It seems like just yesterday, the world stopped in response to the pandemic. For the first few months of social distancing, I lost track of the days. Before I had time to perceive it, weeks had gone by. All plans were thrown out the window, and the year that marked the third decade of my life has been nothing like I originally expected. I could have spent all of my time dwelling on the lost moments and experiences, but instead I chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, after giving myself time to reflect and acknowledge that my home would most likely be the center of my whole life for the rest of the year, I worked to find my motivation and passion.
At the beginning of the pandemic, things weren’t so bad, as I had school to occupy myself with. Society as a whole went on an exploration through the world of Zoom. There was frustration and even hatred towards technology, and for many learning technology has been like learning a new language. However, once we all settled into the basic framework of living in an online world, technology became the bridge connecting everyone via a virtual landscape. Lately, Zoom has been a key feature in my life. From classes to weekly meals with my friends, it seems that we are all in long-distance relationships these days. We have found a way to connect without the need for physical presence.
Over the past year, I’ve spent almost all of my time at home (as most people have), doing my part to flatten the curve and stop the spread of Covid-19 by doing absolutely nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, as I’ve filled the time with a number of TV shows and films I’d been meaning to watch but had previously not had time for. The pandemic certainly freed some time up for me to catch up on these shows. Watching a show or movie can be more than just mindless entertainment; it can be an informative or even educational experience, especially if you watch the right things. By watching American classics and international standouts, I believe my quarantine binge-watching habits have been more productive than one might expect.
With travel being impossible, I’ve scratched the itch to go abroad by watching shows and movies that take place in Mexico and Italy. I speak Spanish, but I know that in order to maintain fluency in a language, practice is essential. As such, I began watching Netflix’s Club de Cuervos, a show about a soccer team in a small town outside of Mexico City. It was not only highly entertaining (I enjoyed it so much I watched the spinoff series it produced), but it also helped me maintain my ear for the language. The show even improved my understanding of the Central Mexican dialect and a variety of accents which are quite prevalent in Los Angeles.
I’ve also been learning Italian at USC for the past couple of years, and by watching a number of classic Italian films on Kanopy, a streaming service for classic and indie films (which all USC students have access to), I’ve bettered my understanding of the language while watching some of the most artistic films ever made. Here’s a tip: if you’re watching a show in a foreign language you’re trying to learn, turn on the subtitles in the foreign language. For me, Spanish and Italian are much easier to understand when I have subtitles on and can read along. If you’re working on your English, try using English subtitles and the dialogue should be easier to understand.
Travel needn’t take place abroad as traveling through time may arguably be even more exciting. I was quite young when AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s The Wire first began airing, and having heard nothing but good things about the shows, I’ve always wanted to watch them. Quarantine provided the time for that. Mad Men is set in 1960s Manhattan. The title is derived from the show’s main focus, which is the advertising industry along Madison Avenue. It’s an excellent period piece, and I enjoyed all seven seasons. It helped pass the time in the early days of lockdown. It also provides fascinating insight into 1960s America and the professional and business world. The show includes important examinations of misogyny and sexism through the story arc of Peggy Olson, one of the main characters and a fan favorite, as well as the social and racial justice movements of the 1960s. It also provides revealing vignettes of American culture. It’s not only an excellent show, with great shots and suave styles, but an interesting look into American history.
The Wire, a Baltimore-based crime drama, is also quite insightful. I just wrapped up the first season and it very deftly handles controversial subjects such as the criminal justice system, drug trade, racial tensions, and corruption. It shows the perspectives of all parties involved, giving the audience the space to receive the information and interpret it on their own. It also has some of the best scene transitions I’ve ever seen, and I eagerly look forward to watching the remaining four seasons. While the show was made in the early and mid-2000s, the topics it covers are still wholly relevant today.
These shows are worth watching, especially if you are an international student that wants to gain a better understanding of American culture, language, and history, just as I learned by watching shows from Mexico and Italy. These shows also help pass the time, because even though schoolwork is a large load on all of our plates, there still isn’t much to do besides staying home, staying safe, and watching shows.
Connor is a junior majoring in History and Italian at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Born and raised in California, in Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area, he has long been interested in experiencing diverse cultures and learning new languages. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Italian, drawn to both by his love of history and cuisine. He enjoys adventuring in both the urban and natural landscapes of California, as well as playing and listening to music, and is always happy to recommend the best taco spot to eat at, beach to walk along, or album to listen to. He is a huge sports fan and loves to chat about everything from the Lakers to soccer.
