Category Archives: friends

USC Student voices on connecting in uncertain times

By Megan Tran, Sarah Ta, Sarah Selke, and Rachel Priebe

[13 minute read]

Editor’s Note

As the Covid-19 pandemic has continued through the spring semester, wrapping up a year at USC which no one could have foreseen, many of us are left feeling disconnected from our friends and peers who we socialized with regularly before the pandemic. This can be a very isolating feeling, despite the fact that most people are experiencing these exact circumstances at the present moment. Below, ALI leaders have shared their own advice and experiences on how to stay connected with your friends and make your online interactions a bit more entertaining!

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

FUN WAYS TO CONNECT WITH FRIENDS VIRTUALLY

By Megan Tran

The Covid-19 pandemic has really pushed all of us to think creatively when it comes to activities we can do safely with friends and family. Since we may not be able to see each other in person, it’s good to come up with alternative activities to do online to keep our friendships and relationships strong. These activities allow us to still stay in touch with our loved ones from the safety and comfort of our homes. Making the effort to connect with people is extremely crucial in a time like this in order to combat the feelings of loneliness that quarantine can bring about. I have listed some of my favorite activities for remaining connected virtually below!

Photo by sgcdesignco on Unsplash

Game Pigeon– These games on iMessage used to be all the hype when they first came out but have since been long forgotten. I’ve recently started playing them with my friends and realized I had forgotten how much fun they are! Game Pigeon has a wide variety of games to choose from so you can find the perfect one to play either against one opponent or with a group of friends. Anyone who has access to iMessage is able to play. Cup Pong, Crazy 8, and Sea Battle are just a few of my favorite games!

Virtual Movie Nights– One of the things that I miss the most about pre-Covid life is being able to go to the movie theater. But now there are ways to stream and watch movies with your friends without having to be in the same room! With websites like Netflix Party, you can have watch parties and long-distance movie nights where you’ll be able to synchronize video playback and utilize the chat rooms to share your reactions. I think a current must-see TV show is Queen’s Gambit.

Virtual Escape Rooms– This is something I haven’t personally tried yet, but I’ve been wanting to because it seems so fun! I used to love doing in-person escape rooms with my friends as a fun way to test our teamwork and problem-solving skills. This virtual activity would be best to do with a large group of people to maximize your chances of winning. They come in many different themed adventures, like Hogwarts or bank heist, so it’s easy to find one that everyone will be interested in.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Zoom Happy Hour- This one is for those of us who are 21 and older only! With the majority of bars closed, most of us miss being able to go out and get drinks with friends on a Friday night. But who says you still can’t? You could host a Happy Hour on Zoom with friends and spice things up by playing a fun drinking game.

Collaborative Playlists– Music is something that always brings people together. Even though we can’t go to concerts or music festivals right now, we can still share our love of music with one another! Collaborative playlists on Spotify are a good way to keep in touch with others. My friends and I have a Spotify playlist where we each add our favorite song for that week, and after a couple of months, we already have such a long and diverse list of songs!

HOW TO STAY CONNECTED DURING QUARANTINE

By Sarah Ta

When self-isolation was first mandated back in March, no one expected that it would continue for the rest of the year. Other parts of the country started opening back up at various times, with varying degrees of success, but Los Angeles county has remained diligent in its efforts to not reopen sooner than necessary to prevent an outbreak. Like many others, I have stayed at home as much as possible to do my part in protecting those who are immunocompromised, and while we all know that it was the right thing to do, it doesn’t make missing our family and friends hurt any less. As the year went on, I found new ways to connect with my loved ones without jeopardizing anyone’s health. Reaching out to friends through social media is still by far the easiest and most straightforward method, but if you’re looking for some new ways, here are a few of my personal favorite methods I’ve been using for the past few months! 

