home office is a thing you need to keep looking on that electricity rates, because a lot of people they usually stay at home. So which means, you know, more time using electricity and depending on the time. You know, it’s not a flat rate. If you use certain amount of watts per hour, you go into different tiers and different tiers might be cheaper, might be more expensive, depending on the amount. That’s something we that actually, as I I didn’t mention. Also, there are some communities that they already like, let’s say, kind of married with certain company, because it’s the for the whole complex. So that’s something else. Not all of them will give you the freedom to say like, Oh, I don’t want the service. I don’t want this one, because it’s cheaper, is like. Well, do you have? You know, we have a complex contract. You can go away from it. So it’s in looking to those little details as well. Yeah. 

Aimee: And that comes even down to Internet for us when we started in our complex, we, we we always ask because we really like to have really high speed. My husband works from home all the time. I work from home pretty regularly. So we really enjoy having Google fiber. But we also had an option, for I think it was Cox was the other option it was had pretty good rates as well. So we just looked at what we want if my husband works for Google. So it made more sense for us to use Google. But I think that some of the complexes do only have the one option. So if you are really particular about those things, you definitely want to ask those questions, because it can get pricey in some spaces. If they only have, like the super fancy Internet, you’re gonna be paying for the super fancy Internet, whether you want it or not. 

Ramses: Yeah. You know it will extra cost, because sometimes, if they don’t have the structure like to have it, you need to pay extra for installation. So installation rates are, you know, another thing to think about. It’s a, it’s a different company that you already have in the complex. So 

Aimee: yeah, yeah, always the small small things add up after a while, too. So we we talked about families right like, if I came in with my partner or kids or pets. But what if I’m coming in by myself? But I’m looking for roommates. Do you have the opportunity to choose one? Can you bring your own roommate? Do they have to be a student? Can you talk a little bit about that? 

Ramses: Yeah sure, actually there is a big thing for this before it was more complicated because you weren’t able to choose your roommates or bring your own. In that case you need to rent your own apartment, and, you know, pay the whole rating. Have you the lease under you. But with the website that we’re using from UCI, they have this tab where you can just sign up you create your profile and say, like, I want to live with some someone that has this and that, I’m okay with pets. I’m okay with this. I’m okay with parties. I’m okay with drinking. I don’t like smoking, you know all these what we call pet peeves, for example, they have.

And it will try to match you with someone, or you can look for someone as well. You can filter out like, oh, I want this like features, whatever you want to call it, and they will pop up from all their people that are actually sign up there. And it’s easy, because you you can match with the people with the person you talk with the person, you can look together for something in the same website. So everything is in the same in the same environment in the same system. So it will be easier to have this lease, because, okay, we met here. We have our profile. The school already knows about this so they can cross relay the information, and it will be easier for you to get these, let’s say, guarantee or safe housing options, because they are affiliated to UCI. This is not a third party that I’m talking to a landloard, that I might not see any time on my life, or I just see once, and then he disappears. He or she disappeared. This is actually from UCI. So yeah, you can actually select for roommates. You can look for roommates, or if you have your roommate, you can just have them sign up, and and there you go. Just go hunt for your dream housing.

Aimee: I think one of the benefits of that is, yeah, that affiliation. So if you, I wouldn’t recommend meeting someone online, right? We go back to that scammers thing. If they, don’t want it like even Facetime with you. Probably not a safe thing that you wanna to go forward with. But you know, if you’re using this, or if maybe you’ve come to one of our GIC panels and you put your name out there like, Hey, I’m you know, interested in finding someone to live with, and I would prefer another international student who knows my experience. You know you’re welcome to meet people that way. And then it’s in a little more of a safe, structured environment. So we do really encourage you to be super mindful of that. Especially if you’re not in the U.S,. already and couldn’t like meet someone. 

Ramses: I mean you talked on such a really good thing on there. Like, if you’re an international, I think there’s an option to select like any other language. So you might be looking from some other person or people that are actually from your home country.  That my I I mean as an as an international student. We get homesick every now and then, so that might help, you know. Get some other internationals from your own country, you know. Try to be homesick together rather than alone.

Aimee: Yeah, you can cook food together. You can listen to your music. You can speak your language and definitely, always a great option if you are able to find someone that that fills that need. So we talked about utilities. And we talked about that some of them are kind of a flat rate place. Some of them are more contracted out where you kind of have to search individually. Ours is a little weird that my complex, our water and trash are kind of assigned by the building like the apartment complex. So it’s billed through my rent. So it just gets added to my rent. But I have to pay gas and electricity and Internet on my own. So sometimes they’re kind of split up funny. And any suggestions on how people could maybe keep track of that or what they should do ahead of time to make sure they know how to set up their utilities.

Ramses: That that will be something that I will do research before going to housing. I mean, if you already like, kind of know, I have a rough idea, like, okay, I will like to live this in this in this community. First of all, look ask, you need to as directly to the managers, to whatever landlord they have like. If they already have these kind of services if they’re already included in the complex, or if they are not included, maybe they have certain, I would say a certain contract that they offer for let I mean cheaper service because they have these history, this record. or if they have the opportunity to have you know whatever service you want? I know for yeah, for like Internet. Because you one cable, there are certain providers that are already like for certain communities. Since UCI has this huge contract with, I think it’s Cox, if not, or ResNet. I cannot remember the name of the of the service provider. So usually most of the off-campus communities. They have similar contracts with the providers, which is good and bad. You know, it’s good because it’s it’s a lower price, bad, because it’s more like communities. Usually they are already like out. We don’t want any other provider, because we already have this contract, but usually some others they have like, okay, we have this, but you don’t want it. Well, you can get whatever you want, else you want. And this is another good thing, but it it. It creates competence. So all the prices should be similar. You know, it doesn’t make sense. Okay, if these service it’s cheaper. And I have this other competitor that competitor will keep the same prices that are like 2 or 3 times higher. Sometimes they just lower down a little bit. I don’t know a couple of bucks below, but you know it’s something. It’s something. So that will be the only thing I will say like, try to gather around whatever if they are already like related to each other between services, maybe you can, and have a good deal on them, if not they on it. It will be some it will be some extra work. Just keep tabs on everything, and use some third party app or an excel sheet the least, and right down you like. You know all your end is your payment days and and keeping track of whatever you use. 

Aimee: Yeah, I use a spreadsheet because my payment dates all come in on different times. So I highly recommend having a spreadsheet or a reminder in your calendar that’s like, Hey, gotta go pay that bill. Most of them come electronically, you’ll usually get like a notice through your email. But just in case you’re bad at checking your email. Sometimes it happens, I think it’s good to check those. I also recommend reading on the website. So you brought up earlier the electricity like using it during certain times of day. When I signed up for my electricity, it warned me about that, and it said, Do you want to save money by being a part of a plan where, if you use majority of your usage in the certain time periods, you’re gonna save money. and I was like, of course, I want to save money. Obviously, who doesn’t. Life is expensive in California. So like we don’t wash our clothes between like 4 and 9, because that’s like the peak period. When people are cooking. We try and use like we try and cook things ahead of time. So we try and use like the minimum amount of electricity during that time period. So I you know, I recommend looking at those things and kind of remembering like, Okay, if I don’t, if I use my washer and dryer from 4 to 9, it’s going to be way more expensive. If I don’t have to do that during that time period I should really wait, or maybe I should air dry my clothes. So make sure you’re reading those things. and that goes into just making sure that you read your lease too. Different apartments, have different requirements on what you can have on your patio, and not hanging things. This is a requirement everywhere, and don’t hang things from the little sprayers when you know like when the fire there’s like a a fire sprayer, and all the apartments. If there’s a fire that gives water out. I see people hanging stuff from those all the time, and they they can break, and they can flood your apartment. and so don’t do that. There’s also insurance. So that’s another utility. Most places require you to do renters insurance. Some of them have a company they work with that can give you a discount, and it’s like ready set, and they just add it into your lease. So those are always things to to think about in terms of like those little extra expenses that we all put into utilities.

Ramses: Yeah, you know thats something to. Actually, you mentioned something that I think I forgot to mention. Actually, I didn’t think about now I think about it. So I remember if I mentioned, I’m from Mexico, I’m an international student, and usually here in Mexico for stoves, we’re used to have gas stoves. So my expectations when I first came here was okay. I will have some gas expense when I came to the U.S.. At least for all the places have I have been stoves are electric, so your actual, your electric rate will increase or depending on how many times you cook. And the gas bill goes for heating water. Which is the opposite I have here in Mexico. My gas bill is on cooking, and my electricity is of heating water. So it’s it’s the opposite here. And since I cook, a lot I mean for water. It’s heated only when you shower, I mean, even though you shower every day. It’s not that big amount. If you actually save a water. If you take showers of more than an hour, then you’re on a different plate. 

Aimee: Yeah, or really hot showers, 

Ramses: Yeah or really hot shower. You know. but for for cooking, I mean we at least cook 3 times a day. So it’s a huge change on that side. And this comes to another thing you actually mentioned about the the times for electricity, and this actually begun like 2 years ago. If I remember well, we’d all these heat waves and everything. We were told that you should avoid using any electric thing between 4 pm to 6 pm, at least in California. So at that time we have a lot of like shut downs. Just randomly rlectricity went down for a couple of hours because it was too hot. And that’s the time that people turn their ACs on. They’re already back at home. They turn the TV. They start working on the computer. They’re playing on the computer. They’re just hanging out on on on your house. So, as I mentioned before, depending on how much you use will be the tier, least you will be, it will be the more payment, and also that comes with the these special contracts for green energy. That’s something. I actually that I saw it on. What’s the name of this company? I think it was Edison. You can sign that for these special contract, like you have certain hours a day if you use, around those hours, which is that not the peak is like below peak, you get for cheaper. 

Aimee: Yeah that’s what I have. So I do my laundry at like 6 in the morning, so that it’s like because no one else is awake at 6 in the morning. I’m half awake doing my laundry so that I’m saving money because I’m signed up on that plan, so I always recommend looking into those, because I think they’re really great options and some complexes even have your, off-campus. I see a lot of them nowadays they have what’s called a nest thermostat, and you can set it into green energy mode. And so it will do the like. Outside temperature is this. So we’re gonna make sure that you’re staying cool, but not like over taxing the energy system and so we use that a lot. And I can pop on my phone, actually, like, if we’re on vacation. And I can say, like, we don’t need to have this on it. And I forgot to turn it off. You can use it on your phone. So a lot of complexes are moving towards that. So we don’t have those blackouts. My recommendation is, don’t turn your AC on during those peak periods. Just go to a coffee shop or go sit in a bookstore or walk around target. 

Ramses: Exactly

Aimee: That’s what we usually do or something. Or go to Costco.

Ramses: Yeah I go to Target or go to Wal-Mart.

Aimee: Go someplace, else where you go are not paying for the air conditioning, and someone else can pay for it on your behalf. Because that’s definitely always a better option. Last couple of things that we we wanted to talk about amenities. So we talked a little bit about air conditioning being one of those really great off-campus amenities. Obviously, buildings on campus are usually air conditioned and when it’s really bad, like when the heat is really bad. If you’re on campus housing, there are places for you to go to cool down and study and hang out but for those other amenities. What other kind of differences would you see in on campus and off-campus housing?

Ramses: Yeah. Actually, like you said. for us in in campus. We do have a community center, basically, which is that one with has AC has lounges, study rooms, etc., you know. But for off campus, having in mind that there are more expensive actually they you usually have a little bit more like they go on the extra. Why, I mentioned extra, I know, like most of them, some of they have pools, for example, that it’s part of your amenity, you’re paying for it. I mean, that’s why, you’re paying the big bucks to have this apartment. You have a pool that you can use. This is something that we share with in campus and off campus as well for laundry. There’s this place where it’s a community laundry in place you have for a washers and dryers there. If you’re paying an extra sometimes the same apartment has its own washer and dryer. But I mean, that comes with extra extra money, you know. So these are some kind of amenities. Some of there’s I know, some of. They have gyms, for example, they have, they also have study rooms. They have a lounge. they have pool table, foosball tables. I have heard some others have, like a even a tennis court or a basketball court over there. So, depending on the on the housing community you select from the the off campus list, you have more or less these kind of things I already mentioned, but usually it’s the the laundry centers, the pools, the basketball court. They are just the most frequent ones they have. I mean, which, you know, make it work to actually pay extra. Because if it’s just the apartment, well, you know.

Aimee: yeah, why would I pay extra for that.

Ramses: Exactly.

Aimee: I know there’s a couple that have like playgrounds for kids or a dog park. If it’s a pet friendly place, they may have, like a a space for you to take your dog out to go walk, and and do their thing. So those are definitely things that you you pay for. I know some of the complexes have multiple pools, and they look like hotels, and they look like a full on resort. 

Ramses: Yeah they do!

Aimee: So you pay for those extra things. So you really have to kind of weigh, especially if you got an offer to live on campus but you’re considering living off campus. You really have to weigh like what are your needs? What’s going to make you most comfortable? And is it in your budget to move off campus for those additional things like a fancy resort style pool? That’s salt water, and I’ve been apartment hunting lately. So I know that there’s there’s a lot of interesting different things that they they try and get you to to move into their complex for. But you definitely want to weigh. I think one of the big things when it comes to expenses that I weigh when I’m looking at housing is, can I walk for me to work? But for students it’d be to school. Can I walk to campus? Is on the bus route. or am I going to need a car? Because a car which we’ll talk about later comes with a lot of additional expenses. And so if you’re like, maybe I don’t want to get a car, and I’d rather live closer to campus if it’s $300 more. Is that gonna be still cheaper than buying a car and having the lease and having insurance and gas and upkeep, and all those additional things. So definitely recommend that you, you think about all of the different expenses that go into it. 

Ramses: Yeah of course.

Aimee: So I think the last thing that we wanted to talk about was subletting. And so could you maybe describe what subletting is, if that’s different. For some people that word might not be super.common.

Ramses: Yeah of course, that’s something that once you get to UCI you will hear a lot. For these housing situations. Subletting is basically, lets put an example, I do have the lease. I have do have the contract for this apartment of 2 bedrooms. Right? I’m the holder of that contract. I’m the the one who has the responsibility for everything. Let’s say that you want to rent out one of the rooms or the whole apartment. So what I would do, instead of releasing my lease and give a new contract to you. We will actually form a contract between you and me. I will be still be the holder for the community, like in the name. I will be the holder. But I’m making this extra contract, saying like, Okay, Aimee will be the one paying for this room, for this amount of time. I will still be responsible for the whole thing but in this situation she will be the like a temporary holder, let’s say, for the summer, this range of time, in case it’s a whole apartment. If it’s just a room, you know it it it it has different conditions. But it’s basically It’s a temporary contract where I don’t lose my what I say, like my ownership on the on the place. It’s some more usual, for in campus housing, which is another option, and actually, you can see through the same website.  Usually people are in campus, sometimes they do internships, they go back home for a month, 2 months, or they have something else that they they need to leave the apartment, but they don’t want to lose the the lease, so what they do they do. They offer sublet they over so for the subleasing on the on the website, or something through Facebook. Some others through CraigList, you know these other websites where you could look around, or they just offer it through, you know. friends to friends, to friends, to friends. So you might hear around that. But that that’s basically it. And it’s another good option as well. Sometimes they come at the same price as the the owner is is paying. Sometimes they go for cheaper. That’s the cool thing about it. They go for cheaper, and you don’t need to buy furniture because they’re already furniture from the owner. So it’s a good option to to look around. I mean, 

Aimee: yeah, yeah, it can be a win-win.

Ramses: Exactly. 

Aimee: It’s like, if someone is like, Hey, I need, I need to go to this internship. So I’m gonna charge you less to live in my place, and I’m only going to pay $200 a month to keep my lease in my place, and maybe store a few things there, whatever it is. But I’m not going to have to pay my whole entire rent while I have 2 different rents going on, so it can be a a win-win. And we you mentioned lease, and we haven’t covered that. And so one thing I will say is, when you sign a contract with a landlord or apartment complex, you’re going to have a lease term, which is the length of time, and I’ve noticed a lot of places in Irvine, you can kind of select what it is. The the least amount of time is going to be more expensive. The longest amount of time is going to be the cheapest. Sometimes sometimes there’s a a weird middle, I would say in Irvine 13 – 14 months seems to be the cheapest. It’s a weird number for some reason that seems to be it. But that is the time that you’re saying I will live here. So you obviously subletting, or some in some cases breaking your lease to leave early might be a better option. But you may want to consider like oh, I don’t really know how I like this area yet. Do I want to pay a little more and have a shorter term lease and see if I like it, or do I just wanna do whatever is the cheapest and get the cheapest. But when you’re at lease renews, especially in off campus housing, they can increase your rent, and so, like my lease renewed this last year, and they increased my rent by like a $150 a month. And so it’s I call it a tax. It’s like a tax on not moving out of your complex, not having to pack up everything and move to a whole new place. And I mean there are benefits to obviously staying somewhere that you’re comfortable with. But once your lease ends, they can increase the amount of money that you would spend, or you can do, month to month, which is.  it goes up and down every month. So there’s lots of things I would always discuss that with the complex or landlord that you’re working with as well.

Ramses: Yeah, actually, that’s really important. Because, I mean, the idea is that. for example, if you do a lease for 12 months, let’s say the ideal is for you, you know, like at 7 at the month number 7, I said, you know what I want to move out. I just break my lease and let’s go, you know. But thats not the reality for what I know, and my my experience. Most places. They don’t let you break the the lease unless you pay a penalty, and penalties are high. That’s why subleasing exist. That’s why most people at least off campus, because they don’t want to break the lease, because it will be extra payment, so they prefer to rent it out to someone else, pay the same rate, or pay even less for me to just get out there because I find a better place, because I don’t need any more. You can name the reason. Also for subleasing I say, I said, that it was a contract between the the holder and then your renter right? These subleasing contracts they need to be given to the housing office as well. This is not something that is person to person. No, I mean, it is person to person. But you need to give out that contract to the actually, like the community, because they need to know that gives you trust that if something happened may maybe the the the person with the lease will be doing something bad, or they will try to scam you, and if they don’t know, then you will not be protected. So it’s another type of scam that can happen even for in campus off campus you still you think that you sign the contract. You need to give that contract to the the community, to the community office. So they know, like, okay, this person who is a holder is subleasing this other apartment under this person name. So okay, we already know you can continue because for responsibility, for scamming for anything else you you might think about. You need to be protected. So just stay aware of that. I mean, if the holder they don’t call the housing office about your subleasing well that’s a red flag. You need to ask for it.

Aimee: Yeah. And I will say a lot of the off-campus ones do like background checks because they want to know who’s living in their complex to see if there’s any been any issues in previous complexes, or to see if there’s, you know, maybe yeah, like something going on that they would definitely want to to know before moving someone in. A lot of the apartment complexes off campus maybe have a gated areas to. So for security. I do know. One of the benefits of some of the off-campus ones is that they have like package rooms. So if you’re like ordering something online at my complex, it goes to the package room, and then I don’t have to worry about it sitting on my doorstep if I’m on vacation, or had to go away suddenly, or just, you know, am not, did not hear the door knock, and someone’s now stealing my package. So there’s a little more security in some of the off campus complexes. Not that, that’s not on campus, too, but the off campus just offers different things directly in your building where campus those package lockers are available in the area or in what you’ll you’ll get to know, UTC. It’s right across it’s a shopping center, right near campus.

Ramses: It’s very limited. It’s very limited. I mean, that that comes with what I mentioned before, you pay extra for these services. That’s why rent is more expensive. But I mean, sometimes it’s worth, you know. And even when you said before, like for a car and everything again off campus doesn’t mean that you will be 10 miles away. It’s just across the street. 

Aimee: No, I mean there are ones that are just as close as some of the on campus housing too,

Ramses: I mean, even closer sometimes. And that’s crazy. Some some of the off-campus communities are closer than some of the in campus communities. So  it’s a, it’s a good mix of thing. 

Aimee: Yeah, definitely. So you just have to look out. You know what’s what’s important for you. when you’re looking at your community. Any last advice on the housing process for off-campus?

Ramses: I mean, I I will just say, double check everything double check, triple check, 4 times, check, five times check and ask around. I mean, UCI has a lot of resources. I mean, you’re having this is right. This podcasts are resource. We are people that you can actually ask for like, hey, I have this, I go  through to the website. I have a doubt. You’re free to ask. Ask around. It’s they they won’t ask for a fee for asking, asking is free. So better ask, actually paying a penalty of being scam. So that will be my advice.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely, you know, that’s one of the reasons that GIC exists. We’re here to help you as you transition. So thank you for joining us for this podcast Ramses it’s always good to chat with you. For those of you who are tuning in a couple of episodes coming up we’ll talk about things like furniture that we brought up earlier, so make sure you come back. Have a good one!

Ramses: Thank you very much.

Transcript of Podcast #5: First Week in the U.S. Experiences

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Roman Shrestha (He/Him), & Sanchi Gupta

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and I am excited to be joined today by 2 of our mentors who are going to talk to us about living in the U.S. for the first time. So I’m going to pass it off to them to introduce themselves.

Roman: Hi, everyone my name is Roman Shrestha. I’m a first year in the chemistry department doing my Ph.D. at UCI, I’m from Chitwan, Nepal and my favorite place to grab snacks around would be Mendocino Farms like it’s just like at UTC and I always go there whenever I need to grab some lunch.

Aimee: I love Mendocino Farms. They have a vegan bahn mi that is my favorite thing there.

Roman: I haven’t tried that yet.

Aimee: It’s a good one.

Sanchi: Okay, I’ll go. Hey, everyone, my name is Sanchi and I’m currently pursuing master computer science at UC Irvine. And I’m right now in New Jersey, going for an internship over here. And I’m from India and I think, one of my favorite escapes would be walking listening to songs and long drives.

Aimee: Yes. I love walking around campus, especially in Aldrich Park. So if you get to campus and you’re, like, I, just want to get outside and stretch and try and deal with jet lag. I highly recommend that you go to Aldrich Park. So we’ll jump into our.

Sanchi: The campus in fact is very nice. I was just saying the campus is actually really nice.

Aimee: Yeah. we have a video coming out soon. That is just a walk around like ring roads so that you can kind of get a feel for what that space is like. I do that on my lunch break sometimes. Just walk the big circle of campus, and it’s it’s very relaxing, especially during the summer. It’s very quiet right now. Yeah. And we pretty much have good weather most of the year. So getting out and going for a walk is is always good. First question. When did you arrive in the U.S. and does anything stand out to you from your first experiences here? Was there anything kind of more shocking or more exciting for you?

Roman: I’ll go first. So I arrived in the U.S. in 2018 because I did my undergrad here at the University of Denver, Colorado. So that was my first international flight like, so straight from Nepal to like Denver to transit like, probably like 19-20 hours in the airports and stuff. So yeah, I got there. And yeah, just like my first airport in America was Chicago O’Hare and it’s just like it was crazy like, that’s when everything started. Yeah, I was like, yeah the airport is like too hard to navigate around, and everything. I had to take like a bus from one terminal to go like in my like to luggage to another and everything. Yeah, so it’s very complicated. And then, after I got to my dorm and everything like. I I think, like it kind of surprised me, because, like how everything was so structured like for this dorm, there’s like this one housing office. And then the RAs and everything. I had no idea about like the RAs, and then like different floor plans. Yeah, so kind of like, that was different. And then the concept of dining hall. Yeah, it’s like that big of a gym on campus and everything. And also like the traffic, traffic rules were crazy because, like back in Nepal, like, we have a lot of traffic, but also there’s like a we don’t have like traffic lights and everything so like it’s all over the place. It’s really complicated. But here, like with like a lot of traffic and everything like, they’re very strict about following the rules and everything, especially for driving around. Yeah, I think those are the kind of like the first thing I remember. And it was definitely very shocking experience when I got here right away.

Aimee: Yeah, I think, Denver is a hard to navigate in a car just in general. I have a hard time with the roads down there, so I imagine that would be even more complicated than just our normal, very structured driving system. Sanchi, what about you?

Sanchi: So landed here on ninth September 2022. We were a group of students. So we all came up together. So it was kind of easier for me to navigate around. We had each other, and we could go around asking as well. And but what the first shocker for me was the fact that the taxis weren’t, did not come right at the airport. So I landed at Los Angeles, so I had to take a bus from there. Go to another place. That’s where all the cabs came and that that’s where we had to go. That was kind of a shocker for me because usually cabs just come at the airport gate, and they they just drop and pick you up from there. So that was one of it. Then, I think, as as Roman, was telling about signals and everything. Back in the day we did not have walking signals. So I had no idea about it. I would just cross the road, and then my friend would introduce me something called some walking signal like you have to press. You have to wait. You have a signal. That’s what we need to cross. That’s back in India it was left right, left. Okay, Cross. It was like that over there? So yeah, those small things. And I think the next shocker was public transport. Yeah, we did have a lot of transport back home. But yeah, here transportation is kind of an issue. It’s either a walk or it’s a cab. So yeah, usually now, whenever we leave out of our houses, we are usually in a group of people so that we can share the cost of the cabs and everything. Well, this is good actually, it was quite a good change for me, I think. It was good. 

Aimee: Yeah. I think it’s always fun to step into a different place, right? And that’s what we do as international students or those that travel internationally. You’re, you’re experiencing someone else’s culture. And you’re surprised, maybe sometimes by the things that come up. But sometimes they’re really positive things So now that you’ve both been here for a little bit of time. Roman, you’ve definitely been here a little bit longer. What is your favorite thing about living here in the U.S.

Roman: So for me, I really kinda like, appreciate the opportunities that I have like received out here, like throughout the whole year I’ve been here. Because, like the school, like education system, in the Nepal was it kind of like a, it’s like very different than out here, like we don’t have like the same level of interaction with the teachers like where you can just like hit them up and then set up a meeting and talk about things even outside of class and everything. I guess. Yeah, because in Nepal growing up, it was, it was always like, oh, yeah, like, you meet your teacher at like a designated class and then, like a certain time, and that was like a limited period you get to interact with them and learn from them. But here, when I was in Denver, like just like how approachable and like friendly they were like, I could just like go to their office hour like, and then sit down like you have a full on conversation about like classes. Not only that, like in terms of like professional growth,  just like navigating like your life on its own and everything. Yeah, like my professors helped me grow a lot. And probably like, so far, I like to really appreciate that, because, like this really helped me like a kind of like excel in my career and everything. Yeah, and also like it, as you mentioned like when you like a leave, a certain like a place that you are like staying in the bubble like it helps you like grow more. It’s like a mentally, socially, emotionally, and everything. I definitely like a feel like it’s just coming out of here, living in the U.S., like I’ve had more opportunities to like meet new people just like not from like America itself, but like from all around the world, like my best friends, like out in Denver, they they’re from Guatemala, Kenya, and everything. So it’s just like I never like thought like moving to Denver I’ll like, get to like a hang out with people from like other part of the world, and then we just got to like, know each other’s culture and like, really help with each other grow. So it’s like, yeah, like getting to meet people. And also food is very important, like I. I feel like there’s a lot of diversity out here, and I’ve tried, like all sort of like cuisines, just like being in America, which I don’t think I would have found that in Nepal. So yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, I think we talk about food a lot in GIC, because we all need to eat to stay in life. But we all mostly seem to really enjoy the experience of trying new things. So there’s a lot of different food options near campus. And we’re definitely going to have a couple of different podcasts on food culture, where to find specific kinds of foods. We also are going to talk about dining culture, because tipping is different here than in many other countries. So we’ll talk about some of those things as well. And you brought up a good point and something that we hope to have a podcast on as we get closer to the school year is. Our professors can be really approachable. They also have set times for you to come in and have a meeting. You can set up a separate meeting and so how do you build a relationship with your advisor? With your professors? We’re going to talk about some of those things in future podcasts? Because, I think that is very different than many other countries.

Sanchi: Yes.

Aimee: Yeah, so Sanchi what about you? What, what is your favorite thing living in the U.S. so far?

Sanchi: So honestly, I really do like the campus. So it’s it’s beautiful. There’s so many trees, there’s so many options. There’s this William Mason park just nearby, you can always, it’s just ten minutes walk from my place and that. There’s UTC, there’s so many places to hang out as well. So I think that was one of the one of the things that I really do like over here. Other than that. I think I really do like the fact that over here I’m not limited to anything like people are very approachable. You want to talk to someone, you can just go ahead, start a conversation. They will react very nicely. They’re very helpful. They’ll guide you around. They’re always up for small chit chats, and they tell you so much about themselves. And it’s it’s always good, you know. It’s it’s very refreshing. It’s very different, like it’s not like people just shoo you off, or something like that. No, they there. They want to talk they have things to share. I think that was really nice.

Aimee: Yeah, I hear a lot from people that at grocery stores it can be really different when the person who’s checking your groceries out is like, “How’s your day going” “Oh, I really like this”, especially at Trader Joe’s. If you go to Trader Joe’s by campus, it happens to me all the time they’ll be like, “oh, this is my favorite snack”. They want to talk to you about it, or ask you how long you’ve been eating it or is this your first time trying this, is my favorite thing. I I hear that from students all the time. It’s just a different level of like openness to getting to know strangers that you probably will never talk to again, and you may not ever get their name, but you’ve had a full conversation with them at the grocery store.

Sanchi: So there’s this one thing that happened with me. I was in Albertsons and there was this, there are these, so many types of different cheese and everything. And I wasn’t used to it. I had no idea what, which one to pick. I was so confused. I had one lady, who definitely saw the confusion on my face, and she told me in what of them she would use, which cheese. So, okay, if you want to make something like this. You probably want to go, take that or take this. So I ended up taking I think, feta, and she gave me 2 or 3 recipes and 2 or 3 dishes that I could make with it. I mean, that was really nice, that was really sweet of her to do that. I will also remember that it has a great bakery, Albertsons, has a really nice bakery. So I got some madeleines and cupcakes, and I was at the counter, and the female at the counter would go like, Oh, that’s gonna get over in 3 days. So you want to get some more supplies. And that’s like, okay. It’s nice.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, I find that that is one of the things that I am confused about. When I travel outside of the U.S.. I go to the grocery store, and I’m like smiling at the cashier, and my husband’s like, don’t do that that’s confusing, that’s confusing to that. But I’m like, why, I’m just so used to it here. So I sometimes, if I’m trying, not you know, sometimes you’re in a day where you’re like processing something. Or maybe you’ve had a really long day. I wear my headphones sometimes to the grocery stuff if I don’t want the cashier talking to me, so if it’s a little overwhelming for you, especially with jet lag, or just being in a new country, if you feel like, oh, this is too much, people are really chatty. I recommend putting on a pair of headphones because people generally be like, okay, this person really doesn’t want to talk right now, and they generally try and respect that. So that is a little piece of advice. If you find that experience a little too much for you. And that brings up a good point. It can be. We have our favorite things right. Living in the U.S., has great benefits, different things that maybe you haven’t experienced before that have been exciting for you. But it’s also not the easiest thing as a as a new person living in the U.S.. So what has been maybe one of the hardest things for the both of you living here?

Roman:  I think, like the hardest things are like a changes throughout the time, at like a certain time, like a like a first year or 2 when you were here. Is just like a knowing the American culture like how to interact with people like that, like talking in English to other people like communicating, reaching out by email, and everything like that’s definitely the hardest part, like, I remember my freshman year, just like I thought I had a good English till I got to like meet people and start talking to them, and just like the flow and everything is just like, you know, at a point. So yeah, and like, with time, like I sort of got over it. And then came like culture shock. It’s like missing family around and not being able to go back home because of Covid. There’s just like not having time having to work like in lab and everything not getting vacation. Yeah and like, just like not seeing family for like a year or 2, just like a really, sometimes you’re just like you feel lonely and you’re like, oh, yeah, like, just even like a living in the U.S. worth it at this point. I mean, it is. It is like you, you learn a lot like, you know, you grow a lot but at the same time, like not having family around whenever like you need them. It’s tough, and especially like for me, like I have a lot of friends like growing up in Nepal. And now they’re like in all part of the world. And just like whatever even, I go back home like, I didn’t get to like meet up with them, because, like their vacation time doesn’t like align and everything. So yeah, just like friends, family, culture shock. Probably the hardest part and sometime, like a, like a classes and academics can be tough as well, especially like at the beginning, trying to figure out like a like if a professor sets a deadline, then it’s the deadline you have to turn your stuff by that time. I mean, some professor can be like flexible, and then move it around for you. But like, from experience a lot of a lot of them communicate like way earlier, and then, like they don’t like move it around, depends on the circumstances and everything. So yeah, trying to figure out like, how the classes work like midterms, final exams, and how many like a assignments you need to do like and some classes even have like the attendance policies. Yeah, so like I think, like freshman year. I was all over the place. It’s like so much going on, trying to figure out, and also at the same time like trying to fit in like a make, friends like a learn new stuff. And then also, like kind of like teach them about my culture and everything. Yeah, so. But it’s the process like once you get going, it comes from the rhythm, and you really get like lost into the process and enjoy it. But, like now, looking back, I’m like there was a lot going on.

Aimee: It could be a very emotional experience for a lot of people, especially as you’re first getting settled like I said earlier, it can be really overwhelming to be dealing with new kind of structures in terms of academics and social structures. And Sanchi you talked about pedestrian culture, you know, crossing the roads or not crossing the roads, getting used to all of those things and the sights and the smells and the food. It it can be all really overwhelming. So it’s good to have a place like a GIC mentor who can be like “yes, that’s a normal thing. It’s normal to feel this way. Let’s find some ways to help you feel settled, or relax, or walk around campus and just get yourself out there and and use to your new home”, for sure.

Sanchi: That’s true. I think the, the difficult part for me was you know, setting up the everything by myself. So back in India I always had friends. I always had my sister or my mom and dad taking care of me, you know, cooking, cooking for me and getting me meals, driving me around, shopping with me. It it it’s not like that. It’ll be you. You have to wake up in the morning. Make sure you have something for the breakfast. Make sure you always have milk, bread, cheese. I don’t think I ever went vegetable shopping with my dad as such. But here, every weekend you have to go. Okay, you need food. You need this. And you know you plan ahead that. Okay, on Tuesday I want to cook this on, Wednesday I want to cook this. I should have this. I should have that. So yeah. And then, balancing all of that with your schooling and extra curricular, you are going to gym, and you have all the assignments and everything, and you have your internship search. You have your full time search and so it’s like you just don’t know where you are. It’s just like, Okay, this is there. This is there This is there. Then you have a to do list. And it’s not reducing. It’s it’s only increasing. Okay, I have to do this. I have to do that. This is left. This is left. So I think all of this was really difficult. I had never managed so many things on my own at first, but I but then, you know, I found friends, and seeing them also being in the same modest means, kind of helpful. I say, okay, you know what we can do this, we can do that. And it’s nice to take over. So yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, you’re definitely not the only one experiencing it right? And I think especially depending on who your roommate is. If you have a roommate, if your roommate and you have different cultures, especially if your roommate is maybe an American student. We tend to be a little more individualistic, and so they may be used to having built their own meals. Cook their own things, done their own grocery shopping so for them they might be like, well. Why haven’t you done this? And you’re like, well, this is how we do it in my family and my culture, and we do things together as a unit. And you’re like, what do you want to go to the grocery store with me. Do you want to split food for some people that can be weird? So, laying down those ground rules, especially if you have a housemate can be helpful, and then finding the right people, if you’re like. I find it overwhelming to go grocery shopping by myself, or think about my meals or some things are really big at the grocery store like a really big bag of onions that maybe I’m not gonna go through myself. Find the right people that you can do those things together with, and that can make this experience a lot smoother for you, in terms of getting settled and and getting some community behind you to help through all of that.

Sanchi: That’s true. That’s true. I assume that. So I used to usually go shopping with my parents and everyone. So whenever you try on a top, you show it to them. But over here we have like a 12 our difference. So when I was trying on clothes they were sleeping. I can’t do that. So now I start sending to my friends, okay, choose now choose now. So yeah, I mean, you need to find some replacements here and there now.

Aimee:. Yeah, yeah, especially when the time difference is so big. And you’re yeah, or you buy it and you do a a show at home when they’re all awake, and then, then you take back what they don’t like. You have to, you have to find those ways that work for you and and still build those connections. Even that building connections here, is is definitely super important. I know my mom and I don’t have a time difference, but I used to go shopping with her all the time, so we send pictures constantly to each other when we buy when we’re buying clothes. So we talked about your favorite thing and your hardest thing that you kind of had to deal with as you’ve transitioned here to the U.S.. What advice would you give to people before they come to maybe help prepare themselves a little bit for what to experience?

Roman:  I’ll say like. If you’re coming for the first time, I mean, just like, keep in mind, it’s gonna be a like a process of transitioning like there’s gonna be a lot going on like you’re gonna be fine. I mean, like it, it’s tough. But at the same time, like you’re gonna get it done. And personally, for, like from my experience, like, if I didn’t have the community behind me like, I’ll have struggled way more. Like my like a my roommate, my friends like and my family out there in Nepal and all my friends all around the world is like having them around me, and like just keeping in touch like it helped me a lot like at the times like when I was struggling and like mentally like drained out like overwhelmed by school, like life and everything just like talking to them and like figuring out what the priorities are and why am I here, kind of like, help me like it direct my focus to like everything I needed to do in my priority. So just like a don’t, kinda like a separate yourself from that community that you have, and then, if you are struggling, reach out for help just like start with your roommate, I’d say they’re probably like the best person to reach out to, because they’re always around you. For me, like my random roommate from freshmen year, like is still my best friend now, like we somehow got really lucky and now, like we’re like the one of the like. He’s one of my best friend I like had in my life, and then he helped me grow a lot like, learn the American culture, like we’ll go grocery shopping together, and then he’ll help me figure out like what the actual like the brands are, what is good and like, how I should like interact with people. So just kind of like. you’re not like alone in this process. And then just like, if you really need help, start like you’re reaching out to other people, either be your roommate, if not like, just like a people at GIC or like your mentors, or even like professors sometimes like because a lot of the professors, they’re also like, they study and other like a university, other countries that come out here, and they like kind of go through the same process of like a transitioning through different culture and stuff. Like back in Denver, like I had a professor who, like was from Sri Lanka, or like he did his like a undergrad in the U.K. and then he was international student here, doing Ph.D. and everything so kind of like, he directed me with the process of like, how it’s gonna be as an international student and that definitely kind of like prepared myself. So yeah, my like biggest advice to anyone that’s coming out to the U.S., or even like moving out to any new country, would be just like reach out to people like it’s life is much better with when you have community with you. So yeah, 

Aimee: For sure.

Sanchi: That’s that’s really true. I thin,k I think I would say, keep an open mind about things. You’ll be surprised how things surprise you over here. I mean, they’re so different. And I mean, if you already have judgments about everything, then it’s not going to help you out. I mean people, cultures, practices, traditions, just come with an open mind. Be accepting. Give everything a chance. Just give it a shot. Maybe you will like it, maybe you won’t. Mostly you will like it, and especially when you’re doing it with people. You end up liking things. So yeah, just come with an open mind. Give things a shot and don’t be like no, I don’t want to do this. I’m not someone who like, it’s it’s fine. Just give it a shot. I think one more thing I would like to say is, try keeping up with a routine. Like when you’re coming here there’ll be so many things for you that at times it is very natural for you to get overwhelmed with the amount of work that you have. So like, when I started, I got myself a routine. So I was always like, okay, this is pending but I have a time scheduling, scheduled for this. Okay, I’m gonna do this tomorrow, so it’s not pending as such. So keeping up with the routine always helped me out. And yeah, always, always keep in touch, like I always have this night time for my parents, and when I talk to them, and I want to know what’s going on with them. I let them know about all these smallest things like how big a pear is over. You know how big a peach is over here. Small things, but they kind of mean a lot to them. And it’s it’s really nice, you know, when you share all that. You end up, you know, thinking about it and going to sleep. So it’s it’s been nice that way.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s really important. Those small things you know you both mentioned keeping in touch with your community. It’s, it’s not just like, oh, I’m starting my new quarter, or oh, this big thing happened in my life. It’s you know, oh, today I went on a walk, and I saw a cat on campus, and it was really exciting and telling them all about it, and those kinds of things help you feel connected, help them feel connected, and and continue to keep you in touch. So super important. We talked a little bit about, you know, cultural differences and I think there, there’s always maybe judgment like you mentioned Sanchi, or maybe expectations about what the U.S. culture looks like, and movies and music sometimes play a big role, and why we have those expectations or judgments ahead of time. But what would you say is a realistic way to maybe prepare for what the U.S. culture is, because those things aren’t always very accurate.

Roman: Yeah, I mean, definitely the movies and like in music videos and everything really impacted my like a vision of what America would be like when I was in Nepal like. And then  I got out here. I was like, Oh, it’s actually very different, you know. So yeah, I’ll say the realistic way to like know? Like about the U.S. like in terms of culture, society, and like, what’s this like out here is to like literally be here and then see it for yourself and then yeah, in that process like how to prepare would be like if you like, this for example, like you have your friend, and then if you see them like doing something very differently then just ask them about it, you know, like it’s better to like just like ask them about like their culture, and then what it means for them, and then why they do it the certain way. And then probably just like, you know, that’s how I learned myself, too. I was just like, I’ll see my friend like doing certain things like differently, and I’ll just ask them. And they’ll tell me, oh, yeah, like we do this up there out here like this, my culture and everything kinda like and then that’s how I learn from them, I guess. But yeah, as Aimee mentioned like the movies like Hollywood movies. You know, they show like, yeah, it’s just very different. 

Aimee: And I think that’s that’s yeah, definitely something we always want to make sure is that

you come in with it like you mentioned, like open minds and and just experience the culture while you’re hereand never be afraid to ask questions. I think a lot of Americans would be like, Oh, well, that’s just common to me. So I sometimes it may have never thought about how that might look to someone who’s from a different culture. But more often than not someone will be very happy to explain it, if you have a question, even if it’s someone in your lab or in one of your classes and you’re like you ask a lot of questions to the professor and they’re like, Yeah, that’s what we do here that’s a very common part of U.S. culture is just asking for clarification in the middle of a classroom, and for many other cultures, you don’t talk to your professor. You definitely don’t interrupt them when they’re teaching. But here it’s very common to raise your hand and be like, I have a question about what you just said. So that’s definitely something I’ve had students be like oh I should just asked someone if that was okay. I thought that student must be in trouble and annoying the Professor, so I think. Ask questions, even if you feel like, Oh, I’m gonna look stupid. You’re not. People are very open to understanding that we come from all sorts of parts of the world and and we want to get to know everyone’s culture.

Sanchi: I think one of the one of the ways that I learned was my roommate was an America and so every day I used to ask her “how was your day? What did you do?” So she would tell me everything about her day. I think one of the most memorable conversations we had was Saint Peter, Saint Patrick’s Day, when she dressed herself in all green, and she was just getting out of the house, and I was like, why, why do you look like I? I think the question I asked, why is it like a plant? She just looked at me and was like do not know? I’m like what? What am I missing here? And she told her about this whole Saint Patrick’s Day, and the culture and beers and everything, and I was like, oh, it’s a thing it’s like. Yes, it’s a thing. And she actually asked me to wear green as well as she was like do not get out of the house if you’re not wearing green, you have to wear green this and green that. So yeah, I mean small things. But it was fun. It’s interesting.

Aimee: Yeah, I think learning the holidays is definitely an important one, because that holiday is is supposed to be Irish. But it’s same with like, the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo is supposed to be a very like a Mexican holiday, but they’re very American, and the way that things are done, and what really happens on those holidays. It’s always good to ask questions. I know the GIC Instagram page has talked a little bit about some of the holidays that we’ve had come up since we’ve opened our account, and we’ll continue to do that to kind of share that information. St. Patrick’s Day is a funny one because, yeah, if you don’t wear green, people are supposed to be able to pinch you. So your friends might pinch you if you don’t wear green. So you want to be careful because you don’t want to get pinched. Some of us are are more understanding, and we’re like don’t do it again. But that is one of those just kind of weird things in the U.S. that is very common. I think one thing that I’ve realized a lot of students are doing is going on Instagram accounts or Youtube and watching videos of international students and kind of watching their experience as they get used to the U.S.. And obviously still, there’s probably some production to that, and there’s probably some unrealisticness trying to put a spin on it. But I’ve seen a few of them where students have really experienced like culture shock, and been very honest about mental health struggles or how hard it’s been for them to find certain foods or get connected with American students. So I think that’s always a good kind of start, if you’re if you’re trying to find some advice. And so last question is what are some ways that you can maybe overcome homesickness. We all feel it when we travel, or when we’re separated from our family for a length of time. So what are some things that you guys have done when homesickness has become hard for you?

Roman: Yeah, home sickness is very real, and sooner or later, it’s gonna happen. Yeah. So for me, I tried like a lot of different ways. I just like experiment around and see what works for me the best. I mean the one thing I kept consistent with myself staying in touch with my friends and family like very important and then the other ways is like, I try to cook a lot like whenever I can like some Nepali foods, and then, just like a look up some recipes out of Youtube or Google it, or even like, ask your friends or our family around, and then get their recipes and cook it for myself, and invite friends like to join me for dinner. And also, like watch Bollywood movies together. Like, with my other friends like, that’s a big thing. Yeah, I’ve like made a lot of my friends watch Bollywood with me. Kind of like it makes it feel like home here. And then listening to music. Like I love music so like it like whenever I have time, like my playlist literally would be like going from like EDM like English music to like Nepali, Bollywood, and everything so like that’s like crazy change. But like I have to like constantly feed that to myself just to like make me feel better. And then kinda like, it makes it feel like home, too. And then otherways would be just like watching, yeah, like documentaries, or like, like reading books. Yeah, I mean, just like you have to figure out like, whatever your interests are, and then figure out whatever it works the best for you. And at the end, just like not the same like tactics, not gonna work for everyone. So you just have to like kind of experiment around and see what works I mean. If you, if you are really struggling, then definitely reach out to other people and see like how like they have handle their homesickness, and also trying to find the community of like a people from your country out here at UCI helps a lot too. Especially in Denver. when I got there, I had like we had like a big international student orientation. And then, yeah, I was wearing like something a T-shirt, or something that had like a one of like the Nepali like it like a character. And all in the Nepali people just came up to me, and then we started like we’ve made a group, and then we kind of like stuck with each other till the end, like every time there was a festival like a Nepali festival we’ll get together like a cook together. Invite other people to join us and celebrate like at their my, kinda like little family away from home and definitely helped with my homesickness. So just like try to find your people around. And yeah, just keep in touch with the people that are out there, and that loves you.

Sanchi: I think I think one of my biggest points to get over home sickness is,I always made sure I kept in touch with my family back there. I always had time for them, and no matter how tired I was, I make sure you know what that’s the priority. I always prioritize them, and a few of my friends I mean, you cannot keep in touch with everyone, but I knew there were a few that I always wanted to keep in touch with. So we would get on a call, maybe like parents daily. But yeah, maybe with friends and everything once in a month, or something like that. So we would talk about old memories and everything. Another thing that I think helped me a lot, was all the festivals celebrating all the festivals together. So like we had all this Indian social club, or Indian Subcontinental Continental Club, or something like that. IC club at Irvine, and they would hold a few few festivities like Diwali celebration. It’s a whole celebration and some stuff like that, and we would always go, you know, dressed in our Indian traditional clothes and the not just my group. There’ll be a whole lot of people that will all Bollywood music. Everyone’s singing, dancing, talking in the languages, you know, even if you don’t understand them, because India has much cultural. But even if you don’t understand them, just hearing those words make it make it look so nice. Often when I’m like, really, really low and I’m very like, you know, I’m missing home, and I don’t know what to do. Usually my friends like I, I have a small friends, who we are very close, small like. It’s more like a family now. So we would you know they would come to know about it, and they would cook my comfort food like daal, lentils and do rice or something like that. And then we would sit and watch some nice. So Bollywood movies like,(transcript unavailable) So all these movies. They do like you always have memories, that like comfort, movies, comfort food your there sitting in your sofawith the blanket and then you’re watching Big Bang Theory with your friends. So I think that’s what helped me you know. Also, knowing that I’ll now have a new family. You know people who still love me a lot will be there for me, no matter who look after you. I think that’s that’s how I kind of get, get over my home sickness.

Aimee: Yeah, I think a big one. Yeah. You both mentioned sharing your culture with other people, and especially if you maybe haven’t met a group of people here from your culture. Majority of our students come from cultures where there’s lots of other people from the similar culture. But it is possible that maybe you’re from a more unique place, and you have a hard time finding someone here that understand your culture, being able to share it with other people. teaches them something, but it also makes you feel like someone cares about you, and you have a community here that’s interested in, who you are and where you come from and learning more about you and I think it’s there are so many people open to trying new foods, and maybe even helping you make something that they’ve never made before. And so I always encourage people to get out there and and meet other students especially other international students, maybe who are understanding of that experience. So just because someone is maybe from a different culture doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t understand what it’s like to deal with homesickness or culture shock, or not being able to go home for holidays, or having to take a test on a holiday for you, that’s not a holiday that’s celebrated here in the U.S. very commonly. So I think those things can. It’s definitely nice to be able to sit down with someone else who really gets that experience. So that was our last question. Is there any last things either of you want to add?

Roman: Like my last words of advice would be like. it’s gonna be all fine. It’s a process. It’s lots of work. But at the same time, like like you’re just, gonna be like, a very different person. You’re gonna grow a lot professionally, like socially, emotionally and everything. And yeah, with like every struggle like, the benefit is going to be out there being an international student.

Sanchi: That’s true, I think you know, coming here, changing countries like continents and everything. We have this fear and anxiety. There’s a lot of pressure, but you just give it time. You don’t always have to take the big steps suddenly. Take a day by day. Baby steps. Do one thing at a time, you know. Always be like, you know, you should always encourage yourself. Okay. You know what I accomplished this good job. I never did it before. I did it now. Yay, celebrate small things, and just like surround yourself with people, then be positive it’s gonna work out. You’ve got this. It’s it’s gonna work out. Just have faith in yourself.

Aimee: Yeah. Well, thank you both for joining us today and talking about your first experiences here and helping students prep. I think this is a great conversation for a realistic expectation on what it will be like to be here in the U.S.. So I appreciate you both sharing with us. And we look forward to having additional podcast for you, all in the future.

Sanchi: Sure. glad to be here. Bye.

Transcript of Podcast #6: Buying the Essentials

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Blanca Romero Milà (she/her)

Aimee: Hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang and I will be your host today. I am joined by Blanca and we will be talking about buying the essentials. So what are those big things that you should get as soon as possible and where can you find them? So we’re excited to have you join us today. I’m gonna pass it off to Blanca to have her introduce herself.

Blanca: So hello, I’m Blanca Romero. I’m a first year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering Department and I’m from Spain. So I got to Irvine like around like a year and a half ago. As like my favorite things to do here in Irvine is probably like I like going to the ARC, to the gym and playing pickleball with friends and I really enjoy going to the beach here that is really nearby.

Aimee: Nice. We will have a podcast probably specifically on beaches because we have so many of them in the area and they have such different culture depending on which areas you go to. I am with you. I love going to the beach and living so close to the water here. And so thank you. First question that we’ll go over is what are the essential elements of furniture that you will need during the first couple of weeks that you’re here.

Blanca: So it is important to know that if you’re gonna live in like an on campus apartment, these apartments usually come unfurnished except for like the kitchen and the bathroom (Noteapartments will have basics like toilets, stove tops, sinks, and refrigerators. Generally that is all they will offer).So you really need like furniture when you first come here, but this can be like a lot of money, especially this first month. So my advice is that you like buy the essentials and then you slowly buy other like cool and nice things like with time. So the essentials are gonna need the first days, the first weeks are first a bed. You need to sleep on a comfy bed. And then if you need to do some work or some homework from home, you will need a desk and a nice chair or like a comfortable chair. Then you will also need probably like dining table and chairs so that like you can eat. And then like the basic like pots and pans and cups, silverware to make sure you can make your own food. And finally, probably like get a toaster, get a microwave. To make sure you can like properly eat. Like I think those would be the essentials.

Aimee: Yeah, and many off campus apartments are also unfurnished. There are some that are furnished, but the ones that are furnished are significantly more expensive and they usually come with very, very basic things like a bed and a desk, maybe a dresser. Dresser is something you can definitely wait on. You can leave your clothes in the suitcase for a while and get, get through it.I have mine in baskets still because dressers can be expensive. So I definitely think those kind of key things. I think one of the things that I first get when I moved to California, this is different in some other states too. So if you’re coming from out of state, this might be different for you. But apartments here generally don’t have lights in the bedroom. I don’t know if that’s the same with some of the on campus, but every off campus apartment I’ve been in. They’ve had like the lights in the kitchen, the lights in the bathroom. Sometimes a light in a closet if you have like a walk in closet. But they don’t have lights like in your bedroom, in your living room. So I usually try and get at least one lamp, even if I have to move it to different rooms for a while. Just so that you have light when it gets dark outside.

Blanca: Yeah, I agree. Right now my on campus apartment does have lights, but my old off-campus apartment didn’t have light. So it was really dark.

Aimee: Yeah, and I think that was really shocking to me when I moved down to California for the first time being originally from Washington for some reason apartments there all had you know like ceiling lights or ceiling fans and some of the apartments here don’t. So that’s something that you should definitely look into when you first get here if your apartment doesn’t have light. There’s nothing worse than trying to use your flashlight on your phone while you’re trying to go around, your bedroom in the middle of the night. So you talked about the expense of furniture. Is there a specific way or place that you would recommend getting second hand furniture, things that are used lightly, but that would definitely be more cost effective.

Blanca: Yeah, so there’s different options to get used furniture. So the first step is if you know because sometimes you rent a place that has already been used and they put you in contact with the person that is already living there. So you’ll be over if you’re able to get in contact with that person, you try to you can ask for the person that’s moving out from your, future room if they have furniture. Cause sometimes they’re moving like far away and it’s like uncomfortable for them to move with the furniture so they’re going to sell you the furniture for cheap so you’re going to get to a bedroom that’s like already set up and even sometimes I’ve heard of people that they just like gave away the furniture because they just don’t want it and they wanna like throw it away so they just give it to you. So that’s nice. Also, something really common in Irvine that surprised me very, very much is that you can walk around and you can see like really nice furniture next to the trash. I was like, why does people do that? People just moves in and out all the time and big furniture is really hard to move around. So there’s gonna be people that are just gonna leave. Like maybe a bed, a desk, chairs even like microwave, toaster next to the trash. At first I was like I didn’t want to get any of that but honestly just if you see it is in good condition. Just go for it, get it. It’s for you. People just leave it there so that others can use it. Also if you are, if you already know the lab or the research group you are going to, feel free to ask them if they know of someone selling furniture. Like don’t feel shy about it. They probably know people that it’s like, oh, I’m graduating or moving from, moving out and they’re like selling furniture. And the last option is just to look at like online. Second hand like sellers. So there’s like different UCI Facebook pages. So if you go on UCI and search for like UCI for sale, for sale, or sell your furniture UCI or UCI second hand, like there’s different web Facebook pages where you can, buy furniture and for, cheap and there’s also like this CraigList page where you can also get like second hand furniture.

Aimee: Yeah, and some of those pages it’s even free. Cause like you said, people move out. They sometimes just leave it by the dumpster and a lot of times when they leave it by the trash is because they’ve tried to sell it or they’ve tried to give it away and so many other people already have stuff, new students maybe aren’t here yet. And so they just leave it in hopes that somebody will be able to use it. This happens in a lot of off campus apartments too. I have We got like an outdoor shelving unit for flowers that was just sitting in our trash room. It was like pretty new condition. So things that I generally maybe wouldn’t buy because we move a lot and I don’t really use it as often. We have gotten because of just being able to get things in those kind of spaces too. So, it is very weird. You’ll see full on really nice dressers and beds outside by the dumpster but just wipe it down and it’s good to go. So, I definitely recommend taking a little walk around the apartment complex when you first move in. And see, what’s out there. Lots of, lots of good options for that. So for some people though, second hand furniture, especially with certain pieces of furniture, might not be comfortable. I know I see mattresses a lot on Facebook or Craigslist or some of the off campus apartments have their own like, kind of space for people to sell or trade furniture. For me, I wouldn’t be comfortable buying a mattress. I don’t know if that just makes it feel weird. Hotel beds make me feel weird. So I think some people would just prefer to be able to pick something like that out themselves. So if there are pieces of furniture that I’m just looking for a more like cheap option, but not secondhand what options, for places would you recommend?

Blanca: Yeah, so same as you like I wanted my mattress and I wanted like some small things that were just like my like couch which probably like my small couch for like new and for me. So I looked at different options and I found that the cheapest ones are one going to IKEA, we all know. IKEA is great. There’s one really close by in Costa Mesa. It’s like 15 min away. And you can also get a furniture from Walmart, which is like a big grocery store that they have like everything you would need. They also have furniture and it’s like pretty reasonable price. And of course, Amazon, you can find expensive and cheap, but if you take your time, you will probably find cheap options too.

Aimee: Yeah, sometimes I find some stuff at Target. I know the Target by campus is kind of small, so it doesn’t usually have as much stuff. But if you branch out to maybe one of the further away from campus Targets. Sometimes they have some good deals. I buy a lot of my lamps from them. The, for some reason, sometimes lamps seem to be cheaper there, especially like small desk ones. Then IKEA. So I definitely recommend checking out different stores pricing. And for all 4 of the ones we talked about, you can look online so you can kind of get an idea ahead of time before you get here. How much you should maybe be budgeting for those really specific things that you know that you want to get. Obviously that’s much harder with the second hand used furniture because the things that are posted right now when you’re listening to this are probably going to be gone by the time you get here. But for IKEA, Walmart, Amazon, Target, those places. Things might go on sale or might no longer be on sale but for the most part the pricing should be pretty similar so you can usually get a good idea. All 4 of those places tend to have sales in August and September as well because they know that’s when people are going to have sales in August and September as well because they know that that’s when people are going away to college and people are moving into their towns. So you can generally find some good deals on towels, sheets, blankets, and things, desks sometimes organizers for your desk kind of whatever things, might be necessary. So always look out for those good deals. I know as well some students will wait on some of the furniture that may be less necessary. I think a couch is pretty necessary, but you know that might be something we don’t have the budget for and so if you don’t have the budget for a couch but you really want one. You could always wait until the holiday season. In the U.S. and November we celebrate Thanksgiving and then the next is Christmas (she meant holiday) that’s really popular and celebrated is going to be Christmas and in between that time. Pretty much everything goes on sale and so there’d be a lot of bigger sales happening during that time. So if you can wait on some of the things like appliances especially. Those things can go pretty cheap later on. So yeah, I think those are definitely some really good places. One thing that I always check out in IKEA and I recommend you go really early in the day is they have what’s called an As Is section. And sometimes it’s returned furniture that customers have bought and generally put together and then said, that doesn’t really fit here very well. So they return it. Or sometimes it’s the things that are on display. And they’re putting a new display unit and so they’re moving that into this section. So it’s by the cash registers, at the Costa Mesa one. And, we check it out all the time just to see if there’s something in there that we would want. We’ve gotten desks and kitchen tables. I’ve seen dressers in there. Sometimes the chairs don’t always match, but if you’re not really particular or you only need one and you just need a small table, you can usually find tables there. And I’ve seen big couches and all sorts of stuff. In that space for a discounted price because it’s been slightly used, whether as a showroom or like I said as a return from a customer. And so that’s always a good place to check out as well. We have talked about this a little bit in some of our other podcasts, but, for like, should I rent a car if I don’t have a car and I’m trying to get bigger pieces of furniture like a mattress and that you can’t really carry around town. It would be hard to get around. How do I get that big furniture for my apartment if I don’t have a car?

Blanca: Yeah, so that was a big question. Me and my house mate had when we first come here came here. We were like, okay, we’re gonna get furniture, but how are we gonna get this furniture home? So something we did, we used, IKEA has a delivery option and the good thing is that so we came from Spain so we ordered it from like in where we were in Spain and then we made sure it was gonna be there like the second day we were in the U.S. so that we didn’t have to wait because sometimes a delivery takes like up to a week. So we wanted to make sure we would have the furniture like the first, second, third day. It is true that these delivery can be expensive. I don’t quite I don’t remember exactly but it’s like around $50 so that can be a lot. So make sure you get as much furniture as you need and you can do like a conjoined  like delivery with your friends. So if everyone wants to like get something from IKEA and you live close by just like do one order and then you just like split the delivery fees. Walmart also has this option. They have delivery options. Also, like it might be a little bit cheaper than the IKEA one, but just like you’ve used it like a big order that you can like split the fees. And also another option that I have not done, but I know friends that did it is to rent a U-haul. So U-haul is  like a company that has like vans and like big trucks and small trucks. So you can rent one of those for a day and you can like drive to IKEA and get all the furniture or drive to like the different like places where you’re getting like second hand. So arrange all the second hand furniture pickups that same day and like do like a trip around Orange just picking up second hand furniture.

Aimee: Yeah, and I recommend if you do the U-haul, do it as a group as well because you can save the cost. Cause I think there’s a couple other companies as well that do similar like moving van rentals but U-haul,l I think usually does a charge just like a daily charge and then after you go over a certain amount of miles. So you don’t wanna do like really long trips with it, but if you are all, you know, you and your roommate or, maybe some other people you know that are coming in or that you meet when you first get here or want to do a big pickup together. I think that that’s always a good idea. And then another, we talked about target does delivery as well, but we also talked about Amazon and one of the nice things with Amazon is that there is an if it’s something that can be sent to an Amazon locker pickup space. There’s one really close to campus. If it’s a really big piece of furniture again, you’d have to like carry it from the Amazon locker to the apartment. But if you have something, or someone that can help you do that, and you can always deliver it to the locker and you could deliver again like you said when you’re not here yet you could deliver it and then pick it up once you arrive. And so sometimes that can be a really good option. Especially if you don’t want to like, oh, what if I’m delayed? What if my flight’s cancelled? I know that’s been a problem, lately for some people it’s like flights getting canceled. So If you wanna buy, I would say smaller stuff like blankets and pillows and pillowcases. You can get those on Amazon and they can hold them at the locker for a certain amount of time for you. And so that can make things easier.

Blanca: Yeah. Yeah, you can also get if you use the UCI email you can get the UCI prime membership for like half the price. And these Amazon lockers are everywhere on campus. So next to like most, on campus like apartment complexes, there’s like Amazon lockers so that’s very easy.

Aimee: Yeah, and I think sometimes when the lockers don’t fit it, you can send it to the hub. There’s also like a bigger store, in what we call UTC and I’ve sent really big pieces of furniture like computer monitors. I’ve had those sent there so that they’re not like sitting at my front door or just waiting for someone to steal them. And then I’ve just gone and picked him up. So the lockers and the hub are definitely super helpful. And that prime discount as a student is really great. So I highly recommend you look into that. So there’s other kinds of second hand items that, people may want to buy, especially for those that aren’t going to need to have a car or you know as a new student a textbooks are really expensive so where are some places that you can go for second hand items like bikes. Maybe some electronics like computer monitors. I see those pretty frequently on some of these websites. Dual screens is such a nice thing when you’re in grad school and then books and so textbooks and things. So where would you recommend that people look for those?

Blanca: So again, my first recommendation probably would be to go like to, Facebook, all the Facebook pages. They have like everything there. Like I’ve seen like keywords and that you said like all these monitors.Everyone has like at least 2 monitors. So when they leave, there’s like a lot of monitors on these web pages. There’s also a lot of like thrift stores like around here, like, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, which are like really close, but are towns like cities and close by to Irvine. Also something that surprised me very much because I like books a lot like reading books and also textbooks. And if you walk around like campus, not campus itself, but like campus on campus apartments. There’s like these small wooden houses that look like big bird houses and they’re full of books. So you can just like open that little house and get the book you like and if you have a book just put a book back if you don’t have one that’s fine and then when you finish reading you put it back and then you have books and I’ve seen even textbook there so that is really nice. And also here on campus, Almost everyone has a bike. It is really nice to. It’s a big campus. And it’s really nice to like have a bike to like get to work or anything. So apart from like all the other secondhand options, there’s like a lot of bike options like on Facebook for example, there’s this like UCI I know like recycle bike there where like it’s like in the beginning of the year and there’s like this huge like bike there and if you don’t have a bike you can get a bike for like really cheap and if you have a bike or you bought like a really cheap bike that it’s like not in perfect conditions, you can go there and then like fix anything that needs to be fixed. So that is really nice.

Aimee: Yeah, and I seen at that ReCycle bike fair, which usually happens like kind of early on in the school year. I’ve seen them help you register your bike too. So you definitely want to register your bike on campus that way if something happens and they could talk about bike safety, they can talk about making sure you lock up your bike properly. But if something happens in your bike is stolen, if it’s registered, it’s much easier for a campus and Irvine police to be able to look for your bike or if they find a bike that looks like it had been stolen to know who who this bike belongs to. So I always recommend checking out the ReCycle bike fair because I think there there are helpful things that you learn while you’re there. And I definitely think that’s one of my favorite activities to see at the beginning of the year. I bike around Irvine a lot. We have a lot of support for getting your bike fixed throughout the year too from the bike shop on campus. And the fact that there’s a bike shop on campus means that people do bike a lot around here. It’s a great way to get to the local grocery stores, especially if you aren’t sure if you want a car or that you’re gonna need a car to be able to bike around and get out a little bit is always really nice. It’s a bit of a bike and it doesn’t always have bike lanes, but I’ve even bikeed down to the beach. The I’ve even bikeed down to the beach, the Corona Del Mar beach. And so they’re definitely options for you to be able to get out. And then maybe take the bus back. You can clip your bike on the bus and on the front of the bus. And so highly recommend that. And then for people who are living off campus again, see if your apartment complex has a community space for these second hand items. I’ve seen a lot of monitors. Things like blenders and toasters and things on on those sites especially throughout the summer and into the early parts of fall because people again are moving in and out as they finish up their time here in Irvine. So there is always something for sale or up for free or at the dumpsters throughout the year. So this isn’t like a Oh, if I’m late, I’m not gonna get something. There’s always things that are getting posted as people maybe buy new things or maybe you’ve got somebody graduating in December that’s going to be moving out. So there are people that move throughout the year around Irvine. So you’ll definitely find things. Ramses and I talked about this a little bit in our off-campus housing podcast. But scams are something that I always like to highlight and I know you and I have talked a little bit about so is it usual to find scams in some of these spaces where someone’s trying to take advantage of you?

Blanca: Yeah, so unfortunately it is. And you said the most scams I’ve seen is when I was looking for off campus, housing. That’s when I like everything was a scam. At some point you didn’t know what it wasn’t like everything was. But sometimes, these, this like second hand like sellers are also scams so yeah, you, you gotta be careful. UCI International Center has like a scam alert, section. So you’ve used this Google like you see international center scam alert, you will find it. And there are like you can read like about like what’s a scam, how to identify and, what different types of scam is there and what to do with like if you identify a scam so yeah that is just because I was not used to like like finding like scams. I didn’t even know what an actual scam was. I thought it was just like a something that like big companies did or like things like that but no there’s like yeah

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen it. I would say if the price seems too good to be true. I mean sometimes you’ll see like free TVs and stuff too and sometimes it really is like someone’s just leaving and they don’t wanna take their big TV along with them, especially if they’re moving out of the state or out of the country. But I would say if it’s got a price that seems abnormal and not good enough. If they ask for you to give money ahead of time, if there’s no pictures and they refuse to have pictures. Or if they wanna meet at a really weird time of day or area, I would just. stay away from those kind of things. I think one of the big things that I always recommend is meeting in the middle of the day if you’re picking up an item from someone pick up on campus and like a really busy area of campus or if they want to meet with you off campus trying to meet and like a parking lot or buy a grocery store or something that has a lot of people going in and out and always in the daylight. I’ve even seen some people talk about that they say, yeah, I would love to swap this item or buy this item from you, but I am only willing to meet you in the police stations parking lot. And that might seem like, oh, that seems like it’s crazy. But we’re better and safer to meet someone that you’ve met online to buy something. Then somewhere where you have the support of the police. So I’ve seen that on some of the, there’s a couple of different web pages that UCI has about scans and I’ve seen some people recommend that on some of those pages. A safe place somewhere, you know, in near a police station just to make sure that you. That you are taking care of your safety first. I would say around campus, especially on some of the UCI pages on Facebook, you’re probably less likely to run into those things. But unfortunately it does happen. So you just always want to be careful. Ask lots of questions. Have somebody with you don’t go to these things alone That kind of thing. Yeah.

Blanca: Exactly. Yeah, I was gonna say try to go with someone like them don’t go alone.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Well, thank you. I think this was a really helpful conversation. I think we always want to have those essentials with us as soon as possible, but it’s already an expense moving to Irvine and starting graduate school. So where to find some good deals is always a really helpful thing. Is there any last thing that you want to add?

Blanca: I don’t know. I think my advice would be to like slowly get what you need and make your place feel like home as much as possible.

Aimee: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, you definitely wanna feel at home, but take your time. I see a lot of students over extend their budgets early on because they’re like, I need a couch in and end table and a picture and it’s like. You need a desk and a bed. And some hangers maybe for your closet and that’s probably good enough for a bit. So, so yeah, definitely I agree. Your advice is great. Start small and build on that over your time. And at some point you’ll be like, wow, I have a lot more things than I probably really need when you’re getting ready to graduate and it’s been a few years and you’re like, okay, I added too many things to my apartment. But just take your time to get there for sure. But yeah, thank you for joining us. We hope that this was helpful. Keep an eye out for more conversations coming soon about, purchasing cars, used and new cars, differences between that, how to settle in to your time at UCI. I look forward to having you join us on other podcasts in the future.

Transcript of Podcast #7: Renting a Car

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Maryam Hassani (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about how to rent a car. My name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I will be your host today, joined by Maryam, and I will have Maryam introduce herself.

Maryam: Thank you, Aimee. So I’m Maryam Hassani. I’m an Informatics P.h.D. student. I’ve been here at UCI for the past 4 years, and I’m an international student. So I know a little bit here in there. I’ve experienced renting cars, and I think I can help you navigate your initial at least couple of months here, renting different cars.

Aimee: Yeah. So I think the first question that we’ll jump into is, what are the available options for renting cars, so you can rent on an hourly, daily, in some cases weekly or monthly basis. So what are the pros and cons and and where, what are the available options?

Maryam: So I’ll share on my end. Aimee feel free to jump in and share yours. So given the options available, there are some options available on campus. So you can book them an hourly basis on a daily basis, which are called Zipcars. The cars are a little bit more efficient in regards to being cost effective. And it’s gas included, insurance included. So it’s great for students who do not have do not want to get a car who do not want to go to a rental car company. They are just on campus in different locations. You can just go and get it. There are some not benefits to that as well. But so these are options that you can have hourly or daily. But on the other end you can book from rental cars. These come from daily to couple of days, weeks, even months, as you need.

Aimee: Yeah. And I think some of the pros and cons I’ve seen is like distance, like I need to go drive to Arizona. I’m probably going to go to a a longer term rental car company, or I’m flying in somewhere. I’ll not do a Zipcar, if I’m you know, going to a conference in like Washington, DC. where I was recently. If I need a car, I’m going to rent from the airport, probably. There are lots of different options, but I think definitely the biggest benefit the I see from Zipcar is just the convenience of it being on campus. You don’t have to find your way to another company somewhere off campus. Yeah, For a Zipcar. What are the steps you need in order to use Zipcar? And where can you pick them up?

Maryam:  That’s a good question to answer. So Zipcar. The benefit about Zipcar is that you can access it. You can register for it for a specific baseline fee. You can access it throughout America. And I think some European countries. So it’s basically everywhere mostly on campuses UCI has 5 Zipcar slots that you can just go pick up a car if that’s available, kind of book in advance. So basically, you can not only use it in UCI, you can use it in other campuses, other different different cities. The initial step to use as a Zipcar is register on their website. It’s a $90 per year fee. But since you’re a student, you can register using UCI email address, they verify you right on the spot, and you pay $15 per year. So that’s like a baseline flat rate that you pay for per year. It’s like renewed every year. But given your usage, you basically book and pay per hour or day that you book. But you need to book in advance. So make sure like, if that’s a peak, it’s a holiday. You need to book advance, so you know that you have a car there. Otherwise, on normal days, like for shopping and stuff, you can generally find one across campus, mostly from grad housing. It’s a 5 to 10 min up to 20 min walk but it’s a very. It’s very convenient that it’s on campus, but you can use it across the for cities. I ended up using one in San Francisco. So you just basically register, get that your Zipcard, which is a card that you can access the card basically open locking out, lock the door. And you’re good. That simple.

