UC Davis
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By Jaren Soo Photo by Jaren Soo, pictured on left in the Memorial Union bowling alley

Six weeks came and went by in a flash during my summer at UC Davis. As a requirement for my Masters programme in MIT, I had to take a module on Fluid Mechanics. As I graduated only in June back in Imperial College London, UC Davis was a place that offered the course in the best possible timeframe. Moving from London to Davis was quite a change. Going from the hustle and bustle of city live to a quaint, little farmland (well, at least people in Davis call this place a farmland of cows!) that houses a large university campus, I would say the change was quite drastic. But at the end of the 6 weeks, I took away fond memories of this place together with friends that I met during my time here.

Back in London, I was blessed with a large Singaporean community where I could just talk to a lot of people in my most comfortable language, Singlish, otherwise known as “Singapore English” (some call it a form of bastardised English, but we leave that debate for another time). In London, I also had access to supermarkets and other amenities within walking distance. Everyone drove on the same side of the road, the same electric plug head, the same electric voltage, the same use of metric units, the same English spelling… the list goes on of things that I was used to. Knowing that there wouldn’t be anyone I’d know in Davis made me feel highly apprehensive, but I could only take things one step at a time. Coming to Davis was a leap of faith to explore things on my own outside my comfort zone.

As I eased myself into the environment in Davis, I began to find out differences between the UK/Singapore and the US. Driving on the other side of the road felt odd, having to think for a while (and eventually still not getting it) when people talk in Fahrenheit and inches and feet instead of Celsius and meters. These little differences made me feel a little out of place.

For example, the very first time I ordered a meal with rice from a food truck (yes, the food truck that parks outside the Silo; a must-try for all Davis students!), I was looking for a spoon for my rice. However, it turned out that everyone uses a fork to eat rice here! That took me a while to get used to.

With that said, it didn’t take me long to feel very well-settled into the environment. I was blessed to have met the entire UC Davis International Summer team, especially Kathy and Emily, who had been very helpful in my transition from an urban city campus to a university town. Activities organised by the summer school team also played a big part in making me feel at home by meeting new friends. The bowling session in the first two weeks (seriously, bowling alley in a university?! Where else would you find that?) allowed me to be acquainted with two of my friends, Paul and Yuri (see picture at the top of this post!). It was not long before I started hanging out with Paul on a regular basis, who introduced me to some of his other friends who happen to be doing their graduate programmes in Davis. Paul, Yuri and I even went out to San Francisco on a road trip together (and another picture below)!

Lessons were very different from the way it was in the UK. Apart from the smaller class size because of the summer sessions, the classes placed less emphasis on the traditional closed-book final exams. It was quite a shock to me when I first found out about take-home exams (don’t judge; I know you secretly are). I was pleasantly surprised by how much take-home finals and student presentations helped me meet new people. It was a refreshing change from the UK educational system!

As I embark on my graduate programme in MIT this coming Autumn (it is the end of the second week of class here in Cambridge as I am writing this!), I am truly appreciative of my time back in Davis as it prepares me for 1) life in the US in general and 2) stepping out of my comfort zone, mixing with non-Singaporeans. I can just go on and on about my experience at UC Davis, but I suggest coming and experiencing something here on your own!

image By Mandy Chew

Graduating from UC Davis was bittersweet; I was more than happy to leave behind projects, midterms and finals, but it also meant moving out of Davis, a place I considered home for four years. Being a nostalgic person, I spent my final weeks in Davis recounting my favorite Aggie experiences, leading to this cartoon about the Davis squirrels.

These little critters have given me a mix of emotions throughout my undergraduate years. They have amused me with their “games of tag,” frightened me with their sudden leaps into the road, and surprised me with their silly — but oddly humanlike — behaviors. I mean, who wouldn’t want to drop everything and just lie down on a hot summer’s day?

So the next time you are out walking through the beautiful UC Davis campus, keep an eye out for the Davis squirrels!

Mandy graduated in 2014 with a double major in design and economics.

