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Social solidarity in the City of Angels

By Richard Petrosyan

Wherever in the world you go, wealthy or poor countries, the name of the City of Angels sparkles in the eyes of all souls. Money, celebrity, luxury, and power are all they believe L.A. revolves around. Nonetheless, contrasting socio-economic conditions from one suburb to the other, from one street block to the other, contribute to moderate that illusion. 

One epitome of this disparity is the coastal city of Santa Monica, most famous for its iconic pier. The independent city is also home to hotels, restaurants, business, and educational institutions. Under its sunshine, we sometimes spot homeless people and often overlook the daily struggles they might encounter. Numerous non-profit organizations ally with local officials to actively combat this persisting crisis. Five percent of all social housing constructed in the city lawfully remains subjected to rent control and is destined for the elderly and financially underprivileged, thereby braking the fast-growing real-estate development on the shore to the benefit of the downtrodden. Financial and food assistance is provided to the greatest number. Countless donors keep promoting philanthropic and altruistic projects, but these are far from enough. Many of our fellow Angelinos live near the coast. For the underprivileged, the life of tranquility we tend to idealize is so close, yet so far, as they remain constantly preoccupied by survival.

I have been volunteering for the past 4 years in a non-profit organization that delivers meals to the homes of the disabled. My time volunteering provided me with so many rich experiences that they are difficult to summarize in this article. I thought, however, that I would share some highlights.

Firstly, we attempt to alleviate their solitude. As we deliver to the same clients every day, we bond with people who depend on our help. When they have children, the latter live cities, sometimes states, away and only call every once in a while. Their partners, if any, are long gone. In a nutshell, these people live in absolute solitude. Our goal is to deliver more than a meal, and it does not take much. Just a trivial conversation, some human contact, a short help in carrying something from one location to another, providing comforting words…or just a smile. That is all they need to keep them going for the day. Seeing their faces light up when you prepare to leave is priceless: you feel that you were actually useful to society today.

Secondly, we fight hunger. Too many times, we, the community of volunteers, have seen clients without the strength to stand up, and without the ability to perform basic, daily housekeeping duties. how can they be expected to leave the house, to buy groceries, to stand up in the kitchen for hours preparing their meals and washing the dishes. We attempt to provide the best-quality food that we get and distribute it to all our clients in priority, and if some is left, it is not difficult to come across a homeless local who needs it. The most heart-breaking cases include when hungry individuals approach you with the food in your car trunk and ask you for a piece of bread when you must give it to the client upstairs. You generally dig for extras, or anything you can give to them, and most of the time, you can find something to bring a smile back to their faces.

Thirdly, volunteers and clients enrich each other. Speaking to your regular clients leads to both the volunteer and the client to open up about their life experiences as part of the bonding process. You may come across people with unbelievable pasts and cannot help wondering how they got there. They share their experiences, successes and mistakes, and you learn from them more than you would first expect. On the other hand, the volunteer’s experiences broaden the client’s visions, sometimes change their outlook on life, give them something to rejoice about, somebody else’s story to root for. You end up forming strong relationships in places you would have never expected, all the while, through the little you do, spreading happiness at the level of your community.

In conclusion, Los Angeles embodies a gorgeous landscape and shelters a vibrant community of interconnected professionals who excel in their respective fields, but its problems cannot be overlooked. By increasing our awareness and joining our strengths, we definitely can make a difference in the long run.

Richard is an undergraduate freshman majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Health Care Studies. Growing up in France and arriving to the United States in his early teen years, he understands very well the hardships of immersing yourself in a new culture with a new language and new customs. He interacted with multiple immigrant communities both in the US and in France and developed efficient methods of discovering new cultures comprehensively. In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, working out, learning new languages, and reading books.

Explaining Social Media Culture

By Amy Wang

During one of my first sessions with my conversation partner, I was asked about popular social media platforms that are used here in the U.S. While my answer began simply describing the different applications that are available and widely used, it slowly became an explanation of how social media has become a cultural phenomenon.

It was honestly difficult to explain. Social media has had benefits and consequences. It has made sharing stories and updates about our lives extremely easy, but it has also created an ideal of perfection. Despite being an avid user of different apps, it got confusing for even me to explain to my partner.

Having to verbally express how social media is used here made me rethink my own uses. When I eat, travel, or do anything that is arguably out of the ordinary, I share. But, I only tend to share the highlights, the things that I was absolutely sure would be of relative interest to my “audience.”

What started out as a way for me to share things for my own sake and joy became a platform where I very thoughtfully and selectively began to share only things that fit the unwritten rules of social media posting for the respective platforms.

Instagram posts had to be aesthetic.

Snapchat was a little more up to the user.

Facebook… more for your organization’s updates.

While the general guidelines followed were all subjective to the user and how they wanted to portray themselves to the public, it be stressful because one’s social media presences began to define a bit of who you are.

Companies are now recruiting ambassadors, sometimes students with many followers and other times actual social media influencers who have become semi-celebrities. Influencers themselves are creations that stemmed from the heavy usage of different social media platforms.

Social media is becoming its own culture, and it has been getting harder and harder to explain to not only my partners but also myself. I struggle to describe to my partners why it is so important in some cases, and why it can be harmful in others. Trying to explain an entire topic of current popular culture made me realize how influential social media has become in recent years and why that can be somewhat concerning.

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Emerging Adulthood

By Elizabeth Goodman

Going away to college whether it is close to home, across the country, or across the world presents an exciting and challenging time in any student’s life. For some, including myself, it is their first time living away from home where a newfound sense of independence and responsibility are formed. It’s an exciting, stimulating and fun time, but also one that can be characterized by anxiety, insecurity, and depression, making for a complex stage of life. This marks the beginning of a unique stage that was recently identified in 2000 by psychologist Jeffrey Arnett called, “Emerging Adulthood,” the period between adolescence and young adulthood, respectively (Arnett 2000). Its concepts and features are fascinating and applicable to almost all USC students, as this new stage concerns 18-25 year olds. As emerging adults, it is important to learn about this period in your life to fully understand the steps to becoming an adult in American society.

Emerging adulthood is characterized by five features: self-focus, instability, possibilities/optimism, identity exploration, and feeling in-between (Arnett 2014). Self-focus means this is a time where it is all about you and you have fewer ties and obligations to others. Instability in all facets of life is feeling like you are supposed to have a plan, but also knowing it will be revised many times. Optimism is feeling like anything is still possible at this time. Identity exploration is about asking yourself questions such as “Who am I? What do I want to be? What kind of person am I looking for romantically?” (Arnett 2014). Feeling in-between means not feeling like an adolescent, but also not feeling like an adult just yet (Arnett 2014).

As an aspiring Occupational Therapist, I am intrigued by development. As an emerging adult, I am especially interested in learning about this stage of life. Dr. Kim Morris-Eggleston is teaching her first semester of a two-unit course she created called, “OT 280- Essential Occupations of Emerging Adulthood” under the USC Chan Division of Occupational Therapy. The course is designed to, “Analyze the “emerging adulthood” stage of development in American society through an occupational science lens that includes sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, and business” (Morris 2017). The course also focuses on themes in occupational therapy such as how to improve the health and wellness of emerging adults.

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