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Finding Your Passion

By Tomoki Nomura

[4 minute read]

As a college student, it is important to find a passion to explore outside of your major. School is stressful. It is nearly impossible to be a full-time student, manage a social life, and navigate early adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial to find a healthy balance between academics and everything else. It can be hard to figure out a way to fulfill our responsibilities and commitments without driving ourselves crazy.  This is why cultivating a passion can be extremely beneficial.

Having a passion is the underrated key to success in college. It is a great way to destress and take a break from academics while continuing to stay motivated and focused. Students who focus solely on their academics and careers have a high probability of burning out. Especially at a school like USC, where there is a heavy emphasis placed on career preparation, it is crucial to get away from academics occasionally.

I was lucky enough to stumble into my passion early on in college. My outlet for stress since freshman year has been salsa dancing. I’ve met a lot of people through salsa and made many fond memories of times dancing with friends. It has made my life fulfilling.

Photo by Omar Rodriguez on Unsplash
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The Beauty and Dissonance of Learning Another Language

By Cody Uyeda

As a fourth generation Japanese American, one of the most common questions I get from others is whether I can speak Japanese. However, aside from some basic vocabulary and simple phrases, I’m always forced to admit that I can’t. Growing up in a predominantly non-Asian neighborhood, this lack of linguistic ability rarely posed much of a problem. In fact, it wasn’t until college that I even thought about the fact that I couldn’t speak Japanese. 

As a native English speaker, natural-born fluency is both a blessing and a curse. Because English is the standard form of international communication across the world, fluency in it opens doors that no other language can. However, this advantage also lulls one into a false sense of complacency. When the world caters to your language, there is often little incentive to see the value in others.

In undergrad I began taking classes in Japanese to fulfill my major requirements. However, I never felt that I truly understood the language. Whenever I found myself confused or lost, I knew I could retreat to the safety of English, covering up my embarrassment with nervous laughter and offhand comments. In short, I wasn’t really learning; I was picking up words and phrases, sure, but I was relying too heavily on having the safety of English at arm’s reach, knowing that when the professor dismissed me, I could simply leave my foreign language learning anxiety behind.

I might have gone through college never knowing any other perspective, but what changed my understanding was when I decided to study abroad in Japan the summer of my junior year. As my plane touched down that gray, cloudy morning at Narita Airport, I walked out of the terminal full of expectations, the biggest of which was the expectation of being accepted. As someone who is ethnically Japanese, I expected to feel at home among the people of my ancestral country. However, it was not the homecoming I had imagined. 

Within minutes, I realized just how lost I was. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t read the signs around me. I couldn’t understand anyone on the street. I couldn’t even write down what I wanted to say. With barely a rudimentary understanding of Japanese, rather than feeling accepted, I felt like I didn’t belong. 

Throughout my time in Japan, there were many instances where I would walk out of a store and feel like crying because I felt so stupid; a faker with a Japanese face but no words to match. In the middle of Tokyo, I was surrounded by people, yet I had never felt more alone. There were nights where I would wander the neon-lit streets, wondering what I was doing here when I was so illiterate that I could barely get by on the subway, much less ask anyone for directions or figure out where the nearest bathroom was. 

This isn’t to say my time in Japan was unenjoyable. On the contrary, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my college career. Nevertheless, when I landed back in LA, I returned with a newfound respect for other languages. I realized that in order to fully appreciate Japanese, I needed to let go of my English language crutch, and feel the full discomfort in just how much I didn’t understand. I was forced to confront the weaknesses in my own learning, and appreciate the amount of privilege I had as a native English speaker attending a school where so many others lacked the fluency I took for granted. As I continue to explore Japanese, as well as other languages, I am reminded to be patient and humble; that the dissonance and discomfort of not understanding is not a detriment; and that appreciating the beauty and complexity of a language is only possible when you put aside your fears and step out of your comfort zone.

Featured image by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

Cody is a second year JD student at USC’s Gould School of Law. He is originally from Orange County, CA, and also completed his undergraduate degree in English and Communication at USC. On campus, Cody has been involved in a number of organizations, from Greek life to the Trojan Marching Band, and in his free time enjoys reading, writing, and exploring LA. As someone who has also studied foreign languages (Japanese & Korean), Cody understands the challenges of learning another language, and as such, has the patience and diligence to help others practice and improve their English skills.