By Tania Renteria
Photo by Gregory Urquiaga

We all expect the same thing from summer: hanging out with friends, enjoying the beach and watching beautiful sunsets without a worry in mind. But at some point, reality hits and you realize that sometimes there are some other important things you have to take care of. We all know the stresses that school can bring, so taking away some of that stress of the regular school year can be a great way to get a higher GPA, get to know professors, or even take a class you are really interested in but have no time to do during the regular school year.

Of course, the thought of summer school is sometimes not as appealing as other summer activities. However, think about the advantages of taking fewer units during the spring quarter or the opportunity to take the classes you’ve always wanted to, but perhaps never felt like you had the time, to take.

Why spend the summer taking classes you may ask? Well, for me, the answer is easy: taking classes during the summer can help me get ahead and catch up. If I want to get a pesky course out of the way, I can do it over the summer. Taking a full 16-unit quarter with upper division classes does not sound one bit fun during the academic year, but taking these classes in a smaller environment over the summer gives me more confidence to ask questions in class or go into office hours. I am not the person who is open to asking for help all the time, which isn’t the best thing, but having less people around makes it so much easier to get help anywhere its offered.

With taking just two summer sessions, one session each year, I have now been able to catch up on all of my major requirements and can even have the opportunity to graduate a quarter early. Although all the perks of summer session are great, it’s important to keep in mind that they all come with hard work. You definitely have to keep up to date with your reading and assignments because in a short six-week period, there is no room for falling behind.

Taking NPB 101 and CHE8A this summer really showed me that summer sessions is a lot of work, but the great thing is that it’s over quickly and you can get courses out of the way. The six weeks of hard work pay off with another six weeks of fun, and another year of less stress and more room for living it up in Davis!

By Eileen Ly

You’ve been tapping your pencil against the desk for the past minute, trying to rack your tired mind for an answer. You know you’ve seen the answer before; it was right there on your desk last night as you were studying for that other final you have right after this one.

Bio..bio..bio-something. You jot down an answer you think is right. But you know it’s not going to come to you anytime soon…it wasn’t something you thought was going to be on the final…at three in the morning…

Final…final… For the umpteenth time, you curse your past genius self for thinking you could have pulled off three back-to-back finals. What could go wrong, you thought?

Hopefully, you will never find yourself in this position. But if you do, like I did my spring quarter of freshman year, I feel for you. I feel for you really hard.

So, what do you do if you can avoid this type of finals situation?


Image source

Just kidding. Who has time to cry when you’ve got three finals to study for? It’ll only dehydrate you.

You just have to sit up, grind your teeth, get that computer out, pull out those PowerPoints, get your notes, whip that pen or pencil out, and tough it out like the awesome student that you are.

It always helps to break this process into steps, of course, so here is a guide for surviving three final exams in a row.

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By Laurel Carney

My advisor told me that, once, while observing a walking tour for incoming UC Davis students, she overheard the tour guide claim that yes, UC Davis is a great school for research, provided that you’re a student of the sciences. “I don’t think they do any research in the humanities,” the guide said, much to my (English) professor’s horror. When many of us hear the word “research,” we think about lab coats, fluorescent lights, and sad mice with three ears. So, then, what does undergraduate research in the humanities look like? And how does one get started?

Well, for me, it took on many forms! But first, it began with a question—when checking out the Wikipedia page of Anne Bonny, a famous female pirate, I came across a term I’d never heard before: “pleading the belly.”

I did a little digging, and what I found fascinated me. It turns out that “pleading the belly” refers to a clause in early modern execution law that stated that a woman convicted of a capital offense could receive a temporary stay of execution if she could convince the court that she was pregnant. I was particularly interested in the role that story-telling played in such a practice, given that the court reached its decisions based on their “readings” of these women’s bodies, as well as the oral testimony and literature surrounding the case.

As an English major with a double emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature, Criticism & Theory, I designed a hybrid project that would allow me to use historical and literary research to inform a collection of short stories, exploring the role that fiction played in reading women’s bodies, as well as in the “facts” of their crimes, deaths, and pregnancies.

Although these are not exactly research questions that require a lab coat, I still wound up engaging in a lot of experimentation to reach some answers. Under the patient guidance of my faculty advisor, I spent a lot of time in libraries, both here at UC Davis and, after applying for and receiving funding to travel to London, the manuscript archives at the British Library! There I was able to find the handwritten, nearly 400 year old notes of the physician who attended one of the women I was researching.

