Soaking in SoCal Sunshine – Exchange in University of Calfornia, Irvine

August 21, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

Situated right in the heart of the peaceful and scenic city of Irvine, the University of California, Irvine blends the studious learning ambience with the vibrant Southern Californian culture. Irvine- a lesser-known city in California but definitely worthy of attention- was rated one of the safest and most livable places in the United States. The all-year-round pleasantly warm Mediterranean climate contributes to a comfortable living environment; while nearby beaches such as the beautiful Newport Beach and Huntington Beach provide the best places for short excursions. The University of California, Irvine (UCI) is a strong research university with a spirited school culture, and a breath-taking campus that echoes the understated beauty of its city. UCI’s mascot is the unique ‘anteater’, and the adorable motto is ‘zot-zot’.

On the sunny campus of UCI, students live up to the school’s rising academic prestige. During normal school days, it is easy to spot students sitting on the grass hills in Aldrich Park, soaking in the bright SoCal (abbreviation for Southern Californian) sunshine, eating a fresh avocado sandwich, and reading a book. Inside the modern science library, you can see people burying their heads into textbooks and fervently typing up class assignments. After school though, students don’t have to go far to relax and enjoy some sports. Living within such a well-balanced learning environment, I also learnt to “work hard, play hard”. I focused on my major English Literature and took one class related to criminology. In general, classes were challenging but extremely fruitful. During class, professors used various methods of teaching, such as drama acting, video showing, and free-style discussion with students to keep our attention. Most importantly, the professors and tutors were very willing to interact with students, and paid especial attention to me: a ‘lost’ exchange student from Asia.

Personal Experiences

“Tonight/ We are young/ So let’s set the world on fire/ We can burn brighter/ than the sun…”

I still remember, sitting in the back of the car listening to the radio from Los Angeles playing this song by Fun over and over again. My friends and I always sang this chorus boisterously, because it deeply resonated with our feelings, our youthful passion, our insatiable desires, and our crazy dreams . . . Together, we experienced ups and downs, laughter and tears, only to realize that every moment is precious and irreplaceable. In UCI, I had a wonderful time with both local and international students. The locals were enthusiastic to exchange students and constantly curious about different cultures. The international students I encountered were also very open-minded and exotic. Some of my best memories are with fellow international students who joined my trips to New York, Boston, DC, San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco . . . and even Mexico! No matter where they were from, all international students had their own story to tell, so meeting one person was like visiting a whole new country.

I was extremely fortunate to have few problems into assimilating into the local American culture. Since California is originally a diverse state with people from all over the world, locals are used to accepting different opinions and customs. In addition, SoCal is known for being a relaxing getaway with a cheerful, happy, and easy-going culture. The custom there is to shake hands firmly with whoever you meet and ask, “What’s up?” with a big bright smile. Closer friends usually hug and chat loudly on the spot. Unlike in Hong Kong where people are more accustomed to a relatively more reserved and subtle greetings, people in my host country were openly communicative and amiable. In this case, I had to get used to the more expressive and talkative traits in the local Californian culture.

Personal Development

Exchange, has made me into a better and more knowledgeable person. Through meeting new people and immersing myself in a wholly different host culture, I was able to diversify my experience. I believe that the most important thing about exchange is to be a receptive and curious person, because exchange is the prime opportunity to step out of our safety zone and challenge ourselves with new things. The change may be good or bad, but it is ultimately up to us to make it into a positive improvement. If we are able to make good use of our exchange experiences, we return back to our host country a wiser, globalized person.