Life and Learning in LA
By Gabe Sansome
When I first stepped outside at Los Angeles International Airport, something didn’t feel right. Perhaps it was the fact that I was still dressed for the sub-freezing temperatures of Philadelphia, PA, where I had been a mere five-and-a-half hours before, or the fact that I was trying to find an airport shuttle while lugging around an 87 pound suitcase (poor planning there on my part). It might have even been the fact that there was a homeless man across from the terminal who kept pointing at me, screeching, and flapping his arms like a baby falcon. Bottom line is, something just felt off. But, over two months into my LA experience….something still feels off. Consequently, I have concluded that Los Angeles is far from the ideal city for me. However, this conclusion is precisely why I’ve considered my experience here so valuable, and encourage all TRF majors (and others) to come here for a semester.
I’m not going to bore you with drawn out explanations of things I dislike about LA. After all, “dislike” is by nature quite subjective. It has to do with things like the inconvenient layout of the city, the apparent existence of a rather ridiculous celebrity worship culture and the equation of perceived self worth with celebrity connections, and the traffic. Actually, I will expound briefly on the traffic; it’s horrendous. They’ll tell you before you come out here that the traffic is bad, and you’ll think, “C’mon, it can’t be that bad, can it?” Oh, it can. It can and it will be. I’m stunned at how much time I have spent in my car this semester. Also, believe it or not, I actually find the constant weeks of warm, thick air and cloudless skies to be kind of taxing; I miss seasons (see, like I said – subjective!).
But that being said, LA is also a very exciting place. If your passion lies in the entertainment industry, you will salivate at the brushes with stardom and the abundance of wonderful career opportunities that exist here. There are also numerous things you can do in the city, such as frequent cool outdoor shopping malls, hike to see the Hollywood sign, go to TV show tapings, or partake in the vibrant nightlife culture. Additionally, there are famous and beautiful beaches all within a reasonable distance from where you will be living. However, with a few exceptions, the program doesn’t really actively facilitate your exploration – so be proactive! Your internship is a good opportunity to meet some cool new people and gain professional experience while acquiring resume fodder, and the LA Semester classes are useful and informative.
Ultimately, I believe that if you are even remotely interested in pursuing a career in Los Angeles, and you are not from the area, it is imperative that you take part in the LA Semester. Like many of the other students in the program, you may find that you fall in love with it. Or, like me and a few others, you may find that you’re not LA’s biggest fan. But regardless of how you feel, the big takeaway from the experience is that you will be able to make an informed decision regarding your future. Had I simply packed my things and moved to LA right after graduation with naïve, idealist visions of California sun, I would have been extremely disappointed with what I would have found, and I most likely would have felt that I had made a terrible mistake. However, now if I decide upon graduation that living in LA truly is the best thing I can do to reach my career goals, I will be prepared for what awaits me. I will be aware of the sacrifices that I am making for the advantages I will be receiving, and to me, this sort of knowledge is invaluable. The LA semester is a great opportunity for personal growth, maturation, and professional experience – don’t pass it up!