Join an Organization on Campus– This may be a cliche suggestion, but from my personal experience, I can confidently say that joining a cultural organization completely transformed my USC experience. I’ve been a part of the Vietnamese Student Association for two years now, and the community it has given me is irreplaceable. I know that joining an organization virtually is not the same as attending events in-person, but most clubs are still hosting virtual events with their members and would love to have you join them. These events also give you a chance to interact with people outside of a virtual classroom setting. While it can sound exhausting to be in another Zoom call, it’s less like a class and more like a fun group video call. Also, the people who attend virtual club events are also there to meet new people, and once you find the right organization for you, it will feel like you’re hanging out with a large group of friends. 

Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party)- Like most friend groups, my friends and I love watching movies and shows together as a way to bond or just to relax after a hard week. Quarantine may have prevented us from having physical get-togethers, but it hasn’t stopped us from having virtual ones. Teleparty is an extension that synchronizes video playback so we can easily watch a movie together. It’s completely free, and while it does lack a video call function, that can be solved simply using a separate video calling platform (such as Facetime or Zoom) to chat in real-time while watching the movie. It can support Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO, so there’s plenty of options available no matter what streaming platform you prefer.

Discord– If you have a large group of friends and struggle to keep all of your group chats organized, this might be the platform for you. Each ‘server’ is organized into ‘channels,’ which allow different conversation topics to be separated. Anyone can create a server, and since a server can only be joined via invite, it can be as private or as public as you want it to be. There is a small learning curve if you’re not used to the layout, but it’s relatively intuitive once you get the hang of it. My favorite part about it is that texting, voice chatting, and video calling is all on one interface, allowing users to easily switch between them with just a few clicks.

Schedule Video Calls– While staying connected is easier than ever, it can also make it harder to actually keep in touch. Reaching out is only a few taps away, but because it’s so accessible, it can be easy to push it off. Before you know it, it’s been months since you’ve had a genuine conversation with the people you care about. Scheduling video calls as you would a regular outing helps carve out space in your busy schedules to sit down and take a minute to catch up. It might seem a little awkward to set up something as simple as a video call, but I can promise you, having it marked into your calendar makes a world of difference. 

Photo by Kate Macate on Unsplash

Send Some Snail Mail– Lastly, if you’re looking for a break from being connected to the internet all day, try writing a physical letter and mailing it to your friends. Receiving a package you ordered online is always something to look forward to, but receiving mail you weren’t expecting is an even better surprise. It’s a more old-fashioned method of staying in touch and definitely a lot slower than shooting someone a simple text, but that only adds to the charm of it, and I can guarantee it’ll brighten the rest of the recipient’s week. 

There are many other ways to stay connected while staying at home, but these five have been my favorite. Wherever you are in the world, I hope these tips can help you feel closer to your loved ones, or at the very least, remind you to reach out and reconnect with friends you might not have spoken to in a while. Best of luck, and let’s all do our part to get through this together. 

DEALING WITH UNCERTAINTIES

By Sarah Selke

When I was younger, I used to hate waking up early to go to school. When my alarm went off, I would try to stay under my covers for as long as I could, but eventually had to rise since every second I lingered in bed was another second wasted. When I wake up now, time is no longer measured in seconds but in weeks. The days fade into one another much the same way we drift into sleep at night. I’m simultaneously surprised by how much time has passed and how little it has in the scope of a season. Perhaps time has always been an erroneous concept, however — we don’t recall things systematically but as asynchronous scenes. We measure things in befores and afters, and perhaps this is the only way we can differentiate the important from the trivial. 

The pandemic is one of those divisive events that exacerbates the arbitrariness of the units we give time. And this is how I say farewell? I ask myself when contemplating the possibility of never returning to campus as a student. Except, to a certain extent, I never did feel as if I had found a home on the grounds that I walked on a near daily basis before. As someone who commuted to USC and therefore didn’t live near campus, it was the bus rides to campus that were the strongest familiarity to me – the only constant from semester to semester.

