Tag Archives: activity

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

Summer Book Club: Reading Harry Potter with Fresh Eyes

By Natalie Grace Sipula

[5 minute read]

This summer I was a leader for the American Language Institute’s brand-new book club. I helped to lead discussions for this pilot program with international students, and the book we chose to read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Like many other college-age individuals, both in America and around the world, Harry Potter was an integral part of my childhood. From the moment I picked up the first of those mysteriously thick volumes, I was entranced. The world of Harry Potter, in the eyes of a child, is often vivacious, all-consuming, and enigmatic-a land of opportunity for the child who sees part of themself in one of the multitude of characters or feels misunderstood.

I think that sometimes those of us who grew up with the Harry Potter series put it on a pedestal, carrying it in a place so deep in our hearts that it is hard to look past it’s many virtues to see some of it’s obvious flaws. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was chosen by the book club for an international audience because of its accessibility to a wide range of audience members, but that accessibility to many different age groups and backgrounds also suggests varying levels of complexity. Returning to the Harry Potter series in a discussion-based setting with older eyes revealed some interesting new layers to this book. 

My copy of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Initially, I noticed that triumph in the face of adversity was a recurring theme throughout the book. What becomes particularly important is the people who are successful in overcoming the obstacles set forth throughout the novel, and how they are categorized. Almost as soon as Harry steps foot onto the train taking him to Hogwarts, he learns of a rigid system which categorizes students into different Houses based on personal qualities or attributes. Despite the fact that Harry knows nothing about the wizarding world, he takes to heart everything that his new friend Ron says to him on the train about the virtues of Gryffindor and the downfalls of Slytherin. This blind assumption is never challenged (at least not for the duration of the first book in the series) but is instead supported by other students and professors. Everyone seems to be looking forward to the day when Slytherin is met with failure, whether that be in personal conflicts, the House Cup, or Quidditch tournaments. In a moment that has been pointed out for it’s ridiculousness multiple times from fans of the series, Headmaster Dumbledore, at the end of year feast, absurdly recalculates the House points once Harry, Ron, and Hermione recover the Sorcerer’s Stone to make it so that Slytherin conveniently loses the House Cup by a measly ten points.

To any child reading this, this may seem like the epitome of justness, wherein the stereotypical group of bullies are met with disapproval and failure at the hands of an all-powerful adult figure. But in actuality, this favoritism continues throughout the series, illustrating a tendency for the wizarding world to look down on a group of people with supposed traits that they perceive as threatening. While it is possible that J.K. Rowling was trying to create a world in which your success is based on personal virtue and strong morals, it is difficult to see how this idea can coexist alongside a system where children are categorized at the earliest point in their education and then judged and questioned for the rest of their lives based on that categorization.

Preparing material for Book Club while wearing USC gear

Another aspect worth mentioning about the Harry Potter series is the interpretation of England which J.K. Rowling infuses into the magical world she has created. As an American preteen avidly reading the Harry Potter series, I did not have a particularly detailed idea of what the cultural landscape of the United Kingdom looked like. Returning to the series at nineteen years old with a greater understanding of UK culture, I see some vast differences between my new knowledge and the culture depicted in the Harry Potter world.

When we are first greeted by the presence of Hogwarts as observers of the nervous first years being transported in boats across the lake, we see a medieval-style castle, complete with towers, ghosts, suits of armor, and dungeons where the young wizards and witches take their potions class. The food they eat is old-fashioned: shepherd’s pie, treacle tart, and more. There seem to be few students of color in this world, but when they are mentioned, the reader is immediately tipped off by Rowling’s stereotyped names and descriptions-Dean Thomas being described as a black boy the first time he is mentioned, the only known Asian girl in the series being named Cho Chang, and the twins in Harry’s class of Indian heritage being almost indistinguishably characterized as Padma and Parvati Patil. In light of recent controversies of J.K. Rowling releasing transphobic statements via social media (which were met with outrage by Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, among others), it is hard not to wonder whether those characters were included as a meager attempt to reflect the modern-day diversity of the UK or just a form of thinly shielded tokenism. As a young reader, especially one who is not originally from the UK, it is easy to overlook or misunderstand the Britain which Rowling portrays for us, but looking at the series with fresh eyes it becomes clear that this is a place that idealizes a medieval version of Europe that is disconnected from the thought and culture of the modern world and is predominately white. 

Reading outside is a great way to relax in the summer
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Effects of Physical Confinement on relationships

By Richard Petrosyan

[5 minute read]

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Author’s note: This article is the fruit of my analysis and my analysis only. By no means do I wish to come off as an authority on these matters, but rather as a blog writer attempting to spark debate on commonly relevant life questions.

Since governments around the entire world issued stay-at-home orders, you and I can well relate to being stuck inside with your family or your loved ones (I am with my family, which is nice because I get to spend more time with them). Everyone is experiencing different situations at the moment, but I’ve heard many of my friends ask themselves how spending more time with relatives will impact their relationships with them, especially because the connection is being forced by circumstances beyond our control. Here I will put forth my analysis of how I believe different relationships will be impacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Let us begin with how quarantine impacts relationships within couples. In my opinion, the way the relationship is affected depends on if the couple decides to spend the time apart or to temporarily move in together. If you’re away, even if you talk and see each other online every day, I have observed from acquaintances of mine that the physical distance can create a mental distance. After all, even if you’re in love, not seeing the other person in the relationship every day can make their virtual presence feel less real. You may not see what they look like every day, what they eat, what they are doing. Sharing all of these details on a daily basis makes you become comfortable around the other person, and therefore to a certain extent, dependent on their presence. Why? Because, according to Psychology Today, we are creatures of habit. This is how emotional attachment strengthens.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Nonetheless, if a couple lives together, it’s an entirely different story. When a couple lives together, they will discover very personal details about each other that define their personalities, such as hygiene and eating habits, circadian rhythm, house set-up and possessions, and the things that are really dear to them. These discoveries can help you discern deeper aspects of your partner’s personality in order to determine whether you wish to pursue the relationship. In other words, you get to know the person in a deeper way. If nothing about the relationship seems deterring at a glance, then you may feel compelled to continue pursuing the relationship on a deeper level.

However, a problem that has been mentioned in the news is skyrocketing violence within married couples as a result of excessive, forced contact with each other, according to French media outlets. This typically happens when the couple has been established in their lives together for a long time already. They stay married for purposes other than love, and see going to work as an escape from each other. Quarantine in this case may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. In these cases, the two members of the couple, if reasonable, should understand that it’s time to part ways for the good of both parties involved. 

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

For children spending time with their family during quarantine, the reaction of the child usually aligns with how the child was raised. For example, if you are a child who is very invested emotionally in your family and your parents took care of you in the most devoted manner possible, it will likely be an immense pleasure to spend more time with your parents, whom you will probably have missed very much over the course of your busy schedule. On the other hand, if you were primarily taught to be autonomous, independent, and outgoing without much contact with your parents, you will likely perceive an increased quality time in proximity to your parents as restrictive, almost punitive in some cases. You may also feel restricted by the impossibility of intimacy with your close friends, listening to music, or engaging other social activities.

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