It seems like just yesterday, the world stopped in response to the pandemic. For the first few months of social distancing, I lost track of the days. Before I had time to perceive it, weeks had gone by. All plans were thrown out the window, and the year that marked the third decade of my life has been nothing like I originally expected. I could have spent all of my time dwelling on the lost moments and experiences, but instead I chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, after giving myself time to reflect and acknowledge that my home would most likely be the center of my whole life for the rest of the year, I worked to find my motivation and passion.
At the beginning of the pandemic, things weren’t so bad, as I had school to occupy myself with. Society as a whole went on an exploration through the world of Zoom. There was frustration and even hatred towards technology, and for many learning technology has been like learning a new language. However, once we all settled into the basic framework of living in an online world, technology became the bridge connecting everyone via a virtual landscape. Lately, Zoom has been a key feature in my life. From classes to weekly meals with my friends, it seems that we are all in long-distance relationships these days. We have found a way to connect without the need for physical presence.
By Megan Tran, Sarah Ta, Sarah Selke, and Rachel Priebe
[13 minute read]
As the Covid-19 pandemic has continued through the spring semester, wrapping up a year at USC which no one could have foreseen, many of us are left feeling disconnected from our friends and peers who we socialized with regularly before the pandemic. This can be a very isolating feeling, despite the fact that most people are experiencing these exact circumstances at the present moment. Below, ALI leaders have shared their own advice and experiences on how to stay connected with your friends and make your online interactions a bit more entertaining!
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
FUN WAYS TO CONNECT WITH FRIENDS VIRTUALLY
By Megan Tran
The Covid-19 pandemic has really pushed all of us to think creatively when it comes to activities we can do safely with friends and family. Since we may not be able to see each other in person, it’s good to come up with alternative activities to do online to keep our friendships and relationships strong. These activities allow us to still stay in touch with our loved ones from the safety and comfort of our homes. Making the effort to connect with people is extremely crucial in a time like this in order to combat the feelings of loneliness that quarantine can bring about. I have listed some of my favorite activities for remaining connected virtually below!
Game Pigeon– These games on iMessage used to be all the hype when they first came out but have since been long forgotten. I’ve recently started playing them with my friends and realized I had forgotten how much fun they are! Game Pigeon has a wide variety of games to choose from so you can find the perfect one to play either against one opponent or with a group of friends. Anyone who has access to iMessage is able to play. Cup Pong, Crazy 8, and Sea Battle are just a few of my favorite games!
Virtual Movie Nights– One of the things that I miss the most about pre-Covid life is being able to go to the movie theater. But now there are ways to stream and watch movies with your friends without having to be in the same room! With websites like Netflix Party, you can have watch parties and long-distance movie nights where you’ll be able to synchronize video playback and utilize the chat rooms to share your reactions. I think a current must-see TV show is Queen’s Gambit.
Virtual Escape Rooms– This is something I haven’t personally tried yet, but I’ve been wanting to because it seems so fun! I used to love doing in-person escape rooms with my friends as a fun way to test our teamwork and problem-solving skills. This virtual activity would be best to do with a large group of people to maximize your chances of winning. They come in many different themed adventures, like Hogwarts or bank heist, so it’s easy to find one that everyone will be interested in.
Zoom Happy Hour- This one is for those of us who are 21 and older only! With the majority of bars closed, most of us miss being able to go out and get drinks with friends on a Friday night. But who says you still can’t? You could host a Happy Hour on Zoom with friends and spice things up by playing a fun drinking game.
Collaborative Playlists– Music is something that always brings people together. Even though we can’t go to concerts or music festivals right now, we can still share our love of music with one another! Collaborative playlists on Spotify are a good way to keep in touch with others. My friends and I have a Spotify playlist where we each add our favorite song for that week, and after a couple of months, we already have such a long and diverse list of songs!
