As an LA native, I’ve been blessed with an array of diverse, delicious food my whole life. I consider this to be one of the best things about Los Angeles–you can always count on countless fast food or mom-and-pop restaurants to be nearby. Quick-bite food options are rapidly growing to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules. Today, I want to share my favorite burrito spot in all of Los Angeles: Tacos El Venado. To be specific, the Al Pastor Burrito is my favorite burrito in Los Angeles. This Mexican food stand is on the corner of Vermont Ave and 6th Street, only about three miles away from USC!
It’s important to mention that the location and hours for this food stand on Google Maps is incorrect. The stand is usually only open at night and is in front of the Walgreens on Vermont Ave and 6th Street. They also have an instagram: @tacoselvenado. One possible way to reach the burrito stand from campus is to walk to Vermont Ave and take the 204 Metro bus northward. There should be a stop on 6th street, across the burrito stand. The same bus can be taken to come back to USC.
The other weekend I went to Tacos El Venado with some of my friends. All of us get the same thing every time: an Al Pastor Burrito for eight dollars (one more for cheese). As of October 2022, Tacos El Venado only accepts cash, so make sure you have some with you before going. The Al Pastor burrito is special in my opinion because they give a very generous portion of Al Pastor, straight off the shawarma machine. It’s always hot and delicious so be cautious and don’t burn yourself. Also, the burrito comes with your choice of rice and beans (which I always get). Then, you get your personal choice of onions, cilantro, lime, and sauces before the grillers wrap your burrito. I put so much of everything in my burrito that it ended up exploding upon my first couple bites! It was so good that I grabbed a fork and finished all of it. The Al Pastor Burrito is the only menu option that I’ve tried besides their nachos (which in my opinion weren’t anything special).
Another thing to note: since this is a street food stand, there aren’t any tables to sit at. My friends and I ate the food on the hood of my car but a majority of people take the food to-go. If you have leftovers you can always ask them to rewrap it for you and take it home. Unfortunately, they don’t have any vegan options, but otherwise they offer a variety of options. The Al Pastor Burrito at Tacos El Venado is the perfect late night, mid-study session snack that’ll satisfy your cravings and is very affordable.
Matthew is a current freshman studying Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California so he is very familiar with the area. In his free time, he works as a Community Facilitator, goes swimming, and watches Netflix or sports. Matthew has teaching experience tutoring middle school students privately and as a teacher assistant in a summer enrichment program for elementary students. He loves to eat good food and try new activities throughout the city.
As I enter my final year at USC (oh, how the time flies), I have been reflecting on my time here. Unfortunately, I was one of many who had their freshman year disrupted by the onset of COVID-19. I am also one of many who have decided to graduate early, finishing my degree in three years instead of the traditional four. Now, instead of having four years to explore USC and LA, I have two due to the time lost during the pandemic. In an effort to get everything out of my USC experience I possibly can, I have created a college bucket list for myself. Today, we will be exploring this list together and tracking the progress I have made on my bucket list so far!
Make new friends
This goal of mine is somewhat intuitive and is probably the cornerstone of all incoming college kids’ bucket lists. However, this was particularly important to me. I grew up surrounded by a relatively homogenous community— mostly upper middle class, English-educated, Chinese people. I grew up in a privileged bubble, and thus was never able to fully recognize the privilege I had. It was then important for me to consider diversity as a factor in choosing my colleges. Choosing USC has been one of the best decisions to this end, as I have had so many meaningful conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and personalities. I have grown by getting rid of my isolated bubble and listening to the people around me. The beauty of diversity is that it inspires growth and empathy. While this is a goal I set for myself in college, this is merely just a stepping stone. Nonetheless, I am so glad that I have come across great friends and that we have mutually taught each other so much.
Learn how to cook
I would say that this goal of learning to cook has sufficiently been achieved. The other day, I successfully made my own dumplings! As a clumsy child, I was never allowed in the kitchen, let alone allowed to handle a knife. Cooking has always been a sign of independence and self-sustenance for me. I knew that coming to the United States, approximately 8170 miles away from home, that I would be alone and fully independent for the first time. Being alone meant that I would have to learn how to take care of myself. Thus, I began my culinary journey of learning how to blanch vegetables, season (generously), and not trigger the smoke detector. I can proudly say that my meals are edible, and quite tasty even! The next step: to branch out into different cuisines and really put my culinary skills to the test.
Get involved on campus
I have had the great pleasure to be a part of several organizations on campus that are near and dear to my heart. I have met some of the most compassionate and uplifting people through the organizations that I am in and I am eternally grateful to have met them at USC. Perhaps one of my biggest takeaways I had from joining on-campus organizations was how much a community can empower you to experience personal growth. There has been a lot of learning and un-learning, realizing potential and affirming boundaries. I have learned to delve deeper into advocacy and meaningful social activism. I have developed professional networks and had great mentorship opportunities. Even through the One-on-One Conversation Partner program, I have met people from all walks of life and learned so much about them and from them. As an international student, it can be daunting to explore the variety of clubs and societies, especially when you are unfamiliar with the culture of extra-curricular involvement like I was. But I believe that the vibrancy of the people and campus can best be explored by taking the first step of getting involved. With the variety of options and opportunities on campus, there’s something for everyone.