Aimee: Yeah. It’s a very simple system. I see them going around campus all the time, especially like you said to grocery stores. we have a podcast on grocery stores, couple of them and one of the grocery stores we talk about, you really probably need a car is like Costco, because the things there are really bulky. So even if you could manage to bike out there, it’s really hard to get that stuff home. So just being able to say, Hey, I’m gonna I’m gonna run a bunch of errands. You’d be further away from campus, maybe go to Costco for 2 hours, being able to just rent a car for that short period of time is it’s such a big benefit? And I I’ve seen the slots. I know they’re near Aldrich Hall. Is there another location a pick up location as well?

Maryam: There are five locations active on campus. The ones I have used, one is next to Aldrich Hall, next to Palo Verde campus housing. There’s like right there next to the bridge. What is next? Engineering Hall, and the other one is near Anteatery, basically down campus like southern part of the campus. If I’m not wrong with navigation, but depends on like where you are. So the good thing is that depending on where your department is, or where your lab spaces, or where your housing is, there is generally one in the 10 to 15 min walking distance.

Aimee: Yeah, I was gonna say, I think I’ve seen people pulling out of parking lots kind of randomly around campus in the Zipcars, and they say Zipcar on the side. So it’s very easy to identify which ones are the specific cars you’re looking for. When you take the car back? This is just a question that I’ve always wondered because I haven’t used Zipcar before. Do you have to drop it off in the same location on campus, or if there was like an available one at Aldrich but you live near Palo Verde, and there was an available spot there. Could you drop it off in a different location, or does it have to go back to the same one?

Maryam: So amazing question to answer this, I will provide also some additional information. So basically, how you would book a Zipcar is you go to your app, you see what is available at each location, you book that, but depending on your day and hour, you pay it up front, and it’s there. At the time of your booking you need to go there right. But the thing about Zipcar is that each car is specific to a location. So you need. And they have, they have specified parking slots, so you can’t go and park it in a different parking lot, or even different parking spot within a lot. So if you do go park in a different place. You get charged. The charges are generally from like $50 up to couple up to 100 something, so wherever you pick it up, you drop it off at that place. It needs to be cleaned. I think if it is pet hair like any dirt $50 charge for cleaning that clean, not being clean. And you need to return it at least with one fourth of gas basically capacity, you can’t just go use your Zipcar and bring it out like very low on gas. It needs to be at least 25% full. Otherwise it’s again, there is a charging fee there. But it’s your responsibility as someone who books it for an hour or even more to return it to the same spot, 25% gas included and clean.

Aimee: Perfect. Yeah, I think that’s It’s always good to read those fine print things like no smoking in the car. We know some places, don’t let you have pets in the car. So you really always want to read the fine print, because if you use it for a purpose, if they specifically state you shouldn’t be doing you can get sometimes really big fees for that. Thank you. Which rental car service is the nearest and recommended?

Maryam: For my personal experience. The very first time I booked a car was through Enterprise I walked to the Enterprise, which is like the Enterprise Fletcher Jones. It’s a a center probably 2 miles away from us. I walked there, and to my experience it has been the most convenient, car rental company. I’ve used it a lot of different ones, but this one has been the most convenient one. You need to have a driver’s license. It can either be at driving license from your country, you need to have that trans transcribed and bring it here, but they accept that you can get insurance on that with an extra payment. But the most convenient and closest is enterprise.

Aimee: Yeah, and there’s a couple of different locations. So sometimes the car you’re looking for might be sold out. So you’ll look online, you can book it online. And if it says, like, you’re looking for a really compact car, or maybe you’re moving and you want a bigger truck so you can move a couch to a different location. If that location is sold out, you can search for other places. The only thing I will definitely say is, the airport generally has an up charge for it being the airport, which is fine when you’re landing at an airport, and you need a car. But if you’re looking around to just rent a car in town, I would recommend not booking one at the airport, because there is usually an extra charge, and sometimes it’s so, sometimes it’s a lot of money. And same thing with the Zipcar. You generally want it to be a drop off location back where you got it from. There’s usually an additional charge to drop it off at a different location, and you would have to notify them ahead of time when you book it that you need to add a different location. Yeah, there’s quite a few companies in this area. I would say, Enterprise is the one I’ve had the best of luck with as well. So hopefully others would. And then you talked a little bit about the requirement for renting a car so definitely a driver’s license, insurance is something that is, we’ll talk at a different podcast about getting your own car insurance, if you end up having an actual car, and sometimes you might need to rent a car on top of that. But what is it for Zipcar and like what is the insurance process for Zipcar? And then what is the insurance process for rental cars, because it is a little different from my understanding.

Maryam: So for a Zipcar, it has this baseline insurance that comes with it. And so basically because they state that it’s gas and insurance included. But if you are a new driver, they charge you new driver under 20, under the age of 24 they add an additional cost. But if you’re not, basically, you can use the base insurance. But but if you are a new driver, you can get an additional insurance on top of that, it’s like on a daily cost. So, for example, if you’re booking a Zipcar, so Zipcars are from 10, 13 to $15 on campus per hour, so they add like a $10 per day. I can’t remember the exact number, because I haven’t used them for a while, but they, you can get an additional insurance on that, especially if you’re a new driver, and if you ended up being in an accident, or any sort of a collision they out, the out of pocket cost is a thousand dollars. So you need to get pay the first $1,000, and they will chip in the rest. That’s how their insurance is covered, which is not necessarily the case with rental companies.

Aimee: Yeah, rental companies, the insurance can be kind of tricky. So I’ve rented while having my own car insurance and my car insurance covers rental cars. Some car insurance is don’t cover you in a rental car, one of my travel credit cards covers me in rental cars up to a certain amount but rental car companies one of the really difficult things. If you’re in an accident, especially if it’s your at fault for the accident, is you pay on top of what’s happening with the car you end up, usually paying a daily charge for them, not being able to use that car to rent out anymore. So you’re basically still paying daily for the car rental, because you’re at fault for why the car is no longer available for other people to rent. So usually I would recommend that a additional insurance that companies provide, rental car companies will usually try and sell you on it, and if you don’t have other insurance. It is required for you to have something. And you definitely want something, because if you’re at fault for an accident, and the car is worth brand new car worth $50,000. You don’t want to be paying $50,000 for that car. It’s a little different. If someone hit you. there’s usually, if they’re clearly at fault, there’s usually a little more coverage by the company. but it does depend on the situation, and those things can take a while to figure out.

Maryam: And to add to what you shared. Actually, you mentioned an important point. Some credit cards offer rental car insurance, but they constantly change their policies. So whatever you’re doing, make sure you have the latest policy. For example, Amex or discover does, or some visa cards do that. I’m pretty sure they are there. Basically. you have, you know, the latest policy, and they cover you. When you’re paying with that.

Aimee: Yeah, we call anytime before we rent a car we call the morning of and just verify that. Okay, we put it on this card, this is what we were expecting. If we’re in an accident or something happens. This is what you’ll cover. And we just verify that, that’s that’s still the current policy, because, yeah, they change those things. And they send an email. But how many of us read all of the fine print and all those emails that they send on a regular basis? I do not unless I need to. And so I definitely usually call and verify with customer service before I and do that, and sometimes like we have an amex card that we use when we rent cars, and it doesn’t always cover bigger cars. So for us it didn’t cover a moving van, but it covered like a traditional like big American style truck. You always have to be kind of cautious of those like little tiny differences as well. And so I think the other thing we really wanted to talk about was, if you’re looking at doing a driving exam and you don’t have a car is a rental car, an option, and is it a permissible option for you to use in your driver’s exam.

Maryam: Hmm, so I can chip in a little bit about this of my own experience. So with Zipcar, I would say, refrain from that, because, it is. They say, I’ve heard people do it. It is not the easiest. So I would stay away from that because the insurance is tricky and and it’s not literally registered under your name, so you’ll have issues with it. But what you can do, or this is my own experience. I booked a car from a enterprise. I got the full insurance. So these are the things you need for a driver’s driver’s license exam. You need insurance, you need the registration card. So I got that. I got the full insurance. You just need someone to have a driver’s license with you on the day of the exam so this will basically qualify you for having your exam with a car which basically the next, the driver sitting next to you is not responsible for and they are not stressed out. This is your car, your insurance. They’re just accompanying you to take the exam, and this is doable pretty easy, and I guess less stressful than the normal. Go with someone’s car to the driving exam sometimes you do not have that person.

Aimee: Yeah. And that cause that’s not always an option. And you know, that takes away someone else’s car that they may be needing. So just being able to find someone with the driver’s license. But if you show up and you don’t have a driver’s license and you’re driving a car that’s not going to go well for your driver’s exam, so definitely make sure you have somebody. And then we have a podcast coming up about the DMV and how to get your driver’s license or other ID options. But thank you for joining us, is there anything else that you want to add in on rental cars.

Maryam: I would just may, I have 2 tricks here if you are renting a car with the non U.S. Driver’s license, or I think, Michigan driver license. These are the 2 things that are tricky. Please please please make sure you check on check in before, because, for example, I’m from Iran. They accept Enterprise except my driver license from Iran before I get a U.S. driver’s license. But the insurance does not cover it. So this is something you need to check before. This is very important, and the second is, if you are going to use a Zipcar. There is a 50% summer offer right now, when we are recording this in July, in June 2023, that you can get a discount on your registration fee in case you were interested.

Aimee: Yeah, there’s a lot of deals that come about, especially during summer, or if you book during June for something, and maybe September, there could be some deals and maybe an off travel season. So we have a podcast coming up, in probably in a couple of months on deals like how to find deals on flights and rental cars will be a part of that as well. But that’s a great tip is sign up sometimes for these companies, too, because they’ll send you emails to let you know when those deals are coming in. I think for me any other things I would say is book ahead of time, if you can at the Zipcar., obviously you need to book ahead of time, so that you know you have a car but for other rental car companies. you’ll get charged a lot more if you book the day of, or if you just show up, and you’re like what cars you have? They could only have the top of the line fancy car left, and it could be really expensive. So definitely recommend, if you’re like, Hey, we’re gonna go on a trip. We should really book a car book as soon as you know the details and you can usually modify things a little bit. But there’s there could be changes in the pricing if you modify them. We hope that this helps you with renting a car especially as you’re navigating the process of maybe considering if you actually need a car, or if you’re just looking for something short term. We hope that this helps as you settle into your time here at UCI. Thank you for joining us.
Maryam: Thank you and enjoy driving in summer.

Transcript of Podcast #8: DMV & License

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Tanvi Mehul Makadia (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to the next episode of the GIC podcast. Today we will be talking about the DMV, Driver’s License, States IDs, things that you definitely want to start that process of as soon as you can. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I am joined by Tanvi today. And so we are excited to talk with you through this topic, I’m going to pass it over to Tanvi to introduce herself.

Tanvi: Hi, everyone I’m Tanvi. I’m first year Master’s of Computer Science student. And I’m from India.

Aimee: Perfect. So the first question we have and this has changed a lot in the last few years. So just in case things change when you’re listening to this, or if we have information that might be outdated. We just want to put that out there that we’re doing the best we can to give you the best information that we can but, recently there has been the addition of what’s called the Real ID. So there’s a different, couple different forms of IDs that you can have. So there’s a Real ID, a Driver’s License, you can technically get a State ID that doesn’t even have any driving eligibility to it, and I think there’s one for some people who can go between like Mexico and the U.S. But we’re mostly going to focus this question on the difference between a Real ID, that’s a Driver’s License and a more traditional Driver’s License. So can you give us some of the differences between that?

Tanvi: Yeah. So from this California DMV. What we could find is like the Real ID is Federal compliant, while the Driver’s License, the traditional one is not. And like currently while boarding the domestic flights, we can use the traditional Driver’s License as a proof of identity. But that’s gonna be discontinued after like May 7th, 2025. So after that, if you want to use a license as a proof of identity for boarding flights, then we will need a Real ID. So that’s the major difference. And when we get both the cards on the Real ID, we have a bear logo on the right, which is not there in the traditional ID. Yeah.

Aimee: It’s very cute little, usually golden bearin the corner of the Real ID. I was mostly excited about that when I updated my license. And you’ll see it a lot of airports too. When you’re going through like the TSA pre-check, you’ll see things that say like, don’t forget your Real ID is needed by this time to fly. If you have a traditional Driver’s License with some limitations on it, for whatever reason, and that hits in, you are going to need to take your passport with you, even traveling domestically throughout the U.S. So that is something to keep in mind.

Tanvi: And I think one of the major reasons you want a Driver’s Licenses is so that you don’t have to carry your passport. 

Aimee: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, we definitely do not recommend carrying your passport to like the grocery store to buy alcohol, if you’re more than over the age of 21, you still have to have some form of ID. So taking your passport can be kind of a hassle to like, go to a bar or have a drink, or buy alcohol at a grocery store, or any other place that you would need your ID to enter, tickets sometimes to certain concerts you need your ID, and carrying your passport around to stuff like that we definitely don’t recommend so Driver’s License or State ID is highly recommended for those, and it’s not too big of a hassle to go get them because we have a couple of different DMVs located near us. Correct?

Tanvi: Yeah. So Irvine doesn’t have a DMV, but we have multiple other DMVs which are closer. Like we have Santa Ana, we have Tustin, Costa Mesa, Laguna. So all of these are almost equal distant and they are pretty close by, and you can access them by bus as well, 

Aimee: Yeah, yeah. And I’ve been to a couple of them because they’re so close together. There’s not usually a big line at like one. They all kind of have, sometimes a big line, but it’s usually at all of them. And that’s a nice thing. I lived in a different part of California before, and there was like one DMV for like a pretty big section of people, and there was always a really long line. So I do think we kind of really luck out with location here. There’s quite a few options for us. 

Tanvi: And also California DMVs have this option of Get In Line. So it is a feature where you can virtually get in line and then you, you know, when the when you’re closer, virtually you can just go there and see your number being called out. It is, it is much faster and better than standing in the entire line. 

Aimee: Yeah, I think they introduce that. I think, during like early times of COVID, when the DMV opened back up, and I I, when I got my Driver’s License renewed this last time I when I had to go in, I was like, Oh, this is so much nicer instead of I, you used to have to wait like hours sometimes in the traditional line, and it would be hot and everyone’s irritated. So virtual, virtual line is much nicer. When it comes to getting your license, what are the kind of first steps? And what do you need? What does the process look like?

Tanvi: So the process is quite straightforward. And you know, a lot of information is available on the California DMV website, like they have actually made it very clear and easy to understand. So the first thing that we want to do is create a account on the DMV website. And then from there we want to select a option to get a new license, like a Real ID or a Driver’s License depending on what you want. And then they kind of ask you a few basic personal questions. And then so basically the process to get license, you at least need to submit a proof of identity. And you need to submit to proof of California Residency. So once the personal questions are done, you know, they’ll ask us to scan and provide the documents, upload the documents. and then later, we have to go to the DMV and we have to verify the documents. So for us, like when we say proof of identity, we have to give our passport and I-20 and I-94. So it’s recommended to carry all the immigration documents. 

Aimee: Yeah, I always recommend, because sometimes they’ll ask for something that maybe they didn’t really normally need or it’s not listed on their website. You definitely want to have more documents just in case they’re looking at a document and they’re like, oh, I don’t really think that I’m not going to count this. I know I’ve gone with generally to like move my California residency. I’ve taken like bank documents, and to have my address, and like a lease. So if you have like, on or off campus apartment, you you should have some form of lease that says I’m living. This is my address and then something that’s been mailed to that address. And so for me, I always sign up for electronic documents. And so I had to unsubscribe from electronic documents when I moved to California, have something actually sent to my address. and then renew it. So you definitely want to check with like, what are the things that they’re looking for, for you to clarif your resident is here in California, too.

Tanvi: And for that Residency documents. like, as you said, we can submit the lease. But we can also get something as proof of enrollment from UCI. It basically has the address that we have registered with the university and data for so basically, all the information that is required. So like, that is what I submitted. So yeah, it’s not very usual, but they do accept it. 

Aimee: They do accept it. I definitely, I think they require 2. I usually bring about 5, just in case, because I think one time I brought  like a credit card, and they were like, we don’t count that it has to be a bank like a debit card, and it’s like, Oh, great! So they can be really particular, and it does sometimes depend on who you have. So I always recommend bringing a couple of extra documents printing off things like if you’re off campus and if you have an off-campus apartment, maybe like your utility bill that has your address and your information. Those kinds of things can be really helpful, too. But check online, they’ll give you ideas on what would be good options to bring to. 

Tanvi: Yeah, they have, like a proper checklist of the acceptable documents. So that was very convenient. 

Aimee: Yeah, I know. I I think I skimmed over that when I first went to, when I moved my residency to California from Washington State, and I was like, Oh, credit card doesn’t count here. Okay, well, so you really want to be checking those things. And that can update, too, you know, changes can happen by the time we’re recording this, there could be something new. So definitely read all of the information online, the website for the DMV, it’s pretty easy to manage through, I think. and it’s updated very quickly.  And there’s also from what I’ve learned from you, there’s a Youtube channel that can be really helpful. Can you tell us more about that?

Tanvi: Oh, yeah, so. Yeah, so okay, once the account is done and you have uploaded the documents, you go to the DMV and you verify the documents. So then you have to give a Learners Test to get your Learners Permit. So that is, you usually have like 48 questions. Oh, you have 46 questions, and you have to get like 38 of them correct. So while studying for that, I I was very nervous on what they’ll ask and what all to study. So yeah, so I, I was just going through Youtube and I saw, DMV has an Official Youtube channel where they kind of give you tips and tricks on how to pass the test. They also kind of give you an animation of all the rules. So that is much, much better to visualize than going through the booklet. And then they also have steps provided on how to apply for things. So, yeah, that is very convenient. 

Aimee: Yeah, that’s super helpful. I know sometimes the questions on the test seem strange. You know. I I was obviously like you stop at a stop sign, and and those kind of more traditional Driver’s License questions. But I remember my test when I moved to California, because even if you’re moving from a different state in the U.S. and you’re doing the like transfer of your license to California. You still have to redo the written test because some of the rules here are different. And so I had to redo the written test, and I hadn’t done it in like 11 years, I think so I was like Oh, great! I don’t remember some of these rules like in my head. I know to like not be too close to someone else’s car, and how long it takes to stop. But there are questions like, can I drop an animal off in the middle of a field? Is that legal? And I was like that doesn’t have anything to do with driving  but it does because it can cause a danger on the road, and you cannot do that. That is illegal. You need to take any unwanted animals to the proper locations. But that I remember that question really stuck out because I had kind of studied like the basic driving ones again. And I hadn’t really looked through the rest of the booklet, because the booklet is like you said, it’s kind of boring. It’s better to. I watch it. 

Tanvi:It’s very boring. But I would still recommend going through the book cause videos doesn’t cover all the details and all the rules. And DMV, some like it can, they really ask tricky questions sometimes. And like some things that we feel is common sense is not, you know, it’s completely against it. So, for example, in my country, right on red like, when the traffic light is red, it just means stop. But here in, I think U.S. right on red is allowed. So that was something which was very new. 

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, unless otherwise posted. As long as it’s safe and no one’s coming in the other direction, you can turn it right on red and in California you can do a u-turn unless otherwise posted, and in Washington it’s the other way around. You can only do a u-turn if it’s posted that you can make a u-turn. So those things can get tricky if you’re coming from a different state, or maybe you were here previously in the U.S. for high school or undergrad, and you were in New York. The the driving test there is going to be different here. So you always want to read through the booklet, watch any videos. I think the booklet actually comes in a couple of different languages, too. I remember they’re being different languages. They don’t cover all of them. But if you’re nervous about, what if I don’t really understand what this is saying, you might be able to find it in a more comfortable language for you. I don’t know if the test can be taken in a language other than English. But you could always check that out online to just in case things that might make it a little easier for you.

Tanvi: Yeah. And they also release a new version every year of the booklet. So make sure you study from the latest one. And there are a lot of apps also, which kind of mimic the DMV test. So it’s also a good practice. To do that before you just and go to the DMV, yeah. 

Aimee: Yeah. And you do have more than one chance to take the written test. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Tanvi: Yeah. So the written test can be taken online and at the DMV, so if you are giving an online test, then you get 2 attempts of online, and then after that, the third attempt has to be offline. So overall under one application, you can give 3 attempts. So if you are just going to the DMV offline, then all 3 attempts you can give there offline. Yeah. So yeah, that’s that’s a that’s a easy one, like 3 attempts is enough to pass the test. 

Aimee: And I know for the most part, I think the first attempt, if you didn’t pass it, it’s probably nerves. It’s probably just not being sure what questions to to ask, but it will ask you different questions the next time, so don’t just study the ones that you felt like you didn’t get. It does have lots of different types of questions that it will ask so obviously the things that you missed you want to study just in case they come back up, but continue to study other things, and just, you know, go in with confidence. The questions can sometimes, like you said earlier, be a little tricky. So you want to just make sure that you’re comfortable with it. So you apply online, you do your written test, and then you have a driving test. So what are the requirements for that, and we can talk a little bit more about like day of things as well. But before you get to it, what are the requirements, required documents for the driving test.

Tanvi: So for the driving test, you don’t need many requirements. I mean many documents. You just need your learners permit. and you also need a person who has their license to accompany you. So that person also has to show their license, and then you have to show the insurance of the car. So the car in which you are going to be giving the test. So you have to provide the insurance of that car.

Aimee: Yeah, we talked a little bit in a podcast about renting cars, and that there is an option to take a rental car in the driving test and usually have to show, yeah, the insurance and sometimes the registration. Sometimes they have, you check the registration as well. And so when it’s a a rental car it, it’s that packet is usually together from the Rental Car Company that has all the information on those things. So you definitely want to make sure that you have that documentation altogether, because they will ask you for it.

Tanvi: And also while renting the car, you want to make sure that the person who’s gonna be accompanying you is added as a driver on the that. Otherwise it’s not gonna be fun. 

Aimee: Yeah. And they will make sure like, if you show up. And they’re like who came with you today. And you’re like no one, I came by myself. That’s not good. When you have a Learner’s Permit, at no point, should you be in a car by yourself, you are not a certified driver, so you should always have someone who has their driver’s license and usually the things they usually even want that person to be above the age of 18. So in the U.S. you can get your Driver’s License at 16, but you have a couple of years of what they call probationary, when you’re younger, I don’t think you have that when you’re older, but when you’re in that like first age, as like a high schooler. When I was driving, I couldn’t have people my age in the car with me or young people without having an adult present. So things to think about. Make sure you have someone and a lot of students will maybe have a roommate here, maybe that student, that student also has a Driver’s License. So if you’re like, well, I’m not gonna know anybody. Take time, get to know people. People are generally very open to going with you to make sure that you can these requirements and get and get what you need done. 

Tanvi: Even your seniors would be happy to help you. 

Aimee: Yeah, ask around your lab, Most people are very open to to helping you out.  So we talked to a little bit about the Learners Permit. How long can you have a learners permit before you really need to be moving into having a Driver’s License?

Tanvi: So you so the validity of the Learners Permit is 6 months. So there is no sig, I don’t think there is a period after which you can attempt for the drivers test. But you definitely have to clear the driving test within the 6 months. Otherwise you have to start, the whole learners permit process again, and within that within those 6 months you get 3 attempts. So the first attempt is free. And then for the next 2 attempts, you kind of have to pay, I think, like 10 -8, or $8. Yeah.

Aimee: Yeah. So try and do it on your first one, make sure you, there, I’m sure there’s videos on what does it look like, if you’re nervous about it. I think some of the things that I didn’t expect, that I still remember many years later, after getting my driver’s license and doing that driving test was like getting in and checking your mirrors. They want you to very clearly show that you’re checking, that your mirror is in the right spot, and that you can see everything that you’re checking for safety, that they have their seat belt on. Sometimes they have you do an inspection of the car before you even get in. So you want to watch videos and know what you’re what you’re looking for and what you expect.

Tanvi: I think they also make sure that you are turning back and checking the Blind Spot. Even if you have a indicator for the Blind Spot, you want to turn back and check over your shoulder. 

Aimee: Yeah, if you rented it like a Tesla, and it’s got the the sensors and all the cameras. They still physically want you to move your body and have your hands, like in the proper positions on the steering wheel. And this may not be how you drive on a regular basis, although for safety you probably should but I will say that they are going to be really particular, and you can get things wrong, they will doc points. There is a certain amount of points that you have to make. you don’t have to be completely perfect. So in Washington, when I got my license parallel parking was a requirement, and I am just not a great parker. I need, I need the car to park for me. That is the dream. So I will say I did not pass that portion of my driver’s license, and neither did my mom. So maybe it’s a genetic issue that we’re not good with spatial recognition, but that’s okay. So if you miss something in the test, don’t start panicking, that you’re going to fail to test. Just take a deep breath and continue on with the test and and do your best to to pass the rest of the sections.

Tanvi: Yeah, even I suck at parallel parking, but luckily California DMV, doesn’t ask you to parallel. So I was like yay!

Aimee: I think they removed that because a lot of cars just do it for you or with cameras, now, it’s not just necessary, so I think they removed it from most states which I’m like. Oh, I would have done so much better now.

Tanvi: But they still ask you to reverse without using the backing camera. Yeah. Yup, that’s easy.

Aimee: Yeah, that would be something, though, that I definitely gotten used to the camera. It might be a little hard. So make sure when you’re driving, practicing, that you’re practicing these different things to backing around corners or backing into a spot, or whatever it is that, they’re going to be asking you to do. That you’re practicing those without cameras or turning the cameras off so that you can practice for the test. So you definitely don’t want to end up getting there and relying too much on technology, because we have a rental, Tesla, right now that all the cameras stopped working today, so if I relied so much on technology, I would not be able to park it. So you definitely want to make sure in an emergency you would still be able to use your car. So you do the application you get your learners permit, and you’re working towards your driver’s license. You practice. I think one of the questions is, have you practiced in different kind of weather? So it that can be hard because it doesn’t rain very often here. But make sure you’re trying to practice at night and on the freeways and in different places with someone in the car who has it has a driver’s license and can help you, if you get nervous. Then you do your written test, and then, or does it written tests. 

Tanvi: Written test os before that.

Aimee: I was gonna say the written test comes first and then you get your permit permit, and then you take your driving permit test and then once you’re done with the driving test, you’ve passed it, you are ready to go. And then you just have to renew your license whenever the expiration date is coming up. You can sign up on the DMV’s website for it to email you and let you know that, that is coming up. Sometimes you have to go in person, especially if you need to update any kind of documentation, if you have a change of name, so if you get married or divorced, or change the spelling of your name or something, then you do need to go in and get a new license with additional documentation and that’s all on their website as well. That’s the majority of everything. Is there anything else you can think to add on that? 

Tanvi: No, I think we covered most of it. Yeah. And now, the California  DMVsite has all of the information that you need.

Aimee: Super easy to navigate, I will say we talked about some of the benefits. So getting your driver’s license, there’s also the option, if you’re like, I don’t really want to drive I think we have a couple of leaders that just have a State ID, so you ca,n similar process to getting it. You apply online. you can walk through that. You don’t have testing on driving, because it’s just saying that you are legally this age. So you can use those things to get into concerts and bars and and buy alcohol and things like that, and without your passport. So we talked about that not carrying your passport around. Having that safe and secure somewhere hidden at home is always the better option. But California also doesn’t recognize international driving licenses (Aimee means the International Driving Permit, IDP). So if you’ve been here for a period of time, and you have a driver’s license from back home, and you’re like, oh, I want to rent a car. The Rental Car Company is going to be like you don’t have a valid driver’s license. You’re here as a resident of California you really need to be changing your license. So something to keep in mind.

Tanvi: Actually, if you have a license from back home, it is valid for a few days, but usually most of the countries also, they also have international driving permit, which is separate from your license back home. So international driving permit is not recognized in California and your back home license will be recognized, but only for a very short amount of time. So you don’t want to rely on that for a long time. 

Aimee: Yeah, don’t rely on any other driver’s license being acceptable here in California. And if you’re in a different state, and you were like, Oh, I’ve been studying here for a while, and I have an international driving license (again, Aimee means the IDP). California doesn’t recognize it, even if the state you were previously in does. So state by state rules do make a difference. So you definitely want to check in on that. Trying to think if there’s any other benefits to having your license in some cases, especially if you end up staying in California more long term, it can help with residency. So that is definitely also something in claiming residency for purposes of maybe discount intuition or kids going to school you want to, you’ll want to have your Residency defined here. So I recommend getting at least getting a State ID and definitely a driver’s license if you expect to drive at any point. 

Tanvi: You also start. You also start building your driving record, which might be required with insurance companies later. That’s also yeah. 

Aimee: I know. My husband waited a couple of years to get his license when he moved to the U.S. and our it took so long for our insurance prices to go down because he, he hadn’t gotten it right away and So it does. They do charge you more when you have a shorter span of the driver’s license, so the longer you can have it the better if you think Oh, I’m probably not going to drive in the next 3 years. You should probably just get your license now. So you at least you’re building that record.

Tanvi: Yeah, exactly. 


Aimee: Yeah. Well, thank you all for joining us. I hope that this was helpful. Again, the DMV’s website for California, I think, is really easy to navigate through and has a ton of information. And I think the entire website can be translated. If you feel like there’s some words that maybe are things we don’t normally commonly use, that your or concepts that are just kind of feeling a little more pressure to get through it. You can definitely see if they have a language that’s more comfortable for you. But we will see you on the next episode of the next GIC podcast.

Transcript of Podcast #9A: Life Without a Car Part #1

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Nezahat Gulucuk Barlas (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. Today we are going to do part 1 of a 2 part series on life without a car. And so we will talk about today, mostly we’re going to talk about buses and and train tickets and vehicle sharing apps. And so we hope this information is helpful to you. My name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division here at UCI, and I am joined by Nezahat, and we are excited to share this information with you, so I’m going to pass it over to her to introduce herself.

Nezahat: Thank you, Aimee. I’m Nezahat Gulucuk Barlas. I’m a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCi. Today, I’m happy to be here. Thank you.

Aimee: Yeah. We’re excited to have you. This is your first year as a GIC mentor and we’re very excited to have you join us this year. So thank you for coming to this podcast today and talking about life without a car. I know you and I talked before we started recording, I recently sold my car and my husband and I are down to one car. So a lot of these things are things that I’m doing as well. So we will have a good conversation about what it’s like to be here in Irvine without a car. Our first question that we’ll jump into is we’re talking about bus tickets and train tickets. So we don’t want to just be an Irvine. Sometimes. we have some other podcasts about places we may want to explore. So how can you get the tickets for buses or train tickets to go to nearby places?

Nezahat: Yeah, it’s a good question. Let me start with bus tickets. Irvine is in Orange County, so generally I prefer to travel in Orange County to do this Orange County, OC, bus app is perfect for buying tickets using smartphone. But there are other options. The other option is to use the website of Orange County Transportation Authority. It’s short form is OCTA. So you can use OCTA website under OC Bus tab. And the other option is using cash on the bus. This is also good, because when my phone is dead I just give money and take my ticket. And I have recently learned, there is another way. if you want to buy a pass, you can pick it up in Albertson grocery store on Campus Plaza. Campus Plaza means shopping center. It includes like hair dresser, restaurants, post office, and grocery store.

Aimee: Yeah, I definitely and I will link the website to OCTA in our transcript. So if you want to just jump to that transcript, you can do so. I’ve definitely heard of a lot of people, especially when they first arrive using cash. If you haven’t set up your smartphone, maybe if you don’t have a smartphone and being able to use cash. So if you’re a bus, bus rider, you should definitely always have a couple of dollars on you just in case you end up taking the bus. And like you said, maybe your phones dead, or maybe you haven’t set it up yet, or for some reason you don’t have service to be able to open up what you need to. I always recommend caring a couple of dollars around that just for that. So bus tickets, what about train tickets? 

Nezahat: Yeah. let me give you a background knowledge first. To the best of my knowledge, there are 2 railway systems here. The first one is Amtrak, and it serves in most part of the United States. The second railway system is Metrolink, and it’s the regional railway system in California. Amtrak stops in fever stations. So using Amtrak is little faster than Metrolink and it offers late night trains like after 7 pm. However, Amtrak tickets are more expensive. Lastly, from my experience. Delay in departure time is more likely in Amtrak.

Aimee: I’ve had many issues with Amtrak delays. But it’s really convenient if you’re wanting to go to, maybe San Diego or go to Union Station in L.A. Hopefully, it’ll finish up soon, but there’s going to be a LAX tram from the airport to Union Station, and then you’ll be able to take Union Station to Irvine and be much closer to campus if you’re going in and out of LAX. It’s not finished building yet, but they are in the process of building that one, as you said, Amtrak, and then we have the more regional one as well.

Nezahat: Exactly. To take train tickets for Metrolink you can use Metrolink app for Amtrak train, because you can use the Amtrak app in addition to using app you can prefer to use ticket, vending machines in train stations.

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve purchased, not on the Metro. I’ve purchased the Amtrak ones like in the station and been able to to do that. I’ve also seen some people if they’re traveling for conferences. If the plane tickets are too expensive, that it might take you a while depending on how far away it is. But if you’re going up to say, like Sacramento or San Francisco, you can usually take the Amtrak up to those locations. And you can search Amtrak, I haven’t been on Metro’s website. But for Amtrak, their website, you can search the destinations and see the different kinds of trains and the different times and pricing. And so you can get a little more of an idea. If you’re on a computer. And you’re like searching for like a big trip, you can get a better idea that way from Amtrak. I’ve definitely taken that one multiple locations throughout the U.S, too, when I’ve been at a conference. If I wanted to go somewhere, especially on the East Coast. There’s some more locations out there for Amtrak, but so bus stations, train stations. we’ve got a couple of them in Irvine and you can, you can kind of see how far they are away from campus. I think the Amtrak, like you said has less stops. So it goes some less of the stations. But when we’re thinking about destinations and schedules what are the bus or train destinations and schedules and kind of how would you have people figuring that out?

Nezahat: Yeah, that’s a good question Aimee thanks.To learn destinations and schedules I always use Google maps. However, there is a warning Google Maps might be misleading. For example, one time I went to Irvine train station on Saturday to take the first train. Then I learned train schedule is different on weekend and holiday, so it might be good idea to check OC bus web page or train page in advance. For OC buses. you can create a bus book using OC bus web page. In this way you can see all destinations, schedules in weekdays, weekends and holidays. For rail, both railway systems have an interactive map as you mentioned using their web page, it’s possible to see all train stations and routes. Additionally, buying ticket process is user friendly. For example, when buying tickets from using app or vending machine. First you need to choose origin station and destination station, then the app show all available trains with departure time. So you can select which time works for you.

Aimee: Yeah, I always recommend that double check. I’ve had issues with Google maps as well with some of the bus stops, especially on a holiday. Because that’s usually when I’m trying to like, go out and do something is during a holiday or a weekend and they can definitely vary. I think we saw a lot more closures during Covid too and so some of the stations have changed since then. I will say with Google Maps they don’t always show you all of the routes, and sometimes they don’t even show you the most convenient route. I don’t know if it’s maybe sometimes they’re trying to help alleviate traffic from certain stations. But the websites and the app is definitely more accurate when you’re trying to check those things. Any other tips for using Google Maps.

Nezahat:  I agree, yeah, I have a couple tips. The first one is after loading your route in Google Maps. You don’t have to keep the data open. I think this is useful especially you’re going in a long distance. So this is my first tip. The second one is, there is a little compass on the right side of the screen. I like to check, where is the north using this compass. It might sound silly but this is a good idea, if you want to take a bus and there are multiple bus stations around 4 intersected ways. So yeah, these are my tips.

Aimee: Yeah, I love being able to save my Google Maps offline. It helps with your battery power, too, because you’re not constantly refreshing the data and when you’re on a train or a bus, you don’t really need the like local traffic stuff to update. So being able to save those offline is really helpful. Especially like you said you don’t, you want to kind of keep track of where you’re going, and you don’t want your phone to be dead when you get to your location. So especially if it’s hot. I feel like my phone dies so much faster. And I always wanna save things offline and try and reserve some of that battery power. So we talked about buses and trains, and those are two pretty common ways that I’ve heard students get around, especially when it comes to just being able to explore the local area. And you don’t always want to have a car. Cars can be really expensive. We’ll talk in a upcoming podcast about buying, used cars, leasing cars, buying a car that’s new. Some of the things that goes along with that. We’ve already talked about going to the DMV and getting your driver’s license. Which we would recommend, even if you’re not planning on driving, having at least some other form of ID, but in terms of buses and trains,I do think that’s a pretty common one, but some students do choose to rent cars, or use other kinds of vehicle apps, or Uber or Lyft. Do you have any information about vehicle sharing apps?

Nezahat: I have a couple sentence for vehicle sharing. Using, and the vehicle sharing Uber or Lyft,  doesn’t matter. They are easy and handy. Personally, I like the combination of vehicle sharing and public transportation, such as bus and train. I think this hybrid mode is faster and cheaper, because using only public transportation takes a long time but using only vehicle sharing system is expensive. Additionally, my transportation style is not tiring. So I have enough energy to explore new places all the time. 

Aimee: Yeah, I I think for us, my husband and I, when we travel sometimes the airport is a really expensive place to get like a Lyft or an Uber. So if we can get ourselves like walking or taking a bus outside of that, like more expensive neighborhood, or at least closer to our destination. We will always choose to do that. Save 10-15 bucks just to take a a bus a mile away from the airport. So I highly recommend you check between Uber and Lyft the prices can change, so we always have both of those apps downloaded. But, like you said, I think it’s always a good combination to be able to be like, Okay, I’m going to walk to this bus stop. I’m gonna take this bus stop a mile and then I’m gonna get out of this like busy area and try and get a cheaper Uber to where I’m trying to go or take a Lyft to one destination or to one of the train stations, and then take the train station the rest of the way. I think, being able to map out your days it becomes much easier to be able to be like, okay, I know, if I can get here, it’s going to be around this much. It helps you definitely budget on those adventures that you want to take. And I’ve mentioned this in multiple podcasts before, we want you to take adventures while you’re in grad school and explore your local area because I’m sure as you’ve noticed, grad school can be hard and so being able to get out and explore is, it’s refreshing to your soul to be able to maybe go to the beach or go down to LA or San Diego and just see something new. Get your mind off school a little bit, and then you can feel refreshed to get back. We didn’t have this question planned, but I am going to ask you what is maybe your top one or two favorite places that you have taken the bus or a train to explore in the local area.

Nezahat: I like train journey from here to LA and my one of my favorite spots is Grammy Museum. I love music, and it’s it, it was an amazing experience for me to be in Grammy Museum.  I do recommend here. 

Aimee: Yeah, that’s not a super well known one. I’m glad you’ve been able to go. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it. I love going down to LA, and I’ve heard that train ride is super easy and simple to figure out. Orange County does have some stuff during the summer that’s free. But LA tends to have stuff all year long. So I’ve gone to just recently a jazz concert at the LACMA Museum. It was a free outdoor concert. People just had blankets and snacks and food, and it was like picnicking with some live jazz music. Really amazing experience. So I highly recommend that people aren’t afraid to take the bus and the train and use the public transportation system. We’re not well known for it. It’s not the easiest system, as maybe in some other countries our subway system is non-existent where we live. And Irvine there is one in LA, but it’s also not known to be super convenient. But we do have public transportation, and if you can figure out how to use it and maneuver through some of the differences between what it’s like and maybe what public transportation is like where you’re from. It’s definitely a great experience to be able to get out and explore. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. We will have part 2 coming up soon, and we look forward to having you join us for that and other future conversations, thank you Nezahat for joining us today. 

Nezahat: Thank you, Aimee, for having me today.

Transcript of Podcast #9B: Life Without a Car Part #2

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Jyotsana Kala

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and I’m excited to talk to you about life without a car. This is part 2 of our 2 part series and so I’m going to pass it over to my co-host to introduce herself.

Jyotsana: Hi everyone I’m Jyotsana. I’m a third year graduate student in the Department of Economics at UCI. I am from India, and my hobbies are just to like, go for a swim, go for a run and I truly like being at Irvine. I think it’s such a beautiful city, and I hope you all have a smooth transition to UCI.

Aimee: Awesome. I did not know you like swimming. So I learn something new on all these podcasts. So talking about life without a car, I think the U.S. is not well known for our public transportation system, outside of big cities like New York, maybe Chicago. There’s like very few places. The East Coast definitely has a little bit better of a system. And so that is a big worry for a lot of our incoming students is, how am I going to get around Irvine, Orange County? Even just campus. And so the first thing that we’ll talk about is like how far from the like main areas on campus, I think that’s usually like we talk about Ring Road a lot, and we’ll, we’ll have a video on a Ring Road soon here and coming out to kind of get a perspective on that. But if you’re on campus and and you’re living in some of the different housing communities, how far is main campus away from that? And what’s the most common way that students travel to main campus for their like daily things?

Jyotsana: Right, yeah. So, yeah, when I came to UCI, I also didn’t have a car and so it took me some time to figure out like what is the best way to commute and what is the campus structured like. So I think campus, the main campus all the buildings where you go to get your classes. All of them are right now, like in the center of the of of of the main campus, and the housing communities are kind of situated around the center. So it really depends on which housing community you live in and which building are you going to take your classes in. So there are 3 on campus housing communities. There’s Palo Verde, Verano housing, and then there is Campus Village, and the 3 of them are situated as I said around the campus, which is right in the middle. And so, if you are a student who is taking classes in the Science building. Then you will be closest to Campus Village. If you are working in the Social Science building, you’ll be closest to Verano Place. So it depends on like, where your building is situated, and where your house and community is. Similar is this case with grocery stores. But I think, I can say that by foot, all the, all the buildings from the housing communities are in a distance of 10 to 25 min, depending on again where you live, and there you want to go. And so I think the most common means of transportation that I see a lot of my friends just walk to classes. So when I started working, I was living in Palo Verde. I had to go to Social Science, when I started walkin, it used to take me 20 min, 20-25 min, and I got really frustrated about it right in the beginning, I was like, Oh, my god, I can’t do this. I can’t walk for an hour every day. So I switch to an e scooter pretty soon and some people bike to campus. Some people use e scooters. Some people drive. Some people also use skateboard and long boards. And another feasible option is also the Anteater Express. Which is the bus line the shuttle service that UCI provides that goes around the campus and covers all the housing communities and all the buildings. The only thing with Anteater Express is that it’s not that frequent. So you might have to wait for it. You might have to see what are the times. You might have to like see where it exactly drops you, and then walk from that particular location in the building or to your house. And the way to use Anteater Express is to download an app, it’s called TransLoc. You can download it on your phone. It shows you different routes right now M, N & F and what are the timings of these different routes exactly and what time will come at which stop. So yeah, you can, you can use the app, and it’s really helpful. And then you can plan your travel around the, around the campus.

Aimee: Yeah, I see a lot of students using the Anteater Expresss, especially when it’s raining. Like if you maybe are normally someone who takes a scooter or a bike, and it’s one of the few days that it rains here. This was, this was an exceptional year, but most of the time it’s just a few days. I see a lot of students getting off the Anteater Express, I think, especially over by, I work by the student center, so I see, like a big crowd of students coming off at the bus stop over there. So definitely I think that’s a great option. A lot of our mentors, I see around campus walking our biking like you mentioned, scooters are definitely really common. And on our Instagram page we’ll talk a little bit more about like bike safety, like locking up your bikes, I think, for skateboards, that tends to be a little easier, because a lot of students will just take that into their classrooms with them. But I do think they’re, you want to be cautious about some of those safety things as well. And you mentioned grocery stores. I know a lot of our students for something really quick, they, they go to Albertsons, it tends to be a little bit more expensive. But Albertsons and Trader Joe’s are definitely the most common grocery stores that our students go to. Do you think that people use the same, I guess, kind of ways of travel to get to the grocery stores? Because I imagine myself I am not super great at skateboarding. So maybe that’s just me. But if I was to skateboard on campus I’d probably be fine like on a longer like a long board. But if I was carrying groceries it maybe would be a little more dangerous. So do you see any changes in the way people commute to grocery stores?

Jyotsana: Yeah, definitely, I think for me, personally as well, like, I usually use my electric scooter to, to get around the campus, but when I have to buy groceries, and it’s, I’m not usually like regular, I’ll wait until everything is out of out of the stock, and then I’ll do my grocery shopping. So it really gets heavy to carry like a backpack. And then ride all the way back home on an e-scooter. Right, I think it’s similar with bike, because you actually have to like bike all the way up hill, if you’re travelling from, say, Albertsons to Palo Verde. So what I usually see is that people coordinate, and that’s a great way. I think people coordinate on like, I usually coordinate among my friends, and then all of us kind of plan to book an Uber or a, or like a Lyft, which is only like $5 to $6. And then if 4 of us plan among each other, then you know it’s it comes out to be pretty cheap. And then we can all put our groceries in the trunk, and you can just get by. Or if you have friends with cars, obviously, if you can, you can plan your grocery shopping with them. That’s always a great way. Anteater Express is also a very good way to get your groceries, because, both Albertsons and Trader Joe’s are on campus right, and Anteater Express has 2 stops on campus, right. One right in front of Trader Joe’s and one right in front of Albertsons. So that’s also a great way to again get your grcoceries in a way that you have to actually, physically carry them.

Aimee: Yeah, I see a lot of students walking over to the one by the student center, Trader Joe’s area with Trader Joe’s bags. And I’m like, oh, that’s that is a really smart way to do it. And yeah, I mean, I guess if you’re, if you’re fine with like walking there, you know, like 20 min walk when you’re not having to carry your heavy groceries, you could save a little bit by walking to the grocery store and then taking an Uber with a group of people back. I have heard some students, especially when they do like you mentioned, like I just have nothing. So I’m starting from scratch, or maybe I know I’m buying milk, or for me it was always, I try and live by places where I can walk to a grocery store, because I just don’t like to drive everywhere. So in college, when I was living, I lived by a Trader Joe’s as well, and I remember going and walking to the grocery store 15-20 min, which was fine, and and I bought lemonade and a watermelon and walking back, I was like, this is a terrible idea. So if you’re like, I don’t, I don’t. I’m gonna bike, or I’m gonna walk, or I’m gonna take a scooter. Make sure that you plan ahead. And you’re thinking about like, how heavy is this? How am I going to get this back? I think in the future, after that I was like, Okay, these are the bags that, my reusable bags, that I’m going to use. And then when I bike, I actually have like a basket on my bike that I put groceries into. So it’s a little bit easier. But again, it does have a weight limit. So I do that when I’m doing like small groceries, I just need to get one or 2 things. I definitely think it works, okay, when you’re doing that. So plan ahead, with your groceries because you don’t want to be stuck like sweating and carrying a watermelon back to, back to the housing communities. Or you’re just gonna end up on the Anteater Express at some point. Cause you’re gonna get tired. But those, I think, are 2 of the big places around campus is going to the grocery store and then obviously getting to campus. I feel like our campus map is pretty good at being able to kind of figure out where everything is, and our structure is that majority of things are gonna be on our like Ring Road circle outside of like the Arts building is a little bit off to the side, and I think some research buildings are off to the side, too (Aimee forgot to mention some medical buildings and speciality buildings may also be off the main Ring Road). But for the majority of our students, what you’re looking for is going to be in the circle. And so I would say, check where you’re going, where your classes, what buildings will you frequent more often, and see how far that is from your community, and see what the best thing is for you. And everyone has their, their preferences, in terms of what type of transportation to use. I have students that love the bus because they would rather not walk or scooter, or they don’t have the finances to purchase a scooter or a bike yet. And this was their better option. So you have to think about your needs as well. Options for commuting on more of a long distance. So in part one, we talked a lot about the kind of the OCTA, like the OC buses like if you want to explore more. And and we talked about taking Amtrak to like LA, but have you taken any of those options to get outside of the Irvine area as well?

Jyotsana: Yeah, so I usually take the FlixBus and the Amtrak, as I’m sure, you must have covered in other podcasts. And

Jyotsana: the only new thing was again, then that you can always use an Uber or Lyft. The only new thing that I over, I recently discovered was that if you want to travel within. OC, obviously, you have the OC buses and you can get a university pass and you can get it made for like, it’s it’s really cheap, and then you can make use of it if you want to really like travel around with it. So for me, and I have to take my DMV exam. I used the OC bus to travel from the campus to the DMV office. And the, I mean it was great. It was just I didn’t have the pass then, and it cost me like $2 to travel. And I was like, my god, that’s, that’s great! That’s a great deal. $2 is amazing right? 

Aimee: Yeah!

Jyotsana: But it did take a long time for the bus to come, so the frequency is quite limited. So you might want to factor that in whenever you are planning a visit by an OC. Bus. Again, the OC bus passes given by the UCI Transportation and Distribution Services. Like you can buy an annual pass, you can buy a monthly pass, and there’s also a OC Taxi service, so it’s called California Yellow Cab. And I didn’t quite know about it, and then you can actually book it for any place within OC. So sometimes their rates are cheaper than Uber, or maybe comparable to Uber or Lyft. So you might want to check that option as well. If you’re planning your travel within OC.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s one thing that we do frequently. I always forget about the, the taxi service, but Uber and Lyft like I’ll open at both apps and type in where I’m going, and see which one’s cheaper, and which one’s gonna get me there faster. And do I have a time limit and I need to pay a little bit more? Can I wait a little bit longer, and take something a little bit cheaper. I will say, for things like Flixbus and even Uber or Lyft. If you have bags with you, or you’re carrying like a lot of items. Say, you’re trying to take them to go to the beach, and you have like an ice chest with you for food and snacks, or you have some beach chairs, or just a lot of things with you. Be mindful of the fact that Flixbus, I think, charges you if you don’t have, if you have like, what they would consider luggage. So if you’re taking that to like San Diego to go to a beach for the weekend, or maybe you’re getting a hotel down there, and you’re staying for the weekend. Just make sure you’re calculating that into your cost, and that you’re looking into like what the requirements are for that. Amtrak’s pretty easy with that, because you get like I think you get like 2 pieces of luggage and 2 carry-on. So you’ve got plenty of space. If you’re taking Amtrak, I think that’s one of the things they pride themselves on. But I’ve had that happen with an Uber. We called like a regular Uber, and we only had, like we, my husband and I each had a suitcase and then a backpack and a Tesla showed up, and he was like, you’re not going to fit in my car, and we were like., there’s plenty of room. But my suitcase was maybe a little bit too large. So you definitely want to check and see on like Uber or Lyft. If you’re heading to like Santa Ana airport or something, or you’re going all the way out to LAX with an Uber or Lyft, that you’re grabbing the one that has people with bags. Because it will be a larger car that can handle that. But same again, that goes for just beaches and things as well. Taxis are all generally the same size, but they do have some and van options as well as like accessible. So if you have like a wheelchair, or you need like a a special accessible car, for whatever reason. They do have options for that. So those are a couple of things to think about. I think even an Uber and Lyft at least one of them has the option. If you have like a pet with you. If you need to take, maybe you have a cat, and you need to take them to the vet, and you don’t have a car. There is an option for you to pick one that someone has said, they’re okay with you, having a pet in their car. So just a couple of additional things to think about when you’re taking those kinds of, what are the rules like? Check the rules for all of these things. Because I know I was looking into Flixbus one time, and by the time I added in like 2 pieces of luggage per person, and we were trying to head all the way out to like LA area. That ended up being just as much as basically an Uber, and it would take a little bit longer. So I always recommend just kind of calculating all the different options and seeing what works better for you in time, like you mentioned, like time is important, like, how long it’s gonna take me? Do I have an appointment that I have to be there at a specific time? Because if so, buses aren’t always as timely, either. So you want to give yourself plenty of extra time. The DMV, is not going to care if you show up 20 min early. They are going to show up, if you show up 20 min late, they’re gonna be like your appointment time is done. So just make sure you’re thinking about those things if you’re going to specific places.

Jyotsana: And I think if you’re comfortable, like driving around, you can also explore the options of rental cars.

Aimee: Yeah

Jyotsana: So there are like, so I know about Zipcar that, that, you know that you get student discount on your Zipcar and the UCI student discount covers for the fees, it covers the secondary insurance. It’s only $15 a year and it also accepts international licenses. There is another rental services called Enterprise. A lot of people use that as well. And again, since it accepts international licenses, you don’t have to get into that hassle of getting the driving license. But again, you need to be comfortable with driving here, because the rules are very different. And it’s, it’s coming from India it was a completely different ball game to drive here, right?. So yeah, I mean, if you’re comfortable driving, then rental cars are a great option as well, especially with the UCI student discounts.

Aimee: Yeah, and we do have a podcast out about the DMV and getting a driver’s license, it just came out recently, so check that out. And we also have one more focused on renting a car, too. But I do think that’s a great option. I was talking with another student earlier today about even taking like a Zipcar, or doing like a Turo rental or an enterprise rental, or even like a Uhaul, not like Uhaul moving van but they have like smaller vans at Uhaul sometimes, and those can be a little more cost effective but when you first get here if you’re trying to take a car over to like Ikea, because you want to not pay the expensive shipping fees with, that, that can get pretty expensive. Maybe a couple of you get together and you rent one of these vans, and then you go through Ikea together. You might save some money and be able to go in person and kind of check things out. See how you like it, especially if you’re buying a mattress. I know I’d be particular. I want to try them like you. Wanna I want to go to Ikea, and I want to lay on the mattress before I like invest in purchasing one. So I think those kinds of things can be really helpful when renting a car. Maybe you do end up shipping things that are too big for the car so you have to see what size the car is. But if you get like a Uhaul or something, you’ll definitely be able to fit in like a mattress and other pieces of furniture. Things that you couldn’t do in like an Uber or a Lyft or a taxi. If you have them pull up to Ikea, and you’ve got big pieces of furniture. They’re not going to be able to accommodate you. So think about those things ahead of time. But rental cars are definitely a great option, especially if you have another license. Usually California accepts those on a short term basis. And so if they’re like your student here, and you’ve been here for a really long time, they may stop accepting a license from out of the area. And they specifically don’t accept the International Driving Permit that some countries have where you can go to multiple countries. California does not accept that. Other States may. But California does not. So just make sure you have a license specific to a country, that will be better. But I do recommend getting your license because insurance wants to see a time that you’ve been in the country, too. And we have a podcast coming out in a few days on buying cars and car insurance. So there is some benefits to having a license for a longer period of time. I think the last thing that we want to talk about is just more of some of the culture around these you can, non-traditional American commuting styles. So like, what are some things to keep in mind when you’re riding like an electric scooter or a bike or a skateboard around campus in particular?

Jyotsana: Yeah, so I think the most important thing would be road safety and rules. Because a lot of time, we don’t think that, you know, riding a bike or riding an electric scooter would come with its own set of rules, or it’s own set of safety regulations. Right, that’s not something that, that strikes me, at least. But it’s absolutely important. And we are very fortunate to be in UCI. But it’s a platinum level bike friendly university. So it’s, there are like bike lanes everywhere and it, it’s super safe for bikers, for electric, for to drive an electric scooter, to skateboard, to long board. So I just want to share some resources, because I think those helped me a lot to learn about how to ride properly and how to ride safely. So UCI  usually has this RIDEtoberfest, and the Whimcycle, which is the national bike month. So in these 2 events they usually have a lot of, a lot of events like, helmet give aways, like second hand bike fairs. And so they partnered with, they have something called BEEP, which is Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program. Where they partner with the UCI Police Department to tell you about how, to give you these sessions, about how to drive safe and how to, what, what is your legal lane, how do you share right, share your lane with motorists, how you drive in a shadow, how do you take the left, what is affected right, what is protected right and left, and things like that. So those trainings really helped me a lot. And you can take both bicycle friendly driver trainings. You can also go to their no locking bike demos. They have bike light giveaways. It’s also super important to register your bike at garage 529. So that’s the platform which now they have, they have introduced to where you can register your electric scooters, bikes. You can put up photos, like if in future some, at some point, if you lose your bike or your bike gets stolen, then it’s really easy to spot it and then get it back to you. The second important thing about it is that bike and scooter theft is a common thing at UCI. Unfortunately and you know there are attempts to make it less common, which is great. But you have to make sure that whenever you park your bike use a U-lock and again there will be, might be a little more about it in podcasts and on our Instagram but I think that is really one thing to take care of. Every now and then I , I keep getting these emails that you know where someone’s scooter is lost, that someone’s bike is lost and I think it’s a very, very real thing. So I lost my first electric scooter as well. And that’s when it struck me so I was using a cable lock, which is a complete no-no. You should never use a cable lock, always use a U-lock. But yeah, something to think about like that should definitely not deter you from exploring these options, because I immediately got a second one, and I can’t imagine my life without a, without a scooter right now. But something you should definitely be mindful of. And I think finally, I would want to say that it’s very rare but in case you do get into an accident, know your health insurance and know where you want to go in that, like have a plan of action ready, because you are sharing the road with, with other bikers, with motor bikers, which are, which are sometimes driving on a very high speed, right? So if god forbid you to get into an accident. Just know what your health insurance covers, what would be your first checkpoint, have some, have some like contact numbers for emergency, you know, in case of emergency that is in your phone, have like a card with you at all times with your identity card which has your blood group so that you can, you can get the help that you need in case of an emergency. Yeah. So I think those are the things that you should keep in mind whenever you’re taking any of these bikes or scooters or skateboards or long boards. And again, some things like you cannot. You cannot drive these vehicles in the inner circle on Ring Road, they’re only allowed inthe outer circles. Always walk your bike whenever you are in that, inner circle. Be mindful of sharing the road with pedestrians more more importantly than with motor bikers, because, though, because my campus, is at its peak, it’s full of people, and you don’t want to be like running into anyone. And one like big thing is always use helmet! Like, I don’t see a lot of people using a helmet. And I don’t know why is that the case? But absolutely always use a helmet!

Aimee: Yeah. I think the helmet is a huge one, and that’s why they have free helmet giveaways. And I think, I think it’s, you know people are worried about how silly they look in a helmet. Everyone looks silly in a helmet. But would you rather have, be looking silly and protect your head from a big accidents. I’ve had multiple students get concussions, and it’s something as simple as like falling off your bike because you’re carrying too many groceries. Or it, you know there are other accidents, obviously, that happen if you’re not paying attention to the way cars are turning or you go through a light that’s red, even though you shouldn’t. You know those things you definitely want to be mindful of because bike lanes do follow a lot of the same rules as cars do so. If there’s a red light you do still have to stop. You don’t want to get hit by another car or another bike, or hit a pedestrian. So you definitely want to know the rules, and there’s a a lot of stuff online, I’ll link the resources that you mentioned in our transcript to so feel free to look down, in the transcript. if you want quick links over to some of the things that were brought up. But do wear a helmet. It doesn’t matter if you look silly. I’ve had multiple students end up with really bad concussions or severe injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. And so I definitely encourage that. I’ve had very big accidents that have been life altering for students. So please wear a helmet. If I find you on campus without a helmet, I will say something if I know you, so please do wear a helmet. And and yeah, I think you’re you’re right about be prepared for an emergency. A lot of times the emergencies are that someone just fell off their scooter or bike. For whatever reason, you hit a hit a rock, or there’s a a dip in the road that you didn’t see, or maybe the conditions aren’t great. It started raining, and you didn’t expect rain. And now it’s kind of slick outside, and you, you turned a corner too sharp, whatever it is. I’ve seen, you know, mild to severe injuries from those kinds of things as well. So be mindful of your surroundings. Take care of yourself, but also do be, be prepared just in case something comes up. Some students will never have a bad experience. I bike to work and around campus as well, and I have almost been hit by a few cars doing illegal, carsthat we’re doing something illegal. But I do think, I’ve been lucky that nothing severe has happened. But you do, you just be mindful of your surroundings and wear a helmet. Any last thoughts on life without a car or favorite places you’ve traveled to without a car.

Jyotsana: Yeah, so I think when I came in, especially from India, like the public transport system is really strong there, and I’ve never had to take my own car out on the street. Also, because the traffic is a lot to deal with. 

Aimee: Yeah

Jyotsana: But I’ve always travelled on public transport for all for my life. And so coming to U.S. and then realizing that the public transport is not that strong, you know the network, was really like a like our cultural shock to me almost. And I was like, Oh, my god, I see so many cars, like all, everywhere I see in the parking lot, there are cars right? So it can get a little overwhelming in the beginning, when you do not see, when you do not have a car, and then you do not see why everyone’s not on public transportation, but I think, having the resources in your kit and then choosing what will work the best for you. Like electric scooters work the best for me but for some other people you know, other things will work the best. And figuring that out might take some time, but at the end it it will be all right like that. Irvine does have really good resources, that you can definitely use and get, and make life more easier for you.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely, I think finding the right option is, is my, my key give away. If you don’t know how to ride a bike because that’s just not common where you’re from, or the expensive of a bike or a scooter is hard for you, and you just want to walk. I walk a lot around here. I’ve walked to work sometimes, instead of biking, I have a flat tire right now, so walking is my only option. But finding what works for you and finding, you know, maybe there’s times that you bike and scooter, and maybe there’s times that you choose to walk or take a bus or take an Uber or a Lyft. So I think for most students a combination of things works best. But finding what you want to do, does take some time, so try some different things out. We don’t have, I have one student that had asked recently if we have a lot of like Uber and Lyft rentable type scooters and bikes around the area. And we really don’t. So it’s really gonna be up to you to like, get your own mode of transportation, unfortunately. But you will see them in like the bigger cities like, if you head to San Diego or LA, you’ll see those kind of op, options around. But in Irvine it is not common to find them. So you definitely want to be mindful of the fact that you’re not gonna get here and have, like instant access to a scooter to get around, you’re gonna need to find your own option. I think that’s all that I have to add. So thank you Jyotsana for joining us today. I always appreciate another insight on what it’s like to get around the community, without a car.

Jyotsana: Thanks, Aimee. Thank you.

 

Another helpful link for students who plan to not get a car, or not get one right away: https://parking.uci.edu/parking/publicinfo/survivingwithoutacar.pdf

Transcript GIC Podcast #10: Buying New or Use Cars and Bikes

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Lucas Silva (he/him), & Mahkameh Rasouli (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about buying cars and bikes, car insurance, all of those really important things that you should know in terms of getting some form of transportation. We do have some other podcasts coming up on getting around to Irvine without a car so if this all sounds complicated or you don’t want to get one right away, you really want to look into it, you can definitely have that option of, you know, scootering, but biking is also an option which we’ll talk a little bit about today, and then we will also and another podcast, to be talking about going to the DMV to get your driver’s license. And what that process looks like. So we will cover some of those things in other podcasts. But we’ll talk more about actual purchasing and getting a car and making sure it is insured. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division. I’m excited to have this conversation. I have purchased a couple of cars and bikes in my time and so hopefully, I can input some things but I am joined today by Lucas and Mak, 2 of our GIC mentors this year, and I’m gonna have them introduce themselves. So, Lucas, we’ll start with you.

Lucas: Hi, everyone. yeah. My name is Lucas. I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Informatics Department. I’ve been here for 4 years. I’m originally from Brazil.  I had cars in Brazil. I drove and then I moved here, and I I came with the family so I had to get a car right away. So far I’ve I’ve gone through the process twice as well.

Aimee: And Mak?

Mahkameh: Hello, everyone! My name is Mak. I’m a Ph.D. student at the UCI. I’m one of the GIC members. I’m an international student from Iran. So I didn’t have anything when I came here.

Aimee: Yeah, I I know we all have very different histories when it comes to, you know, did you drive when you were outside the U.S., is your first time even driving so for some of you this might be a whole new start. You know you may not have needed a car where you were before. I know some other places have some better public transportation than we do in Orange County. So I think one of the first questions is really thinking about, why is it really needed to at least have a bike, if not a car. I know in some cases, like Lucas mentioned, if you have little ones, if you have a family and kids, it’s probably needed, get them to school and other activities and things. But Mak we’ll start with you. Why do you think it’s important, for a car or a bike for people to have one of those when they’re in Irvine?

Mahkameh: So yeah, I came from like a very big city, and we had a transportation there. So I used to use those transportation for going to workplace or looking at like the city. But when I came here I think that the structure of the U.S. or maybe, like California or Irvine, is so different. So there is not that much transportation. There is some bus. OC Bus are here, but you cannot use it regularly for going to the university or going to for grocery, shopping, or this kind of thing, so it you can use it. But it’s so hard. So when it came here I didn’t have anything a bike. I didn’t have a bike or a car, so it was so hard for me to to do grocery shopping, or even go out with my friends go eating out. But I think that’s maybe for the for for first months or the first year having a bike would be enough for, for us to just go to our classes or these kind of things. But maybe after that we really need a car. I think I believe that. For example, if you want to go for a road trip, or with L.A. or visit San Diego, for your for the weekends. We might need a car, and maybe it can improve your quality of life.

Aimee: Yeah, I think especially the way that Orange County is structured. Public transportation can be really hard. I know we have a podcast on how to get around without a car or a bike like, what is life like? But it’s complicated, right? You know, figuring out the bus system, the train system that maybe aren’t as functional as they are in some other countries. Lucas, anything to add on, maybe why, it’s helpful to have a bike or a car?

Lucas: Yeah. I think a lot of what Mak mentioned, grocery was a big thing for me. The places close to campus, you know they they can you, you can get stuff from there. But typically they are more expensive. So to be able to go to further away places that are maybe cheaper. I’m also buying in bulk, in my case. It’s kind of hard to do that with public transportation. you can, you know. Call an Uber or something, but that also piles up as an inconvenience, and also the prices. In my case we also had regular medical appointments with the kids and and things like that so? I, the few, the first few months without the car I had a lot of inconvenience and struggle with moving around, and I think the car was the best option for us. And then the other point is, just you get more much more freedom to explore California and you know, visit different beaches, the hills, mountains, and stuff. And just, you know, take the weekend driving to places. those are the main uses for me.

Aimee: Yeah. And I know one of the things that I like, I bike a lot around Irvine. There’s a lot of bike trails. It’s pretty easy to bike around so, as a person that doesn’t have kids being able to just bike to a park or to a grocery store to get small things has always been really nice. But we go through a lot of vegetables in my house, and we buy most of those from Costco, and it, going to Costco and biking back is just not really an option, because you have such big amounts of of items and so I I do think while, you can manage, if necessary, it is really nice to have that additional kind of freedom in trying to get around, especially when you’re buying bigger items or you have multiple kids or things that you’re trying to navigate through. And some of the places for specialty care, especially if you have like a medical condition or I know we have had some students that were pregnant or had a partner that they were bringing in that was pregnant and and going to those kind of more specialized doctor appointments might not be in Irvine. Sometimes they’re at like the UCI hospital in Orange, and that’s a trek to do without a car. So I definitely think it, it does depend on everyone’s situation. So first, we’ll talk about bikes, and most of us that are coming to UCI especially international students, if you’ve been out of state or this is maybe your first time here, you probably don’t have a bike, and you’re probably not taking that with you from your home. So where would you buy a new or a used bike, in Irvine?

Mahkameh: Oh, so I have this experience. When I came here the first solution was buying a bike and I had, like some financial difficulties when I came here, and I just tried to buy cheaper, like the cheapest bike that I can find. So the first option was the bike fair that UCI has every I think it’s twice per year, I think, but I’m not sure it’s twice for a year, and they will just collect all the bikes that are that there is, is around the campus, and there’s no one that’s responsible for it. 

Lucas: Abandoned, abandoned bikes

Aimee: Yeah they are abandoned

Lucas: Yeah, there, there are a lot of students that move and just leave their bikes in campus around campus housing. So they do take away tagged bikes. 

Mahkameh: Yeah they collect them and they sell it in the bike fair, and I think one of them is around about October, I’m not sure which day so they can sell it by a very, very cheap price. I bought my my car by just $15.

Lucas: What is it? Your bike? $15 wow!

Mahkameh: Yes and it was a so cheap and it works well. So I just went to grocery shopping with that car, with that bike for a year, and I went to like trail, and everywhere. It was great but other option will be like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace. So you can find a cheap bikes there as well, like around $100 or less. You can just look for a bike there, and also bike stores like bike stores, Trek and other brands around campus. But they’re expensive, you know. If the cheapest one might be like $100. So I wouldn’t recommend to just buying a new bike if you just want it for like grocery, shopping or commuting. But it depends on yourself.

Aimee: Yeah, it definitely depends on your budget. I bought my bike from a bike store, but I bought it from a used section in a bike store. So some bike stores do have like a trade in option, and so they’ll have used bikes for sale. Sometimes you can buy them, I know we talk about Costco and a few different podcasts, which is, you have to like pay for a membership, but they have bulk items, and sometimes they have things like bikes. I’ve seen a few electric bikes there. So some people do choose to spend, they’re usually significantly more expensive, but if you’re gonna be using that instead of getting a car, it’s sometimes a nice option, if you want to go further away and not have to pedal your way there. So that is always an option, I think. OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, the, at the Upcycle, ReCycle Bike Fair is always a really great option, because there they are very cheap, and usually they make sure that they’re really functional. So I think that’s one of the safer ways to do it because OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace can sometimes have some scams and so we want to make sure that that you’re getting a bike, that’s functional, and it actually exists. So I always recommend the the bike fair. And I like you said to Mak, I think it does happen in October. And then again, in the springtime. so always good to check there.

Mahkameh: yeah, and something great about the bike fair is that they have some people who can repair your bike if it some, some part of it doesn’t work well. But sometimes, for example, some part of the bike is missing. So you need to just replace that part. But it works. I think, 

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, I think usually they, they’re pretty small fixes. They’re not selling you something that’s like bent and non functional. So I think that’s a good option. UCI and like the Irvine area, is, it doesn’t have huge hills, but it’s not super super flat. So are there any specific recommendations for what kinds of bikes that people should be looking at getting?

Mahkameh: Yeah. There’s some like bikes like named beach bike, so they don’t have any gear. So it’s okay. You can use it in the UC Irvine or like around Irvine. But we have like hills. But you you will you need to try a lot to just go that way. And most of the time people just prefer to have like electric bike it’s easier, or maybe a scooter, electric scooter. It’s so easy, but they’re expensive. But so I recommend to have a gear bike that has gear, and you can just like coming with that bike easier. Yeah. Just one thing that I wanted to mention was, for the bike fair, just go there as soon as possible. So it starts from 10 am, I think I mean you go there at 10 am, there are lots of people in the line for getting the bike. If you want to find a great bike there, you need to be there at like 9:30 in a line, so you can, it’s first come first serve. So if you go there earlier you can get a better bike. But if you go there at like 2 pm. You can just find like nothing just a wheel.

Aimee: Yeah, you definitely want to go early to those, because, yeah, the good options will go. If if you have a specific thing that you’re looking for. or maybe you’re really, really tall or really, really short and you need like a specific size bike, you definitely want to make sure you get there earlier, so that there’s more options for you. I have a beach style bike, but mine is a hybrid, so it does have gears, but it’s still really heavy. And so my husband has a road cycling bike, and he just like whips right up hills, and I’m like struggling to keep up with him. So I definitely recommend, like a light, normal kind of road bike for getting around because they don’t look like big hills on the bike trails, but they go underneath, the roads and it they can get steep. So I definitely think that you’re right. That we definitely want to think about making it an easy bike to commute around. You know, going around campus, I think it’s a little easier like just on campus. It doesn’t matter as much, but it’s when you get out into the greater Irvine area that you definitely want something with some gears to it. We talked a little bit about pricing already, I would say, yeah, bike fair is going to be the cheapest, and I wouldn’t, I guess if you get an electric bike, you’re probably going to be spending a couple of 100, but I would say 100 is probably the average if something looks too good to be true online, it probably is. So just make sure you’re asking lots of questions. If you’re looking online about bikes. Anything else that anyone wants to add about bikes.

Lucas: Yeah, there, there, in addition to the Facebook Marketplace, if you’re looking online in the in the area, there’s this website that I really like, it’s called Craiglist. It’s anyone can post a, an ad there, and you can filter by distance from a certain Zip code. The caution, though, is that both Facebook and Craiglist they do have scams. So you gotta be careful, ask questions and do meet in a public space during the day time. Only pay after testing and and actually seeing it, maybe online transfer. There’s also this, it’s a safe place. The safe place. It’s next to a police station. It’s called the Exchange something. It’s like a parking lot. They have cameras pointing everywhere, and it’s by the police. So you can actually also it’s close, it’s inIrvine. I think you can, you can Google search to get the actual address. But that is one of the safest place to actually meet and do the exchange and and buying the item. Yeah and then, if you really like bikes. There are lots of trails for like hiking, but also biking around. So the hybrid bike also seems interesting. But you really gotta be intentional about that those buying the bike for for that purpose to.

