Tag Archives: tradition

My Comfort Language

By Chloe Ahn

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Language plays an incredibly important role in forming connections with other people. This may seem like an obvious statement. To communicate with someone else, you need to have a shared language. However, not all languages hold the same weight in a conversation.

A person’s first language is not always the one they may prefer to use when creating a bond with a new person. This is especially true for bilingual speakers who grew up speaking more than one language. Although these types of speakers may have a dominant language that they tend to use in more day to day interactions, this does not mean that it is the language that they like to speak the most when it comes to socializing. In addition, they may have a certain language that they associate with certain people or places.

Photo by Sava Bobov on Unsplash

Growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods, I never really had the opportunity to use Korean outside of my home and as one of the few Korean students in my high school, I didn’t have any reason to use it with my friends either. Though I spoke mostly Korean with my parents, I had developed a habit of using English with them when we left the house because I had had negative experiences with speaking Korean in public. I would constantly get weird stares or the occasional dirty look from people who did not speak Korean. Eventually, I started to feel embarrassed using Korean with my mom or dad and stopped doing so.

This mindset changed with the onset of the pandemic. Since I was home all of the time, I began to use Korean more often than English. During winter break of my freshman year, I visited my grandparents in South Korea and was able to spend a lot of time with them. My negative associations with using Korean in public disappeared and I started to connect more positive ideas with the language. Korean is the language of my culture. It is the language that I use with the people I love the most. It is the language that allows me to spend quality time with my grandparents and other relatives who I do not get to see often because of the distance between us.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

With this new perspective, I came to campus at USC for the first time this past fall semester. For the first time I had the chance to interact with and meet people who had the same cultural background as I did. I joined the Korean American Student Association (KASA) with the hopes of making new friends and was successful. Many of the close friends that I have today are people that I met through KASA.

That being said, not all of my friends are Korean and I do not think that you have to be the same ethnicity in order to form close connections with people. Rather, being able to speak Korean with the friends that I made in KASA helped me to open up to them sooner because of the associations I have with the language and my family. Having come from the East Coast, I was worried about feeling homesick and missing my parents and sister, but making these friends and being able to use Korean more in my daily conversations with them gave me a sense of comfort and was a reminder of home. Sometimes, you find comfort in a language other than the one that you speak most often, and it becomes a great way to form deeper bonds with others.

Featured Image by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

 Chloe is a rising junior studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Keck School of Medicine with a minor in Business. She was born in South Korea but grew up in New Jersey. Aside from English, Chloe is conversationally fluent in Korean and is learning Spanish. Her involvements on campus include Dear Asian Youth, International Student Assembly, Innovative Design, and the Korean American Student Association. In her free time, Chloe enjoys watching movies, going shopping, hiking, and listening to music.

On Being An International Student During The Lunar New Year

By Hannah Teoh

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Recently, the Lunar New Year passed and celebrations were happening everywhere. If you aren’t familiar with the holiday, the Lunar New Year is celebrated every year to mark the beginning of the Lunar calendar. It originates from China and is celebrated widely by Asian diasporas all around the world. As an ethnic Chinese person from Malaysia, Lunar New Year has always been an important event to my family. On the eve of Lunar New Year, everyone gathers at the ancestral home to have a big traditional feast, followed by a grand ritual at midnight to commemorate the new year. The festivities typically last for a week. We usually clear our schedules for the week for visiting relatives and for going to temples to pray for the upcoming year. The Lunar New Year was always my favorite time of the year, purely because it is a time of unity, reflection, connection, and remembrance. 

The Lunar New Year has looked very different the past few years. For me, the Lunar New Year lost its usual vibrant vitality and character during the pandemic, as lockdowns and social gathering restrictions discouraged visits to temples and seeing relatives and friends— but with good reason, I must add. Many of my relatives are quite a bit older and were part of the population that was highly vulnerable to the air-borne infection. We also did not have a vaccine roll-out at that time, so it was a more precarious situation to navigate. While I understood why such restrictions were put in place, it also made our Lunar New Year celebrations humbler. Streets were quiet when they normally would have abounded with cars and people on their way to different celebrations. The night sky remained calm when it would have been painted in splatters of fireworks.

