Tag Archives: study abroad

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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Learning to Love the Italian Language

By Arianna Babraj

[5 minute read]

Before changing my major from Public Policy to International Relations, I had a lot of doubts concerning my future career path and my academic focus. The most looming concern I had, however, was the language requirement that I had to complete as a part of my coursework. I had always dreaded my high school Spanish classes, and even though I had studied abroad in Italy during my freshman year, I had avoided studying Italian beyond the introductory level. When I was placed into Italian II at USC, I was convinced that I would fail and went in counting on the fact that I only had to get a “Pass” grade until Italian IV. So, I pushed my worries to the side and figured I would deal with that later.

I don’t think I have ever been more excited about a B+ than when I got my first Italian II exam back. After a few classes, surprisingly, I actually found myself looking forward to the lessons. By the end of the semester, I had even added a minor in Italian and was spending my free time learning vocabulary through listening to Italian songs and watching Italian TV shows. At the end of the semester, I made a pact with myself that I would go back to Italy when I reached a conversational level so that I could truly experience Italy, and fully get rid of my hesitations towards learning a new language.

The next semester, I walked into my first class as an Italian minor, determined to improve my speaking. My professor was one of the sweetest and most wonderful people I had ever met, and she is someone that I aspire to be like. She was supportive of me and my goals and took the time to get to know me both in and outside of the classroom. When I told her about my hopes of moving to Europe after graduation, she told me that she saw a lot of herself in me and encouraged me to take risks and go on adventures.

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

One summer, I took the risk of designing an independent research project with an IR professor which required me to conduct interviews with Italians in Italy. I was nervous of course, but I was confident in what my professors had taught me. On the plane ride over to Italy, I remember thinking how far I had come since my freshman year when I was too nervous to approach people on the street to ask for directions in Italian. Now, here I was, speaking with confidence and experiencing something new.

I was lucky enough to have a friend on this trip with me. We had both had the same Italian III professor and we both formed a strong relationship with her over our passion for the language. This same passion brought us together and gave us the opportunity to work on this project. This trip brought us even closer together, and we now consider each other best friends. 

While on this trip, we received a message from our professor offering us the opportunity to visit her hometown and meet her mother. Unfortunately, my professor was not in Italy at the same time, but her mother was willing to host us with open arms. We were ecstatic and immediately accepted. Neither of us could believe that we were actually going to meet our professor’s mom and visit her hometown.

Photo by Bogdan Dada on Unsplash

That day was one of the happiest and most beautiful days of my life. I don’t think I ever stopped smiling during my visit. The fact that we were there, speaking Italian and bonding with our professor’s family and friends was incredible. I was honored to have even received the offer of meeting her family and visiting her hometown. That day I truly felt that I had accomplished my goal. Never did I think when I set the goal of eventually returning to Italy, that it would lead me on such a beautiful adventure.

Featured Image by Christopher Czermak on Unsplash

Arianna is a recent USC graduate that received her B.A in International Relations. During her freshman year, she studied abroad for an academic year in Rome, Italy, and she continued to study Italian throughout her undergraduate degree. She loves traveling and learning about other cultures and, in her free time, she likes to take dance classes, go hiking, and watch movies.

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.

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