HOW TO STAY CONNECTED DURING QUARANTINE
By Sarah Ta
When self-isolation was first mandated back in March, no one expected that it would continue for the rest of the year. Other parts of the country started opening back up at various times, with varying degrees of success, but Los Angeles county has remained diligent in its efforts to not reopen sooner than necessary to prevent an outbreak. Like many others, I have stayed at home as much as possible to do my part in protecting those who are immunocompromised, and while we all know that it was the right thing to do, it doesn’t make missing our family and friends hurt any less. As the year went on, I found new ways to connect with my loved ones without jeopardizing anyone’s health. Reaching out to friends through social media is still by far the easiest and most straightforward method, but if you’re looking for some new ways, here are a few of my personal favorite methods I’ve been using for the past few months!
Join an Organization on Campus– This may be a cliche suggestion, but from my personal experience, I can confidently say that joining a cultural organization completely transformed my USC experience. I’ve been a part of the Vietnamese Student Association for two years now, and the community it has given me is irreplaceable. I know that joining an organization virtually is not the same as attending events in-person, but most clubs are still hosting virtual events with their members and would love to have you join them. These events also give you a chance to interact with people outside of a virtual classroom setting. While it can sound exhausting to be in another Zoom call, it’s less like a class and more like a fun group video call. Also, the people who attend virtual club events are also there to meet new people, and once you find the right organization for you, it will feel like you’re hanging out with a large group of friends.
Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party)- Like most friend groups, my friends and I love watching movies and shows together as a way to bond or just to relax after a hard week. Quarantine may have prevented us from having physical get-togethers, but it hasn’t stopped us from having virtual ones. Teleparty is an extension that synchronizes video playback so we can easily watch a movie together. It’s completely free, and while it does lack a video call function, that can be solved simply using a separate video calling platform (such as Facetime or Zoom) to chat in real-time while watching the movie. It can support Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO, so there’s plenty of options available no matter what streaming platform you prefer.
Discord– If you have a large group of friends and struggle to keep all of your group chats organized, this might be the platform for you. Each ‘server’ is organized into ‘channels,’ which allow different conversation topics to be separated. Anyone can create a server, and since a server can only be joined via invite, it can be as private or as public as you want it to be. There is a small learning curve if you’re not used to the layout, but it’s relatively intuitive once you get the hang of it. My favorite part about it is that texting, voice chatting, and video calling is all on one interface, allowing users to easily switch between them with just a few clicks.
Schedule Video Calls– While staying connected is easier than ever, it can also make it harder to actually keep in touch. Reaching out is only a few taps away, but because it’s so accessible, it can be easy to push it off. Before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve had a genuine conversation with the people you care about. Scheduling video calls as you would a regular outing helps carve out space in your busy schedules to sit down and take a minute to catch up. It might seem a little awkward to set up something as simple as a video call, but I can promise you, having it marked into your calendar makes a world of difference.
Send Some Snail Mail– Lastly, if you’re looking for a break from being connected to the internet all day, try writing a physical letter and mailing it to your friends. Receiving a package you ordered online is always something to look forward to, but receiving mail you weren’t expecting is an even better surprise. It’s a more old-fashioned method of staying in touch and definitely a lot slower than shooting someone a simple text, but that only adds to the charm of it, and I can guarantee it’ll brighten the rest of the recipient’s week.
There are many other ways to stay connected while staying at home, but these five have been my favorite. Wherever you are in the world, I hope these tips can help you feel closer to your loved ones, or at the very least, remind you to reach out and reconnect with friends you might not have spoken to in a while. Best of luck, and let’s all do our part to get through this together.
DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTIES
By Sarah Selke
When I was younger, I used to hate waking up early to go to school. When my alarm went off, I would try to stay under my covers for as long as I could, but eventually had to rise since every second I lingered in bed was another second wasted. When I wake up now, time is no longer measured in seconds but in weeks. The days fade into one another much the same way we drift into sleep at night. I’m simultaneously surprised by how much time has passed and how little it has in the scope of a season. Perhaps time has always been an erroneous concept, however — we don’t recall things systematically but as asynchronous scenes. We measure things in befores and afters, and perhaps this is the only way we can differentiate the important from the trivial.
The pandemic is one of those divisive events that exacerbates the arbitrariness of the units we give time. And this is how I say farewell? I ask myself when contemplating the possibility of never returning to campus as a student. Except, to a certain extent, I never did feel as if I had found a home on the grounds that I walked on a near daily basis before. As someone who commuted to USC and therefore didn’t live near campus, it was the bus rides to campus that were the strongest familiarity to me – the only constant from semester to semester.