Aimee: yeah. And I, some of the bikes are really hard to get on to like the buses. So if you end up using a bus, most of the buses have the ability to put your bike on the front and lock it in. So if you say you want to go bike to the beach, but you maybe want to take the bus back. Those are always options, but you want to make sure you have something that’s not like got super thick off roading wheels and like wouldn’t fit as easily on, on those. Or if you have a car and a bike rack. You want to make sure you have the right kind of bike rack to carry it around. Mak, anything else you want to add about bikes.

Mahkameh: No.

Aimee: Okay, good. We will move on to cars. Cars are a stressful thing. I feel like the last couple of years. Cars have gotten really expensive, just with all the issues that there have been with getting chips for cars. So we’re gonna talk about as much as we can, car information. Things may change by the time you’re listening to this. So just make sure you’re checking websites and and looking into things further. But I think the first thing we want to talk about is.  It’s a lot of language around car purchasing that can be really expensive. So there’s just purchasing outright, there’s financing a car, and there’s leasing a car. So does someone want to talk about what the difference between all of those things are?

Lucas: Sure. So I I think financing and buying all right is pretty common, and I was. I was surprised about the leasing option when I moved to U.S., because that wasn’t too common in Brazil, I think now there are some places doing it. But yeah, buying out right is you pay in full right? You’re you’re going to some place and you’re gonna pay. You already have the full amount of the money of what they’re, what they’re asking for the car. They, it has taxes and you know, some fees. So it’s probably going to pay more than what is actually being advertised. But you basically are transferring doing a bank transfer or writing a check for the full amount. Financing is is when you have a contract with the bank, or the dealership, or someone that will allow you to pay the car over time. So that depends on the negotiation on the contract. But typically you pay some amount upfront, and then the rest will you will divide it in X amounts per month over a period of time. And then the leasing option is the more the most different one. And that is you’re not actually buying the car. And, Aimee, please correct me if I and explain this wrong, because I I never done an actual leasing. But my understanding is that you are kind of renting the car over a of a period. So I think sometimes it’s like 2 or 3 years and basically, you’re gonna pay an initial amount. And then every month you’re gonna pay another amount. And then you can use the car for that amount of time. At the end of that time you’re getting the car, you’re gonna give the car back and you’re are left without anything. You. The money that you paid is is gone to the leasing and the car, it goes back to them as well. So it’s basically a rent over time. I think the benefits is that it’s usually a new car. So it’s not pre-owned. It’s latest model and you’re paying less than the full amount, as if you were going to buy that car.  And also I think they take care of all the maintenance. So they have. You don’t need to pay any regular maintenance, oil, exchange and all those things. You just bring it every X amount of months to the place that you lease it from, and they will make sure it’s fine. So I I think those are the benefits.

Aimee: Yeah, I think the financing option is really hard for international students, and because it’s it can be hard to get a loan. Some big won’t even allow for it. So most commonly I see buying outright on like a used car. But I have seen quite a few students these days doing a leasing option. Like you said, yeah, it’s like a long term rental. Some leasing options do give you the, kind of opportunity to purchase later, so you can kind of think of it in some ways, like a loan, where they’re letting you put a certain amount towards the car, and then they would use that towards purchasing the car later. But you’d have to ask ahead of time if this car you’re leasing is has that option added to it, because that can be different. And a lot of times, I know it was mentioned a little bit earlier, the price that they put online is like a a financing price which is different if you buy it out right, there might be some changes to the pricing. Taxes aren’t always included, and a lot of the times when they have ads, they’re like 0% financing and that’s just a loan, and that’s based on a credit score. So if you don’t have a credit score in the U.S you’re not gonna get a 0 percent interest loan or down payment. Those things are, gonna be dependent on you and what you need in order to be able to get the car.

Lucas: So the the credit score just to do it’s not, some people might not know what the credit score is, it’s basically the credit history and they assign us a number and most countries, I think, have some type of mechanism like this. It’s basically a ranking of like, do you, do you have enough money and a movement that you’re trustworthy? So so, so getting a loan or loan or finance, being new to the U.S., we pretty much have a 0 history. So they, their, our score when we come into the country the first time is really low because they consider a higher risk, and there’s no actual history of you know transactions and using banks and credit.

Aimee: Yeah, exactly and so that is hard with leasing, because sometimes there would be a better deal on like how much you’d actually be spending a month, or how much you have to put down on a car, because their, they might increase it, because you don’t have a history record. Sometimes a leasing option, though, I believe, can help you with that, because you are making a a steady payment to towards that, and so that should help you be able to get credit in the future. But it is really hard when you first get here for those options. So sometimes it is maybe a little more financially easy to think about a used car, which we will talk about. So financing and leasing, we we talked about kind of what you need, what it looks like. Where would you go to finance or lease a car? And what? How much can you expect the price range to be?

Lucas: So I I again. I’ve never done both of these. But from what I understand most dealerships do some type of leasing evaluation for their new cars. And I think most places that are selling cars, they also can do some type of financing. I also seen people go to their own banks. So you, you get here. You have a bank, you open your bank account in some some type of bank. And they they typically can evaluate and and tell you what would be an optional financing. Since it’s at the bank, it’s it’s kind of notspecific to, I think one specific car, so they might give you like a range of, if you buy a car with the X amount, then this is the contract and the type of interest that we could offer, and the amount we could give you as a loan, and things like that. But again, it’s that might be also be hard with a new kind of history.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely, some banks are a little more open to it. Bigger banks sometimes are a little more open rather than like a credit union, like a student credit union. Sometimes they don’t have as many options, if you don’t have a credit score, which we may have a podcast on kind of banking system and credit scores and things in the future. I, I would always recommend going to a bigger company rather than a smaller company in terms of financing, or at leasing a car, because, they’re probably more likely to give you a little bit better of a deal, and also be a safer kind of company to choose. Price range is going to depend on the car you get, there are cheaper cars. I I tend to think of your like Hyundais, Honda Civics, like smaller cars that are a little more affordable, KIA Soul seems to be one that I see a lot of my students getting and friends that are leasing cars for as cheap as possible. So those are always good options. Toyotas. Things like that seem to be kind of a little bit more affordable. But if you’re like, I really want to drive a Mercedes or BMW, you’re going to be paying for it. So you have to think about budget and we talked about like, the price you see, online isn’t usually the price that you actually end up paying for. But it can give you an estimate of what it could look like. So I do think, looking online ahead of time when you’re thinking about a car is important, and you can always go into a dealership and talk to them about like this is my budget, how can I stay under that? I need all of the cost to be in that range and thinking about that. So I think that covers what we’re gonna go over in terms of new cars, because financing/leasing is generally more often for new cars, but used cars are the most common thing that, that my students purchase. And so where can we find a used car? Any recommendations on that process?

Lucas: Yeah, I would start online. There, there are lots of car marketplaces and then you can also search on Google what are dealerships around Irvine and then go to the website for those dealerships. I I mean dealerships, for like actual brands like Hyundai, Toyota, those they typically have a used car branch in the dealership and on the website. People often trade in their used cars when they’re buying new cars. So those dealerships, even though their main, mainly selling new cars, they also do have new used cars. and those are typically good in good conditions, because people are just trading in instead of trying to get rid of a car or something like that. So yeah, definitely,  Carfax and then CarMax, there’s also a few other marketplaces where you can search and get an idea of like price ranges based on, you can play around with filters, and you know, I I want, you know, a bigger car, a smaller car, you can filter by year and and mileage of how you know, how much have people driven those cars. And and it’s low cost, right? You’re just navigating on the web. You’re kind of like window shopping and exploring those different cars, and there’s a lot of them. You can also, you go again Facebook Marketplace and Craiglist but I think we’re gonna talk a little bit more about the risks of of going to the that type of used car. But yeah, definitely online, first and later, we can talk more about like, once you have an idea, you can also go explore in, in person, and then to the the actual places and see the course.

Aimee: Yeah. And I know we have a note in here. Avoid out of state cars. You definitely want something that is an in state. You’re purchasing it in California for example, if you’re like, oh, it’s cheaper to buy my car in Nevada, and we’re not that far away from Nevada. I’m gonna go by there when you register your car, which you have to do in California. You’re gonna pay taxes on what you didn’t pay taxes when you purchase it out of California, it gets really complicated. The registration process is really complicated, and you’re going to spend more money and time and energy. So stay in California. You can look at different zip codes But again even that sometimes they they charge you for registering your car in Irvine and purchasing it outside of Irvine. So think about those things ahead of time. It’s probably better to stay local and also, if you don’t have a car, it’s hard to get outside of the local area to find something. So definitely some things to think about. I will also add to that some of the rental car companies here have places where you can purchase cars so like Enterprise or Hertz. Some of the nice things about them is they weren’t privately owned, and they’re owned by the Rental Car Company. So you know that the maintenance was good on those. But sometimes they have a but higher of mileage depending on the car. So those are also some other options to think about. So what would be the difference, some of the things pros and cons maybe to think about when buying a used car from the dealership versus buying it on like Facebook marketplace. Any thoughts on that?

Mahkameh: Well, let me start. So when you buy a car from a dealership. So the good thing is that they just it took care of like any repair that was there. So the car that you get is like so clean, so like, you know, work well, but you should pay for those repairs. You should pay extra money for them. But the good thing that if there’s a problem with the car you can just take it back to the dealership and said that this was a problem, so they need to repair it for you, because there was a problem with the car that they sell it to you. But and the good thing for just going to dealership is that you can just trust those people, and also you can try many like brands, many models there, and just select between them. But for the person find a car from a person directly is that you are not sure if the car works well, because most of us are not an expert, I myself was not. But the good thing is that if they are like a family and they use the car. I think the mileage will be less because I want I went for to buy a car from a dealership, and I realized that it was for a rental company. So the mileage is so high and the car looks so great. But I think some people told me that when different drivers use a car it can, it can make the car so lazy. I’m not sure what was the meaning of that. But the good thing is that when family use it you can, I don’t know how to say that it might be less like need repairs.

Aimee: Yeah, I think the the wear and tear on it is a little different when it was like privately owned right. If they kept up with it. The way that they drive it might be more gentle because they’re trying to extend the life of the car where sometimes rental cars, I don’t do this because I think it’s dangerous, some people drive really fast, or they break really hard, or they put a little more wear onto a car because they are not thinking of keeping it long term. They don’t care what happens soon afterwards, because it’s a short term thing for them. So I think that’s what you’re trying to say like. It’s people will put more energy, maybe, into caring for their own car because they’re wanting to extend the time that they have the car before they sell it. So sometimes it is a little, maybe better, better kept up as long as they were doing the maintenance on it. And when you’re buying a car privately like that, you can ask them what was the maintenance record like, do you have receipts that show that you did an oil change. And I definitely recommend you take it in to have it checked out so they can. A a company can also tell you that. Yeah, the maintenance on this car was actually done. I can see that nothing’s breaking. It’s not like already damaged inside cause. That’s that is one of the hard things with private, buying private is that the dealership can guarantee and certify the work if you buy it from someone, and it breaks down the next day, and you need a whole new transmission. Cars not usable. There’s no guarantee that it was going to be. So that is one of the kind of cons of it.

Lucas: Yeah, I I I think it’s also interesting in the U.S. system that there, there, there’s this term called salvage cars. So if the car has been in in a serious accident, they are required by law to report it, and it also becomes a, it gains this title called salvage, and the actual documentation of the car is changed. And the what the implication is that the car will have a less resell value. It might also still have problems due to that big accident. and typically well, it’s it’s a lot of scams out there, right? And people that with sometimes people with these types, of cars, they would not say explicitly, although the documentation will will show it explicitly at some point when you actually touch it. I would also advise to be skeptical of both dealership and person you know, dealerships. They, they want to touch up the car to get rid of it as well. And so the tip that I found that was really interesting is, first, you can actually check the car history through these 2 websites they are called Carfax and Autocheck. They do charge like $40 or $50 per report. So you type in the the cars personal identification, ID number, it’s called VIN. It’s like an ID for each car has, and you can actually check, see the history of oil change maintenance, if there was any accident. Sometimes this is available freely. Some dealerships post the CarFax for the cars they’re selling online. So you can actually know what you’re like like if you don’t have to pay for the report. Some dealerships, don’t, and they they will, they won’t tell you anything unless you really ask, and maybe people might lie, you know, even in dealership. So I would be skeptical. the good thing is, Mak was saying, they do have some type of warranty. Typically, that’s, so I bought a car from the dealership twice. One was this online one where they actually bring the car to you and you test, drive. It’s swift, I think it’s there’s also, Carvana. There’s a few that are online that bring the car to your residence, your test, and so on. But the the point was that they all have a limited warranty. So you buy the car. You have a few days to change your mind or typically that, like a thousand miles of use before, if anything happens after that they they don’t. They don’t do anything. You might go back and say, hey, you hid this problem for me but they’re gonna tell you you signed the contract. It’s, It’s over the 1,000 mile or the amount of things. So the other tip that I’ve heard. So one is check the history. The second one is that I that I you see online and other experience people advise me is after you buy it, do take it to a mechanic. So mechanics around here they might charge you $100, $150 to do a check and so you, if you’re getting it from a dealership, there’s the warranty right? So you can buy it if you’re really confident and then take it to a mechanic. If you find something that you did not like, then you can just take it back. If you’re buying it directly from a person, what is also really common is, you know, you evaluate the car. Once you, you decided to buy the car, you check the history and everything. You can also ask the the owner and say, hey, one final thing I want to do is take it to mechanic and I wanna, I want a mechanic to do a final check before I actually buy it from you. I, I heard even online some people saying that you could propose to the owner to share the cost of the mechanic. Some people would accept because they’re confident their car is is pretty okay. And they say, okay, maybe a little bit of the scam on the price. So that’s also something that it’s preemptive and it can give you more confidence. And for you to be sure that you’re actually getting something that’s not a scam or something fishy going on that’s being hidden.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely. I had I purchased a used car from a dealership and I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to. I was like, it’s you got some miles. I checked the history of that type of car in that year like, are there any major issues that have come up with this car like, commonly, I think that’s always a really like. So I had a I had a 2001 Toyota RAV4, and they were known for their transmissions going out at a certain mileage. So it was at that mileage, and I was like, I don’t know. It hasn’t been replaced. It hasn’t been an issue, but it seems like it drove really well, and they were like, we’ll give you 2 week warranty guarantee that it’s not gonna happen within 5 days, the transmission went out after buying it, and that would have been almost the whole entire amount of money that I spent on the car to fix it. So the dealership did have to replace it, and they had to give me a, a car. In the meantime, like a rental car for me to use in the meantime. So that is one of the things that I feel confident going to a bigger dealership, especially. I always feel more confident going to the ones that have the CarMax online, because I feel like they’re gonna be more honest and upfront. But they are trying to sell you something, so I do think there’s always a point where you be skeptical. But I think that warranty to me is always really important. I know, for example, Toyotas. They certify their cars sometimes a little bit longer, so some brands or companies might certify their used cars for longer periods of time. It just depends on the dealership and the company. So those are definitely things to check and ask when you’re looking at cars, you know, you can always call them. Even if you’re not in the U.S.. You could email or call and say, hey, I’m interested in this kind of car. I want to know what your guarantee looks like on your used cars. Can you tell me a little bit more about it and and get more information?

Mahkameh: Yeah, I want to add my experience to that. So I have a experience of buying a car from a dealership. And I was buying that car, I was just signing the contract, and I realized that they show me one car and they were selling me another car. And I realized it from the the contract that I was signing. Why, this is the difference between the car that I saw, we did like the contract that I am having, and they said that, oh, okay, sorry, our worker was like made a mistake, and these kind of things. And I was paying like 5,000 more for a car. And but, on the other hand, I had the experience of buying a car from a person. So I looked through the the OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace to find a used car, but like it greats in great condition. So the thing is that if there is a a great car in OfferUp or Marketplace. The dealership will just run to just buy that car from the person and repair it and sell it to you more expensive. So the, I, my experience that I was just checking that OfferUp every day, and I saw the post was like the post was posted at 10 am and I just asked that person, 10, 5, 5 min, when I asked that person that can just see that car. And I went there to just see the car and the dealer, the the dealership person, was there. They were just looking for those cars to sell it to you like expensive. So I went there, and it bought it in like 10 min, because if there’s a great car, the family car that is in a good condition, they will buy it as soon as possible. So you need to be careful about just I need to buy it and just go there. But my, when I just asking people what kind of car I need to buy. There was some like conflict between them, so there were like some BMWs or like, I don’t know, like very expensive cars that I could buy with my limited budgets but some people just advise me not to buy them because they are like a fancy car, and even if they, the price is low. For the maintenance, you should pay more. So as a student that I’m not, I don’t have the much of salary, salary if they like oil change cost like $300. I cannot pay for that. Of course the the deal is so great, but I recommend just buying like regular like Toyota, or like Nissan, or this kind of thing that the maintenance is cheap.

Aimee: Yeah, that’s definitely something that I always consider when I buying a car to is like, how much are parts for the car? I had a Volkswagen Pasat at one time, and the the breaks went out like a little little tiny piece, a little part in the brakes went out. So the breaks weren’t working anymore. And that part was like $500-$600 and was gonna take a while to get there because it was considered more of a specialty car. So I think you definitely want to be mindful of like looking into, you know, quotes online, for how much would it cost to fix pretty common things like getting my breaks redone or doing an oil change for those cars it’s like, Mak said, sometimes an oil change for a car is $35 to $70, and sometimes it’s $300, because your car requires special oil, or gas. Some certain cars require you to have a superior level of gas, and that price can add up to. So make sure you’re looking at more than just like, oh, it’s a fancy brand, and it’s got a good reputation for being a good car. You want it to be a good car, that’s gonna last a while, but would be affordable to fix. Okay, other things. Any tips steps on buying a car, I think, Lucas, you had something you wanted to add to that.

Lucas: Yeah, So I think in general, you, it’s it’s good to think about. What is your price range. What do you intended to spend? Also based on that, what type of car you need? In my case one criteria that I had was the size because of my family and then thinking about all the things that imply with the price. Right like the year, the model, the mileage and at some point you might have to balance the amount you of money you have with the type of car, and, you know, go down, and maybe on the year and the mileage. Then searching online for sure, there are dealership, smaller dealerships that do look a little bit more sketchy. So one thing you can do is search on Yelp or Google maps and they have online reviews. You know you, if you see a dealership that has 2 stars with a bunch of bad reviews do avoid those because people had, you know, bureaucracy problems, or cars that they were saying is one way, but in practice they found out something totally different. So be always skeptical and and critical of places, and you know people are trying to sell you stuff and I think in every country cars is a ripe place for scams and and things sometimes not even illegal, but sketchy right that you might get into a bad deal. And then you can try and get the the history of the car. Right? You can. If it’s a private or in a dealership, you can actually see. So, for for example, if I search my car, it will show the frequency of when I change my oil. If there was any accident or break changing the breaks, or if there are any recalls right sometimes the the factory, or something found out years later that this certain model for this certain year had a problem with their breaks or their wind shield something. So that happens and once you have an idea of the model what the car and the place. There is also this website called Kelly Blue Book.  And it’s an interesting, a website that shows you trends of prices per car per model. So you can give an idea of like what is it? Shows you, the price range of previous deals with that same model of car. So you can see like, oh, the highest someone has paid for this car was X amount. and the lowest was this amount. And so you can compare with the one that you’re looking online and saying, okay, they are over charging or no, this is actually a good deal, or even if it’s too good of a deal to be true. And so you can be a little bit more critical of that. And then, yeah, once you have that, do come like contacting the the seller, setting you up a time to go there and actually testing the car, you know. Drive around with it, do you know, test breaks, test the the the engine, look at the engine. I know. I’m I’m no expert, and often I don’t know what things are happening. But you can. You. You open and see if there’s something weird going on, and you try and drive and see if there’s any sounds or stuff that’s weird going on. Some places they are more haggle, they’re more open, for you know. negotiations. Some some some places will say they don’t negotiate, but based on, you know you saw all the prices and other options. I was able to negotiate some a little bit less in my my cars. So they might say they don’t negotiate, but maybe you can try. There’s no you know. The the most that they can say is, no, we can’t lower the price  And then, if you do go through the deal with the deal it might be a good option to, you know, take it to mechanic after yeah, I think those those are like my broad steps and tips that I I had in mind.

Aimee: Yeah, and a couple, one more difference, and we’ll go a little bit over. This is If you have a title for your car and you have to register your car, the dealership will help you through that process. They do quite a bit of the work on their own, and you usually just have to submit something verifying your address and and updating all those things, if that doesn’t happen like same day with the dealership which it some in some cases it does. But if you are buying from someone on like a more private place. Changing the title requires you to submit things alongside, usually a smog check, which is a California requirement. And then you have to submit like registration, and there’s usually a fee that goes along with registering the car in the State of California. If you’re coming from out of state, please do your registration right away. I made that mistake of not doing it as soon as I could, and I ended up having to pay a fine because my car had been living with me in California for a few months. And it was not a cheap fine, so make sure that if you are already in the U.S. and you’re coming from a different state that you go to the DMV and you get that registration updated right away, and update your license as well. Registration is something that you do need to renew every year. So if you keep the car. It’s not a one time thing you’ll get a notice in your email, if you set up the electronic one through the DMV from California, or you’ll get a mail. So if you move I set up electronic because we move a lot because we don’t like to pay increases in our rent. So we move quite frequently, my husband and I and so I set up the electronic. So I get an email of my registration renewal coming up so make sure that you’re remembering that maybe put a note in your calendar. So if it didn’t come, you can be like, okay, I need to go figure out why I haven’t gotten my registration renewal for my car. Because it’s a pretty big fine to not have renewed it, and you get charged a late fee if you don’t do it by the deadline.  I have also made that mistake. So learn from me. Register your vehicle in the timeframe that you’re supposed to. But those are 2 big kind of things. After you buy it is making sure that you change your title and renew your registration every year, and sometimes I think it’s every 3 years it might be different for certain cars  that you sometimes have to do another smog check when you’re registering your car again, like when you’re renewing it. but it will tell you within your registration if you need to do that anything anyone wants to add to that.

Lucas: Yeah, just to give an idea of smog check. I I wasn’t familiar with that before it moved here. Smog check is basically you take the car to this authorized mechanic place and they will evaluate the gas, the the gas emissions, the toxic emissions of the car, and it needs to be below a certain threshold that the State determines. I think most cars typically will pass this smog check. I think really old cars might not, and then they need to, might you might need to, if if it fails the test, then you might need to do certain repairs or something in the car for you to renew the actual registration.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah. Because if you don’t do the smog check, you can’t renew your registration, and then you don’t have a car that’s legally registered in the State of California. So it is a requirement to have the smog check. I have had pretty old cars and not had any issues. I, when I first moved to California I had a 95 Honda Civic, and I was really worried that it wasn’t going to pass, and it did so. But sometimes it does need a little bit of a mechanical work to fix something and the exhaust pipe or some other part of the engine. So just make sure that you’re getting that done when you need to so that you don’t end up paying any fines for being late or not being complete in your registration.  Last thing that we’ll talk about is insurance. So everyone has to have car insurance. If you’re driving a car, there is a minimum requirement for liability. But what is the process of getting insurance for a car?

Lucas: It, it’s pretty quick, actually, for me in my experience. There, there are several companies that insure a bunch of things like home, boats, and a bunch of the things with the most common is cars, motorcycles. I think there are some, even for bikes. But basically, yes, you do need to have in minimum insurance, to drive in the in in California. In my home country insurance is not a requirement. So people some people do insurance. Some people don’t. In contrast, here you need an insurance. You can’t drive without insurance. I heard you might come across someone without an insurance. I don’t know what are the synthesis of that? 

Aimee: Yeah, we usually that, so you also, when you register for insurance in California, you have, it’s added in with your insurance that you have uninsured or under insured protection. So that way, if you’re in an accident, it’s not your fault. The person that hit you has been illegally driving a car without insurance, or they didn’t renew their insurance because they forgot you’re not going to be liable for fixing your car. It’s your insurance is going to cover what that other person should have been covered for, or if their insurance doesn’t cover it fully, that your insurance is going to help with the covering of the costs, for things that aren’t your fault. It’s very rare that you’ll find an uninsured vehicles here because California has that minimum law. But there are people, maybe they’re traveling from out of state and they somehow have managed to not have insurance or don’t have high enough insurance. There are protections from your insurance company.

Lucas: Right? And so they’re like big companies. They’re famous companies that insure cars, and you can go and get a rank and see what are the most complaints or the most loved ones. But basically, you can also call them and get a quote and shop around. But there are a lot of details you need to be careful with, like Aimee mentioned the minimum amount of coverage. So if you’re you’re in the accident, and it’s your fault, let’s say, and you hit a really expensive car. You want that you know your insurance might not cover if you buy it, a cheaper insurance that covers, I don’t know $10,000-$20,000, but you hit a car, that’s I don’t know, there are really, in Irvine there are

Aimee: A lot of Tesla’s here. 

Lucas: There’s a lot of Tesla but you can also, you know, you see, if you’re Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and all the really expensive cars. But you know you want a a good, you want a good insurance to be, we have peace of mind. So there are a lot of numbers to consider in there, and some of them. If you raise, the the coverage, they might raise the amount you’re paying per month. But yeah, you can shop around, right? You can call them. Get a quote. The quote will vary a lot, and it depends on on your history. It depends on your age. Even gender. I, there are a lot of parameters that they don’t explicitly tell you, but I heard

Aimee: Marriage status is a weird one. 

Lucas: Marriage status, yes.

Aimee: If you’re married, if you’re a married man, your insurance will be cheaper. Women it, are usually less likely to be an accidents in California, so your insurance is usually a little bit cheaper. So it’s weird things like that. 

Lucas: The car as well. Right? The car, even the color of the car. Like, if it’s a more sporty color.

Aimee: Don’t buy a red car!

Lucas: I don’t. Yeah. Red cars are like more expensive. Because they do all these analysis and and do their risk assessments and stuff. But anyway, it will depend on a lot about your history. One, a couple of tips that I I learned, there are companies that do student discount. So do tell them that you are a UCI student you. That might give you some certain percentage of discount. Also, if you have, if you had a driver’s license from your previous country, from wherever you’re coming from, do tell them, and they they might give you a discount. In my case it was, they consider me an experience. driver, because, you know, I had a driver’s license for Brazil for 5 or 6 years, or something like that. And so they gave me another discount for for those things. So yeah, but it depends on shopping around. And also do search online. There are companies that are maybe a little bit more headache to actually support you in case of accidents and other other things. Yeah. Oh, the other point is also that you when if when you buy your your car, you need to have insurance in the moment, you’re gonna actually use the car. So let’s say you go to a dealership, or you meet with someone that you know to to to buy the car and then you exchange. You pay them and you get in your your car. At that point you need to have your insurance and typically, that’s pretty quick once, you already have one insurance in mind. And you done your preemptive paperwork, or call them. Most we’ll have an option of using an app. So you just download it to your phone. Take picture of your driver’s license. Fill in forms. Do things over phone as well, and everything will be quickly set up on your phone. So when I  when I changed my car, I went to a dealership, I gave my older one as a trade in and I went to the parking lot. I opened the app and I there were just like buttons. I I changed my car set up in the in for the new car, and in less than 2 min I had the insurance changed to the new car. So it can be pretty easy once you’re figured, that part of it out.

Aimee: Yeah, once you have your profile set up, it’s definitely pretty easy to do, because we we’ve done that as well. Even making a change like. We sold one of our cars and went down to one car and and then change to the service that we had on that car, the liability, those kinds of things. So the apps are really nice for that. I think one of the things, too, is, if you’ve been in the U.S. before, or if you already are in the U.S., make sure if you weren’t in, if you’re not in California or you’re changing into an Irvine address, your cost may change for that. If you have been an accident or gotten a ticket in the U.S. before, even if it’s been a few years that could impact certain companies being willing to cover you or the cost of what it is to cover you. So again. Yeah, just make sure doing your research, looking around, seeing what the costs are, and don’t under insure yourself and thinking, oh, I’ll just keep it small, for now and then I’ll increase it later, when I have a little bit more money, because you never know what could happen driving in traffic and things more accidents are kind of common so you want to make sure that you’re protecting yourself from having to spend extra money. Any last things anybody wants to add in on cars, insurance, buying bikes, any last thoughts.

Mahkameh: I just want to add that if you want to buy a car used or a new one. Just please ask someone who had this experience in us to just accompany you because you might know something, and you you end up with something that you didn’t want to, just get help from other people.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely make a friends that has bought a car here before thats willing to go with you and be able to listen and see things themselves and help you through it., definitely. Anything, Lucas, you want to add?

Lucas: No, I think I think we covered most of it. But that’s yeah. It does take a lot of effort. And it is a big commitment. Right, you’re buying. It’s a lot of money, even if it’s used car, a used car. And you’re gonna use it for a while, so definitely test it out and and put a lot of effort in thinking and evaluating the place and the risks as well.

Aimee: Yeah, absolutely well, thank you both for joining me today. I hope this was helpful for everyone. We will like, I said earlier, have some different topics on where to take that car on a affordable road trip in California and visiting the national parks. Things like that. So we hope that this helps you get out there and explore California a little bit more.

Lucas: Thank you for having us.

Mahkameh: Thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #11A: Making Friends & Meeting New People Part #1

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Yufan Zhao (he/him)

Aimee: Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I’m excited to have you here. We are going to be talking about something that a lot of people worry about before they get here is, how do I meet people? How do I make friends? Obviously grad school is different than undergrad. So what does that look like in grad school? So I’m going to pass it over to my co-host to introduce himself, and then we’ll get started.

Yufan: Oh, Hi, everyone! This is Yufan Zhao. And yeah, I, I’m a graduate student right now in University of California Irvine. And I just came to America last year. Majoring in Computer Science. And yeah, I, I didn’t stay in America for a long time, but I think so. I’m still an alien. So I can. I think I can have some situation for you to like. Just settling down in the United States, making new friends sort of things.

Aimee: Yeah. And and that’s such an important part about being in grad school, and just, you know, being in a new country in general, you don’t want to be isolated, and I think you and I’ve talked about how you’ve made friends a few times. So I’m really glad that you’re joining us on this podcast but I think, one of the things that I always want to make sure is that people aren’t just staying connected to their family and friends back home. I think it’s really important that you do. But it’s also really important that you maybe get outside your comfort zone and make some friends here and and try some new ways of getting to know people. So what are ways that you’ve gotten to know people? What are some places, maybe, that you’ve made friends or activities you’ve gone to where you’ve been able to connect with people?

Yufan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right. People like for me, the I remember that the very first thing I did is I try to join different groups, the online groups like the Discord or the WeChat. I’m using the, the, the social media I’m using. And trying to find people who are playing tennis because I like playing tennis because I thought it could be a good way to know new people because I and, but that by that time and like, say I, I I did a think in like, because I want to make some new friends. So I go out to play tennis, and that just I that time. All I thought is, I want to play tennis. I need someone play with me. 

Aimee: Mmhmm

Yufan: So so yeah, that’s kind of but, that, that’s that works, that works actually so. A quick suggestion that I can have for a new incoming student is that you pursue your own interest like, engage in some activities like a hobby like, say, I play tennis, so I cannot play tennis alone. I need someone play with me. That’s how you have that motivation to find someone you get to know. I know it’s gonna be embarrassed like,  if you just think about I want to make some new friends, I don’t know how to do that. But if you focus on your like your hobby you will gradually, you will meet someone that share the same hobby with you, and probably like you play badminton, like basketball, those, or those sports up or like a team sports, you have to play with people.

Aimee: Yeah, and I hear from a lot of students that the we call it the ARC, but the Anteater Recreation Center is such a great place to meet people, but it’s also, and this is something that I always encourage, it’s also really important that you stay, physically active during grad school. You’re probably going to spend a lot of time sitting and reading and writing, and maybe in a lab. And so it’s important that you’re moving your body and doing something with other people is obviously going to be really good for your mental and physical health. 

Yufan: Yeah that’s true.

Aimee: And so I hear a lot of people joining in our intramural groups for basketball or soccer.

Yufan: Yeah!

Aimee: There’s a couple, couple of days a week that there’s a group that do a pick up soccer game and this is grad students and TAs and postdocs that go to that one. So I’ve seen, I know my husband’s gone to that one a few times as well. I think it’s a good place to to meet other people, and maybe other people who know what your experience is like. So there are clubs and orgs on campus, too, for people that maybe you’re like, I’m not much of a sports person, but I really like to watch Anime or I’m a dancer, and I really want to find people to dance with or sing with. There are definitely lots of different types of hobbies like you said getting to connect with somebody. And that’s always a a great introduction to meeting people, because you’re not just like randomly, walking around and saying, 

Yufan: Yeah.

Aimee: Hi! My name is Aimee, and I’d like to be your friend. You have something already in common with somebody so that can make things easier. 

Yufan: Yeah, yeah, yeah

Aimee: And you don’t always want your friends to be in your program either, I think. I’ve got a lot of students that are like, I don’t want to just have friends that are a computer science major to, or that are all in my lab. It’s nice to take a break from your academics and be able to step outside.

Yufan: Yeah true! And I I those like the campus clubs like you mentioned like. They also have some, I think most of them, they have their own social media, and every, some of, most of them they hold, the host of some activities weekly, like, like game or something, because I’ve been to an anime club. They had some kind of game. I don’t know the name, but that you have to guess the, the character’s name from some animation.

Aimee: Huh!

Yufan: That it’s pretty fun like you can get to know some, you can not, you can get to know some people, even from undergrad school. That’s younger people, they’re really fun. So.

Aimee: Yeah, it’s a great way. The, the clubs are such a great way to meet people in, in community and Irvine, regardless of like where they are in school. I’ve also seen there are some schools, if your real, some clubs, that if you’re religious, if you want to connect with maybe other Jewish students or Muslim students or Christian students, or there’s quite a lot of religions and not a list of all. So, but if you, if you’re religious, and that’s an important part of your life, and you want to meet someone who has that same religion for you to connect with. You can always connect that way as well. So this is a good icebreaker, right? Like you meet someone you have something in common with already, much easier to make friends. But do you think that there’s some cultural differences in how people make friends? And you know, inside the international community, we’re very diverse as well. We’re not all from the same place. And so thinking about, you know, other international students or also making friends with American students. What are some things that you think maybe culturally can be different, that people should be mindful of?

Yufan:  like, yeah, I actually, before I come in the United States, I was kinda nervous and worried that I because I’m not that good at English. My, and in my country, when when I learn English from textbook, they always felt like you should not say I cannot, you should say, could I? Because can I is just this, this tone, It sounds, impolite. So you should use, could I? So I think, okay, theres a lot of rules here. I should mind my own behavior. I don’t want to be rude to others, but actually, actually, since, since here is a lot of people like you mentioned, like from different culture. I feel like people are pretty chill. And especially in California people, most people are really friendly, and they don’t mind like you use or can I or any of those things? It’s it’s totally fine. So, and like for me, it’s, the only thing that I should mind is that be polite to others, and  think a little bit more about others like try to make other people feel comfortable, comfortable. I, I know it sounds, it may sounds like, you might feel sound pressure like maybe you cannot make you, you worry that you cannot make other people feel comfortable. Don’t worry about that too much. It’s just if you like, be sincere. Life you, you, you’re really friendly and sincere they’re like, people will also do the same thing back to you. So just be open minded and friendly to others. they can feel your sincere.

Aimee: Yeah. I think we’d open minded is a, is a really big one. I think a couple of things that I’ve heard from students is like physical boundaries, like touching can be very different in different cultures. And so the way that you greet someone, maybe introduce that like, maybe you come from a culture like I come from a family where we hug a lot. So when I meet new people, I ask them, I’ll say I’m a hugger, that’s for me, kind of how I say hello or goodbye to people but I also know that some people aren’t comfortable with that or religiously, that’s inappropriate. And so I always want to be respectful. So I’ll introduce, I, I like to hug, but if you’re not okay with hugging, it’s totally fine. Just please let me know. 

Yufan: Yeah

Aimee: We have a lot of students who come from cultures where maybe you kiss each other on the cheek to say hello or goodbye, or you shake hands. And for some people that’s not appropriate. And so I think it’s important to, when you first get to meet someone, if they’re from a different culture, being really mindful of communicating your differences and and acknowledging that and it not being weird. People aren’t going to be like, why are they telling me that, they’re gonna be like, oh, I appreciate that you’re thinking about that. So that’s one thing, and I have heard, and I’m an American and I’ve only really lived here in the U.S. But I’ve worked with international students for a long time, and one thing that I commonly hear about Americans is that we say that we would like to be friends or grab coffee, and we never follow through. If, if you meet an American and they’re like we should get coffee or yeah, it’s great to meet you, I would love to get to know you better. If they don’t follow through, don’t take it as like a I did something wrong. We tend to get busy, and we just don’t follow through, very well. I, I will say that a good amount of Americans, we’re really bad at that, and I will say that in acknowledged that, that is cultural.

Yufan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But mostly people just say “we should grab coffee” or something like that is, just express a polite feeling. Like I’m willing to go grab coffee with you. It doesn’t mean I, I will set up a time and that way definitely will go coffee at the next week, sometime in the afternoon. 2 pm. 

Aimee: Yeah, it’s just. It’s more of, I guess it’s kind of like our way of saying, yeah, I really like getting to know you more. but yeah, I’m not going to make plan for it. I’m not going to follow up with you later. If you follow up, I’ll be like, oh, yeah, we really should do that. But I definitely encourage you to not take it personally if someone says that, and they don’t follow through. It is a very, very cultural American thing. 

Yufan: Yeah

Aimee: My husband is not from the U.S. and when he brings this up, because people used to do this to him all the time, he laughs about it now, because now he does it. So you might find yourself doing that if you stay in the U.S. long enough. So we talked about cultural differences, places to get to know people. But we’ve got a lot of students that come in and they’re like, I’m really shy, or I’m really nervous about my English. What if I don’t feel comfortable with my English? What are some recommendations you have for people that maybe they’re just more shy in their personality, and they’re nervous about meeting people or who are maybe not from an English speaking country and are nervous about having conversations in English here with other students.

Yufan: Yeah, right? I, I it’s totally understand., like a lot of people like they might be shy, then I say, okay, I, I don’t, I’m not feeling comfortable to initiate making new of friends like go out to approach others and. Well, what I recommend is, take small steps and gradually getting to know new people. Since you are shy, maybe just good, it will just probably take more time for you to building a relationship, so just be patient of ourselves like, do not push yourself, just do whatever it feel comfortable with like some small interactions like you can get, just to some small talk, if your feeling not, not, not confident on your like oral English, you can. Just okay, let’s let’s add the social media. And then maybe text others like in the social media. And that’s basically what I did in the very beginning, like in the things in our graduate department have this receptionist for all the graduate students. So in being that receptionist we had some drink. And so maybe that’s why I have, I had guts. So I get to know some new people. I just say, hi and the and that girl is from, Korean and when we are talking with each other we found out that she’s our neighbor. She just leaves next door. So me and my roommates, my roommates is from India, I’m from China, she’s from Korean, like we just talk about like the, our career and our hobbies on our way home. So it’s pretty fun. So my, my room is is pretty shy, she, she, he is pretty shy, so that’s, just the the small interaction for him is just, sometimes join our conversation from time to, and most of the times I am, I would, I am the one who, talking with her. But she, he will also join, like, say, okay, I also like like Shuttles, like. 

Aimee: Yeah, I think about it as finding like a buddy, you know. Go to one thing, really push yourself to make one friend and preferably a friend that’s not also shy. We call it an extrovert here, someone that’s maybe more outgoing. And, and then that friend could kind of introduce you to other people that they get to know, or you can go to events together. So, having a I, I call it the buddy system. So you have a buddy and you can do activities together. I don’t like to do a lot of things on my own, and I can be a little bit more shy. So when, when we moved to Irvine, this was a new place for me. But I made a co-worker as a friend and so when I go, even to events with other staff members, I don’t really like to go if she’s not going with me. So I think that that’s always a a kind of an easy way for some of us that are maybe a little more shy to get out there and and have that, buddy. That kind of maybe leads the conversation a little bit. But we can jump in when we’re comfortable.

Yufan: Yeah, true. And it’s also a good time like for you to practice English like gradually, gradually. If you think you’re not that good at English, because you, so, during the process, you are getting to know new people. And the first at the very beginning is just text them and, then gradually you will, you will meet them, I guess maybe at some in-person talk.

Aimee: Yeah and I think once you have that once you’ve gotten to know someone through messaging, sitting down and, and you already having a base friendship. It’s much easier for you to then be like, oh, yeaha and now we can have a conversation. Maybe I feel a little bit safer with you about making mistakes in my English, and that’s okay, like being okay with that. So yeah, I always recommend that. Or, you know, getting to know another international student who’s maybe also nervous about their English. Maybe you both speak the same language, you know, if you met someone else that spoke Mandarin, and that doesn’t mean that you have to only speak Mandarin, right? You can sit together, and you can speak English and practice, and maybe feel a little bit more comfortable in classrooms or in your lab, starting conversations with other people. I think the only other thing that I think I’ve heard from people is when they’re a little bit more shy about their English, is being really nervous, that people are gonna laugh at their mistakes in English. 

Yufan: No, no, no they won’t.

Aimee: It’s very rare. If you find someone like that, they’re probably not someone you really want to spend too much time with, and it’s not common. But yeah, so can you speak a little bit about what it’s like to speak English with others on campus.

Yufan: Yeah, so for me, I’m from China, and it is not English, speaking country like most, I, I believe most like per my experience, the Chinese friends, I know, and as I most, most of them, they cannot like speak good English, and compared with Indians. We cannot speak good English. We just know how to read and write. But I we don’t know how to speak could English, because we cause, the, the problem I found that is, I worry too much about the grammar of things. So that’s a, it’s a, that’s a very big problem. So, so first, thing is, first thing is, do not be, worry too much about the grammar things. Even if you speak broken English like Jackie Chan, people can still understand you. So the grammar is not a big deal here, and and when you speak English out at the first a couple of months, you will feel really, really, how to say you, you will have a feeling of achieving like, you have been learning English for such a long time, but this is the first time that you really using it to communicate with others because here people only speak English. But back in China nobody speak English. So it’s the first time you will feel, you will have a a great feeling of achieving something, and also you will feel excited because you are using it, and you did it, most of the time you can express yourself well, even at the beginning it could be, a little bit difficult. So you, because you don’t know some vocabulary like, things some expressions is not familiar with. So like for me, It’s I, I don’t even know how to say open the tape like use the zig zag, or like dice beef. I don’t even know how to say they things to my roommates. They are from an India. So I just ask like how to say that blah blah blah things. So language is never gonna be a problem. You just it. Just do not worry too much. Just say it. You, what do you think about it? Say it first.

Aimee: And I think a lot of people are just like, oh, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know the words for these things, but I sometimes don’t know the word for for things, you know. Sometimes it slips my mind how to say something. So I think it’s pretty common, and I think when it comes to like not knowing vocabulary, or maybe people are speaking too fast, I would just say, don’t worry about asking someone like, Oh, I’m trying to find the word for this or yeah, like you mentioned. I don’t know how to say this and do the motion. We’re all used to that. Irvine is a.

Yufan: Show them! Use your body, show them.

Aimee: Yeah exactly! We call it charades. It’s like a game, you know. You use your hands in your body to try and figure out what the other person is trying to say. And there’s nothing wrong with that and we’re really used to it in Irvine. We have a pretty large international population, but we also have a very large immigrant population in California. And so someone might be an American citizen, it doesn’t mean the English is their first language, so they might grow up in a home where their parents don’t speak English, and it, it’s very common for people to be really open minded to helping you through something helping explain something to you. 

Yufan: Yeah true

Aimee: I try and correct people in some cases, because I’m like, I just want to help you. Usually when other Americans try and correct English, It’s not because we’re like, Oh, you said it wrong. It’s like a I really just want to help make sure that you feel comfortable and confident in your English, and help you as you navigate learning a language. I’m learning I’m eventually gonna have to learn mandarin, but I’m learning it Italian right now, and I say things wrong all the, all the time, and my husband grew up in Italy, and he doesn’t laugh at me. He doesn’t try and correct me, and I would say, for those of you who speak of language other than English, and you’re like someone trying to learn your language, you’re not going to laugh at them. You’re going to try and figure out what they’re trying to say, and you’re going to help them through it. And it’s the same thing here. We just want to help everyone feel comfortableand confident in having a conversation. But never be shy to ask someone to repeat themselves, ask someone to clarify what they mean or slow down. I know I talk really fast. I know a lot of my friends do here, too. And so if you’re trying to get to know someone and you’re like, wow. I just can’t keep up. You’ll get there eventually. You’ll get used to it. 

Yufan: Yeah, yeah

Aimee: But just ask people to slow down, and majority of people will be very happy to try to and just remind them if they start speaking fast again. 

Yufan: That’s actually what I did to my roommates.

Aimee: Yeah

Yufan: Because of their Indian accent and the, the, they speak British English. So sometimes, most of teh time I had to, to ask them to repeat it again.

Aimee: Yeah, especially, there’s certain words to when you think about like the different types of English. 

Yufan: yeah, yeah right.

Aimee: I, even when I talk to students, like you, said a lot of Indians, sometimes some of our students from Hong Kong. and then obviously any of our students from the UK, that English like, they’ll say, instead of aluminum, like we say here, like the foil, they’ll say aluminium and every time when they say it in a conversation, I get so confused what they’re talking about, but, it takes time right to get used to the people.

Yufan: Yeah, yeah

Aimee: People talk so you gotta give yourself patience both with making friends and practicing English, if English isn’t a language you feel really comfortable in. I think that’s everything that we wanted to cover. Are there any last tips you would want to give someone on making friends or getting out there and just being confident.

Yufan: Hmm! Like maybe it. I’ll say, like keep an eye on the, on the campus activities. So we have, in case people do not know about that, we have actually, our campus have a website like it’s called groups of something right? 

AimeeCampus Groups

Yufan: The campus group and usually during quarter, there could be some web seminar, or where to meet or in person meet some activities. This would be there. You can, you could keep an eye on that, and check that out. Maybe you will find some fun activities that you’re interested in, and you can join ask your, ask your partner, but not partner, like the assistant.

Aimee: The buddy, the buddy system. 

Yufan: The buddy system.

Aimee: The buddy system! Yeah, yeah. Ask your buddy to go with you. there’s quite a few of those. GIC is hoping to host some extra activities and events this next year for just another space for students to get together. But yeah, I use the buddy system. If you’re uncomfortable, going alone in and come to some of those events. There’s lots of things on there and that was gonna be one of my recommendations, too, is we have a lot of stuff, and sometimes it seems more professionally related and you’re like, oh, you know, I’m not really ready for that yet maybe but it’s a great place to meet friends. I see a lot of people who meet each other through different student activities and and a lot of the things that we do in the GPSRC. 

Yufan: Yeah, yeah

Aimee: And a lot of the things we do in the GPSRC are more academic, related but just because you’re having a conversation about your career goals doesn’t mean that you won’t make a friend, or at least a networking connection, for maybe your career goals as well. 

Yufan: Just the background conversation for you to get to know each other.

Aimee: Yeah, absolutely. And I know we always promote them as professional events but I always think no, these are more than that. It’s a it’s a connection event as well, so definitely take advantage of those. The majority of those events are free. So just an easy, great way to meet people. But yes, I think that was everything that we had for today. Keep an eye out for some other podcasts coming out about things like the on campus activities and the GPSRC, we will be talking about those in future podcasts. We look forward to having you join us.

Yufan: Yeah, that’s all.

Transcript of Podcast #11B: Making Friends & Meeting New People Part #2

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Giovanna Alcantar Rebollar (she/her/ella)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast today is a part 2 in our series on making friends, meeting new people and building connections through your time as a grad student. My name is Amy Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I am excited to be here today with you, Giovanna, and I’m gonna have you introduce yourself.

Giovanna: Yes, thank you, Aimee. Hello, everyone, my name is Giovanna. I am a second, or a rising second year, P.h.D. student in the Political Science Department and I am very excited to be here today.

Aimee: I know a lot of us stumble through during the summer. What year am I? A lot of these podcasts, we’ve had that like, I’m a for a four, fifth, no I’m a rising something. So we’re happy to have you with us today. And our first question is just on, you know, building relationships and making friends in grad school does look different than undergrad for many of us. So what, what ways do you use to get to know people and like, where have you been able to meet people, maybe outside of common spaces like your lab or your roommate?

Giovanna: Yeah, of course. I want to preface this by saying that in undergrad I actually like made a very few friends. I was a commuter and a transfer student, so it was like almost impossible. I think I only made friends my last semester of undergrad, and that’s because by then I had to quit my job and just dedicated my time full time to student. So coming into grad school, I was like, oh, no, I don’t want it to be a repeat of undergrad. I want to be able to have friends. And so I think because I came in with the mentality of like not ending like my graduate career with like 0 to like very few friends. It made me a little bit more open as opposed to like coming in more shy. But one of the ways outside of in my department, we don’t call it lab, we just call it either your cohort or your, your peers, but outside of like lab or your the the students you have classes with. It was actually my neighborhood, or, like, well, quote unquote neighborhood. I do live in graduate student housing. And so I live in one of the communities of Verano Place, and I think the first, the first friend I made outside of like school related just at home was one of my neighbors. She was moving in, and I think it was like my second or third week in Irvine. I was up stairs working from my office, and I just kinda like happened to look out the window when I heard like this big noise, and it was like her moving in with like a big truck. And so I think, seeing someone that looked like me, I was like, Oh, yay! Like more people like, you know, they’re new. So they’re probably like their first year here, too, like that was my mentality. So I think I waited after like they were almost close to done with taking things out of their truck. And then I went out there like really, I can’t even believe, I don’t know if I would still do this today, but I think like desperate needs called for desperate measures, and I went out there and I just said, Hello, like literally, I was just like, Hi, are you guys new here, and they were super friendly. It was her and her boyfriend at the time, and they were like, Yeah, we’re just moving in. And I was like, Oh, I just moved in like 2 weeks ago, like, you know, I live right here. So I’m like, literally 2 doors down. if you need anything, let me know. And they were like, Oh, thank you. Yeah. And so after that, at first it was very awkward. but then, the second time they came in to move, my family just happened to be over, and we were like having a barbecue. So I went over, and I like took them food. And that’s how like a friendship like really started like with solidified through food. They were like, it was like kind of like my friend, my token of friendship, and that was the first one. And then, like my second experience, I like making new friends outside was, I was part of a program, a pre-doctoral program here on campus and I just remember we were on zoom. So again, I was like, really desperate to like make a connection, like an actual connection with someone. I knew that they were all first, you students, so that kind of eased my nerves. I was like, Okay, they’re in the same boat as me. I doubt that they know anyone else, you know, or have made connections. So they’re gonna be just as nervous as I am, and they probably want to make new friends, too. So I think I took the opportunity to DM, someone through slack. I I think I had like I’d seen her picture on the zoom. And I was like, Okay, she’s smiling at her picture. She looks friendly. I’m like, and I just message her. And I was like, Hey, you’re in this program, too, right? And she’s like, yeah, I was like, Oh, I’m wondering, like, I don’t know anyone. Would you mind like hanging out some time or like going to this event together, because the program would put events for us to attend, and a lot of the times I didn’t want to attend, because I don’t want to go there by myself. So I think the first event I was like, would you like to go there together? And she was like yes, and like super friendly? So I think it took a lot of like just me facing my worst fear of rejection. But it was easier with like when knowing that it was their first year as well. And so for me it’s like chances are they want to make friends, too. They like they’re in the same boat as me. And then, when it came to like making friends outside of that like first year, like honestly, it was a lot scarier. It happened in like classes that I took outside of my department, and I just kind of gauged it by commenting on something that was said in class like, Hey, I really enjoyed like what you said here, like, you know, and just kind of make it small talk like that, and eventually, like the conversations developed. But I understand when you’re like, really shy and nervous, it’s a lot harder. So yeah, I think that’s, those are. I think it’s like, outside of my department. It’s been in like classes. It’s been like at home, my neighbors. and also like that program that I took. Really it, it’s a program similar to this. It like, gets you acquainted with like the school university resources, and also gets you to meet other people. So I took really it took a lot of advantage of, of programs like that.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s always my like, biggest push is like, you’re gonna have to do something to meet that one person that can go to events with you. We called it in part One, we called it the buddy system. Yufan and that we’re talking about having the buddy system where you like meet somebody, especially if you’re more shy, I am, too, so when I started grad school, I like sat down at a table by myself, for, like our opening like orientation, and someone sat next to me very extroverted, and she was like chatting with me the whole time. I just stuck by her, and we went to all our events together, and it was like, you make that one friends that maybe is more outgoing than you, or maybe prioritizes getting out a little more than you do, and they’ll definitely encourage you to do those things. So, but you do have to take that that hard and sometimes uncomfortable first step to meet that one person that’s going to be there for you. And I think GIC is a great place for that. We’ll have some fall quarter events, and so you can attend those and try and meet someone else who is also going through this first year, international student experience. So like you said, getting out there, though, and just introducing yourself can be really hard, even as a staff member. I have a buddy, that goes to staff events with me, too, and if she doesn’t go I rarely ever go so. We all get it right. We all have that like fear of rejection, or like not wanting to put ourselves out there, especially when we’re new. But you really have to make that one person at least, that can make you feel more comfortable going to events together. And yeah, I think, especially for shy people, that would be my recommendation. I think one other important thing that we want to talk about is like cultural differences. So I think that Southern California is significantly more diverse than where I grew up and so I think a lot of American students have more of a cultural understanding then maybe some of the news and media around Americans kind of promote. But what would you say are maybe some cultural differences that some of our international students should be thinking about whether it’s linguistic differences or making friends with, you know, even some of the diverse cultures we have in this area.

Giovanna: Yeah, I think, being on the other side. Right? Because I do, I am like I, I was raised here in America, so I feel like I am very well acquainted with like American like traditions, cultural norms. I think one of the first things that I remember, like one of my best friends now in my cohort in in grad school, he’s, he’s from Korea, and I just remember, like him and there’s there’s actually 2 of them we call him the twins, and I just remember, like my friend and I, we took them, it also, like it goes back to like the being shy right? We noticed right off the back that one of them specially, one of them, his accent was a lot thicker. The other one had lived in the States before, so he under, he it like English, was more like, felt more comfortable, he felt more comfortable, speaking English, and so we noticed that right away, and I think one of the things that we really, that my friend and I made sure was to always just like go with their level of comfortability when speaking, and I, I remember that the first, like lesson was being comfortable with correcting us on his name. I was like you have to. They’re like in like, like, don’t be scared like just correct people on your name, like, if we’re saying it wrong, like teach us how to say it correctly, and you have to like do that with everyone else, because otherwise they’re just gonna assume that like, you don’t care, and it kind and if it bothers you like. I want like, I know I would want my name pronounced right. And so I remember that, like he immediately became a lot more comfortable with us after we like, you know, told him like, come on, just tell us like you know like, call us out when we’re telling you, when we’re pronouncing your name wrong, like cause, that was just like the most, I think easiest way to try and like get him to understand that, like we were really there for him, and like not, we weren’t going to like push him outside of what was comfortable for him. So I think, like knowing that, like coming coming as an international student. If you have a name that can be easily mispronounced. I think that’s one way to just like  I guess, assert yourself in a way, but also like, make those connections with other people. Because then I think after that we were like, Okay, so then, how do you pronounce this like, it became just easier for him to like have that comfortability with us to like, say to tell us that. And I remember in the beginning, he was so shy to speak around this and just like to say anything. And we were talking about this like during finals. We were all studying together, and I remember he said something to us. It was like a very smart remark, and we’re like, Oh, look at you all grown up like in the beginning., you barely said anything and now you’re so comfortable, you like even talk back to us. He’s like, yeah, because he’s like, I’m, I’m used to you guys now. And so I definitely think, I think like and it goes back to like being shy. I think what you were talking about earlier, sometimes like opposites attract, and I think that, like that is one of the best like matches is when you have an extrovert and an introvert like the extra, just like, if you’re an introvert allow yourself to be taken by the extrovert, because I think that he did that he trusted us enough to cause, we were more extroverted, obviously, but he trusted it enough to like, take him to the beach and like, show him like, okay, here in America like this is what like people do. And like one of the things I think was just how much people love In-N- Out like he was so confused about that. And I think another of the things that we told him. We’re just like in academic right, because he, like he had never been to the U.S. This was his first time in the U.S., and I told him, look just be very careful, like. I don’t know how it’s like in your country, but here, like, you know, plagiarism is a real thing. So just kind of like, be careful like when you’re sharing your work like how you share it. You don’t want anyone to take advantage of you, or, you know, like to not be too trusting, just because not everyone means well, and like they’re like, you don’t want to get caught up in any of that your first year. And then other things, It was just like I’m trying to think of like little sayings that I think we use often that sometimes he would get lost. 

Aimee: There are so many

Giovanna: Yeah, we could end up talking so fast. So like Bye Felicia. I remember the first time we use that in our group. He was like, who’s Felicia? Oh, sorry, sorry, you know. That’s just, you know, a way of saying like, get out of here like, you know you’re done talking, or, you know, kind of a way to just end, the conversation with someone he was like, Oh, okay, so I think, like, those are just some of the things that I think you don’t really think about, but sometimes when it, because, like, when you understand those little like idioms or sayings. When people say them in class, then it just becomes easier for you to understand. But I think, like most of all. I’m really big on, just like allowing yourself, if you know you’re a shy person and you know, you’re gonna struggle with like being out there, especially because it’s your first time in the country. Just be open to like someone from the States like taking you and just knowing that it, you know it would be. It’s gonna be like, it may develop into a wonderful friendship, because now we we do have like this really great friendship. Where, like he jokes around with us now, and he’s very comfortable, like talking back to us, and putting us in our place, and just like regular friends do. Where you we didn’t really have that in the beginning, because there were, even the like, I think one of the biggest cultural differences was like the gender, like gender roles. And so that was one of the things that we told them. We’re like in America, we’re feminists, we do explain to him that, like it’s it’s not like generalized to everyone, of course, but like you know, for our group. We’re like, stop, you know, you can hang out with us like it, does it, they don’t need to be these specific gender roles attached. Like we’re a little more on the liberal side in our friend group. So you can, you know, allow us to like kind of teach you these like things. So just to make it more comfortable here in in Southern California. But I don’t think we had any issues other than that, even when we welcomed like other like, when we started welcoming other people into our group throughout the year.

Aimee: Yeah, I think one of the big things and you brought this up is like you having an open mind when you come here to being friends with someone from a different culture, whether that’s an American or maybe another international student from another place. But also, I think there is this perception that us Americans are very close minded in being open to other cultures, or even learning in someone’s name. I know a lot of people come in and they’re like, oh, I have an English name, and it’s like, do you have an English name because you think we don’t want to learn? Or do you have an English name because you prefer it? I do have some students are like, I just prefer to be able to like, choose my own name and and have that be like my identity. And that’s totally fine. But if you pick a different name, because you’re like they’re just never gonna learn to pronounce it. Teach people how to pronounce it. There’s actually a new I think you can put it in your email, so you can also put it on like canvas, that is a tool that helps people learn how to pronounce your name properly (Aimee couldn’t remember the name but it is called NameCouch and you can learn more here) and so that is part of a step that UCI is making to move towards an inclusive environment for people to not feel the need to have some other name just for the sake of maybe some Americans that weren’t maybe as open in the past. But I would say, Irvine students are usually pretty excited and open to learn more about your culture and to learn more about yeah, how to pronounce your name, how to pronounce other things. And so I think, coming in and being like, okay, I’m gonna be okay with teaching people something about me and my name and my culture is really important. I think to a lot of students, we’ll meet people through clubs that maybe share a cultural bond. So maybe you’re really into k-pop or anime or salsa dancing, or something that like ties to your cultural identity. And you can go to these clubs and maybe meet some American students who also have this interest in something that’s culturally relevant for you. But you also could meet some other students maybe from your same country that would make you feel like you have a partner here that understands what it’s like to be far away from home. And so I think those are some ways to kind of connect through cultural differences, finding something that you all have in common. And you all have something in common, your grad students at UCI, so at the bare minimum, you have something in common with other students here and that’s always a good starting point like you mentioned just asking questions about class or commenting on something that someone said in class is a great starter, because you’re in that class together, and you’re showing interest in something that they brought up. So, I think those are really great ways to to get over some fears of maybe what those cultural differences could do in friendships. We’ve kind of touched on this a little bit, but I think the last question that we’ll go over is, I think, a lot of our students come in feeling nervous about their English and I like to mention that there’s a linguistic diversity within Southern California and if you’re like, I have an accent, they’re gonna know that I’m not an American. I never assume that someone who has an accent is not an American, because we have a lot of immigrants, we have a lot of students who maybe, didn’t speak English until they went to school because they grew up in a home where English wasn’t spoken. I have lots of friends who are Americans who are born here that have an accent because they are bilingual or speak multiple languages at home. So what would you say for someone that’s maybe nervous about their English in terms of still being able to connect and make friends.

Giovanna: Yeah, I think first of all GIC is like the perfect opportunity, because we have groups like on we have the Discord group, and you know you’ll have, like a Whatsapp, which is like more international, friendly and I think that’s one of the best ways to bypass that nervousness of speaking the language because a lot of what I’ve noticed is like my Korean friends. They, they’re spoken English may not be as great, but they’re written in English like they, you would never guess like when we first connected via Whatsapp. That was the for that was our first connection. I would never would have guessed that there oral like or spoken English, wasn’t as perfect as the way that they would write out their sentences. So I think that that’s one way to start is to like make connections. Is you want to put yourself out there, especially in the group chats, or as events are up and coming, you say, like, you know, put out a couple of sentences there like, make yourself known in the sense that, like you are welcoming of friends, or you do want to make those connections. And at the events, if you’re not as you know, if you’re still nervous, like a brief Hello! A brief like, you know. I think just like your typical sentences of just like, How are you? Or you know this this event is pretty cool and then let, there’s always I can guarantee you that there’s always gonna be one person in like, if you’re in a group of people, there’s always gonna be one person that’s gonna take the conversation and like, run with it. Like, I’m a talker. So I’m usually one of those people. If I notice that, like, you know there’s people around me that are shy and quiet, and you don’t want that awkward silence like, I always like to start off a conversation and I think like you can still be included at your own comfortability. Like not having to speak as much as you want to, but definitely don’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t let my fears of someone like assuming that you’re not American and hold you back because you’re coming to like one of the best places in the country, which is Southern California, its full of immigrants. It’s full of like multicultural people and multilingual people. And it’s just like you just never know like I, tt’s like Aimee just mentioned. So you just mentioned. I never assume that someone’s not an American because I grew up here in SoCal, where you know my neighbors were like, one of my really good neighbor friends, childhood friends with Cambodian, so I always heard them like speaking their native tongue, and I was just like that was just normal to me. And that’s how you’re gonna find a lot of people here at like at UC Irvine, that it’s very similar to that. If you, once you start like going outside of Irvine, you start stepping out, you go to grocery stores. If you go to the movies, you start seeing that it is a, you’re in a, you’re in a part of the country where there’s like multiple languages being spoken from like many different cultures so don’t be afraid that it, you know, if it’s a comfort level, I completely understand. Just stick to like messages in the beginning until you become more comfortable. But if it’s just the fear of being like outted as a, not an American like, don’t let that hold you back because you’re, I think you’re in one of the best places to be coming in the U.S. Like I I love Southern California. I don’t think, you know, I just think you’re so lucky to be to be here. And it’s, it’s gonna be okay.

Aimee: Yeah, I will say, I think one of the things is like a lot of us Americans talk really fast. so don’t be afraid to to ask people to slow down. Hey,I’m, I’m new here. I’m maybe jet lagged, too, you know. Maybe right when you’re here and someone’s talking, and you’re like I’m half asleep. I’m really overwhelmed and overstimulated by being in this new environment. People aren’t gonna be like, oh, I’m not gonna slow down for this person. A lot of us will really try hard to talk slower and make sure you can still engage in conversation, but also don’t be afraid to ask. You know, we talked about like those idioms, so sayings that we have. Don’t be afraid to ask what someone means by something, either. A lot of students have told me that they come with and very good like you mentioned, like written skills more academic related. So they don’t know a lot of the just kind of like weird terms and things that we say here, so don’t be afraid to ask like I don’t know what you mean by that. I will say my husband’s been in the U.S. for 10 years now, and there are still things that sometimes I’ll say like just a random American, very classic saying, and he’ll be like what?! And I’m like, oh, I guess I haven’t used that in the last 10 years with you. So I think those are important things to remember is, no matter how long people have been here or even coast to coast. I’ll have friends from the East Coast that will say something I’m like. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. So it’s not just a oh, I’m an international student, and so I don’t know what someone means by this saying. Sometimes other people don’t either, and, and sometimes this younger generation says things. And I’m like, I now feel really old because I don’t know what you’re saying. So those are definitely things that we all have just kind of come to accept as a normal part of conversation. What?!?! Is, is fine to just ask someone what they mean by something and and don’t feel shy about doing so, cause it’s a learning experience for people as well, and that will definitely get easier with time. Depending on how long your program is and how long you’ll be here. That was everything that we had to cover any last tips or thoughts for people.

Giovanna: Yeah, I think, just reiterate that, you know, come in with an open mind, open heart. Especially like if this is your first time in the U.S. Don’t let anything about what the media may have portrayed, or the way that you know Americans are portrayed like outside of the U.S., scare you, or like hinder your ability to make new connections, make friendships, because I think that we are a very like, if it, whatever you, whatever you put out is what you’re going to attract. And so I’m a strong believer that like when I came to UCI, even if, even though I had like I was raised here. I was still very nervous. I didn’t know anyone in Irvine. but I came in with an open mind and an open heart, and I felt like I attracted that for me. I attracted great friendships. I attracted genuine people, and definitely I agree like I was raised here, and I am still learning what like certain sayings mean idioms. Like generation like I’m I’m a millennial, and I have now friends that are Gen Z and I’m like I have no idea what you just said, so you need to explain that to me. So just don’t be afraid to like speak up for yourself to ask questions like, definitely ask questions. I’m still asking questions like, I’m, I’m only been here one year, and I’m still asking questions. But just reiterate the fact that, like what you know, if you come here with an open mind and an open heart like you’re gonna find genuine friendships, connections that are. Gonna get you through. your time here at UC Irvine. It may not happen within the first week, or even the first month, but just don’t give up. Go to the events like, especially the  GIC events that are gonna the upcoming this fall. Go there! That’s like the perfect place to make at least your, your buddy like to have that person to be on a buddy system. But yeah, definitely. if you’re shy like, I said, we allow the extroverts to take you in and then, you know, eventually you may just be shy in the beginning. You may be an extrovert all along. It just takes that that beginning, that, so. Yeah. Otherwise, I’m really excited for everyone. And I hope that this, you know, this beautiful journey is like, works out the best.

Aimee: Yeah and I think the last piece of advice that I would have is, don’t be afraid or turned off by rejection. You know you might meet someone that there is not a good connection with, or that maybe already has their own friend group, and they’re not really looking for other people. So if you have one bad experience with an American or with another student, don’t be like oh, no one wants to be my friend or Americans are all terrible. There are just different types of people, right? So you want to meet those people like you said that you have a general, genuine connection with then that that you can really build a good friendship with. So while I feel that most of your interactions will be really positive. If someone doesn’t reciprocate wanting to actually like get together or meet up. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a good time having a conversation with you at an event. It might just mean that their priorities are elsewhere. And just try making another connection with other people. But yeah, I’m excited to meet all of you at our events in this fall and we hope to help you build those connections and enjoy your time here at UCI. Thank you for joining us today. 

Giovanna: Thank you, Aimee. Good luck everyone.

Transcript of Podcast #12: Travel Deals

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Sukriti Kapur (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. I say this pretty frequently, but this is one of my favorite topics. I love to travel, and I think it’s very important to get a good deal when you’re traveling, especially when you’re a grad student or recently graduated. It is expensive, but we all deserve to take the time out to do something for ourselves. And so I’m really excited today to talk about travel deals and we’ll definitely talk about credit cards, travel points, things like that. Maybe some cheap places to go to in the local area. My name is Amy Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I am joined today by Sukriti. And I’ll have you introduce yourself.

Sukriti: Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me, Aimee. I’m Sukriti. I’m a third year, I’ve finished my third year now, so I’m a rising fourth year. Well, that sounds scary. I’m a rising fourth year in the Department of Chemistry. So my work is in atmospheric chemistry, and I work on the health effects of aerosoles, basically studying the active oxygen species and their potential to cause damage to the human body in different ambient environments. So I’ve been for work to Alaska and I’m working on projects with local communities around here. So that’s a little about me. And I’m excited to talk to you today about all the travel deals that I have used or know of briefly.

Aimee: Yeah, I think time flies when you’re in grad school. I remember finishing my first year and being like, I think I just started it, It feels so quick. So I’m sure heading into your fourth year is probably surprising. And yeah, you’ve gotten to travel for some of your research. And that is one thing that a lot of students end up doing is, it might be research related, or maybe going to a conference or gathering together with the group that’s also doing your research in some form. And, and so I think, finding good deals on a student budget is really important for more business or professional development. But it’s alsofor fun. So we’ll talk about kind of the mix of that. I know I always try and find the deals when I travel for work, even though I’m not paying out of my pocket maybe in some of these cases. I still want to be mindful of the way that I purchase things.

Sukriti: Exactly

Aimee: So I think the first thing that we’ll jump into is, where can I find good student travel deals?

Sukriti: So my go to website that I recently found out is called Student Universe and they will have some flights that the usual airline websites will not and that is specifically for students or you know, anyone in academia, although they don’t check so anyone can essentially go through them. And a lot of times the flights that you will not see say Southwest. I was trying to book a flight recently, and Southwest Airlines did not have the same flight that these guys had, and I was able to book through them. They have like, I think the starting maybe 10% discount in the beginning, but also the flights are, significantly cheaper for any location that you want. So I’ve made the mistake of booking last minute for some conferences, and that wasn’t the smartest, but I was still able to find a decent deal here. But I think there’s only one catch that, If you have to cancel or reschedule, you have to contact them, and not the airline. So that might get a little you know, like too much effort, but otherwise, I feel like they were pretty good. So that’s my first go to place. Otherwise I’ll use booking.com, or just the regular airline like websites and that’s what’s fine for me. But I don’t know if you have more websites that you refer to.

Aimee: I usually start with Google flights. I know it’s not like specific for like discounts for students or academics. But I usually just start with Google flights because I feel like you get a good variety of who’s flying to the location.

Sukriti: You can map it out. That’s a good start too.

Aimee: Exactly and I feel like that’s helpful. I know I flew to Washington D.C., recently, and there’s like a tiny airport actually in Central Washington, D.C. or at least the closer. And then there’s another one that’s like half hour away, and then another one that’s an hour away, and I’d never been before, so I was so confused when I was searching on like Southwest or Delta, or American, like just trying to search on big sites, just  to try and find a good deal. And then I was reminded by my husband to check Google flights. And I was like, oh, I can see the different airports, and then calculate like, how much would it take me to get from the train into Washington, D.C., from this airport like, how much is that going to add, is it to worth the hassle for the time? And it was like $400 cheaper, and it was $2 to take the train. So it was like, well, obviously, that’s where it a little additional time.

Sukriti: Perfect!

Aimee: So yeah, I think that the mapping on like Google flights is helpful. Some airlines don’t pop up. I fly Southwest pretty frequently, and they usually don’t pop up on Google flights Sometimes they’ll show you the flight, but it won’t show you the price, so that you have to go to their website. And sometimes the price on Google flights is not what you find on the website. It’s cheaper or more expensive. but I would say, yeah, those are kind of

Sukriti: even Sky Scanner  is pretty good in that sense. If you’re trying to find an international deal or something just flying out it, it will get help you get a sense of all the options that you have.

