Category Archives: culture

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.

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Why I love Supernatural and How it Helped me Practice English

By Morgana Li

[3 minute read]

It has been 15 years since the first episode of Supernatural aired on The CW. Now the series has come to its final season and the finale aired on Nov. 19, 2020. I became a part of the Supernatural family in 2015 when I watched ten seasons in order to catch up to the current episodes. The story itself is about hunting supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons that come from folklore and myths. While watching, however, I realized that Supernatural is also a show about family, friendship, sacrifice, and humanity. Though the plot may not always make sense, the show has created many multidimensional characters that the audience loves. 

The main characters are Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, and Castiel. Dean and Sam are brothers, and Castiel (Cas) is an angel. They go on adventures across the country saving people from supernatural monsters. What fascinated me most is the way they treated each other and how they showed their humanity despite significant challenges. At first, Sam and Dean were the only consistent characters in the show, but others soon joined the main storyline. Castiel became one of the most significant characters as he slowly became closer to Sam and Dean, who warmly welcomed him into their family. In their dysfunctional family, they were always willing to sacrifice everything for each other. As Sam said to Dean, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I think one must be incredibly lucky to have someone who loves you that much and to know that there are always people you can rely on.

Another interesting aspect of the show is watching the characters travel across the United States, living in motels, eating fast food, and passing through pretty much every state in the US. As an international student, I found it to be one of the best sources to learn about American culture and life, and I’d like to travel to many of the places I have seen them travel to on the show. Since Supernatural’s theme is about hunting monsters in America, many urban legends and different forms of folklore were introduced to me through the show, such as Bloody Mary, the Wendigo, the myth of the Hook Man, and more. The Bible also plays a role in the different legends discussed in the show. I learned many pop culture references based on these intriguing stories, which made it easier to communicate with native English speakers because I had more topics to explore and slang to use. One of the main characters, Dean, uses a lot of hilarious slang terms that are part of authentic American English, and these can be used in daily life by international students looking to blend more casual terms into their speaking. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
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