Tag Archives: culture

My Comfort Language

By Chloe Ahn

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Language plays an incredibly important role in forming connections with other people. This may seem like an obvious statement. To communicate with someone else, you need to have a shared language. However, not all languages hold the same weight in a conversation.

A person’s first language is not always the one they may prefer to use when creating a bond with a new person. This is especially true for bilingual speakers who grew up speaking more than one language. Although these types of speakers may have a dominant language that they tend to use in more day to day interactions, this does not mean that it is the language that they like to speak the most when it comes to socializing. In addition, they may have a certain language that they associate with certain people or places.

Photo by Sava Bobov on Unsplash

Growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods, I never really had the opportunity to use Korean outside of my home and as one of the few Korean students in my high school, I didn’t have any reason to use it with my friends either. Though I spoke mostly Korean with my parents, I had developed a habit of using English with them when we left the house because I had had negative experiences with speaking Korean in public. I would constantly get weird stares or the occasional dirty look from people who did not speak Korean. Eventually, I started to feel embarrassed using Korean with my mom or dad and stopped doing so.

This mindset changed with the onset of the pandemic. Since I was home all of the time, I began to use Korean more often than English. During winter break of my freshman year, I visited my grandparents in South Korea and was able to spend a lot of time with them. My negative associations with using Korean in public disappeared and I started to connect more positive ideas with the language. Korean is the language of my culture. It is the language that I use with the people I love the most. It is the language that allows me to spend quality time with my grandparents and other relatives who I do not get to see often because of the distance between us.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

With this new perspective, I came to campus at USC for the first time this past fall semester. For the first time I had the chance to interact with and meet people who had the same cultural background as I did. I joined the Korean American Student Association (KASA) with the hopes of making new friends and was successful. Many of the close friends that I have today are people that I met through KASA.

That being said, not all of my friends are Korean and I do not think that you have to be the same ethnicity in order to form close connections with people. Rather, being able to speak Korean with the friends that I made in KASA helped me to open up to them sooner because of the associations I have with the language and my family. Having come from the East Coast, I was worried about feeling homesick and missing my parents and sister, but making these friends and being able to use Korean more in my daily conversations with them gave me a sense of comfort and was a reminder of home. Sometimes, you find comfort in a language other than the one that you speak most often, and it becomes a great way to form deeper bonds with others.

Featured Image by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

 Chloe is a rising junior studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Keck School of Medicine with a minor in Business. She was born in South Korea but grew up in New Jersey. Aside from English, Chloe is conversationally fluent in Korean and is learning Spanish. Her involvements on campus include Dear Asian Youth, International Student Assembly, Innovative Design, and the Korean American Student Association. In her free time, Chloe enjoys watching movies, going shopping, hiking, and listening to music.

Living in the Midwest: How Does it Differ from the West Coast?

By Tara Khan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Whenever I tell people that I’m from North Dakota, I usually get a ton of questions. “Woah! What do people do for fun there?” or “Where even is that?” are the most typical ones. I was born and raised in Fargo, a town in North Dakota less than 4 hours away from the Canadian border. A few years ago, my family moved to the West Coast. After living here for a while, I’ve noticed there are many differences between the two regions, and so I’ve come to understand why people who aren’t from the Midwest might have so many questions about it. I’ve broken these differences down into 5 categories here in order to highlight what life is like living in the Midwest!

Weather: The most obvious difference between the Midwest and the West Coast is the weather. Most places in the Midwest have four seasons, with winters that are harsh and cold, and summers that are milder and warmer. However, no matter where you live in the Midwest you are pretty much guaranteed to get snow. In Fargo, there’s always snow on the ground throughout the winter months. One year, I remember it snowing as late as May and as early as October. Temperatures also regularly reach sub-zero, and even into the -20s in Fahrenheit sometimes in January. In the summers, temperatures would generally stay in the 80s and low 90s, never really reaching over 100F.

