Recently I have been having fascinating conversations about cultural competency and cultural awareness. I was first introduced to the idea of cultural competency a little while ago and found it to be an interesting and important concept. My understanding of cultural competency is as a way to understand and invite people to share about their culture in order for one to become more “competent” in that culture.
While I know this term was coined in an effort to encourage more cultural appreciation and inclusivity in education, research, and work, the word “competency” did not encapsulate the understanding of culture I was striving for. Just because I have a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Area Studies, have traveled around the world studying culture, and shadowed patients from different cultures doesn’t mean I’m competent in their culture. I will never be competent in someone else’s culture. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not striving to be culturally aware and respectful. I constantly check my assumptions and try not to place my western viewpoints onto people I meet.
As a conversation partner with the American Language Institute, something as simple as using Line, WhatsApp, WeChat, Or KakaoTalk instead of using text messages makes the students I work with more comfortable texting in English. As a future occupational therapist, I anticipate that I will work with people from very different language and cultural backgrounds. In my fieldwork and volunteer experiences I’ve heard many therapists and doctors say that “the client needs an interpreter because they can’t speak English”. Although it is probably unintentional, this Western viewpoint blames the clients we serve instead of working with them in a culturally sensitive way. Instead, the therapist must take responsibility for meeting the clients where they are by having an interpreter for the therapist instead of for the client. This is how therapists can build an empathic and cultural bridge when serving their clients.
Finding off campus housing around USC is a common struggle amongst many students. With so many different options and factors to take into consideration, the whole process can be overwhelming, especially for students who aren’t familiar with the area. Here, I detail some resources that can help with this search!
When should you start looking for next school year’s housing?
Some students start looking for off campus housing as early as October/November and have their lease signed by December. This is usually necessary for popular places around campus, especially houses on the North side of campus where a lot of people want to live. However, there will still be many vacancies at the start of the calendar year, so do not worry if you start the housing search process late. A good place to look for housing in the spring is apartments near campus who are looking to fill their buildings and may be running special deals in the springtime.
Where to look for housing?
1. Walk around the neighborhood. Many apartments/houses will have their phone numbers posted in front of the residence. Note the name of the property management and phone number to do further research!
2. This Reddit link features links to many different popular housing management companies around campus and the websites for various apartments. I found it to be especially helpful in checking out the different types of apartments around campus, and determining the different locations of all of the housing options.
3. Facebook Groups: There are a few Facebook groups where students post available listings, usually subleases. If you search for USC housing groups, you will find people looking for potential roommates or looking for people to take over their subleases. This is a good place to turn to if you are looking for a semester lease or a summer lease, as opposed to a year long lease. However, sometimes scams are posted on these groups so use your best judgement when contacting those writing the posts.
Where is it safe to live?
Many students live within a one-mile radius of USC. This ensures that the house/apartment will be within the Fryft (free Lyft) Zone. Around this area will also have DPS Yellow Jackets patrolling around the blocks at night. North side of campus near Frat Row is a popular option for students. West side of campus is also popular for engineering students who have classes near that side of campus.
Living in DTLA or commuting to campus?
Some students may choose to live farther away from campus and commute to classes by car or public transportation. Living farther away gives you more housing options, but USC does not provide transportation from DTLA to campus, so having a car will be beneficial if living far away. However, if you do choose to live a little further away, you can take advantage of LA’s public transportation system to get to campus. The Metro and F dash bus are both options to get from Downtown LA to USC fairly quickly.
The price range of housing varies depending on the type of room (single, double, etc.) and location (proximity to campus). Houses and apartments on the North side of campus are typically pricier as they are closer to the Village and it is a livelier area of the neighborhood. Prices can range from $800 for a shared room on the West side to $1400 and up for a single on the North side.
On Campus Housing
USC offers on-campus housing for both undergraduate and graduate students. Check out the USC housing to look at the different options offered! The most popular USC housing option for undergraduates is in the USC Village, but there are off campus options as well. Many of these housing options come with some sort of dining plan and close proximity to campus, which is always a plus, but some of them can be quite pricey.
Most college students live in an apartment or house with roommates. Some people share a room with others, while others have their own rooms and share a living space. Usually shared rooms have lower rent than private rooms. When finding roommates, the first step should be to see if any of your friends are also looking for housing since living with friends is usually easier to adapt to than living with random roommates. However, living with randomly paired roommates can be a great option as well. Many people search for roommates on housing Facebook pages and express what they want in a potential roommate, and end up finding someone who is very compatible with their living style and turns out to be a great friend!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction