5 Reasons Why I Loved UCLA
I graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a B.S. in Computer Science. Since then, I’ve thought back about my college experience a lot so I decided to write down my thoughts. This article is intended for me to reflect and for anyone interested in my experiences. Please note that the following thoughts are based on my own experiences and may not be representative of that of other UCLA students.
The University of California, Los Angeles. My alma mater. To be completely honest, I never imagined myself at UCLA during high school since I had my sights set on other schools then. But fortunately, rejections from my “dream schools” and other circumstances pushed me toward UCLA so I became a Bruin. Little did I know, going to UCLA was one of the best decisions of my life and here’s why I loved it so much.
Classes that were painful in the moment, but surprisingly fun in retrospect.
As expected, UCLA is an academically rigorous school. Even though I learned a lot, I’ve never studied so hard, gotten such low grades, and stressed out so much before. Simply put, it was painful at times. But surprisingly, some of those painful moments ended up being some of the most fun and memorable moments of college. I surprisingly miss the long nights of my friends and I grinding away at projects, struggling with each other to understand difficult concepts, and preparing for final exams and presentations. Going through these experiences with my friends brought us all closer together and gave us stories to laugh back on.
One memory that especially comes to mind was a project for our capstone course, CS 130: Software Engineering. CS 130 is one of the last classes we take in our major in which we apply everything we’ve learned toward our quarter-long project. For our project, my friends and I chose to build a voice-enabled music player from scratch. After 10 weeks of defining requirements, implementing the project, and sharing progress updates with our TA, we presented our work to the whole class and professor. When it was our turn to demo our music player, my friend kicked it off by saying “Aurora, play Adele.” And as Adele’s “Someone Like You” started playing, I looked across the lecture hall’s stage to see my friends smiling at the work we’d done. Even though we had prepared for the demo and knew it was going to work, I couldn’t help but feel myself getting teary-eyed. While on that stage, I really felt like I had reached the culmination of all my hard work and struggles during college. It was the one and only time a class made me emotional.
Career opportunities everywhere.
Since UCLA is one of the top universities in the country, there’s no shortage of companies looking to hire UCLA students/alumni and exciting opportunities worth pursuing. Students that are interested in learning more about particular industries or companies can speak with recruiters and current employees at various networking/information sessions happening on campus at any given time. And as a bonus, there’s usually free food ranging anywhere from pizza to In-N-Out to a full taco bar at these events! And being in a global city like LA, there are opportunities just down the street (or freeway) that students can take advantage of all year round. Whether it’s joining a prestigious company or founding a startup, UCLA has resources to support students with whatever they want to pursue.
One caveat I do, however, want to highlight is that finding internships as an underclassman can be difficult, but I promise there’s hope! One night during my first year at UCLA, my friend and I stayed up late in my dorm room LinkedIn stalking accomplished upperclassmen and dreaming about working at top tech companies. Those aspirations seemed so far away back then. But as time went by and I gained more experience, I fortunately got the opportunity to work at amazing places like a venture capital-backed startup, Facebook, Instagram, and Redfin. In the end, that friend and I both ended up becoming the accomplished upperclassmen we had dreamt about. From my own experience and those of my friends, through hard work and perseverance, everything somehow works out and everyone eventually finds the career opportunities they’re looking for.
Student organizations (a.k.a. clubs) define life outside the classroom. They’re just as important as classes are to your college education, if not even more so. They’re where you meet new people, make new friends, and spend time away from coursework. You might not remember every detail you learn in class, but you’ll remember the experiences from clubs and how they made you feel. And since there are hundreds of clubs covering a large range of interests, there’s a student organization for everyone.
During my time at UCLA, I was fortunate enough to join some amazing student organizations. As a CS major, I naturally gravitated toward ACM at UCLA (the largest CS club on campus) and ultimately became its external vice president. Through ACM, I met like-minded people who wanted to strengthen the UCLA CS community and improve access to CS education. And with the new friends I made through ACM, we ended up starting a new organization called exploretech.la to inspire high school students in LA to explore opportunities in CS and tech, which was its own entire adventure you can read about here.
Outside of my CS clubs, I was casually involved in other organizations like Bruin Club Tennis and Foundations Choreography. All of these clubs opened me up to a ton of new experiences where I was able meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and find a solid work-life balance. As I went through college, I actually ended up valuing these student organizations as even more important than some of my classes.
I know this is very cliche, but the people I met and the friends I made are the main reason why I loved my time at UCLA so much. The student life and culture at UCLA is honestly amazing. Bruins are some of the most friendly, supportive, proactive, and well-rounded people I’ve ever met. There’s definitely “work hard, play hard” culture among students. We can spend a whole night out but then immediately get down to business to take an exam the next day. UCLA can also be very competitive at times, but I’ve never felt any sort of cutthroat culture you might hear about at other schools. If anything, people will go out of their way to help others succeed. After all, we’re all in this together.
In addition, since UCLA has a student population of more than 30,000 people, there are so many opportunities to meet and learn from people from a diverse range of backgrounds. UCLA is truly a reflection of the larger world. Every interaction students have with others has the potential to provide them with a new perspective about the world. As a result, UCLA students often grow into young global citizens.
Because of UCLA’s massive size, students are forced to become independent and self-sufficient individuals. There’s very little to no hand-holding at this school, but that doesn’t mean there’s no support for students. There are several resources on campus, such as academic counseling and student organizations solely focused on mentorship, to help students set goals and make informed decisions. Students, however, need to be proactive about seeking out those resources and achieving their own goals. Because of the level of autonomy this school demands, Bruins end up being well-equipped to take on the real world after graduation.
Having Los Angeles right outside my doorstep was the best backdrop for my college experience. LA is one of the most interesting, diverse, and possibly even magical cities I’ve ever been to. There’s so much to do, eat, and explore in LA that four years simply isn’t enough to fully experience everything. On any given day, I could go on food adventures in places like Koreatown and West LA, see a concert or comedy show, walk/scooter the streets of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, and maybe even run into celebrities at places like Hollywood movie premieres and restaurants. (Sorry for staring while you were eating sushi, Conan O’Brien!) Even after moving away, I’m still learning about things to do in LA. And unlike some other college towns, I’ll definitely be back to visit Los Angeles.
Before moving to LA, I came across the following short film/music video which set my initial expectations for LA as this extraordinary place where you can make your dreams come true. And thankfully, LA did live up to it for me. My time at UCLA allowed me to live a sliver of the LA life that so many people fantasize about.
There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave it at this: UCLA is a special place that brings together an incredible group of people to grow academically, professionally, and personally. Through our shared experiences, my fellow Bruins and I all formed lasting friendships and memories together. And even though several of us have continued down separate paths after graduation, I know we can easily reconnect months or even years later because of the time we spent in the hills of Westwood. After an amazing four years, UCLA truly became the dream school I had always wanted.
As mentioned earlier, I met some of the most amazing people I have the pleasure of calling my friends at UCLA and can’t thank them enough for being a part of my college experience. However, I want to especially acknowledge two people who have been there for me more than anyone else both inside and outside the classroom: Helen Lee and Nikhil Kansal. I can’t describe how incredibly grateful I am for everything both of you have done for me. You both were there for me through all the highs and lows and always supported me no matter what. I honestly couldn’t have gotten through UCLA, let alone a major in computer science, without both of you. Thank you for being the best friends I could have asked for in college. We made it through UCLA together and I can’t wait to see where the next chapters of our lives will take us. 🚀