At Occidental College, international students come from 25 countries, including Brazil, Botswana, Mexico, India and Singapore. According to the International Programs Office (IPO), these students make up over five percent of the student body at Occidental. Five students who have lived abroad share comparisons to their lives here in L.A.
In regards to food, Irene Li (first year) from Chengdu, China, has combed the city for restaurants that remind her of home. Li says Din Tai Fung in Glendale is one of those places.
“[Chinese food in L.A.] is great, I really like it. It kind of reminds you of the food at home, so I guess when you are homesick, you’re definitely going to want to eat those foods,” Li said.
She is happy to know that she has places to rely on when she is homesick and misses traditional Chinese meals. Li says because the food at the Marketplace is very hard to adjust to, she makes her own food while on campus. Li spends several weeknights attempting to recreate the Chinese staples she grew up with in the residence hall kitchens.
“Basically, I go to the nearby Chinese market to buy the ingredients: millets, Chinese dates, raisins and quinoa. I add all of these ingredients in the soy milk maker and then I will get a warm mixture of these things in about 30 minutes. It is actually not soy milk because I have never put soy in it but it is still very good and I eat it every morning as breakfast. When I was in China, my mom cooked this for me, because it has good nutritional value,” Li said.
Li also bought a crockpot to cook hot pot with other Chinese students, who often eat the dish together with rice in the Stewie common room.
“We go to Sprouts to buy vegetables and meat and fish and then we add the hot pot base we brought from China. My sister bought 10 [hot pots] for me because she was sure I would miss the traditional Chinese hot pot,” Li said.
These Chinese students use cooking and shared meals to avoid homesickness.
Anna Stokolosa (senior) is from Paris, France. She has tried French restaurants from all around the city, but nothing can compare to authentic French cuisine, even though the ambiances of cafes around the city do remind her of home. She misses the taste of true French crepes and has struggled to find a good place in L.A.
“The quantity is also maybe like three times as much as what they give in France and they overdo sweet things. It’s just they try too much on the flavor. They cater it to American taste and you feel it,” Stokolosa said.
The American trend to add preservatives in perishable foods is surprising to Stokolosa, especially in regard to dairy and fruit products.
“You can only keep them at most a week [eggs in France], and you don’t need to refrigerate them. In the U.S, they use some conservative thing to make the shell porous to bacteria and stuff so you have to keep it in the fridge, but it lasts longer…when you cut an apple, normally what I was used to seeing was that it would just rot and be brown after like 15 minutes. Here, it’s like you leave it like that cut open for a week, it’s still the same color,” Stokolosa said.
Stokolosa misses European bread and butter and unpasteurized cheese. She adds that French food in L.A. is oddly much more expensive than all other types of cuisines offered in L.A.
Like Li, Stokolosa knows how to make herself feel at home by making her own food. She makes food prepared the way it would be in France, including fruit tarts, pasta and chicken.
Di Hu (first year) is from Ningbo, China, and she was prepared for the difficulties of transportation without a car in Los Angeles, as her cousin has lived in Pasadena for six years.
“It’s [transportation in China] really fast, it’s really convenient, it’s really cheap as well. It’s like half a dollar’s price to a dollar’s price. Besides all the underway metros, you have huge networks of bus stations. A lot of [Shanghai residents] don’t have a car and if they do, they don’t drive them, because the transportation of the cars also suck; there are a lot of traffic jams. The public transportation is really great,” Hu said.
Hu said she would love to learn how to drive here in L.A. and wants public transportation to be more convenient for students who may not be familiar with American ride share applications. When Hu arrived at LAX, she said her Chinese Uber app wasn’t compatible with the American version and thus she had to pay $100 for a ride from LAX to Glendale.
As for clothing and trends, Enrique Goudet (first year) made it clear that there are not too many distinctions between L.A. and Mexico City, Mexico. He explains that Mexico tends to get these trends right after America, such as the hype of fidget spinners —his brother has two or three of them. Social media is just as influential in Mexico City as it is here, according to Goudet. WhatsApp is their main source of communication, the way Snapchat is used here.
Goudet said he notices some differences in L.A. in comparison to Mexico on styles of clothing and trends. In Los Angeles specifically, he says the changes are the contrasting.
“In Mexico, they’re obviously more conservative, but it also depends on which place in the city you are. It’s like people in our district here are going to dress more liberal. In general, people here dress more liberally… in a more casual way. They take more risks because the culture allows it. It is more acceptable. In Mexico, it’s more conservative: it’s a very religious country. A lot of people are Catholic, so the culture, in general, is more conservative,” Goudet said.
According to Goudet, people in Mexico are much friendlier with approaches and greetings. He is bothered by the fact that he feels Americans are not as friendly as Mexicans.
“Something that I have noticed that bugs me a bit is that in Mexico when you know someone, you’ll say hi or you’ll acknowledge that someone is there. If I see you or if we walked opposite of each other, I would say ‘Oh, hi!’ Here, they act like they don’t see you even if they know you. It’s happened a lot of times,” Goudet said.
Jade Thurnham (sophomore) is from Northhampton, England, and she notes huge differences between British and American comedy.
“The British sense of humor is very dry and honestly based off of roast culture, but here, I think, you just have to be very careful of what you say … If I insult them, it means I like them,” Thurnham said.
She said that she has to explain she’s joking a lot of the time to make her sense of humor inoffensive.
“You could be like, ‘Oh my gosh your hair looks like s—, what are you doing?’ and have them [British people] laugh, as opposed to them [Americans] being like, ‘Oh what’s wrong with it?’ I’m like ‘no, I’m joking’,” Thurnham said.
Thurnham said she turned to her friends before deciding to enroll in a college abroad.
“My friends said that all Americans were going to be like really, really friendly and they were going to be obsessed with my accent, which honestly, like yeah.” Thurnham said.