Living in LA

Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:25 PM
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Living in LA

I've just been informed that I have an interview for a graduate school program at UCLA. This is perhaps the best program in the country in my field, and has two faculty members I would love to work with. I will probably not be able to attend the interview in person as I am currently studying in the UK, so I am hoping to get some advice about LA.

As much as I love the program, I really fear living in LA. I am from Dallas, which is obviously a large city, and I like visiting large cities (especially in Europe). Having access to culture is important to me.

But LA especially has always made me afraid. I hate driving/parking and would love to be in a city that you would walk or take public transportation, but this doesn't seem to be LA. I also worry about the very high cost of living ... is it reasonable to expect to live fairly close to UCLA? What is the UCLA area like ... I have heard it is nice?

I also fear being in a place with earthquakes, pollution and politics very different from my own. Finally, I have heard that LA people can be a bit rude/cold.

Sorry to spout all of this out, but these are all of my fears and stereotypes. Are some unfounded?

Thanks so much for your help.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:30 PM
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I was born in Los Angeles and love that city. The one thing you mention that will prove valid, is you'll need to get with it about a car and driving. It is a necessity of life or at least of enjoyment. It is not difficult. Most people are really good drivers because they do it so much!

I'm not sure how you can catogorize the personality of an entire city, but my friends who remain in LA are a very down-to-earth bunch.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:34 PM
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Thanks very much. I think I'm a bad driver and I've never really loved it, but it really would worry me in a place like LA with all the traffic. I'm not phobic or anything at all about driving, but that seems to me to be a downside about LA.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:36 PM
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Sorry, one more point. I'd be there for probably 5 years, so it's not like a year or two.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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LOL, Joe, I fear living in Texas, there are tarantulas and snakes and everyone has to wear cowboy boots.

But I used to live in LA and I think it is wonderful, you will be surprised to find how nice people are, how welcoming and friendly .
I think you will be thrilled to have this opportunity.

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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:41 PM
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Talk about two opposites -- Oxford and LA

OK - I'm a california girl and lived outside of Oxford for five years so I have a pretty good feeling for where you are now and where you may end up.

LA can't be compared to Dallas or really any other city. It is absolutely huge w/ about 100 different cities in the general LA basin. So there is no way you can generalize about the people, politics, or anything else.

Westwood is very nice - and if you can afford to live there you actually could manage w/o a car. But you would be quite limited in how much you could explore other areas. About what would your rent budget be?
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:44 PM
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Oh - meant to add I'd MUCH rather live in earthquake country that in Tornado alley (or thunderstorm alley, or hurricane alley, or even heat/humidity alley )
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:52 PM
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Thanks very much for the advice. I don't really know what my rent budget would be, as I don't know what my financial package is in terms of stipend per month (this of couse assumes that I get in, which is a very big assumption!). I have a college friend in grad school there now, so perhaps she could help in terms of finding things or knowing cool people who need a roommate that could keep costs down a little. The cost is maybe not a huge concern, as I would rather take out a small loan than live somewhere shady for a few years, but I don't think the cost/stipend ratio is as good as some other places.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 04:58 PM
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From 25 years experience I can tell you many people who express a negative opinion about LA either haven't spent much time there, or lived in areas that have seen major demographic changes over the past 30 years. Fortunately a few areas have remained largely unchanged through this onslaught, and the region from UCLA to the Pacific coast is one of them. These neighborhoods remain some of the finest, cleanest and most cultured anywhere in the U.S., and as a bonus, living there also avoids the city's air quality problems.

If you'll be attending UCLA I recommend Brentwood, as far west and north as your budget can afford.

As for the earthquakes, it comes with the territory. People who've been through enough of them (like me) learn to not worry about them. California has very strict building codes which have proven themselves over and over.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 05:10 PM
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Good luck on getting into the program. You stated two reasons for going that blow away just about any reasons for not going: 1) best program in the country in your field, 2) would love to work with th two faculty members.

UCLA is in a nice part of town. In my opinion, the people in So Cal are very friendly. Anyway, you will be in a university community. That is a good place to be poor.

Earthquakes, severe ones, are not that frequent. What do you care about the politics? The pollution is not so bad at all and it is basically 72F and sunny all the time.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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I find it interesting that someone who is apparently reasonably traveled and educated has such emotional fears about LA. Must be an Oxford thing if that is where you are studying. Los Angeles is a very diverse city and you can pretty much find anything you want there. If you live around Westwood you can make do without a car but having a car will let you explore Southern California and give you alot of freedom. Many of the friends you make will have cars. I suspect the need for a car in LA is similar to the need for a car in Dallas.
Thousands of students live in and around UCLA so obviously you too can do the same. The area around UCLA is quite upscale as such areas such as Santa Monica, Bel Air and Brentwood surround Westwood. Costs of living are high but no more so than Boston, New York, San Francisco etc. Certainly less expensive than London. Pollution tends not too be too bad as you are close to the ocean. Have not a clue as to what to say about your fear of people who have different politics. I would think it good to be exposed to all sorts of politics while in a University. An earthquake may cause your demise while in LA but your odds are better for hitting the lotto.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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It's not an Oxford thing, it's just a me thing. The politics comment was dumb by me ... of course I've lived in places where I am mainly around people who think differently than me, and it isn't really a huge issue or anything. Thanks for all the comments. I think the bigger fear is that I probably won't be able to see it, so I have to be left to my own constructions. Thanks for dispelling some of them.

