Tag Archives: conversation

INTELLECTUAL SOCIETIES IN COLLEGE: How Philologos is Facilitating Student Growth


By Richard Petrosyan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[6 minute read]

This article is an interview with Sean Silvia, a USC Dornsife junior double majoring in History and Archaeology as well as minoring in Classics. He serves as the Vice-President of the Philologos Society, a student-run organization founded in July 2019 at USC by its current President, Richard Petrosyan. Richard is also a USC Dornsife junior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Health Care Studies. In this interview, Richard and Sean’s discussion focuses on Sean’s experience at Philologos. But before delving into the heart of the interview, allow us to offer you some insight into the Society’s background.

Introducing Philologos

Being unable to find a platform at USC promoting the exchange of ideas, debates of an interdisciplinary nature, and unique opportunities for humanitarian initiatives all-in-one, Richard decided to synthesize these ideals to establish the strong pillars for an intellectual society. The Philologos Society exposes its members to a diversity of academic fields and thought, expands their general knowledge, and helps them develop social consciousness through various altruistic endeavors. Without intertwining classroom development with the outside world, one’s collegiate experience cannot be complete.

Since the Society’s inception in July 2019, Richard has been tirelessly working to ensure its growth within the USC community as well as to establish partnerships with non-profit organizations and educational institutions outside of USC that provide all members with a wide range of opportunities. One of the greatest challenges has been to launch the expansion campaign for Philologos’ activities during the pandemic while having to stay remote, which the society has successfully accomplished.

A year and a half after seeing this Society come to life, we present to you a glimpse into the heart of the university’s one and only intellectual society, USC’s one-of-a-kind vibrant community of students eager to succeed in order to thrive in the midst of one of the extraordinary social contexts of our time.

-Richard Petrosyan, Philologos Society President

Interview with Philiogos Vice President

Q: Sean, would you describe the Philologos Society in your own words?

A: The Philologos Society is a combination of multiple things. It’s essentially an all-in-one intellectual society, with both an academic and philanthropic branch. It aims to enrich both the members and surrounding community with the pursuit of knowledge; we feed people both intellectually and literally with our volunteer service. 

Richard Petrosyan delivering a meal to recipient Steven

Q: How has your involvement with the society affected you?

A: The Society made me approach things from a philosophical angle in a way that I hadn’t before. Within archaeology, I’d done a lot of research projects that were very specific – “Let’s talk about this site- what it means, what’s the specific context.” But within Philologos, we’re encouraged to ask these bigger questions. We address debates within the field. I’ve explored the deeper, more philosophical and ethical side of archaeology- along with other topics, like medicine and journalism – in ways I hadn’t considered before.

It’s been very fun, being able to synthesize big debate topics into easily understandable language and talking about things that you don’t really get discuss to in a more detail-oriented class (like how to deal with the ethical implications of digging up corpses). 

-Sean Silvia, Philologos Vice President

Q: What are your favorite activities?

A: My top activities are definitely writing articles for our column and volunteering.  

I love all the volunteering opportunities – I enjoyed the Meals on Wheels phone reassurance in particular. I also really like the services we provide to high school students. I know as a high schooler, I had really good instructors who set me up well to be where I am today, but not everyone has access to the kinds of resources I did.

Q: Do you have any significant stories to share?

A: There have been some heartwarming moments for sure. During the phone reassurance program, the person I was talking to had said that she’d gotten very little contact because COVID-19 was reducing the number of people she could see, and how nice it was to talk to someone. The question of the week that we were assigned was about music, and she told me about her love of the Backstreet Boys and that she had a cat that would bob along to the rhythm of their songs. I found it heartwarming to be able to bond with this person through our shared love for music.

Fall 2020 Grand Debate with the USC Hybrid High School Debate Club & the Philologos Society

Q: Do you think the Philologos Society has adapted well to the current situation?

