Tag Archives: lessons

Views From the Eiffel Tower

By Ross Rozanski

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4 minute read]

Sweating in the mid-afternoon air, me, my mom, and my sister all turned our necks from left to right to follow the huge and intimidating line wrapping around the base of the Eiffel Tower containing at least 500 people.

“Come on mom; let’s just wait in the line so we can go to the top,” my anxious sister whined.

“Sorry Olivia, but we have other plans and this wait time is ridiculous”.

Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash

This moment was the first time I had ever been to see the Eiffel Tower or visit Paris, and all three of us were disappointed about this line. The wait to go to the top seemed unbearable on this extremely hot Saturday afternoon, with the temperature being over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Still not giving up, we went to one of the guides on the ground to ask how long the wait would actually take. Responding in English, but with a very thick French accent, he responded, “the wait to go to the top of the Tour the Eiffel is five hours for the elevator and three on the stairs.” Even though it took us a moment to understand what he said, we quickly figured out it would take us a while to get to the top.

Disappointed, we went to the riverfront to go on our highly-anticipated boat tour, and soon after we left Paris. About two weeks later, I returned to Paris with my brother, Collin, my dad, and my brother’s friend, Dan. Our plan to avoid the arduous wait that my mom, my sister, and I had encountered, we planned to go on a partly cloudy, chilly Tuesday morning right when it opened. We thought that arriving at a less “desirable” time would shorten the wait grandly. We arrived at the train station all the way from the wonderful Disneyland Paris in the town of Marne-la-Vallee about ten minutes after the ticket office opened. Once arriving at the base of the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that the approximate wait was 20 minutes. Compared to my last experience with this line, I was ecstatic.

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash

As we were waiting, I wondered if the trouble we went through on the train and waking up at 6:30 a.m. was going to be worth it. I started thinking back to almost exactly one year ago in August when I went to the top of the Empire State Building. Going to the top cost a steep $28, when the ticket for the Eiffel Tower was only 7.50 Euros (equivalent to about $10). At this point in my life, I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel much, so I imagined that the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower would be about a third as nice, pretty, and exciting as the view from the Empire State building.

Once the four of us got to the front of the line at the Eiffel Tower, we walked onto the two-story elevator which would take us to the first and second floors. Then after the second floor, we took the final elevator to the top, a full 896 feet above French soil. These elevators were able to hold about fifty people and had two full stories. Once we got to the top, the view was sensational. All around us, the city of Paris contained practically infinite workers, students, and tourists. All of these people called the city home, tourist destination, or center of commerce. We saw Notre Dame, government buildings such as the Hotel de Ville, and classic landmarks such as the Place de la Concorde. We all took out our cameras, attempting to not just take a photograph, but capture a snapshot of the essence of what we were experiencing, hoping to cherish this wonderful moment. Although we captured great pictures, we would never be able to capture the strong wind blowing against our faces, the chilling air penetrating our jackets, and the sheer sense of altitude created by the alluring view from the top of this cloud breaker.

Photo by Matt Boitor on Unsplash

After staying up there and watching the city for about 20 minutes, we walked over to the elevator. Going down to the ground level again, we all had something new that we did not have when we first went up. Not only was the time at the top of this legendary structure absolutely stunning, we learned an important travel lesson. If there is a site that is very popular and you really want to see, chances are that many other people will be enthusiastic about visiting it too. But, with careful planning and a little patience, you may find yourself in a place that completely changes your perspective of how large and diverse our world really is.

Featured Image by Chris Coudron on Unsplash

Ross is a recent graduate who studied Mechanical Engineering at USC, with a specific interest in aeronautics and aviation. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has had the opportunity to travel the world and experience what it is like to be an international student in countries such as Germany, Japan, and Argentina. Ross also has extensive experience in tutoring in different settings, from teaching math in middle schools to one-on-one English tutoring in a prison! He is familiar with the challenges that come with learning a new language, with experience studying Spanish, German, and Japanese. Ross’s hobbies include hiking, reading, and playing video games. He also has a very deep interest in cars. A fun fact about Ross is that he’s a licensed pilot! Always willing to try new things, Ross loves to travel and is eager to learn about different people’s backgrounds and stories.

Teaching English to Migrant Students in Shanghai

By Jasmine Zahedi

[4 minute read]

While studying abroad in Shanghai, I had the incredible opportunity to work with Stepping Stones, a non-profit organization through which I taught English to grade school students at various Shanghai migrant schools. Through my experience, I learned that there is a huge influx of migrants moving from the farmlands and agricultural areas into Chinese cities, with Shanghai having one of the highest concentrations of migrants in China. In recent years, the government created many new schools to provide the children of migrant parents with access to education they might otherwise not receive. In theory, the idea is a good one, but there are still many underlying issues affecting the quality of education these students are receiving.

