Abraham Lim, a senior at Mt. Carmel High School, arrived in San Diego from New York in May 2003.
How has your lifestyle changed? “When I first came to San Diego, I was actually extremely pessimistic about everything, from school to church and everything in between. Things have changed, and I think that moving to San Diego from New York helped me to adapt to different situations more easily. It really helped me to see outside my perspective and try to see from other people’s perspectives as well. I guess that makes me more open-minded.”
What did you find shocking about students at Mt. Carmel? “Well, one thing would be the hanging your pants on your butt, revealing your boxers thing. I don’t know if the guys of San Diego are aware of this, but that style went out in New York in the mid-’90s. Another thing would be that so many people are so school-spirited.... So, my first pep rally at Mt. Carmel was a bit scary and traumatizing.”
How does the learning environment in San Diego compare to New York’s? “This is not intended to offend anybody, but New York City standards of education are higher. The curriculum is harder. I came from Brooklyn Tech High School, which is one of the three specialized high schools in New York City that you have to take the SAT to get into.... If I decided to do three or four advanced-placement classes in Brooklyn Tech, I would have died.”
What would you take back to New York if you were to go back? “The clean beaches, Jamba Juice, some of my friends, and In-N-Out. Enough said.”
Did you have difficulty adjusting here? “Compared to a lot of other San Diegans, I guess I’m a lot more filled with attitude — mean, honest — so to some people’s eyes in San Diego, I may come off as a total poophead, but that’s just how I am. I am shy, which was not a great characteristic to have because most of the students at MC are so friendly and outgoing. Other things are minuscule, but one major thing that annoyed me was the ignorance of some students who tried so hard to be ghetto. I’m from New York City, and I went to school in Brooklyn, and you don’t see me saying these ‘gangsta’ words and trying to act like one. I’m sorry, but there are no ghettos in San Diego.”
What food do you miss the most? “Pizza in California is really bad, compared to New York pizza.... I feel that both California has its good food and New York does too. For one thing, In-N-Out is only in California and it is extremely good. I also love Jamba Juice and Islands [burgers]....”
What was your reaction when you were told you’d be moving here? “I moved to San Diego because of various reasons. One was that I got myself into a little bit of trouble back at home. I ditched classes, among other things.... When I was told we would be moving to San Diego, I was devastated. It was the lowest point in my life, and I felt like I was throwing everything that I learned [during] the past 11 years away, and I was throwing my friends away as well.... Occasionally, I will get sad and miss New York and my friends, but there’s no point of letting it take over you.”
What were your expectations before coming to Mt. Carmel? “I just expected to be the outsider, to sit alone at lunch and just sit in my classes until school was out. Happily for me, my feelings about when I first came to this school and how I’m doing now is quite the contrary, so a pat on the back for me.”
Mt. Carmel High senior Alison Turner arrived in San Diego from Australia three and a half years ago.
How has your lifestyle changed? “The American lifestyle is fairly similar to the Australian one, so most of my routine has remained pretty much the same. One thing is that Americans start work and school incredibly early. School in Australia didn’t start until nine o’clock every day, but we also finished a lot later in the afternoon. On the whole, everything is much faster-paced here as opposed to the more relaxed, laid-back attitude in Australia.”
What did you find shocking about students at Mt. Carmel? “Firstly, the amount of bad language was overwhelming. It seemed I couldn’t go into any classroom without hearing a four-letter word. Secondly, the amount of blonde, tanned girls walking around with manicured nails.... I also found it odd that every morning the whole school would stop everything to stand up and pledge their allegiance to the American flag. Australia does not have a pledge, and very few people would probably know both verses of the national anthem. Americans are much more patriotic than any of the Australians I ever knew and on the whole are more dedicated to serving their country....”
How does the learning environment in San Diego compare to Australia’s? “The learning environment in San Diego is much nicer than Australia. Here I feel that good work is truly encouraged and rewarded by both staff members and fellow students alike. People are much less likely to make fun of you for doing well and putting in a lot of effort. The academic level is also substantially higher in San Diego. My high school in Australia was so easy compared to Mt. Carmel. Basically, all you had to do was show up to class and you passed.”
What would you take back to Australia if you were to go back? “The thing I like most about San Diego is the diversity of cultures and races. In Australia I felt there was a majority of Europeans with little racial diversity. America is truly a melting pot and should be commended for its modern-day tolerance.”
Did you have difficulty adjusting here? “I wouldn’t say I had difficulty adjusting to certain things at Mt. Carmel, but there were certainly a lot of humorous mistakes! The biggest problem was the language barrier. Even though we are both technically speaking English, Australian and American are two completely different languages. Most Americans simply didn’t understand my meaning because I would phrase things differently or use other words to express myself.”