Category Archives: Advice

Advice from an International Student to International Students

By Erik He

When I first arrived in America, I was hit with a tremendous wave of anxiety. It’s finally happening, I thought to myself, I’m finally here. I still remember waiting in line in LAX, making sure I had all the proper forms and visas. Will I make friends? What if I don’t fit in because I was a Spring Admit? What if the classes are extremely difficult? These thoughts swirled around my head. I was lucky to have my parents come with me, and the first thing we went to see was the university (fun fact: I’ve never even been in California before studying at USC). 

Now, in my senior year, whenever I meet another international student I know exactly how they feel. The uncertainty mixed with giddy excitement can be overwhelming, especially the first couple of months here. International students are placed in a sticky situation, because sometimes their accents or mannerisms may hinder their ability to make friends (I was in this situation, and I know how intimidating it can be to talk to an “American”). However, I realized that most of this was all in my head. My friends didn’t mind helping me with small grammar errors or teaching me the social norms here, and soon my fears dissipated. It’s easiest to find shelter in communities we are familiar with, but I’d like to encourage anyone in college to find people or activities that push them out of their comfort zone. 

Before coming here, I had the privilege of living in many different countries. From the United Arab Emirates to Sweden, home has become more of an abstract concept than a physical place. Initially, I hated the constant moving, and I never made close friends because we always moved after a couple years. But as I grew older I found solace in traveling, and in place of having close consistent friends were fresh new perspectives from different people. I constantly had my opinions and values challenged, and I loved every second of it. This helped me adjust to the way Los Angeles was, as to me it seemed like a battleground rife with clashing opinions, especially in today’s sociopolitical climate. But I believe that’s what college is for, for people to voluntarily confront ideas they aren’t necessarily comfortable with in order to see things from a different perspective. Whether you end up agreeing or not is irrelevant, but communicating, listening, and understanding helps one to grow as a person. As a filmmaker, I dig deep into my experiences to find ways to tell compelling stories, and the mantra I chose to embed in all my works is: “we are more similar than we are different”. This helped me stay civil and objective in my quest to learn, and from the ignorant to the wise, I find that any conversation can be fruitful if you go in it with the correct mindset. Good luck! As one international student to another, challenge yourself and grow!

Featured image from GotCredit.com

Erik is a senior studying film and television production. He grew up in various countries around the world, having lived in Beijing, Guangzhou, Montreal, Malmo, New Jersey, and Dubai. He spent most of his childhood in the United Arab Emirates, where he and many other expats studied in an IB high school. As Erik is also an international student, he knows how difficult it is to adapt to a new culture and language. Erik loves foreign movies, and directors such as Jia Zhangke, Wong Kar Wai, Asghar Farhadi, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Gaspar Noe are some of his favorites. In his spare time Erik likes to practice playing guitar, hanging out with friends or drawing. Erik can speak moderately fluent mandarin and a little bit of Arabic and Swedish. 

The Power in Listening

By Ellen Yamaguchi

            As a person who enjoys a good, deep conversation, I always put the focus on what I can say or share in a dialogue; however, this past year has taught me the power and the importance of simply listening. As a sophomore this year, I have noticed that I have been the person that my roommates, friends, and even my conversation partners come to whenever they are confronted with a problem. Whether it be a late-night phone call, a spontaneous lunch, or a conversation at Leavey Library, they will begin to talk about what has been bothering them and, through that process, they find peace within themselves. In one of my first sessions with a 1-1 conversation partner, the student was telling me about the difficulties she had within the classroom and speaking up because she did not want to feel the shame of people not understanding what she was saying. I started to sense that the conversation was going to be tough for her, so I asked if she wanted me to give advice or to just listen. She was shocked that I had even asked that because one of the reasons why she was having trouble speaking was because no one would even attempt to just listen to her. People would immediately tell her what she is saying is wrong and correct her as a default response. I then realized that something I thought was natural was actually extremely rare to find in people. A trait that I thought did not carry a lot of meaning actually has a large impact on others. From a single conversation with this student, I decided to strengthen my listening skills and to be engaged with any conversation that I have, whether it is trivial or not. You really do not know the impact that you have on someone’s day, and their single interaction with you might be the turning point of making a bad day into a good one.

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Be Brave: Speak Up in Class

By Masae (Emily) Yamanaka

An Overview

In many Asian cultures, it is very common for students to not speak at all in a classroom setting. They are merely in schools to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the teachers. Absolute obedience is viewed as a virtue. “I don’t want to waste other people’s time.” “Nothing I share can be that important to interrupt the flow of the lecture.” “Teachers know best.” Almost all the Asian international students I have had resonated similar sentiments.

On the contrary, in a traditional American classroom, you will find the teacher picking on students to voice their opinions. With that being said, it does not mean blurting out anything you can think of in class. Your responses should be relevant and contribute to the topic under discussion. This system strives to build young independent leaders and focus on sharpening critical thinking skills of the youths.

The Two Systems

A main difference between Eastern and Western educations lies in its prime focus. Asian systems utilizes teacher-centric classes where the teacher serves as the main authoritarian figure and answers questions directly from the pupils. Lecture is the main mode of instruction. Students are often dissuaded from exchanging ideas with each other.

The American system employs a student-centered setting where students share ideas with each other and actively participate in the learning and teaching process. Originality is greatly stressed upon and valued. Since each student is unique and no two students have the exact ways of thinking, students can learn from each other and stimulate self-understanding by listening to others’ questions.

Personally, I think Eastern educational institutions offer a wider breadth of knowledge, as teachers who specialize in specific topics get more time to instruct without disturbance. However, being given more content does not equate to the amount of substance pupils actually absorb on average. This one-way direction hinders solidarity as youths are taught to unquestionably oblige to what is given. A more collaborative setting not only promotes critical thinking but serves as a built-in check-and-balance within the classroom since teachers would need to take into account inquiries of everyone and could not simply recycle previous teaching material. At the end of the day, humans are individually unique and each class’s batch of students are different from another.

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