Aimee: Yeah and I I think there’s also I follow because I’m constantly looking for both like deals, or how to get more points or deals on getting more points. I follow these 2 youtubers, Kara and Nate, and they travel a lot and they’ve traveled internationally and kind of domestically within the U.S. And they created an email called The Daily Drop. And I subscribe to that email and they send all sorts of things about like credit cards that some people might be eligible for, sometimes it’s tips on like when to book. And so I’ve signed up for them, because I I really enjoy reading through, sometimes they give suggestions on places to go that maybe wouldn’t have been something I thought about before, or like tips on taking everything in a carry on. Cause some of these cheaper airlines will charge you a lot of money for baggage or even for a carry on so like, how can you fit it into a personal item? So they give really good tips on that. So sometimes Youtube will help me find a good place. But yeah, I follow the Daily Drop because I really, yeah, I really enjoy some of, their funny, too. They make it fun to think about travel hacking. 

Sukriti: That’s nice, I had no idea.

Aimee: So that’s another suggestion is like finding some of those places or emails that, subscribe to emails that might be able to help you with that. I don’t know of any other big companies that give discounts for students in particular, on flights at least. But sometimes you can find student discounts on different types of transportation.

Sukriti: I think just to, just to add to that like, of course, credit cardsand all. And I’m gonna sign up for this website. It is a smart idea to start a new credit line, if you want to, before any big travel or any big purchase. And I learned that over time. But because credit score was not a thing back home, and you don’t have to worry about these things. But if you wanna improve your credit score and spend a lot of money on a single card. It’s always a good idea to get a new credit card before you know you’re gonna fly or spend a lot of money. I was able to rack up so many points on my card when I went to Alaska just because they had, like 3% cash back on every Lyft ride you took or flights. And I recently got the Chase Sapphire, which is one of the best cards for travel deals because I was like, okay, I need to fly to see my partner very frequently. And he was like, okay, we can just put like the the flights of this card, and then you know, see how we want to do the finances on that. But it’s a pretty good card they have, like 2 times the reward points. They have some annual fee, but again, if I’m racking up these points, and I can reuse them for like hotel bookings or something else, I think it’s worth it. And so, even for leisure, or like, you know, things like that, I think it’s a good idea to start a credit card and like, get one like, look it up, which one works best for you and just use that.

Aimee: Yeah and some of them have lounge access. 

Sukriti: Yeah.

Aimee: When I got a credit card with lounge access I was like, this is for my husband, it’s not for me. But when I fly without him I still go to the lounge because it’s quiet, there’s places to plug in, I can work, I can fill up my water bottle for free without having to like pay for really expensive airport water, or get some snacks for free from the lounge so, if you can get it credit credit, it definitely helps with some of those really big layovers. One of my recommendations to people when they’re coming to Irvine is Santa Ana is a much easier airport to fly into and get to UCI. But it’s not an international airport. So if you can land and have a good long lay over somewhere else in the U.S., and then fly into Santa Ana. You’re gonna find it much easier to get to campus. So I always recommend that. So if you have a credit card that has, like a lounge access being able to fly somewhere, and maybe, maybe it’s a quick time that you get through customs before your next flight, and now you have a couple of hours, and you’re like, now, what am I gonna do? Well, you can go sit in the lounge and relax and enjoy some snacks or food. So I think that that’s definitely something that I would consider if you’re like, I want to build up credit. I’m gonna be in the U.S., maybe for a while, I’m gonna travel for work, or I’m gonna travel for, you know, going home and coming back, I want to have better time at the airport for sure. 

Sukriti: Definitely

Aimee: Yeah, so definitely things that I would recommend. And you can yeah, like you said. Some of them have really good points, like 2 times purchases, gives you a bunch of points that you can use for maybe upgrading yourself on a really long flight to business class, so you can relax a little bit or buying a trip that you didn’t expect to be able to do. Last year we got to go see my brother in law with points like we paid for our flight to the points, and we weren’t expecting to have the ability to afford to go. But it was a good deal one day, and we could use our points for that. And it was like, okay, this is why we have travel points. 

Sukriti: That’s nice yeah

Aimee: So definitely recommend it and we should have a podcast at some point on credit scores like what’s the importance, we’ve talked about in a couple of other podcasts or we will depend on when they get when they get posted. One like buying a car things like that. So you definitely want to look into doing something to build up a credit score. And the better your credit score is, the more likely you are to be eligible for some of the higher travel credit cards. So definitely things to look into. It’s changed a lot of the ways that I travel. It used to freak me out to travel long travel trips, but having lounge access and being able to get through the airport a little easier. I feel much come much more comfortable with traveling, and I enjoyed a lot more. So definitely, it was good option. So we talked about travel deals kind of where to start and looking for some good deals. But there are some cheaper airlines for travel. So what are some of the pros and cons of of some of these cheaper airlines? And are there any specific ones you would recommend?

Sukriti:  I think I, the cheapest I’ve flown is Southwest, which is also not the cheapest, but I know Spirit is one of the cheaper ones. I think I’m not sure, I don’t think Jet Blue is cheap. There’s another one that I cannot recall. 

AimeeFrontier 

Sukriti: Yes, right!

Aimee: Yeah, Frontier

Sukriti: Frontier and Spirit are the ones that I’ve heard of. I have never used their services. But  I think the biggest pro is that they’re cheap, and you’re in grad school, you’re always trying to find the best deals for travel that are cheap and don’t burn a hole in your pocket, and that’s all of us. But I think the con is that they will cancel any time, they will allow only one backpack and not even a cabin bag. So you know, one personal item or one cabin bag is not allowed just like they’ll tell you if you one backpack, and that’s it. But I have had friends who have like taken these flights to Vegas or North California somewhere San Francisco, and it’s worked out for them. But again, I would not suggest taking these for any professional events like, if you’re going for a conference, if you’re going for a job, situation, or anything. I would say you should avoid them, because if they cancel last minute you don’t want to like look for last minute stuff and then get stressed more than you already are. So I think for personal travel, If you know, if in the chance that this flight gets canceled you can find another one that’s fine. One of my friends regularly use a Spirit to like fly to SF (San Fransico) or Vegas, for that matter, and he’s not faced so much of the problem. But I’ve had friends who’ve complained that Spirit canceled, and then they’ll put you on another flight, that’s like hours later. So you’re stuck in the airport.

Aimee: Yeah

Sukriti: But that’s mostly their benefit is that you’ll get like a $50 or $60 trips to nearby places, but you have to be mentally prepared, of what if they cancel it?

Aimee: Yeah and they charge you for everything. Selecting your seat. So if you’re traveling with a group, and you all want to sit together. You you have to pay for it. They charge you for water like they don’t have any free drinks. That is one of the things Southwest is generally cheaper than most other flights, like Delta, American, Alaska, it’s usually one of the cheaper ones. Southwest has 2 free baggage items, plus we can have like.

Sukriti: That’s the best part

Aimee: I love that part. I fly southpest all the time for that, because I over pack regularly, and if you’re traveling for a conference with a bunch of materials, you want those usually in your carry on, so then, where do you put all your clothes if you’re trying to travel light. So I always recommend Southwest for that. And then yeah, I’ve flown Spirit and Frontier. I think it was like $39 for me to fly to Vegas one time to to visit family and but yeah, it was like trying to shove everything for a 5 day weekend into a backpack, was like well doing laundry at your house, because I only can bring a very small amount of things. And I haven’t had them cancel on me, but they did cancel on my husband one time. Santa Ana airport is a great small little airport. It’s not open very late, because they don’t want planes flying over the neighborhoods past 10o’clock. And so his flight got delayed to 9:55 and they basically cancelled it because they were like, if we can’t take off before 10, we can’t take off and so he had to travel the next day to, he was going to New York with them. So he ended up paying for a really expensive last minute flight. So yeah, they definitely have issues but I think if you’re going for a little short trip, they’re usually pretty good, but you can expect usually some some delays and older planes, not being able to sit together, those are definitely some of the negatives but for a last minute trip to some place nearby like you said, like Northern California, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix. They’re pretty affordable for those places. One of the other things I think that people don’t generally like to fly them for is because their flights aren’t direct, Southwest or any of these other. They do little small jumps. So I’ll fly up to Washington, and I have to stop in North, Northern California and then go from Northern California to Washington. So it lengthens the amount of travel time which can be kind of annoying, especially if you’re going across the U.S. Like all the way to New York on Southwest, there’s at least going to be 2 stops. So those are things to think about. The direct flights are going to be closer to where you currently live, but but you get 2 free bags, so I enjoyed them for that. 

Sukriti: I think a lot of times if you book Southwest from LAX, you can save travel time. Like it will have maybe one stop instead of 2. Only is challenges for you to get from here to LAX and if you’re traveling in a group and you get a cab, the cost kind of gets split up. 

Aimee: So yeah, definitely, I always look when I’m flying anywhere, especially with Southwest out of Southern California. I look at San Diego, which, with traffic, sometimes takes the same amount of time as getting to LAX, LAX, Long Beach, Burbank, and San Ana. So Long Beach and Burbank also fly Southwest. 

Sukriti: Yeah, there’s also the Ontario airport. 

Aimee: Oh, yeah, I was gonna say, I’m missing somebody. Ontario. Yeah. So those ones are, Santa Ana is going to be the closest. But the other ones are also really great options for Southwest in particular, to kind of just look around at prices. I mean, you can check into your incoming airport, too, and I’ve flown up to Northern California, even if I’m going to San Francisco. Sometimes I’ve flown into Oakland or Sacramento, and just like rented a car and finished the rest of the drive, because sometimes it’s been that much cheaper than flying directly into certain airports.

Sukriti: Well, that makes sense. yeah, I think the other airports are less crowded than LAX. So there are like options for you to find cheaper flights and not have to worry about getting to LAX and dealing with all of that mess.

Aimee: Exactly, and San Diego, from what I remember, is an international airport. So you may be able to find some international flights are a little cheaper out of there. I have had friends that have done like a Southwest flight up to maybe like Seattle or San Francisco, and then stayed overnight, and then like a day trip up there and then flown internationally because it was significantly cheaper than doing a flight out of LAX. So look around, I think that’s a big one, too, is could I do a whole trip in New York and have a a day there, and have taken a cheaper airplane to the East coast, and then take in a flight from a New York airport into Europe, or wherever else I’m looking to go, so I think, don’t just look at direct flights. Think about other things you might want to do if you’re looking around. We’ve talked a lot about air travel. We’ve talked about renting cars in some of our podcasts. I do a lot of road trips like renting maybe more gas efficient car than I have. We rented a Tesla recently and charged it late at night, and saved quite a bit of money, charging it at different times day of the day at a Supercharger, and drove out to Las Vegas. But we do have a rail system here in the U.S. it is different than many other countries, it’s not always the most convenient but how does our rail system differ from other places? I know Amtrak is kind of the the main kind of train that we use here.

Sukriti: Yeah, so I come from a city that has an extensive network, extensive public transport. We had buses, we had 3 wheelers on the street like you would just stop a vehicle and ask them to take you places, you have cabs. We had a very, very extensive metro system and so this was pretty much the one of the biggest culture shocks that I got here, because, and I also had a car back home, and the driving was on the other side, so I was like, okay, like, you know, what, what could be the worst thing, I’ll just like, use the public transport, I’ll you know, make less air emissions, and just not pollute as much. But then I come here, and the minimum, you have to walk to get something is 20 min. And I was like, okay, well, time to learn driving again. So I did not have a car for the first 2 years of grad school, or one and a half year because I was busy settling in, sorting my license, practicing driving, and then purchasing a car, all of which takes time. But I think about the Amtrak, I’ve used our services a bunch of times, and they haven’t disappointed. So some of my friends have had complaints that they, you know, be delayed or canceled, not canceled, but just be the delayed. And I did not face that problem in the period of time that I used them. So with Amtrak, I’ve travelled to San Diego for a day trip that was great. There are fix timings, you can cook it on the app, and then I was a member, so they would like, you know, like I, it’s everything’s on the app, it’s super convenient. And then they also have services where they’ll take you with the train and then take you like, they put you on a bus and then take you to your destination. So I’ve visited Solvang once, that we that was a nice, I think, overnight stay that we did just get to Santa Barbara, and then they, like a bus, will be waiting for you to take you to Solvang. And then that’s how you get back. And the Irvine Amtrak station is maybe like a 15 min drive from campus. So that’s convenient to and then I have family who lives like north of L.A. So they were like really helpful. When I got here they picked me up from the airport and dropped me, but like I cannot expect them to come, drive 2 and a half hours every time I want to see them, or they want to see me. So usually during my break,  I’ll take the Amtrak for like the early morning, or like late evening, once I’m done with work. And my aunt and uncle could usually pick me up from the train station, which is again 10 min away for them. And then I can just come back after the weekends down or as much as I want to stay for. So I’ve honestly had a pretty good experience with Amtrak, it’s pretty clean, they have a a cafeteria, and you can get your food and stuff and it’s comfortable. And I’ve heard if you go from here to North California, they have very well scenic views, because they go really close to the PCH, or like just on, like next to the ocean. So I’ve heard those are great views. But apart from that, I’ve not really used Amtrak services outside of you know California, to be precise. I don’t know, I think they have deals outside of California. 

Aimee: Yeah, I used them recently when we went to Washington, D.C., for my conference. I wanted to, I’d never been to the East Coast before I grew up in the U.S., but I spent a lot of my time traveling around the West Coast by car, doing a lot of road trips growing up and camping and so I’d never been to New York, and it was like a couple of $100 flight from Washington, D.C., to New York, which is crazy because it was like an hour. It was really not that much, but we were able to get $15 Amtrak tickets from Washington, D.C. to New York City and that was is, that’s crazy deal like normally, that ticket was like 50 to 100, so we got it at like the perfect time. The late night one, so it was like, okay, you know, that’s why it’s cheap, because no one’s using it. And our our Amtrak was delayed, I think an hour, hour and a half, and it was already late at night, so we were kind of frustrated in that space. But, but yeah, I, I would say it’s everywhere. So if you’re going to a conference in a big city, and you’re like I’d like to see another city nearby, or I have family nearby. I recommend Amtrak. I do think they have good deals and and much like a lot of the airlines, if you sign up and get like loyalty to them, which we can talk about a little bit, too. Amtrak will give you points when you travel with them, and then you can maybe use those for upgrades or even tickets in the future. I know I have a lot of friends that do the LA to Irvine sometimes for work. I’ve got friends that live in LA and take Amtrak out for work. So I think there definitely are some, some really good options, and I think sometimes they have student deals and discounts, so you can always check and see if they have anything available at the time.

Sukriti: Exactly, yeah, UCI at some point was given like 3 Amtrak or Metrolink tickets. And if you book by a certain date you could like book for anywhere. I never used those, but I know, because I tried to, and I had nowhere to go. And I was like hmm let’s keep on that. But yeah, about that traveling to nearby cities. I think that’s very helpful, and it reminded me. Last year I was in Baltimore for work, and then me and my friend took the train to D.C., for the day, and then again on the weekend. So it was nice, it was a 3 hour train ride, it’s done before you know it, and it’s a good way to travel more and not have to like go back on the other coast. like, take an extra flight.

Aimee: Exactly. That’s what we were like, when our when also we’re gonna want to fly all the way to New York, we might as well do it now. So if you’re, if you’re over in a conference, and there’s something couple of hour Amtrak ride. The I think the benefit is, you don’t have to go to the airport, the big hassle of that. You could definitely take more luggage. We had, each of us had 2 suitcases, plus a backpack, plus a bag of groceries, so, that we had stocked up on snacks, when we were in Washington, D.C. So I I think, yeah, being able to bring a little bit more, be able to bring your own water like those kinds of things. 

Sukriti: That’s definitely useful because, how I like to travel as if I’m going some place for work, I can always extend it over the weekend and you know, travel to a nearby place. So I’ve done D.C. that way, I was in North Carolina last time, but I didn’t. I didn’t stay for longer, but this year I’m going to Portland for work, and I was like, okay, I’ll definitely take 2 more days and go around the National Parks there. I think that’s very helpful and usually, if your tickets being reimbursed, it won’t really matter if you book a return for Friday versus Sunday. So that’s something you should speak to your PI with. But yeah.

Aimee: Usually what they’ve done for me with work, because very similarly, I traveled to Washington, D.C., for a work conference, and so I just had to show them that the ticket from New York on a Saturday was cheaper than flying back from Washington, D.C. on a Friday and so they were like, as long as it’s cheaper then we’ll reimburse you, for whenever you return. So I think that’s mostly how people do it, but you definitely want to check in before you start booking things. 

Sukriti: Yeah, yeah definitely

Aimee: So yeah, Amtrak, always a great option, we talked in another, podcast like, I said before, about renting a car, so you can always rent a car and and do little drives to, but Amtrak is nice, as most of you that are used to public transportation know, not having to think and just being able to sit down and relax and do your own thing is really nice, especially if you’ve been busy at a conference, and you just want to zone out and not have to think about anything. 

Sukriti: And if you’re like, completely new to the U.S., like I was, I think, and if you don’t have friends who have cars who are taking you around, there are places around that you can take day trips to like Solvang wwas one, and then there’s San Juan Capistrano, which is a nice little town, it’s good like brunch spots, and they have the mission there, and you can, you know, go in the morning, come back. I’m sure they have options, or even San Diego, so, or LA, and that’s how you can travel and a lot of me and my friends, did that when we didn’t have cars and yeah, and you don’t feel like you’re landlocked. And there are options, even though they are limited, bu there are options.

Aimee: And we will have a podcast on some of the ways to to use the Amtrak system, for like local things, like getting around to Irvine and Southern California. But I agree, I think, just for a little short day trips. Solvang is adorable. It’s such a cute little place I haven’t been in a while, so you’re making me want to go back. But yeah, I think the Amtrak ride there is, like you said, right on the ocean and the one down to San Diego is pretty close to the ocean as well. That is one thing Amtrak is known for is a lot of really beautiful drives. So even if you’re like, oh, it’s gonna take me an extra 2 days to go to Denver on Amtrak, or whatever, because it is extended time. It’s gonna be slower than flying. Is it going to be beautiful though? Are you gonna want to just relax for a while? Kind of see some of the U.S., that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see. That definitely is another option. Some people in the U.S., will take an Amtrak route just for seeing the sites along the way, and then they will fly back. They don’t even. They’re not even heading towards a specific destination. So that’s always an option to get out and see some of the beautiful landscapes that we have here. So Amtrak, we talked about flying on some of those cheaper airlines, but they sometimes send out good deals? Are there any airlines that you think that have good deals and like, ow could you sign up to to learn more about those and get more emails from them?

Sukriti: I think we’ve discussed this as we were talking about it. But I’ve heard you rave about Southwest a lot, and even though I haven’t signed up for their deals, I always just sign in as guest and pay and leave but I think I really like them just because they have the 2 bag policy. They’re more reliable than any like of the Spirit or Frontier, and they are cheaper. So that’s really nice. And I think you can sign up for Southwest credit cards or the newsletter, I’m not sure if they have one. 

Aimee: Mmhmm they do.

Sukriti: Okay, perfect. So you would have that and then what else? How else can you sign up for those? Again, the the newsletter that you were talking about, that website looks pretty good. 

Aimee: Yeah, there’s some Instagram accounts and stuff, too. I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but I see them sometimes. So if you’re on social media, following certain airlines that you fly frequently, I know a bunch of my friends follow Southwest or also get the emails from them and they had a big deal on flights like 40% off flights to popular destinations and kind of the off season. So a bunch of my friends bought tickets to Hawaii and October because it was cheaper. And so I’m going to Maui in October because they had cheaper flights. It was like, yeah, it was 40% off. It was a crazy good deal. So southwest does that a lot? But some of the other airlines do, too. So if you’ve, you know, kind of flown something more frequently. Maybe you really like Delta signing up and creating an account so that they email you when there’s good deals and you rack up points for the miles that you fly with them that you can use for things in the future. I think those are always a good deals. A lot of times, they will have them around the holidays, too. They’ll have like a like around Thanksgiving in the U.S. There’s always deals on everything, and flights are flights and travel, or some of those too. So, keeping an eye out for just fun things you can do.

Sukriti: I was in Yellowstone this last weekend. It was such a good place. Oh, my God!

Aimee: Beautiful but stinks! Some some of the ponds really stink, but they’re beautiful. 

Sukriti: It’s really good. I’m like this. I could stay here, forever. But yeah. So me and my friends were looking at flights from LAX. This was Delta, and then we didn’t book them for a long time but then, when we got to booking, the flights were expensive. So one of my friends was smart enough to look up Ontario airport and that’s how we like, it was 3 of us flying from here so we could split the cab fares. But yeah, I think it’s super nice and then all that deals and everything you talk about, there are people on Youtube once Instagram, all these websites that will find you good travel deals.

Aimee: Yeah, absolutely

Sukriti: Sorry i’m a little  distracted. I got an email about being selected for a big fellowship. So I’m just telling

Aimee: Very exciting! Congratulations! That’s, now you have to celebrate by buying a a trip on Amtrak to go somewhere, or on a Southwest flight, there you go.

Sukriti: I just wasmessaging my PI on the side of like do youhave time to meet? And I see he’s marked on the email already, so I’m like, okay, he’ll know it.

Aimee: Very exciting. Yeah. I think one of the things that I’ve mentioned in a couple of podcasts is grad school can be really hard. You can get denied for a lot of things. It could be really stressful. You have moments of celebration. It is very important to not just be on campus all the time. When I hear students that are like, Oh, I’ve never really left Irvine. I’m like, what? What? What have you been doing? And it sounds so trapped.  But I get it’s hard and public transportation isn’t great, but I do encourage people to try and get out every once in awhile and do something new and adventurous. It doesn’t mean you have to go with the big group of people. You could go take a quiet Amtrak to San Diego on your own, and enjoy the beaches that are a little different than our kind of beaches here and then come back. And it would be a nice, just relaxing trip for you.

Sukriti: Yeah. So I think I personally like traveling a lot like I’ve done a lot of travel growing up, also, my mom works like for the railway system in India. So she had, like free travel tickets every year for the whole family, and that just meant we would travel a lot. And so I think I get the travel bug from her. So everywhere I am, I think it’s just, I want to go out explore. And while a lot of people don’t necessarily enjoy that, or ike that, I don’t blame them because I think, as much as you should see a place, it’s just different people like different things, and some of my friends are more, you know, like for me, it’s more like, Okay, am I willing to spend this much money for that experience? And it’s mostly like, yes. But for some people it’s not the same, and they don’t have a good group of friends that they want to travel with, because everyone has different habits, and I think a good way to know people is see how they travel. Even my closest friends like I’ll get annoyed with them if I travel with them at times but yeah, overall, I think it’s good, even if you don’t have a car, go on exploring places because grad school can get tough. And if you have like an idea that you know, okay, I’m gonna take a break or travel. If you like traveling. It’s going to be super nice, and you can get back refreshed, because last year I traveled a lot for work for, personal stuff, and so the whole year I was living from trip to trip. My first trips done next one is there. So I just need to be like working for one more month to more months. That’s how like it just kept me going better. And this year I hadn’t taken a trip for like the first 6 months and I was like, Okay, I’m ready to fly, please.

Aimee: Yeah. Yeah. And I think you know you talked a little bit about it, budget can be really hard. So that’s purpose of this conversation is to help those of you that want to travel or see some of the U.S., that maybe you haven’t gotten to see before, or if your first time here, it’s a very big country. There’s lots of different things to see and there’s things for anyone. Right? You have big cities. You have more rural areas with lots of farms. You have a lot of National Parks, we’re gonna record one today, actually on National Parks and California State Park. So there’s a lot of really amazing things to see in the U.S. So, taking the time out to do so, I would encourage. If you’re not much of a traveler, try to find one thing that you’re interested in seeing here whether it’s Washington, D.C., the capital, seeing where the President lives or New York City, is a pretty big travel destination for a lot of people. So it can be alongside work or research or conferences, or it can just be a break because you need a break, so I always encourage you to take take care of yourself. while you’re in grad school. I think that was everything. Any last thoughts on travel deals or traveling in general.

Sukriti: Not anything that I can remember of the top of my head, but just to summarize for everyone. Sign up for newsletters, look up bloggers on Instagram or Youtube, and you’ll find good deals, sign up for credit cards before trips. Then websites like Southwest will have their own newsletter, and offers that they have. I think they had like $40 flights at some point that they were  advertising. Then student universe is one good one that works for me. Amtrak is pretty good if you don’t want to fly, but you said you want to take the weekend to nearby places and I think, most importantly, take a break, grad school is tough. So don’t push yourself too much. If you feel like you need to get out of Irvine. Get out of Irvine.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely. Irvine is a beautiful town, 

Sukriti: It is.

Aimee: But sometimes you just to leave it. And and that’s great to do so and and explore around. So well, thank you for joining me today again. I love talking about travel, and we’re going to have to chat offline sometime about all the places you’ve seen, because I haven’t been to Yellowstone in awhile and I need to know what it’s like now.

Sukriti: It’s beautiful. I’m happy to share pictures for the Instagram blog also, if you want. 

Aimee: Yes, absolutely. Well thank you. Everyone for joining us. We hope this is helpful, and that you take our advice and get out and explore.


Sukriti: Yeah, thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #13: California State & National Parks

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Yang Yue (he/him)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the  GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and I am really excited for today’s topic. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this in like every single, podcast but this is one of my favorite things is, we talked about traveling and a few of our podcasts, but National Parks are some of my favorite places to travel to as well as our State Parks. And so that is what we’re going to talk about today, and I am going to pass it over to my co-host and have him introduce himself.

Yang: Hi, everyone. My name is Yang, I’m from China and currently, I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Software Engineering. And I’m also participating in like GIC for like over 4 years. So I’m kind of like return, like GIC mentor for this program and I really enjoy this process. And also, I’m also kind of excite you to this topic. We are talking about the National Parks and State Park in California, so we can also do enjoy the beauty natures while we are around and have some kind of time.

Aimee: Yeah. And we’ve talked about National Parks. You and I have talked about them, and we’ve talked about them with a few other mentors as well. It’s some of the most amazing places to visit in, in the U.S. So these National Parks are throughout the nation. Can you talk a little bit about what the National Park system is, what it looks like? Kind of more of a global sense of it.

Yang: Yeah, sure. So for the National Parks, they actually preserves the nationally and the globally significant areas and nature reserves. Like, for example, the Yellowstone was actually the first National Park in U.S., and so far we have 63 National Parks across the United States in total. And these National Parks, is actually managed by the National Park Agency. And an interesting thing is that besides this National Park, they also manage other places like National Monuments, which preserve a single unique, cultural or natural features, and also include some like National Preserve, National Reserves, National Historical Sites, and National Historic Parks. So they actually have a variety of a collection of places you can visit.

Aimee: Yeah, it, it can get confusing to, because some of them sound similar. So there’s like some National Forests, and sometimes the National Forest is named the same thing, or has a similar name as some of the other places. Sometimes the National Monuments are like next to a State Park or a National Park. So there’s lots of different opportunities for you to get out and see some of the places that we’re preserving as a nation. I know that 63 number just keeps growing. I have a National Park book that that we got in, I think 2019, 2018, and it had 60, 61 parks, I think, somewhere around there. So there’s been 2 additional parts that have been added since, since that timeframe. So you’ll hear about new National Parks. Generally the National Parks that get added have been like a National Preserve or part of a National Historical Site before, maybe a State Park that’s been now nominated to receive additional Federal funding in order to become a, a listed National Park. There’s a couple of really cool videos on like Disneyplus, I think, has some maybe Netflix that are about the National Park system, and, like you mentioned, it started with Yellowstone, and kind of how it’s grown and how we’re preserving these spaces from being used for logging or housing. and it’s not just something within the U.S. We’re really proud of our National Parks, but you’ll find National Parks and Preserves all over the world, as well. So it’s a very cool system to look into if you haven’t before. Lots of videos out there on it. There’s a lot of Youtube videos, too, about the history of certain parks or the larger scale. National Parks aren’t free, so the national funding that comes from the Federal Government to these parks does supplement it. But it’s also based on visitors coming to the park and enjoying the beauty of the landscape. Can you talk a little bit about some of the fees for the National Parks and the opportunity for a National Park Pass?

Yang: Yeah, sure. So first, they, they will provide like interagency pass, that’s usually like $80 so far. And that means within that the pass you can like have, you will have the access to most of the National Parks for free, so that, cause you already pay for the you don’t need to pay for the entrance fees again, and that’s, that’s your, the value for one year. So that means with $80 for one year you can visit as many National Parks that you want. That’s very convenient and well for some of us, probably that’ll be like exhausting to visit all like 60 National Park within one year. So if you want to like, just like follow your own pace and visit some National Parks, one by one each step, and they also provide the entrance pass that they will sell at the entrance station of the National Park, or with the visitor centers, and the the price is actually cheaper compared to the interagency pass. That’s your only like $10 to $30. That depends on the type of the vehicles your access like if you are just visit per person, that you’re like $10 per person. But if you’re visiting by vehicle like there’s driving your own car or rental car they will charge you $30 for this whole vehicle, and they won’t charge you separately for any visitors within the car. So the, that’s entrance pass, actually very convenient. So you can just go there with your friends just by one entrance pass and usually that past will be valid for 7 days, so the National Parks, tend to be very large, and sometimes it’s impossible for us to visit all of the places in the park for one day. So that means you can either camping inside the park, or you can just stay around the parks, and you can visit another day. So cause that’s a bit, that’s the pass is valid for 7 days, so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the beauty. Besides these passes, sometimes they also offer the fee free days like add some kind of the definitely holidays, like Veteran Days, or the first day of a National Park week. This National Park will be free for everyone. So you can just choose these days to visit, and you don’t need to pay for any like entrance fees. But you should know, that’s it’s usually be very popular for some National Parks so that could be crowded for that day. Besides these, like some of the parks like Joshua trees, they actually provide this annual entrance this single park. It’s currently charge you like $55. That means with that pass you can visit Joshua tree that single park within one year. So any any days you want within that one year. So in case you just have some, your favorite National Parks around, so you can just purchase that pass as well, and for the places you can either like purchase online from the National Park Service website. They provide that options there and, or you can just so like visit to the visitors centers or the park entrance of the National Park. You can also purchase a pass there.

Aimee: Yeah, I have the interagency pass because we try and at least go to a couple of them, and I always figure I’m supporting the National Park system in the nation that I live in, and so I’m always excited, even if I only go once or twice, go to maybe 2 different parks, and maybe that would have been $60 if I just went 2 of them. I’m at least giving $20 towards the National Park system this year, I’ve been to 4 Parks already, so I’m getting my money’s worth out of my annual past this year. But I know, like you said, if, if you’re just going to maybe take a one week trip to Joshua Tree, which is going to be the closest, or maybe go up north and see Sequoia, or the Redwood National Park, or Yosemite, is a really very crowded, but very popular and beautiful park. It’s a great option to just buy the single trip. A lot of people camp at these parks, too, and it can be really hard to get a reservation. I know we went to Yosemite in kind of an off season we went. I believe it was in like April or May, so it wasn’t the busiest season. Summer at National Parks is always going to be the busiest and we were able to get a campsite. But there was some flooding in one of the campsites, so they canceled one of our nights. So you do have to look at weather, road closures. The National Park website, you can select the park you’re going to, and it will give you any updates like road closures, warnings about bears in the area, or flooding at campgrounds things things like that. It’ll definitely give you some warning. So that’s always really helpful, as well. Have have you been able to go camping at any of the parks?

Yang: yeah, I actually went to Channel Islands if you heard that one, I camped there. So that’s a really like exciting different experience for me. And I think it’s also similar to most of the National Park, because we just to try our best to preserve that, that natural land. So there’s limited infrastructure there, like in most of the time when your in National Parks because you don’t have any cell phone surveys. So when that tips is, that’s just get all the necessary information, especially like, which road will be closed, which area is kind of dangerous, so risks you should just avoid, get that necessary information before you enter the park, because once you enter there is, will be limited or no cell phone service. So that means you don’t have any contacts like channel to the outside world. And for the camping. So you actually like, we reserved that line. So we just we, we actually need to like bag all our camping gears and carry to the Channel Islands and the they will actually give you a designated camp side you can just set up your tents and the stuff, so they will provide some like a water, there is like the water hose over there, so I can just use water to cooking and wash. But there’s no like shower or other facilities because it’s National Parks and unlike the fancy hotels.

Aimee: Yeah, I I’ve only ever seen showers at one National Park. Outside of some of them do have like bigger hotels in them that you could stay at if you’re not more, more of the camping, kind of person. But Shenandoah in Virginia had showers, and my husband and I were both shocked because we had never seen showers at a campground in a National Park before. But, like you said, it’s to preserve nature. So the purpose of the park is to be less intrusive on the natural land and to really protect the environment and that does come with some things that can be a little, we want to plan ahead. So things like bears. A lot of the parks in California are in the woods like Sequoia and Kings Canyon and the Redwoods, and Yosemite, bears, they have bear boxes where you put your food and any like toiletries that have a scent to them, because bears will eat your toothpaste to and they will break into your car. They will definitely get into your tent. And so you really want to be safe when you’re there. Make sure you’re following any of the rules and regulations. When you enter Yosemite they give you like a tag that says that you got the talk about the bear talk about what to do with your stuff. So just make sure that you’re listening to those, because people have been injured by wildlife at parks. You see it very commonly at places like Yellowstone. There are lots of different kinds of wildlife. So it’s about protecting the land and also the animals that live on the land. Understanding that this isn’t a zoo. These are natural animals in their habitat, and so you want to protect yourself and any children and pets. Some parks allow dogs to come with you. You have to be cautious about certain trails they might not allow. But there can be additional rules. for example, when I was at Shenandoah recently, again, that was in Virginia. The dogs that were in the park had to be on a leash that was less than 6 foot, so that your dog was close enough to you that if a bear came into your area that you and your dog could be protected and get away, so those are things you definitely want to look into. But our National Park system is very cool. In California, which we’ll talk about our State Parks, too. We have a lot of parks just in California. In general, we have a very diverse landscape here, and so we have very cool options for parks, and we kind of briefly mentioned a few of them. Yosemite, Channel Islands, Redwoods, Death Valley (Aimee forgot Pinnacles Lassen Volcanic National Parks). But Joshua Tree, I think, is, as you mentioned, it has the annual pass. I think it’s also one of the most popular ones that I see students go to. Can you talk a little bit about Joshua tree?

Yang: Yeah, because Joshua trees kind of popular like here around our campus, because first is kind of like a near on our campus side. It’s just on the east of Orange County, and it’s you’re usually around 3 hours drive from our campus to Joshua Tree. And it’s actually located within San Bernardino, and the Riverside counties. The unique part of the Joshua Tree is at first it is includes the 2 parts of the desert you might heard, like Mohavi Desert and Colorado Desert. So it’s created that unique landscape within the National Park. And also on the land, there’s like that’s a unique plan to call it Joshua Tree. That’s the park is actually named after that plant. You will see plenty of a joshua trees within the park. So that’s the very amazing. And you can barely see that plants anywhere else. And for the activities in the Joshua Tree, so besides the camping, that’s kind of normal for most of the of National Parks, you can also do some hiking because the landscape is different. There’s some kind of small hills. And also there’s some kind of desert. So you can just do hiking within different trails and also do the photography as they to different views and different plants. And also there are a lot of like the animals the actually creates that symbiotic areas within the park. So that’s interesting. If you are like the expert in biology or interested in that part, you can just find a lot of like semi-biotic areas within the parkland. For some of the sports friends, and they could also do the rock climbing because they have various places for the rock climbing side, but just to make sure to follow the rules and policies and make sure about your safety, while doing this exercise. And another amazing thing about Joshua Tree is that it’s it’s kind of a large National Park and far away from the towns, so it would be less affected by the air pollution around the cities. So that’s it’s a perfect place to do the stargazing. If we have any audience, that’s interested in that activities. So you can just takes any, take a lot of pictures about the stars and even galazies at the correct the time of the year. And another like amazing thing about the stargazing in Joshua Tree that, Joshua Tree National Park is actually open at 24 hours, and if you enter the park at night, you don’t need to pay for the entrance fees. So cause I actually do that several times, like my first 2 visits, was actually entered after the Park Ranger off duty, so that’s I don’t, I didn’t need to pay for the entrance fees. I just enter there, take some pictures, and then we just left. That will be very convenient, because they want to provide much opportunity for you to explore the nature. But you should be, but just know that when the Park Ranger, are on duty they will check your tickets. No matter when you’re entering or exiting the park. So if you, if you didn’t have the ticket, with you while you are living the park, you need to pay for that. 

Aimee: Yeah, I hear a lot about stargazing there. I’ve only ever been to Joshua Tree during the day to take pictures. There’s a bunch of cacti gardens, and like you, said the joshua tree itself is very cool, and they’re all over the park, and a very unique looking plant. I am really excited to try and go to see the stargazing. We’re trying to line it up with the Moon calendar. So it’s where there’s no moon visible so that you get even more stars. I see that reservations on Joshua Tree are always booked out for campgrounds closer to places where there’s less moon, because that’s what people a lot of times are going to camp there to be able to see the the stars. It’s very known for that. I hear a lot of students bring telescopes and and have a really nice time stargazing. That’s not something we see a lot in Orange County or in LA, because, like you said, there’s so much light pollution, that it’s very hard to see stars here. So that’s a place that’s pretty well known. One of the cool things about Joshua Tree, too, is that it’s near Palm Springs and Palm Desert, which are 2 pretty big populations for people to go visit. And so if you’re not a big camper and you’re not interested in being out in nature. It’s just like a maybe half hour, 45 min drive into the park from Palm Springs and Palm Desert area so you can always get a hotel maybe get an airbnb or something, and then head into the park for the day, or, like you said, maybe go at night time, see the stars, and then to go back to, and maybe a more comfortable place for you. if you aren’t interested in camping, or it’s this time of year. We’re recording this during summer. I’ve looked at the parks the other day because I was like, Oh, maybe we should go this weekend, and it was like 107, which is somewhere in the forties, I believe Celsius. 

Yang: Yeah I think 43 Celsius degrees. 

Aimee: Yeah, it’s hot. So I was like, oh, maybe not. But if I was staying in a hotel and I could stay cool at a pool or something all day, and then maybe go look at the stars at night. That would be kind of another way to do the Joshua Tree, National Park. With this podcast, we will post some things on our Instagram of people at Joshua Tree. So you can kind of see what that park looks like. But some of the other National Parks that some of our GIC mentors and I have been able to go to. If, we’ve all really had great conversations about how much we love our park system here but, like I mentioned a little bit earlier, we don’t just have National Parks. We also have State Parks, so National Parks are federally funded, our State parks are funded and supported by the State. So can you tell us a little bit about State Parks and what it is like to pay to go to those?

Yang: Yeah, we are in the beautiful California State so the California State parks includes over 279 separates parking (transcript unavailable). So it’s actually the largest park system, State Park system in the U.S. So we have a lot of pretty views here. And for the State Park, it’s similar to the National Park. Just so like preserves this national and globally significant area and besides that, we also have this State Historical Parks like I know there’s one in Los Angeles Historical Park, and there are also some State Recreations Areas, Natural Reserve, State Park Properties, and these various selections as well.

Aimee: Yeah, I, I know the beach, a lot of the beaches are State Parks that are supported through State funds and we definitely, I think especially looking at the National Parks, we have here, as well as the State parks, we have a desert climate, we have mountains, we have lakes and rivers and big trees and smaller trees and cacti. So we have a very diverse climate, and structure here of the State of California, and that is why we have so many of our landscape areas saved and preserved through the National and State Park system. State Parks also cost money to go visit and so there are annual passes, day passes. Most of the time that covers like parking as well. Can you speak a little bit about the parking, not parking, pass structure for paying?

Yang: Yeah, for the parks. That depends like which parks you are visiting like for some of the State Beach like San Clemente State Beach the, there’s actually no entrance fee for the beach, so that you can just access for free. But you do need to pay for the parking if you’re going to park, at their parking lot. So there’s with the fee for the parking lot only. And for some other places like Chino Hills, that is also a parks, State Park that’s near, near our campus. And you actually need to pay the entrance fee that is around like $20 per entrance. That’s a similar to the National Park. You just to pay per vehicle, and you can just go there with your friends together. And at that Chino Hills State Park, the parking actually includes in the entrance fees. So you don’t need to worry about pay the parking lot again. And similar to the National Parks, the State Park also provide the annual pass, but the, this time the California like State Park is this, they, they have to provide various types. The price range is from like $75 to $195. So that’s way more differentcompared to that $80 national Park Pass. Because the reason is that they actually have different level of access, like, for example, if you pay is the most that $195 that you means you can access to literally all of the State Parks, including the most popular beaches in Southern California areas like Crystal Cove and Clemente, the State Beaches that’s already included in this expensive park pass. But for some others, if you think that’s like too expensive. Well, there are some other levels but that means you can access, you can have the access to some selected parks and destinations. So that’s why they provide these different types of the annual pass for the State Parks.

Aimee: Yeah and one thing that I learned about it, it wasn’t that long ago I was talking about how expensive it was to go to Crystal Cove. We really like to go there. It’s one of the closest kind of quiet beaches. I think it’s quieter because it costs money to go to to Crystal Cove and so I was talking to somebody about it, and they were like, Oh, did you know that you can get a library pass for the State Parks and be able to use that as like, it’s like an annual pass that you can check out at the library. So one of the reasons that you should definitely get a library pass is not just to have, like another place to go and study, or another section of books to access within California. It’s also because you can go in and try and request access to the State Park pass, checking it out like you would a book, and that would give you free access into the State Parks. They are limited. I’ve heard it’s really hard to get during the summer, so it definitely depends on when you’re going or or how often you plan to go but that’s definitely something to look into as well. yeah, I think that it.

Yang: Yeah I actually also have that pass because I got that library card. And I also try to reserve for one annual pass. So yeah, it’s too very like competitive during the summer times. Because currently, I’m in, I think I mean, line around 800. So, yeah, that’s kind of some kind of a wait. But the, the benefits of that park pass that the first it’s free. So you can just use that while you’re holding that the park house and that is actually includes some kind of the poplar destinations in Southern California, like the Crystal Cove that we already mentioned, and also the Chino Hills. That’s a very pretty state park, you had to some hiking over there, and it’s already included in this park pass. So you just, you don’t need to pay for that pricey annual pass and you can still visit to these beautiful places.

Aimee: Yeah and I will say the State Park Pass is definitely more expensive. Obviously the lowest level one is $5 cheaper than like the National Park. But if you’re going to go quite often to these very specific places, if you’re like an avid hiker and you want access to other places. It definitely can be a beneficial to think about it, because I think Crystal Cove is like $30 to park and go into the Crystal Cove area so it can add up pretty quickly if you go often. We talked about Crystal Cove. We’ve mentioned it a few times, and it is one of the closest ones. I know Chino Hills is as well. But I would say, Crystal Cove is the one that I hear students going with their families, or when they have relatives coming into town bringing them to that area. Can you talk a little bit about Crystal Cove?

Yang: Yeah, for the Crystal Cove. That’s sort of like the closest State Park to our campus is just west of the Irvine, and between the Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. So you’re only like 15 to 20 min drive, you arrived at places. The entrance fee is, I think, sort of like $20 or $30 per vehicle, and some times, at some point, at some parking lot, you can actually like pay per hour, so that will be lower fees. But, like Aimee just said, if you like want to visit the Crystal Cove frequently, a park pass is not bad, actually, because that will give you the access any time within one year. So if you want to like, be there frequently, and for there is not just the the beach, so it’s it’s a park that, including the hills and also the beach and the cliffs. So you can just chill on a beach with a friend, family members, or do surfing if you love that sports on the ocean, and of course that is a pretty land, so can do the photographies, and besides these, there are also some hills included in the Crystal Cove State Park, so you can do this some hiking and also camping. But the different part is that the Crystal Cove not open 24 hours. That means, after the says that the park will close and the entrance will be also be closed, so you can’t have the access overnight, unless you are a a camper, unless you are camper that you could stay at the campsite.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, I know it. It closes. I mean the, and the the closing time changes throughout the year, based on when the sunset. So you always want to kind of check on that. I’ve seen a lot of people. I’ve done some hiking over there, but I’ve seen a lot of people hiking like you said Surfing, just hanging out, having a picnic at the beach. But I also see a lot of people get engaged at the beach and do like photography, for, like you can tell they’re getting married, or they have or their pregnant, or they have just had a kid. So it’s definitely a very great place for very scenic views of the kind of cliff and beach area that we live in, in Irvine. I yeah, it’s one of my favorite places to go, but we don’t go very often, because we haven’t buckled down and bought that annual past. So we avoid paying to go but definitely recommend visiting. Any other last thoughts. I think that was pretty much everything that we had to cover.

Yang: Yeah, I think we just covered most of like all the National Parks and State Parks here. So I think probably just some tips, like just to do some research before you go, and to be aware, like what kind of the, which area you are going to have the access, since like that sort of information, and also just like, be careful while you’re there because that’s like the wilderness land so there would be some like this, sometimes you’ll be some kind of dangerous things happen. So just to be careful over there, and also please follow the rules and respects of land. And this is a, a reserve to place that we should all like respect and protect by ourselves.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I know that’s on a lot of the things you’ll see from the National Park services. Their motto is like to protect the park but we also want you to go and explore it. So safety first. But, but do enjoy the beautiful landscape of California especially, but also throughout the nation. I try to go to conferences, and when I’m at a conference I try and check and see like how far away is the nearest National Park. So if you haven’t opportunity to go to, you know the East Coast, or to go somewhere in Central U.S., and you haven’t been to a National Park over there, there’s some really great options. I mean we have very popular ones, I would say Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone are probably the most, and maybe Zion, are probably the ones that are the most well known. But there’s 63 of them that, to explore, so check something out that might be unique and different. The most unique one that I’ve been to is called Congaree and it is in South Carolina and it is like a boardwalk through a swamp, and I thought it was just beautiful, it has lots of mosquitoes, and it was so unique and different compared to like the other big parks that we’ve been to that are really popular. So I had a really wonderful time getting to see something very different and learn about a very different part of the U.S.’s History, and why this land was being preserved. So I do recommend that as an additional tip is, try and check out one of the more off the beaten trail, less well known parks. Because you’re gonna be surprised by how cool they are. But thank you for joining us. I have loved talking about the National and State Parks, and I really hope that we hear from all of you that are listening on where you end up going as you explore our nation. Thank you!


Yang: Thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #14: Hikes & Activities in the O.C.

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Balam Benitez-Mata (he/him)

Aimee: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang and I will be hosting alongside Balam today. We are excited to talk to you about some of our favorite things, is getting out of campus, going to the beach, going hiking. We both love to hike and get outside. So we’re gonna go over some of our favorite things to do. But I am first going to have Balam introduce himself. I know he was on our first podcast as well, but just in case you miss that one, I’ll have him introduce himself again.

Balam: Thank you so much Aimee. Hello again everyone. My name is Balam. I’m a rising fifth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. I get to play with very expensive equipment such as fluorescence microscope, but also I love as Aimee, mentioned going outdoors and do some other fun stuff. That is not only research and school. So I’m very excited, very happy to share some of my experiences and advices to, with all of you. So yeah. 

Aimee: Yeah, I think you especially and what you do in the lab and what many of our students are probably gonna experience. You spend a lot of time inside and in a dark room looking through a microscope. So getting out and doing something in the sunshine and we have such beautiful weather in Orange County is always great to do. One of the things that we’re known for are our beaches. So we live very close to the coastline. You get fog and that beach, kind of breeze coming through Irvine on a regular basis, but if you wanna actually go see the beach, what are some of your favorite beaches and how would you recommend that people get there?

Balam: Nice, yeah. So I have two beaches that I prefer. One of them is definitely Newport Beach because it’s very convenient to get there. There are like so many other stores around that you can buy some food, some snacks, and you see on the on the side, you watch either the sunset, walk on the sand, or just do whatever. Newport Beach is great. If you have a car, you can definitely drive there and get there like 15 min. If you don’t have a car, but you have a bike. You can also bike there. Just FYI, you might have to cross 2 big intersections. So just be cautious. Remember, everybody in OC, respects bike lanes so you should be fine, but it’s never, it’s never having extra caution on that. But biking is gonna take you a little longer maybe, 45 min, 60 min. And it’s a good workout too. So once you get to the beach, you’re gonna have extra time to just lay down on the sand, maybe go into the water which it’s very cold in the winter. But then he gets kind of a little warmer during the summer. So it’s nice after biking. And then again, you have so many stores around you can buy donuts, you can buy ice cream, you can buy sandwiches, bahn mi, there’s so many things around that small area. And the cool thing about Newport Beach is there are one pier. And the views from the pier at subset are amazing. So please take your camera, take your phone with you. Bring friends and just take a walk around there. And then I have another cool option, which is Corona del Mar. Corona del Mar is a smaller beach. It’s a I would say kind of private beach, well not private in the sense that it’s closed to public but it’s just a smaller space. But it’s nice because it’s surrounded by like kind of rock, rocks or like rocky things so it’s a very nice view. During the sunset, cause you have some of the sun reflecting on the rocks on the, on one of the and you have some of the rocks just coming out of the landscape. That one, you can go really straight from UC Irvine. You don’t have to take any like dangerous routes. There’s actually a nice, well there are 2 options to get there if you go by bike, one of them is taking Backbay Trail, which I think Aimee already talked a little about it. Like out of the recording, but maybe she can, just mention again some of the, of the advice she has for it. But also you can just go through the like the main street and the main street should have the bike lanes as well. So that one’s safe. And you can bike, there like in 10 min. It’s not a long ride. You’re gonna have a couple of hills to be ready to burn those quads and hamstrings cause there gonna burn by the end of the, of the right. But it’s gonna be great. The neighborhood around Corona del Mar beach, it’s so nice. It literally looks like the movies and tv shows that you can, that you saw, that you watched when you were a kid. Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, it’s literally the same vibes. It’s beautiful. Honestly, I’ve been taking a couple dates there just to watch the sunset just to walk around the around the beach. I’ve taken friends as well. I’ve been going there just to sit down, read a book, do some stretching. I’ve seen people doing yoga as well. This is like a very, again, like kind of private so not many people really go there. So it’s very quiet, compared to Newport Beach where there’s a lot of people, there’s a bunch of people just coming, in and out. So yeah, those are my 2 favorite beaches. For both of them, you can also ride the bus. You might have to walk a little depending on where are you living, on campus. If you live in Campus Village, then the closest bus stop is gonna be literally 5 min from campus village community center but if you live in Palo Verde or Verano Place you might have to walk a little further to find the closest bus station. And then you will have to do a, you will have to transfer at least once. From the route that takes you from UC Irvine to Newport kind of downtown or Newport City. And then take another bus that is gonna basically leave you in front of the beaches, that I just mentioned. So be ready to pay, $2 per bus ride. Or have your OC bus app ready to just scan your code and ride the bus.

Aimee: Yeah, I will say for the biking we biked to Corona Del Mar. I think we didn’t know if the bike lane was gonna go all the way. So we took the Backbay route and then we ended up not having a bike lane even though the other way did. My recommendation is always to follow like the Google Maps biking directions because it usually is pretty clear on where you should be going. And I would get one of those clips. There’s like a clip that you can put onto your bike that you can hook your phone into. So if you’re going someplace for the first time and you need those directions. I definitely recommend having the direction so you’re not like trying to pull your phone out or like having to pull over often to like figure out if you’re going the right way. But yeah, I would always take the bike routes if you can. And then one of the nice things about the buses too is if you biked there and you were like there’s no way I’m gonna make it back. Most of the bikes can be hooked onto the front of the bus. And so you could always take the bus back. So those are always some good options. There’s also 2 kind of more iconic beaches that are a little bit further away that if you watch any of the shows on from like the early 2000s on, Orange County. You have Huntington Beach that has a lot of surf competitions. So you could always take an Uber or a Lyft over there. It’s a little bit pricier for sure. But definitely a significantly bigger beach has a lot of those kind of bigger activities that I’ve seen the surfing competition a couple of times, it’s pretty cool. And then I’ve also gone to Laguna Beach, which is in a lot of TV shows, like the you’ll see like the lifeguard stand is like a very iconic one. People take pictures in front of it all the time. So if you want that like SoCal famous kind of experience those are 2 beaches that are relatively close by, they’re closer than like beaches in LA that are also pretty well known, like Venice Beach and, Santa Monica, but, but they have good areas as well. Corona del Mar is one of my favorites because we go and we bring family out there when they come to visit and we take we go to the fire pits. And you can always do fires at Corona del Mar. They have coal fires and what fires and you can do like the very iconic Americans ‘smore or you can like cook food over the fire while you’re there or just enjoy it as it gets a little colder. I know people do it throughout the summer when it’s hot, but I like to do it in like the fall or the spring when it’s a little bit colder at night. So those are some great options. We love going to the beach. I think it’s one of it’s one of my favorite things about being in Orange County is this being so close to the beach. 

Balam: And just to add on top of that. I know maybe for some people in their home countries, is staying in the beach at night not be safe but here in the U.S. is safe. It’s very safe to stay in the beach at night. There’s usually, police or the, Coast Guard, the Coast Guard, or well, the life savers as well just Coast Guard, yeah. And there’s some beaches that will have like some signaling saying these beaches close from this time to this time or is open for the first 24 hours. So just you can always double check that. But you’re always safe in in those spaces it’s not that you have to be a little like scared or concerned about it. Which is.

Aimee: Yeah, we’ve walked around Newport Beach. At nighttime pretty frequently. There’s like a walking path kind of around. And some of the beaches in Orange County will have like a paved path that people walk or bike or roller skate and you’ve got like these big fancy beach houses that you can kind of walk past. So those are always really nice to do, especially if you’ve like watched the sunset and and then you can kind of walk around. A lot of the beaches also have like volleyball or kind of other activities that you can do when you’re at the beach. So if there’s something specific you’re looking for. You’re probably bound to find it at one of our local beaches. But we don’t just have beaches right, Southern California is known for having lots of activities that people can do year round. So what are some other things that you have done or that you would recommend that people do, that maybe, maybe not the cheapest things, I know we’ll talk about some free or really cheap things to do, but what are some of those things that like cost a little bit of money to do?

Balam: Right. I personally I’ve gone with friends, bowling. Which, there’s a really nice bowling place near campus. Irvine Lanes, something like that.

Aimee: Yeah, the one that it’s on Michelson and Harvard. Over by Boomers, yeah.

Balam: Yes, that one. Yes. And that’s a very nice spot to go bowling, with friends and it’s not too pricey, it’s I would say it’s affordable but that’s just kind of like the only place around campus to, go bowling. And the nice thing about that place is you also have the, mini golf next to it. So you can always plan to be mini golfing like at noon, afternoon and then just jump into bowling in the evening and night. So that’s great. And I think last time I went there, I was paying around, like $40 per person between bowling and golfing. That was kind of long time ago, I don’t know if the rates have gone up, recently, but it was, it was like a for a good amount of fun and time, those 2 places, was like a good price. Yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been there with friends, with some dates, I haven’t been there like by myself. I think that’s not like one of those activities that you can’t do by yourself, but definitely bring friends you can always, I think maybe find someone at least one other person that will be willing to go there. Yeah, I don’t know if you know any other places.

Aimee: It’s close, it’s close to campus too. I think it’s only like 2 miles from campus. So definitely an easy bike. I’ve walked that path between the Boomers area and campus. There’s like a 40 min, 35, 40 min walk depending where you live on campus. So it’s really not bad if you don’t have a car like being able to go over there. The place with the mini golf is called Boomers and it’s a great place to take kids. There’s like an arcade inside. They have like go cart racing. I can actually hear the go carts from where I live. I live in that area. So that’s always a good option. If you’re a golfer, there’s also in that same area, not just mini golf but there is also a golfing range so you can go golfing on the golf course but you can also go to the , I don’t remember what it’s called when you just hit it but there’s a space for you to go do golf, if you want. (The term Aimee was looking for is a driving range).  Some of the more expensive things that were pretty well known for in Orange County we’ll talk about, in more detail in an upcoming podcast on like amusement parks, but we have Disneyland. I’ve spent a lot of time at Disneyland. Knott’s Berry Farm is also a really great option and has, some more options for like young kids, I would say. LegoLand is also relatively close, it’s a little bit further away, but great for young children. But there are a couple other options kind of in that range. That you could go to. There’s a few zoos in the area, Santa Ana. Can you talk a little bit about Tanaka Farms because we’ve talked about it on some other podcasts as well, but they do like a tour of the farm, which is a great kind of activity for people to do.

Balam: Yeah. So I think we’ve mentioned Tanaka Farms in the past. Actually, I mentioned it during the first podcast on, on, grocery stores. So Tanaka Farms is not only a farm where you can, some fruits and vegetables you can also, they also have tours and they have some activities, for all ages. So you can basically go to the to the farm and schedule a tour around all the fields that they have. Where they grow all the different, vegetables or some fruit that they have and they will just tell you interesting facts about them. Maybe like the season they grow in, some of them, I don’t know if they, I haven’t taken the tour, but I’ve seen some videos. They take you through a really cool like water, its really cool. Like, and it’s a very nice, cause you feel like if you were literally, in the fields. With just going around and trying to find the perfect, vegetable, the perfect fruit to be picked off. And on top of that, you can also have a, like a picking session or a picking tour where you basically go and pick your own strawberries. You pay like a small fee and you are free to go on the field and pick up the strawberries that you wanna eat or that you’re gonna eat later. Which is very nice. It’s kind of a funny experience from my point of view, but I see a lot of people doing it. So I guess it’s something really interesting for, some other people that are not me at all. And the only thing is these tours are not like all year round. They’re not available all year round, cause it depends on the season, with these vegetable fruits are growing. So you might have to double check the website just to make sure that they have tours available or the picking tours available as well. But yeah, that one’s also fun, a fun thing to do. Remember that Tanaka Farm is close to campus. So you might have, either take an Uber, ride your bike, there’s no bus, bus stops near that place so unfortunately you will either have to walk or just share ride but it’s a fun thing to do, during the day during the weekend. And again, it’s for all ages. So you can take if you have a kid, you can take your kid, if you have some other friends that are not really to outdoorsy stuff but that I really want to experience some small stuff. That’s a great place to try.

Aimee: Yeah, I grew up going strawberry picking with my grandpa. So it is a very kind of, weird, I don’t know if other countries do it, but it’s very American thing I think to go pay to instead of getting it from the grocery store to go pick it yourself.

Balam: Right.

Aimee: I took my husband one time and he was like I didn’t come to the U.S., to pick my own fruit. So I know it’s definitely not for everyone, but, it is a great option, especially I think little kids really enjoy that opportunity to do something hands on and to kind of learn more about where your food comes from. It’s always something I’ve enjoyed taking friends kids to. So those things all cost money and we both know grad school and living in Orange County is very expensive. So what are some free or like really cheap things that people can do to still get outside and get away from campus, but be maybe more cost effective?

Balam: Yeah, I would say there’s a lot of things to do that are cheap, especially when it involves walking. I would say by come I was not really a fan of walking around shopping centers or malls, but it seems like here in the U.S., it’s like a big thing to just go window shopping. And window shopping, it’s something that, you don’t really have to spend any money. Maybe you spend money on the ride, maybe you spend on a coffee, a donut, an ice cream, but then just spend the rest of the day just walking around the mall. Seeing stuff. I’m not really a fan of it but some people really enjoy it and make plans for it for the whole day. So I’ve seen people going window show being walking around South Coast Plaza, which is a very nice mall center or shopping center here, in Irvine. You will find many, many, many, brands. From very expensive luxury brands to high quality not too expensive but still kind of expensive but still kind of expensive brands. But it’s a very, for me, it was a really interesting experience just to go there and see all the bougie environment, right. You get to see a lot of people that are very wealthy and how they like interact and move around in that environment and then you get to see like some other people like, maybe me, maybe some of my friends who are just there, just for fun, just to explore and see what it’s like to be surrounded by these people. So it’s an, it’s a really interesting experience. I would definitely recommend everyone to just do it at least at once. It’s really fun. And then during, holidays, not holidays, but like Christmas, Halloween and some other days they have really cool decoration. Like the decoration at South Coast Plaza it’s just amazing. It’s worth taking pictures.  You can also go to Spectrum Center, which I think someone else already talked about it, in another podcast. So the cool thing about the Spectrum Center is it’s basically out doors so you can walk and be breathing fresh air all the time. You don’t have to be really indoors, just smelling a bunch of cologne, or different smells, food or whatever. It’s outdoors so you have fresh air all the tiem. You have the, how to you call it the carnival wheel

Aimee: Ferris wheel. 

Balam: Yeah, that one. I don’t remember if that one’s for free or if it costs something.

Aimee: There is a charge for the ferris wheel but they do have some free things during the summer. Like they do an outdoor movie during the summer. It’s usually a kid friendly movie. So it’s always a good option if you’re around during the summer. They put it up on their website.

Balam: Nice. Yeah, so that one’s like we that’s a good option as well to just go around and they have also like couple of playgrounds for kids. I’ve seen those around. And if you decide to spend a little money and then Irvine Spectrum, I would definitely recommend going to Dave and Busters. Dave and Busters is one of the best arcade places that I’ve been to in OC. It’s very fun. They have a lot of different games. And you’re definitely gonna have a blast there. Well depends on your budget. You might want to spend a couple of dollars maybe you want to spend almost a hundred dollars on it. It really depends on you. That one, it’s really up to you. And those are like the 2 big places to do window shopping or just walking around. But then if you are more like into nature, I would definitely recommend doing the hikes around campus. And those are like really easy, nice hike. You don’t, you don’t need any gear. You don’t need any equipment. You don’t need like hiking shoes, hiking boots or whatsoever. You just need your regular shoes. And go out there for a walk. We have, like a very short hike that it’s called the UCI Ecological Reserve, which is behind University Hills and next to the Research Park at UCI. I think that one’s like 1, 2 miles long and it has a very nice view towards kind of like, towards the sea. So you have the 77 freeway at the bottom and then you have kind of like Irvine, coast as the background and the sunsets are amazing on top of that little hill. So I would definitely, take down a little walk if you are like tired from work or stressed and you in before going back home you wanna just take some, time for yourself to maybe take a couple of snacks, maybe take a, a drink, juice or water, something that you wanna enjoy out there. There are some other hikes that are a little more. They’re not hard for, I would say, but I guess it depends on how do you wanna see it? If it’s, if longer means harder. They’re gonna be a little harder, but they’re mostly flat. So it’s not very complicated to get through these hikes. One of them is Turle Rock, which is literally behind the ARC, which is the UCI’s gym, all the, sports fields that we have on campus. I’ve done that one a couple of times. It’s pretty nice. There’s no shade, so please be aware of, bringing your hat or some screen and a lot of water, you don’t want to get dehydrated. But that’s a really nice one. And then if you wanna get a little more intense and the longer it was. You can definitely do the Bommer Canyon and Quial Hill trail and I think Aimee has a little more insight on the Quail Trail. But about Bommer Canyon, that was a really nice hike because you can you literally go from like flat field to a little hill and get to see a little more trees or vegetation. I’ve seen, a couple of times, I’ve seen like a bunch of small rabbits going around as well and it’s just nice to see them like in, their nature, in their natural environment. We also, we’ve seen a couple of rattle snakes really long time ago. So watch out for them. Be cautious, be really attentive on where to step in and what you hear around you. Your surroundings are very important. I was doing a hike two days ago and a group in front of us they were like a hundred meters ahead of us they say a rattle snake and my friend who was walking next to me she was able to hear the rattle like from a hundred meters away so, just be aware of that.

Aimee: Especially when you have young kids or if you’re on a pet friendly trail make sure you’re not letting them wander into the tall grass. That is one thing about Quail Hill. I see a lot of people, especially when the super blooms come in the spring, that are like stepping off of the trail into the grass to take pictures. Don’t do that. I’ve seen multiple snakes on Quail Hill and they’ve gone so fast. I don’t know what kind of snake they are, but I just wouldn’t recommend stepping into a grassy area. Quail Hills is pretty cool. It’s short. It’s got a pretty steep hill, but if you do, instead of going like a full circle, you can’t avoid the hill. Sometimes it gets rained out so the trail can get a little washed away. But during the springtime I have seen there’s like a natural pond that you can’t see most of the year, but it pops up if we’ve had a good amount of rain and I’ve seen frogs all over that trail too and little kids love that part of the trail. And it’s not around the hill. So you can definitely, do that one. I think that one’s pet friendly.

Balam: It is

Aimee: At least I’ve seen dogs on it so I think that one’s pet friendly. And one of the nice things about, the trails is all the ones that we’ve talked about are on an app called All Trails, it’s a website I believe too. I use the app and you can put in things like you’re looking for something that’s accessible by wheelchair. Or other walking device or, that’s paved or you’re looking for something that’s children friendly and, or maybe pet friendly. I will say sometimes it’s not super accurate in how long it’s gonna take you or how long the trail is itself. Sometimes it’s people are putting in these trails. There, themselves and they’re not always super accurate. But I do think it has quite a few options because over by Quail Hill, there’s multiple walking areas. So there’s different trails that come off, but if you park at the trail head or you get dropped off there, I see people biking there a lot too. So there’s some bikeable spots around there. But if you do just a little like loop, it’s not too bad. That hill can get rough if you’re not super physically fit but it’s a great place to start if you just wanna get out and it’s got a nice view of Irvine as well. Outside of hiking. You talked about and I think we’ve talked about on a couple of different podcasts now some of the farmers market. So there is one at the great park and there is also a big balloon like a big helium balloon that goes up and gives you an overview of Irvine as well. So that’s a really fun if you want to go on a Sunday to the the farmers market. Maybe take kids if you have them or go on a date to the farmers market which I see a lot of people do and then you can take the balloon ride up as well. So that’s always a good option if you want to get outside. But maybe aren’t so much of a hiker as well.

Balam: We also have Mason Park. Behind campus, behind university town center. 

Aimee: University Town Center, Yeah. 

Balam: And that park is very big. That’s a huge park. I, and it also has like a little pond, well, that’s not a pond that’s more like a lagoon now. It has like a body of water in the middle and you get to see a bunch of geese and some other animals. So that one is also if you don’t want, if you’re not into really hiking but just walking in green areas for green spaces, Mason Park is also a great option. And there like real, there are many like really good spots to do like activities, other activities. For families, for friends yeah

Aimee: Yeah, it’s a good option. I will say to Irvine has a ton of parks. Some of them are smaller. So Irvine has this kind of weird structure where they have a neighborhood that’s got a grocery store and a park and they try, and it’s very specifically laid out. And a lot of those parks have pickle ball courts or tennis courts or basketball courts or soccer or baseball fields. So if you are maybe not a hiker but you really like to go play soccer you probably can find a park that’s got a place for you to do that or you can try and find maybe online a group of people that go out and play a pickup game in some of those places. I know the ARC has a lot of intramural teams too, but they don’t, if they’re not going or there’s not a pickup game happening over at the ARC and you just wanna get out and go find a more local group and there’s spaces for that as well. I see people at the tennis, it’s not super far from campus. I can’t remember what the parks name is, I’ll try and find it and put it in the transcript (Bill Barber Memorial Park on Harvard and Baranca). But there’s a lot of tennis courts at a pretty local park that’s in between one of the targets and campus. And so I’ve gone and played tennis there a couple of times. So, there’s definitely a lot of options for getting out and doing something outdoors and being able to just get off campus for a little bit and step outside of grad school. It’s a big part of grad school is just being able to take care of yourself too because it can get busy and you can get really burnt out if you’re not doing something for yourself and I think some of these things that we’ve talked about are favorites of grad students for a reason. They’re an easy, cheaper thing to go do and get out in nature and refresh yourself from being inside studying all the time.

Balam: Totally.

Aimee: Yeah. Any last recommendations for people when it comes to getting out and going around Orange County area?

Balam: Yes, actually I have 2, 3 more recommendations. One of them is this small beautiful garden and It’s I think it’s Newport. Yeah, it’s already in Newport. It’s called Sherman Library and Gardens.  That’s a really small and beautiful garden. It’s $5. So I think that’s pretty affordable. And it has, it’s a small botanical garden with plants that are like native to the coast of Southern California. So that was really nice just to go check out. Some like nature but not getting really exposed to nature. It’s close to the beach. So you can always just walk back to the beach. And I think people take really nice pictures in there either for dates or getting married or for just XYZ. So that’s a really nice spot. The other one, the other recommendation I have is I, another friend and I, we love to hike in going to the beach. So what we do is we take a trail from UCI like from, Campus Village, we walk all the way to Turtle Ridge and then we go across Turtle Ridge the 73, freeway and we end up in Crystal Cove. And we go all the way through Crystal Cove. And we reach Crystal Cove Beach which is kind of close to Laguna Beach. And that hike is like 2 hour. One way, so we bring lunch, we bring towel, we bring the swimsuit and then we just spent an hour, 2 hours at the beach. We have lunch, we go into the water or we just stay outside reading or doing whatever and then we just head back through the same trail. So it’s very nice because It can take half of your day. But it’s like a really nice walk. It’s, you can incorporate a beach. You can maybe just not go the way to the beach. That’s up to you. And finally, I have the, oh no you meant we you mentioned already the great park helium balloon, well that’s pretty much about it.

Aimee: Yeah, Crystal Cove is a really expensive beach to park at. So if you can walk there, it is a beautiful beach. It’s actually, I got engaged at that beach. So we love going there. But the parking is difficult and expensive. So if you can find another way to get there. I do recommend that is a really nice place to go. So yeah, we will, like I said earlier, we’ll talk about other things that you can do, in Orange County, mostly like amusement parks in another podcast and then we have some other podcasts coming up on say you want to maybe rent a car and go down to San Diego or take the train down to San Diego, some things you can do in that area as well as going into LA. LA Is pretty well known. So there are quite a few big things to do. If you go up that way, traffic is pretty terrible. So most of us don’t make a trip up there very often. So if you do, you wanna do lots of different things and make a big trip out of it. So we’ll definitely, have a podcast on that coming up. But thank you, Balam, for joining us today. Always love talking about hikes with you because I think you and I both get out and hike pretty often. So it’s great to have you here and thank you everyone for joining us.

Balam: Thank you so much, Aimee. Thank you everyone for your time for listening to us. Hopefully this is very useful for you and you can also join us at some point on these activities maybe in the future.

Aimee: Yeah for sure.

Transcript of Podcast #15: Exploring Southern California (L.A., San Diego, Long Beach, Malibu, and Pasadena)

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Vidya Venkatesan (she/her)

Aimee : Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang and today we are going to talk about some things to do in LA, San Diego, Long Beach, maybe Pasadena, some other areas around Southern California. I have mentioned this in multiple podcasts but there is a really strong importance on maintaining your wellness during grad school, and one of the things that a lot of our students like to do, and something I encourage is to get out and explore the local area. So I’m going to pass it over to my co-host today to introduce herself, and then we’ll get started.

Vidya: Hey, everyone, I’m Vidya Venkatesan a third year graduate student in the Astrophysics Ph.D program and I’m really excited here, to be here, and to share all the things that you can do all to, and to share every, all the fun things you can do here in LA, Long Beach and uh

Aimee: San Diego. 

Vidya: yeah, San Diego

Aimee: Sometimes we forget about San Diego, I think, I was talking to someone recently about the San Diego airport because it’s also an international airport, and everyone was like, I never think about looking at flights out of there, because it seems like it’s further away than it is. But with traffic sometimes getting to San Diego is actually around the same time as getting you to LA and I think sometimes a little bit easier to get to San Diego. just in general. Although there is like this one part where we have, I think it’s a Navy Base for the U.S. Military, and there’s always traffic around the base. Just a few things to keep in mind. So I think we’re gonna start with talking about LA, because, I think LA is probably the most well known area in Southern California, that students want to go to. So in a few of our podcasts we have talked about taking the train, like the Amtrak to LA, because it is going to be significantly easier to get down there. You can also take like an Uber or a Lyft. Those tend to be kind of expensive. and then you can drive but traffic is kind of hectic. So, yeah, there are multiple ways to get to LA, and I would say, it really depends on what you want to do with how you would get there. So what are some things that you like to do in LA? And maybe we’ll talk about some recommendations on how to get there based on those activities.

