Category Archives: Cultural Exchange

The Many variations of english

By Ning Hannah Teoh

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Language is fascinating. Even within the English language, where all words are written using letters from the same alphabet, there are so many variations. Every region where English is spoken has its own accent, slang, and grammatical structure, formed through centuries of culture and history.

Growing up in Malaysia, I was familiar with a hybrid version of the English language— colloquially coined “Manglish”— which was a combination of English, Malay, and other miscellaneous languages. English sentences would end in Malay and Mandarin suffixes (-lah, -mah, etc.). You would often hear a Malaysian person go “Stop it lah” or “Got meh?” which respectively translates to “You should stop,” and “Do they really have it?” English in Malaysia reflects the multicultural and multiethnic diversity that exists within the country, and it is an excellent example of how varied English is not only across regions in the United States, but in different parts of the world as well.

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Ever since I came to the United States and eventually USC, I’ve been learning different variations of English and all of the regional words and phrases you encounter when you move around. When I was living in Boston, I learned that sprinkles (the ones you put as a topping on ice cream) were called “jimmies”. I also found out how much Bostonians were fond of their Dunkin Donuts, so much so that they refer to the coffee and donut franchise by the nickname “Dunkies”. Once, my boss who was based in Washington D.C. assigned me a task where I had to look for educational-support organizations within the DMV. At first, I was very confused because I thought the DMV was the Department of Motor Vehicles. It took me a while to realize that in this context, the DMV referred to the Washington metropolitan area, or D.C, Maryland, and Virginia.

I have to admit that when I first came to the U.S., I worked hard to get rid of my native accent. Even though English is my first language, I spoke in tones and inflections that were unfamiliar to the American ear. I pronounced “three” as “tree” and said “geo-GRA-phy” instead of “ge-O-graphy”. In the beginning, I would mimic how Americans discarded their t’s and took out the h in herbs. In some ways, I didn’t want to sound foreign. I didn’t want to be looked at as “other”— a sentiment I believe many international students share. Especially under the political climate of the previous government administration and with the recent rise of anti-Asian violence, international students are all the more aware of the hostility we might face simply by being international. Coming to a foreign country alone is already tough in and of itself, but knowing that you will potentially face outward discrimination from a vocal minority because of where you come from or how you are perceived is a different kind of fear. So, I worked hard to sound as American as possible so that fewer questions were asked of me.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

But the truth is, I am not American. I grew up calling an elevator a lift and I grew up drinking teh tarik (“pulled tea”) and not unsweetened iced tea. Coming to USC has made me prouder about my identity as an international student in this student community. I have so much cultural experience to share— language included— why would I ever hide it? Seeing the thriving and diverse international community here has made me realize that the international experience is unique and that I have been blessed with the opportunity to be part of the cultural exchange between international and domestic students. This includes the interaction between accents, slang, and everything in between.

Continue reading The Many variations of english

Pictures? A thousand words. Experiences? Immeasurable.

By Iric Hong

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4-minute read]

Growing up in a working-class family, long-distance travel was more often than not a luxury that was far out of my family’s reach. With the cost of providing kids a fruitful and fun childhood increasing by the day, it becomes exponentially harder to allow children to experience all that the world has to offer. Without a doubt, however, I will have to admit that those of us that had the opportunity to call Southern California our home for most of our life had it a fair bit better than others, as this home is also home to many other cultures hailing from different places around the globe. As a child, I was able to experience a variety of cultures that, in some shape or form, shaped Southern California in ways that I could only imagine.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Despite this fact, I was not really prepared for what I was about to witness during my first long-distance flight (that I can actually remember) during the summer of 2016. My family and I were on our way to Japan and Hong Kong and to say my current state of emotions at that time was simply excited would be an extreme understatement. I was unsure of what to expect when I got to Japan. Therefore, I landed preparing myself to be amazed by the culture and the people. And, to be frank, I was not disappointed.

Although I did not have many interactions with Japanese people outside of asking for help finding directions, they were all very helpful in trying to help us find our way despite the language barrier. But the most impressive thing I encountered on my trip existed elsewhere in Japanese society. The integration of man and nature in the design of the cities was absolutely awe-inspiring. You could be traversing Tokyo’s or Kyoto’s main streets during one moment and the next, you are exploring a vast forest leading to one of many shrines that populate the Japanese landscape. It felt so surreal that society could establish such a fluid connection between man and nature in the middle of such a well-developed city. I, for one, have never seen anything like it in cities across America, including the likes of LA, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, and Orlando. It was especially exciting to witness such a feat as I have always been quite the environmentalist myself. At the end of the Japan leg of my trip, I felt that my experiences were well above and beyond my initial expectations.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

As for Hong Kong, I knew in some sense what to expect and what to look forward to as my great-uncle lives there with his family. Additionally, I have always loved Hong Kong despite the fact that I had not been there in a long time, because Hong Kong is one of the few places where nearly everyone speaks my first language, Cantonese (although I am not great at it myself). Coming from beautiful and innovative Japan to Hong Kong, the bar for awesomeness was not low, but I felt that Hong Kong, in many ways, replicated the same elements of awe in their society. With the geographical location and terrain of Hong Kong, it is no simple task to establish a vibrant community, much less a metropolis, and yet it was done. It was done in a way that didn’t seem intrusive of the natural landscape, with many large patches of woods still persisting around the city itself.

