What’s it like to…be a California transplant?

Andrew ChangI’m Andrew, a second year DO student at DMU. I’m on the HPSP scholarship and will be a Navy doctor when I graduate. I grew up in Taiwan but went to San Diego for college. Now I’m here in Des Moines learning to be a doctor!


In May of 2013 I took a four-day road trip from San Diego. The landscape changed from desert to mountains to lots and lots of farm land. The great plains welcomed me with the occasional scent of farm animals during the few adventurous moments of rolling down my car window while traveling on I-80 East.  I came to Des Moines during the beginning of a sweltering summer that San Diegans would never imagine experiencing, and one of the first things I did when I moved into my apartment was install an AC. But soon, the personality of Iowa started to really sink in and I noticed how friendly everyone was. If you smiled at others, they will smile back… perhaps not on exam days, but usually!


The city of the monks has treated me quite well. Despite being a fly-through state and a small city that is often dismissed by others as being in the middle of nowhere, there are lots of things to do in Des Moines.  Since DMU is only a five minute drive from downtown, I can enjoy the benefits of a big city feel while still maintaining the small town friendliness I love so much about Iowa.

Staying active is easy to do. On top of our awesome wellness center, I have access to the city’s trails. My favorite is the trail that begins at Ashworth Park and continues through the Water Works Park.


Food is also pretty good for the size of this city. ThaiChineseVietnameseBarbecueMexican…  there are lots of options. My recent favorite is at the High Life Lounge  where they offer amazing oven-fried chicken. And if I’m in the mood for Japanese, there are many options as well: Wasabi Tao,  Akebono  and our local Sakari  to name a few. If you want something only Des Moines has to offer, Zombie Burger and Tacopocalypse would be your go-to.

Free Time (or what’s left of it)

I think of my free time as time to remind myself of who I am outside of the crazy demands of medical school. I spend time worshipping and finding fellowship at churches like Plymouth and St. John’s  while some classmates enjoy the contemporary worship style of Walnut Creek Downtown.  I also like reflecting on my reason for choosing medicine. That’s why I volunteer. Particularly, I take time getting to know the LGBT community here in Des Moines. It’s surprisingly vibrant, diverse, and friendly. I do work with OneIowa  which is Iowa’s biggest LGBT advocacy group, setting up health conferences, offering educational sessions, and making friends.


I love winter. Have you seen how bright the nights get when there’s snow on the ground? I was out with friends until near midnight, and when I stepped outside and into the fresh snow, I looked up and a soft glow of orange, the reflection of city lights, embraced the sky. It compensates quite well for the cold temperatures… but even the cold temperatures are compensated by indoor heating. Although, you shouldn’t try to drive south on the interstate from Minneapolis during whiteout. I did that, and it was really scary.


I originally left San Diego because I wanted independence from family. And after a year and a half of being here, the one thing I miss the most about being in Des Moines is my family. I miss them dearly, and can’t wait to see my mom, who will visit in November! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and the Holidays, when I’ll see my family again.

Reasons for Des Moines

If you like something different and miss real definitive seasons, Des Moines would be a great place for you. I loved the feeling of sipping apple cider while observing the orange and gold autumn leaves. I love how the ground resurrects in the beginning of spring. If you’d like to be surrounded by nice people, Des Moines would be a good place for you.

I chose DMU because of how personal the OMT instructors are here. These DOs are incredibly dedicated to you knowing osteopathic manipulation and how it relates to medical practice. This was a primary reason for me coming to Des Moines, and I don’t regret the decision.


[Fun facts: 11.8% of all DO applications nationwide are from California, which is the highest of all 50 states. And 11% of the DMU class body is from California.]

Scroll to Top