Of course, my research was to inform a series of short stories, so I was sure to step out of the library and take in as much of the physical environment as possible. I took advantage of in-depth walking tours and neighborhood historians. I was even able to visit a (previously) unmarked mass grave for early modern female criminals and their children, and speak with locals who had been passing down stories about these women for generations. In an attempt to honor those who had been cast aside so ruthlessly centuries before, vigils are held once a month at the Cross Bones Graveyard. Participants sing songs, read poems, and tell stories about themselves as well as the “outcast dead.” Talk about bringing the past to life!

Since my research was related to detecting signs of pregnancy in early modern women, I was curious about the state of medicine (particularly obstetric and gynecological) in the 16th and 17th centuries. So I was sure to pay a visit to archives at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret, where a number of medicinal herbs, surgical tools, and documents are preserved. There, hundreds of years ago, physicians could watch as men and women endured operations and amputations without the aid of anesthesia or disinfectant.

I also visited the site of Tyburn Tree, the very spot where many of the women I had been researching had been executed—the name refers not to an actual tree, but a gallows from which the condemned were hanged to death.

Of course, some of your research can be gastronomical, and you can’t go all the way to London without visiting the world’s greatest consulting detective:

The people who tell you the food in England is bad just want all of the halloumi and beer for themselves.

So that’s what research in the humanities looked like to me! But what about you?

The truth is, there are a number of programs and resources available to UC Davis undergraduate students that are interested in conducting a research project of their very own, be it in the humanities OR the sciences! Is there a professor you’ve always wanted to work with? The MURALS program (Mentorship for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters and Science) will pair qualifying students with a faculty mentor that will help guide them through the process of formulating and conducting a research project of the student’s own design. I was really nervous to ask my chosen professor to work with me on this project, but I’m really happy I did! Try to find someone whose class(es) you loved, whose interests match yours, or whose own research you admire!

Does your research require you to have access to rare materials, tools, or specialized equipment, or perhaps to travel to a specific museum, library, lab or historical site? The Provost’s Undergraduate Fellowship funds the independent research of many students each year, with awards of up to $1,800! And once you’ve finished your project, you can present it at the Undergraduate Research Conference, and publish your findings in Explorations: The UC Davis Undergraduate Journal!

All in all, having the opportunity to ask my own questions and (quite literally) travel the world in search of answers was the absolute highlight of my life as an undergraduate. Maybe my whole life. I got to work with professors that I greatly admired, handle centuries-old documents, take on both academic and creative writing, eat lunch in a crypt, take a nap in a castle, and even try to sneak into Hogwarts. If you’ve got an idea for a research question, or even just the desire to ask one, seek out the assistance of a favorite professor or the people at the Undergraduate Research Center. My experience is proof that no project is too strange, and no question too trivial, provided that you’ve got the passion and drive to back it up! What have you got to lose? Good luck, and happy hunting!

For more on Laurel, see A Day in the Life: An Undergraduate Researcher in the Humanities

Want to get involved in undergraduate research but don’t know how? Check out the UC Davis Undergraduate Research Center!

By Tania Renteria

To me, Davis is a hidden treasure. You may think you know everything that Davis has to offer; one day you can get the calm and comfort of a college town, but the next day, you find a city of adventures waiting for you. If you have attended UC Davis even for just one year, you know how amazing this place is and the many hidden secrets this town has to offer. Even though the summer months may seem quieter, the rising temperatures can still offer a lot of fun experiences and adventures around Davis.

On Campus:

A local and fun activity is hitting up the Recreation Pool, and cooling off after a long Davis summer day. The Recreation pool is free to students who are attending Summer Sessions. A day pass, which gives you access to the pool all day, is also available for just $2 (for continuing students) even if you are not enrolled in any summer classes. The Recreation Pool for me is part of the staycation at UC Davis over the summer. I can always go to class and end my day cooling off by the pool that is right across from campus. Not only does it give me a break from pressure of school or work, but it gives me an opportunity to socialize and even meet new people who are here over the Summer.

