Tag Archives: travel

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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Why I love Supernatural and How it Helped me Practice English

By Morgana Li

[3 minute read]

It has been 15 years since the first episode of Supernatural aired on The CW. Now the series has come to its final season and the finale aired on Nov. 19, 2020. I became a part of the Supernatural family in 2015 when I watched ten seasons in order to catch up to the current episodes. The story itself is about hunting supernatural monsters, ghosts, and demons that come from folklore and myths. While watching, however, I realized that Supernatural is also a show about family, friendship, sacrifice, and humanity. Though the plot may not always make sense, the show has created many multidimensional characters that the audience loves. 

The main characters are Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, and Castiel. Dean and Sam are brothers, and Castiel (Cas) is an angel. They go on adventures across the country saving people from supernatural monsters. What fascinated me most is the way they treated each other and how they showed their humanity despite significant challenges. At first, Sam and Dean were the only consistent characters in the show, but others soon joined the main storyline. Castiel became one of the most significant characters as he slowly became closer to Sam and Dean, who warmly welcomed him into their family. In their dysfunctional family, they were always willing to sacrifice everything for each other. As Sam said to Dean, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.” I think one must be incredibly lucky to have someone who loves you that much and to know that there are always people you can rely on.

Another interesting aspect of the show is watching the characters travel across the United States, living in motels, eating fast food, and passing through pretty much every state in the US. As an international student, I found it to be one of the best sources to learn about American culture and life, and I’d like to travel to many of the places I have seen them travel to on the show. Since Supernatural’s theme is about hunting monsters in America, many urban legends and different forms of folklore were introduced to me through the show, such as Bloody Mary, the Wendigo, the myth of the Hook Man, and more. The Bible also plays a role in the different legends discussed in the show. I learned many pop culture references based on these intriguing stories, which made it easier to communicate with native English speakers because I had more topics to explore and slang to use. One of the main characters, Dean, uses a lot of hilarious slang terms that are part of authentic American English, and these can be used in daily life by international students looking to blend more casual terms into their speaking. 

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash
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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.