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

Food: In terms of food, places in the Midwest don’t have quite as much variety as the West Coast, as the population sizes tend to not be quite as large. When I lived in Fargo, there were only 2-3 options for things like sushi or Chinese food. People there tend to eat home cooked meals; casseroles and hot dishes are a Midwestern staple. At potlucks or holiday parties, there are sometimes traditional foods served. Due to North Dakota’s large Norwegian population, lefse, a type of flatbread, is a food I saw at most celebrations. I even helped my friend’s family prepare it one year for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Activities: Many midwestern families have “lake homes” which they visit on the weekends. People enjoy going fishing, having cookouts, or having bonfires. During the winter months, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are quite popular. Ice hockey is also a sport that some children play growing up. For some families, Sundays and Wednesdays are considered “church day” and “church night.” Many businesses, particularly local ones, close on Sundays. When I was in school growing up, we would usually not have after school activities on Wednesdays.

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

People: “Midwest nice” is a common term used to describe midwestern people. People are generally very friendly and neighborly. During the winter, it’s not uncommon to see neighbors shoveling each other’s driveways or helping each out out with various things, and at public places such as the grocery store, people will frequently stop to chat with each other. Since living on the West Coast, I have noticed that people still have a friendly demeanor but aren’t quite as talkative as the people in the Midwest.


Transportation/lifestyle: Cars are the main method of transportation throughout the Midwest, as there are not a lot of established large public transportation systems. Walking and biking aren’t popular options due to the harsh winters. The age to obtain a license varies by State, but it is generally lower than in other regions of the country. In North Dakota, you can obtain a learner’s permit at age 14, and a license at age 15. The age for getting a job is also 14, though there are child labor laws in place to protect those under 16.

Photo by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash

Whether or not you ever live in the Midwest, I think it definitely worth visiting at least once, especially during the winter. The weather is pretty much like how it is in the movies: freezing cold, but magical. Just make sure to dress warm and you will get to enjoy experiencing some home cooked Midwestern food and friendly people!

Featured Image by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

Tara is a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering on the pre-med track. She grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and Las Vegas, Nevada. She speaks English, Thai, and elementary level Spanish. Tara is involved in Taekwondo Club at USC. In her free time, she likes to solve Rubik’s cubes, play guitar and ukulele, and play with her dog, Tofu. Tara also loves traveling and learning about different cultures, especially through food! One of her favorite things about living in LA is the large amount of food options available; she is always willing to give great restaurant recommendations.

The Benefits of Bilingualism

By Nikhita Datar

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

The power of language is undebatable – it has the ability to break down barriers and connect people from different parts of the globe. Meeting someone who can speak the same language as you can be comforting as there is already an established level of familiarity with the person, and the more languages you know, the more common this experience is. Did you know that beyond communicating with more people, knowing multiple languages also has a lot of personal and scientific benefits as well? 

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According to an opinion piece in The New York Times by Yudhijit Bhattacharjeee titled ‘Why Bilinguals Are Smarter,’ “Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.” So being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the next Albert Einstein (there are a lot of bilinguals in the world, but only one Einstein), but scientists and research have demonstrated that there is a connection between increased cognitive abilities and those who are able to speak more than one language. 

I was always aware that I was able to communicate with many people differently – I knew I would talk to my friends at school differently (in a different language) than I would my grandparents, but I never thought anything of it. I primarily speak English and Kannada (a language spoken predominantly by the people of Karnataka in the southwestern region of India), and I can also speak some Hindi, Marathi, Spanish, and Korean. The majority of the languages I know I picked up from my grandparents and parents from a young age, so I learned them much faster. Knowing multiple languages has been a benefit to me because it has allowed me the opportunity to connect with a greater number of people, especially extended family that live abroad who I would have otherwise had difficulty getting to know. I can understand a greater amount of people, and it allows me to see humanity in a different and more nuanced way. 

Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Bilingualism calls on capacities to learn the two languages, keep the sounds straight, switch deftly between them and so on.” Ideally as a bilingual you should be able to switch between the two languages you speak comfortably. For me, as much as I can switch back and forth as needed, the challenge lies in finding words that have a similar meaning in another language. Often times, my brain gets stuck on a niche word in one language that seems like it can’t be translated into the other language. The phrase, “I don’t know what the translation of that in English is,” is something I’m a little too familiar with. In these moments, I don’t exactly feel the improved cognitive function that is supposed to come with knowing multiple languages. 

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