15-Minute Bike Ride:

A more nature-filled activity to cool off during the summer is visiting Putah Creek. Putah Creek actually runs through campus but what many students don’t know is that it runs all the way past the neighboring town of Winters and into Lake Berryessa (which we will talk about soon). Putah Creek offers many recreational activities, such as: fishing, swimming, and kayaking. Although the lake does not provide the equipment, people are allowed to bring their own and enjoy themselves!

20-minute Car Ride:

Lake Berryessa is definitely my favorite place to visit over the summer. Going early in the morning while the sun is still coming out is the most beautiful thing you can ever experience. The hike in and of itself is a work out, but when you reach the top, you can get the most amazing view of the lake.

There are also great places where you can go swimming in Lake Berryessa, and if you are also more on the adventurous type, there are some awesome rocks you can jump off of to take a dip in the lake! Lake Berryessa is a great get-away without the cost of a much deserved fun time. Every time I leave, I always want to return as soon as possible because I know how close this nature paradise is to Davis.

New! On Campus:

For the first time, Summer Sessions at UC Davis is holding fun summer events - like movie nights, bowling, and ice cream socials - that go on during both sessions. They’re all free for students, making it easy to come and enjoy the company of old and new friends on campus. These events for me create a way to make new friends over the summer and enjoy the great things that campus has to offer me over the summer. As I help run some of the events, I can’t help but get really happy when I see new friendships forming and people return to events with their new friends.

Don’t be turned off by taking some classes over the summer; you don’t have to be stuck studying all the time. Staying in Davis over the summer can also be a time to discover new places and ways to study. I’ve never been so open to finding new ways to study and enjoy our college town. Summer in Davis is the perfect place to try new things, so dive in, check out some of the links below for more information about these fun activities, and plan the adventure you’ve been waiting to have all summer. I know you’ll enjoy it!

More information:
REC Pool http://cru.ucdavis.edu/content.cfm?contentID=47
Putah Creek http://daviswiki.org/putah_creek
Lake Berryessa http://daviswiki.org/Lake_Berryessa
Summer Sessions Events http://summer-sessions.ucdavis.edu/summer-events/index.html

By Aubrey Harper

It’s midnight… The day before you assume your position as a Freshman at UC Davis… What are you doing? Packing, obviously. I have a theory that if you are done with packing more than 3 hours prior to your departure, you aren’t allowing yourself enough of the last-minute panic inspiration that packing truly requires.

As you are sorting through your giant mound of things to begin your life as an Aggie, here are some items you should definitely take out of that stack.

  1. Printer. Unnecessary space/outlet stealer. I’m an English major, and never used CLOSE to the allotted 250 prints per quarter. First of all, (most of the time) professors let you turn hard copies in double-sided. There’s a good chance that the majority of your written work will be submitted soft copy, anyway. Those of you who will need PDFs in class can easily print out them out without worrying about running low on prints, as I did this and never got below 100 pages all three quarters.

  2. Excessive knick knacks. Chances are, you will have at least one roommate. Chances are, they will have friends. Chances are, you will have friends. With all of these people in the room (not to mention the inevitable mess of textbooks and laundry) your room will probably look like this sea of minions. Don’t risk things breaking or falling into a crevice you will never find it again.


  1. Doubles of things. This means coordinate with your roommate. There is a lot of stuff that can easily be shared. My roomie and I shared a full length mirror, and the girls next door ended up sharing it, too. Stuff like mirrors or even air freshener, blow dryer (c’mon boys, I know some of you use those), microwave, fridge, etc. either aren’t used enough for multiples to be purchased or just take up too much room. Plan ahead by asking your roommate what he/she is willing to share and setting some basic guidelines about how the shared belongings need to be treated.

  2. Things you don’t already normally use. It’s great that you have been wanting to start sewing your own clothes, but maybe leave the bulky sewing machine at home. There’s plenty of time for trying new things in college, but don’t sacrifice space for a potential new hobby.

  3. The classic “Back to School” complete office set. While you definitely want to have the basics on hand, college requires different materials than high school. I found this out the hard way. I brought a 3 hole punch, stapler, paper clips (varying sizes, of course), and multiple post it packs. Maybe I’m not the avid office supplies user that you are, but all of that really wasn’t necessary. Your computer is likely to replace most of the notebooks (except for things like math and the like). Bring only the essentials (paper, a couple pens/pencils, eraser, MAYBE a highlighter) until you find that one class really requires post its or paper clips, which are all sold at the UC Davis Bookstore.