After leaving Hong Kong, I was left thinking about how different the lifestyles are between that of America and that of Hong Kong and Japan. To say the least, it was very different in many aspects; saying it in such simplified terms still feels like an understatement. At the end of the day, to truly understand what others put into words and what they have experienced, you must experience the real thing for yourself!

Featured Image by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash

Iric is a recent USC graduate that majored in Electrical Engineering. His career inspiration from a very young age was on-screen robotics like Iron-Man and Gundam. He hopes to work in the aerospace industry, as that industry resembles what he wants to strive for the most. He likes to play tennis, play video games, and watch movies in his spare time.

The American Education System: My Experience

by Jackie Truong

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

People sometimes say that a good education is the greatest equalizer of all, and I very much agree with that notion. A good education allows for increased socioeconomic mobility, and it also develops well-rounded critical thinkers, which are beneficial to any society. Although the general goals of schooling are basically the same across most countries, the approach to education differs from country to country. On that note, I want to give my readers (especially those who did not attend school in the US growing up) a glimpse into what it’s like going to school in America, from kindergarten all the way through college. First, a little disclaimer: this is my personal experience with the education system in the U.S., and everyone’s experience is different. My experience will not be the same as every American, but I hope this blog post will give international students a glimpse into what the American educational experience is like.

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I was born in Portland, Oregon, and attended school in the same school district my entire life. First, my educational journey started at Ventura Park Elementary School. At my elementary school, the grade levels went from kindergarten to 5th grade (which I believe is the norm in the U.S.). I had a great time in elementary school because it was mostly play, and very little homework was assigned. Most of the learning began and ended in the classroom. I don’t remember exactly what time my school started and ended, but it was somewhere around 8am – 3pm. After school, I also attended the Boys and Girls Club of America for a number of years, where we basically played a bunch of games every day. It was great. Looking back, I had a very fun and relaxing experience in elementary school. I even remember all my teachers’ names: Mrs. Tiegs for kindergarten, Mrs. Wattanabe for 1st grade, Mr. Dobson for 2nd grade, Mrs. Belgarde for 3rd grade, Mrs. Stapleton for 4th grade, and Mrs. Coye for 5th grade.

Photo by Kuanish Reymbaev on Unsplash

Next up, we have middle school (also known as junior high in the US). I went to Floyd Light Middle School, and the grade levels here were 6th to 8th grade. For many, middle school is where the social hierarchy starts to become much more noticeable, and this is the age where various cliques start to form (e.g. the popular kids, the jocks, the geeks/nerds, the nerds, etc.). My middle school experience was also quite nice because I had a great group of friends and I never had to experience bullying. I remember in middle school, there was a huge anti-bullying campaign (especially in health class), and my school had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to bullying. I think historically in the U.S., bullying has always been a big problem in middle schools and high schools across the country, and as a result, schools started implementing anti-bullying campaigns, especially in the past 20 years or so.

After middle school, I entered David Douglas High School, which is also where I graduated from (Class of 2018!). High school is where I really started to take my academics and extracurricular activities seriously because those were important for getting into college. Although I spent a lot of time studying, doing homework, and participating in extracurricular activities, I still had a significant amount of free time left over to hang out with friends after school and do other fun things. High school was probably the most memorable period in my life as I had a lot of fun experiences with great people during this time. High school teachers are also the best (from my experience anyway). Not all of them were great, but most of the ones I had were amazing. In my experience, the high school teachers I had truly cared about their students, wanted them to succeed and took time to get to know them. Senior year was the most memorable because it was my last year of high school, although I did slack off a bit. I had what they call “senioritis.” Don’t get me wrong, I still focused on my grades and extracurricular activities, but I also spent much more time than in previous years on fun things such as prom, skipping school to go to the beach with friends, and skipping my morning classes because I didn’t want to wake up early (I know, a lot of skipping things). At the end of the day, everything still worked out even though I wasn’t the most perfect student.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Finally, we move on to college, which is where I’m currently at in my educational journey. I began my first year of college at Pacific University. However, after realizing that I didn’t like small-town life, I decided to transfer schools and move to a school located in a lively city. That eventually led me to USC, where I am currently situated, heading into my senior year studying biology at the undergraduate level. This wraps up my journey through the American educational system, a fun ride thus far. Hopefully, graduate school (Physician’s Assistant school specifically) will be just as memorable as all the other levels of education that I’ve experienced so far. I suppose only time will tell.

Featured Image by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Jackie Truong is a current undergraduate student studying Biology. He has worked as an Undergraduate Student Consultant at the USC American Language Institute and is from Portland, Oregon.