The ABC's Of Westwood Village

The ABC's Of Westwood Village

Learning about Westwood is as easy as 1! 2! 3!
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I’ve lived in Westwood Village and attended UCLA for a year-and-a-half now. It’s safe to say that there are especially memorable parts of the neighborhood I live in. From UCLA traditions to Westwood's centrality, here are the essential ABCs of Westwood Village that are a huge part of the lives of the people that live here.

1. Apartments

One wouldn't assume that housing plays as important of a part of the UCLA/Westwood Village experience, but really, this is the main reason why I love living here so much. Most students living near campus live in the apartments on the Hill next to campus.

I'm close to the Village and UCLA, seeing as a 10 minute walk gets me to either place!

2. Bruin and Fox Village Theatres

Our historic theatres are what make Westwood Village so different from other college towns. We can watch brand-new movies, right down the street from us. Our student discounts make going to the movies the best weekend activity.

3. Campus events

Seeing as campus is located right alongside the Westwood, those in the Village cannot avoid campus events. Especially when Homecoming Week starts and most businesses in Westwood are covered in BRUIN PRIDE! messages and stickers.

4. Diddy Riese

A tourism staple for the out-of-towners and a late-night necessity for sugar-driven college students, our ice-cream shop makes getting through the quarter that much easier.

Ice-cream sandwich or scoops, Diddy Riese always delivers.

5. Eight a.m.s

Nothing solidifies the reality of college than the stream of students walking out of their apartments and trekking through Westwood at 7:30 a.m. to get to their classes. A phenomenon I haven't experienced until this quarter, there is a strange camaraderie amongst students all sleepy getting in the Westwood shuttles in the early morn.

6. Fowler Museum

The Fowler is one of the most featured attractions of UCLA — and for a good reason. The Fowler Museum is a museum of global arts and cultures from several continents and countries.

A highly recommended exploration!

7. Geffen Playhouse

If we want to ever become cultured beyond the silver screen, the Geffen Playhouse is the site to see. Dramatic productions from top actors, producers, and directors from around Los Angeles are constantly running.

I have yet to visit, but it's definitely a goal of mine before graduating.

8. Hammer Museum

When admission is free and the whole museum is open to the public, there's no reason not to check out this contemporary art museum.

9. Improv Space

UCLA students alongside L.A. locals perform and learn more about improv in this rather hole-in-the-wall space. They also have stand-up events and classes to attend, so check this place out!

10. Just the right location

We're located in the heart of Westwood, but we tend to get everyone hanging out here from Holmby Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and even those far-away peeps from Santa Monica!

Looks like we got it right with location! location! location!

11. Kind and friendly

This may be a more personal experience, but I've always felt welcomed and been helped out either on campus or in the Village.

12. Libraries

We have Powell Library and Charles E. Young Research Library, and really every other library in between. If you want to be educated or just find a quiet space to work, that's covered!

13. Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Take a walk on the wild side! Well, the botanical side, more accurately.

I've found wandering through the Botanical Gardens and finding a place to sit and write incredibly relaxing. There are even docent-led tours every first Saturday of every month at 1 p.m.

14. Neighborhoods

It's not that hard to feel a part of the community. Whether feeling the college town vibes in the apartments or the professional vibes of those who work in Wilshire or our medical buildings, we all have found the perfect way to co-exist.

15. Old meets new

Westwood has been the heart of UCLA since the start of the university — literally. The Village was built for UCLA and we have been residing side-by-side for almost a hundred years (that anniversary is approaching soon!) and the history is prominent.

16. Premieres

Yeah, we get to boast about the fact that real-life Hollywood premieres take place at the Fox Theatres here in Westwood. Besides creating a moderately-debilitating traffic jam all around the Village, the premieres feature the coolest of the cool debuting their films right here!

17. Quintessential snack spots

We got Koala-T and Chipotle and Starbucks and BJ's. We have so much food and yummy treats in our reachable distance. It's a miracle we aren't eating outside every single day (although last quarter I got very close to that).

