Tag Archives: america

The American Education System: My Experience

by Jackie Truong

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

People sometimes say that a good education is the greatest equalizer of all, and I very much agree with that notion. A good education allows for increased socioeconomic mobility, and it also develops well-rounded critical thinkers, which are beneficial to any society. Although the general goals of schooling are basically the same across most countries, the approach to education differs from country to country. On that note, I want to give my readers (especially those who did not attend school in the US growing up) a glimpse into what it’s like going to school in America, from kindergarten all the way through college. First, a little disclaimer: this is my personal experience with the education system in the U.S., and everyone’s experience is different. My experience will not be the same as every American, but I hope this blog post will give international students a glimpse into what the American educational experience is like.

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

I was born in Portland, Oregon, and attended school in the same school district my entire life. First, my educational journey started at Ventura Park Elementary School. At my elementary school, the grade levels went from kindergarten to 5th grade (which I believe is the norm in the U.S.). I had a great time in elementary school because it was mostly play, and very little homework was assigned. Most of the learning began and ended in the classroom. I don’t remember exactly what time my school started and ended, but it was somewhere around 8am – 3pm. After school, I also attended the Boys and Girls Club of America for a number of years, where we basically played a bunch of games every day. It was great. Looking back, I had a very fun and relaxing experience in elementary school. I even remember all my teachers’ names: Mrs. Tiegs for kindergarten, Mrs. Wattanabe for 1st grade, Mr. Dobson for 2nd grade, Mrs. Belgarde for 3rd grade, Mrs. Stapleton for 4th grade, and Mrs. Coye for 5th grade.

Photo by Kuanish Reymbaev on Unsplash

Next up, we have middle school (also known as junior high in the US). I went to Floyd Light Middle School, and the grade levels here were 6th to 8th grade. For many, middle school is where the social hierarchy starts to become much more noticeable, and this is the age where various cliques start to form (e.g. the popular kids, the jocks, the geeks/nerds, the nerds, etc.). My middle school experience was also quite nice because I had a great group of friends and I never had to experience bullying. I remember in middle school, there was a huge anti-bullying campaign (especially in health class), and my school had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to bullying. I think historically in the U.S., bullying has always been a big problem in middle schools and high schools across the country, and as a result, schools started implementing anti-bullying campaigns, especially in the past 20 years or so.

After middle school, I entered David Douglas High School, which is also where I graduated from (Class of 2018!). High school is where I really started to take my academics and extracurricular activities seriously because those were important for getting into college. Although I spent a lot of time studying, doing homework, and participating in extracurricular activities, I still had a significant amount of free time left over to hang out with friends after school and do other fun things. High school was probably the most memorable period in my life as I had a lot of fun experiences with great people during this time. High school teachers are also the best (from my experience anyway). Not all of them were great, but most of the ones I had were amazing. In my experience, the high school teachers I had truly cared about their students, wanted them to succeed and took time to get to know them. Senior year was the most memorable because it was my last year of high school, although I did slack off a bit. I had what they call “senioritis.” Don’t get me wrong, I still focused on my grades and extracurricular activities, but I also spent much more time than in previous years on fun things such as prom, skipping school to go to the beach with friends, and skipping my morning classes because I didn’t want to wake up early (I know, a lot of skipping things). At the end of the day, everything still worked out even though I wasn’t the most perfect student.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Finally, we move on to college, which is where I’m currently at in my educational journey. I began my first year of college at Pacific University. However, after realizing that I didn’t like small-town life, I decided to transfer schools and move to a school located in a lively city. That eventually led me to USC, where I am currently situated, heading into my senior year studying biology at the undergraduate level. This wraps up my journey through the American educational system, a fun ride thus far. Hopefully, graduate school (Physician’s Assistant school specifically) will be just as memorable as all the other levels of education that I’ve experienced so far. I suppose only time will tell.

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Jackie Truong is a current undergraduate student studying Biology. He has worked as an Undergraduate Student Consultant at the USC American Language Institute and is from Portland, Oregon.

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. 

chirsten-texas
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.

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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
Continue reading Election Complexion