Tag Archives: New Culture

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
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Island Girl Takes Big (Foreign) City

By Connie Choy

In spring of 2013 I decided to move away from home for the first time and live in one of the busiest cities in the world: Tokyo, Japan. Although it has been four years since my five-month trip I am constantly finding myself reminiscing about the unforgettable times I had with the lifelong friends I made.

Conversely, even with all of the happy memories I will never forget the challenges I had to overcome when I first got to the big city. Just to put things in perspective, I’m from Hawaii (Oahu island specifically), which has a population of about 1 million people. Tokyo is approximately home to about 14 million natives and transplants – that is 14 times the size! Moving away from home on your own, especially in a foreign country is a very difficult thing to do, but I believe it will be one of the most formative experiences of your life. Notably, my hardships were what pushed me into a mindset that yearned for adventure and growth.

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Adventures in Asia

By Ida Ibhari

When I first got the notification that I had been accepted for an internship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the summer, I was of course excited – but also a little apprehensive. Though my roots are in Iran, I had never traveled to East Asia, or Southeast Asia, before. Nor did I know much about the culture, or language, or even the food.

Several of my family members who had been on trips to Kuala Lumpur tried to tell me what to expect.

“We were walking on the road and it was so hot, and sunny,” my aunt explained. “Then, all of a sudden, buckets, really, buckets of rain started pouring down.”

So I made sure to pack an umbrella – an item that I never even had a need to own, living in drought-ridden Southern California. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the humidity. Living in California, I was used to heat, but I was also used to cooler, breezier night temperatures. I always heeded my mom’s advice, and always, always, brought a jacket for later on. So I was shocked when, upon getting to the international arrivals terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I walked outside at around 2 a.m. to be promptly greeted by sauna-like conditions. What?

The weather and I had constant battles. For some reason, I kept thinking that this could only be temporary, that perhaps this was a passing tropical storm, or some kind of lingering after-effect from a hurricane. I checked the weather everyday – fruitless, given that it didn’t really fluctuate much. And I kept bringing my jacket.

My landlord warned me that I needed to turn off the air conditioning when not at home. I resisted – getting home involved a sometimes cramped metro ride, followed by a mile-long walk home. I quickly learned that the laws of physics were very different in KL and walking a mile there somehow was a lot longer distance than a mile in Los Angeles. So, I wanted a cold, icy room every day.

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