As one of the most popular (and populous!) cities in the US, Los Angeles surely boasts a myriad things to do. What are some must do’s in LA? Read on to find out!
It always has been the embodiment of the California dream to live in one of its cities, especially Los Angeles. To begin with, in this opportunity, I would like to share my life-changing study experience on living in Los Angeles. And the first thing in mind will be: what is Los Angeles in my own version.
Commonly known as L.A., the Big Orange, City of Angels or La-La Land (you name it). In terms of population, it is the second most populous city in the United States. L.A. has the ocean, the mountains, the fantastic weather, and amazing food. What else do you need? The city is bordered by many beautiful beaches including the Venice, Santa Monica, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Malibu beaches. There are many misconceptions floating around on L.A. being Hollywood-obsessed, however, there are a ton of things to do in Los Angeles beyond the entertainment scene. L.A. is an exciting place to explore and it offers something exciting for everyone, especially international students. However, as a student in L.A., there are noteworthy things to consider before deciding to move to this city.
Do’s v.s. Don’t’s
- Do: Find on-campus or off-campus housing near bus lines and the LA Metro
Finding housing in L.A. can be extremely difficult for international students. Finding a furnished apartment is difficult. Moreover, some colleges in L.A. may not offer on-campus housing. Nevertheless, there are a few off-campus housing options such as homestay or home share with an American family and private apartment living. Commonly, most international students rent an apartment for either six-months, nine-months or one year. Most students may choose the option to live with one or more roommates such as 3B3P (3 bedrooms for 3 people) or 2B4P (2 bedrooms for 4 people). Some students also offer their rental unit for sublet during spring and summer or fall and winter. However, California has strict rules on deposit for sub-leasing apartments. Most importantly, it is a must to find housing which is close to bus lines and the L.A. Metro or any social activities.
- Do: Pre-departure medical check-up
Healthcare in L.A. is extremely expensive and it is suggested to get a medical check-up before coming to L.A. Please also bring prescriptions, for instance, vision and medication to avoid severe harm and kindly check the health insurance coverage provided by college or university. Make sure you have your medical record with you, as it may prove to be useful in certain conditions. In some cases, immunization and vaccination records are obligatory, although this kind of treatment depends on medical records.
- Do: Gather emergency contacts
Gathering all phone numbers, emails, and mailing addresses of family, friends, university advisor, financial aid or sponsor office is mandatory considering that your home country cell phone number(s) may not be working while abroad. Purchasing an American cell phone number is recommended for daily communication.
- Do: Visit the welcome table at LAX
Usually, the ambassador students from universities will be there to greet international students arriving at LAX. Please check the available dates and times so they can give you a warm welcome. They will guide international students and escort them to their preferred mode of transportation.
- Do: Check transportation options at LAX
Taxis and shared shuttle vans are alternative options besides on-demand ride apps such as Lyft and Uber. Please note to put four-digit house numbers in L.A. as important information on the destination besides the name of the street.
- Do: Subscribe and join free items and sale groups on Facebook
There are lots of free and cheap items (mostly secondhand) that will save you money. Groupon and all the other local coupon websites are alternative options. For cheaper items to buy, online shopping on Amazon is recommended for free delivery and pick-up point option.
- Do: Shop at farmers markets
Most students cannot afford to shop on Rodeo Drive or buy clothes from high-end stores. However, they can purchase items from flea markets for a cheap price. The recommended places are Santa Monica Farmers Market, the Melrose Trading Post flea market, and the Grove to name a few.
- Do: Purchase a tap card for public transportation
Although L.A. is a city built for cars, using public transportation such as buses and trains is always a good idea. Tap cards can be used for both buses and trains. There are many options to get around or out of L.A. from the Los Angeles Union Station (the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States).
- Do: Try the Bike Share Program
Exploring L.A. with Metro Bike Share is a good choice. There are many ways to ride from a single ride which costs $1.75 per 30 minutes to $17 monthly pass. You can also use tap card to get a bike for the convenience
- Do: Learn American slang and idioms
American English has many idioms, do learn some! For example, I learned hit the books.
- Do: Be sure to tip at restaurants
Tipping is expected at American restaurants. Generally, customers will tip 15% to 20% of the total bill depending on the satisfaction with the service given.
- Do: Use sunblock
L.A. is recognized as one of the driest places in the United States and using sunblock is highly recommended.
- Do: Read up on earthquake safety
The earthquakes in Los Angeles (which is located in Southern California) are larger than in Northern California. It is better to check earthquake safety risks even though the majority of earthquakes are minor. However, in the event of a major earthquake, please follow special procedures arranged by your college/university and residence.
- Don’t: Drive with an International Driver’s License
The State of California does not recognize International Driving Permits or International Driver’s Licenses as valid driver’s licenses, and therefore students are encouraged to obtain a California Driver’s license if they plan to drive a car.
- Don’t: Park next to a curb that is forbidden
Please read the signs on the street very carefully and do not park next to any curbs painted red, white, yellow or green or even in a handicap space (painted blue). In most cases, some parking areas only accept cash.
- Don’t: Carry a large sum of cash
Opening a bank account is mandatory as it can be great to have a basic checking and savings account. Having a checking account can be safer than carrying cash. Furthermore, L.A. is a cashless society; most people pay with cards.
- Don’t: Leave property unattended in public places
Please keep books, laptops or bags in a safe place. Do not put valuable items in cars or other public places.
- Don’t: Walk carelessly
Given that L.A. has its fair share of crimes, there are lots of sketchy areas in the city. Use common sense while walking alone or at night. Although some campuses offer Campus Cruiser (escort service), traveling with a buddy can give another set of alert eyes. Be smart about safety and security, please pay attention to surroundings.
- Don’t: Jaywalk
Follow the crosswalk signals and be vigilant.
List to Do on a Student’s Budget
- Go to the beach
Many Angelenos visit the beach on the weekend.
- Go to the movies
It is better to watch dozens of movies in the home of the movie industry especially for the newest movies to small independent theatres that show indie films.
- Go to eat in downtown L.A.
Try something new in Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, and the Latin Districts. Halal food can be found in Koreatown and Long Beach.
- Go hiking
- Go to museums
Several museums offer free admission, visit www.museumLA.org for further information.
Of course, the above is not an official student guide. However, to survive in L.A. is to find some meaning in being adaptable to new situations and environment. Los Angeles, for me personally, is a place where people with different backgrounds and different cultures can find each other in a city. I also enjoy the rhythm of the city. Studying in L.A. or traveling to L.A. is surely without a doubt, an adventure of a lifetime.
P.S.: Have I missed an essential tip for students? If there are more suggestions to list, let me know. Share your insight and comment below. Open discussion is welcomed because sharing is caring.