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Stepping Stones placed me at Huabo Lixing Hang School, an elementary school about an hour away from the university campus at which I was studying. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed that the area was much poorer than the area in which I lived in and went to school. I noticed that even the inhabitants looked recognizably different (or distinguishable) from the Shanghainese people I normally saw in the city, probably due to the fact that they originally came from inland provinces such as Anhui, Hunan, and Sichuan.

The government chartered school I worked at clearly stood out from the rest of the environment. Its modern architecture seemed out of place among the surrounding buildings and shops. The classes were packed with students. A normal class size was around 60 which, as one might imagine, made teaching English incredibly difficult. The children were extremely excited to learn, but there were many daily challenges in the classroom. Having so many peers, the students were often rowdy and distractible, and the ones in the back of the classroom had trouble understanding what was occurring at the front. Furthermore, the children were all greatly varied in their English abilities. This is a common characteristic in migrant schools, as students who weren’t born in Shanghai have a wide range of educational history. One of the Chinese volunteers who worked with me in the classroom told me that her elementary school was nothing like this. She said everyone was always well-behaved because parents reinforced their children’s behavior at home. Unfortunately, with parents that often have to work late, these children tended to have very different home lives, and these differences translated into the classroom.

Continue reading Teaching English to Migrant Students in Shanghai

Tips for My Ten Year Old Self

By Eugene Chang

Being an international student isn’t easy. When placed in an alien and unfamiliar world completely different from your own, surrounded by people who speak different languages or celebrate different holidays, it is difficult to adjust. How would I have known this transition would be so hard? I moved to the United States when I was ten years old from Hong Kong. Here in the States, cars drive on opposite sides of the road, electrical outlets are completely different, soda cups are bigger than my face, and if you do not tip your waiter, you’re a terrible customer. The list goes on and on, and for a kid who spoke at best grammatically incorrect English, this was terrifyingly overwhelming. I made a ton of mistakes along the road, and the journey has most certainly been bumpy, but I enjoyed every moment of it. However, if I were to go back in time, sit my ten year old self down and talk to him, I would give him the following advice. Whether you’re an international student at USC who is scared of the new environment, or you’re a USC student thinking of going abroad this summer or later, I hope that my tips to my former self can benefit you as well.

1. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t understand what the teacher just said? Ask him or her to repeat it. Don’t know where your next class is? Politely ask a stranger for directions. Need help brushing up your English speaking and writing skills? Don’t be afraid to hire a tutor or to ask friends to practice speaking with you. Whatever your concern in this unfamiliar place is, people are always willing to help. It is completely ok to ask for assistance, because that is how people learn how to do anything! When I was little, I was extremely hesitant to ask for help because I was embarrassed about my thick Chinese accent and I didn’t want to burden anyone. That only ended up hurting me, because as I spent more time in the US, I learned that people are very friendly and will almost always help if you have a problem. Speaking of my irrational fear of speaking in English, here is my second tip.

Photo by Christopher Mance

2. Try to speak the native language as much as possible.

Learning to be comfortable with speaking a language that is foreign to you is like learning how to play a guitar. Do you think Chuck Berry knew every single chord and could play any song he wanted when he first picked up a guitar? No! He spent hours and hours practicing and playing until blisters formed on his fingers. The same goes for speaking a language. You do not have to be good at speaking, you just have to speak. Get comfortable speaking broken English, or Italian, or Chinese. Because in the end, you’ll notice that the more you speak in the country’s native tongue, the more you catch your own grammatical mistakes by listening to people around you. Speak it, listen to it, read it, and sooner or later you’ll find yourself catching other people’s mistakes in their speech. Take this time when we are stuck inside to get ahead on your language-learning skills on your own time!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

3. Make friends that speak the language you want to learn.

This might be the only time that peer pressure will help you. When you surround yourself with friends who speak a different language than you, you will get more motivation and incentive to learn and speak that language. They can also help point out your mistakes and help you become a better speaker. There is no better way to learn new slang or idioms than from your new buddies overseas. Obviously this does not mean to avoid making friends who speak the same language as you, but the more you spend time with people who speak the local language, the more you will force yourself to speak it. Even texting, calling, or video chatting them will help improve your speaking in small increments throughout the day.

Image from the USC ALI New Communities Through Conversations Event on February 4, 2020, at Troy Hall East
Continue reading Tips for My Ten Year Old Self