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

In the face of the future’s uncertainty, I’m reminded of the concept of negative capability. According to the concept’s founder, the English writer John Keats, negative capability is when we are capable of living in doubt and uncertainty without reaching out to facts or reason to justify the actions we take. It’s a mode of thinking that can apply to every stage in one’s life, but especially in moments of transition. You may not be sure of exactly where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing in a few years, but it’s important not to let the unknown intimidate you into avoiding any exploration. After all, many students do not follow a linear path towards a specific career. I’ve had my fair share of doubts and switched plans and come to realize that cutting possibilities out before even trying them is never beneficial. At the same time, I’ve realized that it’s important not to do anything halfway, which can often happen when juggling too many goals at once.

Ultimately, there is no constancy in our lives because nothing ever happens exactly as we expect it to. While I often see every transition as a farewell to something I used to take for granted, I know that ruminating on the past does not lead me anywhere. If you have been struggling with doubts and lack of motivation, I encourage you to set small, tangible goals that may not be inherently useful but once completed will make you feel as if you have accomplished something. I also find channeling any anxieties I have into art – especially music and writing – to be somewhat consoling. If you find yourself fatigued from working too long at a specific task, I highly recommend taking a break to work on something creative to help prevent burnout.

ONLINE FUN DURING THE PANDEMIC

By Rachel Priebe

It goes without saying that the pandemic has been difficult for most of us. With events canceled, online school, and the future being unpredictable, loneliness and stress are feelings shared by most. Fortunately, online events can help give us an escape from boredom, a place to build community, and the opportunity to learn new skills. While USC has many great online events, I’ve also found some other sources that provide a variety of unique activities.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Continue reading USC Student voices on connecting in uncertain times

How I went VIRAL on TikTok

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3½ minute read]

A little while back, I went viral on TikTok. At the time of writing this (October 2020), I have thirty-one thousand followers and over half a million likes collectively on my posts. While this isn’t necessarily equivalent to the amount of recognition creators, influencers, and the like have gotten on TikTok, but it’s certainly more recognition than I ever expected to see on the app.

A screenshot of Michael’s viral Tiktok video where he plays the Star Wars theme in a parking garage-almost a quarter million likes!

Since quarantine started, I have been creating short, seven-second to one-minute long videos and posting them on TikTok. Most of them involve me playing trombone in some sort of creative way, whether that is playing along to a popular song, “duetting” someone else’s popular video, or just finding different shenanigans to engage in with my primary instrument. I found a variety of topics on the app, such as musical humor, anime discussion, or other interests of mine, and used those to creatively approach the way I made content. Soon, I found a community of people with similar interests. I connected with jazz musicians across America, who studied at reputable music schools that I knew of. They were all on TikTok for the same reason as me: we had nothing better to do in quarantine.

Over the first few months of COVID-19 lockdown, I had a few successful videos. At first, the bland videos would average around 500 views, while the more popular ones would score a few thousand. The response wasn’t massive, but it was entertaining for me to see which videos gained more of a response than others. I then started a consistent posting schedule which set me up to gain traction. I started one video off by saying “Alright here’s Day 1 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral,” and proceeded to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those of you unfamiliar with “Rick Rolling,” it is a prank that was popular around ten years ago, where one person would send a YouTube link to someone else, saying it was a link to something interesting. For example, one might have sent the link over a text accompanied by an explanation, “Hey, check out this video I worked hard on making!” The twist comes when the recipient opens the link and is sent to the music video for Rick Astley’s hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. After I played day one, I played a harmony to the first track and synced it up, so it sounded like I was playing a duet with myself. The audio at the beginning sounded, “Alright here’s Day 2 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral.” This harmonization process went on for a little over a month, and each video netted me more and more views. I broke 500 followers, which at the time felt like a big achievement.

