Studying abroad at UC Santa Barbara Donna Lee


Studying abroad at UC Santa Barbara Donna Lee
Studying abroad at UC Santa Barbara
Donna Lee
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
My exchange to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has truly been a
rewarding experience. I wanted to go on exchange because I believed that gaining a
global perspective of the rapidly changing world was essential for undertaking a
degree in Management Studies. I also believed that the social and cultural
enrichment from the exchange would provide me with the best opportunities to
grow and develop as a person, which would be beneficial when I go into the
workforce. Returning from this exchange, I believe that I have developed better
problem solving skills, social skills, independence, the ability to adapt to a given
environment and a new cultural experience.
The UC Santa Barbara academic year follows the quarter system and each quarter
consists of 10 weeks of classes. This means that the speed to which the courses are
taught are relatively fast. Additionally, classes last for 1.25hrs with no breaks given.
One thing that I found to be quite different was that there were no study breaks
before Finals (final exams for the quarter). Students at UCSB call the week before
Finals ‘Deadweek’ and students are still required to attend classes this week. There
are also midterms around week 3-5 and some courses hold their Finals at week 9
while most have their Finals at week 10. Another point to note is that it is much
harder to achieve a higher grade at UCSB than it is at Waikato University and it is at
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
the discretion of the instructor to determine how the grades are distributed in each
When selecting classes for the quarter, there will be three opportunities to apply for
classes, namely Pass 1, Pass 2 and Pass 3. The dates for these will be available to
view on Priority is usually given to students of the
direct major and students who are in their 3rd and 4th years (juniors and seniors).
Therefore, it is common for students to ‘crash classes’, where students showing up
to the first class and obtain an approval code from the Professor, which would then
approve you to take the class. A listing of all the courses offered at UCSB can be
found on Students can also find
the reading materials and PowerPoint presentations that their professors have
uploaded for their classes on Gauchospace, which is a portal similar to Myweb and
Textbooks can be purchased at the UCSB bookstore, which is located at the
University Center (UCEN). However, textbooks are quite expensive in America and
although students are able to go to the library to borrow books, many students rent
their books online. The site that I used to rent my textbooks from is: I found Bookrenter to be really good because they
express ship their textbooks and there is no charge for shipping. Of course there is
also the option for students to purchase the textbooks directly from other students
and students will sometimes post this on UCSB’s ‘Free & For Sale’ page on Facebook.
If students do not wish to study in their apartment/dorm, they have the option of
studying at the Davidson Library, which has eight floors, at the UCEN, or at the
Student Resource Building (SRB). Some students also go to Starbucks to study,
which is an easy 3-minute walk from campus, or they go to the Denny’s, which is a
diner in Goleta and has a specific area allocated for UCSB students to study.
However, going to Denny’s would require car transportation.
Most 3rd and 4th year students live in Isla Vista (typically known as IV), which is a
student-dominated community right beside the campus. There are several housing
options in Isla Vista. Students are able to find accommodation on, or a useful website called
Craigslist (Craigslist is a website that is similar to Trademe). Additionally, there is
again the option of going on the UCSB ‘Housing’ page on Facebook where students
will also post on if they are seeking roommates. If students want a similar
experience to staying at the university dorms, there is also the cheaper option of
staying at Tropicana Del Norte.
During my stay at UCSB, I did not get the opportunity to stay at the university dorms
because it was not offered to exchange students. Instead, I lived at the Santa Ynez
apartments, which is also owned by the university. I found the place to be nice and
clean. The rooms are also quite spacious compared to the apartments offered by
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
private owners and the University dorms. Further, Santa Ynez apartments come
fully furnished, while many of the apartments offered by private owners are not.
Santa Ynez also has a gym facility where residents are able to go for free (although
the University also has gym facilities for students free of charge at the Rec Centre this is further away however). Santa Ynez is a quiet place as it is on the outskirts of
Isla Vista but this also means that it takes a longer time to get to campus. However,
there is a bus stand on the opposite street right outside the complex that takes
students to campus.
