The first time I went to Taiwan was during the summer of 2017. My mother is originally from Taiwan and is quite an interesting character. She is selfless and loyal, but growing up she would work late hours, go on work trips, or go back home to take care of her mom. Because of this, I didn’t really see her that much when I was younger. In Asian culture, supporting family comes first even if that means not seeing them for a while. My dad and my aunt became the “mom” figures in my life. They would always take me to school, take care of me, and play with me. I was never mad that she wasn’t there, but I was often sad and a little confused when she would leave. She would miss every holiday and family trip. I remember one time my mom left for a modeling trip in Asia (she was a successful Asian model back then). The night before she was supposed to leave I asked her to stay, but she couldn’t and she also had to make money to support us. And in the morning when I woke she had left. She would always call and cry saying that she missed me.
Nothing gets up me in the morning like the smell of coffee. That delicious scent, dark and rich; a deep roasted aroma. To me, it is the smell of comfort, a warm reminder that “Hey, the day is going to be OK”. It’s what drives me to class in the mornings and gives that extra power boost in the afternoons. But hold up. Before you say I am addicted to coffee, let me affirm that I can stop drinking coffee whenever I want; I just have no desire to do so.
Coffee is my morning ritual. I don’t make it from some auto-brew coffee machine or the infernal Keurig (which are absolutely terrible for the environment, not to mention expensive), nor do I buy it from some overpriced coffee shop. I actually hand brew my coffee myself, either via a pour over or a French press (which I will explain in detail later). In the mornings, before my mind has the opportunity to fully comprehend my dreaded wakefulness, I trudge over to the kettle and heat up some water. I wait for the familiar thrum of the water heating before grabbing the beans. As I open the bag, the scented waft of the beans hits me hard, like cold water to the face. In an instant, I feel more alert and ready. I scoop out some whole beans into my hand-grinder. I begin churning, feeling the coffee beans crushing with each loop. As I crank, it is as if I am winding myself up for the day ahead. Then grabbing my machine of choice (either the pour over* or French press**), I begin the extraction. I pour a bit of water over the beans and allow them to “bloom***” for 30 seconds. A burst of scents—floral, earthy, and rich—flies up with the steam. I then pour in the rest of my water and wait patiently for my cup of bliss.
Whether at USC or any other American university, many international students have a tough time adjusting to not only American culture but also college culture in general. As an international student myself, I was able to experience firsthand how it felt to come to a completely new country without any prior exposure to the new culture that would soon engulf my life. Thankfully, I went through this change at a young age and had a strong support system to guide me through the difficulties. I hope to be able to provide this same support to other international students at USC, especially those who recently had to go through the big move.
One of the things I wish I had realized earlier when I moved to Singapore (and then to America) is the importance of self-care. I realize now that I was so caught up in making new friends, adapting to the challenging curriculum, and getting used to the change of scenery that I lost my motivation to take care of myself. I often skipped meals and didn’t get enough rest; I was left feeling lethargic and unable to extract the overseas experience to which I had previously looked forward. Being a firm believer in always showcasing the best version of myself, I constantly challenge myself to reach my full potential, and this denial of my basic needs was hindering my ability to achieve this goal. I needed to switch gears and really dedicate time to self-care. Here are some tips that I currently abide by in Southern California to make my USC experience as great as possible:
Equip yourself with a water bottle: I’m used to the warm weathers of Singapore and the changing seasons of Korea, but I never knew how parched I could get until I found myself walking around the vast USC campus on a daily basis. There are a lot of water fountain stations on campus at which you can fill your bottle, and being hydrated is the key to energy when studying, exercising, and socializing!
Exercise as much as you can: Although walking around USC is an exercise in itself, people who board or bike around campus don’t get nearly as much exercise as those who choose to walk. Taking full use of the exercise equipment and classes at the Lyon Center or joining a sports team (club, intramural, Varsity) on campus is encouraged for a fresh start to the day. Even a quick walk or jog can immediately lift your mood!