Tag Archives: american culture

Be Brave: Speak Up in Class

By Masae (Emily) Yamanaka

An Overview

In many Asian cultures, it is very common for students to not speak at all in a classroom setting. They are merely in schools to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the teachers. Absolute obedience is viewed as a virtue. “I don’t want to waste other people’s time.” “Nothing I share can be that important to interrupt the flow of the lecture.” “Teachers know best.” Almost all the Asian international students I have had resonated similar sentiments.

On the contrary, in a traditional American classroom, you will find the teacher picking on students to voice their opinions. With that being said, it does not mean blurting out anything you can think of in class. Your responses should be relevant and contribute to the topic under discussion. This system strives to build young independent leaders and focus on sharpening critical thinking skills of the youths.

The Two Systems

A main difference between Eastern and Western educations lies in its prime focus. Asian systems utilizes teacher-centric classes where the teacher serves as the main authoritarian figure and answers questions directly from the pupils. Lecture is the main mode of instruction. Students are often dissuaded from exchanging ideas with each other.

The American system employs a student-centered setting where students share ideas with each other and actively participate in the learning and teaching process. Originality is greatly stressed upon and valued. Since each student is unique and no two students have the exact ways of thinking, students can learn from each other and stimulate self-understanding by listening to others’ questions.

Personally, I think Eastern educational institutions offer a wider breadth of knowledge, as teachers who specialize in specific topics get more time to instruct without disturbance. However, being given more content does not equate to the amount of substance pupils actually absorb on average. This one-way direction hinders solidarity as youths are taught to unquestionably oblige to what is given. A more collaborative setting not only promotes critical thinking but serves as a built-in check-and-balance within the classroom since teachers would need to take into account inquiries of everyone and could not simply recycle previous teaching material. At the end of the day, humans are individually unique and each class’s batch of students are different from another.

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How Are You? Does it Matter?

By Samantha Wong

It’s always fascinating—illuminating even—to take a step back from the comfort of our daily interactions and to ask, why? Why do we do some of the things we do? 

During one of my first sessions leading as a Conversation Partner, an international student asked me, “How do you respond to how are you?” Immediately, I reacted with the oh-so-familiar reply, “Good; how are you?” Unconvinced, the student questioned why people respond that way even when they are not good. Like an automatic reflex, it seemed to her as though people ask and return this ostensibly benevolent greeting without any genuine interest at all. 

This inquiry into the utmost timeless greeting focused my attention on to the standard of politeness that Americans have become accustomed to. Why do we continue to blindly ask each other “how are you” when we simply expect a moderate variation of the same answer 99% of the time?

In America, I believe we come to ask each other “how are you” because, frankly, we are afraid to come across as impolite otherwise. It is due to our crippling fear of appearing “rude” or “crass” that we ask a question that does not seem to bear much weight anymore. Indeed, when we ask this question, we more often than not are returned by a one-word response and a dreadfully long, awkward pause… Consequently, we need to move beyond these greetings that yield one-word answers to unlock opportunities to stimulate dialogue we are sincerely interested in. It is only then may we bridge meaningful relationships.

Across all cultures, we hope to reciprocate both courtesy and respect during our interactions with new people. For, every day, we inevitably cross paths with dozens of new faces under distinct circumstances. Particularly as USC students, we have the unique ability to meet and learn from hundreds of different perspectives through a simple “hello” and informal introduction. With one of the largest international populations on campus, we truly are a melting pot of diverse and similar stories waiting to be told. Thus, why should we waste our perfect opportunities to engage in thought-provoking conversations by asking a question that leads to nowhere?

In reference to a Forbes article, there are countless questions to ask that can prompt dynamic and distinctive conversations. What has been the best part of your day so far? What are you looking forward to this week? What has inspired you recently? Truly, the possibilities for good questions are endless. 

With this untapped reserve of productive conversation starters, we can (and should) begin exchanges with positivity, purpose, and ultimately, genuine interest! After all, who wouldn’t want to make a great first impression?

Let’s do ourselves a favor and ask better questions. Who knows, perhaps we can gain something more valuable during our conversations!

Featured image by Sawyer Bengston on Unsplash

Sam is an undergrad business student at Marshall School of Business. While raised in a small town in New Jersey, she loves to explore diverse cultures through travel and unique eats (particularly, desserts). Since flying 3,000 miles across the country, Sam has continued her passions for consulting, interacting with students across cultures, and helping others! Sam is greatly involved in the Marshall community (AIM Marketing Consulting, Marshall Business Network), and is an enthusiastic American pop culture follower.

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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