Category Archives: Travel

Witnessing the American Landscape through my Car Window

By Amber Heldreth-Miller

The United States is a large country in terms of physical size. Many countries throughout the world, especially in Europe, are small and you can drive from one side to another in a single day–but not America. Not only is it physically large, but there are many different cultures, ways of living, and people scattered across the land.

The summer before last, I drove cross country from the West Coast to the East Coast, an experience that gave me the opportunity to see the vast change in landscape throughout the country, visit small towns and large cities, and really see the country that I live in. It was a long drive that I did in five days, so I did not have much time to explore each place that I visited, but I got a glimpse of the country through my car window.

We started in Arizona where it is hot–hotter than LA most days–and where saguaros (tall green cacti) sprinkle the desert with their beauty. From there, we drove east towards New Mexico and then headed north to the city of Santa Fe. It was crazy how even this relatively small distance took us from a view of saguaros as far as the eye could see to their sudden disappearance as the land became more rocky. When we reached Santa Fe it was like being in a whole new world–even though we were technically still in the desert, we were now viewing evergreen covered mountains instead of cactus country. We then drove east again on small little roads that felt like we were in the middle of nowhere (that is how many of the roads in the middle of the country made me feel.)

We drove through northern Texas, where it was flat dirt and farms, and then into Oklahoma, where more flat dirt made way to flat grass. Then, all of a sudden, small hills and trees started to appear and, for the rest of the trip, there were big trees lining all the roads. In Oklahoma, we passed through many Indian Nations, which is another example of different cultures that make up this melting pot of the US.

East we drove on, through Arkansas and Tennessee. Since we were on the highway and we were not driving through towns–we were surrounded by wilderness for most of the way. Trees and trees filled my vision in the car.

My favorite part of the entire trip was driving from Tennessee to North Carolina through the beautiful Smoky Mountains, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. We literally drove through the mountains, with the road winding back and forth surrounded by the beauty of nature. We stopped in Ashville for the night, which is a beautiful, hilly, artistic town in North Carolina. I ate the most amazing shrimp and grits I have ever had in my life–actually it was the first time I have ever had it–but it is a specialty of many southern states. I highly recommend it!

We continued our journey through West Virginia and through Maryland and then Washington DC. For most of the country, there was wilderness surrounding the area. As soon as we drove to Washington DC, and through Delaware and New Jersey–the roads became much more crowded with cars and the trees and, just like that, the wilderness gave way to houses and supermarkets. New Jersey is the state in the US with the most population density, a fact made apparent from just driving through it.

Even though I was not able to spend a lot of time in each city that I passed through, driving across the country was an incredible experience where I was able to see all the terrain and diversity that the US has.

Amber is from southern Arizona but she spent the last year and a half in upstate New York. Even though Amber is from the desert, she loves the ocean and hopes to one day live on the beach. She is studying environmental science and hopes to minor in the dramatic arts, as she is interested in creating films, especially for social change. Amber love cats, eating food, swimming, sleeping and laying in the grass and staring at the clouds. She loves traveling and exploring the world– so far, she has traveled to Costa Rica, Canada, and all over Europe.

A Bite of Culture – Food as a Reflection of the People

By Emily Kim

Every country has its own unique cuisine. This is why, often enough, one of the first questions we ask someone who has returned from a trip is, “How was the food?” More than visiting a country’s famous sites and attractions, I like to travel to new places to try their food. Throughout my life, I have realized that food is so much more than delicious substances that fill one’s stomach. Rather, just like language, music, or any other aspect of culture, food can reveal so much about the country from which it originates. Three cultures (and therefore food) have dominated my life and, together, they have defined my identity. Allow me to explain.

Whenever I return to America after travelling, I am always shocked by the enormous portion sizes. Everything is unnecessarily huge! In addition, there are always so many choices on the menu that it is hard to decide just what to order. On top of all the choices, there are also so many sides as well! Salad, soup, and fries, just to name a few. There are so many elements, but they are all clearly separate entities. And while this nature of American food may be overwhelming at times, I think it sheds light on various aspects of American culture. We Americans like things big and feel constrained by limitations. It also reveals our individualistic nature as well; we like the power to choose and respect the boundaries we establish between things like work and play, friends and acquaintances. Lastly, one cannot forget the diversity of American cuisine. In the States, you can find authentic food from everywhere! This is only fitting, for America is a melting pot, home to people from all over the world.

Korean food also reveals so much about the Korean culture, the culture of my ethnicity. In a traditional Korean meal there are usually one or two main dishes accompanied by numerous side dishes. Instead of each person ordering their own dish, the whole party will share all of the food on the table; it is too much for one person to enjoy all by him or herself. This manner of eating reveals the communal nature of Korean culture. There is great emphasis on generosity and hospitality, and one of the biggest ways this is expressed is through food! Korean food can also be very interesting and creative. On the streets of Korea, you will find traditional foods transformed and adapted into dishes you would never expect. Take the french fry battered corn-dog or bulgogi pizza for example. It mixes old with new, often producing a combination that makes both even better. This reflects a progressive side to Korean culture and its emphasis on innovation.

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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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