“Are you excited to graduate?” This is always the first question I get asked when I tell people I’m a senior. I never know how to answer this question because I am filled with so many different emotions, and it is hard to pinpoint one simple way to describe all the things I am feeling. On the one hand, of course I’m super excited to graduate! I will no longer have to take exams and I’ll have the freedom to do other things with my time. On the other hand, I’m sad to leave as well. Becoming an adult comes with more responsibilities, like paying bills and working constantly. But as I reflect back on my past four years at the best university in the world, the most resounding thought I have is this: I can confidently say that coming to USC has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I don’t regret a thing.
I remember the one piece of advice that all of the older students I’ve spoken to during my time at USC gave me: to enjoy college to the fullest and take advantage of everything before it’s too late. I feel that I have really taken that to heart and made sure to try and explore new things. One of those new things was studying abroad. Studying abroad was one of the biggest highlights of my undergraduate years. It allowed me to discover a part of myself that I didn’t know much about. I’ve always wanted to travel but I never knew I was capable of it, because it seemed too expensive and there were so many variables to consider. Fast forward four years and I am already planning a backpacking trip in Europe for the summer after I graduate. Traveling for two months will not be cheap, but there are so many ways to experience a new country while saving money. Instead of staying at nice hotels, there are many cheap hostels in all the big cities that allow you to sleep with other backpackers in a smaller accommodation. Couch surfing is another way to save, as this option is usually free. Locals host the people who come to their hometown from around the world by allowing them to sleep on their couch. I believe this is a great way to learn the culture while making lifelong friends.
This article is an interview with Sean Silvia, a USC Dornsife junior double majoring in History and Archaeology as well as minoring in Classics. He serves as the Vice-President of the Philologos Society, a student-run organization founded in July 2019 at USC by its current President, Richard Petrosyan. Richard is also a USC Dornsife junior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Health Care Studies. In this interview, Richard and Sean’s discussion focuses on Sean’s experience at Philologos. But before delving into the heart of the interview, allow us to offer you some insight into the Society’s background.
Being unable to find a platform at USC promoting the exchange of ideas, debates of an interdisciplinary nature, and unique opportunities for humanitarian initiatives all-in-one, Richard decided to synthesize these ideals to establish the strong pillars for an intellectual society. The Philologos Society exposes its members to a diversity of academic fields and thought, expands their general knowledge, and helps them develop social consciousness through various altruistic endeavors. Without intertwining classroom development with the outside world, one’s collegiate experience cannot be complete.
Since the Society’s inception in July 2019, Richard has been tirelessly working to ensure its growth within the USC community as well as to establish partnerships with non-profit organizations and educational institutions outside of USC that provide all members with a wide range of opportunities. One of the greatest challenges has been to launch the expansion campaign for Philologos’ activities during the pandemic while having to stay remote, which the society has successfully accomplished.
A year and a half after seeing this Society come to life, we present to you a glimpse into the heart of the university’s one and only intellectual society, USC’s one-of-a-kind vibrant community of students eager to succeed in order to thrive in the midst of one of the extraordinary social contexts of our time.
-Richard Petrosyan, Philologos Society President
Interview with Philiogos Vice President
Q:Sean, would you describe the Philologos Society in your own words?
A: The Philologos Society is a combination of multiple things. It’s essentially an all-in-one intellectual society, with both an academic and philanthropic branch. It aims to enrich both the members and surrounding community with the pursuit of knowledge;we feed people both intellectually and literally with our volunteer service.
Q:How has your involvement with the society affected you?
A: The Society made me approach things from a philosophical angle in a way that I hadn’t before. Within archaeology, I’d done a lot of research projects that were very specific – “Let’s talk about this site- what it means, what’s the specific context.” But within Philologos, we’re encouraged to ask these bigger questions. We address debates within the field. I’ve explored the deeper, more philosophical and ethical side of archaeology- along with other topics, like medicine and journalism – in ways I hadn’t considered before.