Vidya: Well, the first thing that I’d recommend is Santa Monica Beach cause the first day I arrived in LA, that was the first thing I did. Cause I’d seen those in movies like all the time, like Hollywood, Santa Monica Beach. So th those the first thing I did I went to Santa Monica Beach, and then I saw the sunset. And I was also like reflecting on how like I’m from India, and like how I’m in a completely different country now I was just so beautiful. So I would say, Santa Monica Beach is one of them. There’s a lot of things to to do there. You can rent a bike and then bike from Santa Monica to Venica Beach. That’s a, that’s a cool thing to do, especially if you’re, I’m a big sucker for sunrise and sunset. So that’s the time I’d like recommend doing that. And then there’s also the Santa Monica, the amusement park thing that that’s also on the pier. So that’s something that can also be done. And there’s a lot of good like food places around there, too.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah. And I think it’s very Californian food, like a lot of fish tacos. So a lot of like Mexican influence, because most of, a lot of Southern California has a lot of Mexican influence. If you don’t know about, anything about California history, most of Southern California, if not all of it. I’m trying to remember where the border was, but it used to be a part of Mexico. So Mexico has a huge influence on this area, and then you add, in the very like kind of California beach vibes, which give you a lot of fresh vegetables and things as well. I found a lot of vegan options and vegetarian options in, like the Santa Monica area. So some great food. Parking is really expensive. So I would, and hard to find on busy. 

Vidya: Yeah and hard to find!

Aimee: Yeah especially in busy seasons. So I would say my recommendation would be if you’re going with a group to try and do like an Uber or a Lyft, or do a combination where you like take an Amtrak closer to the area and then finish it off with public transportation, or an Uber or a Lyft. But I agree, Santa Monica, when I moved to California from Washington State, that is what I thought all the beaches looked like, because that was what you saw with either Laguna, which we talk about in another podcast on like Orange county area beaches and then Santa Monica, because you mentioned that pier that has an amusement park on it. There’s like a big Ferris Wheel that is like a very visually iconic place. You see it in a lot of TV shows a lot of things on Instagram. When you like, search for like Southern California, you will see that like iconic pier. So I think that’s great. And then Venice Beach I think, is pretty well known for being kind of a quirky little area. It’s got a lot of body builders, there’s like outdoor gyms as you’re like walking around. We were talking about it earlier, it’s got some, maybe less kid friendly vibes to it. But it, it is a really big, nice beach. There’s a lot of outdoor volleyball like sand volleyball pits. So definitely a great option. It’s so funny because they’re in like walking, biking distance, Santa Monica and Venice. But there are 2 very different kind of feel to them, like the vibe is very different in both of those beaches. And Venice Beach also has, and is pretty well known for having a really big skate park and like kind of roller blade culture, roller skating culture. So that’s always a good option. So outside of those 2 beaches which I think are kind of the most iconic beaches in the area. LA is also really known for its kind of like museum culture. Have you gotten to go to a lot of the museums over there?

Vidya: Yes, I have been to Getty Museum, and then there is also the Getty Villa. Those two. So if you do that those two things at once, then you you get like free parking for one of them. So that’s a good thing to do. And then, it’s funny when you go to the Getty Museum like you take the tram to get up there, and then, you can see, have a good view of 405 the free way. And it’s also really funny, because, you see, see, people like stuck in traffic. And then you’re like, Oh, oh, I I was just stuck in traffic there, too. But yeah, Getty Museum, I think, is beautiful. There’s so many like, as someone who really likes to appreciate art, I can’t to draw that good art myself, but as somonewho appreciates it like, I would recommend Getty Museum. There’s also LACMA, which again, I think it’s also pretty popular. People will see that in like TV shows and film move movies and stuff. So yeah, those are the two that I’ve been to in LA. But I know there’s also a car museum (It’s called the Petersen Automotive Museum) that’s next to LACMA. And then the results of the Science Center where I think that’s also near downtown LA..

Aimee: Yes, there’s a science center near downtown LA, there is another one. There’s a like a Discovery Science Center in Orange County that we’ve not talked about before in any of the podcasts. So that’s always an option. Really kid friendly, that one, I think, called like the cube, or something like that. But there is the one in downtown LA. There’s also La Brea Tar Pits, which I believe is also near LAMCA. It smells terrible, but they found like, it’s like an active tar pit that they found a lot of dinosaur bones in. So that’s kind of a unique. I haven’t been to that since I was a child, but I still remember that it smelled really bad. So I think that is near that area around LACMA which is kind of downtown Korea town area is, I would say, one of the areas that has the majority of museums down there (Aimee forgot to mention the Oscars Museum, recommended by another GIC mentor). There is also the Natural History Museum, which is closer to like UCLA area. I’ve been there, that’s kind of an interesting one as well. Trying to think, the Getty Museum is really cool, and I know that they do a lot of like events. Sometimes, like around the holidays, they’ll have like a special event. Sometimes they have people come in and talk about architecture, because outside of the Getty Museum being a a place filled with a lot of art, there’s actually a lot of architectural history there as well. Last time I went to the Getty Museum, my mom was in town, and we were just going to walk around, but she had never been before, and we had a short period of time, and I was like, Oh, I don’t really know what to highlight for her and my husband ended up getting us, it’s free to do some of the tours that they have, and he ended up getting a tour that was all about the architectural history of the Getty Museum itself, and like it was really interesting how much thought and mindset went into like the natural light of the area, and even like you mentioned the tram like getting the parking structure built further away, so that it was kind of quieter and that the tram would take you up, and you would get a view. You can see the water if it’s not like too smoggy, and the 405, which I always find funny, too. I think, about how you’re stuck in traffic, and I’m enjoying myself. And then you can see, I think it might be Culver City. There’s like a a city with some taller kind of, not skyscrapers, but taller buildings that you can see from there as well. So it’s always really interesting place to get some good views, but also get art, and they have a really cool garden there. That has, there’s like a little boardwalk that goes through the garden that has different sounds of water. I really enjoyed that, there was like water trickling down small rocks and big rocks and under a bridge. So it’s like a nice place, I saw a lot of people having little picnics at the Getty Museum in the garden, or like grass around the garden. So date night idea, if that’s that you want to do. Parking does cost, if you just go to the Getty Museum if you don’t go to the Getty Villa and the Getty Museum (they generally combine parking so you pay once to visit both, it doesn’t waive parking to visit both. The Getty museum is generally free, events may have additional costs.). So check the website for more details on those things. So we talked about museums and the beaches. There’s so much stuff to do in LA, it can be kind of overwhelming. But there are some hikes in that area, and I think you and I have both done it. The Hollywood sign hike is probably the. 

Vidya: The Hollywood sign hikeis epic

Aimee: And I forgot about that museum, because that is a museum as well at the beginning of that hike.

Vidya: Oh yeah!

Aimee: Is the oh, I’m gonna not remember. 

Vidya: Griffith Observatory

Aimee: Griffith Observatory! And I’ve gone when the moon was almost a full moon, and they have, like a telescope on the moon, and you can see really close. And it was a long line, but it was free. They have some really cool stuff at that observatory as well. Again, parking’s kind of terrible, but that one is really hard to get to without driving your own car. But you’ve done the hike over there. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Vidya: Yeah, I, I forget how long it was. I think there’s different trails that you can take, but I’m pretty sure I took the longest one. But it was very worth it. Although if you do that over the summer, it gets really hot. So I recommend, like starting early, early in the morning but yeah, I think it’s as you go, get to the top like you get a whole like really nice view of Mount Baldy. and like other like a high peak mountains around there and then you also get a good view of LA, downtown LA and, and then also the the observatory, of course. But yeah, I would recommend, like, if you do it over the summer start early because of based on what trail you take you. There’s also a chance that you might get lost, and then, you know find another trail. And like all of that, because I remember that did happen to me.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, it. There’s a lot of trails over there. There’s also a couple trails that take you to other parts of the Hollywood sign, so like the the hikes that we’re talking about are the ones that come off of, the trail heads are kind of around the Griffith Observatory. There are some other hikes, that aren’t necessarily legal. So do watch what you’re finding online for the Hollywood sign hikes because there’s some that go through like private property. So you want to be really careful, because the last thing you want to do is get in trouble with trespassing as an international student with a visa. In general, people shouldn’t, but especially for students on a visa. So the Griffith Observatory ones are cool. You get, not super close up with it but there, are still some really good views of that really iconic Hollywood sign. And then Hollywood itself is, it’s an interesting place to go where you can see the walk of fame. And there’s the…

VidyaThe Chinese Theatre

Aimee: Yeah the Chinese theater. So there are some other fun stuff. Have you been down to the Hollywood area?

Vidya: Yes, I have walked around the walk of fame and everything, and then they, they also have some churros and stuff that they saw. It’s still good, yum, yum. And then there’s also like, a museum, Lady Tucson (we could not think of the name but it is Madame Tussauds) like the wax museum where they have, like all kinda yeah, I don’t think I’ve been in there because it costs $30 or something. 

Aimee: It’s very expensive

Vidya: But I know there is that. Yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, no, there’s definitely a lot of options down there. The only thing I will say is, there are a lot of people dressed up in character costumes that want to take your picture. Be really careful with those because they do want money. So if you’re expecting to just get a picture, they are going to ask you for money, and they can get very demanding if you don’t pay them. So just be mindful, that is definitely a touristy area. Same with, a touristy area, not same kind of vibe but Beverly Hills is known, for like it’s high end shopping and I do see a lot of people that go down there. One of the things you can do is you can do those like bus tours. That kind of take you around some of the famous spots within Beverly Hills, or like downtown LA. So If you want to be really touristy, that is an option for you to take those buses and kind of get an idea of what the areas look like without having to drive yourself. So you can take that, like Amtrak, public transportation into LA, and maybe take one of those bus tours and not have to worry about trying to find some other kind of transportation and driving. 

Vidya: And driving

Aimee: And driving, yeah

Vidya: Yeah and driving in downtown LA, which is the worst. 

Aimee: So bad, and parking is expensive and terrible. So I highly recommend finding any other option for that. There’s also a lot of concerts film festivals and things which we’ll talk about in another podcast that will come out in a few weeks. So we won’t go over that today. But we will talk about that in the future of things that in particular happen, majority of the time in LA. On the way to LA, there are 2 other kind of bigger towns, I would say that people tend to stop at. You and I talked a little bit about Pasadena, which has, like the Rose Parade at the beginning of the year. And you’ve done a hike over there. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Vidya: Yes, so I have also done the Rose Parade I was there for, like one of the New Years, I think this was before everything shut down. The, the Rose Parade is amazing. I would highly recommend, although you’ll have to go, go there and like stand, like stand, like stand  in line, for, like I, I like pretty much 2 to 3 hours or something, and I have to make sure it’s you’re someone who’s short 5’2’’ like me. You have to make sure you get to the front so that you’re able to see everything but it, itt’s really worth it. So that’s Rose Parade. But yeah, a hikewise. There’s a height called Eaton Canyon. Eaton Canyon Hike. It also has a waterfall. So that’s like the another thing but it’s a 4 mile hike. So again, like I’d recommend starting early in the morning. although you don’t have to, because there’s a waterfall. So if, if it gets hot, you just you get soak yourself in the waterfall. 

Aimee: There you go!

Vidya: But it’s beautiful. It’s like, so naturally, it’s so green. And like, I, I loved it.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s something that I really love about Southern California is we have these big cities, or like big downtown areas. But we also have a lot of natural areas that are reserved for parks and state parks and a lot of our beaches that we talked about and another podcast are also state parks. So take advantage of the nature. It, sometimes, when we’re in more of the city space, it can feel like there’s not enough trees or nature or water around us outside of the beach. So I definitely recommend that. Pasadena has, like a cute old town Pasadena downtown area that’s got some restaurants and shopping, and it’s just kind of a cute place to walk around. as well. And again we’ll talk about concerts. The Rose Bowl has a lot of concerts. As well as like sports events that happen there. The other town depending on which direction you take to get to LA, that you might pass as you’re going to LA, is Long Beach. They obviously have beaches, as their name suggests, but they’ve got a couple of other attractions. as well. Can you speak on, I think you said you went to the aquarium?

Vidya: Yes, yes, I love aquariums, and, like I also am into scuba diving. So Long Beach is definitely one of the places that I love around here. It’s like much easier to get them to go to LA The Aquarium of the Pacific. I think there’s an entry fee, and there’s also a parking you. You have to pay for parking. But again it goes into the like maintaining the aquarium. So like, I’m, I’m fine with that. But yeah, it’s beautiful. You can see sharks. You can like pet stingrays. And then I also saw smiling sting rays. They their face looks like they’re smiling. And then you know all those cool things that you seen aquariums, jellyfish and everything. So it’s it’s really beautiful. 

Aimee: Yeah, I love the aquarium there. And they do a, a really good job on trying to like, educate the public on

Vidya: Yeah

Aimee:  things in our local area as well that you might find in the water around us, and I think that, that’s, it’s a really fun place to go as an adult. But if you have little kids with you. I see a lot of them just like in all over the big shark tank. 

Vidya: yeah

Aimee: Definitely a cool place to check out if you have kids as well. I’ve also been to a comedy club that wasn’t that far away from the aquarium. That had a lot of kind of big names that come to the comedy club, but they also had kind of some smaller kind of more local comedians. And I think there is a place in Irvine Spectrum in Orange County that has a comedy club. But this definitely had some bigger names to it. But was closer and a better option than having to go all the way into LA, which there’s a lot of comedy clubs down there where you can see some like really big names. But check out the Long Beach one (called the Long Beach Laugh Factory), I think that’s kind of a fun way to go de-stress, laughing is great medicine when you’re stressed out. So it’s always a good place and Long Beach is also, and this is just a random side note. It’s also where a lot of our cruise ships go out. So if you’re like on a holiday break, and you want to take a cruise. I’m not a cruise person, but if you like boats. They do have a lot of cruises that go out of that area as well. So you can maybe look for some travel deals, and and try and do some like short, they have, like all short ones, to Mexico and.

Vidya: They, they also have the ferry to Catalina Island. So before the pandemic, I did take that to go to Catalina Island and then I scuba dived there. So that was really fun. Yeah, it’s just a 20 min ferry from Long Beach to Catalina Island and you see a whole different beach vibe and like island, it’s, it’s it’s just beautiful.

Aimee: Yeah, and Catalina doesn’t get as crowded, I think, because you do have to take the ferry. So that is always a great option to go out. I see a lot of boats in that area. So, there’s like some smaller rentals, too. If you want to go like on a sailboat, Those things can get pricey. But there are some options. Long Beach is definitely like a big port. When we had the kind of during the pandemic there was that time where there was a backup of cargo ships. A lot of the cargo ships go into Long Beach as well, and you could see that from some of the beaches that they were like cargo ships like waiting in the distance to drop off cargo because there was a lack of people able to take them off. So Long Beach has kind of a unique history and then a kind of cool little downtown. But those are kind of the 2 big towns that you may run into, depending on which route you take going north into LA. But, like I mentioned earlier south into San Diego, can sometimes have a little bit less traffic and there are some different things to do down there. There’s Lego Land and SeaWorld which are more amusement parks, which we talk a little bit about in a different podcast. But have you had a chance to explore San Diego at all?

Vidya: Yes, yes, I’ve been to San Diego. I went to Balboa Park which is, I feel like that’s also a big one to the spot. And then there, there’s, they also have the Japanese Garden. Which is so beautiful you can see the, the I forget the name of those fish like koi fish, is it koi? 

Aimee: Yes, yeah, the koi fish.

Vidya: Yeah, you can see those big koi fish and like it, it’s literally it does feel like you’re in Japan. It’s just so pretty. And like, because you, you know, if you go to LA, it feels like you’re in the desert or something, because you don’t see trees and anything, and then you go down there to San Diego and like the the Japanese Garden and you it’s all green, and it looks like really pretty. So that, that’s it one thing that I’d recommend Japanese garden, and then also the La Jolla Beach. That’s a big one.

Aimee: That’s over by UC San Diego. So one of our sister schools is in La Jolla and so I know I’ve had some students that maybe gone down for like a conference to at San, UC San Diego, and been in La Jolla and gone to the beach. That’s a really nice beach. There’s also couple of other beaches down there that maybe are a little more like young party crowd type beaches, I would say, La Jolla is pretty family, friendly. Balboa is a nice area. I’ve also been to downtown San Diego. There’s like, kind of an area, you can walk around with a lot of restaurants. and I trying to think I think it’s like gas lamp district (it is actually called Gaslamp Quarter) is right over by the convention center, which, if you are into comics or anything kind of comic-related, Marvel, DC comics. That is where San Diego Comic-Con is held, and that is really popular. I went to it a few years ago. It was amazing. It’s kind of hard to get tickets to, but if you manage to get tickets to it, that is a really cool experience. Kind of can see what’s coming up for the next year. You can attend like Q&A sessions with some really big names. I know when I went this is gonna, it’s been a while. The Flash TV show, the DC comic show was just coming out like it was the year that it was going to launch. So they had, like the whole cast there, for, like the premier of the kind of spotlighting the show. So that was cool and but yeah, definitely a great place, if you like to nerd out on comic things but they hold a lot of conventions both in LA and San Diego Convention Center. Have a lot of conventions for different things. So that’s always a good option to to kind of check out as well. One thing we didn’t. I forgot to talk about earlier, LA, what people assume is LA is not just what is actually Los Angeles, it kind of expands into some bigger areas. And I feel San Diego is kind of the same way. There’s a lot of communities kind of on the outskirts of San Diego that people just kind of lump into that area. So there’s a lot of outlets on the way to San Diego. there’s like Carlsbad, I want to say, has an outlet, 

Vidya: oh yes!

Aimee: Theres a couple of them. So if you’re looking for some cheaper clothes, maybe, especially during the holidays, they have really big sales and a lot of those little outlet malls. So that’s always a good option. LA has the Citadel, which is one of my favorites, because there’s a big Disney store there, so I always like that one. But thinking about that, LA, people assume Malibu is part of LA, and I’ve done a lot of hiking in Malibu. But you’ve done some driving around in that area as well. Any recommendations for what people should check out in Malibu, which I think a lot of people probably know there’s like a Miley Cyrus song all about living in Malibu. But it’s a pretty big one for surfing and hiking as well.

Vidya: Yeah. So the beach, for sure is pretty good, although it does get crowded.

Aimee: Yes

Vidya: I feel like. But then, even driving, just driving around there. It’s, it’s a little, if you’re a new driver, or like it, it can be scary because I am a new driver, so for me, like driving in like the hills, it’s like ughhh, but it’s it’s worth it. The, the view is amazing and like yeah. And then I think it’s a little, Malibu, can be expensive for grad students, because there’s there, there’s there’s, I think, like some national labs there as well. Like and then, like, I think, I think, rich people live in Malibu. I’m, I’m just gonna say that. Yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, definitely. you’ll see, I think there’s there’s even one of the beaches is called Millionaire’s Beach, because all of the houses, they’re probably worth more than a million, millions of dollars now. They’re probably more like Billionaire Beach now (it is called Billionaire Beach now). But there’s some really fancy houses that you can walk by on like a cement pathway in front, of in front of them. So it’s definitely a more expensive area. What we usually do when we go up to Malibu. We love to drive the PCH, which is the big highway that’s like right along the water goes all the way down to San Diego, and it goes all the way up to Washington State. So it’s a very long road but it’s really cool to drive that through the Malibu area, because you do get to see a lot of different beaches along the way. But we always pack a picnic because even the restaurants and food out there is expensive. 

Vidya: It’s expensive yeah

Aimee: So pack a picnic, enjoy the beach, and the look into the life of some, lot of famous people live kind of along the beach over there. So it’s definitely different than maybe something of your smaller beaches in, I think La Jolla is a little more expensive of an area to to live in. But it’s a definitely Malibu has its own kind of culture around, around that. I think that was pretty much all we wanted to cover with San Diego, LA Long Beach, Pasadena, Malibu area. Any tips for people as they’re looking to kind of get out and explore some of these areas?

Vidya: Well, I would say, like, it’s better to plan these things during the weekends. So like, at least because I feel like driving to LA and back like a at least needs a day. And then you also mentioned Carlsbad, right Carlsbad, so they they had super bloom like recently. So that that that’s also like a really like cool thing to do like during spring. Is it just beautiful like they have flower beds everywhere. But yeah, I feel like this because you need to, either you drive or you take public transport to get there and public transport, it’s gonna take even longer than driving. So I’d say, just plan accordingly, and make make sure you give yourself time. So maybe weekday is not the best day to do it, although, like as a grad student, you can do it over like during the week because can just take a a week day off. But yeah, it’s it’s gonna be a whole day thing.

Aimee: Yeah. 

Vidya: And then it’s tiring driving and everything. 

Aimee: Yeah, it is. And I think you know, most of those places. You’re gonna hit some traffic if you’re driving yourself. But public transportation obviously will take some time as well. So I agree. I think that would be my tip is to plan for it to be longer than you anticipate. While it maybe, says San Diego, is like an hour and 10 min away from Irvine. It’ll probably take you 2 hours to get there and find parking and so you definitely want to take those additional things into consideration. And just look, stuff up ahead of time. See what the hours are. See where parking is. That’s something I always forget to do, and then I regret it. When I get there, is you really should check out where the parking is nearby, what it costs, and doesn’t mean you can’t like, look around and try and find other parking options, but have an idea of where parking is because and all of these areas parking can get really hard to find and you don’t want to just kind of take whatever, because it can also get really expensive. Yeah, I think that was really all that we had for that. So thank you for joining us today and we will have another podcast together from you and I, where we’ll talk a little bit about some of these areas, more particular like events and concerts and festivals and things. So thank you for joining us.


Vidya: Thank you for having me.

Transcript of Podcast #16: On Campus Activities

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Frances Li (she/they)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I’m excited to today to talk about on campus activities. We know a lot of students have talked throughout my time here, how to kind of build community, how to get connected, and some of the easiest ways to do so are by attending events or joining clubs and organizations, getting out there, and meeting new people around campus. I know, and some of our other podcasts we’ve talked about making friends and building connection  and so this is one of those ways to do. We’re joined by Francis today, so I’m gonna pass it over to Francis to introduce herself.

Frances: Hi, everyone. My name is Francis, and I’m a rising second year in Clinical Psychology. Yeah, that, that’s my department and I’ve been a GIC mentor for like 4 months-ish so, starting this year. And to sum up my research interest, I study the intergenerational transmission of adversity in parent-child relationships and protective factors that buffer against that trans, transmission.

Aimee: Yes, Francis and I have loved to talk about psychology. So if you ever want to talk about psychology, both of us, really love those topics, so that’s always a fun way to connect to is just hearing about someone’s research, and interest in those areas, maybe how it aligns to some of our other mentors, too. I think a lot of our research transcends a specific department. So you’ll see like ICS majors maybe have similar interest to some of our Clinical Psychology majors. And so if there’s any program that you’re interested in, or you’re in one of those interdisciplinary programs. I think it’s always good to listen and see what some of our, our students are up to and build those connections. As just another way to get connected on campus but we’ll jump into some of the kind of bigger, more campus led ways to get connected, and I think there’s often a misperception by graduate students that most resources on campus or being involved in clubs and organizations is just for undergrad students. So can graduate students join clubs and orgs and can you share a little bit about that?

Frances: Yeah that’s a great question, that we keep getting from many different incoming students. The definitive answer is, yes, graduate students are more than welcome to join student clubs and organizations, and generally it is true that a lot of the clubs are primarily run or led by undergraduate students, but unless in very rare situations, when they specify that this is for undergrad by undergrad, then, without that specification they always are open to all the students and including most of the campus, like resources. Like the different centers on campus. They are serving both undergraduate students and graduate students together.

Aimee: Yeah, I definitely see it a lot in our cultural groups. So like we have like a I can’t remember what the name of it is, but it’s like an Indian Student association, and and I think it’s an Iranian student, It’s a Turkish one as well. So if if there’s like a specific population that you connect with that, you want to get involved with any other students. I know a lot of those groups and organizations have done cultural festivals and things. So I think that’s when a way some of our grad students have talked about like missing those things back home, but having a student organization here that helps them kind of navigate, but also can help celebrate some of those big festivals that maybe aren’t common here in the U.S. So if students are interested in getting involved, what kind of ways should they reach out to these clubs and orgs and where would most students find information on t

Frances: That’s also a great question, I would suggest the biggest way to start venturing out and at a general like a very broad way understand what clubs are out there, what are there vibes like, so like what are the people like is to go to the Anteater Involvement Fair at the beginning of the school year. So to my experience, going to that, fair an undergrad which was 7 years ago. It was like a big fare in the Aldrich Park, with, like basically all of the student organizations like boothing and like, or tabling over there and then they usually have fun activities that showcase what they do. Like for example, in Kendo Club, which is a Japanese Martial Arts Sports Club. They have their armor and their full equipment there for you to like try to see how it feels like. So I would say, the Anteater Involvement Fair is a great way to see what clubs are out there, and what kind of people are running it, and how, how are they like? So like some people, are very extroverted and then so that could be like preferred by extroverted people. But they’re also people who are more like passion driven. So they’re all, for example, very interested in rock climbing. So it’s more like geared towards that specific activity. So I would say definitely that the Anteater Involvement Fair is a great place to start.

Aimee: That’s a great place, I think, to explore when you’re not sure where you want to get connected. Maybe, like you mentioned, maybe there’s a new activity that you want to try. I’ve had quite a few international students that because of, and we’ll talk about the ARC a little bit later, but because of the ARC they started rock climbing, and then they’ve gotten really into rock climbing or bouldering and then they’ve ended up joining clubs and like traveling with them to go places to do that out in nature. So I think it’s a great place to see, is there something I just want to learn while I’m in California, you know. Maybe you want to try surfing, because maybe you’re not from a place that’s near a beach where we have such a surf culture. So there’s definitely a lot of ways to get involved in that way, and I think to outside the Anteater Involvement Fair, some of our students beforehand have mentioned, they just started like searching through social media. But a lot of the organizations have social media pages. What I will say about that is, if you reach out during the summer, a lot of our students are in internships, or doing research or busy over the summer, or the leadership is changing because of people graduating. So if you reach out during the summer and you don’t hear from them, don’t give up check and see if they’re at the Anteater Fair and definitely see if you get in touch with them another way, because we’ve had that issue with staff trying to like get in touch with some organizations, too, that are definitely busy during the summer. 

Frances: Yeah, that’s a great point. And also, like some of the existing leaders or officers, that current clubs might be graduating. So they’re not accessing their emails as frequently. I would say most of the clubs has a page on Facebook. A lot of them has groups on Discord and they usually have like websites where, like social media, is a link to their Discord. I think that’s also a great way to find more information about them. 

Aimee: And see how active they are, because I think some of them, during Covid kind of slowed down a little bit, or maybe kind of didn’t continue the club and there’s always space for new clubs, too. So if there’s something that you’re interested in starting, you can always try and get something started as well. I know we’ve had a couple of leaders who have started their own clubs because of an interest and maybe like climate change, I think, was one of them, cultural groups is another. So if you’re like, hey, we don’t have something and I think other students would be interested. Or there’s a couple of us that feel like this would be fun to do as a club. You’re welcome to try and start one, too, and I’m sure other students would want to get involved as well. Grad school is a time of limited time, so I think you, I know, have experienced that in your time here. But for those of you just starting time is very limited. But you still do want to take that time to go to activities and events. So what are some things that maybe don’t require a lot of follow up or a lot of your time out like activities and events that you can still do?

Frances:  Yeah, that’s a great question. So I would say, one event, one type of event that could be very helpful if you have one of time is to go to activity that’s hosted by your housing community, that is, when you live on campus, like either in like Palo Verde or Verano Place, they would, the housing community have committees that throw events and plan for events that kinda help students get to know each other and de-stress. That could be a great way for you to just walk out of your door and participate in an event, and then go back to whatever you’re going in before and also a great way for you to know your neighbors. So in case you’re traveling, and you have like plants or pets to take care of, they can also land a hand. And another thing I thought of is activities that are hosted by your department, or like the graduate division or other like initiatives that’s in your school that supports graduate student wellness. For example, I think in the School of Social Ecology, which is the school that in they have a WISE PAC program where it’s for which is the wellness initiative for graduate students. They host a lot of events that’s like located around our department. So it’s pretty convenient to just walk to walk back to the office. I would say, these are great opportunities to look into if you have limited time. And another way for, especially for folks who might be living off campus or a little farther away, is to join those virtual events. Like this summer I met a writing accountability group that was hosted every week that meets virtually. I think, yeah, if anyone is interested in information about the writing accountability group feel free to also reach out to me. But basically, these groups meet virtually onZzoom and then everyone just have their camera on and start writing. This is also a virtual way to like, be productive, and also knowing new people. I would say, like those virtual events in combination with those in your housing community and in your department could be great opportunities to get involved if you have limited time.

Aimee: Yeah and I think there’s, the POWER initiative is a new group that graduate division sponsors and I’m trying to remember it’s peers something wellness with it’s a, it’s supposed to be for, like, you know, them creating activities surrounding wellness. And they’ve done things like star watching, I know they’ve had some like embroidery days, and those are like short little activities that you can come to that usually have, like a common kind of wellness theme around them. Yes, Peers Offering Wellness Education Resources, I think, is, is what it is but they’re they’re newer and so that is a new initiative from graduate division. So we’re always hosting in graduate division some different kinds of events as well. And there’s 2 ways you can hear about those. You can just go to campus groups which, if you attended any of our panels, you were on campus groups already to register for that but you also, as a grad student, will receive an email from the GPSRC every week. I think it usually comes out on Thursdays, and it tells you what activities are coming up for the next week that you can keep an eye out for and so so a lot of students that will, we get a lot of emails. I do, you all do as well and so there’s a lot of students that maybe will, particularly if they’re looking to get involved. Look at those emails. We are hoping to continue it but we did like a bagel breakfast once, once a month, where we’d have students just come, have breakfast with us, and hang out with some staff, and also get to see some other students in a very kind of casual environment. So I would look out there, and a lot of them will tell you if they have free food, and there is nothing better in grad school than a short event that has the ability to replace you having to cook a meal. So take a look out for those, I think we had even one event that was like, really big cookies like you could come get a really big cookie. So if you like free food. like most people, you want to try something new. I encourage you to look for those options as well. And because you get a lot of free food from a lot of those events like housing communities and things sometimes you want an event that’s maybe a little more active. So what are some events that allow you to be a little more active, and take care of your physical wellness, as well as getting out and meeting you people?

Frances: Yeah, I would say, being active, there’s no better place you can look from than the ARC which is our campus gym. The ARC has a lot of regular classes that meets once or twice a week, that’s either free of charge or at a very low cost. They include, like dancing, Yoga and like Aimee mentioned rock climbing, and those are like the regular classes that you can take during the week. The ARC also has, like, like those activities that are more like going, that venture out a little bit like. For example, there are like sunset paddle boarding or like kayaking, are really fun ways to like, go outside the campus and be more active. And other events that the ARC would have are like the late night, that I I hope they still host it, but because this experience comes from Pre Covid. But at the beginning of the school year, right, right before the school starts the ARC used to host like late late night activities where all the clubs and all the sports clubs and the intramural teams would host like activities there and have performances, and there will be like games for you to participate in. Those are really great activities, to like try out a bunch of different new things, and also see, like whether you would be potentially interested in being engaged, being involved in some of them. I’d say, those are great activities to start with. There are also, if you like, like a particular sport or activity. For example, like weightlifting or swimming or tennis. There’s also both intramural sports teams and also sports clubs. For example, the, so I really like tennis. So I only know the tennis one. So, for example, the tennis club at UCI, they have weekly practices that’s hosted by their club trainers/officers, and they’re open to both undergraduate and graduate students. I feel like those are great places to like do what you’re passionate about, and what you love and get to know more people, and especially, you know, with more younger people, which is also fun, that we don’t get a lot at grad school. So I feel like these are great ways for you to be more active on campus.

Aimee: And sometimes I think we spend so much time on campus that sometimes it’s nice to get out and explore the local community, and maybe without a car sometimes with the car. I know the International Center has quite a few events where they maybe take like a bus to explore SoCal. So can you talk a little bit more about off campus activities as well?

Frances: Yeah, the International Center has this great program like you mentioned Aimee called Explore SoCal. Basically, each year the location would differ by a little bit. But generally they would pick places in the LA area which you don’t really want to drive there. It’s a little hectic to drive over. So it’s nice to have a professional driver operating a bus that’s completely free of charge that goes to those places that are most famous for. Like some locations that they previously hosted Explore SoCal at include LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art, or like the Getty Museum, the Getty Villa, Hollywood and Venice Beach, Santa Monica, these places. And basically it’s like a one day trip where you meet up at (transcript unavailable) like at UCI and then you go to LA for a day, or like whichever destination it is and then, at the end of the day. You all get picked up by this drive back to UCI. This is one really great way to explore those popular destinations in Southern California and if you’re interested, check out IC.UCI.EDU for more of their programming information.

Aimee: Yeah, my friend, Sandy runs a lot of their programming. So they also have some on campus programming which I just forgot about until you were talking. But they do like International Coffee Hour, which is a really popular one for grad students. And that’s usually hosted and kind of the table area outside the International Center. I, I would say, that’s probably one of the programs I hear about the most. And then, are there any other off campus activities?

Frances: Yeah, other, another great way to get the more, to explore off campus more is to join clubs, especially Community Service Clubs. UCI has a lot of Community Service Club. The one I was involved in is called American Red Cross Club. Don’t let it fool you, it’s not just a blood drive. We do a lot of like weekly community service projects in local nonprofits like, the Second Harvest Group Bank, or like the co, The OC Coast Keeper. So like through these opportunities we can get more involved with our local community and see different areas. So like Coast Keeper, for example, is a program where volunteers will pick up trash at Huntington Beach. So this is a great way to also see Huntington Beach, while it’s not so crowded and also help beautify it, maintain our local environment a bit. And there are also Community Service Club on campus, such as the Rotary Club and I believe the name is Circle K. They all have, like different different structures and different, slightly different nonprofits that they support or go, or volunteer at, volunteer at, so feel free to explore all of these options.

Aimee: Yeah and I think that’s such a a cool way to get involved in the community, especially if you’re going to be here, some of our Ph.D. students are here from 5 to 8 plus years. And it’s a great way to meet community partners, maybe network a little bit with other people, because it’s not just generally UCI students that are going. Sometimes you’ll see other people from like the local community. So it’s a great way to network but also you, you take part in this community, giving back to the community can be a really great way to kind of take a break from school, and remember that the world is bigger than just your lab or your classroom, or your research project which we can kind of get stuck in that mindset. I know for me in grad school, it was like it’s like, I no longer had friends in the world didn’t exist outside of my research when, especially when I was finishing the end of my program. And so I think doing some of these off campus activities can be especially exciting, because you get to get out, breathe a little bit different air, meet some other people and just get away from campus for a little bit and let your brain, let your brain do something else. Do you have a favorite activity that you’ve done during your time at UCI?

Frances: This is a tough one, but I would say my favorite activity was being involved in campus departments as a, like a staffer. So this is not for like, just when you just started your program. It’s more like for your like, you can start looking into it in your first year to like, apply for available positions to be like working in different student affairs department as a staffer. Generally what it does is you can then help plan all those, some of those activities and also engage in your students as they’re adapting and transitioning to this new culture or just a new academic environment. I feel like being involved in these positions really help me understand, help me build self efficacy. So I know, like, not only can I get like more accustomed to the local culture, I can potentially help other people in this process. So I would definitely recommend folks who might be interested to try it out in their first year after they feel like they’re more comfortable with the campus to look into available positions for graduate students where they could like help new or incoming students to feel more welcomed.

Aimee: Yeah, that’s a great one. I also, I think, for me, I don’t, I wasn’t a student at UCI. But my favorite activity is always International Education Week. I’m co-chairing the committee this year, and so Graduate Division will be sponsoring an activity. That’s surprise for now what we’re planning. But keep, keep an eye out for some information on that, because it’s a great way for us to showcase the international student experience, which I think, I think in grad school often kind of gets overlooked. We are like, oh, you’ve been a student before everyone should know what they’re doing, but international students to experience different things. And we’d always like to showcase where students are from and to have our students take part in the different activities and and kind of just raise awareness that we have so many international graduate students here at UCI. So International Education Week happens in November. If you continue to read the GIC emails, you will hear more about it for me as we get closer and learn more information. But it’s the last thing that I’ll say, is grad school can be hard. It can be really exhausting. Many people don’t have the chance to go see their family very often and so I think it is really important that we build community as much as possible and so I said this in a few other ones during grad school, it’s not just about academics and professional development. You really need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well. I really struggled with that in grad school, and I wish that I had someone that was watching over me going, hey don’t forget you exist as a person in this time, too. So your relationships matter, your family matters, and, and your physical and mental health matters too. So getting out and doing some events and getting, you know, maybe into something at the ARC or something, try something new. Those things are really important for you to do during grad school as well. And thank you, Francis for joining us today. It was good to see you and loved hearing you share more about what we have on campus to offer.

Frances: Yeah, thanks for having me Aimee.

Aimee: Have a good one.


Frances: Thanks you, too.

Transcript of Podcast #17: On-Campus Study Spaces

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Bingya Ma (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to the next episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and today we’re going to be talking about places to study on or really close to campus. I think a lot of us we study at home, we study in our beds, we study wherever we can kind of find a space for, but sometimes it’s good to have a more specific space to study, especially as a grad student. And I like to move around when I’m working, I like to work in different places, and I know some students like to have different options for studying as well. So I’m going to pass it over to Bingya my co-host today to introduce herself.

Bingya: Yeah, Hello, everyone. My name is Bingya Ma. I am the incoming 3rd year Ph.D. student in program in Public Health, with the concentration on epidemiology and bio statistics and I’m very happy to be one of the GIC mentors this year, and I actually used to be a mentee last year. So this year, I would like to help more international students who have the same experienceas me. And I’ve explored various study spaces. So today I’m very excited to share my experiences with our listeners.

Aimee: Yeah and I think the most common place that students first want to study, especially before maybe you have a car, if you choose to get a car, is on campus. So what are some of the available study spaces on campus for students? 

Bingya: Yeah. So I think we definitely should start with the libraries. And there are 2 most famous ones Science Library and the Langson Library, and next to the Science Library, we also have the Multimedia Resources Center and across from the Langson Library, we also have a Gateway which is the first option for many students during the final week. And there are also several public areas on campus, that is also ideal for study. For example, the Student Center provides multiple study rooms and seats. And there’s another building called Anteater Learning Pavilion. This unique space actually combines classrooms and study areas. And there are also plenty of outdoor seating areas around the students center, the social science tower, engineering buildings, a physical science buildings and they provide a refreshing environment during good weather. And also I like to talk about schools or departments. I think, they are very important for graduate students. As far as I know, most of them offer separate offices for graduate students, especially for Ph.D. students. And we also have 3 Starbucks on campus. One is located at the student center, they have both indoor and order seats, and another one is located at the business school, and the third one is located at the biological sciences but they only offer outdoor seats.

Aimee: Yeah, I see a lot of students in the outdoor spaces. I like to walk Ring Road a lot and you’ll see a lot of different spots around with tables, and especially for group projects, if people are getting together and don’t care about the noise level, because it can get a little noisy outside. The Starbucks by the, with the Student Center is over by Aldrich, kind of over by my office. I’ve met with a lot of students there. I tend to have meetings over there just to get outside, too. But I will say that one when it rains the indoor space fills up very quickly. So if the weather’s bad, you definitely need to know that a lot of the students that normally would be meeting and hanging out outside are going to move indoors and so it does get, doesn’t rain here often, but when it does rain here, then those spaces fill up quite a bit faster. Do you have any tips regarding the study spaces, such as like opening times or how to register for rooms?

Bingya: Yeah, absolutely. So, here are several tips that can help students maximize their study experiences. So yeah, firstly, we should check the websites for the opening times of different study spaces. So keep in mind that libraries may have reduced hours on weekends, and during summer, spring or winter breaks But during the final week of the quarter many study spaces especially the libraries who extend their hours to accommodate students needs. And yeah, as Aimee mentioned, libraries also provide separate study rooms for students. So to access study rooms, you just need to register via the the library’s website (example: https://spaces.lib.uci.edu/reserve/Science) or once you find an available study room in person at the library, you can also just scan the QR code attached to the door for easy registration.

Aimee: Yeah, and some of that, especially during busy times of the year, those places do fill up. So I would say during finals week don’t walk in and expect to like find a ton of space together in the library, or to find an empty study room. So checking online is always a really great option, and, like you, mentioned a lot of things during the breaks here close either fully, or they have reduced hours. And you know we talk about this and some of our other podcasts on food, like some of the dining places, close down some of our offices close during the winter break, some of, like majority of the campus just fully closes down for an administrative break. So while I know that grad students sometimes still continue to have things happening during those times of years. Because the majority of campus is on a break, those places do tend to close down. So there are advantages and disadvantages to the different kinds of study spaces on campus. What would you say are some of those advantages and disadvantages? 

Bingya: Yeah, so yeah, let, let’s start with libraries again. So, yeah, definitely, the a library offers a very quiet and focused environment. And I think, there are relatively available seats here at UCI, compared with other universities, I know. So even during the peak times, like the final weeks, we can still find a seat, I think. And also I think, the views from the library windows can be very inspiring. For example, we can have a very good view of the Aldrich Park at Langson Library, and I also really like watching the sunset on the fourth floor of the Science Library. And for cons, if any, I think students may find the chairs and tables are not that comfortable. And, as I mentioned previously, libraries may have limited opening hours during holidays. And for Student Center, I think they provides a very convenient location where you can find various food options nearby. So this is really good for a quick bite during the study breaks. However, I think similar to the libraries, while Student Center has just improved with renovations, some areas still lack natural light, and they don’t have very comfortable seating. And also would like to talk a little bit about schools or departments. So, but here, first of all, let’s say that the pros and cons I talk about here don’t apply to all students and all programs. So those are just from my personal experience. So, for example, the Program in Public Health, where I am from provides standing tables and very comfortable chairs for Ph.D. students. However, some shared offices in some departments they can become noisy, because sometimes we just couldn’t help talking with each other, so we may find it hard to stay focused. Yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, I would say, one of the things that most grad students should invest in that, and I wish I would have invested in as a grad student, are noise canceling headphones. Because sometimes it’s hard to find a quiet space to study. Even you could end up finding the spot at the library where someone next to you is trying to have a a whispered conversation. That’s still a distracting enough. So why, the library tends to be the most quiet. You never know what you’re going to get into, so good pair of headphones where you can play some like noise, just noise while you’re studying, it’s always a great option. I know, the GPSRC does have like an, an office space here that we have had students, especially for bigger projects try and come together and use. And and that’s always an option, too, is to reach out to us at the GPSRC, the Graduate Resource, GP, Graduate Postdoctoral Resource Center (Aimee meant: Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholar Resource Center), that I always get that wrong, it’s a long name. But it’s for grad students and post docs, and it’s a great place. We’re generally pretty quiet unless there’s like a big event happening. So it’s always a nice spot to come again. Our tables and chairs are not super comfortable. I wouldn’t say it’s a long term, a long term option for students. But if you have a group and you’re not able to find a study space. You’re always welcome to reach out and see if you can come here. So those are the main kind of on campus places. But for students living in the housing communities. There are some other options there as well. Could you provide an overview of the study spaces that are available in our housing communities?

Bingya: Yeah. Sure. So. all 3 graduate housing including Verano Place, Palo Verde and Campus Village, have study spaces available for graduate, graduate housing residence.

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve been to a few of them. I think again they fill up a depending on the time of year. But our graduate housing residents restricted to using the spaces in their own communities?

Bingya: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And the answer is, no. So residents, residents are not restricted to only using study rooms in their own community. They actually can enjoy the resources of all graduate housing communities. However, I think it’s good to be mindful of the parking regulations of different communities to avoid getting the tickets.

Aimee: Yeah, that’s a big one. If you know someone that lives in Palo Verde and maybe you live in Campus Village and you’re going to join them to do a study. Try and get a guest pass because most of the communities restrict you to parking within your community. I know I’ve gone to do like events at some of the housing community spaces and every time one of my students has to give me a guest pass because, it does not count for me to park anywhere else. So that’s really great, because you definitely don’t want to get a ticket for just trying to study somewhere. And I have heard a lot of students. maybe they live in one community, but they prefer the environment of another one in terms of the study spaces. So I just encourage you, if you’re living on campus, to at least go see them to maybe take a walk around campus and see if you like the chairs or the tables or the area better in some of the other communities. And again, there are always the kind of advantages into disadvantages or pros and cons of every space. So what are some of those pros and cons of the study spaces and housing communities?

Bingya: Yeah, so I think the biggest advantage might be the proximity to our residence. So this might motivate us to spend more time studying. Yeah and for cons, I think that also vary by community. Some communities may have fewer students studying there. So sometimes we may feel a lack of peer pressure to study, or there is not any study vibe there, just like at home. Yeah. However, some study spaces in some communities are very popular. For example, it will be a bit hard to find some study rooms at the Verano Place Community Center, due to a very high demand, because VP is a, is the largest graduate housing community. And the newly renovated community center is really fancy. So many students prefer studying there.

Aimee: Yeah, it’s very fancy I went into it recently. So I definitely would agree with that. I will say you, you brought this up and kind of slightly off topic. But the peer pressure of studying with other people is very beneficial for anybody. So if you’re someone who maybe has routinely studied by yourself, and you find it hard to like move forward or stay focused. I think I studied a lot by myself because I thought I needed that like quiet environment. But what I really needed was someone sitting next to me, regardless of whether they are working on a different kind of project, or maybe they’re applying for internships. The fact that they were doing something at their computer and I was doing something at my computer was very helpful for me. So we’ll probably have a podcast, in September or October on kind of tips and tricks for studying. But that is one thing that I will just add in now, since we’re talking about study spaces is, try and find someone, they don’t have to be in your program that they don’t have to be your year in your program, they, just somebody that’s also studying to go study with or find one of those busy places where everyone seems to be working on something. So we talked about on campus, and we talked about the housing communities. For those living off campus. I live in the area off campus and I work from home sometimes and we have study spaces and work lounges within my complex and a lot of the area, off campus housing does as well. So similar, a lot of them are first come first serve or reserve place, but that does very kind of community to community. So I recommend as you’re looking at places, if it’s important for you to have some place outside of your apartment to study or to work, be looking into that if you’re looking at off campus housing. But a lot of them do have plenty of space and options for, for studying like that. So if you don’t want to study on campus, maybe you just want to break or maybe it’s one of those times of years, where things are closed down a little bit earlier, and maybe you don’t want to study in your housing community because you’ve been there, and you just need a new change of scenery. What are some other places around campus like, so in the local area that you would recommend for studying?

Bingya: Yeah. So I guess many incoming graduate students have already heard about University of Town Center, UTC, or the Campus Plaza, so they also have very excellent study spaces. I personally recommend Pete’s Coffee at UTC, because it offers a very good study environment along with the delicious coffee to keep you energized. And the Starbucks at the Campus Plaza also provides a great ambience for studying, even on weekends or holidays.

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of students there during the holidays. I’ve worked from that Starbucks and some other ones in the local community. I, I would agree with you, Pete’s has great coffee, and I would say the majority of GIC mentors, if you ask them where their favorite coffee shop to study is, they would say Pete’s. It does have limited space indoors, but that does also have some outdoor seating. And there’s Internet over there, in the whole UTC area, there’s pretty good Wi-fi. And I would say to Pete’s Coffee has some good snacks. They have some good like scones and things. If, if you’re like me, and you like to snack on things while you’re studying to kind of keep you distracted. That’s always a really great option. That was all that we had to to discuss. I do, I am curious what your favorite study space is on, in, on campus or in the housing communities are around campus. What is your like go to space or do you kind of pop around to different ones?

Bingya: Yeah. So, so as I mentioned our program offers standing tables and very comfortable chairs for Ph.D. students. And I live pretty close to my department. So yeah, my favorite study space definitely will be my office. However, if I don’t need to do coding work. If I don’t need a, a very good computer, then I will go to Pete’s or Starbucks. Because, yeah, as I mentioned many students studying there. So yeah, you may feel very motivated to studying there.

Aimee: Yeah, great options, especially because, you know, you can get a good drink and hang out. And I love seeing students go there together and working on different projects, or as you make friends, being able to connect with other people. And sometimes it’s nice to have someone to take a 5 min break to be like, okay, we’re gonna work for 50 min, and then we’re gonna take a 5 min, break together, maybe talk about what we’re doing. Maybe get my mind off of all of the things I just learned and then jump back in. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone gonna help to build in those breaks with you. But thank you, this is really helpful. I learned a few things about where to study on campus. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the student center, so I know a little bit more about the student center now. So I appreciate you joining us today. And we hope that this podcast was helpful for you and keep an eye out for other podcasts where we’ll talk about things regarding and studying or academics or building relationships with your advisors.


Bingya: Okay, thank you. And hope everyone can find their favorite study spaces to keep motivated.

Transcript of Podcast #18: Dealing with Culture Shock

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Blanca Romero Mila (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone welcome to another episode of the GIC podcast, my name is Aimee Jiang I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division. And I’m excited today to be joined by Blanca and we’re going to talk about culture shock. And I think we were talking earlier before we started recording. I think this is a phrase that you hear a lot from other students. They’ll talk about certain things that kind of sent them into a culture shock, or that we’re surprising for them. so we use this phrase a lot to describe things. But it is kind of bigger than just a like temporary thing. So we’ll talk about that a little bit today, and there’s some stages of that. But I’m gonna have Blanca introduce herself before we jump into it.

Blanca: Hello! I’m Blanca. I’m a first year Ph.D. student in the Biomedical Engineering Department. I’m from Spain, and this is my first year, being a GIC Mentor. And I’m really happy to be part of this podcast today.

Aimee: Yeah. And so I kind of briefly touched on it. But culture shock is, it’s a phrase of kind of stages, that define stages that we go through. Which can be a short term or a long term stepping outside of your culture. So can you describe a little bit more, though what culture shock is?

Blanca: Yeah, of course. So before this, I didn’t exactly know what culture shock was. So it was really interesting to learn like an actual definition for this term that we always use but we don’t necessarily know what it means. So culture shock is a normal process, it is really important to emphasize this normal, that a person goes through when it’s adapting to a new situation or a new environment in a new place. During this process we, we become aware of differences between our culture and the new culture we’re being exposed to. And this situation can make us feel uncomfortable, anxious, homesick, and even sad or angry.

Aimee: Yeah, and I think especially early on when you add in like jet lag and being tired and then you’re searching for a food that makes you feel comfortable. I know when I even travel, you know, outside of a place that feels culturally comfortable for me. Maybe there’s another language maybe I’m just there for a couple of days. It can feel really overstimulating, overwhelming, to be surrounded by people speaking a language, maybe, that I’m not as comfortable with, or all of the food around me to be different. So there are a couple of stages that we go through, and it’s not a linear process. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later, because it does generally look different for most people. But the, the psychology that this is based upon it defines culture shock, as you said as a normal process, and again, we emphasize, this is something that everyone experiences. As a student, you may experience it for a longer period of time, because it’s a longer program than maybe a short term travel. But a lot of people will feel it when they’re traveling as well. But the the psychological kind of definition ,defines it into 4 different stages. So the first stage is called the honeymoon stage. And so this is, you think about like how we define a honeymoon, it’s like when a a married couple goes off and has a good adventure together and celebrates their new life right? So it’s a very exciting process in a new beginning. A lot of people are excited about this new adventure. Sometimes things feel like you’re in a movie. There’s a lot of joy. around this stage for most people and often a lot of adrenaline as well. And so I’ve seen a lot of students who I meet mostly during like orientation, or maybe, as they’re moving into the campus, dropping off their transcripts. Where you can visibly see that they’re like pumped up, and an excited to be in America, to be at UCI, to be starting their grad school journey and there’s just yeah, there’s a lot of joy and and excitement around that stage. Do you remember what that was like for you when you first got here?

Blanca: Yeah. what you’re describing, that was me. I was so excited. I had it was, it was really hard for me to get here right. Getting here is not always easy and getting like the, the like the fellowships to get here, getting accepted into graduate school, so that all of that is like a really big excitement, moving out of home. So I was really, really excited. Everything was perfect. I, I didn’t realize that I was tired, that I was like exhausted that I didn’t understand most of the things that were telling me. It was just like excitement. Yeah,

Aimee: Yeah, it’s this new journey. I think, when they kind of describe it as feeling like a movie. It’s often because everything around you feels shiny and fun and the food that you’re trying is cool and unique and different, maybe, from what you had before. and those, the things that sometimes students eat, or the things that students sometimes do, like adventuring when they get here. I find that that’s often the first thing that becomes irritating to them later. So students will come and they’ll have, like In-N-Out, very common food for a lot of students to eat, it’s near campus, it’s very American, very Californian in particular, And then I find that as students maybe get to the second stage, which is a stage of frustration. They’re like the foods heavy, and it’s greasy, and everything’s burgers and fries. And I really just want something traditional for me. And so the frustration stage being that second stage is generally once you’ve been here for a little bit of time. That newness of everything, that adventure and adrenaline and excitement starts to wear off and you can kind of feel disoriented like everything around you is really confusing. You’re really tired all of a sudden. I don’t know if any of you have experienced like a really thrilling adventure. I’m, I’m not one of these people, but I know for people that talk about like going skydiving when they’re in the moment they’re like so excited. And then when they get to the bottom, and it’s over. All they want to do is take a nap, because all of that adrenaline and excitement is really exhausting for your brain and your body. And so the frustration stage is generally where a honeymoon is starting to wear off, and you’re physically and mentally exhausted. You’re very tired, and you’re starting to maybe see the differences between your culture and the culture you’re in or the values that you have and the people around you, traditions being very different. Those things are starting to stand out in conversations and the actions of people around you. And it’s no longer interesting and exciting. It’s irritating, and it’s hard for you to pick up on and understand. And this is particularly difficult for our students that maybe don’t find a good community here, or the language becomes more of a barrier. So if you’re not from a place where English is a commonly spoken language or you are, and the English is different. I know a lot of our students that learn more of a British English. Will get confused by very Californian American laid back slang kind of English. And so that can be particularly hard too. I noticed a lot of students talk to me about keeping up with conversations becoming really hard in this stage when you’re excited and the adrenaline’s going. When an American is talking really fast, it’s like, Oh, yeah, I can keep up, I know what I’m doing. But once you start to get tired and your brains overwhelmed and things are starting to sink in, it can be really hard to maybe understand what people are saying. Maybe you’re paying more attention to the you know, the different traditions and values and ways that we speak, and that can be really really frustrating. That’s why it’s called the frustration stage. Do you remember having any experience with that kind of feeling when you first got here, like early on in your time?

Blanca: Yeah. So now that, like what you said about the food that was like me, too, right, because in the beginning you just go to all these events. And all these events have, like, basically junk food. But you’re so excited to try everything. And at some point you realize your stomach is so upset it’s just he hurts and you feel sick. But another experience that I had in which I can relate this like, different like stages, was meeting new people or making friends. So in the beginning I would like meet with everyone, be part of all the plans I was invited to hang out with everyone. There’s like a really big like Spanish group here at UCI, so I would go with all of them. My brain would like consider all of them friends, and I would go to all the plans, no matter what the plan was. I guess that was like my meeting people honeymoon, and at some point, I was exhausted. I started not going to all the plans, and then I realized that I was just like just joining these people, not, not taking into account what type of people I feel comfortable going with. So I was like, all of them are my friends because they are the only people I know here. But the plans we are doing are not my type of plans the type of people they are, they are not my type of people, and so that produced like a really really big frustration in my brain. And it translated into me, thinking I was never going to meet people because I feel forced, I felt forced to be friends with these people, because they were the only people I knew. But I realized they were not just the type of people and the type, the style of people I usually go with. So yeah, just like, I think this was a big like frustration, frustration moment.

Aimee: Yeah, I, I do see that quite often where people get I don’t want to say overly involved. But they get super involved with lots of different groups. And then, yeah, they start to realize the things that I like to do, maybe I like to go hiking and none of these people like to go hiking, they like to sit down and at a bar and hang out. And you’re like that’s totally opposite what I like to do. 

Blanca: Yeah

Aimee: But I feel this need to participate in a community because all of a sudden you’re realizing that you join things just for the sake of joining things because of the excitement of it. Instead of making friends where you actually have, like a a solid connection.

Blanca: Yeah, this group of people where, like a really big party group. So I would go to all the parties like 3 times a week. I’ve never done this in my life. I’m not a party person, I go to like parties when there’s like an important event going on like I only party if it’s a birthday, it’s like a end of the school year, or like these things. I’m not, I’m just not a party person, but I I would see myself going party like 3 times a week, and at some point I was just like, why am I doing? I don’t even enjoy it.

Aimee: Yeah, no, I do think that it’s one of the common things because, and I start to see a lot of students that maybe are like early morning people staying out late to get to know people, and it’s like that’s not you. So, but I think because right, you, you’re excited. You’re jet lagged. Life is weird and new, and fancy, you’re excited to meet all these new people, and you don’t take into consideration, what are my actual needs as a person when it comes to creating my community. And so that is a really big one. So you start out on that honeymoon. There’s all this excitement and adrenaline, and everything feels shiny and new, and then at some point, some, for some people, it’s a very quick change for some people, it’s the slow, some things start to become irritating, and then more things start to become irritating. And then generally, though people do move into the third stage, which is called adaptation. And so this is when you maybe even start to call your apartment your home, or you go back to where you’re from and that’s home but then, when you’re heading back to California to UCI, you’re also saying to people, I’m going home. So now you have 2 homes. So you’ve adapted a little bit more to your new environment, and it starts to feel a little more comfortable. Right? That disorientation of why am I here? What am I doing? What’s going on around me? Starts to go away, you maybe don’t understand completely some of the linguistic or certain cultural, like queues or you know, ways that people talk or movements or in the way that we say hello to each other, or things like that. But in general you’re starting to get a better idea of it. And maybe you’re becoming, it’s becoming easier for you to ask questions. I think in the honeymoon stage you don’t think to ask questions because you’re just too excited. And then in frustration stage, you usually don’t want to ask questions because you’re just so irritated with how Americans do things, and usually in adaptation, that is when I start to hear a lot of students talking to each other about like oh in my culture, this is how we greet each other when we’re friends. And now you have maybe a good community, and you’re introducing people to your culture, and they’re sharing, maybe their culture with you. So everything just starts to become a little easier for you to interpret and process through. Most of the time, when I see students in my office. they’re in honeymoon, and they just want to meet me because they’re excited to be here, or they’re in frustration, and they’re having a really hard time with their transition here. When I see students in adaptation this third stage that we’re talking about, it’s generally because they maybe joined GIC as a mentor, and they’re excited to be like, hey, I’m in a better space now, and I want to help other students through what I’ve been through. Maybe like you said maybe you didn’t have the language to what culture shock was but maybe you wanted to help students through that exciting and frustrating part, and to help them get to the adaptation. the way that you have. So I think that’s generally when I start to see students in this stage, and they don’t need my help as much anymore. It’s more just continuing to build community. I see them at events or in like mentoring programs. What do you think about the adaptation stage. Do you feel like that’s where you are, or you’ve moved into the next stage that we’ll get to? Do you remember when it changed from frustration to more of adaptation?

Blanca: Yeah. So I think I’m like, I’m in adaptation for sure. But like I’m kind of like far along adaptation like. So it just to follow with like the friends, update. I feel like what the change was really clear when I just like stop, like stopped and I listen to myself. And I was like, Okay, what do I want from this? Right? What, what do I enjoy? And then from here I, I started like I accepted that not doing what others do, it’s not going to make me be alone. I think that was my fear. I was like, if I have to be here for 5 years by myself, this is going to be hell. And I think that’s what, that’s what was making me do what I didn’t want to do, just to make sure I had people. But at some point I realized I, that I clicked and I realized that the important thing was to find the people that work for me, not just like people. So yeah, I started to do what I like to do. I, as you said, I’m on morning person. So I started working, waking up early and and doing my things and stopped joining those plans that I did not enjoy. So I didn’t completely like, remove, like those people from my life. I just joined what I really like generally wanted it to do. And then something else that I did is like I opened up to like other people. So in the beginning I would only hang out from people, from my culture, or like not only like Spain, maybe also, like Europe, kind of culture. But I didn’t have those, that many friends from like other cultures. So I start go. I started like going to class and opening to like Americans and people from like all around the world. And it was then when I realized that there’s actually people that are like me, like my style of people, that are like from other cultures. And at that point is when, like it’s at the point on right now, right like meeting your people and making sure I do what I want, and I don’t like feel pressured for like any like fear or anything. And just like, yeah. So it was like my 2 like advices, advices would be like to one, be like truthful to yourself, and two like open up to like other not only people, but all other like experiences and your context.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s really important because I think. like you said, it’s important to recognize what your needs are right, and it’s hard to do that when you’re too excited, and when all of a sudden you’re like all that excitement is gone and now I just feel really sad. And the fear of loneliness is very common for students, especially those that are in a Ph.D. program who are going to be here for a long time. And so really, when you get into adaptation, and you start to recognize that like, I’m not the only person like this in the world, right? The world is at UCI, we have a lot of students from all over the world and what other time in your life will you have that opportunity. So, getting to know other people, and realizing that I might be from Spain, we might have a student from Nigeria, who we like the same kind of books, and we like to get up early and go on a run. And I just made a friend who’s from a different cultural context than me. But I’m realizing how much we have in common. Or an American that likes the same things, or someone from Singapore who likes the same things, like anywhere in the world that we go. There’s always going to be someone who has a similar idea of you, maybe even similar values that you didn’t expect, because your cultures maybe are so outwardly different. But you have similar values, maybe within it. I hear from a lot of students that they worry that Americans are all going to be very like independent. And for some of our students that come from more of a collectivist society (defined as a culture that values the group over the individual) that feels really off putting but you’ll find a lot of Americans have very similar ideas about taking care of family or being really close to their families. So I think when you get into adaptation you, you all of a sudden have an open mind right like the honeymoon stage, your mind is all jumbled because you’re just too excited. The frustration stage, most people end up being kind of more close minded, I just want to be a people who are from the same culture, maybe speak the same language as me. And then there’s a point where you open up and you are more accepting of everything around you, and that would be adaptation. And there is a final stage, and I will be honest. I have seen students stay in honeymoon the whole time, because maybe they’re in a shorter program, and that, that joy just never wears off. I’ve seen students stay in frustration the whole time. Luckily for the most part, those have been also shorter term programs, so they’re like, I just don’t like it here, I’m not staying for OPT, I don’t want to work here, I’m going to go home. So if you’re stuck in that we have tips for you later. But do recognize that there are some people that just can never, just never get out of that stage. And then adaptation, I think, is a pretty common one for students to stay in because it’s still a, you’re still growing towards the last stage, but you’ve moved past frustration. And so that last stage is called acceptance. So generally the stage takes quite a bit of time. I will see a lot of my students getting into this stage closer to graduation. Sometimes it takes years to get to it. But you started to like you mentioned in adaptation, you’ve started to make new friends, and you’re learning more small details about American culture and that leads to not just an acceptance, which is what the stage name is, but also more of an appreciation. And I don’t, but I don’t want to see, I don’t want to see students say, I really like American culture better than my own. That’s not the acceptance stage. It’s recognizing the differences and appreciating what your culture gave you, and what American culture gave you, and finding a good in between for what that feels like for you. So that’s acceptance. It’s, I’ve chosen to be here, I love certain aspects of my culture, I also love certain aspects, maybe, of American culture, and I’ve combined that to create this new kind of space in my life. Do you see? I see you working towards this just having gotten to know you. Do you see any of that being something that you’re still trying to get to?

Blanca: Yeah, I think so. Yes, because and that’s something I want to talk about later. But something I would do a lot in the beginning would be to compare right like, Oh, in Spain this is better or Oh, this is better here, and that’s like very toxic to do, because you’re comparing things that cannot be compared. Like somethings gonna be maybe not better, but more convenient for you, which doesn’t mean it’s gonna be the same for the person next to you. Right? So the, the fact of accepting that both things are perfectly fine but some of them we will work, will work better with your lifestyle, with your way of doing. That helped me a lot to like stop like under rating one or the other. Because I was not like under rating American culture all the time, and I was not under rating Spanish culture all the time, but in certain aspects I would under rate one of them. And I’ve like, that made it harder to adapt. Right? So now I, I I’m starting to know how things work here, and I try to adapt to them. And if there’s something, for example, food I will, I don’t think I’ll ever adapt to American like food culture. I like my like European food culture. So I’ll just, I, I’m just implementing it with the tools I know, and the tools I can get here to my life here. But, for example, like schedule, I love the American schedule right? I, I don’t like eating like dinner at 11 pm. I’m just, I cannot do that, right? So I’m like transitioning into like American schedule, which is like, awesome. So yeah, just like I feel like combining both of them, but not under rating any of them. Yeah i’m in that process.

Aimee: Yeah. And I think it’s, it’s, it takes time, right? It’s, it’s definitely a process. And I think you mentioned something that’s really important. It is really toxic to compare negatively, I think there is in this acceptance stage, what they’re getting that is that you’re comparing an appreciation you’re like, I appreciate the way public transportation in Spain works. But I also appreciate the independence that a car can give you in the U.S., right? You’re not saying public transportation is way better, transportation here terrible. I hate driving cars. I hate all this. You, that hate language, that negative language. It’s I can see the benefit of one, and I can see the benefit of the other. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a preference. I’ll be honest, I appreciate and prefer public transportation in Europe, and probably, I’ve heard Asia is even better so I’d probably appreciate it there as well. But I also understand that the culture and the U.S. especially where we live, is based around more independent driving and getting to places. And in some ways I appreciate being able to take a road trip where I can get out of the car whenever I feel like it. As long as I feel like it, and have less rules about it, not having to get back on the train, not having to do all those things. So I can appreciate both of those things, see benefits, but see negatives in both of them. So that’s really where that appreciation for it comes. And like you said with food. There are certain parts of American culture, where the food is just like fast food, and it’s greasy and it’s heavy. But there are, I would say, in this area, especially coastally in California, and on the West Coast there are some places that have more of a Mediterranean influence, with a lot of fish and lighter things and local vegetables. Our farmers markets really push that kind of mentality of eating more local and seasonal things which is very uncommon for some other places in the U.S. But you never have to adapt to it. Right? You can say I can understand the ease of this for American culture, but for me, I really appreciate being able to take time and eat my own food the way that I like to cook it, the way that I like it fresh. But maybe I do like to eat it 7 h earlier than I would have back home, because I’m a morning person and who wants to be eating and then going right to bed right, especially as we get older. Bodies don’t seem to like that as much. So I appreciate that because I do think you’re, you’re changing your mindset from a negative to a positive, and that helps you move from adaptation into acceptance. But that does come with time, and we briefly touched on this. But it, culture shock doesn’t look the same for everyone. Right? it’s not always a linear phase. Some people skip phases completely like I mentioned earlier some people never move past early stages. But can you talk a little bit more about how culture shock can look different for people.

Blanca: Yeah. So yeah, it’s mainly like what you mentioned. So there’s people that yes, go through the 4 phases. There’s people, as you said, to stay in honeymoon, which I mean it’s great, is it realistic? Not really, but, but great for them. There’s people that, unfortunately, and I’ve met a lot of people that just stay in frustration for so so so long. They just they keep focusing in this one negative thing. And they’re not able to go, go past that. In those cases I think like something, because when I was in frustration, something that helped me was and sometimes people just don’t consider it an option is therapy, right? Someone that opens up your mind and shows you these 100 good things and these 2 negative things are just like taking like that, your whole brain. So yeah. And then I don’t know. I, I am an adaptation. I and I feel like I don’t know when I’m going to get into acceptance. But I think it’s a really fine line between adaptation and acceptance, right? Because I mean, once you adapt, it’s like, if you’re going to transition really slowly from one to the other. And something really important to know is that you can be in adaptation or acceptance for years and all of a sudden frustration comes back and that’s also totally fine. I don’t know. A lot of things can happen in your life. All of a sudden your Ph.D. can get harder, or something can happen in your like home like, back in your country that makes you like your brain like pre, like reprocesses, everything. And that’s also fine like you achieving this acceptance does not mean you cannot just like have another like the, the the cycle all over again.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that’s really important. Because, like we mentioned, it’s not linear, right? You don’t go from one to the other. Sometimes you skip, but sometimes you do go backwards. And you mentioned this, and I think this is the most common time that I’ve seen. Is when something happens back home. Whether that’s on a personal level. When Covid started early on, I saw with a lot of my Chinese students that were really not happy with the way that campuses or American culture was reacting to the pandemic, the lack of care, maybe the lack of, that, I think that was when people started to recognize more some of my students that individualistic, I know what this word is, individualistic and collectivist society. Like the collectivist, taking care of each other right like. If one area of your culture or your country is struggling, everyone feels the pain of that right. But in the U.S. something can happen in the East Coast and the West Coast doesn’t even know about it, or maybe it doesn’t really care. And so I saw it a lot during the pandemic. Turkiye and Syriam when we had the earthquakes, I saw a lot with my students from those countries you know, just struggling with what’s happening back home, and maybe the lack of care that they were getting from faculty members or advisors or classmates. I saw it lot with Iranian students who were like no one’s paying attention to what’s happening and then it was like, months later, some of their like peers would be like, Hey, you’re from Iran, right? Something’s happening where you’re from. Are you doing okay? And they’re like, and I’ve been struggling for a months, where have you been? And so I think I saw a lot of those students where I knew they had hit adaptation, or maybe acceptance. And it was like they took a huge step back, because those things were mentally hard on them, and they were having to reprocess what it was like to be here as a student outside of their own kind of culture and comfort zone. And so like you mentioned, I think counseling is a really great option for that I know culturally, some people aren’t as open to the concepts of counseling. The GPSRC has often spaces for students just to come together too, to be in community, and I think taking advantage of those spaces is really important. And hopefully GIC will have some events this year that kind of talk more about this, or just like check in like, where are you? Are you still really excited? Are you hating being here? And that’s okay. If you come to my office and you tell me you hate being here. I’m not going to be like. Let me tell you how perfect it is to be in the U.S. I’m going to understand that it’s hard. I think my most recent trip outside the U.S.. was to London and Paris and those places, Paris especially is known for good food, but my body hated the food, and I felt miserable the whole time, and but at first I was really excited. I was on an adventure. I was on break from work, and this is a short term thing. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience partial culture shock, and just like being overwhelmed with the language and the food and the way my body was reacting to it. And so you’re not alone. Make sure you talk to people about it, and who better than other international students? So come to GIC events, check in with your mentor, if you have one, international coffee hour, I see a lot of graduate students going to that event. It’s another great place to connect with students who get it, right, who are in it, or have moved through it. And so I think, if counseling is something you’re not as open to, even though I would highly encourage people to do it, especially early on, just so you have that person helping you through these stages, use those events as a place to feel less alone. And so, because you’ve been through some of these stages, and you’ve talked a little bit about some of these things already. What kind of tricks would you encourage people to do to try and overcome some of the maybe more negative parts of culture shock?

Blanca: Yeah. So some of the things that I did, some of them I’ve already talked about, so I’ll just go to them quickly. But the first one is, as I said, be really open minded. Try to learn about everything that is around you. Even if you like, disagree with something someone says or with something someone, does try to learn about it. Just like as long as you understand why that person does that. Why, this society thinks this, just like understanding. It’s gonna like, open you a lot of doors. Also try to like, not negatively compare the new place to your home. They’re just different places. Try to ask and acknowledge both, and just choose the aspects of each culture that like just work the best for you. One thing that also help me is to like just like really easy like, write a journal right. Try to, I don’t know, maybe not every day, if you don’t have time, but every once in a while just get a journal, a notebook and try to write, something that helps me is to write like a couple like positive aspects of your day. Even like, especially when you have a really bad day, just getting a piece of paper and writing 2 good things that happen to you that day. Even if it’s just like one, really helps you like refocus from the negative to the positive, because sometimes we just like get so overwhelmed with all the negative, we just forgot, we forget that there was actually like that one positive in our day. And with time it will transition to like actually like more positive than negatives. What else? Really important, do not seal yourself up like. Open your, open up yourself, meet new people, classmates, even like I don’t know, like GIC peers if want to be part of GIC, meet people in like clubs, or I don’t know, in like different places, and at the gym and just open up, meet people, and then, and you will find the people that like suits your lifestyle better and, and your personality better. Also, something really important, ask questions. Anything you don’t understand, even if it’s like an English word or a situation, an abbreviation, an acronym. Like my friends, like my American friends, use so many acronyms when texting. I don’t understand anything. I’m like can you stop doing that, please? In the beginning I would just not understand, and I wouldn’t say anything, and I would miss a lot of information, and I would feel left out and no one was doing that to me, I was doing that to myself. So just ask, they will be more than happy to answer. They’re not gonna think you’re dumb. They’re not think you, they just they’re gonna answer. And even sometimes they ask me, Oh, and how do you say it in Spanish? So like it goes both ways. Just ask questions if you don’t understand what a phrase is. If you don’t understand what a food is, a place is, just ask. If you’re like in a meeting with your lab, with your PI, and you don’t know what they’re talking about, you don’t understand those English words, or you don’t know how to express something. Just try to explain it the best you can, and they will give you like the words like the English words, and they will try to like help you. That really really helps. Because I went from like not understanding everything and not being able to express everything, to just like not caring, asking, and being able to like, fully communicate. And the last one is to be open about your culture. So something that I do now is that when I see something that it’s not familiar to me, something that people does or says that we don’t do in in my country, I, I always say, Oh, I’ve never seen this. We do it this way, or I’ve never like eaten this the closest I have there is this. And people like that, too, if you’re learning about them. But you don’t realize they also want to like, learn about you. Yeah, I think these are my advices.

