A warm, salty breeze. Temperatures that rarely drop below 75 degrees. Palm trees, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water everywhere you look.
For some, this is an exotic, tropical vacation spot.
But for Asha King, it’s just home.
“The reactions I’ve gotten from people have been kind of weird,” said King. “It’s just different to be considered cool, to be considered exotic.”
Asha King was born and raised on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She lived there for 19 years until she moved to Orange, Calif. last fall to start as a freshman at Chapman University. The film production major had never even been to Orange County before her move-in day. Outside of a trip to San Francisco with her family a few years prior, she had never experienced life in California.
“I was very naïve in what I expected to find in Southern California,” King said. “I had a superficial view of what Orange County would be like. I wondered if my roommate was going to be like one of those girls from Laguna Beach. The Real Housewives of Orange County and Laguna Beach was all I knew of American culture.”
King admits that the transition from home to Orange was difficult.
“I expected it to be different. It is a completely different country with different people. But it’s still hard,” she said.
King discovered Chapman when looking for colleges online.
“I wanted to do film, I didn’t want to do film anywhere else though,” she said.
She applied to Loyola Marymount, New York University, University of Southern California, and Chapman and got accepted to all but USC. She debated between NYU and Chapman, but after traveling to New York realized that it was way too cold to even consider.
Like every freshman, King was enrolled in a Freshman Foundation Course, which served as a good way to get to know peers before classes started. She shared the class with Patricia Abouabdo who described King as “so friendly and talkative.”
Another friend she made at Chapman was Amanda Tse.
“I met Asha through my roommate Jessica,” said Tse. “My first impression was that she had a really cool accent and she’s really funny. And because I live right down the hall I always hear her Caribbean beats from the hallway.”
King said that music is a big part of the struggle of being so far away from home.
“Caribbean music is so much of who I am, it’s annoying how different it is here,” she admits. “The party scene is one of the biggest differences, if you don’t understand it, it just looks like everyone is rubbing up against each other.”
Naturally, the other biggest hurdle is being so far from family members.
“I have no family here at all,” she says. “The hardest part is having no Caribbean people around. I am the only international student from the Caribbean. The closest kin I have is in Texas. Because of the isolation, there is no one to bounce off on.”
Luckily King gets to travel home to Trinidad twice, once after each semester is over. Also, this past spring break her parents surprised her by bringing her home for the week. And she has also been able to smooth the transition by making some really great friends, and finding some other international students to connect with.
“I have three or four good friends who are also international students so that is nice to have people to back you up,” King said.
The group of friends has decided to start a club on campus called the International Students Organization and they plan to start working on it next semester.
King has big plans for the future, and although the transition is definitely not easy, she admits she will continue her four years at Chapman and then see what the future holds.
“I want to do film at home after I graduate,” she said. “I would go to film school there, but there are not enough resources. I want to make films about the Caribbean even if it is a small industry. Sometimes it’s hard to represent an entire region, but I always like telling people about home whenever I can.”