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What’s Good to Know Before Heading to Emerson LA

Emerson Los Angeles. File photo/Derek Palmer
By David Ertischek ’01

Yes, we all know it’s sunny. And warm. There is a crazy amount of traffic. But what else do Emersonians wished they had known before they attended Emerson Los Angeles?

“I wish I had known how quickly the semester can fly by,” said Tara Balan ’18, a Theatre Studies major who is graduating this month and plans on beginning a career in fundraising and alumni relations. “It’s so easy to put your head down and work hard all semester and then realize you barely spent time [just] enjoying Los Angeles.”

students around fire pit
Students relax on the terrace at Emerson LA. File photo/Derek Palmer

Emerson’s Career Development Center does its best to prepare students headed out west. Many students come to school knowing they want to go to Emerson LA, said Jessica Chance ’00, assistant director and liaison to alumni and graduate students. Those students often touch down raring to go in the land of fun, sun, and Hollywood.

“ELA staff come to Boston to visit for a few days to meet with students, go over their resumes, go over parking options and what to expect,” said Chance.

She said certain LA staffers are matched up with students based on interests; as an actress, Chance said she meets with Performing Arts students.

“We normalize the process to get them ready to go. Some students get anxious when their friend already has an internship. We give them confidence. Some aren’t sure about LA, so we get a range of students.”

Before departing LA, staff ask  students share their advice and insights into the experience via video, said Annie Kelly, associate director of student support at Emerson LA.

Also, the LA and Boston staffs work together to connect students with local alumni before they land, so they’re not just plopped down without any help, said Chance. She added that similar to being a first-year student, LA can feel isolating, which is why Emerson staff provide info about events, alumni chapters, and ways to be engaged in the community.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that students wish they had known, such as bringing a jacket, said Jordan Wold ’19, a Visual and Media Arts major who just wrapped up his LA semester. More importantly, Wold, who is concentrating in screenwriting, found his internship, courses, and work study job to be very beneficial. He transitioned to temp work at one of his internship while looking to begin a new position in January.

He added that the Emerson LA Center could be a change of pace for students used to autonomous living, and not surprisingly, “[t]here are constant [often professional] film shoots that get in the way of students living our lives and require us to be silent, including on move-out day.”

Students look through VR goggles
Students learn about virtual and augmented reality at ELA. File photo/Derek Palmer

Just as one would expect there to be film shoots in Los Angeles, the notorious LA traffic is not a myth and something students should be prepared to endure.

“Save a ton of money. You need a car. It’s a car culture,” said Awet Teame ’99, a Television/Video major, who added it’s important to get your car smog checked, otherwise your vehicle cannot be registered.

Of course, you can always use the omnipresent ride sharing services of Uber and Lyft, or make friends with people who are doing the same internship and carpool, said Marketing Communication major Cornelia Tzana ’17.

But truly the most important piece of knowledge that students want to pass along is carpe diem – seize the day!

“Being able to look at our internship not only as a part of our daily routine, but as a tool to advance our learning and our careers, really pushed me to ask more of myself in my everyday performance at my internship,” said Balan.

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