Continue reading INTELLECTUAL SOCIETIES IN COLLEGE: How Philologos is Facilitating Student Growth

Music: the Universal Language

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

I get it, learning a language is difficult. Not only do you have to learn the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of a different language, but you also have to discover all of the nuances, idioms, and contexts for word usage so that the things that you say make sense and express meaning. Because learning an instrument holds many of the same challenges, music is often referred to as a language of its own. Not only must you spend time learning to play an instrument or sing, but you must learn to read and listen to it carefully to truly engage with it. There are multiple levels of meaning in music, and a lot of those levels are changed by the perception of the listener.

Photo by William Recinos on Unsplash

The main similarity between music as a language and actual spoken languages is that the content never changes. In the same way “a ball” in English is “una pelota” in Spanish, a D major chord may be called something different in a different culture. However, many cultures still recognize a ball as a round object used for playing games. In the same way, a D major chord still retains the same sound produced; it doesn’t change across cultures. Thus, when orchestras perform the works of Tchaikovsky, they will sound the same. Played with some level of variance due to the styles of each culture (think of it like speaking with an accent).

The sounds that are produced do not change much across cultures, so emotions and ideas can be universally translated. What I mean by this is, what sounds beautiful in America will often sound beautiful in Japan. What sounds bad in Germany will sound similarly bad in Mexico. A romantic song may still carry that romantic connotation in another context. A scary song can still be used to induce fear in other settings. This is the magic of music: it can carry such emotional weight across a variety of cultures and nations, and by doing so it transmits power, messages, and feelings where words cannot.

Photo by Sergio Capuzzimati on Unsplash

An example of this can be found in the popular J-Pop song, “夜に駆ける,” or translated to English, “Racing into the Night,” released at the end of 2019. I personally have a very small understanding of the Japanese language; although, I know enough to hear fragments of words or sentences, I cannot understand the entirety of a song without looking up translations. However, I can still feel the undeniable energy of a song, the compelling melodies in the vocalist and piano parts, and the emotional release during the breaks and key changes at the end. This song in particular has been on my mind since I discovered it for myself, due to its attention-grabbing qualities. Interestingly enough, this song was based on a Japanese short story by the name of “タナトスの誘惑,” or “Temptation of Thanatos.” Thanatos was the ancient Greek personification of non-violent death, likened to a god according to the mythology of the time. Here we can see how the art and ideas themselves have transcended cultures, both spatially and temporally.

Continue reading Music: the Universal Language

Recreating My Favorite Dishes

By Sarah Selke

[3 minute read]

After asking several students in ALI conversation groups what they missed most about their homes, the unanimous response I received was simply, “food.” Despite the wide array of restaurants in Los Angeles featuring cuisines from all around the world, it is hard for many international students to find what they would consider be truly authentic good food.

A student I recently conversed with talked about the food from his hometown, Chengdu, a city known for its spicy cuisine. Although he likes trying other cuisines, nothing beats Sichuan food. Speaking of the various similarities and differences between regional cuisines in China, I proclaimed my own partiality to Shanghainese food, which is known for having more sweet and sour flavors. One dish that I especially love is Sheng Jian Bao, which roughly translates to pan-fried buns filled with pork inside. This dish can be found throughout China, but is most common in Shanghai, where it is commonly sold as street food.  

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Thinking about food left me with a craving to make my own Sheng Jian Bao. Ever since I tried the dish on a trip to Shanghai several years ago, I had been looking for a place in the San Gabriel Valley that would meet my expectations. Unfortunately, none of the restaurants I visited succeeded in matching the ones I had eaten abroad. Finally, over a recent three-day weekend, I looked online for a recipe and decided to try a hand at making the dish myself. It was a long process: gathering all the necessary ingredients, letting the yeasted dough rise, seasoning the meat, wrapping the buns, then steaming them. Although the whole affair was rather tedious, the buns turned out to be delicious – perhaps not quite as perfect as the ones I had eaten in Shanghai, but enough to be worth the preparation effort. 

Continue reading Recreating My Favorite Dishes