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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.”

What food do you miss the most? “American foods are certainly a lot unhealthier than Australian foods. The quantity of junk food that people consume here every day is astounding, and I constantly see many obese people. There are many more different restaurants in San Diego compared to back home...especially Mexican. When I first arrived, I didn’t know anything about Mexican food and probably wouldn’t have known a burrito from a taco to save my life! I miss a lot of English-style foods that were available in Australia. Most people here don’t know about pasties, custard, or shepherd’s pie, all fabulous foods readily available. The quality of meat, vegetables, and bread was also better in Australia. The food I miss most is a traditional Australian meat pie.”

What was your reaction when you were told you’d be moving? “I came to San Diego because my father, a scientist, was offered a job at a research company. I absolutely hated the idea initially because it would mean leaving my friends behind. However, once I got used to the idea, I was also excited at the prospect of traveling and experiencing another culture.”

What were your expectations before coming to Mt. Carmel? “I had no expectations about an American high school. I suppose I expected it to be the same as an Australian high school. I was somewhat mistaken in this belief! I was terrified of starting at a new high school in a country where I knew absolutely no one. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because everyone was so friendly and helpful and made me feel welcome and accepted.”

Anna Choi, a senior at Mt. Carmel, moved to San Diego from L.A. last summer.

How have you changed since moving to San Diego? “I’ve become a better person, I think. The friends I’ve been able to make these past couple of months have given me a better outlook on life. They’re extremely encouraging, and I have been able to soak that in and share that generosity with other people.”

What did you find surprising about students at Mt. Carmel? “What surprised me about Mt. Carmelians is that they are impeccably punctual and more disciplined than the students I had encountered at my old high school. It’s absolutely astounding to see kids in their classrooms and ready for class two minutes before the passing period is even over, as it is surprising to be able to walk into and out of the school freely, without having to deal with a scrutinizing campus security.”

How does the learning environment in San Diego compare to L.A.’s? “I was glad to find that the academic classes offered here are pretty similar to the ones offered at my old school in L.A. I was able to enroll into the [advanced placement] classes I would have been in had I attended my old school my senior year.”

What would you take back to L.A. if you were to go back? “Although I lived just three hours north of here, I’m a firm believer that the weather is so much more refreshing and invigorating here than in even the suburban parts of the L.A. region.”

What food do you miss the most? “I’ve noticed that, among the several restaurants located in San Diego, many of which are unheard of in L.A., there are no Numero Uno Pizzerias here. In my opinion, they have the best pizza on the West Coast.”

What was your reaction when you were told you’d be moving? “I moved because of my father’s job. I was at first extremely reluctant to come because leaving L.A. meant that I had to leave the familiarity of my home and friends.”

What were your expectations before coming to Mt. Carmel? “Because I was unfamiliar with the school and its surrounding area, I had no idea what to expect.... This was the first time I had ever moved out of the schools within the area of my old home, much less out of the district. Thus, not knowing everyone — not being familiar with the environment — was an unnatural concept for me to deal with. Initially, I was apprehensive and nervous; but, after the first week, I began to feel utterly alone and painfully homesick, yearning for the established familiar.”

John Park came to San Diego from Korea two and a half years ago. He’s a junior at Mt. Carmel.

How has moving changed your lifestyle? “My lifestyle changed nicely because I don’t have to study for 20 hours like other students in Korea, and I can do many activities that I couldn’t do [because I was] studying.”

What did you find shocking about students at Mt. Carmel? “The lifestyles are much different compared to Korea. The students at MC are friendlier and most of the students are mannered well compared to the students in Korea. Students in Korea are rebellious. The air is clean and there are fewer students who take drugs at Mt. Carmel.”

How does the learning environment in San Diego compare to Korea’s? “The learning environment in Korea is worse than San Diego because in Korea, the parents and teachers push students [so] hard that it creates a lot of stress. The school closes early in America, while in Korea, it is like a college campus and is open past midnight.”

What would you take back to Korea if you were to go back? “I like the environment in San Diego...great weather and nice people.”

Did you have any difficulty adjusting? “The students here are less obnoxious and are calmer than most high school students in Korea. Students in America show more respect towards elders and teachers. Another thing I had difficulty adjusting to was the dark alleyways at night and how early people slept. Korea is a small city with a large population, so there are people constantly swarming around the sidewalk.”

What food do you miss the most? “I miss a lot of junk foods in Korea. There are many junk foods I can pick up on the way home because they have little shops where kids can stop by to grab a 50-cent [bag of] chips or a dollar’s worth of rice cake. The quantity was large and the price was cheap.”

What was your reaction when you were told you’d be moving? “When [they] told me about moving, I didn’t say anything because we moved around a lot. I didn’t think much of it, but once I came, I realized how different the two cultures were.”

What were your expectations before coming to Mt. Carmel? “I was excited before coming to Mt. Carmel because I believed there would be great activities, and I’d heard that Mt. Carmel was a nice school from friends who moved to San Diego from Korea.”

— Mimi Jun, Mt. Carmel H.S.

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