I hope that you have a great move-in process (and that it isn’t raining while you carry your life in boxes inside a crowded dorm building like it was for me). There will probably be things you brought that you don’t use, and vice versa. Check out this handy list of 10 things you SHOULD bring, and get ready to have an amazing first year.

By Jimmy Recinos

Photo by Gregory Urquiaga of Andy Jones’s Freshman Seminar on Exploring Davis

“Was there some sort of mistake?”

“Did they get my SIR?”

“What if they forgot about me?!”

“WHY ME?!”

For a moment, I can recall my own eagerness during the summer before my new school year as an incoming junior to UC Davis. I was a rabid and nerve-wracked mess! In waiting to hear from the school about what was next, I could only talk to myself as I stared and blinked at my new but still relatively quiet UC Davis email account.

Of course, everything was just fine, and I made it through a tough summer to register for classes the same way everyone does. You’ll do it too.

Of all things, you’re probably most eager to figure out what kinds of classes you’re going to take. You may even wonder, “What kind of classes are available to incoming freshmen and transfer students?”


It really depends on your major, but there are still some general customs that apply. In my own experience, there’s one kind of class structure that I would recommend to anyone from any major! It’s called the seminar. By its official definition from UC Davis’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, the seminar course is described as “[a]n exciting program of innovative seminars that reflect instructor’s intellectual interests. These once-in-a-lifetime courses promote intellectual exchange, critical thinking and community.” By my own definition, I’d posit that it’s the best kind of class you can take at the UC, EVER!

Now, to be sure, there are two kinds of seminars: The freshman seminar, and the upper-division seminar. The first, as you might imagine, is set at a pace with respect to the inevitable culture shock that our awesome institution will create for INCOMING students. The latter, on the other hand, is for students who are ready to take their grasp of the discipline to the next level. As an INCOMING junior, I took the upper division seminar, and almost immediately, I FELL IN LOVE.


1. ENGAGEMENT: Let’s be honest here, with general courses open to everyone, it’s only natural for some of us to feel disconnected from our professors when we’re just one in a crowd of a gazillion other students. This is where the seminar differs, in that they place both students and their professor face to face, and mano y mano.

For my own upper-division seminar, I took a course called Intersectionality in Shakespeare, and at the most, there were only 10 other students in class aside from me. This made for highly stimulating discussions, a fair turn for each student to share their thoughts, and the notion that during the course, we weren’t just going to class to take something away, but we were also there to build something.

A case in point: During this class, we created a “commonplace book,” in which we collected and organized different quotes from our assigned readings to make a cool reference guide for different themes such as humor, irony, power and more! This got everyone to participate, and it was great to know that my classmates and I were quite literally developing something by coming to class, something of our own doing, and which we all shared in.

2. RECIPROCITY: Throughout all my time in college, I can’t count how many instances I felt like there were never enough moments of digression, where rather than a professor going on with the general theme of the day’s lesson, it’d be more fun to hear their thoughts on this other thing. By contrast, with seminars, while there’s still a general set of ideas to think about during discussion, there’s far more room to let exchanges between a class flow, like in a real conversation! This is because most of the time, rather than ignoring one another’s comments, students speak to one another and reciprocate the courtesy of attentiveness and engagement.

3. COMMUNITY: Considering the above, just think again about the results of meeting with a small group of people for 10 straight weeks to simply have a conversation for a while. In the midst of it all, it’s more than likely that you’ll be sharing laughter with this group, connecting on a flurry of light-bulb moments, and that you’ll arrive to class expecting to see “the ole gang” in a familiar, and friendly way.

This is a natural outcome of the seminar course. After all, through seeing each and every one of your fellow classmates, learning their different names, and distinguishing their voices, thoughts, and the other tendencies that make them unique, you’ll come to really know them in a comfortable, and even fraternal way. Make no mistake about it, this can go the distance for the rest of your undergraduate career, in other classes, at get-togethers, and in the myriad of other tiny moments that make up the memorable undergrad experience.