Photo by HyggeLab Concept on Unsplash

2020 was the last year I had a Lunar New Year celebration with my family back home in Malaysia. I left for the U.S. the following year in 2021, right before the New Year. I stayed with my sister in Boston and we had a small Lunar New Year’s eve dinner with Korean take-out food. We called our parents and our grandmother to give well wishes, and they in turn gave us virtual red packets (packets of money traditionally given out by elders during Lunar New Year). A grand celebration that usually takes place over the course of a week was relegated to a modest dinner. 

For the first time, I spent the Lunar New Year alone this year. Between finishing schoolwork, attending class, and going to work, I never really prioritized celebrating the holiday. Plans to have a dinner for Lunar New Year were mentioned in passing but never brought up again as people got busy (myself included). The dumplings that I usually make were stored for an extra day because it was time-consuming to make them. I called my parents late, with the 15-hour time difference throwing off my frame of time. My Lunar New Year celebration started and ended with a bowl of glutinous rice sesame balls in Alhambra.

Photo by Olivia Colacicco on Unsplash
Continue reading On Being An International Student During The Lunar New Year

Pumpkin Spiced Fall

By Emiko Akama-Garren

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

The American fall time consists of many traditions and holidays, and those who are not familiar with them may find the traditions amusing and sometimes odd. This time of year is heavily centered around food, with the most important item being the pumpkin. Pumpkins play a role in Thanksgiving, Halloween and essential fall activities like going to a pumpkin patch. So, it is no surprise that pumpkin spice has become an essential part of the season. I always feel more festive and start to get into the fall mood when I see all of the seasonal pumpkin-flavored items available.

Pumpkin spice products are continuing to spread and major brands continue to introduce new pumpkin fused items for the fall time. The limited availability of the flavor has been a key selling point for the products. Some of the most popular items include candles, soap, cookies, drinks, baked goods, snacks, and even pet products. The most quintessential pumpkin spice item to try is most definitely the pumpkin spice latte. Social media, especially Instagram, has created a large following and obsession for pumpkin spice latte fans of all ages.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It is already a shock to many non Americans how many different products that feature pumpkins are available, so it is even more surprising when people find out that pumpkin flavored coffee is such a sought after trend. Pumpkin spice lattes have become quite the commodity and bring in huge profits for coffee companies. Pumpkin spice lattes are typically made from milk, pumpkin puree or flavoring, pumpkin spice seasoning, a sweetener, and coffee.

Starbucks is the main party responsible for starting the pumpkin spice latte craze and turning the name of their drink into an acronym and widespread hashtag (PSL). Since Starbucks has launched their drink, over 200 million drinks have been sold and it has quickly become their most popular beverage. Now many other coffee chains offer their own versions of pumpkin spice coffees. Starbucks starts to offer the PSL in the beginning of September and it is only available “while supplies last”. This period is usually right up until when they bring back their holiday drinks.

Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash

Pumpkin spice no longer just creates a flavorful sensation but it also creates an emotional one. The widely loved trend admired by many Americans is slowly starting to spread, but understandably has not been picked up as quickly in foreign markets. There is no better place to try pumpkin spice food than in America as a way to celebrate the beginning of the fall holidays. Trying out and tasting this fall trend is the best way to understand the American obsession, and might just help you feel some of the holiday spirit.

Featured Image by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Emiko is a recent graduate from the Sol Price School of Public Policy and Marshall School of Business. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California up until high school, when she moved to Switzerland and then France. Emiko lived in Switzerland and Germany all throughout high school and then studied abroad her first year of university in Paris. While living abroad, she was involved with Model United Nations and was a figure skating coach for international students and local students looking to work on their English. She loves meeting new people, traveling, dancing, figure skating and entrepreneurship.