When I was a student at Alhambra High School, nothing sounded more exciting than driving out of the “Gateway to San Gabriel Valley” and into adulthood. I imagined upon graduating from college I would get an outrageously high paying job, and move into a luxurious apartment in Los Angeles.
I definitely never planned on getting my degree in literature and writing from UC San Diego and then moving right back in with my parents in Alhambra. But my senior year happened to coincide with the height of the recession, and after more than 90 resumes later, I’ve joined most of my Alhambra peers, who have made their way back to the Renaissance Theater, the local Starbucks and the public library, either enjoying “funemployment,” mobilizing their job search or preparing for graduate school.
We've been labeled the "Boomerang Generation:" a select group of 20-somethings who left the nest for college but headed back home after graduation, largely because of the recession. California's unemployment rate just hit 12.5 percent; among 20 to 24 year olds, the rate is even higher: 15.5 percent nationally and 19 percent in California.
Philip Ly found himself back in Alhambra after he graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Radio, Film and Television. He was living in Orange County with his girlfriend when their untimely break up, as well as a desire to save on the bills, pushed him to move back in with his parents. They welcomed him back and had even urged him to make the move earlier. Ly suggests this could have had something to do with Asian tradition, which usually follows that younger generations stay at home, often until they’re married.
Ly, who graduated from San Gabriel High School in 2004, is now living in Alhambra for the first time as an adult. He was surprised that the few years he spent away from the city changed his perspective. “As much as I hated this city and wanted to leave it growing up, I must say coming back here after college really makes me appreciate it more,” Ly said. “Alhambra still has a small-town feel, but at the same time we are urban with many shops, restaurants and entertainment. So in short I love Alhambra because it's close to LA and we don't have to deal with the crazy traffic.”
Unlike many returning grads, Erik Chew, a 2010 graduate of UC San Diego with a degree in biology, moved back in with his parents by choice. He wanted to take a break after feeling burned out from tough undergraduate coursework. But unlike Ly, Chew didn’t find any new connection with his hometown. “I like the food here. But otherwise, I can’t see myself living here long term,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of running into people I haven’t seen in a long time. I feel like they’re comparing themselves to me. Being unemployed doesn’t help with that.”
Amy Hutchins can relate. She graduated last year with a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree from San Diego State. But the industry’s lack of jobs led her up the I-5 and back to her parents. Living in Alhambra has made her miss the social aspects of school. “I feel slightly stunted here. I don't really go out anymore and I miss the social life I had in college,” she said. “It's weird not being able to just have friends stop by whenever and have wine and movie nights randomly in the middle of the week for no reason. It's not my own space anymore.”
Even though I can count the number of interviews I’ve had on one hand and the job offers are zero, I’m trying to stay positive. And while it’s difficult feeling like an adult in a bedroom painted pink and job hunting in the same library that once provided me with ample Babysitter’s Club books, I’m thankful to my parents for the privilege of rent-free living.
In the nearly two years I've spent at home, I've been surprised that I now appreciate Alhambra's proximity to downtown, reconnecting with old friends, and the multicultural food options. It's pretty awesome being less than a mile from Pepe’s, Sam Woo B.B.Q, Thai Paradise, Wahib’s Middle East Restaurant and Aloha Food Factory (although my thighs would disagree). I’ll probably move closer to the city once I find a job, but in the meanwhile, I'm sampling the boba and dim sum.