In the face of the future’s uncertainty, I’m reminded of the concept of negative capability. According to the concept’s founder, the English writer John Keats, negative capability is when we are capable of living in doubt and uncertainty without reaching out to facts or reason to justify the actions we take. It’s a mode of thinking that can apply to every stage in one’s life, but especially in moments of transition. You may not be sure of exactly where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing in a few years, but it’s important not to let the unknown intimidate you into avoiding any exploration. After all, many students do not follow a linear path towards a specific career. I’ve had my fair share of doubts and switched plans and come to realize that cutting possibilities out before even trying them is never beneficial. At the same time, I’ve realized that it’s important not to do anything halfway, which can often happen when juggling too many goals at once.
Ultimately, there is no constancy in our lives because nothing ever happens exactly as we expect it to. While I often see every transition as a farewell to something I used to take for granted, I know that ruminating on the past does not lead me anywhere. If you have been struggling with doubts and lack of motivation, I encourage you to set small, tangible goals that may not be inherently useful but once completed will make you feel as if you have accomplished something. I also find channeling any anxieties I have into art – especially music and writing – to be somewhat consoling. If you find yourself fatigued from working too long at a specific task, I highly recommend taking a break to work on something creative to help prevent burnout.
ONLINE FUN DURING THE PANDEMIC
By Rachel Priebe
It goes without saying that the pandemic has been difficult for most of us. With events canceled, online school, and the future being unpredictable, loneliness and stress are feelings shared by most. Fortunately, online events can help give us an escape from boredom, a place to build community, and the opportunity to learn new skills. While USC has many great online events, I’ve also found some other sources that provide a variety of unique activities.
By Veronica Sundin, Brianneth Rocha, Lauren Anderson, Sara Ta and Jasmine Zahedi
[16 minute read]
This year has been full of unusual circumstances. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the academic and professional trajectories of many people’s lives, and has put all of us in a position where we are apt to feel loneliness, confusion, and impatience. Time indoors and to ourselves, something which we once looked forward to as respite from a bustling life, has become the norm. What makes these circumstances particularly hard is the isolating effect they can have on us. College students in particular, going through a time when they feel they should be experiencing life to the fullest, feel the isolating effects of the pandemic. However, sometimes as college students we forget that we are not alone in this situation, and sometimes hearing the experiences of others can make us feel a bit better about the reality we are still learning to come to terms with. Below, five USC seniors share their thoughts on what it is like to be a senior in this time, and share tips on how to adjust and find solace.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
My Unusual Senior Year Experience at USC
By Veronica Sundin
As a transfer student from a small community college in Texas, I was so excited to experience everything USC and Los Angeles had to offer. First of all, I would be moving from a small town in East Texas of about 15,000 people to a huge city of nearly 4 million. On top of that, I had been attending community college for 3 years and I was excited and ready for the challenge I knew I would be thrown into in classes at USC. I grew up in this same area in Texas for most of my life, and though I knew I loved being in big cities, I hadn’t had the chance to live in one just yet. I was excited to experience the culture and scenery of Los Angeles, and to really kickstart my academic career at USC.
I transferred in the fall of 2019 and, probably unlike most students, I was excited for school to start. I couldn’t wait to see where my huge intro to IR lecture was going to be held, or to begin completing hard assignments for my classes. Attending USC was the academic and personal challenge I had been craving for most of my life, and certainly for the 3 years prior to coming to LA. I got involved with organizations and events on campus, started making friends in my classes, and began exploring all the parts of LA I had dreamed of visiting my whole life. Between going to Salsa nights hosted by USC Break On 2, the Salsa dance team on campus, attending tailgates, football games, and concerts on campus, and hiking up to the Hollywood sign, I was living a life I was happy with and was so ecstatic that I would be able to do it for another four semesters as I finished my degree at USC.
