My First Time Flying Alone

By Jonah Weingarten

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Throughout my life, I have traveled all around the world. I have been to Israel, Spain (twice), the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Costa Rica, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico. Soon, I will also be going to Canada for the first time. Although I love traveling, there are some things about the traveling experience that haven’t always been easy for me: I used to struggle with traveling alone.

The first time I ever traveled alone was when I went to Costa Rica the summer after my freshman year of high school. I remember it clearly-it was 3:00 in the morning and I had just woken up. I was so excited to go abroad alone for the first time, but at the same time I was really scared. My flight was not until 8:30, but the program told us to arrive 4 hours before because of customs and traveling to South America. Since LAX was decently close to us, we left at 4 o’clock. The roads were completely empty and I already knew we could have left later. When we got to the airport, my mom parked and walked me to security. Since this was my first time flying alone, I was not quite sure what to do. I followed my mom to the bag check and we checked my bag and got my boarding pass. After that we headed to security where we said our goodbyes.

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

The TSA line went pretty quickly and after 20 minutes I was sitting at my gate, listening to music and reading my book to pass the time. After what seemed like a full day we started to board and then just like that we took off to Houston for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. After 3 or so hours we touched down in Houston, and I met up with the rest of the group for our Costa Rica flight. Because it was such a short layover, it seemed like we got to Costa Rica in no time. I sent my mom a text as soon as we landed to let her know I had arrived. We landed in San Jose and stayed the night. The next day, we boarded a bus that took us on a 2-hour drive to the mountains where we were staying with our host families. The town was called Turrialba.

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Restaurants to Try in LA

By Sarah Selke

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

Los Angeles is home to some of the most diverse cuisines in the world. From Italian to Chinese to Mexican to Thai food, this city offers a wide variety of foods that would be hard to find in such abundance in other American or even international cities. Despite the pandemic’s limitations on indoor and some outdoor dining, many restaurants still offer takeout or delivery services. Not only do these services help keep small businesses afloat, but they can also provide a much-needed alternative to cooking at home all of the time. Here are a few restaurants in the LA area that are beloved by many of the city’s residents.

Ji Rong Peking Duck

Located in Rosemead, Ji Rong Peking Duck is an upscale Chinese restaurant specializing in Peking duck. While it is about a 20 minute drive from USC, it is considered by many customers to have the best Peking duck in LA. This famous dish requires ordering an hour in advance. Some of their other popular items include lamb skewers, crispy walnut shrimp, stewed pork belly, beef rolls, meat pies, and green bean jelly. They are now offering both delivery and takeout.

Photo by Fabien Maurin on Unsplash

Tender Greens

Located in several places in LA County, Tender Greens offers modern American food that is relatively health-conscious. They are known for their hot plates, salads, and sandwiches. The plates are easily customizable, giving you a choice of protein, greens, and a side. Recently, they have also added a brunch and family meals section to their menu. During the pandemic, they have begun to offer outdoor dining and pickup.

Chichen Itza

Close to USC’s campus, Chichen Itza is a family-owned Mexican restaurant specializing in Yucatecan food. They are known for serving many traditional dishes such as Cochinita Pibil, Tamales, and Panuchos. The establishment has frequently made L.A. Weekly’s list of top 99 restaurants in Los Angeles, and customers continue to come back for their delicious dishes. Currently, they offer outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.

Urth Caffe

Urth Caffe is a popular European-style breakfast/brunch spot with multiple locations in LA County. Focused on sustainability and local ingredients, the establishment roasts its own organic coffee and blends its own teas. They offer a wide variety of menu items, including sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, salads, omelets, and desserts. One of my favorite dishes is their Mediterranean platter, which is a sampler plate of hummus, pearl couscous tabouli, roasted peppers, feta cheese, and dolma. They are currently open for outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.

Photo by Petr Sevcovic on Unsplash

Zui Xiang Yuan

A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Alhambra, Zui Xiang Yuan has a nice variety of relatively simple Chinese dishes. Famous for their dumplings and noodles, the establishment offers beef noodle soup, dan dan noodles, meat pies, pan-fried buns, and steamed buns. Compared to other restaurants with similar menus in the San Gabriel Valley, Zui Xiang Yuan stands out for its delicious and authentic take on southern Chinese food. Currently, they are open for takeout.

Oh My Pan Bakery & Café

Oh My Pan is an Asian-style bakery in San Gabriel that offers a variety of drinks, breads, and cakes. They offer many types of tea, milk tea, slush, and frosted milk with syrups made of fresh fruit. Their breads are made of Japanese flour, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture. Some of my favorite items are the taro with buttercream bun and the matcha mochi with buttercream bun. They are open for pickup.

Hopefully, some of these restaurants sounded appealing to you and you will go and try them for yourself! If you have any other LA restaurant recommendations that you simply can’t stop raving about, consider sending in a blog post submission to the American Language Institute describing your experience. You can submit a blog post or get more information on submitting a post by emailing jungheim@usc.edu.

Featured Image by Jermaine Ee on Unsplash

Sarah is a recent graduate who majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She was born in the Los Angeles area and has lived there much of her life. In addition to English, she has some background in Mandarin Chinese, French, and basic German. In her free time, she likes reading, listening to music, photography, and cooking. Sarah went to Beijing last summer and experienced having one-on-one conversations with other local students learning English. She hopes to continue improving her Chinese and French and is interested in teaching English as a foreign language someday.

Return to Practice

By Eileen Kim

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

When I was younger, I understood the concept of practice in the context of the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”. As a child who participated in many sports and played multiple musical instruments, practice referred to the events I worked on to improve my technical skills. At practice, I would learn how to do better through acts of repetition and intentional change. 

Eventually, I chose to centralize my practice towards my passion for dance. With my goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, practice took on a whole new layer of meaning. I worked daily and repeatedly at a set of physical movements in ballet to improve and refine my technique. This repetition led to growth and mastery within ballet and my practice became understood as a necessary means that would result in self-improvement.

Photo by Nihal Demirci on Unsplash

As I got older, my conception of practice began to evolve. My practice became grounded in the habitual sense of coming back to something. There was still a level of mastery that I was after, but it was more so realized as a continuous and infinite pattern that I felt compelled to return to. Year after year and almost every day, I would start again at the ballet barre where I would repeat the same series of physical movements. But the sameness of this repetition never bored me, because everyday was different and I was different everyday. Every day brought its own joys and challenges, and everyday I came back with 24 more hours of lived experience. Everything surrounding me was in a constant state of change and the stability of my daily practice became like a refuge for me, one that I could always return to and find comfort in.

As I reflect on how I approach my practice in the present, I have found that in many ways, practice is similar to a routine. The habitual nature of both concepts are the same, but practice puts an intentionality to the repetition and implies a sense of growth. The contents of our daily routines can be the same as our daily practices, but approaching our daily routines as daily practices can drastically reframe how we approach our lives. For me, practice no longer only refers to the physical practice I put into my dancing body. My daily practices encompass how I approach my life, what I eat, what time I go to sleep, how I take care of my body, and how I take care of my mind.

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