How Are You? Does it Matter?

By Samantha Wong

It’s always fascinating—illuminating even—to take a step back from the comfort of our daily interactions and to ask, why? Why do we do some of the things we do? 

During one of my first sessions leading as a Conversation Partner, an international student asked me, “How do you respond to how are you?” Immediately, I reacted with the oh-so-familiar reply, “Good; how are you?” Unconvinced, the student questioned why people respond that way even when they are not good. Like an automatic reflex, it seemed to her as though people ask and return this ostensibly benevolent greeting without any genuine interest at all. 

This inquiry into the utmost timeless greeting focused my attention on to the standard of politeness that Americans have become accustomed to. Why do we continue to blindly ask each other “how are you” when we simply expect a moderate variation of the same answer 99% of the time?

In America, I believe we come to ask each other “how are you” because, frankly, we are afraid to come across as impolite otherwise. It is due to our crippling fear of appearing “rude” or “crass” that we ask a question that does not seem to bear much weight anymore. Indeed, when we ask this question, we more often than not are returned by a one-word response and a dreadfully long, awkward pause… Consequently, we need to move beyond these greetings that yield one-word answers to unlock opportunities to stimulate dialogue we are sincerely interested in. It is only then may we bridge meaningful relationships.

Across all cultures, we hope to reciprocate both courtesy and respect during our interactions with new people. For, every day, we inevitably cross paths with dozens of new faces under distinct circumstances. Particularly as USC students, we have the unique ability to meet and learn from hundreds of different perspectives through a simple “hello” and informal introduction. With one of the largest international populations on campus, we truly are a melting pot of diverse and similar stories waiting to be told. Thus, why should we waste our perfect opportunities to engage in thought-provoking conversations by asking a question that leads to nowhere?

In reference to a Forbes article, there are countless questions to ask that can prompt dynamic and distinctive conversations. What has been the best part of your day so far? What are you looking forward to this week? What has inspired you recently? Truly, the possibilities for good questions are endless. 

With this untapped reserve of productive conversation starters, we can (and should) begin exchanges with positivity, purpose, and ultimately, genuine interest! After all, who wouldn’t want to make a great first impression?

Let’s do ourselves a favor and ask better questions. Who knows, perhaps we can gain something more valuable during our conversations!

Sam is an undergrad business student at Marshall School of Business. While raised in a small town in New Jersey, she loves to explore diverse cultures through travel and unique eats (particularly, desserts). Since flying 3,000 miles across the country, Sam has continued her passions for consulting, interacting with students across cultures, and helping others! Sam is greatly involved in the Marshall community (AIM Marketing Consulting, Marshall Business Network), and is an enthusiastic American pop culture follower.

LA Fitness on a Budget

By Alicia Roman

Everyone knows that living in LA can cost a small fortune. However, staying active in LA doesn’t have to be expensive. With 365 days of sunshine, there are endless opportunities to stay active without spending more than a few dollars. Many people believe you have to be confined to the crowded campus gym, but with the following options just a short train/car ride away you’ll be looking at your workout regime with new energy and enthusiasm!

Hiking is a great way to explore a new area while also getting in some exercise. There are several hiking trails within a 20-minute drive from the USC campus. Take a trip to the Hollywood Hills at sunset and hike the 3.5 miles up to Wisdom Tree. This hike offers beautiful views of the Hollywood Reservoir and Downtown LA. Another option is to take a train to Los Feliz and visit the stunning Griffith Observatory. Most people will drive up to the Observatory, but an even better option is to hike to the top. It’s a quick and easy 40-minute hike from Fern Dell Dr. to the Griffith Observatory. Once at the top, you are rewarded with one of LA’s best views.

The Wisdom tree is located at the top of the Hollywood Hills.

