Sophie Coleridge went to University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) for her 3rd year of study during the 2016/17 academic year.

What were some of your first impressions when you started your time studying abroad?

My first impression was how absolutely gorgeous the campus was – like something you see in a film. Soaring burnt-red brick buildings that stand with the grandeur of a church against bright blue skies and lots of green grass. Funnily enough, UCLA is the most frequently used campus for television and films, which have included Legally Blonde, Gilmour Girls and American Pie!

I also loved the energy on campus. It was obvious people really wanted to be there, were proud of their university and keen to make the most of their time there. You couldn’t help feeling energised by it and, perhaps due to the campus set-up, immediately part of a community.

What activities outside of your studies did you get involved in?

One day a week I had an internship (unpaid) in West Hollywood; working for a health and beauty start-up which delivers customised vitamins and supplements each month. There were only 10 of us in the office so I had lots of opportunity to really get involved in the marketing and social media side of the business. As well as liaising with their PR firm in New York. I really enjoyed being involved with something outside of the campus, and learnt a lot from my colleagues.

On campus, I would go to the basketball and football games in their huge stadium, and I loved walking around the UCLA sculpture garden which, amazingly, included works by Henri Matisse and Barbara Hepworth.

What places nearby did you visit during your time there?

I had lots of time to travel. Being based in sprawling Los Angeles there was always something new and interesting to discover! Great art galleries (like the Getty); parks; hiking; beaches; markets.

We would drive to Malibu on weekends to swim in the sea (where I once saw four dolphins!) and Joshua Tree National Park.

During ‘Spring Break’ I went to Mexico and Costa Rica with some American friends and was able to visit other Edinburgh students on their year abroad at Virginia and Washington DC. It was great to see how different the East Coast was.


"I really felt incredibly lucky to have the year that I did and the freedom it allowed me. Go with an open mind and a ‘yes’ attitude."

Sophie Coleridge, History of Art - MA (Hons)

How did your experience of studying abroad change from your first impressions as time went on?

It was a different style of teaching and assessment, which was something I had to get used to. Rather than predominately independently researched large essays, at UCLA I found I had more regular (weekly) assessment of smaller tasks. I actually preferred this because it kept you regularly motivated. We had much more contact with tutors too.

I also really enjoyed the wide range of courses on offer. I took classes in Western and Eastern Islamic Art, for example, which was something I’d not had much exposure to before.

It took a bit of time to navigate around the huge campus, but everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly, and I felt settled very quickly.

Tell us about some of the people you met during your studies

here were six people in particular I know will remain lifelong friends. I definitely plan to return very soon! It was great to meet people from not just California but other parts of America and Canada. I had friends from Texas, North Carolina, San Francisco and Vancouver, to name a few! Hearing about their backgrounds was really eye-opening and a reminder that ‘our way’ isn’t the only way.

What advice would you give someone who wants to study abroad?

Without a doubt: do it! Obviously I missed my friends and family at times, but the funny thing is that when you return you realise nothing at home has changed. Your friends are still your friends. And yet you have had the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds, travel, experience a different teaching system. I really felt incredibly lucky to have the year that I did and the freedom it allowed me. Go with an open mind and a ‘yes’ attitude.


Are you interested in studying History of Art - MA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?