Tag Archives: california

Modern Family: Rewatching 2009 in 2021

By Jack Schwartz

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

It’s no secret that when the pandemic forced us to spend more time indoors, many people quickly turned to streaming TV shows and movies to keep themselves entertained. Unsurprisingly, streaming giants like Netflix boasted huge increases in usage in 2020. Increasing screen time is an experience that I would say is nearly universal at this time. Shows that were released on Netflix last March, such as Tiger King, quickly became trending topics. Suddenly, Joe Exotic was everywhere, and everyone was talking about his zoo full of big cats. As I thought about how to carry out my first session as a Conversation Partner, I reflected on how television has given people of all different backgrounds common topics and themes to discuss, especially over the past year. Of course, students in the United States have rather different streaming options than students studying in China. If you take the time to compare streaming platforms, however, identifying pieces of media that are accessible to people in multiple countries is definitely a possibility.

Of the American TV shows accessible to both me (in Los Angeles) and one of the students participating in the Conversation Partner program (in Beijing), Modern Family stands out as a great choice. The ABC sitcom, set in a Los Angeles suburb documents three very different couples and their families. Many of the relationships between these families were rather tense in the pilot episode, and the show revolves around their growth and increasing connectedness. Rewatching the 2009 pilot episode of the show in 2021 was quite interesting, as the qualities that once made the families stand out have since become great topics of conversation.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


 Take, for instance, husbands Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), who in the pilot episode are nervous to reveal their adopted daughter to the rest of the family. This representation in a broadcast network was quite groundbreaking in 2009. Rewatching the pilot episode in 2021 provides an opportunity for having an open conversation about the shifting cultural attitudes towards adoption by same-sex couples and the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights in general. 


 Another relationship that sparks conversations is the one between Gloria (Sofía Vergara) and Jay (Ed O’Neill). Gloria is an immigrant from Colombia and is over 20 years younger than her 63-year-old husband. The pair are far from the average relationship one might have expected to see on-screen in 2009. Gloria’s relationship with the rest of Jay’s family is layered with jokes at her expense about her accent and language barrier in the pilot. In later episodes, she has more open and honest conversations with members of the family about her experience as an immigrant and the challenges posed by not being a native English speaker. Seeing the rest of the family’s growth, compassion, and understanding is a heartwarming component of the show’s trajectory.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Overall, Modern Family is a great television show choice because it succinctly captures shifting American norms and values throughout the 2010s. On a wider level, rewatching the first season has revealed to me how valuable American media can be in sparking conversations with other students. Although students participating in the program might be located all throughout the world due to online learning and COVID-19, identifying which shows are licensed for streaming in their respective countries proves immensely beneficial. If you have a chance, try streaming Modern Family or another TV show and ask Conversation Leaders if they’ve seen these shows!

Featured Image by Jose Rago on Unsplash

Jack is a senior earning an M.S. in Applied Economics and Econometrics through the progressive degree program. Born and raised in Washington, DC, he’s loved getting to spend the last few years in Los Angeles and has driven across the United States five times. From scuba diving to writing movie reviews for the school newspaper, he tries to take advantage of everything Southern California has to offer. He studied abroad in Madrid last spring and is always looking to improve his Spanish.

Exploring California National Parks

By Minah Ha

[2 ½ minute read]

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Growing up in Southern California, I was privileged enough to be driving distance away from many popular national parks. Every winter and summer break, my family would take a trip to a new national park. During the winter, we would stay in hotels or motels and explore the parks during the day and during the summer we would go camping. Camping and exploring national parks is a fun activity for families or friend groups to take part in over a long weekend or vacation, so here are my top three national park choices that I highly suggest you visit while you’re in California!

1. Yosemite National Park

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

This is one of the most popular national parks in California. It boasts beautiful mountains and waterfalls. The campsites in Yosemite fill up fast, so the best time to book them is in February or March if you want to camp around June. The best place to camp within Yosemite is in Yosemite Village because of its proximity to the best hiking trails and sightseeing locations. Some of their most beautiful hiking trails are the Vernal and Nevada Falls trails. These trails take you to a beautiful spot where you can get very close to the waterfall and if you go earlier in the summer, you will get soaked by the waterfall. The park is very family-friendly and has hiking trails suited for younger children. 

2. Sequoia National Park

Photo by Jorn van Til on Unsplash

Sequoia National Park is known for its gigantic trees. The biggest one yet is called the General Sherman Tree and it’s something that must be visited if you end up going to Sequoia. The park is about 3 to 4 hours away from  Los Angeles. This place is also best to visit during the
months of May to June because the weather is perfect for hiking. Sequoia is also home to various wildlife species and you might be able to see some bears and deer! If you want to get more done while you’re up there, Sequoia is also only an hour and a half away from Kings Canyon National Park, a park with mountains and waterfalls that are beautiful to visit at sunset.

Southern Hospitality

By Kalan Leaks

[3 minute read]

As I write this, I am realizing that this semester will be my final one as an undergraduate attending the University of Southern California. It’s been quite a journey from being a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman to being a nonplussed engineer with bags under his eyes. Living in Los Angeles has taught me so much about the world as well as myself. Its many charms have won me over despite some of its flaws. However, as the time until graduation slips ever closer, my mind wanders towards my first home in the Southern part of the United States.

I was born in Blytheville, Arkansas, at 11:37 pm on October 28th.  Blytheville is on the northeastern side of Arkansas, so if you wanted to take a quick vacation, Tennessee and Missouri are only minutes away. Arkansas itself has a few interesting, noteworthy quirks. The state gem is a diamond due to the fact that Arkansas is the only state that produces diamonds, and it produces more rice than any other state. Also, for some reason, our state beverage is milk.

Photo by Christian Mack on Unsplash

Blytheville only has a population of around 15,000 people-that’s smaller than USC’s current undergraduate population and almost 3 times smaller than USC’s total student population! If that astonishes you, then you would be surprised to know that the neighboring town of Dell, Arkansas, has a population of only 250 people. Blytheville is a town that takes pride in agriculture and small town charm. You only have to drive a few minutes outside of town before riding along cotton or wheat fields at your side just waiting to be harvested. A benefit of living in a small town is that you get to know everyone in your community. It reminds me of an old television show that would air late at night called Cheers. The theme song would say, “…where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” To me, that’s Blytheville.

However, the downside to living in a small town is, ironically, that everyone in the community knows you and your family. If you happen to get into trouble at school, your family will probably hear the story from five different people by the time you get home. So, you have plenty of incentive to be on your best behavior.

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