Michael’s early attempts to go viral

I kept making videos and nothing of note happened for a couple months, aside from a couple hits that broke thirty thousand views. Then I got an idea: “I need to practice, but I don’t have a practice room available because of COVID restrictions. Because I make too much noise in my apartment, I need to go to a parking structure to get some privacy and not disturb anyone. Maybe I’ll film myself in that resonant, echoey space and see what happens on TikTok.” Within the first five videos of me playing in a high-reverb parking garage, I jumped fifteen thousand followers over the course of two days. The culprit was a video of me playing the force theme from Star Wars (or “Binary Sunset” by it’s official name). That video currently is close to hitting one million views, with almost a quarter million likes.

Continue reading How I went VIRAL on TikTok

USC Student Voices Defining Home

Editor’s Note:

Where do you live? Where are you from? Where do you call home? For some people, the answers to all three of those questions will be the same. For many, they will be different. USC students come from different places across the country and around the globe. As young people trying to establish our place in the world, we are constantly searching for a place to call home. Everyone has a unique view of what home means to them, and below four different USC students come together to provide their own interpretation of home. You will hear from Grace (Yuan) Gao, an international student encountering the trials and tribulations of moving during a pandemic, Nathan Smith, a Masters student reflecting on his undergraduate abroad experience in Glasgow, Samhitha Saiba, coming to terms with her surprising homesickness after coming to L.A., and Leona Tafaghodi, a student in the World Bachelor in Business program learning to adjust to a new city every year. All of these students have come to USC under different circumstances, and all are still discovering what it means to feel at home somewhere. Perhaps you will find some similarities between your experiences and theirs, or perhaps simply a friendly reminder that you have had many homes and have many more to come.

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

Moving During a Pandemic: How I Moved Into My New Apartment 

By Grace Yuan Gao

[4 minute read]

This summer, I moved by myself to a new apartment for the very first time. Before moving, I had no idea how tiring but also eye-opening this experience would be. As an international student, I had never moved anywhere alone until coming to the United States. I grew up in a small city in the middle of China (Shanxi province, famous for its coal production), and when I first came to California I moved with the help of my parents. They assisted me in making lists of what I would need to bring to the United States and helped to package my belongings. The first time I moved to L.A., I felt fearful of the unknown, but at the same time, thrilled to come to a new and exotic place; I was able to plan and prepare for my move. However, I did not anticipate moving again in 2020 at the beginning of the summer. Moving to a new apartment during a pandemic was an utterly unforeseen experience for me, even though it was not a long distance from the place I had lived before.

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Moving by myself came with a whole new set of challenges.

The most challenging part of this process for me was transportation. After being in a pandemic for nearly half a year, California has become the leading state of COVID-19 cases in the US. I had to move during the summer when the COVID-19 cases were still high since my current lease was about to expire and I did not renew it in order to save money. Neither I nor my friends (most of whom had already gone back home to their native countries) have a car, and hiring someone to help us move during this unprecedented time seemed to be an unnecessary risk. Thus, the new apartments and houses that I and my other international friends chose were really close to our original ones, so that we could move our belongings more easily. Some of my friends even moved all of their belongings by foot over multiple trips. They rented some small carts and walked to their new houses several times a day over the span of a week. It was pretty exhausting, but ultimately safe for all involved.

At first I thought it would be a huge project, and had no idea where to start.

But I was lucky enough to have a friend who gave me a hand with his new car. He carried all my stuff (about ten big boxes) downstairs and moved them to his car over several trips and greatly helped me. However, life is always full of unexpected experiences. The first day of moving, my friend was driving my things to my new apartment and a bike hit his car, which ended up shocking everyone involved. Moving is a journey full of new experiences and uncertain events, even occurrences such as a car accident, which you do not anticipate but will likely experience sooner or later.

Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

I did not realize that I would miss my original apartment until the day before I left.