Aimee: Yeah, I think that last one is really important. I think more Americans are open to learning about other cultures. And for some Americans, maybe they have ties to your culture, and they don’t know much about like the culture of their ancestors. And they’re really excited and they really want to learn something about their family history or the place that you’re from, because that will connect them to their ancestors as well. So I think, being really open about your culture, participating in events maybe, the International Center does where you can share more about your culture. Or if GIC has a space for you to come share about your culture. I think I would encourage people to always participate in that. And I think you mentioned something, too. We have a lot of acronyms on campus in general. But Americans do tend to like I don’t, because I think it’s really unclear, we tend to shorthand a lot of things into acronyms.

Blanca: A lot!

Aimee: So many things!

Blanca: Like a whole sentence all of a sudden it’s like 6 letters. How am I supposed to know what those 6 letters to mean,

Aimee: And I feel like the younger generation does it even more like I get lost sometimes when I’m talking to people younger than me or my husband’s friends we’ll have like a group chat, and they’ll put something in there. And I’m like, what does this mean? And I Google it sometimes because I’m like, I should know this. I just feel old, but I think we all have those like questions, and sometimes the acronym that one culture uses might be different. So if you have a shorthand in your culture, and you’re like this doesn’t sound right. The context, it’s fitting in here. That can be different too. And Americans have a lot of weird sayings, we tie a lot of things to baseball and baseball is not always universal. So if you don’t know a lot about baseball, and people are like 3 strikes then you’re out. You probably would be like, well, I don’t even know what that means. And that’s because you try to hit a baseball 3 times, and if you get, if you don’t hit it within those 3 times you’re out and it you don’t get to continue to play the game so. The, often that’s used in classrooms. I see, that one is pretty common and we’ve talked about not comparing things to each other a couple of times, and my American brain keeps going, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. That is a really common phrase that we use when we’re trying to describe, comparing things that are very different, right? Like the way you peel an orange and the way you peel an apple are very different. If you choose to peel an apple because you can eat the skin, you can eat orange skins, but most people choose not to. They’re kind of bitter unless you make them into a marmalade. So you those wouldn’t be the same thing right? And so when we’re talking about not comparing your home, maybe that’s the orange to the U.S. which would be an apple. You can’t, because they’re so different. But you’ll hear a lot of phrases like that. And sometimes I hear phrases because the U.S. is so large and has a lot of different cultures. Sometimes my coworkers or friends, will say something. and I don’t even know what they’re talking about. So I ask questions all the time. and that’s just a big part of our culture, it’s just being open to being like, what did you mean by that? Or I’ve never heard that before. But I like what you said to turn that around and be like, Oh, I, we, we don’t say something, we don’t say that where I’m from, but maybe we have a similar saying, and here’s how we say it, and this is what it translates to. And maybe I like the way you say, but this is, yeah, this is how we do it. Just sharing something about yourself, not just not just taking in what you’re learning, but giving out something that would teach someone about your culture as well. So I think those are some great tips. Yeah, I think the llast thing I mentioned earlier is just get connected with people on campus, so that you’re not alone. And you mentioned it, loneliness is a really big fear of a lot of students, especially those that are going to be here so long term and don’t know someone when they’re already coming in. So if that’s you and you’re nervous, get involved, try different events, but don’t feel tied to just one person or one culture, or one connection. Be really open to sitting next to someone in class and just asking them what their name is, and seeing if you have anything in common. Maybe they share something in class, and you’re like, Oh, that’s a really interesting point. Tell them you thought it was interesting. Could be a beginning of a good friendship, or at least a study partner. You never know. Any last advice or thoughts on culture shock from you.

Blanca:  I didn’t know. I think I think it would cover a lot today. But I don’t know. I would say. Just like, try to enjoy your time as much as possible. If you’re struggling, try find help. And it will get better, because it’s usually does. 

Aimee: Yeah, I think sometimes we have those setbacks, you know, when we miss like a big cultural event, or we’re feeling really homesick. We miss our families. Holidays are coming up. It’s too expensive to go home. Whatever is happening. It can be really hard. But I I like the way that you brought up. It’s really important to remember the positive, too. You’re doing something different. Maybe you’re the first person in your family to leave your country and come to the U.S. and study here. Think about what this will mean for your professional development and for your skillset. What are the things that you like about your class. Maybe you’re having a hard time communicating with your advisor because of cultural differences or just differences in the way you do things. But maybe you’re really enjoying what you’re learning in your classroom or the people that you’ve met in a lab, maybe that you’re a part of. So remembering those positives. And you mentioned journaling, I think that’s a really great idea. I don’t always journal, but I like to save things that I get from students that are positives on the programs I run or the things that I’ve done to help them, because sometimes life gets really hard. Ph.D.s, Masters programs can get really hard. You get rejected a lot in grad school for internships, for jobs, for thesis papers, for journal articles, whatever it is, and sometimes that gets so draining that it’s nice to have something like a notebook to go back and remember all of the positive things. So I like to go back when I’ve had a hard day or a negative experience at work, or when I’m feeling burnt out and just go, Okay, that student thought I did a good job. My co-worker thought I did a good job on this. This made a really good impact for students. I’ll get data sometimes I’m like, okay, my programs effective. So I encourage that too. In this capacity to to write down the things you’re enjoying, and to go back and remember that you’ve enjoyed those things during your time when you’re having a hard time. But thank you Blanca for this conversation. I think it’s really helpful to look deeper into what culture shock really is defined, as instead of just this phrase that we throw around. So thank you for helping us kind of navigate through the different stages and what it can look like for people.

Blanca: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was really nice talking about it.

Aimee: Awesome. Well, thank you all for joining us. We look forward to seeing you on the next episode.

 

Transcript of Podcast #19:On Campus Dining Options & Options Close to Campus

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Elsie Yi (she/her), & Hugo Sanchez Hernandez (he/him)

Aimee: Welcome everyone to another episode of the GIC podcast. Today, we’re talking about dining options, more particularly ones that are in like good walking distance to campus. I think especially in your first week here, as you’re settling into your place, it can be hard to have all of the things you need to cook, and it’s a lot of kind of budgeting that you have to do around, making sure that you have all the pots and pants and silverware and things so we’ll talk about some things that maybe you want to eat when you first get here, or maybe on a busy day, you want something quick and easy. We’ll go over some of those other options as well. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division, and I am joined by two of our GIC mentors today, and I will have them introduce themselves.

Elsie: Hi, I’m Elsie. I’m about to be a second year master’s public health student. And I’m super excited. I’ve eaten a lot on campus and around campus and I love that everything can be super convenient, just walking. You don’t have to drive or figure out transportation for the most part.

Hugo: Hi, everyone. My name is Hugo Sanchez Hernandez, I’m a six year Ph.D. student in the Psychological Science Department and I’ve yeah, I also love to eat around here, too. So I’m excited to join this podcast

Aimee: I regularly forget my lunch. And I don’t have a car, and so I also try and find quick things on campus. Although there are quite a few places on campus i’ve yet to explore. So I’m excited to hopefully maybe learn about some good places to eat. But I think the most common place that I run into students, and probably one of the places we’ve talked about and multiple other podcasts, especially around grocery stores and places to buy things, is what we call UTC, but it’s also known as University Town Center. It’s got a variety of food options that also range in more affordable pricing. So what are some of the most affordable places to eat at UTC?

Hugo: Definitely, I would say some of the most affordable are probably some of the general ones that we see everywhere, which is you know, Taco BellJack in the BoxIn-N-Out. Now, of course it’s always packed, and that doesn’t change, regardless of when one goes to In-N-Out. So unfortunately I have not found out the spots where, when In-N-Out is the least busy. I feel like it’s always busy. But yeah, I think those are probably some of the most affordable spots there. And of course, I think Chick-Fil-A is also, is also one of them.

Elsie: I second, that yeah, like In-N-Out, is really good pricing. I find that if you go at like really awkward times. It’s not too much of a wait, like around 2 pm. Because most people are done eating, or they haven’t started yet. But another place I like is Le Dip (long name Le Diplomate). They do sandwiches like bahn mis and they have a good happy hour deal. So I would really recommend going. I think it’s like 1 to 3 pm, Monday through Fridays. And then I think, Goji Grill, it’s also pretty good. It’s like around $9 for a bowl, and it’s pretty filling. You get a bunch of different sides and you can choose either getting 1 protein or 2 proteins. So it’s pretty nice.

Aimee: Yeah, I think I’ve been to Luna Grill as well, and it seems to be like pretty reasonable pricing for the amount of food that you get, and they have some vegetarian and vegan options which I always appreciate. I think Chick-Fil-A, I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A, I’m allergic to chicken, so it’s definitely not a place for me to go to, but my husband eats there a lot, and he uses the app, and I think you can get points kind of like you would at some other places. I go to Nektar  a lot which has like smoothie bowls. It is not super easy pricing, like it is definitely more expensive than it should be. But I use their app so that I can purchase things to the app and gain points and then get free things, and I think the Chick-Fil-A app has that as well. I don’t know about the other fast food places, but I know the Chick-Fil-A one does. There isn’t a Mcdonald’s over there, but Mcdonald’s does, too. So if you’re looking for ways to save check and see if there’s an app because budgeting in grad school is very important. Grad school is expensive. What other kinds of restaurants are there that maybe offer more like nutritious, healthy options. I know we talk about affordable places in the U.S.tend to be more of those fast food that we brought up, which tend to be a little greasier, heavier and we don’t want to be eating those all the time. So some other healthy options?

Elsie: I really love Mendocino Farms like their avocado quinoa salad is really good, and I don’t like quinoa for the most part. It’s more like a crouton for me. And I also like their not some fried chicken sandwich. Like it’s not actually fried, but it kind of has the same texture and crunch and the couscous side is also really good, too.

Aimee: Yes! Their couscous is one of my favorite things. It’s vegan, and it’s delicious.

Hugo: Yeah, no, I think that, that is what I think. If I was to say like a favorite restaurant just in terms of the food quality. I think Mendoncinos is probably number one, because yeah, everything there’s delicious, the couscous is so popular. I think I’ve not introduced it to anybody who dislikes if they all fall in love with it. And then they also have really like delicious banh mis. Their vegan bahn mi. I’m like huge fan of as well.

Aimee: Soo good!

Hugo: They used to have an Impossible Burger Queen (It was called La Reina Impossible Burger), it was like a vegan burger. I think they took it off unfortunately but it was the most delicious thing ever, so I really hope that they bring it back at some point. 

Aimee: I think that was seasonal. They have an impossible burger taco salad right now. That is pretty good as well. I’m trying to think, I think definitely Mendocino for the quality and the like it feeling like it’s healthy and nutritious, and like packed with good things. I think it’s definitely one of the most, it’s not super cheap, but it’s definitely one of the most budget friendly in terms of like the quality that you get. There’s also, what is the salad place? I’ve gotten, there’s like a Mediterranean salad that I’ve gotten at some. It’s right by Trader Joe’s next to the really expensive brunch place. I can’t think of the name right now, but there’s like a another place, that kind of looks like a sit down restaurant. But you go up to the counter and you order and it’s got a lot of vegan, vegetarian options. It is way more expensive than I think it should be, but it’s pretty good if you’re looking for like a healthy salad. One other, It’s not a restaurant, but one other place I go for quick meals when I forget my lunch is just Trader Joe’s. They have like a to-go meal section that’s got soups and wraps and salads and sandwiches. And I am frequently found in that part of Trader Joe’s, because I do forget my lunch a lot, and that’s quick and easy, and generally decently affordable as well. I think there’s there’s quite a few other restaurants. I just recommend people walk around UTC when they get here and see what else is out there. And what maybe fits any dietary restrictions that people have. Outside of Mendocinos, which I do think is probably the most popular place. Are there any other places that you both go to, or that you know other people go to in UTC?

Elsie: I think the place you’re talking about is TenderGreens

Aimee: Yes! TenderGreens! That one.

Elsie: I do also like you mentioned Nektar. I like acai bowls from Blue Bowl. It’s like on the other side. It’s not super price friendly. But it tastes really good, like it tastes like ice cream, but it’s just all fruit. So it’s kind of nice.

Hugo: Thats awesome. I heard, I had a friend text me to the day, saying they wanted to try this amazing acai bowl, acai place. And they said oh, it’s a place right there at UTC and then I saw what they’re making and then like these look like really out there acai bowls like they look, but yeah, that does not look cheap in the slightest. But I really want to try it out. I have not unfortunately, I will say another place, that I do like, which people might not think is healthy when they hear about it is Chipotle. It’s just it does have like so many different bowls and salads. Like burrito bowls can be very nutritious and and pretty healthy for the most part, compared to other fast food places, and I think it’s also cheaper pricing than Mendocino, so I think Chipotle is another good, good option.

Aimee: Yeah and they definitely have a lot of gluten free and vegan and vegetarian options. They’ve got like a I think it’s a tofu like sofritas. That I’ve had that’s kind of salty, but also really good. But a lot of their food is pretty fresh, and they do, I use their app a lot when I like, order something, especially if I have a really short break, and I order something from there for pick up because you can get like free chips and drinks, and if you go there enough you can eventually get a free entree. So I think that’s definitely a good option. That, the acai smoothly bowl place that you talked about is definitely, always has a lot of people sitting outside of it eating things that look very healthy and nutritious, and especially during the summer, when it’s hot, I feel like those are some really great places to go. There are 3 boba spots, because college students live off of caffeine and sugar when we are trying to get through things. And I have actually been to all 3 of them because I have a sugar addiction, even though I’m no longer in college. I think I got it in college. I’ll just blame grad school for my sugar addiction. But which of the 3, do you think? Have you guys been to them? And do you think there is a specific one that is better?

Elsie: I’ve, I’ve actually also been to all 3 of them. I think it kind of depends for me. I think Cha for Tea is really good for like fruit teas, like their mango green tea is really good. 

Aimee: So good!

Elsie: It can be a little sweet for me sometimes, though, so I like to adjust the sweetness. And I think Sharetea is really good for milk teas. Pink Pig I didn’t love that much. It was really icy and kind of watered down when I had it so, but I also just like had it once. It might have been a one off thing. So I guess it’s sort of like a toss up depending on what I’m craving.

Hugo: See, I kind of agree with, I’m more of a milk tea person so I love Sharetea. I love the different, they also have like a like a, smoothie or like uh, i’m forgetting what its called.

Aimee: It’s more like a slush.

Hugo: Yeah like a slushy thing that’s a really good. You can also modify the sweetness levels, and I think even when I modify them at Cha for Tea, it tends to be too sweet for me. I do keep it to Sharetea. I haven’t been to Pink Pig, unfortunately, but I think I’ve also heard similar things, so it doesn’t make me too motivated to go. I’m not sure.

Aimee: Yeah, I will say a Pink Pig, I would agree. I think it tends to be more watered down. I’ve gone twice because I thought I would give them a second chance. And I do think it was mostly ice, and I wasn’t looking for something that was more like a slushy, which is what it felt like, even though it’s not what I’ve ordered. Sharetea, I will agree milk tea here is really good. I like that you can adjust the sweetness there. Cha is my favorite. I get their mango green tea with fruit jelly, which is just lychee jelly. It used to be called lychee jelly, and for some reason they changed the name to fruit jelly. I thought, okay, then they added more fruits, and I didn’t want it. So I went like a year without putting it in and then turns out it was the same exact thing. So it is just lychee jelly. I also do, though, like Cha for Tea’s milk teas. They have a Thai tea that is pretty good, and when it’s cold, because it does get cold and rainy here sometimes, I get their hot almond milk tea. I will say, though I do adjust the sweetness a lot, and they’re boba is really good, like the chew on it is good, but I I find it too sweet. I think it’s a brown sugar one that just is too much for me most days. But also a delicious option if you’re looking for a very sweet way to wake yourself up. We have a couple of other boba places near campus, but I would say, these are the 3 that are definitely walking distance that I see students at all the time. Do not be surprised if at peak times of the day, or just like throughout the day, Cha and Sharetea have super long lines. I’ve waited a long time at Cha for Tea, sometimes I’ve ordered online just because I walked by and was like, nope, there’s no way but I still want my tea. So you can order online from them as well (online prices at most places tend to be a little higher but some apps like UberEats may have deals for restaurants or order pick up that might save you money). We talked about some of our favorite meals and dishes at some favorite spots. But are there any other dishes that you would recommend, or meals that you can think of that stand out?

Elsie: There is actually a Korean sandwich, toast sandwich (it’s called Flippoly), place across from Sharetea. It’s not healthy in the slightest, but it tastes really good, and it’s super filling. It’s like a crazy amount of egg in it and cheese, but you can also adjust for any dietary restrictions. It’s about $10 a sandwich, but it’s like, it’s massive, like, it’s like the size of my face basically.

Hugo: I think I, one thing we haven’t Eureka is like super popular to at UTC, and it’s more of like the only, it’s kind of like the sit down restaurant with like a very chill laid back bar vibe and it’s like the only spot that’s like that at UTC so it that’s really popular. Of course it’s, it’s not, tt’s more of a sit down spot, but it’s not like that much cheap, like that cheap. I do, I recommend I love their brussel sprouts and their mac and cheese balls, I think as starts those are some of the best I’ve ever had. So if anybody goes there, please I recommend that strongly.

Aimee: Yeah, I think there’s a there’s a Chinese food place. Can’t remember what the name is called over by, I think it’s over by Eureka, that my husband’s gone to a few times and, and has enjoyed (its called Northern Cafe). I think outside of Mendocino’s, their vegan banh mi is definitely, I get their vegan banh mi like the half one, and then I get the spicy curry couscous on the,as a, as a side cause I, if I go and just get the couscous, I wish I got the banh mi. If I get the bahn mi. I wish I had the couscous, so they do it half and half, where you can get a like a half a sandwich and a side. So that is my always my go to order. I, I definitely think Nektar is probably the place I go to next the most I haven’t gone to Blue Bowl because I don’t, I just I think I already had points on Nektar, and I just keep going back to the same place. But they have a dragon fruit smoothie that is called the Pink Flamingo, and it’s not, it’s a really beautiful color, but it’s also really delicious and so that’s always good option. And they change their menu for like fresh things pretty often. So when it’s more like seasonal stuff, you’ll see different things on the menu. There’s also pizza (Ray’s & Blaze). There’s Slapfish. There’s a couple of coffee shops. Dunkin Donuts, Dunkin donuts if you need a doughnut and coffee, and then Pete’s Coffee, I think, is the other coffee place, there’s like a big chain coffee place over there and then Target does have a Starbucks. So lots of different options over there, like I said earlier, you should definitely explore on your own, because there are too many places for us to sit here and go through all of them. But there are lots of things constantly coming in and going out over there, too. So you definitely want to see what’s available. Campus Plaza (known by many students as Alberton’s Plaza. We will use both names in this podcast) is another common place that I hear students going to. I think it’s particularly close to certain grad housing options. So I think a lot of students go there for Albertson. But there’s also some restaurants and Hugo it sounds like you’ve been over there, maybe a little more often. Could you talk about some of the restaurants that offer maybe some like nutritious and healthy options?

Hugo: Yeah, definitely, I think 1 one that definitely has some it’s Asian Box. I know that one is more like a cross between, like a sit down, and like a fastfood spot but some of their salads i’ve gotten there a few times, and they have signature boxes that are, i’ve tried like a few, and they’re all pretty good. That’s like a good option, I know. Even though it’s not, you know that, depending on people’s perception of healthy there is like a vegan burget at The Habit, which is like not healthy overall. But I, I’m a big fan of that one. So I recommend that, too. And there also another popular spot there is like Taquiro Taco Patio (currently closed) which is It’s kind of like different burritos and different tacos. It’s mixed, usually they people have like mixed opinions on that spot, even though I’ve liked what i’ve had in the past. But that’s also another good option there. Of course, in addition to things that are definitely not healthy at all, which is like Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza which is delicious.

Aimee: So good! So some not nutritious options as well. But also, I’ve heard there’s some places for like sweets and desserts over there any recommendations or spots that you’ve heard of?

Hugo: Yeah, I know I saw. I I think the biggest one for me is Saffron and Rose. It’s Persian ice cream really delicious flavors, like they have, I haven’t seen some of those flavors anywhere else and I I just think it’s like fantastic, I think. Everything i’ve tried here has been delicious. So I, if there’s like the best spot there in the entire plaza, and then choose the quality of the food and taste. I would say it’s Saffron and Rose persian ice cream definitely super recommended it.

Aimee: Yeah, i’ve heard that one from a lot of people. 

Elsie: Yeah, they’re fig ice cream is really good. And it comes with like a little biscuit cracker, too. It’s like fun to eat.

Aimee: That does sound delicious. Any, you’ve talked about a couple of places that you’ve gone to, that you like. Is there a favorite spot in Campus Plaza that you go to?

Hugo: I think the most consistent one might be Habit, just because of their vegan burger. That’s the most consistent one. I, I do, you know frequently visit there. There’s a, there’s a larger Starbucks there, so UTC doesn’t have it Starbucks, in itself. It has a Starbucks inside Target, but if anybody wants to also just relax, and like study, theres also a much larger Starbucks at Albertsons Plaza that’s kind of good to go to. There’s also, there’s also Del Taco, as well on as another option which contrast to Taco Bell, which is at University of Town Center. So it’s kind of funny that they’re always kind of like the competition like that. But those are a few other spots that I sometimes frequest but I know it’s like much easier, and some times more options at UTC. But Albertson’s Plaza still has a few, a few good eating spots as well.

Aimee: I always forget The Habit is over there. They have some pretty good salads, and one thing that In-N-Out doesn’t have is, I really like grilled mushrooms on burgers. So you have to go to 5 guys or The Habit to get grilled mushrooms on your burger. So it’s always a good option. Yeah, I’ve been to that Starbucks, because sometimes I like to work outside of my home or outside of my office and just get outside and maybe get some more sunshine and so they have some good spots there with more windows than my office has. But yeah, I think that Starbucks is definitely bigger, and that’s bigger than I think the biggest coffee shop in UTC would be, Dunkin and they’ve got some outdoor seating, not indoor. But they do have more outdoor seating. Pete’s has some indoor seating and outdoor, but it is kind of smaller. So I think, if you want to sit down at a local, not local, a coffee shop that is close to campus. I think that Starbucksin Campus Plaze would definitely be the best place to go. We also have quite a few options on campus most of the time, they during holidays and summer, and the hours are kind of weird. Sometimes they’re completely closed but we do have in the student center and some other places around campus, some options. So how many food courts are there, and what kind of food options could we expect at those places?

Elsie: So I know of 3 food, food courts. 2 of them are like right next to each other in the student center, and one has a Panda Express and Subway, and like Wendy’s and they’re all pretty packed during like peak hours. But it’s really convenient if you’re nearby, and then the food court next to it also has, like a Jamba Juice and other like quick options. I think there’s like pasta and then in between that has, like the pub, the Anthill Pub, where you can also get like entrees, appetizers. Their stoner tots are really good,s o I recommend that. And over, if you go to the Social Sciences area, there’s the Phoenix Food Court and they have Einstein Bros Bagels, and they also sell like burgers and sandwiches as well. So that’s a pretty great place to be, if you’re a nearby. And then there’s a new engineering building, and they have a Garbanzo like Mediterranean Fresh place. I’ve never actually been, but I’ve always like seen it, and I’ve always wanted to try it, so I’m sure they’re pretty good, too.

Aimee: I went to Garbanzo, so I used to teach English in Denver, I did for a summer, and Garbanzo was a like a fast Mediterranean place that I used to go to there all the time, and I was bummed when I came back to California, and we didn’t have one, and I didn’t realize until someone brought it up the other day that it had just opened on campus. So I’m very excited to go. It’s been like probably 10 years since I’ve gone, so I don’t, I don’t know how good it is, but I’m excited to try, because I do remember enjoying it, and I love that Mediterranean food tends to have some healthier options. So we do have a lot of food options on campus. I think there’s also a Wahoo’s like fish Tacos in the student center one. I’ve seen the signs for it, but I haven’t actually been into there. I’ve just seen a lot of students going in there and see all the signs but you can definitely find a lot of different options ranging in healthy or not so healthy on campus and lots of coffee shops as well, that sometimes have light snacks. Outside of the food court options. There are also dining halls. And so how does eating at a dining hall work? And like buying the swipes to get in, how does that work?

Elsie: So you can just buy the swipes like directly when you enter but it is kind of like expensive, I feel like, so you can also buy swipes off of undergraduate students. They tend to have meal plans and extra swipes, so they’ll sell it throughout the year. I usually wait until the end of the year, because they kind of need to get rid of it. So they sell it for super cheap like this past quarter, I managed to get 2 swipes for $2, so I got like a dollar for a swipe and you can like bring Tupperware and grab like some cookies before you leave for later and that’s like through a Facebook group called UCI meal swipes and you can also like, apply for emergency swipes through UCI Basic Needs as well. So those are a couple of options.

Aimee: And the dining halls. It’s kind of like like a buffet style, right like, there’s just options kind of out, and you go up and you get, however much you want when you’re there. Correct?

Elsie: Yeah. And they always have like a vegan station, and a salad station. So there’s a bunch of healthy options and it changes like every day. So if you for some reason go like a bunch of times. You won’t, you won’t necessarily get tired of it. You’ll have different options.

Aimee: That’s good. I spent a lot of my undergrad time eating cereal at the dining hall, for whatever meal of day I was there, for it was always still cereal and I eventually did get tired of that, so I’m glad that they have a good variety of options. And then I kind of mentioned this a little bit, but we do have a lot of coffee shops, cafes on campus, and also I know there’s at least one place where you can go in and buy like quick things like drinks and stuff as well. Can you talk about those a little bit?

Elsie: Yeah. So I know there’s. I believe, 3 Starbucks is on campus, one in the Student Center by the bookstore, one in the Business School, and one by the School of Biological Sciences. And they just sell like the usual drinks and snacks and stuff and there’s another cafe coffee shop by Physical Sciences like where the new engineering building. It’s sort of in a tent. I think it’s called Java City, but they also have, like a bunch of drinks, and sandwiches, and I really like their water. They keep like a giant like water station, and it’s like really ice cold. And it’s really nice to refill your bottle and then you can also go to Zot N Go for any quick bites. It’s right by the student center they have, it’s like a convenience store basically, they have hot food and just snacks and there’s another version of Zot N go, but it’s smaller by Social Sciences as well. So you have all those places to check out for snacks and drinks.

Aimee: I recently went over to the Art Building and found out there’s another hidden coffee shop over there. I think it might actually be another Java City coffee, over by the Art Building. Once you like cross the bridge. So if you’re an art student, there’s a coffee shop over there as well. But I think that’s, that touches on, you know the majority of things that we have on campus any last thoughts on food in the area, places you recommend, or just tips for getting out and trying things.

Elsie: Oh, you actually just reminded me. There’s also a Java City coffee shop in the Engineering School as well that I forgot to mention. Yeah, it’s kind of tucked away, too, though. Yeah.

Aimee: We live on caffeine. Lots of coffee shops. And lots of different places to eat around campus, too. I mentioned this in one of the, they’re all blending together one of the other podcasts. I mentioned that one of the cool things is to be able to go to like UTC or to different places on campus and grab different meals. You and your friends, and then kind of sit down together and have a meal together. But you’ve had all your dietary restrictions and budget restrictions met by buying or bringing your own food together. So there’s lots of outdoor spots to sit and and eat together. Hugo any last thoughts from you?

Hugo: Yeah, I think one thing to also keep in mind is, there are a lot of like little markets like across campus, like I know the one I usually go to, especially if I want something quick, super cheap, you don’t want to go through like ordering at like a restaurant. I know there is one like post to go social science tower by there by, like the fountain. So there’s like some of those around campus, too, in case anybody wants, or even just wants chips or something. You know, packaged that you want to buy to just in the spot. So those are also some good options as well.

Aimee: yeah, I think one last thing is, sometimes you’ll have a there’s a bunch of booths out on Ring Road, generally over by the student Center and Aldrich call, and sometimes it’s like student clubs, that sell food or snacks and that’s always kind of fun to see what people have available. I’ve seen bahn mis, i’ve seen Tacos. I’ve seen all sorts of things over there. So it’s always worth if you’re walking through there, and you were planning to go get lunch somewhere. It’s always worth kind of seeing what they are and being able to support a campus organization in, in their efforts to continue their club. So thank you both for joining me today. I think this is a helpful conversation like I mentioned earlier, when people first get here to be able to find something as they’re settling in. I know when I’m jet lagged, the last thing I want to do is cook food, and especially if I don’t have the right silverware or pots and pans, and so I think this will be helpful for that, but also throughout your time as a grad student, being able to just get off campus and not have to cook and worry about dishes for the day. So thank you both for joining me.


Elsie: Thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #20: Amusement Parks in SoCal

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her) & Hugo Sanchez Hernandez (he/him) & Maryam Hassani (she/her)

Aimee: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the GIC podcast. My name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division. And I am super excited about the topic today. I have talked about this in a few of our other podcasts because, I’ve been really looking forward to this one. We’re gonna talk about amusement parks. some of the most fun things that I do in Southern California are going to amusement parks. We’re going to specifically talk about Six FlagsDisneylandKnotts Berry FarmUniversal Studios Hollywood and LegoLand. But I will say there are quite a few other options in the area. These are just some of our favorites. I know there’s quite a few zoos during the summer some of these places also have water parks, or there are water parks outside of the amusement parks, and there are some other amusement parks in the area, that people also go to. These seem to be the most popular ones. I’m gonna have my co-hosts introduce themselves so I’m going to pass it over to Hugo. And then, Maryam.

Hugo: Hi, everyone. My name is Hugo Sanchez Hernandez. I am a coming sixth year in the Psychological Science Doctoral program. So yea,. I’m so happy to be here Aimee. Thank you so much for having us.

Maryam: and I’m Maryam. I’m a first year, I’m a first year PhD student in the Informatics. And I’m a GIC mentor this year, and I’m happy to you talking about some excitements.

Aimee: Yeah, I think you guys signed up for this one pretty quick. So we clearly all love to go out and explore the local area. The first part that we’re going to talk about is Six Flags Magic Mountain, And so one of the things with a lot of the passes, parks down here is they have passes. So what’s the difference and is it worth getting a yearly pass for Six Flags versus getting more like a day pass?

Maryam: Yeah, I can start on that, Six Flags is my specialty. So in Six Flags you can have different types of passes. So you can either get a one time pass and you can get to the park once, and that’s it. You can get a yearly pass like, pay it all at once for a year, and just go, go through as many times as you want, and this differs between so Six Flags has two parks. One park is like the train rides, and everything, and the other part is the water park. They’re next to each other. One pass, one of the yearly passes, you can only go to the amusement part of it, like the rides. But with another type, like a gold plus platinum pass type, you can go to water park as well. It has a third option as well, which is a monthly payment. So you basically pay subscription, like a subscription. So for the Six Flags I would strongly suggest getting either the gold yearly pass or platinum, because the parking fee, I can’t exactly recall the number, but adding the parking fee to the daily pass, makes it almost the same as a yearly pass, which includes the parking and some other benefits that comes with the pass themselves. So for Six Flags, I suggest getting a yearly one or the subscription one, both would potentially work. yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, I think the parking is always really expensive at any of these parks that we talk about. So if you’re like, I’m only going to go once. That’s fine. But if you’re like, I would really need to get out. I really want to have something routine. I think one of the nice things about passes that I’ve noticed when I get one for different parks. Is it actually incentivizes me to actually go and get out of the house. And I think in grad school that could be really hard to do. So you’re like, I spent the money on this, I need to go. And so it does kind of encourage you to go out too. So just another benefit to getting an annual pass. So for Six Flags what, what do you expect in the park? Like what should you prep for when you’re getting to, before you go?

Maryam: Oh, yes, Hugo, go ahead.

Hugo: Yeah, definitely. One thing to always look out for is, I think there is also a calendar for being able to check, you know how busy the attractions will be, you know, for the for every day of the current month, for example. So you’re able to kind of go to a specific website where you’re able to kind of track what days are going to be a little bit less packed than others. And and that’s really important, just because sometimes you want to go on a specific day in summer, and then you can see on the calendar, oh, that’s gonna be like one of the busiest days maybe I want to like reschedule. Another thing I do recommend is always checking the website. See what specific rides or attractions are available, just because I know that every time I’ve gone there’s always like one better than the next, that’s unavailable, or that’s under maintenance. And sometimes, if it’s like one of your favorite rides, your like disappointed. So I definitely recommend looking ahead of time and seeing what rides are going to be available for the specific day that you are, are planning for. Because I think it kind of helps you understand what like to expect going in there, and also might help you, maybe reschedule if necessary. If you know, there’s like specific rides you really want to go to, but it might not be available. unfortunately, that’s just like the reality of what happens. so I definitely recommend looking at those things ahead of time like. And I believe so what I believe it’s called the Crowd Calendar. The Six Flags crowd calendar. So just go ahead and Google that on the website. And then you’ll be able to take it to to that link where it kind of gives you that information on how busy things will be.

Maryam: And I’ll add, if you want a few things to that check the weather report and check the website when it’s raining, because it doesn’t necessarily close. But it’s been a time when it was not updated. I’ve been there and just had to drive back. And the food is not allowed in the park. They would not let you take food in unless you have a dietary restriction. So consider this. And, and also install the app before going to the park, you might not have access to the Internet there.

Aimee: Yeah, most of these parks have apps, and they’re usually really helpful for kind of navigating around. Some of them you can order food on depending on the park. So I always recommend downloading the apps ahead of time. So we talked about kind of the crowd. Do you have a specific time of year or day of the week that either one of you would recommend going? I usually don’t recommend summers.But that’s just me.

Maryam:. I love the Halloween one. The Halloween fest in the Six Flags is great. I suggest going midweek rather than the end of the weeks, like weekends. And also the New Year theme, decoration is pretty cool.

Hugo: The Halloween Halloween is so much fun. And that’s right, I think I’m the same, Aimee, when it was like summer, like, you know, it’s gonna be super packed. But I’m so stubborn sometimes I’m like, Oh, it’s summer. I wanna I want to make it happen during summer, even though I know it’s going to be like the worst days. So yeah, really much any, there’s really no difference from what I’ve noticed in terms of how busy it is on a weekdays versus weekends during summer, but I think like during the regular year, there are differences. So there’s always way less people on a weekday. If it’s not summer. So yeah, so just keep that in mind.

Aimee: Yeah. And I always think, too, especially if you’re getting used to U.S. holidays. It’s really important to check the U.S. holiday calendar. Even as someone who grew up in the U.S. I sometimes forget. And I tried to go to one of the parks. I think it was Disneyland. I tried to go on a holiday. That I forgot was a holiday. It was like one of those random holidays that I didn’t really get school off for. But I didn’t have class that day, and I remember getting it being like, why is it so busy. And then everyone was like, it’s Memorial Day, and I was like, oh, just totally slipped my mind. So holidays tend to be busy, any kind of holiday season, or if it’s like spring break and a lot of the local schools are out. It can get busy and kind of random times of the year that you might not expect too. We talked a little bit about the water park, and you needing kind of the separate pass. Have either of you been to the water park? Any recommendations.

Maryam: I’ve been there once. They say it’s cleaner done raging waters. So that’s a plus. But it doesn’t have as many rides as you think it would. But it’s pretty fun in hot summer days. So I suggest going there once, and it’s worth getting the pass that includes the water park, which is the platinum. But it was fun.

Aimee: Yeah, I think some of the water parks, too, aren’t open all year long. So you definitely want to check the dates on those things because I was telling Hugo earlier before we started recording, I always think about going to a water park during the summer, and then by like October, I’m like, Oh, I’ve missed my chance because all the water parks are closed. So you definitely want to check on those dates. Any other recommendations, ride recommendations or anything else about Six Flags?

Hugo: Yeah, I also wanted to mention that some of the passes that we kind of talked about, they have like secret perls to that I wasn’t even thinking of until, you know, I was like looking a little bit more into it, and some of them include things like food and merchandise, merchandise discounts like a percentage of discounts on those things, and some of them also include, like it passes to like skip the lines like I know that the platinum pass included one skip the line pass, and then some of the other passes include that even more so. I think those are always like really nice things to have in there included. If you are considering that because I think sometimes when you do go during a busy day, those would definitely have saved a lot of time. So yeah, just just a few additional things that are included in those passes.

Maryam: And also about the ride, I think, as a student Zipcar before you have a car. Zipcars are the best options to go there. You can pick it up and just drop it off and make sure to go earlier in the day. If you wait until afternoon to go there, probably you’ll have a line to get in and to get in line for even the each of the roller coasters. So either at the when the park opens up and you’ll be surprised how many people are already ahead of you. So

Aimee: Yeah. And if you have questions on Zipcar, Maryam and I have another podcast on how to rent a car and we talk about Zipcar in that. But that’s a great option. It is further away to the point where you wouldn’t want to try public transportation, you would definitely want to find people to carpool with, if you don’t have your own car rent a car and and make a trip out of it. So next part we’ll talk about is Disneyland, and this is one of my favorite parks, and there’s 2 parks with Disneyland. There’s Disneyland, which is the original Disney Park and then there’s California Adventure which is just acrossed, there’s like a little walkway. It’s just across from there, they’re right next to each other. Similar to how Six Flags has the water park and the kind of main park. How much are tickets and are tickets for both parks are there passes? I know annual passes are something that’s been kind of a a weird subject with Disneyland people for a while because they have them sometimes they don’t have them available sometimes. Does anyone want to talk about tickets, passes?

Hugo: Yeah. So I think for Disneyland and California Adventure. I think the tickets are the same for either park, if I’m not mistaken, so there is no difference in the pricing for those parks. I know Disneyland offers so many different ticket options, like a variety of like combinations that it’s hard to keep track of like everything, but I know they have some options to purchase like a multi-day ticket. Like I know, like the 2 day ticket, for example. So you buy a a 2 day ticket, and if you wanted to do like a each park for each of the 2 days. I know that cost about like I believe like $285 per person for an adult, and $270 for child. And then you also have the option to purchase that 2 day ticket, but a park hopper, which means be able to kind of hop from one park to the next, and that one’s a little bit more expensive, about $60 more expensive, and then each of the tickets increases from there like you have a 3 day ticket, 4 day ticket, 5 day ticket. And so I definitely recommend looking at the specific pricing for that, because all of them can vary quite a bit, not just in terms of like the park per day, but also park hopper. And so that also seems to sometimes functionate quite a bit too, depending on the year and the time of the of the year. So I definitely recommend being super, like making sure to like look at that super closely, because you never want to be in a position where I think you’re, I, I think I’ve made the mistake in the past where I’m assuming the prices and then I really oh, wait and change so much like I said I’m so yeah, just make sure to look at that support closely. But they do offer a lot of like multi day ticketstickets a lot. I feel like a lot of people do take advantage of.

Aimee: Yeah. And because the multi day, if you buy like a 5 day pass, it’s cheaper per day, because you’re purchasing more than one day. So there are some benefits to that. But yeah, the park hopper is usually a $60. Add, and the, and the price does fluctuate during the busy seasons, like the summer and Halloween and the holiday season at the end of the year. I believe the tickets are more expensive on some of those days. You also want to make sure that you get a reservation, because during covid and they introduced reservation system because of crowd control, if you, if you were at Disneyland before it was even busier. So if you were like, Wow, it’s still really busy. Here it is. But it was worse at one point in time. And so, even if you have an annual pass. You still have to reserve what day you’re going into and what park you’re starting at, because the Park Hopper, you can’t hop parks until after I think 1 pm. Unless they’ve changed that. But last time I was there in May I couldn’t change park until after 1 pm. So you select which park you’re starting in. So okay, one day, I want to start Disneyland. If I’m doing a 2 day, maybe the next day I want to go to California Adventure first. So I definitely recommend you take a look at that. Annual passes, though, keep an eye out. Sometimes they have a Southern California pass which is cheaper. You don’t get to go during the summer, so I am currently blocked out on my pass, as we record this in July but I’ll get to go back, I think in September is when I open back up. The annual pass, for SoCal also doesn’t include a weekends, but I actually don’t like to go to Disneyland on the weekends because it’s usually way busier. I really like to go during the week, and one of the benefits with passes is, there’s less pressure to be there all day long, because if I’m going to go for a few hours. Go watch a show, have dinner with friends. If I’ve gone enough times it pays for itself, and, and there’s a little bit less pressure to to be there all day. One thing is, if you have kids with you, I believe it’s if they’re under 2, they’re free. After that you do have to pay. So keep that in mind. Sometimes there are discounts for some of these parks for kids. And then attractions so California Adventure and Disneyland attractions. Does anyone want to talk about the differences between the both of them?

Maryam: I’ve never been to.

Aimee: We’ll have to take you.

Hugo: Yeah, so they do. I think they both do a good job of you know, having different sections. That kind of appeal to different demographics a bit, I will say, you know, in terms of attractions, Disneyland has more of the classic Disney rides and so it includes, like a lot of like Disney classic movies like, Pinocchio, Aladdin (he meant Peter Pan), Snow White however, it also has a new Star Wars section, Disneyland does, and I know that’s like a big appeal for so many people. It’s a really wonderful, a little section part of Disneyland where really does feel like you’re in like the setting of like the movies. And it’s really cool. So it includes the Star Wars section. Disneyland California Adventure does include, I would say perhaps more, more in terms of quantity, more higher thrill rides. It does have a a pier, and then it has, like a roller coaster. That’s really more for adults. However, it does have dedicated kid sections as well. I think one of the most popular rides there is probably, or sections is probably the Cars Land. I know that one is always super packed when when I go, I don’t. I think that the attraction for cars I’ve forgotten what the name is (Radiator Springs) of the attraction. That’s like the busiest ride ever in that park. I feel it doesn’t change, unfortuantely. 

Aimee: That line is always really long. It’s like a 3 hour long line. 

Hugo: It’s insane

Aimee: You can pay for quicker access, but it’s expensive, especially if you’re going in a group. It’s quite expensive to get it used to be called the fast pass, like a lightning lane now I think it’s what it’s called. If you go right when the park opens and you head straight there. You might be okay to get in. But that’s usually a pretty long line.

Hugo: Otherwise you have the, you have to definitely wait quite a bit, I think. I think my favorite ride honestly. A personal favourite ride across both parks is probably Soarin Around the World. This used to be called Soarin Around California. You’re basically kind of sitting down and projected upwards in in front of, like a huge like, basically, you have huge like screen projector and kind of giving like a virtual tour. It used to be around California, but now it’s around the world, and it’s, it’s a, it’s an Imax. And there’s so much like aerial footage. It’s just like a really awesome experience. And you get to feel a lot of like they have like, it’s like 4D. You get to feel a lot of like the sensations, the sights and sounds of like being around the world, I guess. And so it’s just a really cool experience, especially for those travelling from other areas to, to, I think that’s one of the the most popular and also it’s one of those those right that really gets, gets you to experience some other different things so that one doesn’t that one’s really unique. So I definitely recommend that I know Space Mountain in Disneyland is also super popular, and that’s probably they’re like fastest ride for those wanting those like high thrill rides. For those wanting to like, you know, during summer, I like the Grizzly River Run. It’s just awesome because it’s like you get a yeah. It’s basically like a water, water ride. And and it’s really fun. It goes pretty pretty fast, I would say, but yeah, those are some of like the highlights for what I remember. 

Aimee: Yeah, Grizzly River Run is in a California Adventure. Same with the Soarin. Sometimes they bring back Soarin Over California periodically, for like a special preview. So sometimes you can see kind of the original classic ride. Grizzly, I think, yeah, Grizzly Bear Peak, whatever it’s called. I’ve gone on that in the winter, because you can just walk right on if it’s cold outside. Do it, do it when you’re about to leave, though, because you will be soaking wet. But that’s a great one. I think, like you mentioned,s ome of the Disneyland is more kid friendly. It’s a little kind of more classic movies. You have, like the traditional original Fantasyland, Small World is over there. They’ve got Toontown, which they just updated. And so there’s some more kind of grassy areas where you can have picnics. That is one of the things that’s different between like Six Flags and Disneyland. Disneyland does let you bring in snacks. You just can’t have anything in a glass container. They will take away your glass containers. I accidentally bought Pyrex one time, and and they took my Pyrex away so. And don’t bring any glass containers. And Disneyland actually has a list of things you can’t bring into the park. And I think that goes for most of the parks like sometimes selfie sticks things like that you can’t bring in, so make sure you’re checking that ahead of time. My favorite ride just closed down. I love Splash Mountain. It’s a good mix of like a cute little slow log ride, and then a big drop. But they are we doing it to be a Tiana ride, so that will be coming out, I think next year is when when that one comes out. I’m super excited about the change. I, I love Tiana. The Princess and the Frog is one of my favorite Disney movies. So I’m very excited about the change in the ride, in terms of like decoration and story. But you mentioned this earlier, Hugo with Six Flags. You always want to check what’s open and what’s closed. Because you do not want to get to the park, and especially if you have little ones with you, and your child is like really looking forward to going on something in that right is closed. A lot of the rides will close throughout the year. They try to do it in off season, so summer is probably the most likely to have the majority of the rides open but during the end of summer usually A Small World, and always the Haunted Mansion close down because they open back up as a holiday ride. So Haunted Mansion becomes a Nightmare Before Christmas ride, that’s also one of my favorite rides. I love it both ways. I love Huanted Mansion and Small World becomes it’s still, Small World, but it has more of a holiday theme to it, peace on earth kind of thing to it. So those are definitely things to check out. Because if you’re if, you’re like, I really just want to go on this one ride. You want to make sure that it’s open. Some rides will close throughout the day. I will say the Star Wars land is one of my favorite areas, and their big ride over there, Rise of the Resistance, I think, is what it’s called, and it closes down throughout the day pretty regularly. Unfortunately, they have had a lot of issues with it. It’s amazing, it’s worth getting back in line and going back through. That one also has a really long line, too, because it’s new, and it’s a pretty long ride.

Hugo: It is

Aimee: It has different sections to it. There’s one section where you get to see a bunch of stormtroopers. I spend a lot of time at Disneyland so. One of the things that Maryam talked about with Six Flags, definitely have the Disneyland pa, app on your phone. Your ticket will be on there. So you need to scan your ticket if you need, I would bring battery packs to charge your phone because you can have a map. You can order your food. Your ticket is on there. You can put in where your car is parked, so that you know how to get back to your car. Disneyland is a little bit closer. I still wouldn’t recommend public transportation. It’s gonna take you a while to get there. But one of the things that I think is nice, is it, it’s close enough where it’s not too bad to take an Uber or a Lyft. Parking is like 30 bucks. If you have an annual pass, you may have a discount like the really really high passes have free parking, but most of them, it’s just a discount on parking. I would recommend calculating how much it’s going to be to Uber or Lyft and see if it’s cheaper for you to just do that than to park and rent a car if you need to rent a car to get there. So those are, those are a couple of things. I also really like Downtown Disney. It’s got a lot of restaurants and shops that you can go to if, if you just want some Disney experience but you don’t want to go all the way into the park. It’s got some cute little stuff there. Hugo, anything else about Disneyland you want to add? I could go on forever. So I’m going to stop myself.

Hugo: I love that. I think the, the recommendation you gave on the Uber, and Lyft I think, I think one time I I did Uber there, and maybe in terms of price, I think I still, you know it did cut off some of the parking price, of course, but I still ended up paying maybe, like a few bucks more than it would have parking. But honestly, the stress that I didn’t have to go through when it came to like parking, having to figure out that out like for me was completely worth it. And now it’s almost like I just want to Uber there from now on. So I definitely recommend for those of people who are familiar with Uber or Lyfts to definitely take that into account, because I think also, the Uber is like sometimes take you all the way, like right there from the gate. So you have to go through everything else, and sometimes you know, you park somewhere and then you have to take the trolley to, to the park, and then you have to walk some more. And so yeah, I definitely recommend it. 

Aimee: Yeah, sometimes parking gets really confusing too. Sometimes the like main parking structures close down because of traffic control. And then you have to park further away, and you have to take a bus in. So sometimes, just for the convenience of it. Taking an Uber or a Lyft would be a better option. But yeah, one last thing I will say about this and that I almost forgot about is sometimes they close early for night time events, or at different parts of the year, they close earlier. They usually open later during the summer, or like big holiday seasons. But I’ve gone during like the Halloween season, and there’s a night time event called Oogie Boogie Bash, that happens on a pretty regular basis. Oogie Boogie is expensive, but if you have children, it’s really fun. And you get a lot of free candy, it’s not really free because you paid to go, but it’s cool. It’s a cool experience. So if you like Halloween like a Disney style, Halloween. I, I always recommend that one. But the park does close early. Usually it’s only one of the parks. So if you’re coming and you’re like, I have a park hopper, you know it’s easy for you just to then go over to the other park but if you bought like a one day ticket, you want to make sure that you see what time it closes and usually on the reservation system. It will tell you if it’s closing early. but I always double check on their calendar of events, too, because that it does happen pretty regularly that they have some sort of event around Valentine’s Day sometimes they have random throwback nineties nights. They have Star Wars events during Star Wars Day which is May fourth, which you will usually find me at Disneyland on May fourth, because it’s Star Wars stuff everywhere and then obviously Halloween. And then sometimes during the holiday season, too. So just keep that in mind as you’re checking things out. But we will move on, because I really could spend all day talking about Disneyland. Next park is Knotts Berry Farm. It has been a while since I’ve been to Knotts Berry Farm. But how would you compare Knotts Berry Farm to like Disneyland, or Six Flags, or some of the other kind of amusement park attractions?

Hugo: So yeah. So I think. I think it’s a good balance between, you know, a park like Disneyland and a park like Six Flags, because it’s a really high intensity high thrill rides. Those are like that’s basically (transcript unavailable). I mean Disneyland, they have some of those. But for the most part it’s mostly a little bit more for kids. And so I think Knotts Berry Farm is like a good balance between them. It has a lot of sections for kids. A lot of, many coasters are like that are for kids and some other higher thrill rides that can compete with some of Six Flags, but for the most part it’s still a little bit lower intensity than Six Flags. So I, I really do think it’s like a great balance for the for individuals who want to have both. Have a lot of options for their kids, but all the options for themselves in terms of the higher thrill rides, and of course, Disneyland kind of has that too. But I think you know ,I think Disneyland being Disneyland. Knotts Berry Farm is like much cheaper. And so I think it’s a good alternative than Disney California Adventure for that reason.

Aimee: Yeah, I agree. It’s been a while since I’ve been. I know a Snoopy like Peanuts Cartoon stuff is all over the place. I always really enjoy that. They have really good food from what I remember. But I would say, Disneyland is really iconic in the way that makes it really expensive and really busy. Six Flags is definitely something, if you have small children, maybe isn’t as friendly to small kids, although the water park, I think, probably would be. Knotts Berry Farm does also have a water park that’s pretty kid, friendly, from what I hear I have not had a chance to go. Although that is on my to do list the summers to go to the Knotts Berry Farm one. It can still get pretty busy, from what I remember I went last time during the summer, and it was really busy. Do you think they’re that, kind of, does it follow the same kind of tradition as some of the other parks where summer is going to be the busiest. But there’s some emptier types of times of the year.

Hugo: Yeah, I think I, I was looking at the last time I went, and I at the last time I was pre-covid, and it was on a weekday, not, not during summer, and I think that kind of colored my experience because I’ll and I, ever since then I’ve been telling people oh, my God, it’s not busy at all, and you can go. But it wasn’t going to week day before Covid, not during summer. And so for now, looking, there is also what I had mentioned earlier about. There’s a crowd calendar, that kind of lets you see how crowded the days of the month will be. And looking at it the other day, I saw that, like most days this month, for example, are like jam packed (recorded in July 2023). So now I’m, I don’t know if it just got busier, but it seems like it does follow the same trajectory. Unfortunately, I wish it was a little less busy.

Aimee: Yeah, I think most so, California is a, is a destination for people from all over the world to come to during the summer. Because we don’t get super super hot, but we, it is still warm. The weather is usually nice. I think all of our amusement parks tend to be extra busy this time of year although last year I went to Universal Studios on July 4th, and it was not too bad. So I was really I was expecting like 3 h long lines, and it wasn’t too bad. So some days you might hit a random time that ends up being not as busy. But yeah, for them, for the most part that is a pretty busy time of year. Do you have any recommendations for attractions? I think there is a log right there that I liked. I like anything that has water in it. I definitely love those rides. 

Hugo: Same the log ride and the I think the Grizzly River thats at California Adventure, I think there is the same thing called River Rapids at Knotts Berry Farm. It’s a very similar to that one. I know Ghost Rider is one of the most popular roller coasters. It’s basically a wooden coaster. It’s not that fast, but it does it, it’s quite, it’s very bumpy. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, it might not be your thing. And so that’s one of the most popular coasters I would say, and but I again, I think there’s so many just like random. I think the last time I did go, of course again this was like pre-Covid. I was able to go on like maybe like 30 rides like I felt like I got the good for the money I was like, oh, this is great! And so I do think there’s quite a bit of rides to choose from, depending on what you’re kind of seeking throughout the day. So I do, I think the variety, I think Knotts really does have it. But those are some like the I would say, like a few that I remember off the top of my head.

Aimee: Yeah, yeah, I’d say they’re known for kind of having a good mix of smaller things and and bigger, faster rides. They are also similarly close, like Disneyland, where, if you don’t have a car, it would be a little bit more expensive, I think, to get to Knotts Berry Farm but you could Uber or Lyft out that way as well. Next park is Universal Studios Hollywood. I don’t know, I don’t think, Hugo I don’t know if you’ve been, I know, Maryam, you haven’t been. I have a, my season’s past just expired yesterday for Universal Studios in Hollywood. I really like Universal Their daily price is usually like a $109, but it does go up depending on the time of year. It’s more expensive during the summer. One of the things that is, if it’s cheaper, it’s probably going to be less busy, and that sounds like, oh, everyone wanna would want to go when it’s cheaper. But the reason is because no one is going, and that’s why it’s cheaper. So I would definitely keep an eye on, if the price is cheaper, that’s probably a better time of year to go on rides there. They do have a couple of different annual passes. So they have a California Neighbor Pass, which is a 9 month pass. It excludes summer, because that is the busier season. And you have block out days, which is usually the weekends. But that is something that only people who live in California in the local neighborhoods can have. And Irvine is a local neighborhood. So you would count, and being someone who goes to UCI for that pass. They also have a Silver Pass, which is what I used to have. It was $8 a month I got in, it was like 275 days, some weekends I could go some weekends I couldn’t, and I couldn’t go during the like bigger, busier holiday seasons. My husband had the Gold Pass, which was 13 a month. The reason we got him that one was because he got parking. So we knew we were always going to go together, and we weren’t going to pay for both of us to have parking when only one person needs parking to get in. So he had free parking. If we got there before 6 pm. He had less blackout dates. He also had a 15% discount on food and merch like Hugo mentioned earlier, most annual passes will give you some sort of additional perks for that. And then they also had a Platinum one. It was $30 a month. I think they had no blackout dates, so that pass could get you in any time of the year, also has the free parking, and it also comes with a Halloween Horro night ticket. So Universal is really known for their Halloween. All of these parts tend to have a Halloween thing. Halloween is very big in America, and I think specifically in California amusement parks. They they do a lot of big stuff for that. So that is one thing to think about. You can also save money. When you buy the tickets for universal online. Some places you could buy them like, right at the park but for Universal there is a discount for buying them online, which is nice. Best time of year to go again anytime outside of summer. My most recommended attraction is Jurassic World is again a water ride. Theme here Aimee likes water rides. They have a wizarding world area. So if you like, Harry Potter, they have a couple of rides and shows over there, and it’s nice to see it kind of cute little place to walk through. I recommend the Flight of the Hippogriff. I don’t like the big ride. I tend to get, which is probably why I haven’t been a Six Flags, so I tend to get motion sick. So I don’t like some of those bigger rollercoaster rides. But Flight of the Hippogriff is a little bit smaller kids, kid friendly ride. They just opened Super Nintendo World, which was amazing. If you like, Mario and Luigi, you are literally walking into a video game. It is really cool experience, even just to walk through it. So if you haven’t been, I do recommend that you go check that out. My husband and I like to go to the Water World Show. It’s like a pyrotechnic show you will get wet, they do spray water, but they also, there’s water and fire in the show. It’s pretty famous for that show. And then they also have, I would say, the ride they’re most well known for us, called the Studio Tour. So you get to see some of the studio backlot area that’s some of the rides are in, but they turned it into a ride. It’s really long. So I don’t know. It’s not always this kid friendly, because it’s like an hour long ride. it’s very long and the wait is usually also really long. But they also have kid friendly play areas. They have a bunch of other like smaller rides, too. They have a dino play area which is like a a playground, and they have a super, silly fun land, which I always want to go to but you have to have kids. So you have to take some of my friends that have kids with me. It’s like a little, it’s a again water, it’s like a a playground that has water in it. So it’s like a mini type of water park. So you will get wet if you go there. But, Hugo, have you been to Universal Studios Hollywood?

Hugo: Yeah, no, I definitely been, I think you’re right about the Studio Tour it’s it’s definitely a commitment. I’m, I’m like a big movie person. So I I love that. And so it’s like a 90 min thing. And I know a lot of people are like, can we like end htis now? And it’s pretty long they do have a I think the part of the right that’s like like a is there like a dinosaur thing at 1 point where they have like. Yeah, they they like, really, I think the Universal Studios is really know where it’s like 4D where you’re like a lot of the rides you know. And this sounds like, not as fun as it. I can’t actually is, because it’s really fun. But you’re like sitting in like the, the chair, like a lot of the time with chairs are moving, and there’s like a like a projection in front of you like a screen. And, and so they really make it a really visual experience. But I think that’s a lot of their rides are kind of like based off of that. And of course, off the movies. I think one right that I really love is like the Mummy ride. And that’s like, I think that’s like the opposite of Stuiod Tours where it’s like supershort. I wish it was longer, but I was, think probably one of their higher thrill rides, and it’s actually like a coaster. It’s kind of kind of scary, too. I guess it’s not really for kids. So I think that’s one of my favorites. But I do think I think I know that I really love Universal Studios for the fact that it has Universal City outside of it. University City Walk is, you know, you kind of just, there’s a bunch of shops in a bunch of restaurants that you can walk through. It’s just a really nice experience, even if you don’t want to attend the park just to go to like Universal City Walk, and then just like, walk around. And you can really make a day out of that experience. So I do recommend that if you’re visiting for the first time.

Aimee: Yeah, I will say I feel like Universal Studios to me is like, if Six Flags and Disneyland had a baby, it would be Universal Studios. So it’s not more of the roller coaster more thrill to it than maybe Knotts Berry Farm or Legoland, which I’ll talk about really briefly here in a second. But it it also has some of that, like very immersive lands, or rides where you really feel like you’re a part of that experience or that movie. So I, I will say, it’s kind of like a good in between. I think that’s why my husband and I like it is because I like more of the immersive. Oh, I’m in the video game. It feels like I am, and he likes the bigger thrill rides. That’s a good in between for us. And then, lastly, I’ve been to Legoland, and I don’t know about either one of you. No, okay. So just me. Legoland is definitely more for kids. I love Legos, though so my mom and I went one time because we just wanted to see what it was about. They have annual passes, and day passes. It’s a little bit further away. It’s basically on your way to San Diego. You’ll see it on the way. They have a miniatures park where they have a bunch of different kind of lands built out of Legos. So like a Star Wars area, and you’ll see some like classic Legos. So if you’re into Legos, I think it’s cool just to go for that part of seeing a amusement park that is built around Legos. But it’s very, very kid friendly. So for those of you coming in with kids, or if you have family visiting that have kids, I think it’s probably outside of Disneyland, the best park to bring kids, and it’s definitely the most affordable park to bring kids, because they do have some little rides. But the the little miniatures park when you first walk in, is my favorite part, and the thing that takes out to me from there. You’ll definitely much like Six Flags. It’s far enough away where you definitely would want to rent a car or have a car to go there. That was everything that we wanted to have there any last thoughts on the parks?

Maryam: One question about the I’ve heard Legoland, and you cannot enter without a child. Is this true?

Aimee: My mom and I went a couple of years ago, just the two of us, and I was definitely not a child but I wouldn’t be surprised if they added in some of those requirements so definitely check those things. Because for safety reasons some parks do have different restrictions. Disneyland has restrictions on what you can wear in terms of like dressing up. You can’t look enough like a character that a kid would want to take a picture with you, thinking you are a Disneyland character. So some of the parts do have those restrictions or restrictions on certain times that you’re allowed to go so definitely check those restrictions out. But yeah, it would not surprise me if Legoland had at that requirement, and I think my mom and I were the only ones there that didn’t have small kids with us when we went but definitely, it’s a good park. A lot of my friends that have kids go to Legoland and and have a pass for it just because it is so, kid friendly, and the water park there is also very kid, friendly and and Lego themed, which is awesome yeah. Any other thoughts on the parks?

Maryam: I would add a personal experience, just not about Six Flags, but in general, with any park that has rights in it. If you wear glasses, use contacts on those days because you cannot keep on and keep on to your glasses, and you would miss the scenery, especially in fun rides like X2 in Six Flags. Definitely wear contacts.

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve definitely made that mistake before trying not to wear hats, or like other loose fitting things, sunglasses. You definitely want to have a bag that you could put those things in and I recommend my last recommendation is to bring a water bottle like a reusable water bottle. Water is very expensive at all of these parks, but majority of them have introduced water bottle, bottle filling stations so you can fill your bottle for free, or you can pay like $5 for a water bottle. So I would definitely recommend bringing your own water in a water bottle. But check the regulations to make sure that your bottle is allowed in the park, because again, glass in certain parks, some parks may not let you bring in certain kinds of water bottles. So make sure you’re checking on those things, Hugo, any last recommendations?

Hugo: So I think I think we kind of definitely covered it all. I think one thing you know, we kind of talked a little bit about about the waterparks, but I know that those tend to be like a lot cheaper than like the ones that are outside of Knots, outside of Six Flags. I don’t think I’ve heard how like they have been like post covid like how busy they can. I’m sure there’s some that get busy. But, but yeah, just I guess keep those in mind, too, if you look for like this kind of thrill ride. But I think, yeah, I think that was it on my end. I think we kind of chatted a lot of the attractions, of course, and what they’re made of and everything. So yeah.

Aimee: Yeah, we will have some podcasts on things, other than amusement parks to do. I know we all here really enjoy our rides. But if you’re looking for maybe concerts or other types of events, we do have some podcast coming up on cheap or free things to do in Orange County as well as like LA, San Diego areas going and exploring. I know I mentioned this earlier, but taking care of yourself and doing something for yourself is really important when you’re in grad school. I really don’t like when I hear students that are like I rarely ever left campus. I’m like you should have done something for yourself and explored the area. So please think about these things as yeah, it’s an extra expense, but it’s an expense to make sure that you are also enjoying yourself in school, doing something with friends. If you have family visiting, that you’re taking them around and exploring your local area. But again, we’ll have some other podcasts on other options for you. If you are not much of an amusement park person and we look forward to having you join us in the future.

Maryam: Awesome. Thank you.


Hugo: Thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #21: Concerts, Festivals, and Events

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Vidya Venkatesan (she/her)

Aimee: Welcome everyone to another episode of the GIC, podcast my name is Aimee Jiang. I’m the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division and today, we’re going to focus on festivals, concerts, performances, maybe ballet that often happen I would say more so in Los Angeles down (L.A. is up, Aimee is bad with directions) in L.A. County. But we also do have some in Orange County as well. So we’ll go over a few options for that. I’m gonna pass it over to my co-host, though, to have her introduce herself before we get started.

Vidya: Hi, everyone, I’m Vidya Venkatesan a 3rd year graduate student in the Astrophysics Ph.D. program. I’m so excited to be here today and talk to you about all things, music, concerts and musicals.

Aimee: Yeah, I think you and I, before we started recording we were talking about it, and I think you and I have very similar interests when it comes to like some of the things that we like to do. I think another, podcast we talked about some museums and other like hiking and things and activities that you can do. But sometimes you just want to like, sit down especially during the summer in an air conditioned room that you’re not paying for the air conditioning for and enjoy just kind of losing yourself in music or in a performance. So we talked about a few of kind of the places that we’ve gone to see concerts or heard of concerts happening. But how would you recommend that someone looks for tickets or concert, like places that concerts are happening?

Vidya: Yeah. So for that one, I think usually like it’s like spotify if you have, like a favorite artist Spotify recommends you like it tells you like, hey, there’s this concert happening in LA. And then, if you’re part of like a friends group, and everyone has similar like interest when it comes to music, I feel like I get some recommendations from my friends, they’re like, hey, there, there’s this concert happening here, do you want to join? So there’s that. But I think at UCI like they do, if, if you’re like looking for things to do at UCI specifically, they also have events in like the 2 theater that they have here. So if you just subscribe to them, they do send you events for every month. So that’s also another way to get things. 

Aimee: Yeah, there’s some really good shows that happen on campus, so always recommend you check those out. I also follow, like on Spotify, like you mentioned, I get those notifications like one of your favorite artists is drop tour dates in your area. I also follow a few of my favorite artists or comedians, or like performance places on Instagram. So social media is also a way that I’ve found. And sometimes I’ll just Google, like what’s happening in Los Angeles this weekend to see if anything comes up. I would say, for festivals, that’s, I’m not a festival person, but I see a lot of festivals that pop up when I search for like what’s happening in this area on Google, and it’ll usually give you kind of like a calendar of some of the different activities that are happening. So just a simple Google search is a way to go. If you have a specific venue that you really like, you can also check their website to see who else is maybe performing at that venue. So that’s something that I’ve done. I really like the Hollywood Bowl and The Wiltern, which are two concert venues in LA, and sometimes I’ve just searched to see what’s coming up during a certain time of year that maybe I’m interested in going. Hollywood Bowl is kind of a unique place, it’s outdoor so it can get really hot. And parking is terrible. Have, you’ve gone to the Hollywood Bowl. Right?

Vidya: Yes, I’ve been to the Hollywood Bowl. I went to a a Star Wars Music Festival, and I think it was amazing. I forget the the name of the person, which I should remember. But we had all the lightsabers, you know, like the fake ones, and then we were all just like vibing to the music, and it was kind of late like past, past 6 pm. So it was like dark and everything and you could see, like all these different colored light lightsabers, it was, it was a good experience. I loved it overall.

Aimee: It’s got a pretty cool view, too, because it’s like stadium style seating, outdoors like the, the seats, basically like, go up the side of a hill. So the acoustics are really good for an outdoor place, which I was really surprised at the first time that I went, because I was like outdoors sometimes when you have, like a lot of festivals, and things will just happen like a random park like they’ll just throw up a stage, and the acoustics aren’t always super great, because you’re outdoors, and there’s, you know traffic and random noise, but the Hollywood Bowl is like nestled into this very quiet hillside and the acoustics are pretty amazing, and you get a variety of people that perform there. Like you mentioned, like, sometimes it’s orchestras performing music from movies. I know I’ve seen a couple of times, there’s been like the music from the Little Mermaid that’s been performed there. Encanto was performed, like music from Encanto was performed there not that long ago. But they do some of those like big movies out there. But you’ll also see, like Andre Bocelli came and performed there. I think he usually comes like once a year. And then you’ll it’ll go from that to like rock bands and other types of artists like I saw Florence and the Machine perform there once. She was amazing, and it was a, a cool place to see concerts, but they do a lot of different types of things. I would say the majority of them are at night, I think, because it’s kinda warm here, generally during the day. So you might get there as like the sun setting, which is kind of cool. And then it’s usually dark at the concert. But I’ve parked there a few times. I definitely wouldn’t recommend parking there. It’s hard to get out. It’s as hard to, I would say, probably even harder to get out than it is to get in, but there are places that you can park further away, and I think sometimes they even have a trolley service depending on the concert, or you can take like an Uber that little bit of a way from a parking structure, someplace, else that might be a little easier, to get to. So plan that ahead of time. You don’t want to last minute be trying to figure that out. I’ve also noticed in Hollywood Bowl and some of the other places as well, sometimes you’ll get last minute deals. So if you’re like I would see this concert but I’m not spending that much money to see it. You can wait to like the day of, and see if they have last minute tickets on sale that sometimes drop in price. So we’ve done that for a few concerts there and I believe at The Wiltern too. But there are a ton of concert halls for music of all of varieties in LA. So I’ve been to The Wiltern. Did you say you’ve been to The Wiltern as well?

Vidya: Yes, yes, I was there recently for Half Alive concert shout up to Half Alive, they’re from Long Beach they’re amazing. And recently the gained so much fame. But yeah, it’s, it’s a beautiful place to like be. And yeah, the sounding and everything like it was, it was amazing. I had a great time there.

Aimee: Yeah and I was looking at there because I am trying to think of who I saw there. But they have, I would say, one of the bigger varieties of people that perform there because they they have, like some Spanish bands that perform. They have some more like electronic bands like, I’m looking through the list right now, like, it’s a very interesting mix. So I think that’s kind of cool, because they and they they kind of categorize it to like sort of pop band, is it electronic, is it rock, is it in another language other than English? So they they specify that. So I think that’s kind of cool indoor venue. Kind of near Korea town. In another, podcast you and I talked about LACMA it’s kind of over in that area. So that’s always a good place to check out. If you’re into more of like orchestra music, the Philharmonic, there’s the LA Philharmonic in downtown, and it’s kind of cool. I’ve been to the Paramount. They again have a pretty decent variety of bands that perform there. I’m trying to remember who I saw there. It was Lake Street Dive that I saw there kind of like a jazz, jazzy r&b band. They were really cool, like a big cello. The Troubadour is kind of a legendary tiny, it’s in West Hollywood. It’s a smaller club I’ve seen Johnnyswim perform there. But that definitely, I would say, has kind of smaller bands. So up and coming bands will often play there. So that’s kind of a cool place to go to. I’m trying to think of oh, we also talked about so that would be more like concerts. Dolby Theater has some.

Vidya: Yeah. And then the Disney Concert Hall. That’s another one, especially during Christmas. They have some like discounts, and then you can go see like, like, local people perform. So that’s that’s pretty good. A Capella groups like come and perform. So that’s like if you’re into something like that that that could be interesting.

Aimee: That would be cool. I have heard that they have really incredible acoustics. I haven’t had the opportunity to go there. I think that is definitely a big one. And like I mentioned earlier, I think some of the parks, especially during like, I would say during the summer a little bit, but I would say fall in spring a little bit more, because it’s less hot. There’ll be like pop up festivals and stuff at some of the parks in Southern California in general. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is a pretty common one for concerts. They get some big names. They’re much like, I think, SoFi stadium. I’m trying to think if the LAFC soccer team has a stadium, I feel like there’s been some concerts there, but there it definitely holds less people. But so if I stadium is huge. UCLA holds some concerts, too. They’ve got some theaters there if you’re looking like in LA but I would say the Rose Bowl is a little bit closer than LA for us. And they have a lot of big artists. like I have some friends that went and saw a Coldplay play there a little bit ago. So that’s always a big one. Any other concert venues that you’ve been to or can think of?

Vidya: I feel like you covered it all. But there’s also like in in Irvine especially, I think it’s called at The Observatory OC. It’s behind Ikea. So that was a little suspicious when I went there. But they also have, they also have, like really cool concerts, like, I think I’ve seen again, I think I saw the same band that I saw in like The Wiltern here in the, the observatory, too. And like it was, it was iconic. That’s closer, that’s an Irvine.

