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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Notice the Differences

With 20 minutes left of our 15 hour long journey home, we got our first glimpse of Los Angeles after four months.  It was appropriate that our first experience with LA was from thousands of feet in the air, allowing for an immense birds-eye view of the city.  My initial reaction was, “It’s so flat”.  After departing from Hong Kong International Airport and watching the pencil towers and skyscrapers packed as tightly as crayons pass below us, the view of Los Angeles seemed disappointingly monotonous, with the exception of downtown.  Where I was used to seeing midrise apartment buildings in Shanghai, all I could see were single-family homes, lined up for miles.

Excited to get downtown for the Super Review, I decided to take the F Dash in support of public transportation (I also didn’t want to pay $37 or 246 RMB for parking).  The bus was filled with a diverse crowd of USC students, a Hispanic family, and people of Korean, Indian, and African American decent.  Accustomed to hearing solely Chinese and being stared at on the subway in Shanghai, I truly appreciated the mixing of cultures that is unique to Los Angeles.  Apparently I was too appreciative, as I proceeded to miss my stop.  I knew the route would loop around and head south on Flower St., so I wasn’t too worried.  However, four stops later, the bus driver informed the three of us left on the bus that it was his last stop, and we would have to get out.  Huh? It was 3:00 pm.  Why did his route end so early?  All I kept thinking was, this would never happen in China.  After depending on public transportation for four months, I was puzzled at this abrupt sense of abandonment.  Still pondering what had just happened, I walked back towards City National Plaza.  I immediately noticed that streets were not meant for pedestrians.  Forced to run across a road, I made it safely to the sidewalk where I was welcomed with… nothing.  There was not an activity in sight.  Where are the street vendors that follow and hassle you down the block?  And the delicious street food that contributes to the exciting aroma of city life?  I knew not to expect Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Tokyo, but I had expected more than nothing.  With the exception encountering a few pedestrians and homeless people, I found the streets sterile, desolate, and depressing.

We were told that the impact of our study abroad wouldn’t hit us until after we returned to the States.  After my experience in downtown, I am beginning to see how true that is.  When we arrived in Asia, our senses tingled with excitement of the new and shocking, and not until Shanghai did we fall into the familiarity of city life.  At the time it was difficult to compare these Asian cities to anything, since until Japan I had never experienced a real metropolis.  However now that we’re back, all I see around me is what could be, the potential that America holds.  Hopefully the lessons learned abroad will continue to reveal themselves as I travel home to Honolulu tomorrow, when I return to Los Angeles in January, and in every city that I explore in the future.

~Samantha

 

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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