Having been in Irvine, CA for a couple months, I’ve had enough time to really immerse myself in what the city has to offer. There are so many avenues for entertainment — from a plethora of movie theaters to neighborhood potlucks, a visitor is surely unable to leave Irvine feeling bored. However, while the shopping centers and unique restaurants maintain some semblance of life in Ann Arbor, there are so many nuances to the people and places here that individualize Irvine.
Firstly, the diversity of races, religions, and ethnicities here is massive. People from all walks of life have settled down in this bustling city, and they have brought their customs and cultures with them. Coming from a small town in northern Michigan, I was only exposed to a mostly Caucasian population during my childhood. And while life in Ann Arbor has definitely offered more than my hometown, I haven’t really lived in a community with as much diversity as that of Irvine. I’ve met some really awesome people here, and my appreciation for different walks of life has expanded so much more by simply exposing myself them.
Secondly, I’ve learned that there is a huge monetary stereotype about southern California. It’s made out to be a place where everyone is swimming in money, going on their yachts, living in expensive houses, and driving fancy cars. And yes, there are definitely many people that live that life. Most of the cars I see on the highway are luxury brand, and it’s hard to find a nice house in Irvine under $1 million. I can see why many people think of this city as home for only the wealthy. However, there are people living in Irvine that are struggling financially, and I think it’s important to bring awareness to this monetary discrepancy. You don’t have to be a multi millionaire to own a house in Irvine, and in fact, there are a lot of people who are struggling to keep up with the costs of living here.
The lab work I do here in Irvine is also different from the work I do in my U of M lab. I have more freedom with the tasks I do, and I’ve been given more independence to interact with the families I work with. Granted, the structure of this Irvine research project is very different than that of the U of M project, but I am so appreciative to have been given the opportunity to put my skills to work and reach a little farther out of my comfort zone. Reflecting on these differences makes me appreciate this experience so much more. I could have easily stayed in Ann Arbor this summer and continued in my research lab there, but by choosing to work in a brand new lab, I’ve learned so much more about the various ways professors can choose to run their projects and how I best respond to these methods.
Overall, I’ve felt so comfortable living here in Irvine. I love this city and its people, as well as my research lab and all of my team members. As my time in California comes to a close, I can’t help but feel sad to be leaving, but also excited to implement everything I’ve learned here to life in Michigan.