During my final semester here at USC (and as an undergraduate) I did a considerable amount of reflection on my time at USC. In that reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that carrying over my student club and organization involvement from my time at community college to USC resulted in a time of new growth, relationships, learning, and experience. Even amidst a virtual learning experience, I was able to keep pursuing my goals and forge new connections through involvement and leadership.
A community college is a two-year college where students complete their general education and lower division courses. Students have many options available to them as to where they can obtain an associates degree (two-year lower division degree), professional certificate, or other certification. Or, they can choose to transfer from their community college to a university – which was what I did in 2020. This was during the onset of Covid-19, which greatly impacted my educational experience.
Before the pandemic, I was determined to be involved as much as possible on my community college campus. I joined and led several clubs and student organizations, as well as joining a newly founded faculty committee on civic engagement. In this club, I was able to develop an internship program for student advocates. When the pandemic hit, it was during my last semester at my community college. I remember how faculty were unsure of the future of student clubs and organizations on campus continuing due to the pandemic, yet I was able to continue my involvement in these clubs remotely. I was even able to adjust my proposal for the student advocate internship program to a remote format accordingly. Though I have long been graduated from my community college, I continue to mentor students and work with faculty through this program.
My summer as an intern in Southeast Asia, broadly, and Malaysia, specifically, taught me a lot of things, ranging from the serious, like the intricacies of refugee resettlement, to the surprising, like the importance of food culture in Malaysia.
Malaysians, whether Chinese, Indian, or Malay, take eating very seriously. Everyone warned me that eating out in Malaysia would be cheaper than buying groceries and cooking. Since I really enjoy cooking, I didn’t want to believe them, but after several grocery trips and hundreds of ringgits (Malaysian currency) later, I was forced to admit that eating out was infinitely more desirable.
Malaysian cuisine is rich in flavors. The most ubiquitous dish is nasi lemak, a dish consisting of rice steamed with coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with fried chicken and a boiled egg. Malaysians don’t pronounce the “k” in nasi lemak, and I was also surprised to learn that nasi lemak is also often eaten for breakfast, albeit in smaller portions. Another ubiquitious and delicious food, roti canai (pronounced with a “ch”), is a flatbread cooked with copious amounts of oil and can be filled with eggs, onions, or other savory or sweet fillings.
Let me start off by saying my title is a partial fabrication. Technically, my roommate Daniel barely falls into the international student category; he was born in America and has lived here for almost half his life. More specifically, Daniel grew up in beautiful Simi Valley, CA, but he moved to Shanghai when he was 9 and stayed there until the ripe age of 18. Daniel is half white and half Japanese, so he already knew the struggles of not looking like everyone else. This was nothing though compared to the culture shock he would receive in Shanghai, a place halfway across the world where absolutely no one looked like him. However, the surprising realization to which he eventually came was that those 9 years in Shanghai were the greatest of his life (besides living with me, of course).
This fall semester he is back in Shanghai, experiencing an amazing internship at the prestigious Deloitte Consulting Firm. Anyone would be ecstatic to be employed at this high-profiled company, but Daniel is more focused on the happiness of being back in a little place he likes to call home. I messaged him during his first week of the internship and he talked my ear off about how much he loves being in Shanghai. Only a couple days in, he had already bought seven knock-off but well-made items and had indulged in endless amounts of Yangchun noodles and Sheng Jian.
“And what about the job??” I asked, expecting more gloating about the amazing life he now has.