Figure out my interests
A fun fact about me is that I switched my major and minor combination four times in the span of two semesters. One of the reasons why I chose to come to USC was the flexibility USC offers to explore different majors. I went from a Global Studies major to a Political Economy major and then an Economics major, and I also went from an International Relations minor to an East Asian Area Studies minor. I will be honest— I did not even know that all these options were available to me in the first place. Through some of the most interesting classes (and some boring ones), I managed to flesh out what I truly enjoy and what truly excites me. I’ve come to realize that Economics is more than just the technical aspects of the economy and includes interesting insights from sociology, public policy, and psychology. Some of my favorite classes at USC were from my interdisciplinary minor that allowed me to explore culture, politics, and history focused on the East Asia region. I have to thank resources such as the Dornsife Major and Minor Fair and my academic advisors in helping me discover my options. As I enter my senior year, I have also come to integrate my academic interests with my professional development. Now that I have hashed out what interests me, I am excited to see where it takes me. Will it be a career or graduate school or a gap year?— that’s for my post-graduation bucket list to figure out.
Be an extra on a TV show/movie
I have yet to achieve this. But I believe that one day, I will. I await the time where my friends will catch my on-screen cameo and send a picture of me living out my acting dreams now that I attend school in LA.
So, that was my college bucket list. As you can see, I have achieved some parts and am still working on others. Creating a bucket list is a great way to figure out your goals and set them in motion. What’s on your bucket list?
Hannah is a junior at Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, majoring in Economics and minoring in East Asian Area Studies. Born and raised in Malaysia, she has a background in interacting with multiple cultures, languages, and heritages. She has also spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts, and briefly studied abroad in Osaka, Japan. Aside from English, Hannah is also fluent in Malay, proficient in Mandarin, and conversational in Cantonese and Korean. On campus, Hannah works for the Financial and Business Services and is involved in the International Students Assembly. In her free time, she loves going on food trips, listening to music, and simply enjoying a good conversation.
I am a big fan of sitcoms. I have watched many popular American sitcoms that have gained mass international popularity: Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family, just to name a few. Many times, these shows take place in American metropolitan cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, places which are interesting to international students like me. The hidden gem ranking the top of my favorite sitcom list, however, has to be Veep.
The HBO show Veep takes place in the capital city of America, Washington D.C. For many reasons, Veep is not as popular as other American shows in China, or in other countries where many international students come from. This mismatch of the popularity of the show with its quality is what makes me call it a hidden gem of American sitcoms. Veep has won many accolades for its quality: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the actress of America’s first woman president Selina Meyer featured in Veep, has won six Primetime Emmy Awards in a row. Her award acceptance speech was among the best, and she was even honored the 2018 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for it.
Before watching Veep, I did not realize that I indeed care so much about politics. As someone interested in learning about human nature, my favorite quote from Selina Meyer is “Politics is about people”. To me, caring about politics does not mean I care which party people stand for; instead, I am intrigued by why and how people make their choices. The interaction between Veep’s politicians, their followers, and their people is a vivid reality of humanity—one that is not only determined by one’s own personal desires but also deeply shaped by the context of one’s life. Veep is more than a political satire of the country’s many presidencies. To me, Veep is about American politics and the everyday life of people living in America.
The most interesting thing about Veep is that Meyer, like all other politicians in the show, never discloses which party she stands for. Having witnessed the extreme political divide of America myself, the ambiguous political standpoint among Veepers to me exposes the common (and unfortunate) goal of both parties to win more voters. Politicians strive for what they want, but it is unclear whether these desires align with the desires of the people.
As someone who studies family dynamics as part of my major, TV shows centering around family dynamics are my favorite, such as Downton Abbey, The Middle (the most underrated American family sitcom), and Modern Family. The family dynamics in Veep, however, are very dysfunctional. The characters of Veep relentlessly sacrifice their families for personal political achievement.
I have learned a lot from Veep, and a lot of what I have learned are things that I would not have consciously sought out. For instance, what happens if there is a tie in a presidential election? Veep hypothetically features this scenario, although a tie did happen (in the 1800 presidential election). Through Veep, I also came to know more about America’s lobbying culture and the polling industry—with the latter sharing similarities to my own research. Veep also has a rich glossary of newly created words, most of which are used by characters in the show to insult other characters. Many of the jokes compound words to create these insults. ‘Voldemeyer’ is such an example, a nickname of Meyer by the media. It is interesting for me to see these nicknames are formed by multiple words in English, and I have learned many different cultural references from this.