For many people, quarantine has made it difficult to establish a regular routine that resembles a normal lifestyle. This can lead many of us, myself included, to feel overwhelmed by work. Finding time to spend in nature is of the utmost importance, but depending on where you live, it can be difficult to incorporate time outdoors into your everyday schedule. Two ALI Conversation Partners, Alyssa Delarosa and Elizabeth Goodman, reflect on ways to get outside during quarantine and list places to visit in Los Angeles that provide some peace and respite from Zoom and online classes.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
[7 minute read]
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES DURING QUARANTINE
By Alyssa Delarosa
During this time of quarantine where zoom calls, Netflix binges, and a non-existent sleep schedule threaten to take over our lives, there are many wonderful resources and guides on activities to keep us busy on the internet. Some of these resources recommend completing at-home workouts, recipes, meditation, and other hobbies that are beneficial for your mental health. Out of all these wonderful resources and guides, I want to specifically highlight sources that encourage outdoor activities, as I believe that outdoor activities are vital to our mental health, physical health, and general well-being.
While there are plenty of activities to do indoors that can prove very effective for our mental and physical health, we are doing these activities in the exact same environment each time.At the start of quarantine this was not necessarily a bad thing, but in the long-run this practice can prove somewhat damaging for our mental health. We are being constantly exposed to the same environment for hours and days on end, which can have a “prison-like” effect on our minds and make us feel trapped and gradually begin to lose interest in finding meaning and enjoyment in our lives. This is why I do not simply recommend outdoor activities, I strongly encourage them as a necessity.
The complete and total change of scenery that outdoor activities provide can be blissful beyond imagination. I currently reside in Ventura, California (a rural beach town about an hour North of the USC campus) and I am always sure to allot some time to make the ten minute drive to the beach, where I can spend the whole day surfing, walking, or merely observing the beauty around me. I often find myself standing in complete awe with my feet in the sand, the wind caressing my cheek, the sound of the waves swelling and breaking, and the smell of the salt in the air. The restlessness I may feel indoors does not matter as long as I escape the clutches of my house and run into the embrace of nature.
When you’re done reading this, I want you to go to your calendar or planner, digital or physical, and start marking the time(s) within your schedule that you are able to engage in any outdoor activities. It does not matter your location; the main objective here is to simply get outside! If you live in the city, this could look like simply taking a walk in the streets nearby your house or apartment. You also do not necessarily need to leave your home or dorm area, as you can relax with a good book in hand on your porch, patio, balcony, or any other accessible outdoor area.
The USC campus itself is a beautiful place to take walks outdoors, with numerous parks located on campus such as Alumni Park and the EF Hutton Park. If you do not live near or on USC campus and do not have access to any parks or trails, keep in mind that the objective is to simply produce a short change in your environment so when you leave your everyday desk and living space, you can re-enter more recharged and refreshed than you were when you left.
Just because we’re in quarantine does not mean that life has to lose color, meaning, and enjoyment. Exchanging our daily home scenery for the beauty outside can help encourage all of us to live happier lives. One day our lives will resume but in the meanwhile, let’s appreciate the time we have now and continue to live and thrive in the nature surrounding us.
FOUR OF THE BEST PANORAMIC VIEWS OF LOS ANGELES
By Elizabeth Goodman
From the skylines of Downtown and Century City, to the Santa Monica Mountains, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the views from atop the city of Los Angeles are hard to beat. When city life, crowds, and traffic get you down, take some time to rejuvenate by visiting some of LA’s most breathtaking panoramic views without a long hike. Here are some of my favorite scenic views from various lookouts in LA, all of which are accessible to students and most of which are free (although you might have to pay for parking if you drive). All of these outdoor spots also provide a great escape for anyone seeking some time outdoors during quarantine! Go on your own or with a friend for a socially distanced hike to a great view.
“Top of the World” – Pacific Palisades
This lookout in Pacific Palisades has rightly earned its name with views that stretch from Downtown Los Angeles to the left, to Catalina Island on the right. It is unique to be able to see where the sand meets the sea while enjoying the immediate surrounding greenery and mountains. An easy less-than-five-minute walk after parking will lead you to this stunning view, and there are many other hiking trails to explore in this area if you want to spend more time here.
Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel– Santa Monica
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant at the top floor of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica offers an unparalleled dining experience. The rooftop on the 18th floor boasts a panoramic ocean view from every table in the restaurant. Between the gourmet cuisine and superb view, this is an exclusive experience you won’t want to miss out on. Note that this restaurant is currently closed due to recent quarantine mandates, but when restaurants begin reopening, be sure to include this one on your bucket list!