Category Archives: Outlook

Experiencing Similarities and Differences in a Foreign Land

By JoAnna Enos

When I was 11, I went abroad for the first time. I was part of an exchange program that paired students at my middle school in Portland, Oregon with students at a high school in Suzhou, China. I remember being very interested in other countries and cultures at the time. I loved learning about the ancient history of other countries and I loved the idea of going to palaces, temples, and other places that people had built and inhabited centuries ago. I knew going to China would be an amazing experience, especially since I would be going with friends and would be staying with a Chinese family, but at the time I didn’t realize just how influential a single trip to another country would be on my future interests, both personal and academic.

A few months after the Chinese students had visited Portland, my classmates and I traveled to China to stay with them. We flew into Shanghai and drove about two hours to Suzhou, where our host families lived. During the drive, I was amazed by what I saw just by looking out the window. I was expecting everything to look completely different than what I was used to. I thought China would look similar to how it’s described in old history textbooks and I wasn’t expecting to see so many things, like cars, clothes, buildings, restaurants, etc., that looked just like they did in my hometown.

The landscapes weren’t all that different either. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, large wooded areas and forests, rivers running through the center of a city, and mountain ranges not too far off in the distance were all things I was used to seeing on a daily basis, and those were things I was seeing in China too. Of course I knew that similar landscapes and geological features exist in many different places all over the world, but I was still expecting everything to be new.

Then, when I finally got to Suzhou and arrived at the home of my host family, I began to realize how cultures mix and match and adopt things from other cultures while still retaining some fundamental differences from each other. The apartment my host family lived in looked just like any apartment in the U.S., but what made it different was the culture of the people that lived in it. That was true for most of the things I saw and places I visited. Stripped down, they weren’t too different from the things I was used to, but then when you add in the factor of a completely different culture, things started to come alive and the new images were fascinating and exciting. I wanted to see as many things as possible and learn as much as I could about how things in China were different or similar to how they are in the U.S.

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Growing Up Bi-Dialectal and Bi-Accented

By Aishwarya Badanidiyoor

They say language is one of the quickest ways to establish personal connections. Having grown up in multiple countries, adapting to new environments was always a priority of mine, and that meant picking up on the (sometimes subtle) differences in communication between the widely varied cultures and societies that I came across. To give you a little background, I lived in Saudi Arabia for the first ten years of my life, and then moved to India for the rest of middle school. I went to high school in Canada, and then attended Engineering school in India. Currently a master’s student and conversation partner here at USC, I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few international students along the way, and one thing that some of us have in common is our ability to speak multiple dialects/accents of English fluently, due to our diverse upbringing.

I grew up speaking a very neutral Indian accent for the first 9 years of my life, due to my stay in Saudi Arabia. Many people are not aware of this, but Indian accents come in varying flavors, which is why when I moved to India for middle school, my classmates and I had trouble understanding each other for the first few months. When I moved to Canada for high school 4 years later, the differences in accents, phrases, word usage, and intonation (amongst many other things) were quite obvious. Within a few months, my little brother and I had already adapted a neutral general North American accent, garnished with a few of the more obvious characteristics of Canadian English.

Once I moved to a different part of India for Engineering school there was a accent divide between me and my classmates once again. Within the year however, I had molded my tongue into sounding more local without much hassle. This brought about some new challenges for me – I regularly conversed with my Canadian friends in my north american accent, and switched to the new Indian one with my Indian friends.

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This Midterm Season, Don’t Forget to Take a Break!

By Colette Au

As the first round of midterms reaches its peak, I find myself overwhelmed by my commitments. Again. It seems that every semester begins smoothly, but time management only helps so much to balance a life that, frankly, is overbooked.  As I learned in my gender studies class, Americans have the longest work week in the world. We can boast of our high GDP and standards of living compared to many other nations, but economic benefits come with hidden costs. This workaholic culture trickles down, and is especially concentrated at a university like USC. People who triple major, invest thirty hours a week e-boarding for several clubs, rushing and pledging in the Greek system, or work a full-time job alongside a full course load are our role models — the hard working ideal. Squeezing maximum productivity out of every day is the norm. Is this mindset of high-intensity social, academic, involvement helpful, or even sustainable in the long-term? Perhaps a dominant narrative negatively portrays a stereotypical American characteristic, rewarding effort without achievement, but I think there is an equally strong narrative that seeks to disrupt this view that Americans are lazy and entitled.

As an American-born Chinese (ABC), I grew up with Asian immigrant parents. Like many of their “tiger” counterparts, they stressed academic accomplishment, but unlike the tiger parent stereotypes, they told me I should also remember to take breaks and relax sometimes. However, in college, there is no one to remind me to put down my macroeconomics lecture slides and simply BE. As soon as I stop working, the guilt sets in. I don’t want to be a lazy and entitled American, I think. So I work harder and I overcommit. And when my laptop’s hard drive fails and I succumb to a bad cold that takes me out of class for a week, my self worth disappears along with my rigid work schedule. Lying in bed with used tissues and a glass of hot tea, I realized how easily my world was reduced to my Google Calendar’s events and task list in the semester’s first four weeks. I had become my commitments. My long-distance relationship was suffering because I was in club meetings, attending lectures, or working for most of my days. This is not what I envisioned for myself, but slipping into the “work hard, play hard” culture that permeates this campus is extremely tempting.

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