The Cooper Pioneer interviewed current students from the art, architecture, and engineering schools about their summer experiences. The interviews will be published as a series. We hope they will serve to highlight the diverse achievements of our student body.
Here is our interview with Claire Kleinman (Art ‘18).
The Cooper Pioneer: Where did you visit this summer?
Claire Kleinman:This summer I visited Israel, then China, and then the West coast.
TCP: What made you want to travel to these places?
CK: It was mostly about spending time with my sister; we traveled together for the majority of the summer. The opportunities to visit these particular places sort of arose and we figured that if we didn’t go now we might never go.
TCP: What surprised you the most about the places you visited?
CK: I find the similarities always shocking, like when I meet someone and they remind me of someone from back home and there’s the realization that there are connections to be had everywhere. I noticed similar dynamics in groups of friends I met abroad that reminded me of my friends here.
TCP: What were the biggest cultural differences between NYC and the places you visited, and what was the most difficult adjustment you had to make?
CK: Language barriers are tough. Not being able to communicate verbally is always hard, but nonverbal communication is sometimes more rewarding—when you can be understood or understand without sharing the same language. Also, not being able to drink the tap water is hard, although tea is great!
TCP: What were your most memorable experiences?
CK: I love swimming, so any body of water was super great. When I was out in Northern California I camped by rivers the majority of the time. Sometimes I would get there at night and wake up next to these amazing watering holes. I also climbed a couple of mountains: one in Shangri-La and one in Humboldt County.
I also loved the desert in Joshua Tree National Park, although it was like 114 degrees. We had to sneak into the Ace Hotel pool in Palm Springs like four times a day just to survive. The big fat seals in Trinidad, California also deserve an honorable mention.
The history in Israel is incredibly dense, so visiting each place was always a really significant experience. You can feel the centuries of historical narrative in each space like layers of rock under your feet. It’s really embedded.
Toy factory outlets in Shenzhen…literally paradise. I also really enjoyed taking the overnight train to visit my friend, Fan-Fan, at her family’s ceramic factory. Her grandpa was a master ceramicist, so seeing his work both in his home and at the city’s museum was super special. Also triplet pandas in Guangzhou…so damn cute!
TCP: Did you have any particularly scary situations or difficulties while abroad?
CK: I held a lot of stray kitties that stayed around the hostel in Eilat, Israel. I’m pretty sure they gave me fleas because I had hundreds of itchy bites on my legs when I was there.
I also got really sick in Dali, located in the Yunnan province of China. I think I had a parasite but our neighbors really helped me out by getting antibiotics, and my sister carried soup from a temple 40 minutes away by foot. She’s great!
At the Salton Sea, I got a fish bone stuck in my foot, which later got infected. I did pull the bone out several weeks later and it was really satisfying. I also got my tragus pierced my first day a few hours after I got to LA from Hong Kong. That also got infected. Infections are not fun.
My sister and I ended up splitting up in LA. I canceled my flight home and bought a bus ticket to San Francisco. I didn’t have a phone with me or any way of telling the time so the eight-hour bus ride was pretty nerve-racking. I was really betting on this kid picking me up at the bus stop or else I’d be stranded in California with no money! But he did and I ended up staying out there for another three weeks.
TCP: What do you feel was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
CK: I feel like you’re not really a New Yorker unless you are constantly complaining about how you need to get out of the city. I was raised in NYC and I used to think that everyone in the world wanted to be here, but traveling and seeing how other people live around the world and how proud they are of their customs and heritage is really eye-opening.
I think I’d like to get closer and have more exposure to nature and places with natural beauty. Also, seeing the art around the world and how it’s rooted in religion and location and tradition is amazing. So, so cool. Honestly, I might just peace out to the desert till Cooper is free again. Bye!