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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Transposed City/Culture Shock

Although I had traveled quite a bit prior to this trip, the notion of “culture shock” is not something that disintegrates over time.  I had thought that because I had traveled before, the idea of culture shock was something that I was acclimated to, but that was not quite the case.  Of course there were the obvious “shocking” cultural things to the average traveler, however we were on this trip studying urbanism – not something that people generally look at or think about enough to notice anything too out of their comfort zone.  As we became immersed with the Japanese culture, the Korean culture, the Hong Kong culture, and the different regions of Chinese culture, I was noticing the food, the music, the customs, etc., but quickly realized that all of these habits were part of the larger picture: the city.

The longer we were in a specific city, the more we absorbed about the culture and functions of that metropolis.  It was easy to see the facts that made these cities completely different from Los Angeles, but much more difficult to find the similarities.  The most common similarity that they had with Los Angeles was simply that they are all dubbed “cities.”  However, after traveling throughout these Asian cities, it became more apparent about what a “real” city is all about.  Coming from Los Angeles, and that being what I was used to being called “a large city”, seems almost silly after being able to compare them to these other cities we visited.  The lack of systematic and perfectly functioning infrastructure is, in itself, a major lacking point of something that a city must have.

Especially while landing in our flight to LAX, looking out the window, I was able to immediately notice a major difference compared to what we had just left 14 hours before.  Looking out of the window upon arrival in places such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, the density could be seen from a far distance in the air.  The ground looked like a place that had been completely swallowed up by buildings, and actually was.  On the other hand, landing in Los Angeles, the scale of the city was entirely different.  LA takes on a more sprawling effect, with buildings that I once thought were tall…not so much anymore.  The experience I got on the days we took to explore smaller cities or towns outside of the main city, is how LA feels to me now – something that is a small portion of the larger whole, but that is not the case.  However, Los Angeles is the whole where we are.  Los Angeles is one of the biggest nodes of the United States, but now it looks semi-insignificant in comparison.

The scale-shift/city-shift got even more intense when I went back to my hometown, a place that is extremely smaller than Los Angeles, where everyone knows everyone, and everything is within walking distance.  I am starting to have a reverse culture shock, which is something I did not expect.  I expected that when I returned home, everything would be as it was, and I would still be accustomed to everything that I was before I left.  Taking a drive that I do often, permitting a view of our “city”, I realized how small my town is.  The lights of the buildings seemed as if they were at ground level…like lights on a street, rather than lights inside a building.  Being somewhere for so long, it is only natural to begin to become accustomed to the culture of that city, although I never expected my own home to become the culture shock.

_sunny.

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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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