A State of California

By Jason Her

As a California native, I know Californians often take pride in where we are from using terms such as NorCal for Northern California, Bay Area, CenCal for Central California, and SoCal for Southern California to represent our hometowns. All of these have their own unique identity that make these terms special because of the culture, diversity, agriculture, scenery, national parks, and overall history of these areas we live in.

Photo from Pixabay

Northern California 

NorCal, a region located in northern California, is most easily recognized by the city of Sacramento, the state capital where Arnold Schwarzenegger once served as the governor. Aside from the capital, NorCal is also known for being a “foodie heaven”- as the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement, home of wine country, and the location of four of the 12 restaurants to receive three Michelin-stars in the United States. It houses the largest railroad museum in North America where restored engines and cars are exhibited. It is home to some of the tallest trees in the world located in Redwood National Park. In addition to these infamous trees, this region has one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in the world in the city of Tahoe. With an abundance of outdoor activities available year-round and gastronomy culture, NorCal a great place to visit if the great outdoors and food are your thing.

Bay Area

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Bay Area is a region located along the northern coast of the Pacific around the San Francisco Bay, Oakland and San Jose. Significant landmarks include the notorious prison of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Aside from these landmarks, cable cars and Levi’s jeans were invented here. One of the oldest and most established Chinatown’s in the United States is located here, with origins dating back to the Gold Rush. Controversial claims about the invention of fortune cookies were created in this Chinatown area as well. The Bay Area is also home to Stanford, one of the world’s leading research universities. One section of the Bay Area, known as Silicon Valley, houses some of the top tech companies of the world including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Tesla. While this developed tech sector makes the Bay Area the most expensive region in the United States, it is still a paradise for anyone looking to get into a major tech company.  

Central California

Photo from PublicDomainPictures

Though CenCal is a region often overlooked because of its location, it is not lacking in culture and identity. Known as the Great Valley of California, agriculture is the primary industry producing an array of fruits and vegetables with Fresno proclaiming itself as the ‘Raisin Capital of the World’. The world’s largest trees are located at Sequoia National Park and the highest peak in the lower 48 states, is Mount Whitney. Of all the universities in California, the latest one was built in Merced, located near Yosemite National Park. It is a major tourist attraction and famous for the Half Dome where The North Face apparel company fashions its company logo from. In Madera, the Fossil Discovery Center is the site of one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil excavations in North America; while in Atwater, the Castle Air Museum has the largest display of military aircraft in the state. Although known by few, CenCal is surrounded by everything and growing.

Southern California

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

SoCal is known for many reasons, from the bright lights of Hollywood, to Disneyland, to the San Diego Zoo. Aside from these attractions, Los Angeles is the only city in California to have all four major professional sports and previously hosted the Summer Olympics of 1984 and will again in the year 2028. The world’s first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in 1940 in San Bernardino and has spread throughout the world, while In-N-Out Burger has become an icon eatery of SoCal. Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in America, with the lowest point below sea level being located there as well. Fallbrook is known as the Avocado Capital of the World. With more than 150 breweries, San Diego held the title of Craft Beer Capital of America, crafting flavors of all sorts. With so much to do in SoCal, it is ideal for anyone regardless of age.

Each part of California is unique and different, with a rich history and culture that distinguishes the differences amongst each area, California is truly a state like no other, a place for anyone who plans to visit or live. 

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

Jason is first year of graduate school majoring in Social Work. He was born in Fresno, CA but raised in Merced, CA. He comes from a huge family with parents who are immigrants of the Vietnam war. Because of this, Jason understands the importance of education and the struggles some may go through to achieve their education. Shortly after high school, Jason joined the Marines, serving for nearly 10 years. While in the Marines, he had the opportunity to travel the world and experience the various cultures showing him how important the English language is to some. In his free time, Jason likes to train martial arts and workout for mud obstacles races such as Tough Mudder and Spartan. He loves the outdoors such as hiking and camping. Aside from the outdoors, Jason often likes to keep up with current events and research what is happening around the world to help him get a better understanding of world conflict. He looks forward to working with international students and being a support for them by showing them they belong her