It's funny how we fear the things we don't know or that are different from what we have experienced. Many of you expressed some concerns about Texas that really don't bother me at all ... I much prefer the heat to the cold, and I am living proof that you can get by without cowboy boots!
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 06:18 PM
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Which ones have not been disspelled? Or, better yet, which fear, if any, would keep you from going?
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 07:35 PM
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I lived in L.A. and understand your concerns, but think of it this way--if the grad program is that good, it will only be for a few years and then you'll leave. For a few years, the smog won't kill you, and there are good people there (as everywhere) and you'll be so wrapped up in your program, that the time will go by quickly. I agree with others that you do need a car, but since you'll be concentrating on your studies, you might be able to get by with a bike (be very careful driving if you do that).

While I'm not a big L.A. fan, if I had to pick between L.A. and Dallas, I'd probalby pick L.A.

And there are some cultural sights there--the L.A. Museum of Art, the Getty, the Norton Simon, Hollywood Bowl, to name a few.
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Old Jan 19th, 2007, 09:43 PM
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It took me three years, but now I love, love, love LA! (DH is here almost 7, me almost 6).

The areas around UCLA are really nice, generally speaking. A 1bd apt in Westwood or Brentwood will set you back AT LEAST $1,500/mo. Check www.craigslist.org under the LA section. You can get a shared apt (2 bd w/ roommate) for appx $700- $1000 per person, generally, in that neighborhood.

If you can manage to get over the car thing, another couple of neighborhoods to consider are Palms, Culver City, Mar Vista, and West Los Angeles. All pretty close to UCLA and cheaper than Westwood or Brentwood.

As someone else said, yes, you can manage living near campus w/out a car, b/c pretty much everything you could need is w/in walking distance in Westwood Village. However, a car is a MUST in SoCal. DH came out here for USC and tried biking it to and from, b/c the transit workers went on strike, and let me tell you- NO. Really, NO. Just get a cheap, used car and insure it for as little as possible if you think you'll live off campus or will want to go out and about and explore SoCal. There ARE plenty of transit routes to/from UCLA, so there you may be in luck.

Good luck to you! Coming from the academia that is Oxford, I guarantee you'll have a tough time acclimating to entertainment-centric SoCal, but you'll get used to it. Us folks might come across as superficial and care about nothing else but box office ratings, but I promise people go deeper than that... come out here and give us a chance! (And check out www.kpcc.org -- SoCal's finest public radio station-- listening will help you feel "connected" to your new environs faster )
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 01:45 AM
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As a fellow Bruin, congrats on the interview! I'm only an undergrad, but I know that the grad programs are among the top in the nation.

The area: If you live where most students live (Westwood Village), parking is a NIGHTMARE. I was just there tonight, and as seeing it's a Friday night and it's near Frat Row, it took over 30 minutes to find a spot. Avoid living in the Village if you have a car! If you don't have a car, Weyburn Terrace is a much better option. It's the university-affiliated housing that's nearby and is a much more..."controlled" community. Let's just say that it can get VERY rowdy around the apartments.

Anyway, I live nearby on Wilshire and don't have a car and manage to survive. Target and the mall are a bus ride away, that come quite frequently. If I need to go anywhere else, I can usually find someone with a car. I pay $550 for a 2bed 2 bath with FOUR people total- it's quite nice though. Everyone's very friendly, and the earthquake thing is only something we use to scare away potential movers from other regions . If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 03:40 AM
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I think you are dispelling all the myths. If you think I'm psycho about the car, I'm really bad about a bike. I think I would probably injure/kill myself if I had to constantly bike, so I would much prefer driving.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 05:32 AM
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Maybe you should take an advanced driving course, to help you with the car thing. IMO, people who are scared to drive cause problems on the roads.
Yes, L.A. will be different from Texas but if you keep an open mind it won't be long until you adjust.
Good Luck.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Maybe you can get into a graduate student dorm? Or rent a room in a nearby home?

It is very possible to live in Santa Monica or West LA and survive using the bus system. I did it for 4 years and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus system is very good. Perhaps when you are more comfortable in LA you will then get over your fear of driving. I haven't found it any more difficult than say, for example, Boston or London.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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I did grad school at UCLA for a couple of years. The grad dorm at the time was in south campus. Very nice, all things considered. We also got preferential parking at a nearby garage-- a very nice thing indeed.

Westwood is a great neighborhood, albeit a little pricey. The typical progression is to do the grad dorms for one year, then find off-campus housing (and get on the wait list for campus parking through your grad program).

I've now lived in southern CA for twenty-one and a half years and wouldn't live anywhere else. I still say it: Southern California is the whole world in one place, yet completely and utterly unique. And if you get tired of where you are, there's someplace totally different within two hours of travel, so don't fret it.
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