Category Archives: Cultural Exchange

Understanding Diversity

By Tahrima Bhuiyan

I am the child of two Bangladeshi Americans. Every summer until I was ten years old, my family would visit our relatives back in Bangladesh– and then again, when I was fourteen, and then again this past summer, at eighteen.

I grew up travelling. I had visited a number of countries by the age of ten. To me, differences were normal– different colors, different cultures, different foods, different clothing, different religions. This was further reinforced by the fact that I was brought up in a very diverse community in Dallas, Texas.  

I have been raised amidst every possible race, culture, sexuality and religion. To the left of our home, there lived a Chinese family, to our right an African-American couple, and straight across, an old Colombian couple. In high school, my best friends represented every possible ethnicity. On Tuesday, my Vietnamese friends and I went to eat pho; on Friday, my African American friend’s mom gave me a dashiki, and on Saturday, I learned to do the salsa (even though I’m not good at it).

Diversity was a significant part of my experience; I was naive growing up, for I thought it was as normal to embrace differences for everyone else as it was for me. However, as incomprehensible as it was to me, discrimination soon became impossible to ignore. The older I got, the more I noticed misogyny, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance. It was sad to see my friends and peers experiencing hatred and prejudice due to their skin color. It was difficult to experience it myself. It was heartbreaking to interact with refugees from places such as Yemen, Syria and Myanmar and hear their stories of hardship and injustice and watch the world fail to care. I witnessed a lack of accessible healthcare, education and, many times, of basic human rights in developing nations abroad. These experiences led me to want work with NGOs; I have been working with UNICEF for three years and I hope to continue to work with  NGOs to address human rights violations.

Continue reading Understanding Diversity

Supplementing Language Learning

By Caroline Donat

When young children learn languages, they are also learning about how the world around them functions. Everything is new and exciting so learning is fun. When learning a language as an adult however, we often experience more frustrations with the learning process. We know what we want to say but struggle to express it properly. Though we can use the social and occupational skills we have gained in adulthood, bringing back the fresh newness we experience as children can help us with our language acquisition.

International students at USC already face daily immersion into American life. Since this immersion can be shocking, it is hard to resist an opportunity for the comfort of speaking to another international student in your first language. This is okay and perhaps necessary to stay motivated to conduct the majority of the day in English. These small comforts do not need to be sacrificed in order to improve one’s fluency.

If we want to accelerate our language-learning however, we need to take our learning beyond the classroom and literally translate aspects of our daily life. This means carrying out our normal behavior in another language with the openness we had as children, by reading the foreign text on our breakfast food packaging or watching a late-night soap opera (perhaps with the help of subtitles). I say “we” because, even though I am a native English speaker, I am currently looking for ways to obtain fluency in Arabic and Spanish. There is always more that we can do to promote our learning. While we will never find the time to do everything, there are some tricks that we can work into our schedules without rearranging other commitments and priorities.

Newspapers are a great way to not only improve your English (or other language) skills, but to keep up with the local culture. Depending on your free time and interests, you can choose to browse sections about fashion and upcoming performances, or dip into today’s politics. Either way, you will have something to talk about with other English speakers. The best part is that you can fit this reading into your schedule by inserting it during meals, while riding the bus, or waiting for class to start. You can sign up for LA Times to be delivered to your home, download a news app, or pick up a free local newspaper from the boxes on the sidewalk.

Also, listening to music in your new language is an easy way to enhance your learning. iTunes, Apple Music, and YouTube are all popular, but most students prefer Spotify because of all of the songs you can listen to for free. Sign in with your USC email to gain access to your free account! On Spotify, you can view the top songs in the U.S. (and many other countries) or find new music similar to songs that you already like. If you like listening to acoustic indie music, try some Ed Sheeran songs. If you would like to try out RnB, search for music by Miguel. You do not need to pay attention to the lyrics, simply surrounding yourself with the words of your new language can help your comprehension and pronunciation.

Continue reading Supplementing Language Learning

USC International Students: Double the Work, Double the Excellence

By Esther Cha

Even though I wasn’t born in the US, American culture and the English language came easily to me because I grew up here and went to school with other American students. The same was not true for my parents though; they really struggled trying to adjust to the foreign culture and learn the language.  I had to help them build the bridge between Korean and American culture but I did not realize until recently how big of a gift and asset this ability was. Being able to help others adjust to American culture through my position as an ALI One-on-One Conversation Partner has helped me appreciate my parents so much more and has built within me a renewed respect for international students.

Many look down upon students who come to America and struggle with English. In my opinion, their struggle is beautiful and admirable. They are struggling because, though they know another valuable language and culture, they chose to come here and learn something entirely new. Not only do they have to learn a new language, they have to learn their respective field studies in a different language. I am so honored to work with these diligent and curious students.

Continue reading USC International Students: Double the Work, Double the Excellence