The Greatest Experiences are Born from Fear

By Anahi Terrazas

Terror was all I felt in the days leading up to my flight to Paris. I started to get racing, anxious thoughts questioning what my life abroad would look like—what if I didn’t like my host family? Since I knew nothing about the Paris metro, how would I survive getting around the city? What was I going to do by myself in a foreign country? As embarrassing as it is to admit, the fear paralyzed me. I started to doubt whether studying abroad was the right choice. Despite my angst, I boarded my flight to Paris. 

The day after landing in Paris, I started to feel at ease. I got along well with the people in my study abroad program, and the metro was easy to use. But, the aspect that terrified me the most—living with a host family—had yet to be resolved. We learned who our host family would be our second day in Paris, and we didn’t move in with our host family until our fourth day in the city (we stayed in a hotel together our first 3 nights). All I knew before getting into the taxi that would take me to my host family was that I would live in the 13th arrondissement with a lady who worked for the Paris museums and had a 17 year-old daughter and a 15 year-old son. 

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The taxi driver dropped me off with my two large suitcases and backpack on the wrong street corner. I looked down at the address I had written down on my phone, and looked at the Haussmanian buildings in front of me. They all looked the same, I wasn’t sure where to go, and my bags were incredibly difficult to move around. I crossed the street, in hopes of getting closer to where I needed to be, when suddenly I heard “Anahi!”. I looked up and a very French woman approached me, introducing herself and signaling to the apartment complex opposite of me. She grabbed one of my bags and started to guide me. 

 Her apartment was up the stairs on the first floor, with a beautiful living room that looked out into the busy Parisian street. Colorful art decorated the walls, and the old wooden floors creaked constantly. Her daughter and son greeted me excitedly, giving me a tour of the quaint and traditional Parisian apartment. I was left to unpack while my host family set the table and finished preparing our dinner. At dinner, they were patient with my stuttering around in French, and they did everything in their power to help me feel included. I went to bed that first night with a feeling of warmth, recognizing that I would enjoy my time with my host family. 

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I had dinner with them four to five times a week, had movie nights with them, attended their birthday parties, went to the movie theater and park with them, and spent a weekend at their vacation home in Normandy. We went from complete and utter strangers to an integral part of each other’s lives. I felt at ease with them, chatting with them while I helped prep dinner, sharing stories about the trips I had taken the previous weekend (I believe I spent a total of five weekends in Paris out of the four months I was there). What once was the most frightening aspect of my study abroad experience quickly became one of my favorite parts. As the end of my program approached, the more I realized it would not only be difficult to leave Paris and all my experiences behind, but also leaving the family that had so warmly welcomed me into their home would prove to be a very difficult challenge. 

I stayed a few extra days in Paris after my program ended with a friend from back home who came to visit me. We stayed in an Airbnb in the 5th arrondissement, and the night before I left Paris my host family invited me and my friend for dinner. At the end of dinner, I gave them all a hug and I fought tears back as my friend and I walked to the bus station. As soon as I sat on the bus, I started to cry uncontrollably—I would miss them, I would miss Paris, I would miss the freedom of living in a walkable city, I would miss who I became while living abroad. 

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The scariest experiences are often the most valuable ones. I am thankful that I was forced to live with a host family and step out of my comfort zone while living abroad. As cheesy at it sounds, I returned from Paris a completely different person and I recognize that all the terror I felt was actually a sign that I was about to embark on a journey that was good for me. Great life experiences, relationships and cherished memories come from discomfort. 

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Anahi is a Political Science major and a French minor. She is a sophomore and is from El Paso, Texas. She is currently involved with Trojan Herstory as a Content Creator and is an active member of Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law organization. Anahi is a transfer student and prior to attending USC she attended Florida Atlantic University. Anahi is dedicated to political organizing and has been a part of various organizations such as Students for Bernie and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. In her free time Anahi enjoys yoga, reading, and musical theatre.

My College Bucket List

By Ning Hannah Teoh

As I enter my final year at USC (oh, how the time flies), I have been reflecting on my time here. Unfortunately, I was one of many who had their freshman year disrupted by the onset of COVID-19. I am also one of many who have decided to graduate early, finishing my degree in three years instead of the traditional four. Now, instead of having four years to explore USC and LA, I have two due to the time lost during the pandemic. In an effort to get everything out of my USC experience I possibly can, I have created a college bucket list for myself. Today, we will be exploring this list together and tracking the progress I have made on my bucket list so far!

  • Make new friends

This goal of mine is somewhat intuitive and is probably the cornerstone of all incoming college kids’ bucket lists. However, this was particularly important to me. I grew up surrounded by a relatively homogenous community— mostly upper middle class, English-educated, Chinese people. I grew up in a privileged bubble, and thus was never able to fully recognize the privilege I had. It was then important for me to consider diversity as a factor in choosing my colleges. Choosing USC has been one of the best decisions to this end, as I have had so many meaningful conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and personalities. I have grown by getting rid of my isolated bubble and listening to the people around me. The beauty of diversity is that it inspires growth and empathy. While this is a goal I set for myself in college, this is merely just a stepping stone. Nonetheless, I am so glad that I have come across great friends and that we have mutually taught each other so much. 

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  • Learn how to cook

I would say that this goal of learning to cook has sufficiently been achieved. The other day, I successfully made my own dumplings! As a clumsy child, I was never allowed in the kitchen, let alone allowed to handle a knife. Cooking has always been a sign of independence and self-sustenance for me. I knew that coming to the United States, approximately 8170 miles away from home, that I would be alone and fully independent for the first time. Being alone meant that I would have to learn how to take care of myself. Thus, I began my culinary journey of learning how to blanch vegetables, season (generously), and not trigger the smoke detector. I can proudly say that my meals are edible, and quite tasty even! The next step: to branch out into different cuisines and really put my culinary skills to the test. 