It’s been very fun, being able to synthesize big debate topics into easily understandable language and talking about things that you don’t really get discuss to in a more detail-oriented class (like how to deal with the ethical implications of digging up corpses).
-Sean Silvia, Philologos Vice President
Q:What are your favorite activities?
A: My top activities are definitely writing articles for our column and volunteering.
I love all the volunteering opportunities – I enjoyed the Meals on Wheels phone reassurance in particular. I also really like the services we provide to high school students. I know as a high schooler, I had really good instructors who set me up well to be where I am today, but not everyone has access to the kinds of resources I did.
Q: Do you have any significant stories to share?
A: There have been some heartwarming moments for sure. During the phone reassurance program, the person I was talking to had said that she’d gotten very little contact because COVID-19 was reducing the number of people she could see, and how nice it was to talk to someone. The question of the week that we were assigned was about music, and she told me about her love of the Backstreet Boys and that she had a cat that would bob along to the rhythm of their songs. I found it heartwarming to be able to bond with this person through our shared love for music.
Q:Do you think the Philologos Society has adapted well to the current situation?
Coupling my global cultural background and my passion in finance, I got the opportunity to travel to Honduras this past spring break with an international group called Global Brigades. My fellow brigadiers and I were paired up with a rural community in Honduras to rebuild a community bank. Because it was a seven-day brigade, we had to work under a strict time limit to deliver a high impact solution. Ultimately, we opted for innovative solutions that taught basic concepts such as saving and borrowing and even introduced advanced topics such as keeping track of interest rates and accumulated dividends through general ledger accounting. We accomplished this by adapting a segmented approach, where we targeted both children and adults in the community so that there would be awareness among different age groups. We used interactive models and colorful graphics as our communication strategy, and established a community bank with a clear set of regulations.
However, the most memorable part of the trip was not the planning process nor the actual implementation of our solution. Instead, I was most affected by the values that the community bank stood for and how the community members reflected them in their daily actions. Unlike a commercial bank, a community bank is not for profit, and exists to better the community. The community bank can only run with the volunteerism of dedicated community members who are not afraid to trust the community and the bank as an institution, and consequently, are willing to ask for the same trust from other community members. In a rural village, it proved to be difficult to convince many community members to save their money, especially because they were living on a day-to-day basis to sustain their families.
Even with the difficulty of communication to the rest of the community, the faith that the community bank members showed in the system inspired me. As a foreigner, I had felt rude when introducing and implementing a strange system of banking into such a tight-knit community, but the fact that various members opened their homes and minds up for us helped me understand the human trust and connection in its raw form. It was eye opening to not only build up a bank in a rural village with no prior knowledge of basic finance, but also to experience feelings and interactions that are so uniquely human.
Ultimately, this experience strengthened my desire to serve the global community. The beauty of the intercultural exchange that I observed was so positively overwhelming that I was determined to still be involved with Global Brigades even after the trip. I’m so honored to be leading Global Brigades at Marshall (the USC Chapter of Global Brigades—you don’t need to be in Marshall to be a part of it!) this upcoming school year! I found a way to leave my global footprint while also getting inspired to seek more personal interactions in an intercultural context, and I invite all of you to do the same!
Jackie is a Junior majoring in Business Administration, with potential minors in Computer Science or East Asian Studies. She has lived all over the world, from Korea to Singapore, to various parts of America. She is fascinated by cultural diversity, and her goal in life is to become a diplomat for the United Nations. She is a big fan of learning languages, and she is hoping to learn her sixth one soon. Jackie is involved in various international campus organizations such Model United Nations, as well as community service groups, and the residential government, and would love to introduce you to cool leaders on campus if you want to get more involved! She loves playing ice hockey, playing traditional Korean music and, and socializing with people in her free time! She can’t wait you meet you and get to know you! She also has a lot of school spirit because she absolutely LOVES USC
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