Attending a college that was smaller than my high school and less than an hour away from home, I didn’t expect myself to be surrounded by experiences vastly different from the ones I already had. However, meeting just a fraction of the 2,100 students, along with experiencing the city of Los Angeles right outside our campus, allowed me to learn so many new thoughts and gain many new experiences from so many new faces.
Los Angeles, as one of the largest cities in the United States and the largest contributor to the student population, was oddly enough not the hometown of anyone I met the first few weeks of college. I was shocked being the only native Angeleno and was concerned that I wouldn’t have anyone to relate to. However, instead, I had the lovely opportunity to hear members of my orientation group tell of the weather of upstate New York and the music culture of Memphis. One of my professors reminisced about his childhood in Staten Island and Manhattan pizza during his introduction, and another shared his experiences of growing up in Canada and his post-doctorate adventures in San Diego. I may have made friends because of shared interests in music and television shows, but several of them weren’t even from the United States, much less California. It was incredible hearing them talk about their summer life in Singapore, going to school in South Korea and biking through the streets of Tokyo the same nonchalant way I discussed driving through the Los Angeles Arts District with its murals every time I visited the library.
Beyond past experiences, I was fascinated with people’s hobbies and class experiences. I enjoyed hearing my hallmates’ excited voices discuss their pledge plans for sororities, even though I wasn't the least bit interested in pledging myself. Seeing my friends and fellow classmates flow through hip hop and contemporary dance routines with ease and cheer after making a winning goal in ultimate or soccer games brought many a smile to my face. Just hearing discussions going on in the campus coffee shop concerning stances on the newest environmental policy or the ethics of the latest international conflict was enough to encourage me to search up the matters myself, hold my own position and bring it up with my friends during meals. Off-campus meals allowed me to have a taste of my friends’ favorite foods, from Mexican street tacos to Korean soft-serve to Chinese-inspired sandwiches, all within a few miles of each other and our school. Falling in love with several new dishes, I now make it a habit to eat these foods as often as I can.
Looking ahead to the future and discussing far-off goals also impressed me about the diversity my school really had to offer. One friend discussed her plan to major in philosophy with the dream of becoming an editor for a Chinese magazine in Korea, whereas a music major in my orchestra focused on her goal of becoming a primary school teacher in southern California. I could hardly believe the disparate interests I heard from person to person and was amazed at how people’s interests didn’t necessarily match up exactly with their dream jobs. The eager summer plans I heard about stretched from staying on campus to run tests in electrochemistry to touring the ruins of Greece to working on humanitarian projects in the Philippines to interning on Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C., and I can hardly wait to hear the outcomes and memories back in the fall.
Wherever you end up, near or far from home, in a school with 2,000 students or 50,000, with this ethnicity and that nationality spread around, there will always be a new experience or story right around the corner. Don’t be afraid to share your own, because you might just expand someone else’s world as well!
Lead Image Credit: Pixabay