In my junior (third) year of high school, I visited London and Paris with a handful of my classmates. My high school, the wonderfully fictional-sounding High Tech High, had something called “Intersession”. The week before spring break, every student was free to choose something they wanted to take part in for a week. Every event was hosted by the teacher, and it was usually something along the lines of surfing, or visiting restaurants, or, the one I usually chose, creative writing. Some offered international trips, like snorkeling in Belize, and, of course, a trip to London and Paris.
It was in the months leading up to this trip that I started to learn French. I went online, to websites offering free lessons, and learned as much as I could. Much alluded me (like the pronunciation), but I learned basic phrases, numbers, how to say what time it was, how to ask if there was a bakery nearby. “Est-ce qu’il y a une boulangerie près d’ici?” was the first phrase that I fully memorized, and prided myself for doing so. I also learned the art of being exceptionally annoying. Well, I don’t know if it took me until age 16 to be annoying, but I certainly perfected it by then.As a teen with a newfound knowledge of basic French, not to mention, a complete fixation on Doctor Who, I was an unstoppable tirade of irritation to those around me. Every conversation was an opportunity to bring up something cultural or etymological, some examples include, “Hey guys, Allons-y! Right guys? Right?” and “Oh man, counting by tens is so weird in French!” (I caught myself bringing up the latter topic recently and could tangibly feel the loathing that the other person was emitting).
Walk by Tommy Trojan, pass Mudd Hall, cross Exposition Boulevard and in front of you is the California Science Center, where the Space Shuttle Endeavour is on exhibit. This giant bird of a machine, the first to carry humans in a re-usable spacecraft, completed 25 successful space missions and was brought to Los Angeles from Florida, piggy-backed on top of a modified Boeing 747. From LAX, it was another mission to safely get the Endeavour to the Science Center: 265 trees had to be cut down (they will be replaced), 67 traffic lights were removed to accommodate the shuttle, more than a 1000 police officers and 200 fire-fighters had to assist the 12 miles route on surface-streets from the airport, and at times it could only move inch by inch making sure no structures were damaged. After two days, on October 14, 2013, it reached its retirement home here, in our backyard.
In the summer of 2013, I had a really exciting opportunity to teach English to university students in China. Never in my life had I expected myself to get in front of a large classroom of international students and be able to instruct English through various methods of teaching. Before the trip, I spent countless hours constructing fun yet engaging lesson plans, planning out skits and lectures, and preparing myself professionally to assume the role of an instructor.
When I arrived in China, I was able to share with the students that I was also of Chinese descent, thereby enabling myself to instantly build trust with the students. Throughout the course of the summer semester, I was able to notice the improvement of the students’ verbal and written English as they were able to respond more quickly, examine their English competencies more critically, and read their papers more analytically.