Engaging in multiple cultures when studying abroad in the US…

Queen Mary History student and Turing Scheme grant recipient Harry Stafford is currently studying abroad at the University of California, San Diego. Harry looks at how the Turing Scheme has supported engagement with, and understanding of cultures beyond what one might initially imagine from studying abroad in the US…

Throughout my time in San Diego, I have interacted not just with American culture but also managed to engage with the strong presence of Spanish and Mexican cultures, which comes with being 20 miles from the Mexican border. Throughout my period of studying abroad at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), I have experienced a wide variety of cultures from within the United States, from Italian to Irish immigrants. As I’m scribing this piece, it is St. Patrick’s Day. Although being on the West coast, which has a smaller Irish immigrant populace than the East, trust me when I say it is a well-respected holiday here.

Streets of San Diego’s Old Town

The Turing Scheme has enabled me to experience the delights of what San Diego’s rich heritage has to offer. I feel it is fitting to begin describing the ‘Old Town.’ It is genuinely extraordinary to see how Mexican heritage is explored through this site, which has been reconstructed to emulate the situation of the original San Diego.

The Church in the Old Town is just one of the many sites that became accessible to me as a result of the Turing Scheme that enabled my visit here. Being a history student, the intrigue that comes with this site, much like a British heritage site does in the UK, the fascination with how the original Spanish and Mexican immigrants lived on the West coast before it became inhabited by the fake, western, mediated society that thrives here today, is truly fascinating – even to those who are not students of history.

Streets of Tijuana

With my roommate being Mexican, I had a major ambition to experience Mexican life, and being so close to the border town of Tijuana, I could not resist. What is fascinating about Tijuana is not just the obvious Mexican influence, like one would find a British influence in London, but also the American influence on the Mexican border. I was shocked that, as previously seen, there is a staggering Mexican/Spanish influence in San Diego, but I believed that there would have been a stronger Mexican feeling in the Mexican city of Tijuana, but alas it contained a strong American influence also. The Turing Scheme enabled me to visit Tijuana, and, despite the residing American influence, I was able to experience first-hand the difference between a Taco Bell and true Mexican street food, which is absolutely phenomenal, and I highly recommend to anyone who goes to try it.

Furthermore, continuing on San Diego’s strong Spanish/Mexican influence, I have visited numerous language tables in the international house, to not only improve my Spanish, which was extremely limited, but also engage with the strong Asian presence on the West Coast and learn some very basic Mandarin and Cantonese. The Turing Scheme, alongside aiding me in acquiring these basic international language skills, has also enabled me to experience everything San Diego has to offer, from the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway Museum, and the extensive Balboa Park. Balboa Park, not named after Sylvester Stallone’s infamous movie portrayal, but the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who was the first Westerner to discover the Pacific Ocean during his exploration in Panama. This park is host, not only to the infamous San Diego Zoo, but also several museums that engage heavily with the Spanish/Mexican heritage of the area as well as the architecture, as can be seen here…

Balboa park

The Turing Scheme enabled me to access many areas around the park that were related to Spanish/Mexican culture, engaging me with the strong architectural influences combined with the many museums, such as the Museum of Art in San Diego, which feature a heavy interaction, not only with Spanish/Mexican culture, but also with the strong Asian influences in the city, through interactions with Chinese and Korean art and sculptures.

Overall my experience in San Diego has been greatly improved by the Turing Scheme as it has enabled me to access these countries and institutions, such as Tijuana and Balboa Park and engage with the surrounding architecture and influences that create the multi-culturally diverse city of San Diego. I am so thrilled to share my experience of San Diego and how the Turing Scheme has aided me in engaging with these incredible cultures that have broadened my understanding of the global interactions that we all must have in order to gain a better understanding of the world we live in and the people with whom we interact.


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