Aimee: Yeah definitely closer. Yeah, and I would say when you think of LA concerts like, there’s those big concert halls, big venues where people like Taylor Swift or I’m thinking of her because she’s coming here soon and my friend is going to her this weekend. So thinking about that, there’s definitely some bigger places that people go. But there are a lot of small local venues in Irvine, Orange County in general. Sometimes there’s just kind of like pop up concerts that happen. So keep an eye out for those, because, like you mentioned, you might see a band when they’re like, not famous and then you like, watch them get big, and you’re like, wait, what happened? I was just. I was just watching you in paying way, less for your concerts before. So it’s kind of fun just to try out a new band. Go see somebody. I definitely done that a few times where it’s like you go see a small band, or like the opener for a band, and then you see them later on in the on their own and that’s been pretty cool experience. So definitely take a look at the different types of venues the LA has to offer indoor, outdoor Plenty of varieties, if you like concerts and music. Talked a little bit about orchestra, but you and I also talked about musicals. So there are a lot of musicals. We’re not Broadway, but Broadway shows do travel. So there are some places to see musicals down here. Have you had a chance to see any?

Vidya: Well UCI has some some like so like past quarter, I think during, at the end of the quarter, like some some of the people from theater, like, I think, master’s students, and also undergrads like they not only choreographed it, but they also performed. So UCI has it, and they have student discounts. So that’s that’s a good place to start. There’s also the Segerstrom Center performing arts theater or something. It’s, that is in Costa mesa. I saw The Sixth is that the main one to musical? 

Aimee: I think so.

Vidya: I saw that  I saw that there and it’s, it’s amazing. I also saw Hairspray there, like last month or 2 months ago. Yeah, they, they’re pretty good, and once you subscribe to them like they send you information every month, so you can like, figure out what, what to do next. So these are some, some theaters that are close by, and then in LA, there’s also the LA Theater where they do have a lot of musicals. And then there’s also the Pantages, paint. I don’t know how to say that I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that right.

Aimee: I don’t either, I’ll link it in the Transcript. 

Vidya: Yes, and Pantages. I think that’s a little bit expensive. I’ve never seen anything there myself, but they seem to have a lot.

Aimee: I think that’s where a lot of the traveling Broadway type shows go. I was looking at their events earlier, and they have like Les Miserable there, Mama Mia is coming up, Aladdin. I know, that would be amazing. So like Chicago is gonna be there, Peter Pan. So they’ve got some really cool stuff coming up there, so that would be bigger. There again same with like concerts. There are some smaller kind of more local things that you could see as well if you like musicals. Segerstrom, I was looking at kind of what events they have coming up. They do have some kind of smaller bands. They have some little festivals. If you like Jeff Goldblum. He is actually not just an actor and comedian, he’s a musician. He’s gonna be performing there looks like with like a orchestra. So random things that you might find. But they also have ballets and musicals and it looks like sometimes they even show movies there. So interesting options to kind of check out. They have a calendar of events that you can kind of look ahead and see what’s coming up. And I was looking at special ticket offers. So some places do offer discounts for students, so you can always check, a lot of places, don’t. But you know it’s always best to check and see if there are some discounts available. And it looks like for some of the same day tickets at Segerstrom. One hour before select performances, if you’re a full time student, there are some discounts on what they call rush tickets. Or if you get a group of 10 or more to go so if like you and a bunch of your friends want to go, maybe, for, like a holiday thing, you can sometimes qualify for discouned seats depending on the performance. So there’s information on their website. But I always recommend checking that out. I know we use that sometimes when you go to movies, my husband’s a student, so he’ll get a discount on going to movies. So yeah, I would say, there’s quite a few options for things that people can do in terms of orchestras, musicals, kind of getting out and seeing a show. I also will say that it gets lumped into Southern California. And it is Southern California but it gets lumped into like LA area, which its not. Coachella is a huge festival that happens. I think it’s usually in like April, like end of a mid, mid to end of April before it gets too hot. It’s close to, if you listen to our podcast on the National Parks, it’s really close to Joshua tree National Park. It’s over in like the palm springs, kind of area in the town called Indio. It was just funny, because if you go to Indio when Coachell, it’s not happening. It’s empty. It’s just big fields. They put up a big thing inside the field. I’ve been to Indio just to get like gas and snacks while driving out to Phoenix. So it’s kind of an interesting little town, that is nothing unless big festivals are happening, and Coachella is not the only one that happens out there. I think burning man also might happen out there. There’s some other stuff that happens out there. so Coachella is a big one. And then we’re not that far from Las Vegas as well, and they have a lot of outdoor festivals similar to Coachella, that happen out there for a variety of music types. I know I have some friends that go to festivals there all the time that are more into like rock music. So you could definitely check out kind of what’s happening. And you can check out our podcast on Travel Deals for some cheap, easy ways to get to Vegas. It’s not that long of drive either, but there are some cheaper airlines that fly into Vegas, and you can go for a short little weekend and check out some artists out there for festivals. But I would say, that’s a pretty common thing for springtime generally, because Las Vegas, our area can get really hot during the summer. But sometimes some of those big places that we talked about have festivals as well like the Rose Bowl. I think it’s this next weekend, obviously, not when the podcast comes out. But when we’re recording this it has an Asian artist spotlight festival coming out. So there’s very unique and interesting festivals that happen around here as well. Any tips tricks for kind of checking out concerts?

Vidya: I’d say up until now I didn’t think about this, but now that you mentioned it, I think it’s always a good idea to check if they have any student discounts to save money, and then again  planning, planning it beforehand, checking, parking. Because that’s something I think we struggle with. Yeah, these are these are some of my tips.

Aimee: Yeah, parking is terrible and most concert venues. So if you can use public transportation or like, have a group together, and you want to like Uber out, I will say, with Uber and Lyft there will all, often be increased prices at the beginning or the end of the concert, so sometimes I’ll just like hang around for a half hour after a concert ends. Maybe check out some of the tables that sell like merchandise or see if the band comes out and like this little meet and great stuff. If it’s a smaller venue and like a, a smaller band, sometimes they do. I’ve had, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few small bands that way, maybe like openers, for, like the main that will come out. And like booth their table and then prices for Uber and Lyft go down at that point. So my advice would be to try and get there maybe a little bit early, or be okay with missing the opener and come a little bit late to try and save some money on that kind of fee that comes along with going. But the hassle for parking can be pretty hard, but it does depend on, if you’re going to something kind of longer, like Coachella. You’re gonna have to probably drive to go to some of these places so definitely plan ahead for for what it looks like. But thank you for joining us. I think you and I talked about this and our other one, too. It’s really important for grad students to get out and take their mind off the school sometimes. So knowing that you have some on campus options, some things in Orange County, but also you can go to LA, or maybe to Vegas, or some of the other areas around where we live and get out and explore is always a fun option.

Vidya: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was so much fun.

Transcript of Podcast #22: Dining Culture in the U.S.

In Attendance: Aimee Jiang (she/her), Monica Cho (she/her), & Kamal Bookwala (she/her)

Aimee: Welcome everyone to another episode of the GIC podcast my name is Aimee Jiang. I am the International Student Support Officer for Graduate Division. I’m excited today to talk about dining culture. We’ll be going over things like what to wear to a restaurant, how so reservations work, tipping, that’s a really big thing you might have heard already about American culture. So we will be discussing those things. I am joined today by two of our GIC mentors, and I’m going to have them introduce themselves.

Monica: Hi, I’m Monica. I’m a sixth year, no rising seventh year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asia studies. And my research looks at modern Korean literature.

Kamal: And I am Kamal. I am a rising fourth year. Ph. D. Candidate in the Economics department. And I, my research focuses on labor and public economics.

Aimee: Thank you both for joining us. I know a lot of us as, when I was in grad school, I’m sure both of you eating, cooking is hard and having time to do that, so sometimes we do go out. Sometimes we go out just to get a break and be able to be social. So I think the first question is, just how do we find good restaurants to eat at. What would be some recommendations, for that?

Monica: Usually Yelp is a good app to look up places that you’d like to go out to. And then they they also have, like nice ratings that people and like comments that people post on. So you can kind of look through them see you know what suits your appetite for the day.

Kamal: Yeah, I also often will just like if I’m craving a certain cuisine, I’ll just look up on Google like 

Monica: Right!

Kamal: Italian restaurants in Irvine. And Google is great at compiling a list. You can search by, like how many dollar signs, or like a 4 plus rating out of 5 stars, which is, you know, usually something you want to look for, for a good restaurant. You can look at like distance to you and read people’s reviews. So yeah, I think definitely, just like looking up the cuisine you want. 

Aimee: Yeah. And the dollar signs are always important when we’re on a budget, too, you know, the less dollar signs it has, the less expensive it is, and we’re usually trying to find something that’s a good mix between the not super expensive but still having a good rating. I like to look through the ratings on like either Google Maps or Yelp, and try and figure out what it is. You know, if it’s like service was terrible, but the food was amazing. Sometimes it’s worth the the risk to have bad service to eat good food, especially if it’s like a smaller local restaurant. I feel like sometimes people if they’re super busy, they’re like they didn’t pay enough attention to me. And I think American service in general is very, come to your table and ask you how you’re doing a lot, and people get offended if you don’t do that. So if it’s a small maybe culturally specific restaurant that that’s not part of the culture for that, for the people that run that restaurant, sometimes they get bad reviews based on that. So I like to do a little bit more digging into like, what is it that gave them the bad stars? If it’s I found weird things in my food or the food was bad, I probably don’t want to eat there. But if it was like the service was terrible, I’ll give it a shot and see if the service just wasn’t very American style. Or maybe they just were rude, but the food was good and it’s worth it. So. But I think you’re right like Yelp, just googling things looking at Google Maps, what’s in the area and then kind of seeing what sounds good, always super helpful. We’ll have some things on our Instagram account, too, about places close to campus. And we’ll have a whole podcast, on places to eat on campus. So just to give you some ideas before you get here on places you might want to try right away.

Monica: That’s really funny, because I always look for like things like, oh, the service was terrible, for, like all these Korean restaurants and that’s how I know it’s like authentic.

Aimee: Yeah, that’s what my husband does, too. He was like, if it’s got around a 3 to a 3.5 and it’s because the service was terrible. Then I’m definitely going there. 

Kamal: Another website I just thought of is Spoon University because it tends to cater to col, like college students or undergrads who don’t have a lot of money to spend. And University of California, Irvine has a Spoon University website, and you can see what students have written about like best places to go on a budget in Irvine, which is really nice, too.

Aimee: Oh, I will have to look that up. I have not seen that before. Learned a lot from you lately Kamal. So some restaurants take reservations. I feel like a lot of the, you know, kind of smaller places, probably don’t. A lot of the locally owned place,s don’t. It’s usually for fancier places. But how does the restaurant reservation system work? Especially if maybe you have a larger group going with you.

Kamal: So generally, if you have a larger group restaurants would prefer, if you make a reservation. If you’re going to like a fancier, sit down, place. And then reservations, I think it’s probably best to look up the restaurant. And then either the restaurant would like you to just call them and make a reservation on the phone, or they will have some sort of online registration system. And you can just make a reservation through that.

Monica: Yeah, Open Table is another app that I use a lot just to see like what reservations are available. And also like, if you don’t see a time slot that doesn’t quite work with your schedule, don’t be afraid to call them and just ask. They might just have it blocked out for whatever reason. And yeah, I think a lot of restaurants now have like their own, like websites, and they take reservations that way. And even with like smaller local restaurants sometimes you can, if they don’t take reservations ahead. Sometimes you can get on their like waiting list through phones. So if you are aware that that’s always a good way to go.

Aimee: Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot more places, I think maybe since Covid, a lot more of the local small places have had wait list that you can like get on as you’re heading over there and make sure you get there before your, your your table gets called. I can’t remember, Jamboree Plaza that’s got the 85 degrees

Monica: Yeah, yeah Diamond Jamboree

Aimee: There’s a couple restaurants, yeah Diamond Jamborree, there’s a couple of restaurants over there that have the waitlist feature, that we’ve used for like sushi and things, so always check that out. There’s a really good ramen place (HiroNori Ramen) too, that has a waitlist feature. And some of them you like put your name in, and then you can like walk around the shopping center that they’re in, and then get a text message when they’re ready. I’ve also used Resy more often when I travel or like when I go into downtown LA. I’ve not used it locally because I usually just go to their website. And sometimes you can book a reservation through Yelp. it will take you to like whatever service they use for booking and reservation. But yeah, it definitely is dependent. So you’ll find your favorite restaurants and you’ll be like, okay, this one. I always have to have a reservation for especially during maybe happy hour, when there’s like deals on smaller bites and drinks and things. So you have to figure out which service they use because there are so many different ones out there. So you found your restaurants, maybe you did book a reservation, or maybe you didn’t need one. Now, thinking about like what is proper attire for going out. I feel like America is known for being like leggings and athleisure. But some restaurants, that’s maybe not really what you would wear. So any tips on a proper attire to where, when going out to eat?

Monica: So I think especially Southern California generally is more lax on these quote unquote, proper attire. Especially coming from the east coast, that’s like a make or break deal. So you might not be let into the restaurant if you don’t have proper attire. So just look out first like if they have any notes on what they require as an attire, either on their website or sometimes on Yelp or on Google. If it’s casual, then you yeah, you can walk in with your athleisure wear. Leggings is fine. But if it says like smart casual, it usually would be like for men like polo, and not shorts, like some kind of slack. Although I guess in Southern California shorts or like khaki short are okay. For women, you know, obviously, no leggings, maybe, maybe nice slack or, or skirt. But generally, if you see those things, you can just Google and see like what Google Images give you as, as like sort of a, a reference point, I’d say, Yeah.

Kamal: Yeah, I think in general, I will echo that I think on the East coast people dress a lot nicer to go get food, because that’s where I’m from too. But here I find that the range is huge. That there will be people at a restaurant who are dressed to the nines. They look gorgeous, they like, I’m like, Wow, they, they really wanted to look nice today. And then there will be people in like gym shorts and a old t-shirt and you know, they’re all at the same restaurant. So I think like maybe aiming for like the middle somewhere between there, you’re probably safe at generally any restaurant you want to go to.

Aimee: Yeah. One of the reasons I was so excited to do this specific podcast with the two of you is because we all are from the U.S.and we’re all from different parts of the U.S. and I think, you both brought up a good point. If you’re traveling for conferences, that culture could be very different. I feel like in the south it’s a little bit different. Midwest is still a little, I think, the east, the west coast is just kind of the, we’re very casual here on the West Coast. I grew up in Washington State, and you go out to restaurants in Seattle and, like you said, Kamal, there are people in like really nice dresses. And then there’s people that clearly just got finished hiking or kayaking, and they’re in like a north face, fleece and leggings or bike shorts at the same exact restaurant. I would agree. I I tend to go somewhere in the middle, especially if I’ve not been there before. If I’ve been to the restaurant, or I have friends that have been, and I can kind of be like, what did you wear? I’ll tend to go with like a nice pair of jeans or a dress like a, a casual dress. So it’s not super fancy so trying to find an in between. But if you’re going to a places in like UTC or kind of around campus, they’re really used to students. And more commonly, you’ll see people in like athleisure leggings, sweats. Just very, very casual, as you would see walking around campus. Next question. So you’re at the restaurant now. Proper placing and eating for a napkins cutlery, especially in thinking about going to nicer restaurants. We do have a few kind of more high end restaurants in Irvine the students will go to for maybe celebrating something like advancing or getting close to graduation or having family come into town. So any tips on that?

Monica: So as for the cutlery you, so I mean the it, it depends on like how, how fancy of a restaurant you go to. But let’s just say you went to like this uber fancy restaurant in like Newport. Then you’ll, you’ll usually, you know, assuming that you’ve ordered like the appetizer, main, and all that. You’ll use it, use your cutlery from all the way out like inwards. So out to in and the plate on your left is your bread plate, and then the water on your right is your water. I have to learn this. So, and then, when you are, you know you could, you could be eating, and you could be like taking a break. And when in which case, when you’re taking a break, you want to put your for fork and knife in like a like a triangular form, like what, what would that be like, a 7 and a 4 o’clock position to let the servers know that you’re not done yet, don’t take my plate away. I’m still working on it. And when you’re done you can put those culteries together. In like a, looking like 11 altogether, and just put on the plate, and they’ll take it away. That’s usually the proper cutlery formalities. I’d say.

Kamal: Yeah, I, I think in general like you, you don’t have to stress about it. People won’t like judge, you, you know, for messing up cutlery

Monica: Right, right

Kamal: But yeah, I think that’s super important, and also something that like I think I have to learn, because my family is very casual. We don’t like have napkins out at dinner. Is when there’s a napkin on your table, put it on your lap. Open it up and put it on your lap. Usually like that napkin will be around your cutlery. If it’s like a less fancy restaurant. and or like folded really nicely on your center plate. Just remember that like it shouldn’t be on the table when you’re dining.

Aimee: Yeah. I grew up with the grandma, who would yell at me when my elbows were on the table. And I had to learn how to put the silverwear on the table. So my parents didn’t care, super casual in my household, but every time I went to my grandma’s house she was like, what are you doing? We also have with the GPSRC, which is our Graduate and Postdoctoral (Aimee forgot the S which stands for Scholar) Resource Center name is so long I always get tripped up on that. But they actually generally have at least once a year a class on proper dining and eating etiquette in the U.S. And the reason for that is for professional development. If you’re at a networking event, sometimes there are opportunities for you to meet with, like really high level people in businesses. And you want to make the best impression. And for many Americans and for people outside of the U.S. too. The etiquette at like really formal places is not super common for people to know. And so this is a class where they teach you like, how big of a bite to take? Should you cut your pizza, which it, it depends on where you are. But thinking about all of those things. They kind of walk you through, how to have a professional dining experience, at some of these networking events. So if you’re really nervous about it, I would say, that’s a really great place to start. To kind of help you feel more confident about the way that you do things, at these networking events. Cause, yeah, I, I would be nervous if I went to a big networking event. I would hear my grandma in my head, yelling at me about my elbows, but I’d probably forget everything else. So those are things to keep in mind as some of the maybe more unique things that we have on campus in terms of professional development. So now that we’ve talked about more formal restaurants, I think most of us as where we live, and near campus, and just, you know, kind of sticking to a budget are probably more likely to order from a smaller restaurant, or maybe like a fast food chain. So what are some tips on ordering food at those kinds of places?

Kamal: I think, generally fast food it is, you go up to like the front of the restaurant and you order whatever you want. Usually from like a big billboard at the top of the restaurant and then you’ll usually get like a ticket, or maybe a beeper. That will tell you when your food is ready, and then you go up and pick it up and take it to your table. So it’s much more like, serve yourself, seat yourself, clean up after yourself kind of restaurant.

Monica: Right? I mean, there are also, like smaller restaurants with sit down services. In which case you would just, you know, go to the host. Tell them how many of you are there. Such as like pretty much seeing things as a regular restaurant. But with little more chill vibes I’d say.

Aimee: Yeah. And I think most of the places around campus are more of that, go to the counter order, it’s ready for you to pick up, you bring it to your table, and you sit down. And I think those places often cater to you, coming with like a group of friends, and you can order your own food and and someone else can order their food. But you can still sit together. Someone can come laste. Some of the places in like UTC, there’s like outdoor tables, so we’re gonna talk about dietary restrictions in a second here, so if you have dietary restrictions or you’re feeling like eating something, and your friends is like, no, that sounds terrible I want you something else. You guys can get things from different places and go together. And I think that’s pretty common. Around campus is, there’s lots of places for you to just kind of grab things and meet up with your friends and have dinner together, but eating very different separate foods. So for dietary restrictions, what are some ways to kind of figure out what you can eat or tips on how to deal with dietary restrictions when dining out?

Monica: Always at the server. Right like, if you are trying to order something I mean some, a lot of times they might have the ingredients listed, but if they don’t,  then tell them, Hey, this is an allergy that I have, how do you, how do you accommodate? You know this allergy and if this particular menu doesn’t like it, there’s something else that you can do for me. And you know, folks, are usually, very willing to accommodate your that to your restrictions. So just always ask.

Aimee: I have dietary restrictions. I have a couple of food allergies. I will say at bigger restaurants, I, I ask at any place if I don’t go there frequently, then, if I know it’s what I can eat out, I’ll go back and order the same thing. But I usually ask, you know, or notify them. A lot of restaurants. If you have allergy especially at sit down places, they want you to tell them ahead of time, like I’m vegan, or I’m gluten free, or I’m allergic to like, I’m allergic to eggs, and so and shrimp, and so I always have to say, like, I’m allergic to these things, and, and they tell the chef, and then the chef makes sure that what I’m eating is not going to poison me. And so that’s always really helpful. It’s kind of fun, sometimes I’ve gotten to meet the chef, they’ll come out and like have a conversation with me because I have some more unique food allergies. But if you have something that’s more common, like gluten free. Or maybe you’re a vegetarian or a vegan. Those options are sometimes notated on menus at places as well. And so that’s always good. Sometimes I’ll Google restaurants looking on Yelp for something that has vegan or vegetarian friendly options. I eat vegan a lot when I go out just to like avoid eating something that I’m allergic to. I will say at some of the smaller restaurants, more local places. It’s sometimes a little bit more difficult, because some of the servers maybe don’t know what’s in the food as easy and I don’t like to feel like I’m hassling to try and get some details. So I usually just try and find some theme easy on their menu, that like is notated, that it’s vegan or vegetarian and and ask, and maybe a couple of questions. And then, if you have restrictions that are more like religious restrictions, there are some websites that help you find maybe halal or kosher foods in the area. And those are an Irvine, I think. In in particular, there are quite a few options. And so I think that that’s always really helpful is kind of checking out those websites. I’m trying to remember what they are at the top of my head, there’s a specific halal, all one that I know some of our students have recommended, and I will try and link that in the transcript, if you are looking for that. So the length of time people stay at restaurants does vary, depending on the restaurants you go to. I know there’s a couple of Korean barbecue places where you like, sit down with like a group of friends that have like time limits, and they will tell you like you have 15 min left to finish your food. But most restaurants don’t have like a specific time limit. But is there a more kind of cultural norm for how long people stay at restaurants?

Kamal: Yeah. So I think the the norm is generally like you know, as long as you’re ordering food or eating, you’re welcome to stay at the restaurant. But then the restaurant really wants you to leave so that they can seat new customers. And I think in general, like you don’t just stay for hours, and I think that is the culture in a lot of other countries. I know when I studied abroad in Italy like the norm was just you stay until however long you want. You could have a 4, 6 hour dinner, and nobody was going to make you leave the restaurant. But that’s very much, not the case here. I think it’s very much like, okay, they will hand you the check and they might tell you like, oh, you know, pay it whenever whenever you’re ready. But that is their notice that, like, okay, it’s time for you to go.

Aimee: That’s definitely very common. I know. my husband grew up in Italy, and he’s talked about that a lot. How he feels so pressured in the U.S. Like they’ll hand you the check and be like, are you ready to pay? And he’s like, I want to sit and hang out. So I think that definitely is very different than a lot of other places. One thing I have noticed is especially around campus. There’s quite a few restaurants, that kind of cater to being able to hang out and study together like a Panera Bread or some of the coffee shops that also have food, that’s very different. They expect you to hang out for a while. They usually have free Wi-Fi, which is when you know that you’re welcome to like, hang out and sit around. But yeah, for most places, when you make a reservation, you’re not making a reservation for the night. I think that’s pretty common in some places, you make it a dinner reservation, and that table is yours for the night, starting at your time. And here they basically have somebody coming in for a reservation in your same spot. Not that long after you. So that person’s waiting for you to leave. So it is definitely kind of more common for it to be a shorter, just eat, hang out while you’re eating, once you’re done head out and maybe do something else. So don’t yeah don’t expect to be at a restaurant for like 6 hours here. So once you are done eating, paying your bills, there’s a couple of things that we’ll talk about. Tipping is a big one. So anything you want to talk about, because tips are kind of considered more necessary here. Anything about tip culture that either of you want to bring up?

Monica: Yeah, I mean for counter services. It’s pretty much like in my counter service, I mean, like the fast food restaurants and like coffee shops, like they might ask you if you’d like to tip, so it’s a suggestion, because you’re not being serviced in which case you can pick whether you want to, you know leave a tip or not. But if you’re at a sit down restaurant, you want to be tipping anywhere between eight, I, I generally do like 18 percent up. Obviously, if the service was total crap, then you know, that’s your that you got to use your judgment there, but I, I think I mean I, I was taught usually, like all lunch is like 15 to 18, and then dinner is like 18 up. But I think generally now it’s become more of like all across, like 18 to 20, sometimes even 25. I’ve seen that, too. So, yeah.

Kamal: Yeah. And the nice thing is that you really don’t have to do math anymore, because a lot of places where you’re paying will give you like little buttons to choose from for whatever percent you want, or you could put a dollar amount that you want. And yeah, I would very much echo what Monica said that like, if you’re serving yourself, you don’t really have to worry about tipping. But you could if you want to. But if you are being served, it’s a mistake to not tip because I’ll probably remember you and not be very happy. If you come back to that restaurant.

Monica: They’ll come after you, actually. 

Aimee: Yeah some places will confront you about it. One thing is that our servers are not paid a lot of money compared to, in some other countries. It’s not a usually a livable wage, so a lot of servers do rely on the tips. So they give really good service because they want to get more tips because they need that money for sustainability. So that is one of the reasons that tipping is such a big part of the culture here. Like, Kamal said, sometimes, if you’re doing like sometimes it’ll come out with like a little pay card machine where you can do like Apple pay, or Google pay or tap your card. And it’ll give you that like button to push that says like 18, 20, 22 percent or like, enter your own amount. But sometimes, if it’s more like a sign like they hand you a bill, and you give them your card and they bring it back. Sometimes it will have on the bottom, suggested tips, and it’ll tell you what an 18, 20, 22 percenttip is. Because yeah, most of us are not wanting to like sit there and calculate what a tip is, or 

Monica: One thing about like that, that those like check marks is that sometimes they add the tip after tax and it’s totally fine for you to tip pre-tax amount. So I like to do the math to confirm that it’s been pre-tax not the post tax tip. So you know, if, if you’re crazy like me, then you can totally do that.

Aimee: Yeah, depends on how much energy you want to put into it. 

Monica: Right

Aimee: And I will say, for a couple of other things like, take out is again like self service. But you know, if you’ve had a really big take out order or like a catering order, tipping is really appreciated because they did put a lot of extra time and energy in. Or for me, like having specific dietary restrictions, sometimes I will tip on a take out order just because I know that they went through a larger process to try and make sure that my food is safe for me. So that’s always something to think about. And if you order on like Ubereats, you can always tip the person that drove your food too. So if your food got there really quickly, and they were really friendly when they dropped off your food, whatever it is, you’re always able to tip those people as well (side note: if you are living off campus in a large community like an Irvine Company property. I recommend tipping your delivery people as those buildings are very hard to navigate so if they found their way to you, they worked hard to do so. You can also find a place like meeting them at the leasing office to save them time and energy. I find delivery people wandering my complex asking for directions regularly and they really deserve to be tipped for their work). So a couple of different things there. We talked about bills like being able to pay at your table at a lot of sit down places and then, obviously at fast places you will go up to the counter, and you’ll pay there. And I mentioned to that some of those fast places are nice when you’re going with a larger group, because you don’t have to like worry about splitting a bill. Because I think there are certain restaurants that don’t cater to serving bills for large groups. And so if you’re at a restaurant with a lot of people, are there any tips on like splitting bills? Or how does that work here?

Kamal: Yeah. So I think you’re always welcome to ask the restaurant if they’re willing to split the bill. Sometimes they’ll tell you that they’ll split it twice, but not more than twice. I’ve had that happen many times, where they’ll be like, yeah, okay, we’ll split it twice, but it’s, I think, very inconvenient, and I think more expensive for them to to split the bill many times. So they don’t really want to do that. But luckily there’s lots of apps that you can use to help you split the bill with your friends there’s Venmo, there’s Zelle, And that way you can just figure out how much you owe someone, and that one person can pay the bill or most of the bill then you can just pitch in for whatever your amount was

Monica: Right, and then you can always give them cash to. 

Kamal: Yeah.

Monica: Yeah. And as for Zelle it’s convenient, because it already comes with some bankings like think Bank of America and Chase. Venmo is a separate app that you have to download and go through the whole process. I, I actually stopped using Venmo because they were asking for my social security number so I was like, nope. But so like, I’m a, I’m Zelle user. 

Kamal: Yeah me too

Monica: Yeah,

Aimee: Yeah Zelle is super easy, because, like you said, it’s it’s already set up to your bank account. I think I only use Venmo with my mom because my mom couldn’t figure out how to use Zelle. So so it just depends on who you’re going with. What I generally do when I go out with a large group of friends is we’ll designate someone ahead of time to pay. So like, if we’ve got a big trip coming up and we want those credit card points. We will ask if we can pay the bill, and then our friends can bring cash or send us money, and try and figure that out. I will say, setting up those boundaries ahead of time is  important to, because if you have differing opinions on what to tip. Sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll ask people to bring tip money in cash, which you can leave cash at the table for a tip, and then we’ll split the actual like bill, and we’ll add an our tip on the credit card, and then everyone can add in additional money towards the tip for the table. So I think, just if you’re going with a group of more than like 3 or 4 people that are gonna want to split it differently. I would just recommend having a conversation about how you guys plan to split it because many restaurants are gonna say no to splitting it too many times. And I think it is because of the credit card. Every time that they use a credit card charge from you they get charged a certain amount, too. So they actually lose money if they split it. And for a lot of our local small restaurants, that’s just not something that they’re able to do. So I think calling ahead of time is sometimes good, too. If you have a really big group, because sometimes the really big groups, they will put a specific requirement on the tip ahead of time. And then you guys all kind of know how much it’s going to cost to.

Kamal: Yeah. In fact, I think most restaurants, if it’s like over 6 people at the same table, there is a flat, 20% tip.

Aimee: Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed, too. So definitely want to be mindful of those things. And a lot of those things you’ll see on like their Yelp page. A, a lot will have some of that information on there, as well as how they take payment. I’ve seen some places move towards cashless payments lately because of Covid they just kind of went cashless. And now they don’t want to go back and cause it’s maybe more convenient for them. Some places won’t take certain credit cards. So you do want to check ahead of time. If you have like a one type of credit card or you want to pay in cash. You want to make sure that that restaurant accepts your type of payment before you get there and find out that doesn’t work. 

Kamal: In fact, speaking of credit cards. I know if you’ve attended the panels we’ve talked about Discover being a great credit card for college students. That’s very much the case. I have a Discover card. However, Discover is not accepted everywhere. It is not as just like universally accepted as American express might be, or Mastercard or Visa. And so I have actually been in situations where I, I go to pay, and I can’t use my card and so I always keep a little bit of cash on me just in case. But it’s really, good important, if you have a Discover card to ask before you sit down at the restaurant. If they take, Discover. The big restaurants generally not an issue, but some of the smaller restaurants might not take Discover, and it puts them in like it puts you and them in a really awkward situation, if you’ve already ordered and eaten food.

Aimee: Yeah, And I I do think Yelp usually has like, it’s a a section of like payment types, and it’ll say, like Visa, Mastercard. I have American Express, we’ve been denied at some places for that same. And sometimes I’m like surprised, like a coffee shop or something. I’m like, really. But yeah, it usually I would say, Visa, Mastercard. Those are usually the ones that are accepted everywhere. But you definitely want to check ahead of time. And so I think the last thing that we’ll talk about is good ways to have food delivered to your apartment. If you’re very busy as a grad student, and sometimes you’re like, I plan to make food and now it’s 8 o’clock at night, and I’m starving, and I need to make something. So what are some good food delivery options?

Monica: I mean, there are a lot of apps for that. There’s UbereatsGrubhubDoordash. Those are the big threes, I say. I can’t remember if there’s anything else and they were pretty universal, I’d say. A lot of times they’ll have the same restaurants on all three and depending on. Sometimes you can get membership to get like free delivery fees. Like, for example, like, I have a Chase Sapphire card. So we actually get a free Doordash membership with that and then we, that’s really convenient. So just kind of check, like what or what’s, you know, con, convenient for you, in the payment. But I’d say, like all those, all 3 of them are pretty great. Except if you’re living on campus. One, I would say, like grubhub sorry not grubhub, doordash,  is actually a little better then ubereats only because for whatever reason they’re more able to like locate your address then. Cause so I mean, obviously like those who are coming in, you’ll go once you get here that on campus housing addresses are crazy. It’s like it’s really hard to find places. So it’ll just take a few like try and er to see like what app fits with your address more which is a bit of a challenge, but not too, too difficult. Yeah.

Kamal: Yeah, I think something to think about when you’re ordering delivery. One is that a lot of these apps will have like deals. They might give you like 30% off sometimes. Often it’s to incentivize you to use the app, if you haven’t in a while. They’ll like notice that you haven’t used it, and they’ll send you an offer which is nice. But actually, something that’s less positive about these apps is that there is quite a large fee in California to have food delivered to you. So not only are you paying for your food and for delivery, and for tax, but there’s actually an additional like, I think, driver fee, and maybe even food fee in California. So just recognize that you will be spending a lot more money to get food delivered to you. And so, budget that in when you’re budgeting for your food costs. Because when you order delivery, you will be surprised how quickly that bill just is very different. Then, if you were to just go pick up the food from the restaurant.

Monica: Yeah, don’t be alarmed to see a, a price difference in their regular menu versus, you know, delivery app menu, because they will upcharge you for, for those reasons, too, because they’re also being charged on their end.

Kamal: Yeah, yeah. I wanted pizza recently from a new place in Laguna, and I was shocked how much more expensive it was delivery than it was, if I had just gone and picked up the pizza. And I was like, you know, never mind, I’ll go drive there later.

Aimee: Yeah, sometimes we’ve done the pick up. If there’s like a good deal, because my husband and I will look at his app and my app, two different accounts, and see if he’s got cause maybe he hasn’t used his in a while to see if he has a better deal than I do on something. But sometimes even when, because sometimes we don’t do delivery, we do like pick up through the apps. But it’s still an upcharge for the restaurant to be serviced on the app because the app is basically saying, we’re bringing you additional clientele that wouldn’t have gone to you. So sometimes it is easier just to maybe check out if the restaurant has an app like I would never order Chipotle on Ubereats, because I can order for pick up on the Chipotle app and spend less money because they don’t up charge me to use their own service. So you definitely want to kind of look around. But sometimes there are like we’ve used by one get one free deals from some local restaurants that are just trying to get you to try their restaurant, especially if they’re new. So I think those are always kind of good things to take a look out at.

Monica: Sometimes what I do is like we’ll just order like a ton of food. And just like, have it in the, just store it because the delivery charges are insane. So lets just like, make use of that right. 

Aimee: Yeah, like, do I want to snack afterwards, am I getting lunch and dinner and a drink at the same time, like put it all on one right. 

Kamal: Yeah and if you’re doing pickup you can always just call them instead of paying through the app. Because, of course, like, Aimee said, the app is charging the restaurant for you to use the app. But if you know that you’re just gonna go pick up food from, you, know any of the local places, just call them because they’ll charge you, whatever their menu prices.

Aimee: Yeah. And they’ll appreciate it. I think one of the things that we use those apps for sometimes is just to find places like instead of using Google Maps or Yelp, because we can look at the actual menu and see what’s available and try to check out what pictures of the menu look like that, maybe isn’t always on Yelp. So we’ve used it just to like research. And then then we call the restaurant and be like, Hey, we’d like to order. And we’re like looking through the Ubereats menu instead of online. So just another tool to use to your advantage to save some money. I think that was our last question. So if there’s anything else you want to add, if there’s nothing else you want to add, do you have a restaurant that is one of your favorite go-to’s?

Monica: Wow! That’s a hard question. 

Aimee: Putting you on the spot!

Monica: But I did intend to add that I mean, we talked about this in the beginning of the podcast. That American culture, like dining cultures at the service, will come and check on you to see how you’re doing. Which is like very rare, I think, in in other culture. So if that happens like, you’re not doing anything wrong, don’t be too, alarmed. They just need try to be friendly, and, you know, get that tip. So just if you need anything, in the meantime, just tell them that what you know, you need a hot sauce, or you know whatever ask them, they’ll bring it for you, so don’t don’t feel like you are, you know, somehow, being, you know, constantly barged in. It’s a normal thing. But I guess, like for me, my favorite restaurant. It kind of depends on whether I’m craving Korean food or not. But like as for Korean food I always like go to BCD. I think that’s my that’s my go to, especially when I’m like really stressed out. BCD is a tofu stone pot restaurant. That’s at Diamond Jamboree recommended it. Usually there’s a long line, but it gets it gets through pretty quickly. So it’s not too bad. I’ve recently been like really craving nashville hot chicken. And Dave’s Hot Chicken (according to some of our Halal students, this is an excellent option for Halal food) is really good. So that’s That’s on my list, too. That’s a A fast food chain. Pretty good.

Kamal: For me. I think like Neapolitan style pizza is my go to. It’s my favorite. I would eat it every day if I wouldn’t get tired of it. And my favorite place, I think in Irvine to get it is Angelina’s Pizzeria and it’s across from Spectrum, although I don’t know what that dining location is called off the top of my head. So it’s like a 15 min drive from campus. The pizza is very good. And there’s actually a new place that I was mentioning in Laguna, called Grazie Grazie Pizzeria, and the pizza is. It’s brand new, it opened like maybe a month and a half ago, maybe 2 months ago. It’s very good, and in general Neapolitan pizza is quite expensive but I would say this pizza place is quite affordable. It’s like $7, $8 cheaper than Angelina’s, which is a nicer like, sit down restaurant. Versus the place in Laguna is a little bit more casual and a little bit more beach vibe because it’s near the beach. And then I think you can get really good Mexican food here, too. And there is a food truck near John Wayne airport called CDMX Food Truck, and I think their chicken is the best chicken I’ve ever had in my whole life so highly recommend there food truck.

Aimee: There’s so many choices. I ask you this question that I’m sitting here going. Oh, gosh! What do I, what is my favorite? We have a lot of different, like dietary options, we have a lot of different cultural options in the area. So I’m struggling to figure out like what would be my go-to. I think some of the things that, that I go to the most. We eat a lot of Japanese food because they a lot of the Japanese places which I know isn’t common in Japan, because my aunt lives there and she’s a vegan but a lot of the Japanese places around here have vegan options, and I just always feel more comfortable eating out and eating vegan, so that I don’t have to ask a lot of questions about what’s in it. And so there is, there’s an udon place in South Coast Mall that we’ve gone to all. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head. But I will

MonicaMarugame?

Aimee: Yes, it’s delicious, And then I think, for like a quick meal, when I’m like busy at work and forgot my lunch, I go to Menodcino Farms. They have a lot of vegan and vegetarian options as well. The one place that I go to that I don’t because I know I can eat there. I don’t ask questions anymore. There’s a a restaurant called Phoholic. There’s three of them, and one just opened in South Coast Plaza as well, and it’s one of my favorite Vietnamese pho places. 

Monica: That place is so good!

Aimee: So good, super excited that they are, they are close, because I used to drive quite a far distance to get to them. But yeah, that’s always a really good option. But I think you’ll find something that meets dietary restrictions, that meets religious restrictions, that just is culturally appropriate for you. all throughout the Irvine area and Southern California in general. So explore, budget for it, so that you don’t over extend yourself, but to explore there, there are so many places out there. But yeah, that will be it for today. Thank you both for joining me. really enjoyed the conversation. And now I have two new pizza places to try as well, so I’m very excited about this, but thank you both for coming.

Monica: Thank you.

Kamal: Thank you.

Transcript of Podcast #23: Establishing Work-Life Balance and Healthy Habits

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Hemangi Bipin Mavadiya (she/her)

Melisa –  Hello everyone. Welcome back to another podcast episode. Today we have Hemangi with us. We’re going to talk about, healthy habits and work life balance. I’m your host, Melisa Perut, again one of your GIC mentors. Thank you so much for joining us, Hemangi. Can you introduce yourself real quick for us?

Hemangi – Yeah, hi Melisa. I’m excited to be a part of this podcast and I’m Hemangi Mavadiya. I’m a third year doctoral student in public health and I’m also a registered dietitian by training and a certified yoga instructor. Besides that, my research also focuses more on diet related small habits. So this is really a topic of my interest and also something related to my research and i’m excited to share more about it.

Melisa – Well, excited to have you and since you’re the expert, it’s going to be a great podcast, today. So I’m very excited to have you. So before we like begin and dive into the topics, we would like to like hear more about you. So I was wondering if you could tell us where do you call home?

Hemangi – Yeah, for me, I’m, born and raised in the city of Mumbai in India. And I did all my education there up until 2016 when I moved to the United States to pursue my Masters in Public Health Nutrition at Loma Linda University. And I’ve been here since then.

Melisa –  Nice, nice. That’s great to hear. And I think your department is quite far the location on campus, right?

Hemangi – Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Actually we used to be in AIRB, which was very close to like where the engineering buildings are. But now we have a brand new building, which is exciting. It’s more towards where the School of Medicine is. But I’m really excited. It’s a very brand new building. It’s really nice. A lot of light ventilation, a lot of space to study. So it’s nice so we can take the Anteater Express and, and we can walk a little bit, from the stop to the actual building.

Melisa –  Wow, great. So it’s, take the bus, which is a new habit, taking public transportation if you are in Southern California and also walking, right? So building habits and that’s great.

Hemangi – Yes. Yeah. Yep.

Melisa –  Hemangi, have you been a mentor before for GIC?

Hemangi – Yes, I have been. I’ve been a mentor before. Not this past year, but the year before that I was a I was a mentor I believe in 2021. And I had an exciting time back then.

Melisa –   Nice. And were you a mentee of GIC? I’m guessing you were also at some point.

Hemangi – Yes, I was when I entered in 2020 the fall of 2020. I signed up for being a GIC mentee and that helps me immensely. I also developed like a one on one mentoring relationship with my mentor at that time, who was also from public health. So I think that helped me a lot and the next year I felt like oh I really want to be a part of this and give back you know, and help the other mentees who are international students like myself snd so I became a mentor, yeah.

Melisa –   No, that’s great. And can you tell us what do you like to do in Irvine in your free time?

Hemangi – Well, I think there is a lot to do in Irvine. It’s just very green. Weather wise it’s perfect except for, you know, some of the harsh summer months, you know, which are right now. But otherwise, I think there are a lot of nature trials around here and also there is like this William R. Mason regional park which is like a walk from campus. It has like a nice you know artificial lake with like ducklings and stuff. So it’s really nice, it’s very pretty. But I think just otherwise we have Aldrich Park on campus where you can just take a walk. So those are some of the things I like to do. I’m a nature person. I like to do that or just do yoga you know a little bit here and there. So yeah.

Melisa –  Nice. So to be able to do like these extracurricular activities, can you tell us, why they’re important, why, having like a work life balance is important, especially in graduate school for us.

Hemangi – Yeah, I think that’s a very important question. And a very important area to pay attention to. Which, you know, as an international student or even as a normal graduate student, we tend to ignore because there’s just so much pressure to get good grades. To, you know, maybe for some of the international students to work on campus, you know, maybe for some of the international students to work on campus, you know, part-time. So there’s just a lot of things that going on besides coming to a new country adjusting. So I think, you know, sometimes we need to put our health first, you know, we need to understand, that if I just, you know, stop what I’m doing and just take a quick walk. Doesn’t have to be like this whole big thing that I have to do when, you know, invite friends and do something. It can be something really small, just a quick walk. Just go out, watch the birds from the window or like water your plants. These are just really small things, but, they, help me clear my mind from what I’m doing and help reduce some of those, some of that stress and then I can always go back but in that moment I’m refreshed. And so I think for that refreshment, for de-stressing, I think these little little things, little little changes, are really important and also impactful in the long run because then you’re not burnt out because we hear that a lot, you know, and I think we experienced that too as as graduate students. It’s very real. Peer pressure is very real, burnout is very real. And at that point, to be able to just go out. Breath deeply. Can also mean a lot can. Help us fix our mind, shift our mind. And like my husband likes to call it like a hard reset because he’s like a computer guy. So just like hard reset. Yeah. It’s really great. Yeah.

Melisa – Okay. No, that’s that’s absolutely true. You need to take a step back sometimes. First of all, for your eyes, you can’t always look at the computer. Yeah, right.

Hemangi – Right.

Melisa  – I don’t have good eyesight. So I always have to take a break. But also it’s graduate  school is a very important time in our lives, right? But it can also be a very difficult time in our lives, especially as international students, we want to succeed. We come from different backgrounds. We don’t feel like we have the same, we might not feel like we have the same level of knowledge. So we feel like we might have to, have to work hard, harder, and then you don’t get to go on walks, right? Instead of that, you feel guilty and you sit down and you work. And then you end up feeling burnt out. And I’ve also been through it and many of my colleagues have too. Hemangi, maybe you also know of people as well, right?

Hemangi – Yeah, I mean, I myself have gone through, you know, some rough patches here and there, of course, especially as a, as a doctoral student when you’re, you know, when your manuscript gets rejected or you know when you’re, when you are working hard to draft your proposal which is gonna be like a big milestone for your next, you know, research work that you have to do in your advancement. Those are, those are stressful periods. And I’ve definitely gone through these things but you know every time I go through that I’ve come to this realization that you know I put too much on my plate.

Melisa – Hmm.

Hemangi – And I need to, not reduce that, but look at one thing at a time from the plate. It’s okay to have your plate full. But you can eat only one thing at a time. So focusing on one thing at a time and taking one day at a time has helped me personally. But also the other thing is like you say, I think as an international student there’s a lot of resilience, you know, and resilience I think is very positive. It has a very positive connotation to it. But at the same time, I think. We as international students like I mentioned earlier, since we have so many different things around us, instead of, you know, not being able to do anything zero and feeling that guilt like you mentioned. Like I mentioned earlier, taking baby steps, you know, not setting these large goals for well-being. And oh, I’m gonna do like an hour of yoga, you know, every day. That’s a big goal, you know, or I’m gonna go hit the gym every single day for X number of, you know, hours. And gym might not be closer to everybody. Yeah, we live here on campus. Yeah, but sometimes it can be a walk. Sometimes you might have to, if you live on off campus apartment, it might be like you have to take the bus or something, right? Might not be realistic. So what is something that I can do? Right close to my desk, you know, just get up, do some stretches. Hey, that’s a win too that’s a small win and when those small wins accumulate they do make a big change. So I think emphasizing that small is also enough. You know, is, something that needs to be emphasized more, for well being. Yeah.

Melisa – No, that’s great. So can you then share us your personal journey in finding and maintaining a healthy work life balance. And did you face any challenges along the way? And how did you overcome these challenges?

Hemangi – Yeah, thank you for that question. I think that’s a very, very important question. For me, personally, whenever at the times when I felt burnt out are the times when I have not believed in myself, you know. Those are the times when I’ve really went into that negative thinking swirl and then you know going into like burnout phase. And so something that has really helped me now, especially now that, you know, I’m going through my candidacy advancement phase. You know having strong faith that hey like this is my target for today I’ll focus on one thing I’ll do that I’ll finish it you know and I will tell myself yay I did it you know that gives like a instead of hey I have 50 things on my list and at the end of the day, I cannot do, I didn’t do half of this, you know, that has not served me. That does not help me. Rather, putting one thing on my to do list and checking it off and saying yeah I did this has helped me personally. I don’t know if that helps, but that’s kind of a habit that I have created. That have helped me a little bit in that. But I think also, when it comes to physical activity and well being. I think indirectly that is in fact impacted me positively is that every morning, you know, I just give it like 15 ish minutes, 15-20 min, but I do some stretching, some yoga and some breathing exercises in a short period of time right before I go for breakfast. And creating that time for myself, right, early in the morning has helped me check that off from my list and help me get some workout done, get some, you know, relaxation breathing done. And then I don’t have to worry about it towards the end of the day and feel guilty that oh I didn’t do anything today. Cause I had done it right, you know, before my practice. So that’s something that has helped me as well.

Melisa – Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing to hear that you’re incorporating something into the day before anything even begins. So you already accomplished something. I do something similar. And this goes back to the work life balance where breakfast is very important for me.

Hemangi – Yeah.

Melisa – That is my time. That is the day that I do not compromise. I mean, of course, sometimes I have early meetings and like I, I can’t, but I always have like a nice breakfast, a sit-down breakfast.

Hemangi – Right.

Melisa – Like, I make it, I make my tea or my coffee and I have my breakfast and I sit down at a table and I eat my breakfast so like that’s something that I don’t look at emails, I don’t look at anything and that’s my own private time and I think having those very strict, separate spaces for separate things helps me, in terms of, you know, My breakfast time is my breakfast time kind of. Thing. Right? Do you have any ideas of how to like separate? You create lists of things to do. But do you also create like spaces for different things? I’m sure in stretching you don’t look at emails as well that’s time.

Hemangi – Hmm. Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think multitasking has its own benefits and flaws. And I have realized that it has flaws more than benefits. And so I try not to do that too much anymore because, when I have my mind, even for like when I’m sitting in front of my laptop and I’m doing on a like I’m either looking if I’m looking at my emails I’m only looking at my emails you know and if I am you know working on like a project I try not to look at my phone. I try not to like look at my emails unless you know it’s a morning lecture and you know I’m doing it that’s a different thing but I think that has helped me not stress out too much. Because imagine you’re writing a paper or you’re doing an assignment and then your email sound pops up you go back check your emails and then you’re like oh I have, I have like 10 different emails and you go into that zone and then your chain of thought that you had for your assignment or your project kind of you’re lost in that and that creates like, like more mental stress that, oh, like I was doing this now, you know, your mind is diverted. And I think that at least for me, I have felt that I wasted time more rather than being more productive. If I stick to one thing and at least finish it, it’s just half a page. Doesn’t have to, I don’t have to finish the whole assignment. But hey, if I did like 2 questions of it, I feel like, oh, I did something versus if I’m distracted to too many things, then I’m not able to accomplish what I intended to do, which builds up stress and builds up you know, all the other negative, things that come after your thoughts. Yeah.

Melisa – Yeah, and we’ve been talking about both physical and mental health right like physical health going outside giving some fresh air but also mental health. And can you tell us how incorporating or why incorporating habits these kinds of habits is important for both our mental and physical health?

Hemangi – Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. I think habits per say are different in itself. Then changes because habit is something, that you just do, right? It’s automatic. It just happens. Whereas if you change is a big world, you need a lot of motivation to do that. But for example, this is not related, particularly to diet or exercise, but let’s say brushing your teeth every night, you know. For the first couple of days if that’s not a habit you really have to go up there and motivate yourself. Hey, I need to do this. But once it becomes a habit, you know, you’ve done that straight for like 21 days or something. You don’t feel good when you don’t do it. And it’s just like automatic your, you know, it’s it’s nighttime before going to bed. Okay, let me go pick up my brush. It just becomes automatic. And I think that’s the power of habits that, that because they are automated you don’t need a ton of motivation to do that. And that’s why they are so different. And I, and therefore incorporating habits, you know, there are several books on habits and you know small changes, this and that but I think trying to put them put them in action bears a lot of fruits and good results. And so I don’t know if I answered your question, but I think that’s why habits are so powerful. And I think in incorporating small things, like I said, maybe 15 min of yoga or whatever works for you. Hey, you know, not everybody is comfortable stretching early in the morning. Not everybody is comfortable hitting the gym at a certain time or doing certain types of activities. So I think also understanding what works best for me and what habits do I wanna create that are appropriate. In terms of like the culture that I, grew up in, you know, or I enjoy doing that versus just because everybody’s doing this, I want to do that. So I think, reflecting back that, hey, these are the three habits I want to cultivate. Can be more impactful rather than just looking at somebody else and you know trying to you know follow them into it. So yeah.

Melisa – Yeah, especially when we have so many influencers telling us what to do and how to do it, right? 

Hemangi: Yeah, exactly. 

Melisa: And yeah, all of us have different backgrounds and, but I do agree that incorporating habits, it’s hard. It’s not easy. But once you, once you get there, it’s, becomes a part of you. So it’s, I’ve also, added some habits, you know. First of all, like writing out, not just writing out, I need to write a paper, but, building a habit of, okay, I need to break everything down. Not just have like a big task of write this paper. But having, okay, today I need to write this section or that section. It’s hard. Because it requires you to plan. It requires you to get ready to like okay how am I going to tackle this challenge and it’s hard but once you like learn how to do it and it becomes a part of that process, then you have your habit and it’s much, much easier. Right.

Hemangi – Yeah, yeah, I think yeah, you hit a strong point there. I think it’s difficult to establish habits. But I also think like when you talk about writing, you know, I think even you see how UCI has some wonderful graduate level writing courses. That you know that you can take for 2 credits. I think that all graduates students can take it. And I took one last quarter and I think the instructors, instructor emphasized so much on this daily habit of writing. And she was like, just write one sentence. If you’re really busy, just write one sentence. But if you will do that every single day, you will establish that persistent, persistence and you will still end up writing more than somebody who just sits to write one day, you know, and wants to finish everything in one day. So I think that’s the part of habit and I think one needs to, put them into action and start doing maybe just one thing at a time. But yeah, that, in itself to start. Is a bit challenging but I think once you start and I try to break it down and simplify it not having to like high expectations can help in maintaining them and you know then making it like a stronger habit.

Melisa – Okay. Yeah, be good to yourself. Be flexible. Don’t be mad at yourself when you are having a difficult time. All of us are having a difficult time. All of us do. So be gentle. You mentioned the writing center.

Hemangi – Right.

Melisa – Can you tell us if there are other resources that have helped with, you know, establishing a healthy work by balance and, creating healthy habits for you to maintain your mental and physical health.

Hemangi – Yeah, I think there are, UCI has a ton of resources. Some of them that I have, used personally, are also like the massage chairs that they have.

Melisa – Hmm.

Hemangi -This is by, the student center. It’s the wellness room. That’s what they call it and you can make like appointments. Of like maybe a day and advance or like you know some time in advance and you can book your slots and for like 30 min or like something and you can you know be in the massage chairs which is automated and just you know it’s a nice quiet room. You can drink some teas over there, make yourself or like there’s some teas over there make yourself or like there’s some coloring books and you can coloring books and you can color. But I think if I am in that area the student center. But I think if I am in that area, the student center area, I don’t like typically just go there. I don’t like typically just go there. But if I am in that area, I try to book an appointment and, you know, make use of that. Cause I think, it’s a really calm environment and good to de-stress. But besides that, I think even if you live in Verano Place housing community or one of the housing communities here, they do have like yoga classes, meditation classes that are going on a few days a week, in the evening. And I remember I went to like some of their yoga sessions. I think they’re really nice. Some of them can be really, more physically focused. So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s fine, but if you’re looking for something more like, carlm, quiet meditation style, they have that too. So I think that’s really nice and you know one can pick one can pick and choose what what fits for them there’s also Zumba classes and things like that, which are free for for students actually. So I think, this is by, by the housing community though and so they’re free and I think they are a good resource. Just destress and even meet people. Because sometimes I feel like we’re always in our room and you know now that yeah classes are in person but we can still do a lot online. And so I think it’s nice to go out there, meet people, form a community, which also, which is also such an important part of what well being is. So yeah.

Melisa – Yeah, and, it’s nice to have friends outside of your department so you can talk about other things, even if it’s, you know, research related. You get to talk about. Different research topics. So it’s, it can be exciting.

Hemangi – Right.

Melisa – It’s nice to build community. I agree. I think so you mentioned, you know, building these habits, but sometimes it’s nice to switch up the habit itself. So for example, if you’re like going to the gym or if you like make that a habit. Sometimes it can be boring and not as stimulating. So I signed up for different types of classes and then I also do my own like workout. But sometimes I’m just like, you know what? I wanna try something completely new. And the ARC has a lot of different classes that you can sign up for. 

Hemangi: Right. 

Melisa: And instead of just going to the gym, I, started going, for example, rock climbing and we also have had a lot of, mentors who were rock climbers and, actually trainers at the rock climbing wall. So you’ll get to see some of our previous mentors and some of our existing mentors like me, at the rock climbing wall. But it’s, it’s a great way of switching up some of the habits so that you get to feel like you’re doing something completely new even though you’re still doing the same thing. So I highly highly recommend. Do you have any last thoughts for us Hemangi?

Hemangi – Yeah, I think this was just great. I just wanted to add a little bit more about the Anteater Recreation Center or the ARC. I think they also have things like fencing and archery and I think so for those of us who are interested in trying something very new like you said. I think they have, those things too and instructors. I myself have never tried it but I really want to you know after I advance when I have little more time to do something more besides my you know usual yoga and you know taking care of my plants, whatever. A little wellness things here and there, but yeah.

Melisa – Yeah, and for these classes you can sign up through the website and all of us have a gym membership once we start our graduate school. But these classes at the ARC they have like different pricing for quarter so you pay for the quarter and you join the class but it’s great for switching up things and it’s much much cheaper than taking a class outside of UCI. 

Hemangi: Yeah for sure

Melisa: And I think you can also sign up for some classes at, one of our mentors Iris, she, took a dance class for credits. And that was like because it’s a class you have to go to every week. It was like, new habit that you were forming.

Hemangi -Yeah.

Melisa – So I think that’s also another trick that you can do, to build those habits into your healthy work life. 

Hemangi: That’s awesome yeah

Melisa: But yeah, soo thank you so much Hemangi. It was great having you. Hemangi is one of our mentors. So if you ever feel like you need to ask anything about building these small habits, incorporating habits, how to be more mindful and practice yoga and if you even need some healthy dietary you know information, for us graduates and students, Hemangi is always there. So feel free to reach out.

Hemangi – Yeah, I’m, I’m always happy happy to help since I have been an international students I know some of the struggles but I also acknowledge that everyone’s struggles are different and you know we are in a different life journey but I’m always happy to help however and you know whenever I can.

Melisa: Excellent. Thank you so much Hemangi, thank you for joining today and we will see you all at the next podcast. Thank you so much everyone for listening in.

Transcript of Podcast #24: Student Health Insurance & Student Health Center

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Catherine Seo (she/her)

Melisa: Hello everyone, welcome back to another GIC episode. Today we’re going to talk about student health insurance and the Student Health Center at UCI. We have the wonderful Catherine with us today and I’m also your host Melisa. As always I forget to introduce myself at the beginning but that’s okay. So thanks Catherine for joining us today. Thank you for being here. Can you introduce yourself to us?

Catherine: Yeah, hello, my name is Catherine and I go by she/her pronouns and I am a P.h.D. Student in the Department of Chemistry.

Melisa: Awesome. And where do you call home?

Catherine: I’m from, South Korea, right outside of Seoul, but I’ve been studying in the United States for about a decade, now, mostly on the East Coast. So I have different homes all around the world. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, I get that. And how, how long have you been in Irvine?

Catherine: I’ve only been here for about 2 years now. I’m going into my third year. Yeah.

Melisa:  Okay, and you were in the East Coast before that, huh? 

Catherine: Yeah, yeah

Melisa: How do you like the weather?

Catherine: I think right now, right now it’s a little too hot and it’s getting a little humid. But for the most part I definitely don’t miss, the snow or anything. I lived where it was snowing a lot mostly from like November to May. So, so yeah, I really love the weather. I love how close I am to the beach. Stuff like that. So.

Melisa:  Awesome. Yeah, I also lived in the East Coast for a while and it’s not nice when it’s always snow.

Catherine: Yeah.

Melisa:  So I get that. And Catherine, have you been, mentor before for GIC or mentee?

Catherine: Yeah, I’m actually a returning mentor from last year and I believe I was a of yours, like my first year, when I came in as an incoming grad student. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, I remember and, it’s It’s so nice to have everybody, join us, you know, come back and be mentors and especially after being a mentee, and building those connections. So great. And thank you so much, atherine, for being here today. And before we begin and go into health insurance and all of the, you know, serious stuff. What do you like to do in Irvine in your free time? You mentioned the beach. So do you go to the beach a lot?

Catherine: Yeah, I think my first year of being here, I was really excited to go to the beach all the time. I don’t go there as often anymore, I really should. But yeah, I think I’ve just kind of discovered more things to do around here. I was just, at my first year, I was fascinated by the fact that you can have bombfires at the beach. I was just at, during my first year. I was fascinated by the fact that you can have bonfires at the beach. So I used to do that all the time, but now I like doing things like hiking and there’s just so much more in kind of Southern California’s especially this coastal area to do other than just going to the beach. So yeah, I’ve been enjoying like just the landscape here and how, you know, diverse it is.

Melisa:  Awesome. Yeah, no, I completely agree. My only problem is I need shade when I hike. So I had to go really early in the morning or I don’t go at all because it’s so sunny all the time.

Catherine: Yeah, yeah, I do try to cover up as much because I don’t, I get like sick from being in the sun for too long.

Melisa: So yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, and I get that. And since we’re talking about, you know, having like these health issues, since you go on hikes you know it’s a great workout but then you might you know sprain your ankle or something. So what do you do then? How are you covered? Do we have insurance? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Catherine: Yeah, as a, the insurance that you’re more most likely to have is, the Graduate SHIP or GSHIP, through the school and it is I believe a part of a like Anthem Blue Cross PPO insurance which is just an insurance that the school works with. And we have a Student Health Center that is on campus that is pretty much walking distance from everywhere on campus. That you can visit to get any kind of like primary care. Or they, I think also, offer dental care as well. So, yeah.

Melisa:  Yeah, no, that’s great. So, we have the GSHIP and we have a Student Health Center. So, can you tell us a little bit about the Student Health Center? Where can we find more information about it? Is it somewhere that we go when there’s an emergency? Can you like give us a little bit more information? Yeah.

Catherine: Yeah, for sure. I believe the student, most of the information about the Student Health Center, including kind of the like location as well as kind of the hours, of operation. You can find on the Student Health Center, website, which is https://shc.uci.edu/. And yeah, and I believe that they have, so ours during the hours of operation, they have staff that can take care of you on site. Ranging from all the way from nurses to nurse practitioners to primary care providers or PCPs or to specialists. So if you have any special needs, that is that is all kind of available on site. We also have, more off campus in-network providers or out-of-network providers that we can get into a little later as well. For regarding kind of emergency services as well as after hours care. I believe there is an after our line that is available for people to call in and see if you know if there are services. That they can provide or at the moment or if they can get, get you connected with any other urgent care facilities around here. So yeah, they provide kind of all the information is centralized on their website if you wanna check it out.

Melisa:  Nice. So, just so everybody kind of gets an understanding. Student Health Center is the first place you kinda go to when you don’t have an emergency. And you kind of use them to get, see a primary care professional that would help you, you know, connect to the necessary departments that you need to connect to. So and you can tell a little bit more about that, but how can we connect to the Student Health Center? How do I just go there? How do I make an appointment and just get myself there?

Catherine: Yeah, yeah. So most of the, any, kind of appointments that you might have to make, you can give them a call at (949) 824-5301 which I believe is the central phone so that you can if you call they’ll give you a bunch of options as to which one that you want to connect to. If you want direct access to the front desk where they will help you, schedule an appointment. You can go ahead and use 5304 ((949) 824-5304) instead of 5301. And you’ll speak with the front desk people in order to schedule an appointment and those appointments are, they’re going to help you schedule an appointment with either a nurse practitioner or primary care physician who is kind of your, your first contact with any medical professionals. And then they will go ahead and evaluate whether they can handle any of the needs that you have. If they believe that you need to be, you need to go seek a more specialized care, then they will connect you or refer you to, a specialist that is what, that is either, on site, so they also work at the Student Health Center or they could also refer you to, off campus specialists that you can set up another appointment with.

Melisa: How do I know that they you know connected me to a new person? How do I get those referrals? So the referrals is the document that says I advise this person connect with this type of, doctor. And that, is the form you need to go and see a specialist if they don’t have it at the Student Health Center. So how do I know I got that piece of paper and how do I find these providers?

Catherine: Yeah, so. They have a, they have a system called patient portal or Student Patient Portal that you can access and that is customized to your account. So that you, I’m sure a lot of you as an incoming student have already had to upload a lot of medical documents and immunization records and stuff like that onto this portal already. So the portal is set up so that you can either, you know, it’s not, it’s not just you submitting your documents, but they can also contact you through that portal. A secure messaging, system helps them kind of give you any kind of medical, and more private and confidential information to you, So I definitely recommend to kind of familiarizing yourself with all the, systems and all the tabs that they offer on the portal. And that is also really useful when things kind of, things like if you have to cancel something really last minute or cancel an appointment really last minute or reschedule it. You can also just use the secure messaging system in order to do that. There is a fee of $50 if you happen to just like not show up or forget, your appointment. So make sure that you are, putting things in your calendar. And if you need to go ahead and message them ahead of time so that you can avoid paying the fee. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, nobody wants to pay. Nobody wants to pay for things that they didn’t do. So, absolutely I, do agree.

Catherine: Yeah.

Melisa: So Catherine, then, can you tell us a little bit about what should we expect? When let’s say we call the, the front desk and I said I have a stomachache and I would like to see a doctor. What happens from that moment, up until like me seeing the doctor? Can you tell us about like the rules, etiquette and what to expect when you like make an appointment?

Catherine: Yeah, of course. So I believe they remind you when you make the phone call to set up an appointment, but, I believe they ask you to show up at least 15 min before, you, before your appointment time so make sure you put that into your calendar as well, if you’re trying to give setup a reminder. And I believe they’re still practicing masking. So they, if you don’t have one, it’s likely that when you go check in at the front desk, which is the first thing that you’re gonna do as soon as you walk in. They’re gonna hand you a mask and, it’s, it’s to protect both you and, others who are using the facilities as well as, the people who are, you know, the health care providers who are vital to making sure that the campus community stays healthy. So you’re gonna go ahead and check in. Don’t be scared if there’s a line, just wait. But if there’s no line, you can just go ahead and walk up. And you’re gonna need your student ID or any kind of any form of ID to, so that they can check that you are actually you. And once you’re all checked in, you’re gonna go ahead and wait, in the waiting area that is outside of the gated area. That is, for the health care providers. And someone, probably a nurse is going to step outside through that gate to call your name and invite you into where it’s kind of a gated healthcare area in the center. And the nurse is going to check few things. They’re probably gonna ask you for the date of birth so that they can confirm once again that you are you. And they’re going to do some basic checks, for your, blood pressure as well as your height and weight. And once those things are kind of checked and out of the way, they will have, they will get you into a room, where they, where you will be waiting for, whoever you’re seeing that day. So that, expect to wait for about 5 to 10 min, in that room. Things do move a little slower in, kinda in America in general. So even if you’re, waiting for 5 min, that doesn’t mean that someone forgot about you. The health care providers are just really over booked, in general and they’re really working between a lot of different patients at the same time. So just go ahead and wait patiently. You can stay on your phone, do whatever you need to, get yourself comfortable. And then, they will probably knock the door to let you know that the health care provider is ready and you can go ahead and say I’m ready for you to come in. And from there on, you will just go ahead and talk to the healthcare professional and see what they can, what they advise for your conditions. Something else that I wanted to really mention was that for certain services that are more, private and more sensitive, they do offer clinical chaperones. Which means in order for it’s, it’s more of a by standard who can stay in the room to make sure that both parties who are in the room including yourself and your healthcare provider are safe from any sort of mishaps that can happen. And they’re really there to just support you through any kinds of procedures and make sure that they’re both parties are protected from any kind of abuse. So, if that is something, if you are going through a sensitive exam and if you would like someone a third party to just be present so that you can stay more safe and, say from any kind of abuse, you can go ahead and ask for that.

Melisa: They will offer it too, and they will offer to any, any case where you might need to remove your shirt or your pants. Because that kind of reveals your, private body parts and then in that case, they will ask if you want a chaperone. If they don’t for any reason don’t ask you then you can request it as well, but this is standard. I’ve also, have experienced this for a very, very minor case where I thought like everything was fine and then they were like, do you need a chaperone? So just. Be aware that they will ask and this is just standard procedure.

Catherine: Yeah, yeah and also. Speaking of, I know this is a little tangential, but, there are certain things that medical professionals are required to do, including they are actually mandated reporters. So if you share any kind of confidential or private, information with them, about that can, that they believe they need to flag, the right in the appropriate, I guess appropriate departments. 

Melisa: Departments

Catherine: Yeah. Then they are actually mandated to do so. So if you, I believe these kinds of information are readily available if you step into the room that the nurse guides you into. So, you know, feel free to look around and take in all the kind of information that are there for you so that you can prepare yourself as to like how much information you would like to share in the room with your healthcare provider. And there are just note that there are also resources on campus and as well as off campus that are not like mandated reporters and they’re confidential or private sources that you can go to. So that you can freely talk about things without, you know, but without making the decision of I want this information to be reported if they believe that it should be reported. (UCI CARE is a great resource to go to for support that is confidential).Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah. No, that’s a great point. Thank you so much. And also, The Student Health Center not only has nurses and PHP

Catherine: PCP.

Melisa:. PCP, yeah sorry. They also have a lab. So if you have any basic blood work that’s needs to be done, they can also tell you to go ahead and schedule like go ahead to the lab and get the lab work done. Or you if you need to you know fast before you have to like do any kind of blood work. They might ask you to come in the next day for that one you don’t necessarily have to make an appointment you just go to help center and say I have a labs that are requested by my doctor that I need to do. And they will just direct you to the lab. So that’s also another service that you should know. They don’t do everything and they might refer you to outside labs as well. But just be prepared that, might be something that you, might be requested to do.

Catherine: Yeah, yeah. And speaking of just kinda other services that they offer, they do have an onsite pharmacy. So that if you, end up having any kind of prescriptions, you can request it to go to the Student Health Center Pharmacy. Or you can also have them, just pick up at a different pharmacy that you would like. There are some off campus pharmacies like CVS, that you can request your prescriptions to be available at. Yeah, and I was gonna say one more thing about the pharmacy and everything. But I can’t remember, but I’m sure we’ll come back.

Melisa: I have a point about that. And that is in in the country that I come from, the doctor gives you your prescription and you go to any pharmacy. In the US, the doc, you have to tell them which pharmacy you’re gonna go to so they can send your prescription to that pharmacy and you can only pick up your medicine, from that pharmacy. So make sure that you know the hours of the pharmacy. Don’t give them the wrong address. And also make sure that you can access that in pharmacy when you need to. There have been cases where I gave the wrong address and couldn’t get my prescription or I gave the usual address that I go to but the pharmacy was closed at that hour and I couldn’t get my medicine. So just be aware that these things can happen. There is one CVS that’s 24 hours. It’s on Alton Road, which is a bit of a drive, I would say 10 min, Uber drive or like by your car. So just be aware there is a 24 hour one, but the one on campus, the Student Health Center and the one that’s really close, in Albertson’s and Target are not, 24 hours. 

Catherine: Yeah, these are, yeah, important to note. 

Melisa: Important to know, especially in moments when you really need it.

Catherine – Yeah, for sure, for sure.

Melisa: What about follow ups? What if my doctor says, okay, let me see you in 3 months. What do I do then?

Catherine: Yeah, so most of the time, they will, the healthcare provider will encourage you to just stop by the front desk on your way out to schedule a follow-up. And most of the time I believe the health care provider then puts it in the system that they are going to be seeing you. So then you can just go ahead and, make an appointment that way. If it’s kind of if it’s a situation where you’re waiting for certain results like lab results for for instance, they will probably, they can, you’ll be communicating with the healthcare provider via the secure messaging system. And they’ll encourage you to, you know, give them, give the front desk a call and schedule a time that you can come in again. So just make sure that you are communicating with your healthcare provider to make sure that if there are any follow ups that you can show up. Yeah.

Melisa: And put it in your calendar, of course. So if you, if you need to do lab again in 3, 3 months. Don’t forget it like some of us do. But don’t do that. So, okay, so. Let’s say I went to a doctor, the doctor kind of, you know, prescribed me something and said, okay, but you should also go with see, somebody else outside and like maybe let’s say a neurologist. How would, am I covered to go to a neurologist? What are my benefits and what are the coverages of our insurance program then.