18. Rocco’s

UCLA's neighborhood haunt and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night party-place! Regardless of whether or not you like going to bars, Rocco's is the place to be simply because they have some of the best fries on the planet!

19. Study spaces

Being a college town, one would assume that we have satisfactory study spaces on campus. But I especially love going to Tender Greens, Espresso Profeta, and Boba Loca.

20. Target and Trader Joe's

If you're ever in need of groceries, you'll probably find yourself on the east side of the Village at the Target-Trader Joe's-Ralph's nexus of food, drinks, and especially toilet paper. Here you can find UCLA students and Westwood residents alike on Sunday nights and Saturday mornings.

21. UCLA

You can't avoid UCLA if you're in Westwood Village. Even though the towering turrets of Kerckhoff Hall, Royce or Powell Library cannot be seen, Ronald Reagan Medical makes for the first sight inside the boundaries of the UCLA signs.

22. Village

Our nickname is "The Village." It's when we want to be cool and fresh.

23. Weekly farmer's market

Then again, what West L.A. city doesn't have a farmer's market? But really, we get the freshest produce and it's a nice way to get out and meet people from our neighborhood.

24. Xtremely late nights

Westwood Village is always on, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You will always find people milling about Westwood, especially after dinner or watching a movie.

25. Yelling at Midnight

At UCLA, we have the tradition of the Midnight Yell all throughout Finals Week. Yes, we literally yell as a student body, from all over Westwood, at midnight.

It's quite a thing to hear, especially when it vibrates throughout the neighborhood.

26. Zealous college students

UCLA college students in Westwood are inevitable. And we are loud. And proud. Especially after a college basketball game or on the weekends. And you know we're always having a good time!

I am privileged and so thankful to live in the neighborhood that I do, and I recognize that every day. From the people, I am able to surround myself with to the amenities I take for granted at times. I highly recommend that if you get the chance, visit Westwood. See what we're always raving about.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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A Gap Year Was Just What I Needed

Taking a year off between high school and college was the best thing I could have done for so many reasons.

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Everyone around me was buzzing with excitement about their acceptances to their dream university and I didn't feel the same. I was accepted to every school I applied to, but none of them felt right. At my high school, if you didn't go to college, you would have been deemed a failure and that is not what I wanted my reputation to be. When the day came, I sat down at a computer to accept my admission to a college. I was in a panic mode, and I knew that's not what I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I had no idea if that was where I wanted to be, so I exited the website and came up with a plan.

After graduation, I boarded a flight to Denver, Colorado. I was alone on a plane going 1,000 miles west to a place I've never been. In a short amount of time, I knew I had made the right decision.

I spent eight months in the Rocky Mountains learning how to do the "adult thing." I worked 40+ hours a week in freezing temperatures and a ton of snow, making ten dollars an hour. In a resort town, ten dollars is not a lot of money. I lived on Wonder bread and eggs, I cooked on my hotplate on the top of my mini fridge. I was shown what it's like to work for the things I want, and it taught me to appreciate everything I've always been handed so easily, and that was something I really needed.

Throughout my adventure, I met so many different people in all different stages of life. I think that's the most important aspect of my entire trip. By working and living with people young and old, I learned different skills, living habits, and ways of life which I am forever grateful for. These people had shown me more about life in eight months than I had learned in my entire life, and without this experience, I would have never been introduced to half of the things I was introduced to.

I hiked 14,000-foot mountains, watched the X-Games in Aspen, attended endless concerts, and became a better snowboarder by having the chance to do it every day. Without my friends and taking this leap, I would have been sitting in a classroom wondering what I could have been doing instead. Because of taking time off, I am now back in class, able to focus on my work and doing better than I ever have before.

The most important part of my gap year was finding myself. I proved to myself that I am strong and independent, and I can achieve any goal I set as long as I work hard and have fun along the way. Before I left, I had no idea what I wanted to do or be. Upon my return home, I realized I needed to go to college to receive a higher education to better myself. Having a full-time job and being out in the real world helped me to narrow down what I really want to be and what I want to achieve for myself. I learned how to truly live and that there is no set path I need to take because this is my own life to create.

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