USC student captures moments of service and outreach on Instagram

Cerina Epple, a junior majoring in economics, regards her Instagram account, @CerinaEpple, as a way to express herself and update her friends and family on what’s going on in her life. Whether she’s running half marathons, lending a helping hand to the people of Ghana, trying out new coffee shops or just hanging out with her friends, Epple captures her meaningful life. Nevertheless, she acknowledges the negative effects of social media. Epple plans on using social media as a catalyst for positive change.

Daily Trojan: In what way do you think Instagram has impacted your life positively?

Cerina Epple: I love to stay in touch with my friends and family through Instagram. Every person’s Instagram account is a snapshot of their life story, and Instagram has allowed me to give my friends and family a glimpse of what has been happening in my life. I have always preferred updating my friends and family in person, but pictures on Instagram are a great supplement to in-person updates.

DT: There were pictures that you posted that showed your training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon with the hashtags #Nikeplus, #Nikewomenshalf and #werunSF. You recently completed the marathon. How was the training process and the experience itself?

CE: The training process is a lot more of a mental than physical battle. For me, the hardest part about training is not the running itself but having the mental willpower to put my shoes on and go. Many people want to know the best marathon training tips, but my best tip is to just get outdoors and run. And once you start running, don’t stop! The actual race day was an incredible experience. It was really empowering running with over 20,000 women who were so strong inside and out. The most inspiring part was seeing runners with physical handicaps finish the race. Running with them made me feel like I could overcome any challenge. Also, despite the massive amount of runners, Nike does a fantastic job of personalizing your race experience. I am already excited to run again next year!

DT: You have traveled extensively across the globe, including to Hawaii and Ghana. What does traveling mean to you?

CE: I saw this quote on Pinterest the other day and it goes like this: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” I really believe that traveling enables us to not only see new landscapes, but it also gives us new eyes to see our lives. Whenever I travel somewhere and come back home, I feel like I have been given a new perspective and a new measure of self-awareness. A great part of traveling is coming home afterwards and sharing that new perspective with people around you. Traveling is also addictive because when I travel, I realize how much I have yet to learn about the world and I feel inspired to travel more.

DT: Your mission trip to Ghana was one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Can you tell us what your most life-changing moment from the trip was?

CE: The most life-changing experience in Ghana was spending time with the children at the Amazing Grace School near Kumase. Materially, the children have so much less than many of us in the U.S., but I have seen that they also have something much more valuable than any material possession that we have — they have immeasurable amounts of joy. It is hard to be satisfied in the U.S. where we are taught to always strive for more — more money, more things, more work, more success. Ghanaian children may not have much, but they are extremely joyful and thankful for what they do have. I would argue that their posture of gratitude and joy also allows them to give generously and love people better than I’ve seen anyone love. Experiencing the hospitality and kindness the Ghanaian children had was so humbling and compelled me to live a more joyful and generous life.

DT: Many people feel that social media is unhealthy and leads to depression, jealousy and bitterness. What is your take on this?

CE: I agree that social media does have its negative effects on people, and I agree that it can lead to depression, jealousy and bitterness. Many times social media —especially Instagram — showcases a false image of what life is. Many high profile Instagrammers have actually been speaking out lately on the dehumanizing effects of these “glamorized” Instagram profiles.

DT: What are some of your future plans and goals?

CE: One of my goals for this school year is to be an advocate for change at USC and at universities across the nation. I’m seeing firsthand how racism is still a horrible reality, and rather than jumping to solutions, I want to encourage people to begin taking the time to listen to the minority voices on our campus and engaging in race conversations. I know that these conversations are uncomfortable, but these conversations will lead to understanding, and this understanding will lead to effective change.