Category Archives: Cultural Exchange

Studying Abroad in Paris

By Autumn Palen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Prior to 2020, during one of my spring semesters at USC as an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in Paris and it was a fully immersive experience. All of my classes were in French, the family I lived with was French, and wouldn’t you know it, quite a lot of people I passed on the streets were keen on speaking French. Those handful of months were wonderful. My teachers were all angels, the city was gorgeous, and although I had a relationship dynamic with my host family akin to Harry Potter’s relationship with the Dursleys, I’d say that overall I enjoyed my experience.

First of all, the city is gorgeous. Ridiculously so. I remember my first night there—awake since 5 am, taking a post-dinner trip to the Louvre, walking from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, and stopping mid-journey for wine and cheese. The mix of sleep deprivation, jet-lag, numbness from the cold, and walking nearly all day culminated into the sensation that I was drifting through a dream. I couldn’t have actually been there; it was all too much. I thought there was no way this tiny, ovular, romantic city was going to be my home for the next fifteen weeks.

Wine and cheese from a local cafe in Paris, taken from @autumn.palen on Instagram

But it was my home. Every weekday, I took the metro to class. Although admitting my adoration for the Paris Metro garnered weird looks from actual Parisians (mainly because of the general odor permeating the trains/platforms, as well as the occasional muzak cover of Ne Me Quitte Pas), I held strong that I loved the public transportation system. It was so efficient, arriving every 3 minutes, maybe 6 in the worst-case scenario (I understand that Los Angeles is a much larger, more car-based city, but I couldn’t help but notice how much more efficient the Paris Metro was than the LA one).

Photo of the Paris Metro taken by @autumn.palen on Instagram
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Anti-Asian Violence During the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Tiffany Hsia

[4 minute read]

Editor’s Note

The Covid-19 crisis has brought forth a multitude of social and economic impacts which no one could have foreseen. One of these impacts has been an increased rate of violence towards the Asian-American community. In light of the recent Atlanta spa shootings, wherein six Asian women were shot by a white man, the violence resulting from anti-Asian hate speech has surfaced in particularly harmful way. If you are interested in looking into more resources that can help educate you on this systemic issue, there are many readily available online. One that I found to be particularly helpful was this article from Learning for Justice entitled How to Respond to Coronavirus Racism. This is a helpful guide for any non-native English speaker who is unsure of how to effectively speak up in a potentially racist or xenophobic situation. Below, ALI Conversation Partner Tiffany Hsia has written on her experience with anti-Asian sentiments and what we can all do to combat this problem.

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

Growing up as a first-generation Asian American in the Bay Area of California was not easy. My parents immigrated from Taiwan in the 90s, and English is not their first language. I saw how they had to struggle with the language barrier when I was young, and when I first started to attend elementary school, I was made fun of for pronouncing certain words differently. I had learned my pronunciation from my parents who had an accent on certain words, so I didn’t understand what was different when I was younger. As I grew older, I started to notice more and more differences. A particularly notable difference I saw as a child was that no one I saw on TV was Asian-American. While it may seem small, millions of people look up to celebrities as role models, and to see so few Asian Americans represented in Hollywood was disheartening. Asians are considered to be a minority in the United States; however, they are seen as “white adjacent”. Asian Americans are perceived as successful, and people do not see them as oppressed compared to other minorities such as African Americans or Hispanics. However, Asian Americans are still at a disadvantage in many areas and underrepresentation in media is just one example of that.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Similarly, during this pandemic, there has been a recent increase in violence towards Asian Americans. Many think this is a direct result of Former President Trump making statements about the Asian community, such as calling coronavirus the “ China virus”. This only provoked more harassment towards Asian Americans resulting in widespread outrage. In Chinatown in Oakland, California, a 91-year-old man was pushed facedown into a cement sidewalk during an unprovoked attack. As a result, many elderly Asian Americans living in the Bay Area are afraid to leave their houses. These attacks have recently gathered media attention, as more people in the US are becoming aware of the systemic racism and social inequality occurring in light of the pandemic.

As someone who is Asian American, I am appalled at the state of our country. The United States is known to be a safe haven to many people and is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Violence against others should never be tolerated. While change is difficult, more people need to be aware that the US is built on systemic racism. Although it may be difficult to change the foundations that built the US, I believe that with education and awareness, small changes can be made to eventually overcome the disadvantages minorities face.

Continue reading Anti-Asian Violence During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Learning to Love the Italian Language

By Arianna Babraj

[5 minute read]

Before changing my major from Public Policy to International Relations, I had a lot of doubts concerning my future career path and my academic focus. The most looming concern I had, however, was the language requirement that I had to complete as a part of my coursework. I had always dreaded my high school Spanish classes, and even though I had studied abroad in Italy during my freshman year, I had avoided studying Italian beyond the introductory level. When I was placed into Italian II at USC, I was convinced that I would fail and went in counting on the fact that I only had to get a “Pass” grade until Italian IV. So, I pushed my worries to the side and figured I would deal with that later.

I don’t think I have ever been more excited about a B+ than when I got my first Italian II exam back. After a few classes, surprisingly, I actually found myself looking forward to the lessons. By the end of the semester, I had even added a minor in Italian and was spending my free time learning vocabulary through listening to Italian songs and watching Italian TV shows. At the end of the semester, I made a pact with myself that I would go back to Italy when I reached a conversational level so that I could truly experience Italy, and fully get rid of my hesitations towards learning a new language.

The next semester, I walked into my first class as an Italian minor, determined to improve my speaking. My professor was one of the sweetest and most wonderful people I had ever met, and she is someone that I aspire to be like. She was supportive of me and my goals and took the time to get to know me both in and outside of the classroom. When I told her about my hopes of moving to Europe after graduation, she told me that she saw a lot of herself in me and encouraged me to take risks and go on adventures.

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

One summer, I took the risk of designing an independent research project with an IR professor which required me to conduct interviews with Italians in Italy. I was nervous of course, but I was confident in what my professors had taught me. On the plane ride over to Italy, I remember thinking how far I had come since my freshman year when I was too nervous to approach people on the street to ask for directions in Italian. Now, here I was, speaking with confidence and experiencing something new.

I was lucky enough to have a friend on this trip with me. We had both had the same Italian III professor and we both formed a strong relationship with her over our passion for the language. This same passion brought us together and gave us the opportunity to work on this project. This trip brought us even closer together, and we now consider each other best friends. 

While on this trip, we received a message from our professor offering us the opportunity to visit her hometown and meet her mother. Unfortunately, my professor was not in Italy at the same time, but her mother was willing to host us with open arms. We were ecstatic and immediately accepted. Neither of us could believe that we were actually going to meet our professor’s mom and visit her hometown.

Photo by Bogdan Dada on Unsplash

That day was one of the happiest and most beautiful days of my life. I don’t think I ever stopped smiling during my visit. The fact that we were there, speaking Italian and bonding with our professor’s family and friends was incredible. I was honored to have even received the offer of meeting her family and visiting her hometown. That day I truly felt that I had accomplished my goal. Never did I think when I set the goal of eventually returning to Italy, that it would lead me on such a beautiful adventure.

Featured Image by Christopher Czermak on Unsplash

Arianna is a recent USC graduate that received her B.A in International Relations. During her freshman year, she studied abroad for an academic year in Rome, Italy, and she continued to study Italian throughout her undergraduate degree. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures and, in her free time, she likes to take dance classes, go hiking, and watch movies.