Of course, everyone’s plans changed when COVID-19 hit in the Spring of 2020. I remember packing up my suitcase to go back home to Texas and just wishing and hoping that I would be back on campus and in Los Angeles soon. Having to adapt to taking classes on Zoom and not being able to interact with my peers in person was really hard, especially as I did it from my childhood home in East Texas, when all I wanted to do was to enjoy the big city life that I had been craving for so long. I missed the California beaches, discovering all of the delicious food and culture around Los Angeles, getting coffee in the USC Village, and hanging out with my friends after class. Finishing up my first year at USC when I had only experienced very little of it on campus was very strange, and I knew in my heart that would probably be the reality of the rest of the time I attended USC.
As I started my senior year at USC, I was more familiar with how remote classes would work on Zoom, so at least I had that out of the way. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t upset when I realized that my one semester that I got on campus in the fall of 2019 at USC would most likely be all I ever got to experience in-person. Despite this, I was determined to make the most of my senior year at USC. I was still studying at an incredible university, with all of the tools and resources that I needed to be successful at my disposal, and now I had professors who were willing and eager to help their students out in any way they needed. I found that my professors were a bit more understanding in knowing that their students were learning and doing their best under very strange circumstances. I joined more organizations on campus and around LA, such as CALPIRG (the California Public Interest Research Group), and got more involved at ALI (which I have loved and have been very thankful for!) Despite all odds, I still wanted to make my senior year as memorable and fun as possible. Although it’s not quite the year I wanted to have, I am so thankful for the opportunities that I did have while on campus at USC. This experience has taught me, above all else, to cherish every moment you have where you are. Don’t wish your time away or worry too much about the future, because you never know if you’re going to get to re-live what you’re experiencing right now!
USC: An Experience Like No Other
By Brianneth Rocha
My time at USC has been the most rewarding, challenging, and exciting period of my academic career. I have been a Trojan for three years now, and it feels like just yesterday I was moving onto campus for the Summer Bridge Program. My senior year experience is a bit unlike that of my peers, as my time at USC will not be ending this spring in the midst of the pandemic. I, like many students, didn’t start college with my current major. I was a pre-med student majoring in Health and Human Sciences, and I later added Environmental Studies as a second major to fuel my interest in the environment. Soon after, I realized that I wanted to leave my impact on the world by strengthening environmental conservation. During the fall semester of my sophomore year I began to research graduate programs, and learned that USC has progressive degree programs. I was accepted into the progressive degree program the next semester, and I am now extending my time at USC to pursue an MA in Environmental Studies. However, I still can’t believe how little time I have left, and I am unsure if an opportunity like this would have presented itself the way it did at another university.
This past year didn’t go as I expected. A cliché, I know, but there is no better way to describe it. Who would have foreseen that college students would go through multiple semesters of online courses? Navigating the world of Zoom was an initial challenge, but one which has allowed me to explore many new talents, projects, and reflect on my life, but I’ll be honest—while I have learned a lot by reflecting on everything that happened in 2020, it took me many months to reach that state. The first month of quarantine felt like a much-needed vacation, but that quickly changed. Being someone that enjoys the outdoors, I developed strong symptoms of cabin fever. I felt anxious, claustrophobic, unmotivated, and impatient. Since all my summer plans were canceled, I had nothing to keep my mind busy, making it hard for me to escape the feelings. I think my main problem was that I had the wrong mindset at the time. I kept seeing the situation as; “I am stuck at home” rather than “I have the opportunity to focus on myself”. But with changes to my daily routine, I found the right attitude to become a better homebody. It helped to take up hobbies and small projects. I believe it is important to openly discuss these challenges because I know I wasn’t alone.
The essential tool I’ve gained in adapting to online learning is keeping an organized schedule. While in some ways not having to get ready and walk to class is a blessing, not having that structure can make it difficult to find motivation. To get out of a rut, I created a routine to give my life a stronger sense of productivity. Most days I wake up around 7:30 AM and get ready for the day as if I had to go to morning classes (even though I only have afternoon and evening classes). Dressing up to “go to school” can simply mean switching into another set of sweatpants and a hoodie. Then, I have breakfast to start my day on a good note. For anyone dealing with a lack of energy, I recommend starting a realistic workout schedule. I do emphasize the “realistic” part of it. A workout schedule is something to build up to if you want to be successful. I turn on an audiobook to do something I enjoy (read) while getting some much-needed exercise. Another challenge of online courses is the exhaustion that comes with being on camera. This semester I have found it helpful taking brief breaks from being on video throughout lectures. It allows me to stretch and relax a bit. I also purchased a monitor to improve my study space. When people say once you get a monitor you don’t want to go back, they are right. This semester, I have a remote internship in addition to all my long online courses, and having a monitor has completely changed the game; back and neck pain are now problems of the past. While online classes make networking and getting to know peers feel less personal, having access to recorded meetings has made keeping up with info sessions and workshops better suited for any schedule. In the past, being someone that always scheduled classes from morning to afternoon, I had to miss many events that I wanted to attend, and now I don’t have to!
