Tag Archives: america

A Scenic View from The Train

By Chirsten Vanderbilt

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Prior to Covid, I had the wonderful experience of taking a train ride from Los Angeles to Dallas. Although my train ride only took two days, it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. On my journey, I traveled through the states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. As it turns out, train rides are one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the views of the countryside and I had an amazing time.

While the train ride was great, the reasoning behind taking it wasn’t quite as fun. During the last week of spring finals, I suffered a collapsed lung. I was hospitalized for three days and unable to travel by airplane for six months. When it came time to head back to Texas for the summer break, my only possible mode of transportation was by train. Needless to say, it was a difficult and emotional time for me and my family, and I am so grateful to have had a healthy recovery. I also know that if it had not for this injury, I wouldn’t have taken this incredible two-day sightseeing adventure.

My mom and I began our trip at the very busy Union Station in Los Angeles. It is the main railway station in the city and is about twenty minutes away from the USC campus. USC even provides transportation to and from Union Station! My mom and I traveled on an Amtrak train, and some of the amenities included sleep cars, three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and a sight decka window-filled area where passengers can sit comfortably while taking in the view. 

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One of the sites I observed while sitting on the sight deck traveling through Texas

Passengers also had the opportunity to stretch their legs and explore the destination stops as they came up. One of my favorite stops was Tucson, Arizona. It might have even been my favorite travel destination of the entire trip. Like Los Angeles, Tucson has a laid-back, youthful vibe and has an array of shops and restaurants. The climate is also very hot and dry. On this particular day, we were unexpectedly interrupted by a thunderstorm.

After Tucson, Arizona, the train passed through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. Texas is a huge state and it took a whole day to travel through it. The various train stops in the state included: El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth. One of the most interesting things that we came across was the U.S- Mexico border. The city of El Paso is located on the border with Mexico, and because of this, I was able to see the actual border between U.S and Mexico, something which I had never seen before. I found it so interesting that most gas stations and car shops in this area had signs translated into Spanish.

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Election Complexion

By Jonah Vroerop

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3½ minute read]

Voting is arguably the most important facet of our democracy. It is the vehicle through which the voices of the common people reach the ears of leadership and the only way in which we can choose who represents us, both on a world stage and in our local governments. Many people think that Americans dislike talking about politics because it is rude or private. However, this is largely untrue. Yes, Americans may be hesitant to tell you which candidate they voted for or plan to vote for but engaging in conversation about political topics or asking someone’s opinion of a candidate is not rude at all. In fact, you may learn some things about American political history from these conversations and you may begin to understand why politics are such a barrier of change in the United States.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

2020 is a big year for a lot of reasons, among which is the presidential election. In November, American citizens will cast their votes for the President and Vice President of the United States of America. Americans have the option of voting at a local polling station (usually a school, gymnasium, or community center) or via mail. The mail-in ballots are very important for many Americans, especially those who live out of their home state or state of permanent residence, since American voting laws mandate that your vote is counted by your state. The result of this year’s election will rely heavily on mail-in ballots, since many will likely be taking precautionary measures to avoid possible COVID transmission.

COVID, among many other things, has made this election pivotal for saving the lives of thousands of Americans. Our current administration has made an abysmal effort to address the coronavirus pandemic and as a result, America has had 7.3 million cases and over 200,000 deaths. The environment, racial inequality, and economics (partially due to covid), have also emerged as influential factors in the 2020 election. And so, if Americans want to see changes and progress in these areas, we will have to vote in record numbers. Although the election results are impossible to predict, we know that both leading candidates (former VP Joe Biden/Kamala Harris and the incumbent candidates Donald Trump/Mike Pence) still have a very realistic chance of winning. Therefore, the small percentage of “swing voters” in the United States will be the individuals that determine the outcome of this election. The states that have the highest numbers of these voters (we call these states “swing states”) are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Since the Presidential candidates win the votes of most of the states “all or nothing” (meaning that if the majority vote for one candidate all electoral votes of the state will go to that candidate), even a small number of voters in a swing state have a very large amount of electoral influence.

Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash
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Taking English for Granted

By David Schroeder

[4 minute read]

Language is not something I really think about on a day-to-day basis. Most of the time, I just go through my day freely communicating with ease and not running into any language-related problems. I feel like this is the way a lot of native English speakers living in America feel, and I’ve found that it is a very ignorant way of thinking. Everyone should acknowledge that being fluent in English is a major privilege that is often overlooked or taken for granted by native speakers.

During my first conversation session at ALI, I was talking with an international student specifically about what our high schools were like. He said that he had a few required classes that he had to take during high school, and that one of them was four years of English. I mentioned that I was also required to take a foreign language and my conversation partner was puzzled by this, and he questioned me on why I would be required to learn any other language besides English. This forced me to step back and think more deeply about English.

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My conversation partner’s statement is sad but true, because in a practical sense, if you know English, there is not a need to know any other language because of English’s dominance in the world. This is unfortunate, because it is not fair to rate languages above each other because it creates a big disadvantage to those who are not native English speakers, and thus they are given the burden of learning another language (usually English) out of necessity.

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