Category Archives: Language

How to Write a Blog Article

By Natalie Grace Sipula

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[6 minute read]

Writing is hard. From a pretty young age, I have greatly enjoyed expressing myself through creative writing, and as I got older, I started to enjoy academic writing as well. I would write poetry about things I observed in my day-to-day life, short stories or fragments of prose, and even entered a few essay-writing competitions. Something I noticed pretty early on about writing is that writing the things that come to your mind without method or intent is a lot easier than writing for an audience. I prefer writing while keeping the reader in mind more because writing only for myself lets me pick up bad writing habits, such as not carefully considering my word choice, as the only person interpreting the writing would be me. But writing creatively for a reader is pretty difficult, and academic-style writing for a reader can be exhausting because most college students already have to do that so much for their classes. A form of writing that I had not previously considered before coming to college, however, was blog writing. When I started working at the USC American Language Institute, I tried out writing for a blog for the very first time. One blog that I wrote about rereading Harry Potter with an older perspective challenged me to consider the perspective of both myself and my audience.

Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

Writing for a blog is a great way to open your creative energy and write to a wider audience while also being able to maintain a level of informality and free expression to your writing. A blog article could be about anything–your daily routine, a hobby you love doing, your journey writing other things, or aspects of your social life. It is a happy medium between writing creatively or academically for others and dabbling in creative writing or journaling for yourself. This can be good because it allows you to practice writing with a sense of accountability, while also having fun. I have written a few blog articles since coming to college, and I found that I had a great time writing them and was actually proud of my work after the fact. I also realized that I was less judgmental of my own writing when writing a blog article, which made it easier for me to actually finish a writing project I started on. For me, the most difficult part of writing a blog article is narrowing down exactly what it is you want to write about.

What can you write about?

Have you ever had that feeling where you are inspired to write something and then as soon as you sit down in front of your journal or computer screen, your mind goes blank? Or when you know of a lot of things you think you might be interested in writing about, but aren’t sure where to start? This is a very common problem writers encounter, but with some consideration and time, it can be overcome. Some common blog topics to inspire you are: life advice about a specific situation or circumstance, a recipe or instructions on how to do/make something, a list of recommendations, a funny or shocking story and a lesson learned from it, hobbies or goals and how to accomplish them, and so much more.

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Travel Through Television

By Connor Brown

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Over the past year, I’ve spent almost all of my time at home (as most people have), doing my part to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19 by doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, as I’ve filled the time with a number of TV shows and films I’d been meaning to watch but had previously not had time for. The pandemic certainly freed some time up for me to catch up on these shows. Watching a show or movie can be more than just mindless entertainment; it can be an informative or even educational experience, especially if you watch the right things. By watching American classics and international standouts, I believe my quarantine binge-watching habits have been more productive than one might expect.

With travel being impossible, I’ve scratched the itch to go abroad by watching shows and movies that take place in Mexico and Italy. I speak Spanish, but I know that in order to maintain fluency in a language, practice is essential. As such, I began watching Netflix’s Club de Cuervos, a show about a soccer team in a small town outside of Mexico City. It was not only highly entertaining (I enjoyed it so much I watched the spinoff series it produced), but it also helped me maintain my ear for the language. The show even improved my understanding of the Central Mexican dialect and a variety of accents which are quite prevalent in Los Angeles.

Photo by Ruben Leija on Unsplash

I’ve also been learning Italian at USC for the past couple of years, and by watching a number of classic Italian films on Kanopy, a streaming service for classic and indie films (which all USC students have access to), I’ve bettered my understanding of the language while watching some of the most artistic films ever made. Here’s a tip: if you’re watching a show in a foreign language you’re trying to learn, turn on the subtitles in the foreign language. For me, Spanish and Italian are much easier to understand when I have subtitles on and can read along. If you’re working on your English, try using English subtitles and the dialogue should be easier to understand.

Photo by Tech Daily on Unsplash

Travel needn’t take place abroad as traveling through time may arguably be even more exciting. I was quite young when AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s The Wire first began airing, and having heard nothing but good things about the shows, I’ve always wanted to watch them. Quarantine provided the time for that. Mad Men is set in 1960s Manhattan. The title is derived from the show’s main focus, which is the advertising industry along Madison Avenue. It’s an excellent period piece, and I enjoyed all seven seasons. It helped pass the time in the early days of lockdown. It also provides fascinating insight into 1960s America and the professional and business world. The show includes important examinations of misogyny and sexism through the story arc of Peggy Olson, one of the main characters and a fan favorite, as well as the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s. It also provides revealing vignettes of American culture. It’s not only an excellent show, with great shots and suave styles, but an interesting look into American history.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

The Wire, a Baltimore-based crime drama, is also quite insightful. I just wrapped up the first season and it very deftly handles controversial subjects such as the criminal justice system, drug trade, racial tensions, and corruption. It shows the perspectives of all parties involved, giving the audience the space to receive the information and interpret it on their own. It also has some of the best scene transitions I’ve ever seen, and I eagerly look forward to watching the remaining four seasons. While the show was made in the early and mid-2000s, the topics it covers are still wholly relevant today.

These shows are worth watching, especially if you are an international student that wants to gain a better understanding of American culture, language, and history, just as I learned by watching shows from Mexico and Italy. These shows also help pass the time, because even though schoolwork is a large load on all of our plates, there still isn’t much to do besides staying home, staying safe, and watching shows.

Featured Image by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

Connor is a junior majoring in History and Italian at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Born and raised in California, in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area, he has long been interested in experiencing diverse cultures and learning new languages. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Italian, drawn to both by his love of history and cuisine. He enjoys adventuring in both the urban and natural landscapes of California, as well as playing and listening to music, and is always happy to recommend the best taco spot to eat at, beach to walk along, or album to listen to. He is a huge sports fan and loves to chat about everything from the Lakers to soccer.

A local food review: Chichen Itza Restaurant

By Jonah Vroegop

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.

First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market! 

The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.

“Taco’s de pollo asada” and a “torta de pollo asada”
Continue reading A local food review: Chichen Itza Restaurant