Tag Archives: journey

The American Education System: My Experience

by Jackie Truong

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

People sometimes say that a good education is the greatest equalizer of all, and I very much agree with that notion. A good education allows for increased socioeconomic mobility, and it also develops well-rounded critical thinkers, which are beneficial to any society. Although the general goals of schooling are basically the same across most countries, the approach to education differs from country to country. On that note, I want to give my readers (especially those who did not attend school in the US growing up) a glimpse into what it’s like going to school in America, from kindergarten all the way through college. First, a little disclaimer: this is my personal experience with the education system in the U.S., and everyone’s experience is different. My experience will not be the same as every American, but I hope this blog post will give international students a glimpse into what the American educational experience is like.

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

I was born in Portland, Oregon, and attended school in the same school district my entire life. First, my educational journey started at Ventura Park Elementary School. At my elementary school, the grade levels went from kindergarten to 5th grade (which I believe is the norm in the U.S.). I had a great time in elementary school because it was mostly play, and very little homework was assigned. Most of the learning began and ended in the classroom. I don’t remember exactly what time my school started and ended, but it was somewhere around 8am – 3pm. After school, I also attended the Boys and Girls Club of America for a number of years, where we basically played a bunch of games every day. It was great. Looking back, I had a very fun and relaxing experience in elementary school. I even remember all my teachers’ names: Mrs. Tiegs for kindergarten, Mrs. Wattanabe for 1st grade, Mr. Dobson for 2nd grade, Mrs. Belgarde for 3rd grade, Mrs. Stapleton for 4th grade, and Mrs. Coye for 5th grade.

Photo by Kuanish Reymbaev on Unsplash

Next up, we have middle school (also known as junior high in the US). I went to Floyd Light Middle School, and the grade levels here were 6th to 8th grade. For many, middle school is where the social hierarchy starts to become much more noticeable, and this is the age where various cliques start to form (e.g. the popular kids, the jocks, the geeks/nerds, the nerds, etc.). My middle school experience was also quite nice because I had a great group of friends and I never had to experience bullying. I remember in middle school, there was a huge anti-bullying campaign (especially in health class), and my school had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to bullying. I think historically in the U.S., bullying has always been a big problem in middle schools and high schools across the country, and as a result, schools started implementing anti-bullying campaigns, especially in the past 20 years or so.

After middle school, I entered David Douglas High School, which is also where I graduated from (Class of 2018!). High school is where I really started to take my academics and extracurricular activities seriously because those were important for getting into college. Although I spent a lot of time studying, doing homework, and participating in extracurricular activities, I still had a significant amount of free time left over to hang out with friends after school and do other fun things. High school was probably the most memorable period in my life as I had a lot of fun experiences with great people during this time. High school teachers are also the best (from my experience anyway). Not all of them were great, but most of the ones I had were amazing. In my experience, the high school teachers I had truly cared about their students, wanted them to succeed and took time to get to know them. Senior year was the most memorable because it was my last year of high school, although I did slack off a bit. I had what they call “senioritis.” Don’t get me wrong, I still focused on my grades and extracurricular activities, but I also spent much more time than in previous years on fun things such as prom, skipping school to go to the beach with friends, and skipping my morning classes because I didn’t want to wake up early (I know, a lot of skipping things). At the end of the day, everything still worked out even though I wasn’t the most perfect student.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Finally, we move on to college, which is where I’m currently at in my educational journey. I began my first year of college at Pacific University. However, after realizing that I didn’t like small-town life, I decided to transfer schools and move to a school located in a lively city. That eventually led me to USC, where I am currently situated, heading into my senior year studying biology at the undergraduate level. This wraps up my journey through the American educational system, a fun ride thus far. Hopefully, graduate school (Physician’s Assistant school specifically) will be just as memorable as all the other levels of education that I’ve experienced so far. I suppose only time will tell.

Featured Image by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Jackie Truong is a current undergraduate student studying Biology. He has worked as an Undergraduate Student Consultant at the USC American Language Institute and is from Portland, Oregon.

A Scenic View from The Train

By Chirsten Vanderbilt

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Prior to Covid, I had the wonderful experience of taking a train ride from Los Angeles to Dallas. Although my train ride only took two days, it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. On my journey, I traveled through the states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. As it turns out, train rides are one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the views of the countryside and I had an amazing time.

While the train ride was great, the reasoning behind taking it wasn’t quite as fun. During the last week of spring finals, I suffered a collapsed lung. I was hospitalized for three days and unable to travel by airplane for six months. When it came time to head back to Texas for the summer break, my only possible mode of transportation was by train. Needless to say, it was a difficult and emotional time for me and my family, and I am so grateful to have had a healthy recovery. I also know that if it had not for this injury, I wouldn’t have taken this incredible two-day sightseeing adventure.

My mom and I began our trip at the very busy Union Station in Los Angeles. It is the main railway station in the city and is about twenty minutes away from the USC campus. USC even provides transportation to and from Union Station! My mom and I traveled on an Amtrak train, and some of the amenities included sleep cars, three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and a sight decka window-filled area where passengers can sit comfortably while taking in the view. 

chirsten-texas
One of the sites I observed while sitting on the sight deck traveling through Texas

Passengers also had the opportunity to stretch their legs and explore the destination stops as they came up. One of my favorite stops was Tucson, Arizona. It might have even been my favorite travel destination of the entire trip. Like Los Angeles, Tucson has a laid-back, youthful vibe and has an array of shops and restaurants. The climate is also very hot and dry. On this particular day, we were unexpectedly interrupted by a thunderstorm.

After Tucson, Arizona, the train passed through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. Texas is a huge state and it took a whole day to travel through it. The various train stops in the state included: El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth. One of the most interesting things that we came across was the U.S- Mexico border. The city of El Paso is located on the border with Mexico, and because of this, I was able to see the actual border between U.S and Mexico, something which I had never seen before. I found it so interesting that most gas stations and car shops in this area had signs translated into Spanish.

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Studying Abroad in Paris

By Autumn Palen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Prior to 2020, during one of my spring semesters at USC as an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in Paris and it was a fully immersive experience. All of my classes were in French, the family I lived with was French, and wouldn’t you know it, quite a lot of people I passed on the streets were keen on speaking French. Those handful of months were wonderful. My teachers were all angels, the city was gorgeous, and although I had a relationship dynamic with my host family akin to Harry Potter’s relationship with the Dursleys, I’d say that overall I enjoyed my experience.

First of all, the city is gorgeous. Ridiculously so. I remember my first night there—awake since 5 am, taking a post-dinner trip to the Louvre, walking from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, and stopping mid-journey for wine and cheese. The mix of sleep deprivation, jet-lag, numbness from the cold, and walking nearly all day culminated into the sensation that I was drifting through a dream. I couldn’t have actually been there; it was all too much. I thought there was no way this tiny, ovular, romantic city was going to be my home for the next fifteen weeks.

Wine and cheese from a local cafe in Paris, taken from @autumn.palen on Instagram

But it was my home. Every weekday, I took the metro to class. Although admitting my adoration for the Paris Metro garnered weird looks from actual Parisians (mainly because of the general odor permeating the trains/platforms, as well as the occasional muzak cover of Ne Me Quitte Pas), I held strong that I loved the public transportation system. It was so efficient, arriving every 3 minutes, maybe 6 in the worst-case scenario (I understand that Los Angeles is a much larger, more car-based city, but I couldn’t help but notice how much more efficient the Paris Metro was than the LA one).

Photo of the Paris Metro taken by @autumn.palen on Instagram
Continue reading Studying Abroad in Paris