Tag Archives: transportation

To have a car or not to have a car… that is the question

By Lily Tam

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Not having a car in LA makes life hard. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Despite the strong and ever-improving public transportation system in LA, taking the Metro or another form of public transport just isn’t the same as having the luxury of driving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken the Metro to Santa Monica quite a few times, and I definitely recommend it since the stop right outside of campus is so convenient. The best part? Not having to worry about parking and traffic-an absolute dream come true.

The story’s a bit different if you want to explore a little outside the city, however. My roommate and I are from the farthest ends of the United States, the East Coast and Hawaii, so it wasn’t really feasible for us to bring or drive a car all the way to California for use during school. Fortunately, we both have our driver’s’ licenses, which is why when we got the chance to rent a car with the school’s new partnership with Maven, we did.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

My roommate had just finished one of her most dreaded midterms and was looking to celebrate that accomplishment with a meal out. We decided to head down to East LA for some great Mexican cuisine. However, we were so excited that we forgot to take into account something LA is notorious for: rush hour traffic. Yes, we decided to head out exactly at 5 PM. On a Friday. About to go on the 110 Freeway. Not a brilliant idea, I’ll tell you that much. In fact, the traffic flow was so bad that the Waze app directed us to square around (like a circle around, but we went in a box shape) two blocks just to come back to Figueroa. The lanes were insane though, and the maneuvers I saw some drivers making really took some skill. A drive that was supposed to take 15 minutes took 40 instead, and we arrived at the restaurant disgruntled and very hungry. It ended up being alright though because in our eyes a good meal is worth anything.

It was starting to get dark on our way back, but the traffic didn’t stop. In fact, the headlights from the oncoming lanes and the rear-end lights of the cars in front of us made it seem like a stream of Christmas lights. I guess no matter the time of the year, LA will have the festive feel of a city lit up at night. Despite our frustration at the endless traffic, we took away one important lesson: appreciate the relaxation of public transportation.

Continue reading To have a car or not to have a car… that is the question

A Scenic View from The Train

By Chirsten Vanderbilt

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Prior to Covid, I had the wonderful experience of taking a train ride from Los Angeles to Dallas. Although my train ride only took two days, it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. On my journey, I traveled through the states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. As it turns out, train rides are one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the views of the countryside and I had an amazing time.

While the train ride was great, the reasoning behind taking it wasn’t quite as fun. During the last week of spring finals, I suffered a collapsed lung. I was hospitalized for three days and unable to travel by airplane for six months. When it came time to head back to Texas for the summer break, my only possible mode of transportation was by train. Needless to say, it was a difficult and emotional time for me and my family, and I am so grateful to have had a healthy recovery. I also know that if it had not for this injury, I wouldn’t have taken this incredible two-day sightseeing adventure.

My mom and I began our trip at the very busy Union Station in Los Angeles. It is the main railway station in the city and is about twenty minutes away from the USC campus. USC even provides transportation to and from Union Station! My mom and I traveled on an Amtrak train, and some of the amenities included sleep cars, three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and a sight decka window-filled area where passengers can sit comfortably while taking in the view. 

chirsten-texas
One of the sites I observed while sitting on the sight deck traveling through Texas

Passengers also had the opportunity to stretch their legs and explore the destination stops as they came up. One of my favorite stops was Tucson, Arizona. It might have even been my favorite travel destination of the entire trip. Like Los Angeles, Tucson has a laid-back, youthful vibe and has an array of shops and restaurants. The climate is also very hot and dry. On this particular day, we were unexpectedly interrupted by a thunderstorm.

After Tucson, Arizona, the train passed through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. Texas is a huge state and it took a whole day to travel through it. The various train stops in the state included: El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Fort Worth. One of the most interesting things that we came across was the U.S- Mexico border. The city of El Paso is located on the border with Mexico, and because of this, I was able to see the actual border between U.S and Mexico, something which I had never seen before. I found it so interesting that most gas stations and car shops in this area had signs translated into Spanish.

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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
Continue reading Studying Abroad in Paris