If you aren’t a big fan of hiking but enjoy the water, take advantage of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Rose Bowl has countless options and it’s free of busy and overcrowded streets. Take a jog around the Rose Bowl, known to locals as the “Rose Bowl Loop”. You can stop by the Aquatics Center and take a $2.00 swim in their olympic size pool. If you’re not looking to swim or run, you can enjoy a nice bike ride around the complex. The Rose Bowl is a great option for those who need variety but aren’t looking to spend a lot on a gym membership.

Most people love going to the beach to relax and enjoy the weather. The beach can also be a great place to get in a weekend workout. Santa Monica Beach is only a short train ride from the USC campus. The beach can also be a nice place to workout when the weather’s too hot to be indoors. Santa Monica has several options for fitness and fun. Take a long walk along the beach or bring along a workout video from your phone and try it out on the sand. It will definitely add an element of difficulty to your regular workout. If you’re feel really adventurous you can visit the outdoor gym which is literally right on the sand! The best part of a beach workout is when you’re finished, you can take a refreshing dip in the ocean water!

With so many options around USC, you never have to feel like the gym is your only option. Sometimes, doing something different can remind you why you love exercising. Grab your suit and head to the beach or slip on your tennis shoes and go for a hike! You’ll be able to check out your new LA neighborhood with all the added health benefits.

Alicia has a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Clark University. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Educational Counseling within Rossier School of Education. She has spent several years working in the field of Education. She spent three years living and teaching ESL in Taipei, Taiwan. She also coaches a special needs swim team at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena. When she is not working, she loves reading, traveling, watching movies, and exercising.

Growing by Leading

By Sabrina Hsu

Many college students hold on-campus jobs, waking up early in the morning to clock in a shift at the CSC or to pick up phone calls at various front desks. I work from my dorm. As an RA, every minute I spend inside the residential college building is a minute I dedicate to being a mentor and role model to all the residents within my community. It may seem tiring or tedious at times, but the reward gained from putting the time into this position is immeasurable.

I was lucky to be placed in a residential hall similar to the one that I resided in my freshman year, which provided me with a comprehensive understanding of what struggles freshmen living in suites may have. Residential Education, the office RAs “work” under, is a very inclusive and understanding environment. They allow everyone to develop their own style of leadership and interact with their residents in ways that best suits them. It is a nice feeling knowing that just by being myself, I am able to set an example and help someone through their first year of college.

Aside from impacting my residents on their journey through college, I personally learned a lot from the experience. My staff team consists of passionate individuals who dedicate so much of their time providing the best experience for their residents possible. Just by working alongside these people, I was given a platform to work with the best of the best, and to learn just by observing and sharing my thoughts. My staff team challenges me every day as we all grow together, constantly motivating each other to improve and remain passionate. We, together, go through the journey leading, not just by being a leader figure, but also by being a friend and peer.

One of the biggest programs I planned was the Asian American Artists’ Showcase. Featuring alumni and current USC artists, it was a multimedia art centered around the Asian-American identity and experience. Program planning for such a big event took more than half a month, but from the feedback, residents seemed very excited for the program – which is more than any RA can ask for. RAs try to hold programs that not only emphasize community building, but also are educational. Other programs that I have held with my fellow RAs  include Resume Building, bonding with Pug Nation, and Beach Volleyball.

Since having an amazing freshman year, I have wished to form that type of community and positivity for all incoming freshmen. College is a time to push pass one’s own boundaries, but more importantly, it is also about helping other people grow, inspiring and motivating people aside from the self, a time to pass on what one has learned to the future generations. There are many ways to be a leader at USC, being an RA was only one option. I hope that everyone can be a leader in some form at USC.

Sabrina is a sophomore studying Health and Human Sciences and minoring in Chinese for Professions and Managing Human Relations. Though born around the Bay Area, Sabrina moved to Shanghai, China at the age of 8 and has since then attended different international schools. She has 4 years of tutoring experience both in student organizations in her high school and outside of school. She was also a member of the National English Honor Society and took part in the Writing Center, which focused on editing student’s essays and helping student with their English classes. In her free time, Sabrina loves reading, hanging out with friends (exploring LA), and doing anything that makes her happy.