Getting around
Most students opt for bikes as their mode of transportation for getting to and from
campus. There are a few bike shops in Isla Vista or students can purchase bikes on
Craigslist sell or the ‘Free & for Sale’ page. Students can also take the MTD bus to get
around Isla Vista and for going to downtown Santa Barbara. Students are also able
to place their bikes on the bike racks at the front of the bus however, these can be
full during peak hours. In terms of taking the bus, UCSB students are able to use the
bus service free of charge. They would just obtain a bus-sticker at the UCEN. UCSB
also offers a service called CSO (Community Service Organisation). The CSO patrols
the campus at night and also provides personal safety escorts for students around
campus or in Isla Vista. Students can sign up to UCSB Alert to receive alerts and
emergency notifications on their phone on
When I was on my exchange, I purchased off-campus meal plans. provides a menu of
what is on offer for the week at each of the dining commons and each of the dining
commons runs on buffet style. One thing to note is that the school does not allow
you to accumulate your meals. This means that you cannot take any remaining
meals that you have for the week and carry it forward to the following week. All bills
from the University are charged to your BARC account and can be paid off at the
Student Affairs and Administration Services Building (SAASB) or online at
Campus life
I found it easy to adjust to the life at UCSB because students at UCSB are very laidback and friendly (they also hold a fascination with the Kiwi accent!). The school
also held an orientation for exchange students the week prior to the start of the
quarter, which helped with the adjustment too. However, I believe what helped the
most was that I also took the opportunity to join several clubs. Therefore, I would
highly recommend students to join any club that interests them as I believe that
joining clubs allowed me to get much more out of my exchange. Students are able to
find information about the clubs at the Office of Student Life (OSL) located at the
SRB or information can also be found on Most clubs recruit at
the beginning of fall and spring quarter. However, most clubs also allow students to
join during anytime of the quarter. While I was on my exchange, I joined CKI (Circle
K International, which is a community service organisation), TASA (Taiwanese
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
American Student Association), VSA (Vietnamese Student Association), KP (Filipino
Student Association) and ISI Santa Barbara (International Students, Inc. which is an
off-campus club).
With CKI – for member installations at the Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara
With members of KP.
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
With TASA members - handing out flyers to UCSB students for a fundraising event
With VSA – skiing trip at Big Bear.
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
In terms of student nightlife, many students also hold their own parties during the
weekends and most parties are held on the street of Del Playa, which is right beside
the beach (therefore as a tip, if you wish to live somewhere quiet, avoid that street!).
Exchange students should be aware that the legal drinking age is 21 years old in
America. Halloween at UCSB is perhaps the biggest event for students as many
students from neighboring colleges also come to attend the event. The University
also offers alcohol-free events for students who are under the legal drinking age or
who do not like drinking, called ‘After-Dark’ event information can be found on Some of the things that I would recommend students doing
 Attending a soccer or basketball tournament
 Hiking to Seven Falls
 Hiking to Inspiration Point
 Attending a concert at Storke Plaza
 Participating in events held during Halloween week
 Going to Goleta beach
 Going to Henley gate
 Having In-N-Out
 Going to the Santa Barbara Seafood Festival
The weather in Santa Barbara is warm, even during winter. Therefore, students can
dress in something lighter than they normally would in the Hamilton winter. I do
not recommended students to buy a lot of things while they are in America because
postage is expensive. I would suggest that if students wish to send things that they
go for USPS rather than UPS as it is cheaper. There is one USPS post office located at
the bottom floor of UCEN.
Overall, I found my exchange at UCSB to be a wonderful experience. The campus is
also situated right in between the beach and the mountains, where students can also
go hiking, and the weather is beautiful. Santa Barbara is also located around the
middle of California, which makes it easier to travel to other major cities in
California. All in all, I believe that students will love their time at UCSB but it all
depends on what they choose to make out of it. Therefore, take this opportunity and
make the most out of your exchange!
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee
Posing with the UCSB school mascot.
UC Santa Barbara exchange - Donna Lee