I was asked about my semester abroad in Long Beach, California hundreds of times. However, this seemingly simple question is still making me momentarily confused. It brings up to mind so many memories, feelings, places, faces of people… that, for a moment, I don’t really know what to say. And then I generally opt for the most obvious answer: it was amazing, it was incredible. And this is perfectly true, of course. But this reply does not even come close to conveying how much that experience meant to me, and how much it changed me and my vision of the world.
Can you imagine my reaction when a good friend of mine asked me to write an article about it? For five days I didn’t even think about starting. I can’t describe six months of my life in a few sentences. I don’t even know what exactly this article should be about. And anyway, it’s probably going to be super boring. All these thoughts crossed my mind several times.
After some days of suffering from writer’s block, however, I thought: well, better writing something than writing nothing. And so, I figured out I would tell you about the 5 most vivid memories that I brought home with me from sunny Southern California. 😊
- The campus. The thing I would like to start off with is the enormous difference between a University in Europe and a University campus in the United States. California State University Long Beach campus, which is not even the biggest or the coolest in the US, has a huge and incredibly new gym which includes a swimming pool, a hot tub, a climbing wall, a beach volley court, and an indoor athletics track. Moreover, on campus you can find little supermarkets, a bookshop, a six-story library, fast food restaurants of all kinds, a theatre, an art museum, a 5,000-seat multi-purpose arena. And if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, the campus offers counseling and psychological services to help students with any kind of personal struggle; also, the university has its own police department. It doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
- The ocean. The Pacific Ocean is a constant presence in California. It is always there, but at the same time it is very different from city to city. In Santa Monica and Venice Beach the seafront is crammed with surfers, tourists, people soaking up the sun, and artists. But if you stop by the ocean while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll have the opportunity to admire some unspoiled breathtaking sceneries. There the ocean is totally free, untamed, and savage.
- Travelling around. One of the moments I remember with more pleasure is my trip to the Yosemite National Park in Northern California. My friends and I had rented an Airbnb literally in the middle of nowhere; this means we were surrounded by mountains, forests, and potentially hungry bears. We got there in the late afternoon, and when darkness fell we had the most wonderful surprise ever. None of us had ever seen a sky so incredibly full of stars. The picture you see will perhaps give you a vague idea of how small– and blessed– we felt that night.
- The parties. I included this point because I know many of you are curious about how people have fun in California. And If you were wondering whether what you see in films and TV series happens for real, I am telling you, it is all perfectly true! Parties sometimes are a bit over-the-top, especially when they are organized by fraternities and sororities; but they can also be extremely cool– when held by a pool in Vegas or in the mansion of rich people in Beverly Hills. But the most common type of get-together is the house party, where the legendary red party cups are never missing.
- The people. It may sound very cheesy, but I would like to dedicate the last point to the amazing people that I met during my stay. Even if I was halfway around the globe, I found some friends who made me feel at home all along. The barbecues together, the sushi dinners, the Mexican dinners, the long chats, the glasses of wine by the pool, the crazy parties, the times when we were missing home, the desperate study sessions, the bike rides to school, the countless sunsets and palm trees we took pictures of. I think we all collected so many beautiful moments.
by Anna Mazzon
Sunset in Santa Monica,CA.(ph Riccardo Bertolo)