Since I just came to the United States a year ago, I usually feel like a rootless plant which prepares to be moved anywhere at any time. It was surprising for me to find that I felt an attachment to the first place I lived in when I came here and I was pretty sad to say goodbye to that place, which was tiny and messy but full of memories. As I prepared to move, I noticed that every corner of that house seemed to be filled with personal stories all of a sudden and everywhere I looked seemed both familiar and strange. Neighbors used to gather together and cook for each other in the tiny kitchen. Outside of my window was a small garden which was my only view in quarantine. There was a platform upstairs which was my secret corner for reading. I realized that time will pass no matter how much you hate or enjoy each moment, things will change no matter how hard you try to keep them the same, and people will leave no matter how special they are to you. Parting is the normal state of life. Just like the seeds of a dandelion, which fly away and grow wherever they land, over time you will find you have new friends and fresh dreams. You cannot always stay in the same place but have to change somehow.

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Moving is both an end and a beginning.

After the unexpected but fairly smooth transportation of my things, I finally moved to my current apartment energetically and excitedly. The moment I opened the new room’s door, I felt a sense of independence and freshness. The structure of my new apartment is fairly similar to my former one, and the mattress is just the same. When I laid on the new bed the first night, I did not even realize that I had moved. A new room means a unique start, and you can chat with different neighbors, make new friends, and explore novel communities, a treasure in this pandemic since I have forgotten how long it was since I last talked to a stranger face to face. Also, it is always fun to decorate your new room  and to make it a private utopia of sorts. Moving was especially tiring in this unusual time; however, that transition, just like this time, will come to pass.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: ADJUSTING TO LIFE ABROAD

By Nathan Smith

[5 minute read]

Going off to university can be daunting. It’s even more daunting to go off to study in another country, far away from your mental and emotional safety nets and the warm embrace of friends and family. For many people, this is a deterrent, a “yea, it sounds good, but I don’t think I could do it.” For me, however, it wasn’t just an idea. It was a tangible goal. 

It’s a rainy November evening in Lexington, Kentucky. I’m up to my neck in boredom, anxiety and stress. I’ve just about had it with the mundane routine of waking up, going to class, coming back and doing nothing else. I speak aloud, “I’m tired of this, I’m supposed to be doing something bigger, something greater than sitting in a dorm in Lexington, Kentucky.” I had a lot of ambition and hunger for something more, but I did not quite know what that “more” was. So a few weeks go by and I keep thinking over what I can do to get out of the University of Kentucky. I tell my mother that I want to transfer, and of course she isn’t pleased, thinking my living set up is perfect and that the school is nice, but I explain to her that I want more, that I’m supposed to be doing bigger things. 

Fast forward to the end of the semester, and I’ve decided. I’m going to Europe. The casual reader’s probably going, “Kentucky to Europe? How the hell does one even reach that line of thinking?” Besides getting an immense chuckle from me, you’d also get a pretty intense breakdown of the situation. Truth is, Europe was not something that just came out of nowhere. I had applied to European universities out of high school, most notably Glasgow, Edinburgh, Richmond American University of London, Oxford and American University of Paris, receiving admits to Glasgow, Richmond and Edinburgh. So in many ways, I saw switching institutions as a simple act of finishing something which I had held a propensity for already.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

After a tumultuous summer, many applications, arguments with my mum, being dissuaded by other family members, and lots of prayer, I ended up on a Delta flight to Glasgow to study at THE University of Glasgow in October- a full 2 weeks after the semester had started. Initially, I was scared senseless. Truthfully, I went through a period of time where I was so anxious, homesick, scared and lonely that I didn’t go to any classes for a month. I would go stretches of weeks without attending classes. The combined 2 mile walk to campus up Glaswegian hills every day, the loneliness, and simply being scared kept me from going to my lectures. 

It wasn’t until the very end of my first semester at Glasgow that I truly began to settle in. I began to become more active in class discussions, meeting with professors, going to events and truly feeling like I was a student at the university. How? Truthfully, it was a combination of things. One thing that helped me to adjust was getting active in the dating scene on Tinder and actually talking to other people. I began hanging out with people, going to the cinema, clubs, and truly integrating into student life.

Continue reading USC Student Voices Defining Home