Although the pandemic has made the college experience less enjoyable in some respects, it is only a small part of my experience at USC, and it doesn’t taint the many positive experiences I have had. USC prides itself on inclusivity and diversity; something I have experienced myself. I am a first-generation student of Mexican heritage with a visual impairment. There have been many obstacles throughout my education, but I have always been able to overcome them by remaining determined and true to myself. I have found great support at USC. In searching for the right university for me, I looked for a campus that acknowledged the diversity of their students, whether it was through their courses, programs, clubs, advisors, etc. I have always found faculty and peers to be respectful of the accommodations I receive. Professors that I have had have always been knowledgeable about the issues facing minority communities; something which I deeply value, and makes engaging in my education so much more rewarding. USC has prepared me to ask the difficult questions and take initiative to achieve the change I want to happen.
For some final words of advice, I would say remember to stop and live in the moment. Undergrad, like high school, will fly by. While focusing on giving my classes maximum effort, sometimes I forgot that my life shouldn’t be all about school; it is about strengthening my relationships and exploring my interests. When it comes to having a difficult time with a course, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Professors make assignments challenging to make students think and open their minds to new perspectives, not to make you fail. USC has many resources to aid students through difficult classes and establish productive habits. I am thankful for my time at USC thus far and look forward to the time I have left. And remember once a student at USC, you are always part of the Trojan family. Fight on!
A Brief Guide to Combatting Senioritis
By Lauren Anderson
After working so hard for so long, it is only natural to be exhausted by the time senior year rolls around. Sometimes this exhaustion is reflected in lower levels of motivation and an overly relaxed mindset. Senioritis is a term used to describe this lack of motivation that occurs in your last year of college. After all, senior year is a time to relax and take a break, right? Well, there are still exams, essays, and assignments that must be completed before you are able to graduate. To combat these low levels of motivation, here is a guide to balancing your school life and personal life while suffering from some of the common symptoms of senioritis.
Take easy classes
It’s your last year of school; hopefully, you got all of those difficult courses out of the way earlier on so you could take it easy for your last semester. Even loading your schedule with a bunch of electives can turn out to be stressful, so try to take classes that do not require a lot of energy if you feel yourself losing motivation. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what an “easy” class is. If you are one to skip class, do not take courses that require attendance. If you are one to avoid studying for exams, try to pick classes that have fewer exams over the semester. If you hate essays, do not take courses that have multiple essays and writing assignments. If you do not like doing readings, pick a course that has lighter readings and does not require expensive textbooks. You know yourself as a student by now. Make your life easier by looking into syllabi before committing to classes.
Keep yourself busy
When you give yourself an abundance of time to relax, this often makes it way more difficult to complete schoolwork. If after class you immediately turn on Netflix, you will find that the assignment you have looming over you is not going to finish itself by its deadline. The best way to combat this is to stay a little bit busy. If you have a part-time job, for instance, you may use the gap you have after class and before work to get that assignment done or study for an exam. Also, if you have to balance a schedule, you will likely check your schedule more often and stay on top of deadlines. This helps create healthy habits to keep powering through.
Change up your study setting
By the time senior year rolls around, endless nights studying in the same place can get old. A good way to feel more motivated to get work done is to try out a new study setting. There are plenty of cafes and coffee shops in Los Angeles that are quiet and peaceful to study in, and this could be a good way to explore the city more before graduating (while staying socially distanced, of course!). Studying outside is a great alternative during quarantine, especially because you can get some fresh air and remain distant from others.