Category Archives: New Experience

Exploring Culture through Dance

By Juliette Chirol Hill

At a very young age, I absolutely detested children’s ballet classes, because putting on tights was a real pain.  Ten years later, ballet has become my favorite form of dance.  The vocabulary of ballet mostly comes from the language my mother speaks: French.  So, over the years, my ballet instructors would often asked me how to pronounce various French ballet words  such as “déboulés” and so on.  I have always loved those cultural moments, especially since finding another French person in my neighborhood was as likely as finding authentic French crèpes in a local pancake shop.  Ballet, like my French culture, is now part of me in the way I move and in the way I think.

Following a growing interest for Indian culture, my parents encouraged me to take Bollywood dance classes. Since by this point, I was practically exclusively listening to Bollywood songs and watching Bollywood movies, I fit right in with the Indian dancers who had grown up with all those tunes and films.  Occasionally, I would amaze my friends by mouthing songs they would never have expected a non-native to know.  Since this style of dance is so different from the unyielding poses in ballet, which I had practiced my whole life, it was a difficult transition.  The hand positions proved to be particularly tricky in all their intricacies (quickly switching between the “lotus,” “peacock,” and “deer” challenged me for a few weeks).  With the help of the dancers who had grown up in this style, I was able to improve my technique, and in turn, I taught them how to do ballet “déboulés” and useful stretches.  Bollywood dance provided me with some of the most fun I ever had dancing, with so much life and energy bouncing between the dancers who pushed through their exhaustion and still managed to nail difficult moves to the beat of the music.

Arriving at USC, I wasn’t sure how I would fill in the gap that both ballet and Bollywood dance had left in me and so I started searching for dance clubs.  I soon tiptoed into USC’s Traditional Chinese Dance. Once again, I surprised most of the members by the fact that I spoke Chinese without much of an American accent.  So we got along right away.  Chinese dance styles being much closer to ballet in the postures and footwork, most of the combinations were second nature for me, but unfortunately, not for all of us.  Like my friends in the Bollywood classes who had helped me through my clumsiness in my early steps, I helped the USC dancers who were toiling, even sharing tricks I had learned to make the movements work and look best.

Languages and dance, two completely different but nonetheless powerful forms of communication, are the two mediums that have allowed me to find a home within cultures, regardless of whether I was born into them or not.  And I’m thankful to be in a country where it is so easy to experience all these cultures, whether it be through verbal interactions or through dance.

Juliette  is currently majoring in computer science at the Viterbi School of Engineering, with a potential minor in linguistics.  She is local from Los Angeles, but has traveled to both Europe and Asia several times.  On her free time, she likes to dance, watch films, read, do puzzles, and learn Chinese and Hindi.

A Few Things I learned from Studying Abroad

By Lian Eytinge

When I was a junior at USC, I spent the entire academic year abroad in Tokyo, Japan. I went because I wanted to learn more about what life is like in a different culture, as well as immerse myself in a language other than my own. While abroad, I realized three major ideas that helped me navigate my time in Japan, thus enriching my experiences. Now that I’m back in my home country, I’d like to pass these ideas on to any international student who is studying here at USC and struggling with the language.

1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I know it can be scary to speak in a different language; you don’t want to mess up or look stupid in front of people. I learned that from speaking with lots of different people in Japanese that it is okay to make mistakes and that native speakers won’t think badly of you for messing up. I know it is hard to believe but if you just push forward and try to communicate your idea, you can learn more and develop your speaking skills better than not speaking up at all. To get in the mindset of speaking freely, I thought to myself: “This is a great chance to get to learn a language through talking to native speakers. I won’t get a chance like this for a long time. I have to seize this opportunity!”

2. Do not be afraid to reach out for help. If the native speaker is talking too fast or you cannot understand the words they are saying, try asking them to repeat themselves slowly or ask them to say it in a different way. Native speakers understand you are learning and will try to accommodate you as best they can! After all, it is harder for you to translate what they say and speak your opinion than it is for them as a fluent speaker to repeat their sentence slower. You might initially think it is rude to ask someone to repeat themselves but, I can assure you, it is not. Asking someone to repeat themselves means that you care about what they have to say and that what they are talking about is important for you to fully understand.

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Uncover LA: Echo Park

By Tracy Castillo

When foreigners, or even non Southern Californianers, hear someone mouth the word “Los Angeles”, their immediate thoughts are probably overtaken with images of palm trees and the Hollywood Hills, but there is actually much more to Los Angeles than the  popular tourist attractions. Over the last decade, Los Angeles has created a large cultural hub that spans from countries and cities all over the world. There’s Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Little Bangladesh, and the list keeps going on and on. All of these hubs are filled with great cultural vibrancies consisting of great restaurants with native dishes, and stores stocked with the country’s native products. I am lucky enough to live in one of these cultural hubs just five miles north of campus, Echo Park.

tracy-echo-park-lake

Being in a situation in which I had to a find a home that did not require a one year lease, I ended having to look for housing outside the USC area and in the Echo Area area. Though I miss the convenience of living just a couple blocks from school, I enjoy living in this colorful neighborhood more. Echo Park is filled with taco trucks, coffee shops, and health food restaurants (seemingly on almost every corner). You may wonder what cultural category Echo Park falls into, but it doesn’t quite fir into any one box. I would say that it has a culture of its own, a Los Angeles culture where all walks of life have come together to respect and coexist within each other’s customs. For example, is it not uncommon to see a young artistic crowd patiently waiting to order authentic Mexican food from the taco truck camped out in front of the Ralphs’s, or a native Latino family walking into a vegan donut shop. These are instances that show how two very different sets of people are embracing each other’s customs.

So if you ever find yourself stumbling into Echo Park, here are some suggestions. If you want great inexpensive Mexican food, you must try the taco stand off of Alvarado St and Scott St. This stand is set up every evening in a vacant parking lot next to the Autozone. Here you will find a simple yet refined menu that can whip out anything from tacos to mulitas. If you’re curious to try an ever-popular vegan restaurant, Sage is the  perfect one. Sage is an all vegan restaurant that serves everything from Biscuits & Gravy to a Cauliflower Steak Dinner and a Brownie Sundae, but don’t let the word, “vegan” scare you, trust me, it is all very tasty!

And after dining at Sage, you can walk down to Echo Park Lake and rent a peddling boat and float around the lake or you can hang out by the grassy patches and read a book, listen to music, or simply gaze at the lake.

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