With this in mind, the INCOMING class of 2014 should know exactly why they should look forward to a seminar course! BECAUSE SEMINARS RULE!!!

- Jimbo </:-D

In response to Eileen Ly’s post, “Help! What am I Majoring In?” we received this submission from the UC Davis library. Great advice!

The University Library is a great tool in the decision making process for picking a major. A visit to the University Library and a talk with one of our many subject specialists Librarians can help one explore the kind of work people do in any academic field. The library has great introductory texts, the key journals in each field of study, and academic society publications. By seeing what is expected from different professions and careers, students are better positioned to make an informed choice about their futures.

David Michalski, Social and Cultural Studies Librarian

By Aubrey Harper


College is the ultimate time to meet new people, get out there, and fall into the sticky, tricky territory of new relationships. Of the many varieties of college relationships (I use the term loosely here), you will see the casual daters, the couple who fall in love at first sight and will inevitably get married, the guy/girl who is friendzoned and can’t figure out why, and then… the dreaded LONG DISTANCE relationship. You know what I mean. That roommate who came to college claiming their high school love is “the one,” but conveniently finds another “one” by Thanksgiving.

Whoops. Did I get too cynical?

Don’t get me wrong here. I love love, and all that mushy, butterfly-in-your-stomach, should-I-wait-for-him-to-call-or-just-call-him stuff. But you have to agree that one thing that ALL relationships are is hard. And yes, most relationships do not end in happily ever after-at least not together. Yet, we all keep trying. Hey, it only takes one to stick for it to be all worth it, right?


One of the biggest relationship decisions I have had to make is whether or not to maintain a long distance relationship with my high school boyfriend once we both graduated. We were both going to different schools, but our 3 year relationship seemed too important to just set aside. This is not an uncommon predicament for college freshmen. Maybe you’re trying to decide the same thing. I can’t tell you what’s best for you, but I can tell you how my decision went.

I hate to reduce such an important decision in my life down to a pro-con list, but that’s essentially what it became when my boyfriend and I were trying to figure things out. Interestingly enough, the deciding factors were those that could fit in both pro and con, depending on how I looked at them. For example, did I see our consistent relationship as stability I needed or as an unwanted stagnation in my life? Would having a boyfriend far away make it harder to focus on meeting new people and my studies or easier because he wouldn’t be there to distract me?

In the end, we decided to brave the dreaded “LDR”, despite the awful statistics and somewhat rocky summer we had just barely survived. We made it all the way to finals of Spring quarter that year before we realized our relationship wasn’t working for us anymore. As with any relationship, there were ups and downs, but it was a great learning experience (cliche, but true) and I think we both came out of it as stronger individuals and knowing ourselves a little better.

When we were first facing the decision of a long distance relationship, it took a lot of talking and a lot of advice. Here are some things I learned that will hopefully help you:

  • Finally seeing each other is kind of on par with going to Disneyland/the beach/the mountains/wherever your happy place is. All at once. Ok, maybe this seems obvious, but the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” really holds. Yeah, the separation might suck (it will) in the meantime, but there’s nothing like your monthly date to keep you motivated through your studies.

  • Everything a regular relationship takes, a long distance relationship requires tenfold. Commitment, communication, trust. If your relationship is weak in any of these areas now, this tends to blow up in your face. The distance will test you: either it will make your relationship stronger or show the hidden problems.

  • Small issues that don’t seem like problems become big problems in long distance. This kind of goes back to the last point. If one of you doesn’t like to Skype as much as the other, that isn’t much of a problem when you go to the same high school and live close to each other. But when you stop seeing each other daily, these problems become magnified. Just remember to openly communicate, preferably before you leave for college, when communication takes a lot more effort.

  • Once you start thinking about breaking up, that feeling doesn’t go away. Yes, it’s a little depressing, but if you already have some recurring thoughts that things aren’t how you want them, it’s probably because things aren’t how you want them. So listen to that voice inside your head before you commit to long distance because it knows you way better than I do.

The biggest thing I can say is that you probably already know what you want. If one or both of you are you are already hesitant or overly cynical, maybe it’s time to part ways before things get too messy. But, if you are both confident and committed to a healthy relationship, then you can make it work. Just try not to be too cute and rub it in the rest of our faces.