Catherine: Yeah, so, not only our insurance, but, all insurance actually, they come since they come in the more, like an annual schedule. What you can do is you can check the benefits or a summary of benefits. They’re called a bunch of different languages, but you are looking for benefits or coverage. And like a summary of it and you’ll, a lot of times this, these insurance companies will have PDF booklets of that lists out all different kinds of coverages that they provide. So for under our GSHIP, we not only have medical and mental health care, but we also get dental benefits through, Delta Dental, which is a different, insurance company. And then, Vision is also included in our healthcare package. So then you can go ahead and look at all the different benefits and information on the website. Under, I believe it’s I believe there it’s all under UC ship benefits and information under insurance, on their website. And what you can do is you can check, although the language in these bookets are very difficult to decipher. You can check about what is covered and what is not covered. And if you end up having to, having to see a specialist and you say, let’s say you get a referral. And you’re trying to figure out whether you’re going to, how you’re going to get that referral and what you need to do with that referral. You can go ahead and give the, you know, help center a call and if you call the 5301 number ((949) 824-5301) they actually have an option for the insurance department. So you can always go call and get further information about what to do in situations like that from them and they will actually advise you kind of case by case whether what you need to do and what your copay is going to be, going to look like and we can explain kind of that language a little later. But yeah so I hope that all these kind of resources are helpful in you navigating your specific need.

Melisa: No, excellent. And maybe since, we have some experience with, you know, maybe dental and eye care, maybe we can talk about those in a little bit as well. But before we do, I just wanna ask like. There are these certain concepts. In like all of this language and, you know, mental, you know, and not mental, but physical care as well. And, it might be not me for, some people might not be familiar. I know I had to learn a lot when I came in. So can you tell us more about this concept called in network and out network providers? And what that means for our GShip.

Catherine: Yeah, so the American health care is, is structured so that, whoever, so most people get insurance through their employment, or school as we grad students do. And these insurances have, these, most of the physicians that work in this health care or most of the health care providers are associated with certain insurance companies so that they can there that’s what we call kind of network. So each insurance company as well as different branches of different services that they provide will collaborate with a group of specialists, health care providers that all are affiliated with them. So we called that kind of network. So you can imagine as GSHIP is a program that the Anthem Blue Cross PPO offers to UC schools. We have a bunch of different in-network healthcare providers in this California area. Who are considered in-network. And it’s not that you not ever go to specialists or health care providers that are out-of-network. It’s more that certain insurance is our insurance is willing, to willing to pay for certain amounts of services, by our in-network providers versus less amount with our out-of-network providers. So something you really want to make sure to check is that difference and a lot of times., if your specialist or your PCP or primary care provider decides that there is a medical emergency and that you need to see someone but if let’s say that you can’t find a specialist who is available within a timely, with in a timely manner. Then there insurances do make exceptions for those cases so that you can get the urgent medical care that you need. So don’t assume that out-of-network means, out-of-pocket. I doesn’t mean out-of-pocket which means you’re going to pay for the entire thing out of your own money. Just make sure that you are, that you familiarize yourself with the kinds of coverage that you have, which you can do by reading those booklets that we mentioned. (note: you will still need a referral to see an out-of-network provider. If you don’t have a referral, you will be paying out of pocket for those services. Always, always, always, get a referral before seeing someone that isn’t your PCP).

Melisa: Yeah, exactly. And what about this other concept called since we’re talking about in our work and out network, which is also related to this concept called copay. Can you tell us what copay is and how it works and what we should know when we go into like any kind of, you know, doctor appointments.

Catherine: Yeah, yeah. So if you, it’s okay for you to not understand all the languages on the booklet, but if there is one thing that you have to understand, it is definitely copay as I mentioned earlier copay is something that, you as a client of this insurance program or insurance coverage, have to pay. So what you’ll see in a lot of cases is, you’ll see that there, amounts that the insurance is willing to cover. And then there’s a charge that for you yourself, that you would have to pay either, on the day of that your service in case for any, off-campus, service providers, or, if you go to, the Student Health Center and they do on site care, you’ll see those copays being billed onto your Zot Account that you will have to pay, through your Zot Account later on. (Note: make sure to pay these before registration periods. You will have a financial hold if they are past due and that can result in not being able to register for courses) So just be aware that these copays because the the GSHIP coverage is I consider it pretty good. Those copays, will range anywhere from kind of $5 for I believe like lab, any kind of blood work that you have to do or somewhere between 5 to $10 or even $15 for seeing a specialist or a primary care provider. So there is just kind of, they have predetermined amounts of money that you have to pay for making that visit for of any kind. Something to know and something that I really want to promote is that, GSHIP provides $0 copay for any kind of counseling or therapy services on and off campus. So it is something that we, grad students, at least me, I really want to encourage, any grad student who’s going through, this, any kind of grad programs, they can be really hectic and they can be stressful. I really wanna encourage them to look into these kinds of, mental health care services, because you practically never have to pay for any of it and it’s already paid for by as a part of your tuition. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, and then, and I think that’s a great point. And at some point we will have a podcast episode talking directly with the counseling center, so you’ll get to see what kind of services they provide. But just to give you a sense, you, once you like arrange an in network provider, through again, the Student Health Center has its own like the, our own, university has a system where you can find a mental health, professional through an online, you know, search and you can see their profiles. You can see their pictures. You can see if you know they are providing services for your specific needs. And you can just connect with them and set up a meeting and as you said, like once you have, once you start going there, you don’t have to pay. I think it’s 5 or $10 if you go outside of campus for mental health. But other than that, it’s, pretty nice. You should definitely take advantage of it. And yeah, so I think this, this is excellent, Catherine, but I also wanted to add one more thing. Maybe we can talk a little bit about, you know, when you go to the eye doctor, what happens, how you arrange that because that’s always going to be outside of the Student Health Center and maybe we could talk a little bit about the dental, services as well.

Catherine: Yeah, for sure. I have not, I have never really gone to the Student Health Center for the dental care part, but I know that it is available. There are also a bunch of different, dental, care services around Irvine that is in network within Delta Dental. You just have to make sure to call ahead of time and ask, do you guys take Dent Delta. The, and most of these, near campus services already have patients from our campuses services. So it’s really easy to just kind of be like, hey, I’m a grad student here and I have the school insurance. It is anthem, well, for dental, it’d be Delta Dental and they’ll be happy to set up an appointment with you. But that is also available on campus. For the vision care, there is a, eye institute on campus, which is called, I think, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, or, I can’t remember the exact name, but there is an institute on campus which has an optical shop for you to, order any kind of, if you need glasses, frames or contacts, stuff like that. You can, they will provide any kind of like general exams and you know, getting the prescriptions and stuff. They have those kinds of exams as well as an optical shop where you can take that prescription and get your product you know get the products that you need. And I believe that there are so that eye institute is on campus and it’s a walkable distance. I’m not exactly sure if there are other like optical shops or vision care services around here but I’m sure 

Melisa I go to the one at UTC. Oh, sorry, Catherine. Yes, I go to the one at UTC. It’s very nice. It’s also walkable distance. The eye institute is farther for me from where I live. So I prefer the one at UTC. 

Catherine: Yeah. Yeah.

Melisa: So for the eye care also just as a note, the eye exam itself is covered but when you want to get prescription it’s a little bit different. We only have a discount for one type of eye prescription. So even though they do your eye exam. Getting getting an eye exam for glasses is different from getting an eye exam for contact lenses and I was shocked by that because it’s basically the same thing to me but they said no it’s not. So if you get, if you want to get an examination that covers both, then you will have to pay for one, one of those. But it’s something around 50 or $60. As of 2023, I think.

Catherine: Okay. Okay.

Melisa: And then if you want to get prescription like written prescription for them, and not just written prescription, but if you want to get lenses for your glasses or contacts you have to choose because our insurance only covers $100 of only one. And then the next one you have to pay out of pocket. That’s right, right? (note: that is right. I will see what is cheaper for me and use places like Costco to get the other if both are needed.)

Catherine: Yeah, yeah, I believe so. I, all these details are definitely in those like coverage bookets and stuff, but. Also, know that these health care providers are, that are near us are very familiar with the kinds of like, services that they provide. Like I only found out that the general exam, as well as, they have, a, more of a, like, an allowance for you to kind of use, for your frames, lenses and contacts and stuff like that. I only found out about those kind of, coverage only after going and like seeing, the eye institute and the optical shop. So don’t be scared to, you know, I think, American healthcare, can, be very notorious for, being really, not accessible and not available. But just know that if you’re a student here and if you have the GSHIP, our coverage has a variety of different kinds of like functions to make sure that you can stay well and stay healthy. So make sure that you make those appointments and go see what coverage, is available. Like I was planning on going to like going shopping for new frames because I know that, annually I get like a $120 to cover my frames. And if I don’t use it, it just, you know, it’s another year of like wasting a $120 you can you know it’s not wasting but

Melisa: No, it’s wasting. It’s your money. you should spend.

Catherine: Yeah, and I also think I also, since we were talking about dental care, any kinds of, general checkups, I believe like twice a year we can, it is included in our coverage to go get, a check, like a checkup and as well as like cleaning services. So make sure that you take advantage of those things. And the same applies for, Student Health Center if you need any kind of physical exams, or just general checkup, you’re always welcome to just go call and make an appointment and they will do a pretty thorough check of you know what could be going on even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Melisa: Yeah, and they also have, oh, I can’t remember the name, is it well women or healthy women?

Catherine: Yeah, yeah

Melisa: Something specific for women that you can go every year and get a checkup, which is something free and you should definitely do because they do all of the tests for you for free. 

Catherine: Yeah.

Melisa: The dental one definitely cleaning I mean you get free cleaning twice a year and they do an excellent job and if you have something more serious for the dental, situation if you have something more serious and if it’s if you’re going over your budget for your dental procedures What they do, those that are familiar with the GSHIP. They will break up your procedures. I had to have the big like molars the molar teeth removed. I had two but if I removed both of them at the same time, I would have to pay a lot out of pocket. So they said, let’s just wait. For your insurance to renew next year and let’s remove just one now and then we’ll do the next one next year. So they will also support you because they know we’re graduate students and we don’t have a lot of budget but they’re also there to support you so as Catherine said it’s not that scary please feel free to you know seek out this kind of medical support and if you’re not sure about something you should always reach out to your mentors and us at GIC.

Catherine: Yeah, yeah.

Melisa: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Catherine. It was so nice talking to you and this was extremely informative because it’s one of the questions that I get a lot. Insurance, how do I get like everything done? And also a lot of questions about vaccinations. So if you have any questions moving forward, just reach out to us. You can reach out to Catherine and myself and of course the greater GIC community and your mentors as well. So thank you so much, Catherine, for being with us.

Catherine: Awesome. Yeah, thank you for having me. It was great to chat about these things. Yeah.


Melisa: Awesome. Thank you. Okay well we will see you at the next episode everyone. Take care in the meantime.

Transcript of Podcast #25: Starting a Bank Account, Getting a Social Security Number, and Credit Card

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Joseph Hin Yan Lam (he/him)

Alongside our Information on SSN you can also visit the International Center’s website for more details. We also briefly discuss taxes in this podcast. The International Center hosts workshops during tax season (usually Winter/Spring Quarters) to assist in students understanding their tax obligations and the process to get your taxes completed as an international student.

Melisa: Okay, hi everybody. Welcome back to another GIC podcast episode. I’m your host, Melisa. So, today we’re going to talk about starting a bank account in the US and getting a credit card. Starting a bank account is quite important. That’s where the university is going to, you know, distribute your pay. And you’re going to be using your card a lot for many things. But also you might want to get a credit card. So we have the wonderful Joseph with us. He’s going to tell us all about how to get everything started so you can get situated when you arrive in Irvine. So welcome Joseph. Great to have you. Can you start by introducing yourself?

Joseph: Sure. I’m Joseph. I use he/him pronouns and I’m going to be a 4 year student in a School of Education, the PhD program.

Melisa: Right and School of Education is one of the closest to some of the housing communities so it’s a very nice location to be and so if you’re coming for the school of education, you’re going to come to a great part of campus. So Joseph, where do you call home?

Joseph: I’m from Hong Kong and I still see myself as a Hong Konger.

Melisa: Nice. And are you a returning mentor?


Joseph: Yeah, this is my second year being in the GIC program and I really enjoy it and so I really enjoy like interacting with different mentees.

Melisa: Nice. And what do you like to do in Irvine in your free time? 

Joseph: As you know, like, Irvine is a really culturall diverse place with lots of good restaurants. So in my free time I just go explore different kind of cuisine around.

Melisa: Yeah, so if you need any recommendations, you should definitely reach out to Joseph because Joseph, he has tried a lot of different food, right? 

Joseph: Sure

Melisa: Do you have any favorite restaurants?

Joseph: I really enjoy a couple of Japanese restaurant around Costa Mesa. So is like a 10 min drive from the campus and then is authentic Japanese food.

Melisa: Nice. I recently tried shabushabu, and I really, really enjoyed it. So, any recommendations you can always come to, us because we kind of like food. So, Joseph, today we’re gonna talk about something that’s really, really important, something that everybody should do in the first couple of days when they arrive. But to be able to, you know, start a bank account and get settled, students need this thing called the social security number, the SSN. Can you tell us what is an SSN and why is it important? (note: a SNN is not required to start a bank account but will be necessary for some credit cards and will be important for employment or other opportunities. We will talk more about this later in the podcast)

Joseph: Yeah, SSN is super important. I will say like one of the first thing, first real thing that I have, need to do right after I arrive in this in the states. So SSN, the Social Security Number is a 9 digit identification number. So the US government will give it to you for tax purpose and also you need to have work to use it for for documenting your tax.

Melisa: And, it’s quite an important number. You have a very small ID card for it. So you should definitely hold onto it. And you’re not supposed to share it with anybody. If anybody asks, you only share the last 4 digits or 3 digits of your social security number (note: outside of work authorization where you will share your card. Such as a campus TA position or GSR position. If you are asked for this number through email or phone, this is most likely a scam and you should not share your number with them). So it’s not like you’re maybe in your home country, you have an identification number. Your ID number that’s what you have on your license or your California ID. This is something that’s more private and, specific to you. So it’s quite important. How does one get a social security number and how long does it take?

Joseph: Yeah, that’s great important thing is like how long does it take and once you have the SNN number if you are coming from a previous program in the state and you already have it you don’t need to apply for another one but if you don’t have it, you need to start, by having a work verification letter so you can obtain it from your hiring department. And together with the UCI International Center to have like a social security number, verification letter. So it might take like, a week or two depending on the availability of the international center and then for you to get the verification letter first. And after that, you need to gather all the document like the verification letter and also like your personal doc, ID or passport and also your application form. And then you have to apply to a local at social security office. So a few, some of them are quite close like a Mission Viejo which is around like a twenty to twenty five minutes of driving. And you can search the SSA office locator. And the one Mission Viejo is more, they know more about like a student applying for SSN so it will be a nice place to go.

Melisa: Yeah. 

Joseph: And after that

Melisa: Oh, sorry. Yes, go.

Joseph: it takes around like four weeks or so to get your SSN.

Melisa: So, okay, so first you get the documents and then you go to the, these social security offices. And you can choose whichever one you want to go to. As Joseph said, the Mission Viejo, is a little bit farther, I think, than Santa Ana, but it is less crowded too. And you should definitely go early in the morning to get in line because everybody gets in line before it even opens because it takes a long time because a lot of people are trying to get this number. Right. So, definitely, maybe connect with some people so you can all go together. And just like wait there in line. And you can just like chat for a little bit because it might take a little bit. And then as Joseph said, the four week waiting period is what you have to do after that. But quite very, very important. Thank you so much, Joseph. And then. I think this also connects 

to your taxes, right? And can you tell us a little bit about the IRS and maybe the 1098 T form.

Joseph: Yeah, sure. Like the SSN is the one that is for tax purpose. So it links to, like a lot of your work authorization about like work so you list you an SNN and if you work and then the 1098 is like the tuition statement. So, some of the student might have it, some of the student might not have it depending on your enrollment and also like the finance office department. So it is a statement to, to talk about like, what to report, reportable transaction between the school and you. So, some of our program might have been necessarily eligible for like some tax credit. So you will get it. And, so you expected to get the 1098 T form electrically, electronically. So, you have to go online and download it. And then, so where to download it is from your Zot! Portal. So, and then under that you’ll find the finance tab. So again, UCI like offer really good, guidelines on that. So if you just searched UCI IRS 1098 and then you would see a really complete information about that.

Melisa: Yeah, and always keep track of these documents. They’re very important and they will, you might need to mail them so it’s always a good idea to have multiple copies of these documents.

Joseph: Yeah, and just one more reminder is like because some student when you come to the state you don’t have an SSN first. So at that time, your 1098 form will not have your social security number but once you have it, have your social security number you need to update with the finance office for your new SSN number. Cause, cause they need to input that for you. So, they also like, you have to do by mail or by fax. To fax your new application form to have that update.

Melisa: Oh yeah, that’s a great point. So because you get this social security number independent of the school, you definitely need to let them know. And any changes to certain statuses throughout your, time at UCI. I think you need to report some of them. For example, if you’re a citizenship status changes, you have to report it to them, and a couple of other things (Note: yes, any changes to type of visa or citizenship status should be reported to Registrar and Financial offices. Even if you have reported them to the International Center). So be on the lookout, if there are any changes to your status. So now that everybody kind of has a sense of, okay, I have the social security number, let’s say they, the four week waiting they finally got their social security number. What should they do next? I guess the big topic is how do they open a bank account? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Joseph: Sure. Opening a bank account is very important is for you to deposit your money. You don’t want to keep like all your money at home or like use cash all the time. So you always want to have a back account. So like, for some bank, they don’t require you to have like an SSN, to open the bank account. Some bank near campus they do know like some like new international students so they only require your passport and your how like your housing, renting contract, for you to open the bank account. So, for you to start with, it will always be good to go to some bank near campus so they are more familiarized with like, how international student are and then what kind of document that we can qualify. So, usually you bring your passport, you bring some money to deposit and also, bring your rent for the, through your rent contract for the housing approval.

Melisa: Oh, that’s great. So a lot of important documents that you need to bring. So be aware. But also be prepared. That they might say, oh, we also need this. Come back next day or come back later today. And so just be prepared and I would choose not to go somewhere that’s too far away. Because you, some for some you know, proceed, procedures, you have to go back to the bank that you opened your account with. So the closer it is to campus, the easier it will be for you, just in case.

Joseph: Yeah.

Melisa: And this is all for like a regular bank, what they call a debit card, right?

Joseph: Yeah, yeah, that’s the debit card, and you got a check, checking account. So a checking account, you just go there and then you ask to open a checking account. And also one thing is some bank they require like a minimum amount of money deposit. So you have to ask them oh like do they have like service charge if you cannot reach the monthly minimum deposit.

Melisa: Oh yeah, that’s a great point. The bank that I work with, they gave me a booklet when I opened my bank account and they said your account could never have less than $25 in it. And every month you have to have at least 10 transactions on your account. Otherwise, they charge a service fee. Which is annoying because why? But just be aware of these you know certain you know, rules for your bank so you don’t get charged extra money because I would get charged like $10 a day or something and that imagine 4 days I didn’t notice it. And my account was below $25. I hope it never goes below $25, but if it does like $40, no. Nobody wants that. Exactly. So. (note: always check for student account options. Sometimes they have less service charges because they know that students don’t always have the financial means to meet the other requirements. Some banks though have a restriction on how long you can have a student account or how old you can be to open a student account)

Joseph: Yeah totally, you always want to be aware of like those kind of rules before you open your account.

Melisa: Yeah and especially when you first arrive here, if you arrive over the summer, remember depending on the lab you’re in of course but if you are TAing (Teaching Assistant) and you rely on TAship (Teaching Assistant Position) for your income, you won’t get paid until the first of October. No, the first of November.

Joseph: The first of November.

Melisa: You won’t get until the first of November. So just be on the lookout for your bank account. But you should be able to open your bank account, get your social security number during the fall quarter. Right? What do you think, Joseph?

Joseph: Yeah, I get my bank account like before fall quarters start because I go to one of the bank near campus and then they know international student you got no SSN physically you haven’t that so I get my my bank account free early. And for my SSN it took a little bit longer because at that time I still apply SNN during COVID. So I still have to call them to make an appointment. So that part takes me like two days just waiting to get in line, call them. So, yeah.

Melisa: Yeah. Oh, okay, great. Well, just so you are all aware, you can get it done even earlier before the end of fall quarter.

Joseph: Yeah.

Melisa: So that’s a great, source of information. Joseph, thank you. So we talked about creating a checking account, you know, where you get your income, where you get to spend your money. What about opening up credit cards? What is the application process like for a credit card in the US?

Joseph: So, after you get your income. So one of the thing is like when you get your income you have to set up the direct deposit. I mean, I we also have to talk about that. Just like, otherwise the school would keep mailing check to you. To your mail, which is also another alternative, but if you want that the direct deposit to your bank account, there’s also an option that you can do online in the finance office. Through the Zot Portal. And talk to bring that about like, the credit card. So, credit card is very useful because a lot of place around we, receive, they accept credit card payment, and it’s very good for you not to bring too much cash out. So. For the credit card there do there is most of them require an SSN. I would say like nearly all of them require SSN but a few of them they allow you to, they are specially designed for international student to apply. So you can also Google it to see like a credit card without an SSN. So. But most of them they do require an SSN for you to apply and you need your, your address proof. And also your passport. And or and also some other like personal documents depending on what kind of credit card you’re applying for.

Melisa: Yeah. Passport usually works as your ID, but they might need more than one, source of identification. So I remember I was asked provide both my passport and my driver’s license. I don’t know why. They just asked. They just really want to know more of me, I guess. But yeah, so. Based off of the credit cards, can you tell us a little bit about do we have to go into a bank to open a bank account like an credit card? Are there any online options? Can you give us an idea?

Joseph: Sure, most of the credit card is online apply. I try like most of my online apply and then basically you just fill out the application and then you, they will email oh you got accepted and then like around a week you will get your credit card mailed to your address. Or like if you got rejected they will also provide you with the reason and then you can see like, oh, did I miss out anything? Or is it because of other kind of reason? So one of the reason that you other than you missed some information, personal information that you haven’t filled in is your credit score. It’s too low to get that credit card.

Melisa: Oh, well, what is a credit score? Can you tell us?

Joseph: So credit score is the system that to see like how much, how do your financial performance is. So the higher the better. So, so you want to, so is that with around like 500 and it goes up to like 800 something. So, credit score can be affected by the number of accounts that you have. How long have your account, has been open. Did you pay for or your card payment on time. Which is very important because like if once you get a credit card you always want to pay the payment on time. Otherwise the interest it’s very, very high. Like, like, so remember to pay your credit card payment on time. Don’t just pay the minimum, always pay like all the things that you you get. And also it will be affected by like how much have you used your credit card. You don’t want to like over spend. So, so when the bank make the decision about whether they will give you the new credit card, they will consider your credit score. So they consider this kind of aspect and then they were like come to a decision. So you always want to keep track of your credit score as well. And also, when you apply for new credit card.

Melisa: Yeah, and, so when you, if it’s the first time you’re opening an account, any bank account in the US, that means you’re going to have no credit score. And that can make getting a credit card a bit difficult because some companies want you to have a credit score to be able to give you a credit card. But some of them don’t. Some of them, need, some of them allow you to open, secure, I think it was a secure credit card where it has a limit. A limit that you pre put into the card. So since I didn’t, I didn’t have a credit score when I, started living here. I was able to open a bank account with a three, no a credit card with a $300 limit. So the first year, my credit cards limit was $300. That’s what they allowed me to do. At least the bank that I was working with. The bank that I chose, yes, it had its limitations, but at the same time it had 0 fees. So that’s why I chose the bank that I worked with and for the first year, I only paid for Netflix. So I used my credit card to only pay for Netflix, which was a very, very, very low amount. And that helped me get a good credit score because I was paying it on time. It was automatic, automated the payment. And also it was a very small percentage of my allowance like my balance, so it didn’t look like I was over spending. So it makes me appear to the banks like I am a financially responsible person that could have a good credit. Am I? That’s another question.

Joseph: Yeah, so you have to place you once you start opening a bank you already start joining the credit score game I would say like and you have to act like you are a financially responsible person and definitely you also want to be financially responsible in real life. But like, yeah, do Google more? There are lots of credit card options like compare them because some of them target on students so they might have their some kind of welcoming offers and also they have like less requirement on like your minimum income. And also like, your SSN number. So really depends. So you have to Google more and to search different credit card because like different credit card serve for really different purposes.

Melisa: Yeah, and another tip that we could give you is, you can ask people about, you know, credit cards, what they recommend, what they use, but it’s frowned upon to ask people about their credit scores. I, my understanding or from what I have inquired from people is that it’s very personal, because many things can affect your credit score. If you had to borrow even though like you didn’t have a lot of money, then that really lowers your credit score and it’s something that is not nice to ask. Similar to what party they voted for. Your, people kind of frown upon when you ask them their political affiliations. Which from my culture like everybody asks, everybody knows which party you voted for but in this culture don’t ask people about their credit score and which party they voted for.

Joseph: Yeah, totally. Yeah, but asking like your friends or some other international student, which what kind of credit card do they open is a really good option. I do ask my friend and then like this just me with really good credit card to start with. And I build up my credit score very quickly, which allows me to get more credit cards for different purposes and also and at the same time you want to get some kind of like friends referral bonus as well.

Melisa: Oh, yeah, no, that’s a great tip. And also be aware that, you might be used to having a MasterCard or Visa, for your like bank, but there are many, many different options, here and just be aware that some stores, some, firms, some services might not accept, that kind of payment for example everybody accepts mastercard and visa but not all except American Express or discover. So those services.

Joseph: Yeah, that’s a very good point.

Melisa: Yeah, so. That’s pretty much it, I think. Do you have any final thoughts, Joseph?

Joseph: Oh, just one final for us like, yeah, bank accounts importing, credi card is important, but most important thing is like being like you have plan your finance ahead, don’t overspend so much, like have a good concept of money is especially with the foreign exchange rate that you have from different country so don’t overspend, a lot and then once you get your credit card because you know, like you have to, we’re all international student, we try to calculate like how much the things here with your own currency at home.

Melisa: Yeah, and the reality is everybody’s financial situation is different. The savings that they come here with is different. And you might, if you need to spend more, maybe check in with some of the mentors. Maybe they can give you some tips on where to find things cheaper. Maybe you don’t have to spend as much or maybe some of the things are not as essential and you can try to find alternatives for yourself before you need to invest in something. For example, I lived without a couch for a very long time because they’re expensive and you know I just waited until I was able to save up. So, and this is something that you can discuss with your, mentor, other mentors and like hear from them and, maybe discuss with your colleagues as well. Just be aware that there might be options. You just, can get some anecdotal, information for, them.

Joseph: Yeah. Usually, like, your mentor experienced all the like situation. So you just ask them and then I’m sure all of us are more than happy to share like how we save money. Also at the same time to build out like our credit at the same time.

Melisa: Exactly. Oh, thank you so much, Joseph. I think this is a very, very important topic. And if anybody else has any other questions, if they’re still not sure about some things, please feel free to reach out to us, to your mentors, but also to Joseph and myself, regarding your social security number, bank accounts, credit cards and all of that. But thank you so much Joseph for the time. 

Joseph: Thanks for having me. 

Melisa: Yeah, it was so great talking to you. And we will see you all in our next episode.

Transcript of Podcast #26: Common Feelings and Experiences as a 1st Year Grad Student

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Sakshi Bajpai (she/her)

Melisa: Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of our GIC podcasts. My name is Melisa Perut, your host. Today we’re going to talk about common feelings and experiences as a first year graduate student and we have a Sakshi with us who is going to give us a lot of different experiences because she’s been on both sides of a graduate experience so Sakshi can you introduce yourself to us?

Sakshi: Sure. I am Sakshi. I am a PhD student in material science and engineering department. I use she and her as pronouns. And I’m looking forward to this podcast. Thank you for inviting me, Melisa.

Melisa: Excellent. So nice to have you, Sakshi. And can I ask you, where do you call home?

Sakshi: So I’m from India for me home is a city in the northern part of India called Lucknow. I have been around in India, but that’s where I would call my home always.

Melisa: Nice. And are you a returning mentor?

Sakshi: Oh yes, I am a fourth time returning mentor, so I’ve been here for 4 years. Excluding the one year as mentee so it would be my fifth year with GIC.I’ve been in roles of mentors and senior peer mentors and this time I’m the Assistant Coordinator of GIC so. Been around for a while, loved it. Yeah.

Melisa: And now she’s back. And Sakshi has been a part of, you know, the more, peer, roles in GIC so she has a lot of organizational experience as well. So if you ever needs more information about GIC, Sakshi is also a great resource for you all.

Sakshi: Always.

Melisa: Yes, exactly. And, I also like to ask, what do you like to do in Irvine in your free time?

Sakshi: I think the best part for me about Irvine is the beaches. So whenever there is a good weather and whenever I have time I would just run to any beach I could. And just enjoy a good sunset. Yeah.

Melisa: Nice. How do you get to the beach?

Sakshi: I don’t have a car so I generally take a cab or if I have friends who have cars I go by that. Yeah, I’m not a patient person to take buses like multiple buses. So. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, and it’s a really big hill. It’s you can go down, but it’s very hard to go back up to get back to Irvine.

Sakshi: Exactly. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, so I get that. But, thanks so much, Sakshi. So maybe we can start by asking you what was your first impression of UCI and Irvine in general.

Sakshi: Yeah, so I still remember, so I came in 2019 I was a master student back then and there were group of people who were picking us up. They were really nice and they offered to pick up us up from from LAX. And as soon as we got closer to Irvine, as compared to what I was seeing throughout the highway, which was traffic, it was so peaceful because I love greenery and Irvine is all about trees like big big trees. So I was very happy that it’s so, clean and quiet and calm. And that I think that even got better when I saw the campus of UCI. Like I saw Aldrich Park and that just looked like a hill station of India to me. It was so many trees and it’s hilly, right? So it was. It gave me that vibe when people just lying down there, studying or whatever talking. So I had a very good impression of it being a very calm and peaceful place which I really wanted to have.

Melisa: Yeah, I guess you came during the day then when you arrived.

Sakshi: Pretty much during the sunset time, so the best time.

Melisa: The best time. I came during night time, so I saw nothing. So my first impression was where am I? But it’s

Sakshi: Oh at night time it’s. Yeah, if you don’t see anything, it’s like nothing. No lights.

Melisa: Yeah, yeah, so it was quite interesting. So it’s great that you had like this very nice sense. And was it easy for you to adjust in Irvine as a graduate student then?

Sakshi: I would say it was fairly easy as in I never had any issues, getting to know or get things done. Whenever I had to. I think the only issue with adjustment is you are so far away from your home and especially if you are living on your own for the very first time. I have lived in dorms as an undergrad, but there you don’t have to worry about food and, and then lots of stuff that you have to as a graduate student. So like cooking and cleaning and laundry and everything. So. I was like, whoa, I’m in adult. I have to do all these things. So that was more in a personal aspect, but, Irvine, I think because at least there’s so many stuff around like not many stuff as in I agree that there’s not many entertainment stuff around, but all the basic needs you can get it covered. Like you have Trader Joe’s, Target, even if they are not the best they are still there. So for me as a graduate student to get my furniture, it was easy because I love the delivery system in Irvine, you just put in one address and they’re gonna put it over there and they can leave it there. It’s so safe that no one’s ever gonna take it. So it was easier to get all the furniture and as a master student I was looking for bare minimum like I didn’t have a couch for few months because I didn’t want to invest in couch at that moment. So adjusting in terms of home it was easier and in terms of environment I do find like people here are friendly everyone would talk to you and if you go as for help, they’re always there to help you. They would even do more. Sometimes they’re too talkative for me. That’s fine. I mean, I wouldn’t complain.

Melisa: No, definitely. If you go to Trader Joe’s, you’ll definitely have a conversation at the cash register.

Sakshi: Yeah, I was not used to it. I said, why are you talking to me? You don’t even know me.

Melisa: But yeah, it’s nice and it seems like you had like a nice adjustment. I think we’ve talked about, you know, here and there about, you know, ordering things and just having it come to the door and it’s how easy it is rather than just having to go and figure it out, right? And in the past years I’ve had, mentees or, that have ordered things before they arrived.

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: And you just talk to your housing to know like, which apartment you’re going to be in and how you can get stuff delivered. So when students arrive, they already had stuff waiting for them in the mail room. So.

Sakshi: And even like for me, when we arrived, even though it was day, it was past 5. So the housing office and I was living in an off-campus housing so it closed so we were able to have someone help us pick up the keys from the housing even before that. So it was really nice to share by her like we didn’t know her she didn’t know us but people here generally tend to help you. Which I think is very nice. And also I think it was easy for me because I was with two other people. Like two other girls we came together so adjusting as a individual versus adjusting as a group just makes it easier because one can do one stuff and the other can take look after the other. So that was that made everything easier.

Melisa: Yeah, and as GIC, you know, people that are part of GIC, we kind of have this community and support.

Sakshi: Exactly. Yeah.

Melisa: I think it’s nice to have people that you can like ask questions and also get support from.

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: What about the classes and workload? How was the adjustment to that? From the perspective of both a master student and a PhD student.

Sakshi: Yeah, so I think, this is where I’m, being a mentee, GIC really helped me a lot. My mentor was a material science PhD, same as my, department. So. I could even ask like a lot of questions even before I was here. So. before coming here, I was worried that, oh, do I need to, you know, learn certain things or be good at certain subjects before I start as a master, right now I’m just talking as a master student. So he was there. I was able to ask him that do you think that I need to do all this or as a master student I was also aware not worried but trying to look for sources of income, where could I get that like TAship or something. And I really liked that he was honest that it’s in our department, it’s not easy to get TAship. So, at least I was set to the realistic expectations that, yeah, don’t come with really high hopes but you can definitely try. So these were the things I was worried about and then as long as the courses go. They were, they were pretty good for me because the teachers or the professors have been nice. I have a funny story. So when I came in my first class of masters was at 8 am in the morning. Not the best time to have a good first class and then I go there and there was this professor he made us do breathing exercises. I as a new student would say, is that how it goes in US? Like, do you have to do breathing exercises every before every class? And it was only after like few weeks I realized that that exercise really helped me like be awake throughout the class and attentive. So he had a good formula. So that worked. As far as classes goes, if they, you have TAs as I said before that. Only thing that I didn’t shy away, I am a shy person, but I never shy away from asking for help. So if ever I had any issues I asked the professors or if there is a TA in that class. So for me courses were, nice and okay. There is workload. It’s not gonna be like you just go to the class and come back. There are at least for my in my case, they were assignments and something that really, really required some time. And for the first time, I didn’t realize that and I was like panicking the last night before the submission, but once I got the sense of it, it was easier. As a PhD student, it is, it might be a little difficult. Because you have to manage your classes and then you have to manage your research. So it would be very case by case depending on how your advisor is like my advisor understands when you have exams you’re not gonna be in the meetings or you might not do as much work as you might be doing before. So it becomes a little tricky for the PhD student, but for the master student again, they’re doing job search. So everyone has something to do beyond just the classes. And as long as you are careful enough like you, I am not a very disciplined person I was able to still manage like I am not totally not disciplined but I can do things well before time or well on time so as long as you do that it should be manageable and you don’t need to worry about learning anything beforehand because even though it a quarter system, even though it runs very fast. If you keep on track, you should be fine.

Melisa: Yeah, and In terms of TA ships. So TAships they can sometimes be a lot of work.

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: Additional work. So the, you know, if you can choose, if you can list the class because you have to list your preferences and then you get assigned a TAship and you don’t know which TAship you might get. This is outside of the natural sciences. And you might get a TAship where you are very familiar with the topic. So preparation for the class, for your discussion sections might not take a lot of time. And if you teach that class a couple of times, throughout your years, then you already have your material so it doesn’t take a lot of time but if you end up in a class that you’re not familiar with. And you have to learn the material, which can happen. You still can request to change the class, but it’s still, it’s a very difficult process. So you should be prepared that you might end up in a class that you’re not familiar with that you have to teach and sometimes these TAships are only announced like what class you’ll be teaching, like a week or a couple of weeks in advance. So you need to, you will have maybe 2, 3 weeks to prepare for your first session. (weird noise in background) Sorry, that was the copy machine that kind of said I’m out. But yeah, so you will have to prepare yourselves for, for the TAships, as well. And if you’re a little bit anxious or get stressed out talking in front of crowds, then you should also prepare to mentally prepare yourself as well. (classes at the GPSRC like Activate to Captivate can really help prepare students for TA positions and teaching in academics in the future.)

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: I always feel drained after I teach a class because I don’t like talking in front of a lot of students. So that day I kind of like set myself, in a way that I don’t really do mentally challenging tasks after my classes.

Sakshi: You actually brought up a very good point because in my second quarter I got a TAship. And that’s when I took one class lesser than I originally thought before I got to know that I’m getting a TAship. So because I knew that this is gonna be a new thing, this was especially the first time me doing any work with any professor in the States and you don’t know how things really work or what his expectations really are. I did this TAship with him the next quarter as well and that’s when I took the normal workload. But because that was the first time I wanted to make sure that I’m not saying that you have to have to drop the classes. It was just my approach that if I could afford to not have one class, one class lesson, I would do that because then I’ll be able to focus there and make sure that I do that thing properly. And for the TAship also I know a lot of international students for us, English is not the first language, but that’s what you’d have to use here, and especially if you’re teaching. Like I didn’t have to take any classes. My job was mostly to take down classes or just correct the exams or individualate or something like that. I never had to take a class. So it’s good that you share that experience and I think being fairly confident in speaking English and understanding English would definitely help. So if you wanna put effort in that direction, that might be a good thing as well.

Melisa: Yeah, I think that’s a great tip before you arrive. And Sakshi, Sakshi, do you, did you feel homesick? And how did you deal with that during your time here?

Sakshi: I feel homesick. I used to feel homesick a lot. But it’s funny, I feel homesick when I miss food. So I miss food and I feel home sick. So that’s the thing. If I miss food, I will, I didn’t cook back in India. But here I started cooking and so for me the feeling of home is sometimes eating good food. I do that and I make sure that I stay connected with my parents and my friends back home. And I do that like with my parents, I do that on a daily basis and with friends I do whenever all of us are free. So you are gonna feel homesick, none of us have superpowers that we are gonna adjust like that in a new environment. Everyone would have their different way for me, I would suggest stay connected to your roots. And that’s something I always, I tell my mentees, is whenever we are here and we try to adjust, we think that we are different. It’s okay to think that we are different, but that does not mean you have to change to something that you are not. You can stay connected to the roots and still be able to adjust to wherever you are. So that for me staying connecting to my roots is actually talking to the people who are back at home. My parents, my friends. And then adjusting you, we adjust like if you have to be open enough and talk to more people it gets easier. So when I’ve felt homesick my go to was to just talk to parents and have good food.

Melisa: I think that’s a great tip. I also like going to the supermarket Wholesome or, there’s a Turkish supermarkets in Fountain Valley that I go to, because it’s like you can find things from your home country and it’s a nice experience to be like oh I haven’t seen this in a while or I haven’t seen this in a while or I haven’t seen this in a while

Sakshi: Yeah. Yeah.

Melisa: So you can feel like you’re shopping at home a little bit. That also helps me.

Sakshi: And also like when we go to these grocery store and you see someone or hear someone talking in your native language, it feels so good. Oh, well.

Melisa: Yeah, yeah, it’s very nice. And You talked about having a lot of friends back home. What about friends here, was it easy for you to make friends when you moved here and do you have any suggestions for incoming students on how to make friends?

Sakshi: Yeah, it was not easy for me to make friends when I was here because, as I said, the reason I say that we think a lot about digesting because that’s what I did. Somehow I was very cautious of what I’m saying because I was so afraid that was right what’s wrong how do people like you I was trying to gauge people so much that I stopped interacting with them because I was afraid that what if I say something wrong or what if I, like what if they don’t like me? I was so in that zone. But having been in that zone, I know that that’s where you don’t want to go. And, that’s, one thing I’m gonna suggest. Everyone is don’t afraid to reach out to people. As much as I said that there are nice people there people who help you there are lots of them that you will find mean people do it’s not a perfect world and but those people should not stop you from meeting the nicer people around. So go around talk to them I started it with my classmate, classmates, because that’s those are the people you interact with regularly. So talk to them, be it doing homeworks together or just chilling out after classes. I was not down for that because I, don’t know, I was so shy that I was not ready to go out in groups. Which I would not recommend doing. It’s fine. Like go out if you have a bad experience, it’s fine. Don’t go again, but don’t decide it beforehand. Or take up new activities like if you want to, if you play something like say badminton, go play it because you’ll find people who have similar interests and it might be easier to bond with people who are similar, who have similar interest to you. And in last but not in least you bond with from your country like much quicker and much easier and they are also one of the people you go to when you want to feel like home. So definitely do that. I know some people try to think that, oh, we are here in the US. We want to have new experiences, for sure. But those people that kind of comfort that you’ll get from those no one else can give it. So just go out and interact as much as you can. It’s fine if you say wrong things. We all do mistakes. As long as you realize it and say sorry, it’s going to be fine and don’t, don’t reduce the chances of meeting nice people just because they’re as one or two mean people around you.

Melisa: Yeah, and I think, also where you live, you can make a lot of friends in your community. I live the housing that I live in I just went up and said hi to people. And some of them were very responsive and wanted to like talk and, you know, have conversations. Some of them weren’t as responsive, which is fine. You kind of, the more it’s like, you know, probability, right? The more people you say hi to and try to talk to, the more people you can find, right?

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: If you say hi to one person, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s just one person. But if you say hi to everybody in your community, which I tried to do. You’re going to find some people at least.

Sakshi: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s where there might be. Well, maybe not. Like I know master student. Well, it’s changed now, the master student also get student housing but when I was a master student I was living in a community where there were no other students. So it was like families and all and they have their own life and they like, they sleep at 7 or 8. So it was hard to like interact with them. But If even if you can it’s nice as Melisa said, you need to increase your probability of finding your kind of people. So you need to have a example set.

Melisa: Yeah. Exactly. And I mean, there are many activities just like, Sakshi said, like you can go to like, and you can go play badminton, join a team at the ARC, if you’re like into any kind of sport and want to like meet people that are also interested in if it’s a sport that are also interested in if it’s a sport that you can’t play by yourself, Even if it’s a sport that you can’t play by yourself, you can like find a partner there. Or you can also like go to, they have like theater, or, you know, shows at the Barclay Art Center, that you can go to and you can meet people. For example, I want to a one man show of all three Star Wars movies. 

Sakshi: Okay

Melisa: So it was just one person, acting out all three, the original Star Wars. It, it was an experience, I highly recommend if you ever because I think the same person is going to come back to do Lord of the Rings.

Sakshi: Okay.

Melisa: So I highly recommend it, but you get to see people and talk to people outside of the event center, that are also interested in, you know, being there and, you know, maybe they’re interested in what you’re about to watch. So. Don’t be afraid to go to events and do things. And you’ll find people.

Sakshi: Yeah, and also when you said that it just reminded me like in ARC, Anteater Recreation Center, you have like group classes. So you have zumba, you have yoga and all other stuff. So I mean, even if we don’t go out and meet, but I meet people who I can smile to and then you see them randomly in campus and then you’re like, hi, how are you doing? So I mean, that’s enough for me. It’s a way to know more people, even besides GIC. I mean, from GIC, I would not have known you otherwise, Melisa. So.

Melisa: Yeah, same because we’re soa part on campus so far.

Sakshi: Okay, I also come to GIC events, you know us.

Melisa: Yes, yes, absolutely. And you’ll meet a lot of people from different departments as well. So you’ll have a big community of friends here. So I would also like to ask, Sakshi, what would you like, incoming students to know, you mentioned that they shouldn’t feel pressured or stressed but are there anything else that they should prepare themselves for before they come to the States.

Sakshi: I think we cover most of the points. I would just say that I know when you’re coming to the States and especially if you’re doing it for the first time it’s, it’s a lot of stress like visa, packing and making sure that you don’t forget the things you do. And in doing so, don’t forget to have a good family time because we don’t go back that often. Like it’s not. We are generally far away from where we live. So like I go back once a year only. I know some people go twice. I’ve never heard people going back every month or like every other month. So that’s not gonna happen. So maybe that’s the time you’re gonna spend the most with them together so don’t forget to have a good family time. And then just come here, it’s not easy to be confident, but just be confident. It’s fine if you make mistakes. We always say sorry. That’s what my advisor says. It’s better to make mistakes and say sorry than not to do things. So this just do that and meet us, we are there as mentors, we are there. So feel free to shoot an email to us with any queries you have. And interact with as many people. I think we covered it pretty well. So I just don’t want to be repetitive. So, yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, no, absolutely. No, that’s great. Sakshi and I think spending quality time is really important, especially when you’re like trying to get everything ready. But I, this was the first time I went back home. In the last 4 years. So. It was, I started my program and I wasn’t able to go back home. So I highly recommend, you spending your quality time, learning the time difference. So you know, like when learning the time difference so you can prepare your friends and family on when you might call them or what time you might be available. So my family knows that I usually call them when it’s their night time because I called them in the morning. That works for me when I’m getting ready. So just prepare then so they know to expect a call from.

Sakshi: Yeah.

Melisa: Right. Well, thank you so much for your time, Sakshi. It was so great having you. And if anybody has any questions, Sakshi is a great resource so you can always reach out to her. And we’ll see you on the next podcast episode.

Sakshi: Thank you Melisa!

Melisa: Of course!

Transcript of Podcast #27: Exercise and Outdoor Activities

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Seungjun Josh Kim (he/him)

Melisa: Hello everyone, welcome back to another GIC, podcast episode. Today we’re going to talk about exercise and outdoor activities. We live in Southern California, the weather is always quite nice, so there’s a lot of reason to go outside and enjoy. And also graduate school can be stressful. So we should, you know, explore other options of relieving stress. So today we have Josh with us. Josh is one of our mentors and he’ll talk to us about what he gets to do and what he recommends for everybody. So hi Josh, welcome. Thanks for joining. Can you introduce yourself as we begin?

Josh: Hello everyone, my name is Josh Kim. I am a rising second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Informatics, I use he, him his pronouns.

Melisa: Awesome. Thanks, Josh. And Josh, where do you call home?

Josh: I was born and raised in South Korea and actually came to the States about 10 years ago. Yeah.

Melisa: Nice. Did you go to high school here then?

Josh: No. So I came here when I was becoming 19 or 20, so for undergrad education yeah

Melisa: Nice, nice. And were you always in Southern California?

Josh: No, I was actually hopping around different states. Initially I went to school in upstate New York and then I moved to Michigan to start my full-time job and after that I moved to California last year to start my PhD program. So really moving around living that nomad life. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah. Then, how do you like the weather here then?

Josh: Firstly, I really love it because I am that person who really needs sunshine basking in the sun and soaking in the sun. So California is really treating me well in that regard.

Melisa: Nice, nice. And is this your first time being a mentor, in the GIC program?

Josh: Yeah, so good question. It is actually my first time being a mentor, but I was actually a mentee last year, which inspired me to become a mentor this year.

Melisa: Excellent. Yeah, so you’ll see a lot of. Mentors or mentees and they really enjoyed, you know, this community and they’ll be back. So hopefully you’ll all be mentors next year as well. And Josh, before we begin, I know we’re going to talk a lot about your favorite activities, but what do you like to do in your free time?

Josh: That is a very good but also difficult question because I have a laundry list of things I can talk about which can take more than 30 min but just to give you a handful of activities I do in my free time. I like to do a lot of outdoor stuff, so hiking. I’m just walking around in parks, playing tennis, doing surfing, I also like do music stuff. So I make music I play the drums and I sing, so those are some of the hobbies I do outside of my research.

Melisa: Nice. Does you know, playing the drums become a problem. Are you living on graduate housing or in an apartment?

Josh: Oh, obviously I don’t play the drums, within my residency, but I easily try to find a rehearsal studio in the area and that I sometimes jam in my friends.

Melisa: Nice! Oh, well, Josh you’re doing a lot, so you have great tips. Of, things to do around Irvine then.

Josh: Hopefully, hopefully we’ll see how that goes.

Melisa: Awesome. So, can, you know, Southern California is very sunny and it’s very nice and you mentioned that you also like to do a lot of outdoor activities very sunny and it’s very nice and you mentioned that you also like to do a lot of outdoor activities. So can you tell us what are some exercises or sports people that come to UCI can do around here?

Josh: For sure, for sure. So one sport that I noticed a lot of people here play is tennis, which I also play a lot. I think it’s because there are a lot of tennis courts in the area. I think I heard somewhere may not be very very accurate fact but I did hear somewhere that Irvine has one of the most number of tennis courts per unit area. So that probably speaks to how popular tennis is and also because you can play tennis all year around because of the nice weather so that probably plays a role. And then another sport that people play almost exclusively in Southern California is surfing, which I mentioned earlier when I was talking about my hobbies. I guess that makes sense because there’s so much access to beaches. I think there may be two or three beaches you can access within 15 min by car from UCI. So that makes it easier. So those are two things that that really appear on my head off the top of my head. Other than that, I think people, a lot of people like to hit the gym or I’ll register for classes, for personal training but stuff like that. But I can probably touch upon those topics later on. (Note: Irvine and Orange County in general has a lot of athletic groups that you can join. Josh will talk later about ways to find other sports like pick up soccer or volleyball or other group sports)

Melisa: Yeah, so then you know how to surf. Did you learn how to surf here?

Josh: Good question. I didn’t know how to do it until last year. So that’s right. I came here in September last year and then I met a bunch of folks who already knew how to surf. So they were just giving me tips and just know how’s and how to surf. So that was my start of my surfing trajectory I guess but I’m still not that great yet I don’t think I’m in a position to teach someone yet, but I’m slowly getting there.

Melisa: Yeah, no, but, surfing is quite like popular. Also kayaking too or paddleboarding that things that you can actually. Don’t have to have the gear for you can just rent them at the beach. 

Josh: Right. Right.

Melisa: And just like have access to these wonderful like you know, tools that and then just go out on the water, just be careful for the sharks because they do exist.Although of course it’s not a big problem, you’ll see people still serve even though there is a warning. But, because they, the lifeguards will warn you if there’s a shark in the water, but still it’s, a great, place to do all of that. So yeah, you should maybe. Maybe you can tag along to Josh once you move here. So, you know, show you a little bit.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Melisa: You can show everybody a little bit, right, Josh.

Josh: Just, just, hit me up. I can take some folks to the beach. Newport Beach preferably to do some surfing.

Melisa: Yeah, because it’s close to. Are there any other, door outdoor activities that you recommend?

Josh: Oh, I’d also recommend hiking because, you know, number one weather is nice and number two, there are a lot of scenic spots and hiking spots here. I know, there are a lot of National Parks (podcast on National Parks) or parks that are open to the public that have very beautiful scenery and nature is stuff to do. I know, for example, Joshua Park is a very popular spot that people go for maybe one night and two days they just camp there and watch the beautiful stars at night and then come back the next day. And then if you’re willing to travel a long this since there are a bunch of national parks, towards the northern part of California like the Yosemite Park, which is pretty popular and pretty famous. So, those are some hiking spots, but even within the vicinity of UCI, there’s some less challenging hiking trails or mountains that you can try try out first to see if you like hiking so I recommend those places first. Yeah.

Melisa: Yeah, and when I first moved here, there was this idea of hiking of going into the woods and hiking. But I think the trails that are closer to us are not like that. Can you? Give everybody a little bit of context as to what hiking looks like around us. Like if they go to Turtle Rock or I don’t know if even if they go to Malibu.

Josh: For sure, for sure. Yeah. So when I say hiking trails, this is not necessarily those super challenging steep trails that you have to almost use like both of your hands to climb up. But this is pretty chill and oftentimes they have like three or four different routes you can take. Depending on the difficulty of, of hiking and how experienced you are. So if you’re a novice hiker for example you can try out the of easier trails that are marked in say like blue in the map. So you have different options to explore. And another thing I wanted to mention was if you’re going to Turtle Rock Trail, for example, it’s more like a less I don’t say it’s like a forest, but there you know small bushes here and there and It’s relatively easy to just walk around unless you’re trying to climb up the climb up to the peak of the mountain or I would, I would probably call it the hill not a mountain but there’s like that spot where you can kind of see the entire Turtle Rock village area if you go to the top of that boulder but other than that place other areas are pretty easy to navigate. So. If you’re not confident about like climbing steep trails and I definitely recommend going to those easy trails around us from UCI.

Melisa: Yeah, and I think it’s great to like try the ones around us to get an idea of what hiking looks like. Because if I went hiking in my home country, there would be no path and you just tried to survive through the woods. But here they like the path that Josh is talking about is actually like a road that people will get to walk on and because it’s a desert, it’s always like. Dirt and sand. It’s not even mud because it’s always dry as well.

Josh: Right.

Melisa: So it’s very easy to walk. You don’t even need hiking shoes, right? For certain trails, you can just like wear your sneakers and go. I’ve even seen people with sandals. 

Josh: Yeah.

Melisa: Definitely something to explore. And I think we have some outing sometimes like as events so you can join one of those as well.

Josh: For sure, for sure

Melisa: And what about like, finding people that kind of have same interests and like going as a group because some of these activities I prefer to do them in groups. So are there any like classes or groups that people can join at UCI. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Josh: Yeah, so if you’re looking for like minded people who can join you with their hobby journey. I think clubs are definitely a good place to look into first. For example, I know there’s a surfing club at UCI. There’s a hiking club at UCI. So if you first come to UCI and register yourself in those clubs, I think there’s like a club or resource fair that happens in the very beginning of each quarter. Actually just a fall quarter, correct me, if I’m wrong (note: the Anteater Involvement Fair is in Fall Quarter but you often see clubs and orgs out on Ring Road giving information at other times of the year, especially the beginning of quarters), but once you go to those fairs, a bunch of different organizations and clubs will be available for you to sign up so that’s a good place to look into. And another thing that I can think of is potentially looking into platforms that facilitate your you know encounters or meetings with other people in the area. So platforms like MeetUp where people can just like meet at a designated day for talking about common interests or doing some hobbies together. So that’s another place you can look into. Lastly, but not least, I’d probably recommend. Also looking into affinity groups. So. Some people feel more comfortable going into like clubs or classes together with people with the same race or same ethnicity, same background things like that so if you’re interested in that you can also look into those affinity groups and invite people who can do stuff with you. So I think those are mainly the three venues i’d look into for finding a community.

Melisa: Yeah, no, that’s great. And it’s great way to make friends as well because you don’t like meet up and just like talk about you know, each other, but you get to talk about the activity that you’re doing or like the interest, the same similar interest that you have. So it’s much easier and a much more laid back environment to make friends as well. So it’s It’s a great opportunity I would say. And also in terms of classes, I think we mentioned this in a previous podcast, but I think it’s a good idea to mention it again. There are classes for credit that you can take that are focused on different activities like dancing or any kind of martial art. And I think there is also art classes that you can sign up for like two credit and you can just go and you know take a class you get to learn and you get to like experience it with other people from UCI, you might have a lot of undergrads in these classes. But it’s still, a great way. We had one, mentor who was all about these classes and would always sign because it helped them incorporate an exercise into their schedule because they had to go through this class. So what kind of tips would you give to people that want to incorporate exercise or outdoor activities into their schedule, how do you do it? How should they manage their time?

Josh: Yeah, that’s a great question. But even if I go into that I just want to add on to what you just said about classes. So on top of those formal classes that you do for credit, there are also these outside of class, I guess like classes that are less formal that are offered outside of a classroom setting. From residential communities, for example. Or from the arc, which is the. Anteater Recreational and sports facility for students. So for example in the ARC there is this program called F45 which you can sign up. I think you just have to pay 40 or $45 per quarter and you can just go. An unlimited number of times and participate in the 45 min session where you’re constantly doing different postures and like workouts. With 1 min interval of resting. That’s why it’s called F45 because it lasts for 45 min. So that’s one popular program that allowed my friends to. If you also receive emails from the housing communities, you will see that they offer free exercise or activity classes such as zumba and meditation and yoga, pilates, these kinds of classes are also offered in community centers. So you should definitely look it to that. Then moving on to, the actual question about how to manage your time well to fit all these things into your schedule. As for me, I tried to set exercise as a priority, so I just do it the first thing in the morning. Because otherwise, you know, different things arise throughout the day. So even when you plan to do exercise in the afternoon, some of their schedule might conflict with it, or you might get tired at the end of the day and when might be disincentivized to work out. So considering those things, I like to just put it as my very first activity of the day, so I usually go to the gym at like 7 or 7 30, get it out of the way. I mean, not that I’m saying I don’t enjoy it, but. I made it seem like I don’t enjoy it but I actually enjoy it but just wanted to make sure I do it consistently. Another benefit to going to the gym, I guess, or doing exercise in the morning is that it’s less crowded anywhere you go. For example, if you’re going to ARC to work out, there’s definitely less people working out at the time so you have less competition for machines and dumbbells and whatnot. So, that’s one way to do it. And then I’d probably say yeah, having a workout buddy or exercise sports buddy. Definitely helps because sometimes you’re feeling lazy and you just don’t want to get out of your bed but if you have a friend whose you know taking you to the gym or to the tennis court for example then it makes it more fun and then there is actually a reason why you should get out of your house because of that friend so. That’s another way to do it, I think. Just finding a community and setting like a recurring schedule with your friend to do something together. So those are two things I can think of for now, but unless you have personal tips for this question.

Melisa: So for me, one way I love going in the morning because yes, obviously it’s my time and I also take my mornings for myself. So I go to the gym and I have my breakfast. That’s my own personal like time. But sometimes I use workout as an excuse to stop working. Because if I have signed up for like a membership for like let’s say F45 the last class is that 6:30. So I have to finish my day, my work. So that helps me actually, you know, pull myself away from work, get stuff done. Sometimes I use it in that way. Just like to make myself stop working because sometimes I have to work a lot, we have deadlines and, that’s one way of incorporating it.

Josh: Right

Melisa: Another way that I’ve seen, some of my colleagues do is, they use it as an excuse to, you know, take a break during the day. To go on a walk or you know do something that’s different so they get some fresh air. So like during midday around 12 or one, right before their lunch break or right after their lunch break, they’ll take a walk. So they incorporated as like their time to take some time for themselves. But you should try different versions of what would work for you and see. Because throughout your time here, you might have very busy times or you might have like classes that conflict with the morning sessions or in the afternoon sessions. So you just have to be flexible, learn to be flexible. And be willing to incorporate exercise and other kinds of outdoor activities into your schedule that fits for you and that can change.f it like when it comes to, you know, hiking and things, I usually try to schedule them either on a Friday or a Saturday because if I need an extra day to rest. I don’t want that to be a Monday. When I have

Josh: Yeah, that makes sense, yeah.

Melisa: A lot of emails..So that’s how I kind of have to, you know, program myself as well. I find hike,hikes, to be a challenging sometimes because it gets so hot and sunny. But that’s my way of doing it. Do you have any other ideas, Josh?

Josh: No, I totally agree with everything you said and, you know, people have the tendency to think, oh, like, I don’t have time to do work out. I don’t have time to outdoor activities but maybe it’s ironic, but actually incorporating exercise into your schedule increases your productivity after you work out. So instead of just sitting down on your desk for, 24/7. Personally, I get more things done when I incorporate exercise in between. Because that, as you said, acts as some, I guess mental break from my work. And then I come back refreshed and then I can focus on my work better and get work things done. So I definitely recommend people to incorporate it into their schedule. And not be scared of losing their time, it’s actually earning time.

Melisa: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And do you think anybody needs any particular gear or items for any of these activities? What would you recommend?

Josh: Yeah, so, depends on which activity you’re talking about. For surfing, as you said, there are a lot of rental shops out there, so actually you don’t need any gear that you own but eventually if you’re thinking of going surfing more frequently. Then I think it’s worth it to buy some personal gear. So one gear you need would be a wetsuit which is that black, thick polyester clothes that you wear, that covers your entire body. Obviously it’s for protecting your body and then especially as do a weather gets colder as we progress towards winter, the water gets super cold as well. So wearing it makes a huge difference. And then some I know some people buy their personal surfing board as well. Because it costs a lot to borrow it every time. And then for tennis, obviously you need a racket. Some people purchase tennis shoes and then tennis outfit, but I don’t have them. I only half racket and some balls. I just wear sneakers and that wear gym clothes to play tennis. So probably the outfit and the shoes portion are not prerequisites for tennis. And then for hiking, I know people wear hiking shoes, but if you’re going for more chill trails as Melisa said, some people even wear sneakers or sandals to go to those trails. So depending on which trail you’re going to. You may not need that much gear. Other than that, it really depends on which activity. You are aiming for and feel free to reach out to me if you’re curious but I think those are some of the examples I can give for now.

Melisa: Yeah and since we live in California in the US. It’s very easy to get access to any kind of item or gear that you might need, for any activity. You can order most of them from Amazon or, you know, online retail stores. REI is a great, store to go and get any kind of, you know, work out or activity gear. And they have sales. So one trick, when you start living here is to make sure that you know the sales and to be able to do that you can sign up to your mailing list. And every year these, companies or these stores usually have like one or two sales. Like scheduled sales and then they also have sales on like special days I don’t know like Memorial Day, for example, they have these sales. I always tried to buy stuff, during those times. And I got my surfboards, from like a sale that was really cheap. So I think it’s a good idea to like look out for them to find cheaper you know prices for certain things. But other than that, I think if you need anything, you can ask people and they might have something to give away. That’s also another trick I had. I know friends that found surfboards from other people because they were moving out and they don’t want to carry their surfboards where they were going. So yeah.

Josh: Yeah. Those are great tips, yeah. Always look into Facebook Marketplace or Facebook groups, where UCI students are involved and oftentimes, especially during moving out season, you’ll see a bunch of items that you might find useful. And you can purchase, usually purchase them at cheaper prices.

Melisa: Yeah, and also if somebody has a gear that they can share like a basketball, you can just, you know, if you see someone playing basketball or volleyball, you can just ask to join and then you get to benefit from their gear, right?

Josh: Yeah, for, sure, for sure.

Melisa: Yeah, but do you have any other like final tips for us, Josh?

Josh: I think we covered a lot of topics so maybe the last thing I would say, kind of, kind of like a takeaway, but. Yeah, just get the most out of it from California. It’s one of those blessed states where you can do a lot of outdoor activities no matter what the season is because it’s usually sunny and the weather is quite nice, As Melissa said. When I was living in Michigan I think one-third or maybe half of the entire year was snowy and frigid, frigid cold. So It was kind of difficult to be able to play something outside but here you got all the weather resources. They can relish, so make the most out of it. That’s probably one thing I would say.

Melisa: No, that’s great, Josh. Definitely, you’re definitely right. So for everybody, if you are interested at any activity and you’re looking for a buddy, you will find many mentors or other mentees in the GIC community that can, you know, join you. So don’t be afraid to ask. Your mentors or when you come here when you meet us just say like hey I want to try this because I know I one previous mentor still owes me, a skydiving class because we agreed that we would go skydiving together. And you know you can find people that can do very interesting things with you. But thank you so much, Josh, for joining us. Again, if you have any other questions, please reach out to us. Josh will be your personal surfing trainer, so don’t worry. Just reach out to us. So you need any support, Josh will be there for you.

Josh: Well, probably you’re not in the right hands if I teach you surfing, but if you really don’t have anyone else, then feel free to come to me. Yes.

Melisa: Okay, oh no, well, you have to, you know, practice a little bit and learn, right? So, thanks a lot, Josh, for, taking the time and yeah, we look forward to going on infectious for taking the time and yeah we look forward to going on adventures altogether.

Josh: Thanks.

Melisa: Thanks everyone. Awesome!

Josh: Thanks for your time Melisa

Melisa: Yeah sure of course!

Transcript of Podcast #28: Improving English Speaking Skills and Improving Your Academic Writing

In Attendance: Melisa Perut (she/they) & Juan Camilo Cristancho (he/him)

Melisa: Hello everyone, welcome to another GIC podcast. I’m your host, Melisa Perut, one of your GIC mentors and we have the wonderful Juan with us today, another mentor. And he’s going to talk about improving English skills and improving your academic writing while you’re here at UCI. So thank you so much Juan for joining us. This is a very important topic. It’s something that everybody practices every day and something that it’s great to improve as it helps with your network, it helps with your, you know, communicating with your colleagues, talking about your research, writing your research. So it’s something quite important for graduate students. So thank you so much for being here and talking about it with us.

Juan Camilo: Thank you.

Melisa: Yeah, of course. So before we begin, can you introduce yourself?

Juan Camilo: Yeah, I just want to say that, yeah, thank you for having me. Is a very relevant topic. And it’s a constant struggle, right? As international students, we are dealing with these issues all the time. It doesn’t get over in the first year or the second. It’s a continuous work of effort to try to improve both in speaking and writing in a different language to the one we were used to, So sorry, to answer to questions your questions my name is Juan Camilo, my pronouns are he/him. I am a third year PhD student in the School of Education. Yeah.

Melisa: Excellent. So Juan who knows all the teaching strategies. So if you need to reach out to Juan and he will help you definitely. And where do you call home? For us. Can you tell us?

Juan Camilo: I am Colombian from origin so that was my home country, however. I had a fortune to move here with my wife so wherever she is that’s what I call home.

Melisa: That’s a beautiful way of putting it Juan, I love that. And are you a returning mentor?

Juan Camilo: Oh yeah, this is my second time serving as a mentor in GIC. Last year I had a great time learning from all people that have been working here before and I’m happy to keep contributing to this wonderful program.

Melisa: Excellent. Thank you so much for coming back. And joining us. It’s great to have you. And before we begin our talk, I always like to ask, what do you like to do in Irvine in your free time.

Juan Camilo: That’s alright. I don’t really have a car so I’m very restricted to what’s available around campus, Fortunately it’s a beautiful campus. So I like going to the ARC. To swim mostly but also to exercise. I like walking around the campus. There’s beautiful parks around and yeah, I guess without a car that’s pretty much it.

Melisa: Well, I mean, do you really need anything else? It’s a very beautiful campus and as long as you can get out there and get, you know, be exposed to nature, I think that’s all you really need.

Juan Camilo: It really is. I mean, there’s also hiking. There’s also biking around. It’s a very amicable city with bike so I also do that.

Melisa: Oh, nice. Just be careful out there everybody because there are coyotes and I’ve been running into them quite often. Especially around the ARC as I was walking home. So just be careful on your walks. How was your experience with coyotes Juan? (note: if you haven’t seen a coyote before, they look like a stray dog walking around Irvine. Just keep your distance and make sure if you have kids or pets with you that they are close by)

Juan Camilo: My wife is terrified of them. We had the, I mean our friend in good faith, when we ask her about risk about security in campus, like thinking about crime. What she said it’s very safe, but there’s coyotes. Coyotes typically won’t attack, an adult. There are risks for dogs, cats, and perhaps for human babies. But for adults, however my wife about this great fear to coyotes she’s terrified. She cannot see them, she will be petrified.

Melisa: Well, they are like, like wolves a little bit, so I understand the fear. I don’t I don’t like them. But so I mean, this is a very big topic that we’re going to talk about, but maybe we could start off with, you know, just talking about some challenges, common challenges and common areas that students struggle with when they come to UCI and start to speak English and start to write. What kind of challenges do they face as international students?

Juan Camilo: I mean, it is culture right? It’s not just a different language and you’re just translating whatever you’re saying.To be immersed in a new culture, people are speaking out of different norm. Conversational words might be different from what we are used to. So it’s many challenges stacked on each other. I was just thinking about how hard it was the first few weeks after I arrived. Just to construct sentences. For me, rather than being on translation process, it was me in my head translating whatever I was planning on saying like what I word by word. Constructing sentences and then speaking them, speaking them out loud, That’s very challenging as you lose this continuity of conversations. Sometimes you don’t have that much time in process to build a sentence so that was a challenge. I mean, just being in a crowd, having more than one person speaking at the same time. As your brain is not used to, to that language as it’s still new, it gets distracting and it’s very hard to follow a single line of conversation when there’s multiple people speaking at the same time. So having conversation in public was also challenging at first. Things do get better though. You start thinking a little bit more in English. The process of building sentences get easier. I don’t know if this happens to you but sometimes when I have to speak and listen and work exclusively in English, I arrived to my home exhausted.

Melisa: Yeah, I know that feeling because, to me, it’s also navigating the tone and what they might mean and trying to understand different accents sometimes. If it’s very strong and if it uses a lot of words that I’m not familiar with. I can find it very hard and challenging and yes exhausting. It’s not as natural sometimes to just speak in your native language and just laughing your native language at the similar jokes too so it’s like constantly you’re working. It’s, it’s not as natural so I find it challenging as well. But my biggest challenge is writing. Writing it doesn’t come as natural to me so and especially since I’m in a social science program I have to do a lot of writing. So it’s some things are more time consuming for me than it might be for others, even writing an email. Learning how to write like a proper email for me, it’s, it doesn’t take like 5 min. It’s a big, you know, mental barrier to like be like, okay. How do I begin this email? How do I write it? So I even these basic tasks seem very difficult, for international students.

Juan Camilo: I couldn’t agree more. And now that you mentioned writing, there’s the fact that us as academics and perhaps, an issue mostly for social sciences, but I would think for all fields. Writing is the way to let people know of our work. So we are writers. I mean, we are researchers, we collect data, we process data, but we also write. So this is a skill that students should try to improve at some point, hopefully earlier in their academic path to, to know how to navigate those difficulties and as we were saying, it’s not just about the language, it’s about how do you frame, issues, your ideas. Do you express how you are feeling like and transmitting it to your audience who might be coming from a different place and perhaps not understanding everything that you are trying to transmit in a for instance.

Melisa: Yeah, and also understanding what they mean in their writing as well. The tone, especially if you’re not familiar, if you haven’t written like back and forth over email or having communicated, in a way like that’s professional. I found it to be very intimidating and scary because everything was so direct. And there was no like, oh, how are you doing? Like, how is everything going? But no, it’s just like, hey, did, did you finish this task? Hey, this is my update. What’s going on your end? I found it even more scary, because I couldn’t understand what the structure of writing and talking and communicating was so that was a skill that I also had to learn.

Juan Camilo: And it’s something that you can like destroy your brains trying to figure it out by yourself. Sometimes it’s useful to ask. Either  international students who have been here for longer than you have or just asking your, the person who wrote you in the first place. Hey, what do you mean? Are you somehow, not feeling well about my job performance, what you’re trying to say or this is the way you write emails. It’s a hard conversation to have, of course, but I guess it’s easier than just trying to build meaning by yourself. Again, coming from a different place.

Melisa: Exactly. So do you think that international students often feel pressure to perform at the same level as native English speakers in terms of, you know, the level of language proficiency and how can they navigate those expectations while you know being confident in their work and being graduate students.

Juan Camilo: I will say it’s a little bit of both. I mean, we are not expected to do less than or peers who have been racing in the US or a country that speaks in English in classes and tasks we are expected to be doing, similarly. However, people are very understanding of you notdominating the language as well as others. People are very patient asking you to repeat yourself. Are very open to questions. So, I will say it’s a little bit of both and it’s a matter of expectations that you can address somehow. If you don’t feel comfortable for your English, you can ask your teacher or faculty or PI, whoever you are talking with if it’s possible to like create more amicable places for you to express yourself. Perhaps if you don’t want to put your positions speaking in a meeting because you are a little bit nervous, perhaps you can agree with the team to send an email afterwards. Putting in your thoughts. And again, perhaps speaking and putting yourself out there is the best advice I can get on that term. Try to come to an agreement with the rest of the group. Perhaps that, yeah, that will give you more freedom to, working with your strengths while you, try to train and become stronger in your weaknesses.

Melisa: Yeah, and the more you practice, the more proficient you’ll be in these skills as well.

And if you’re making mistakes and somebody is correcting you, I think it’s not a moment to feel more vulnerable, but to feel more confident in learning, you know, the areas that you’re making so you can correct them. I think that’s quite important and it’s something that can make really, turn your experience as a graduate student in graduate classes into something that’s not pleasant to something that is quite pleasant. As you said Juan, there are many faculty and graduate students who are very understanding to, you know, students that are struggling with communicating their ideas. So it’s, it’s also a way of us to learn to how to just talk about what we’re thinking about the material, how we are engaging with the material. So it’s something that we have to practice and learn as well. So it’s not just, oh, my English is not that good so I shouldn’t speak but you should speak so that you enhance your English skills, but also enhance your the way that you’re engaging with the material you’re supposed to talk about.

Juan Camilo: I agree. And remember you are entering to a graduate. Sorry. You’re going to a university. So the idea here is you are able to learn and to hone your skills, including how you express yourself. So, don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. If you want feedback ask for feedback, It’s all about practicing and it does