Growing up in Massachusetts, studying in Michigan, and working in California, I frequently have made the joke that I need to do grad school in Texas to complete the cycle. Each place that I have lived in has been markedly unique. In Massachusetts, I am from a small coastal suburb of Boston that has a small-town ‘vibe’ that I love, but is also a quieter and non-diverse place. Ann Arbor is a halfway point in terms of urbanity; my first experience living in an apartment compounded with my university life made for a unique hipster-cultural twist on “city living.”
But in Koreatown Los Angeles, I have unsurprisingly found the most drastic change in my living environment. I took over my brother’s apartment when he moved to North Hollywood at the beginning of the summer, and soon after his roommate moved out, leaving me the place to myself. It gets the job done, I have a spacious room, a functional kitchen, and most importantly AC. But it is very hard to keep clean, and I feel like I am having my first genuine homeowner experience considering my first “first apartment” was living with almost my entire PC in Zaragon. But I am sure that other interns around the country have felt this “settling into adulting.” It is cool to put a new place together with relics rom your past to bring a sense of familiarity and true “homeness” within a new physical and cultural space.
LA is already a uniquely spread-thin city with an even stronger negative road reputation than Boston. Living here, especially in a foreign neighborhood just south of Downtown, has surely been a learning experience. My previous experiences with “towns” based on a specific Asian identity had only been in NYC and London where as a tourist I only saw the “market” aspect. Yet living here, I see that LA’s Koreatown is simply a regular south-of-downtown suburb just with mostly Korean and Hispanic families. This may seem like a relatively unimportant distinction to some, but it really stood out to me as it contradicted a pretty solid impression of mine. This is one of the biggest ways that my perception of other peoples’ culture has evolved during this summer, not because I have been immersed in some foreign culture but because I have a clearer idea of how the “meshing” exists between my own upbringing and these places that i have always known existed but mostly through a media lens.
I would not say there are any misconceptions about where I am living, in fact everything has proven to be relatively true. The roads are strange but manageable, the layout has reshaped my idea of “close by” to be twenty minutes away, and the Korean BBQ and Mexican food is incredible. I also am extremely fortunate (fellow LA residents rub in how unattainable this situation will be in the future) because my three jobs, gym, and speaker series are all concentrated within ten minutes of each other on Sunset BLVD, which is only twenty-three minutes including traffic from my apartment.
For my first few weeks I struggled with acclimating to work and a new social scene. I knew that I would have my most professional and realistic “work week” and am happy that I adapted quickly. Socially, having a job like this in this unique city proved more difficult and I felt frequently alone. The summer has a way of amplifying this sort of thing when friends at home are posting about that classic summer reuniting which I have forgone for my work. But halfway through my internship, I have had my best weak in terms of acclimation As someone who never wants to wish the time away and fears having regrets, I am glad to now be counting down the days I have left, versus the days I have to go.