  • Get involved on campus

I have had the great pleasure to be a part of several organizations on campus that are near and dear to my heart. I have met some of the most compassionate and uplifting people through the organizations that I am in and I am eternally grateful to have met them at USC. Perhaps one of my biggest takeaways I had from joining on-campus organizations was how much a community can empower you to experience personal growth. There has been a lot of learning and un-learning, realizing potential and affirming boundaries. I have learned to delve deeper into advocacy and meaningful social activism. I have developed professional networks and had great mentorship opportunities. Even through the One-on-One Conversation Partner program, I have met people from all walks of life and learned so much about them and from them. As an international student, it can be daunting to explore the variety of clubs and societies, especially when you are unfamiliar with the culture of extra-curricular involvement like I was. But I believe that the vibrancy of the people and campus can best be explored by taking the first step of getting involved. With the variety of options and opportunities on campus, there’s something for everyone. 

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  • Figure out my interests

A fun fact about me is that I switched my major and minor combination four times in the span of two semesters. One of the reasons why I chose to come to USC was the flexibility USC offers to explore different majors. I went from a Global Studies major to a Political Economy major and then an Economics major, and I also went from an International Relations minor to an East Asian Area Studies minor. I will be honest— I did not even know that all these options were available to me in the first place. Through some of the most interesting classes (and some boring ones), I managed to flesh out what I truly enjoy and what truly excites me. I’ve come to realize that Economics is more than just the technical aspects of the economy and includes interesting insights from sociology, public policy, and psychology. Some of my favorite classes at USC were from my interdisciplinary minor that allowed me to explore culture, politics, and history focused on the East Asia region. I have to thank resources such as the Dornsife Major and Minor Fair and my academic advisors in helping me discover my options. As I enter my senior year, I have also come to integrate my academic interests with my professional development. Now that I have hashed out what interests me, I am excited to see where it takes me. Will it be a career or graduate school or a gap year?— that’s for my post-graduation bucket list to figure out.

  • Be an extra on a TV show/movie

I have yet to achieve this. But I believe that one day, I will. I await the time where my friends will catch my on-screen cameo and send a picture of me living out my acting dreams now that I attend school in LA.

So, that was my college bucket list. As you can see, I have achieved some parts and am still working on others. Creating a bucket list is a great way to figure out your goals and set them in motion. What’s on your bucket list? 

Featured Image by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

Hannah is a junior at Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, majoring in Economics and minoring in East Asian Area Studies. Born and raised in Malaysia, she has a background in interacting with multiple cultures, languages, and heritages. She has also spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts, and briefly studied abroad in Osaka, Japan. Aside from English, Hannah is also fluent in Malay, proficient in Mandarin, and conversational in Cantonese and Korean. On campus, Hannah works for the Financial and Business Services and is involved in the International Students Assembly. In her free time, she loves going on food trips, listening to music, and simply enjoying a good conversation.

Travel to The Windy City – Chicago

By Kamila Dautnokova

New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas…there are so many exciting cities to visit in America that sometimes others get overlooked by international students looking for somewhere new to travel. Yes, all of the above cities are amazing, and I have enjoyed visiting them very much, but the city of Chicago also made an unforgettable impression on me. In some ways it is similar to Manhattan, but in my opinion is somehow more spacious, more clean, and more comfortable. The architecture in Chicago is amazing, and isn’t quite as overwhelming as some of the skyscrapers in New York can be. Chicago is an amazing city that I hope to return to soon, and here are some reasons why you should visit!

Located on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan in Illinois, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States (after New York and Los Angeles), the second most important financial center of the country (after New York), and the largest transport hub in North America. Being the largest city in the entire Midwest, it is also the largest transportation, industrial, economic, and cultural center in North America. As a stronghold of the Democrats, many well-known politicians have come out of Chicago, including Barack Obama (senator from Illinois). The unofficial name of the city is the Windy City and speaking from personal experience, this is accurate–the Chicago winter is freezing.

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Chicago is a “city of skyscrapers”, and is home to lots of interesting sites to see and places for hiking. There are many parks, recreation areas, beaches, museums, theaters, and restaurants. In my opinion, the first thing to do in Chicago once you arrive is to wander aimlessly. The city itself is one giant landmark, where the streets are narrow, and the skyscrapers are so tall that you need to tilt your head fully to see the top of them.

Millennium Park is a green park in downtown Chicago the size of fourteen football fields. There are bizarre sculptures, concert zones, and benches to sit and relax. The famous Crown Fountain is also located there – two fifteen-meter glass blocks, on which video images of Chicagoans are broadcast. Millennium Park is the center of Chicago’s social life. Entrance is free everywhere. Volunteers lead tours of the park, tourists watch spiders through microscopes, and actors give free theatrical performances. Cloud Gate is also located in Millennium Park. This is the most recognizable monument in Chicago and, perhaps, America – a hundred-ton metal sculpture of a bizarre shape. However, the locals came up with a more spunky nickname for the sculpture: The Bean. The scultpure really looks like a giant bean from above, and is an iconic place to visit if you have the chance.

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One of the most famous eateries in the city is the restaurant “Jordan’s”. This is a Chicago pizzeria with a forty-year history, which was founded by immigrants from Italy. The New York Times and dozens of other influential media wrote that they served the best pizza in Chicago.

Art museums are also very popular in Chicago. Some of the best include the Art Institute of Chicago, where you can view classical art for tickets priced at $27, or the Museum of Contemporary Art, where adult admission costs $15. Among the historical museums, the one that was the most memorable for me was the Chicago History Museum where adult tickets sell for $19.

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