I spent my Ph.D years at UCR from the early to mid 2000's, and it was one of the most interesting experiences in terms of my education as well as my personal life. The portrait of America I found there was a multicultural one, the campus always crowded with all the diverse race of students, faculty members, staffs, and Riverside community members. It gave me a truly different impression from the "white town" in rural New York State where I lived before, and I was able to breathe a distinctive mixture of peace and energy under the Californian sky.< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
Riverside is a medium-sized city located east of Los Angeles, and its name is originated from the Santa Ana River nearby. Summer is very hot and dry as the area is mostly desert, but beautiful beaches are not that far away from the city. The geography and climate of Riverside has made UCR renowned for its Botanical Gardens with a wide variety of plants, as well as one of the strongest Entomology programs in the nation. In addition, the Department of Dance is internationally recognized for its experimental aspects and theoretical achievements, and recently UCR's ARTSblock (art, photography, performing arts project) also received prestigious national and regional awards and grants.
Studying as an international student was a challenge, especially being Korean majoring in English literature, but it was worth every minute. Aside from English Literature courses, I took classes from the Music Department with focus on cultural studies and ethnic studies, and there were numerous opportunities to attend lectures of various topics by world-famous writers, scholars, and artists. Festivals and concerts for students were also frequently held on campus, and Margaret Cho and Snoop Dog were among the celebrity guests for campus events, to name a few.
However, one of the memories I cannot forget is when I taught UCR freshmen Basic Composition as their English instructor. Students from diverse ethnic backgrounds writing about their personal and family history made me begin to reconsider what makes America America, and it was in those classrooms that I learned to interact with speakers of English with various accents. Though there were a few Asian American professors and graduate students in the English Department and School of Humanities, meeting with young Asian American students as their instructor was a very special experience too.
Lastly, I would like to introduce the less well-known history of Riverside you might like to know. Los Angeles' Koreatown may be known as the biggest Korean community in Southern California, but it is often argued that the first and oldest Koreatown, though on a smaller scale, was founded in Riverside when DosanAhn Chang-Ho arrived in the area in early 1900s. It is said that Dosan actively led the Korean Independence Movement based in Riverside, picking Oranges to support the Korean National Association while teaching his fellow Korean workers. In 2001, a statue in honor of Dosan was built in front of Riverside City Hall, making his legacy part of the artistic and historic downtown of Riverside.