Category Archives: Outlook

Speaking Spanish in Spain

By Jacob Birsen

I spent the majority of my senior year in high school saving up money  to go spend a portion of my summer with my best friend in Spain. For two years, I had been dreaming of visiting her and taking in another country’s culture.  I had taken three years of Spanish in high school and I was finally ready to try out my Spanish in a real world environment.

However, on my first day in Barcelona, I realized that Catalan, not Spanish, was the primary language spoken. The ones who spoke Spanish primarily spoke it at a pace that was too fast for me to understand, so I wasn’t as vocal with the locals as I could have been. Towards the middle of my trip we were scheduled to go visit my friend’s extended family who lived about an hour outside of Barcelona. My lack of Catalan took me from very exciting to this portion of the trip to very nervous. Many of her older family members only spoke Catalan, and the few that did speak Spanish were always speaking in Catalan so it didn’t make a difference. When we arrived at the house of my friend’s grandparents, I was lost. I sat myself down on the couch and was basically waiting for it all to be over. I stayed this way for at least half an hour, completely intimidated by locals speaking a language I couldn’t understand.  Some of the adults tried to speak to me, and although I responded in Spanish, they grew bored of my limited vocabulary and went back to speaking with the main group once again.

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Teaching Men To Fish (Metaphorically): Pondering the Educational System

By Autumn Palen

A few days ago, standing across the kitchen island from my roommate, we discussed what our TED Talks would be, were we given the chance to have one. I talked about potentially studying the correlation between old parents and nerdy kids. Hers was much better. She had one in mind right off the bat, apparently having already pondered over it for quite a while.

My roommate works as a volunteer teacher throughout the week, helping 2nd and 3rd graders learn the fundamentals of science and math. Her TED Talk, as she had intricately sketched out in her mind, would focus on the inadequacies of the educational system. She had particularly noticed that many teachers of scientific subjects — Chemistry, Physics, Biology — teach facts, figures, and solutions, but not how to arrive at these conclusions. This method of teaching is all fine and good for passing quizzes and tests, but is detrimental to the future individual development of knowledge in these fields. Students know what the answers are because they’ve memorized them, but many may be incapable of finding the answer on their own, or knowing why the answer is found in a particular way.

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Chinese New Year Away From Home

By Colette Au

Chinese New Year, arguably the most important event in the Chinese calendar, is a momentous occasion in Chinese culture. As an American-born Chinese (ABC), I have celebrated this tradition for as long as I can remember. We feasted on steamed fish garnished with green onions and ginger slices, and New Year’s cake: a steamed, chewy sweet made from glutinous rice flour, slab sugar, and water. At night, my parents would leave the lights in our house on. Perhaps a long time ago, superstitions dictated that the house should be lit to guide the gods of good luck and prosperity, but now the tradition persists as the lore has faded away. For me, celebrating Chinese New Year has always been about eating together with my family. Receiving red packets with crisp dollar bills inside is an added perk, but after leaving home and moving to USC, I miss the familiar foods we used to celebrate the new year.

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