Helen Maroulis #TeamUSAAwards Red Carpet

Last night, I got to report from the Team USA Awards red carpet–an awards ceremony to honor world class olympic and Paralympic winners for the “Best of the year” awards. Maroulis, the Rio 2016 gold medal freestyle wrestling champ, was up for Olympic Female Athlete of the Year. I got to talk to her about how it was being a girl in a predominantly boys sport growing up. The awards ceremony will air December 23rd at 5pm EST on NBC.


So, last month, I got to report from my very first red carpet. It was such an exhilarating and exciting experience, and I never thought it would get to happen so soon after moving to Los Angeles! The entertainment industry and red carpets in particular are extremely competitive, and people seldom get chosen to report on them.

I was lucky enough to have a personal connection with someone who works at OWN, and she was able to get me media access to the season two finale red carpet for a hit show, Queen Sugar, which Oprah is the executive producer of.

I put on my glitz and glam and interviewed several of the cast members on the show, as well as got to stand one foot away from the queen herself, Oprah Winfrey! All I can say is, this is only the beginning for me!


I’ve been thinking of doing a mini series for a while now. I know that not everyone my age is into politics or watching the news, so I came up with Bedside Chats: a quick summary of the week’s biggest stories, paired with a highlight of the week’s least talked about story that still deserves a spotlight. I’m no professional news analyst (obviously), but I think quick recaps are important! This is my first episode, and it’s quite shaky…I didn’t realize how much rehearsal would need to go into making a script sound natural and conversational (haven’t quite mastered it). But I did the best I could with the little amount of free time I have during the weekend. I hope you guys continue coming along with me on my journey.

My First Episode of On the Brink

So, this was my first full package that I’ve ever done. For those unfamiliar with television, a package is a what you see on many t.v. programs, and it’s basically a visual news story or narrative. In case you didn’t know, video editing–especially on Adobe Premiere–is extremely difficult. It takes a long time to write a script, cut the clips precisely, cut in the right amount of b-roll clips, add the appropriate effects, fades, transitions, etc. And for those who know me personally, you guys know I am extremely technologically un-savvy. Though this video still has a few bumps in it, I’m proud that it came together, and it’s only going to get better from here!

You Could Be A Victim In The Next Mass Shooting

Last week, on October 1, 2017, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern United States history took place in Las Vegas. Devastatingly, 58 innocent lives were taken at Route 91, a country music concert at an outdoor pavilion.

The next day, Monday October 2, 2017, University of Southern California police sent out an alert around noon informing us that someone reported they had heard gunshots fired, and that the campus would go into lockdown. All the buildings automatically locked, and my instructor turned off our lights and dead bolted our classroom door.

A few minutes later, we heard the SWAT team descend upon the roof of our building, and were getting Twitter updates from fellow students and the local news showing students running frantically to find shelter, and dozens of police cars blocking off the roads surrounding campus.


Shortly after, my phone began ringing off the hook with my friends and family on the East Coast calling to check in on me to make sure I was OK. That’s the power of news…it traveled so fast that they were getting updates just as I was living it.

The first thing that came to my mind was, “Jesus, this can’t be happening.” Though mass school shootings are unfortunately becoming more commonplace, I never thought it would become my reality. I didn’t think I would ever be caught in a scenario where I would have to exercise survival tactics, or wonder what I would do if a gunman tried to gain access to our classroom.

It frightened the hell out of me. My heart was beating, my stomach was queasy, my palms were sweaty…and yet, my instructor was trying to remain calm by continuing to teach us coding. I couldn’t focus.

Then, half an hour later, we got the alert that campus had been cleared, and no gunman was found. A professor, whose friends were killed in the Vegas shooting less than 24 hours before, was apparently suffering from trauma and potential PTSD, and had reported sounds of gunfire; which there were none.

You could hear an audible sigh of relief throughout campus. Seeing that the Vegas shooting was so fresh, and happened a short four-hour drive away from us, everyone was on edge, and rightfully so. The news of campus being cleared was welcomed, but this false report was eye-opening.

The takeaways from this event for one, made me realize that our momentary scare at USC is a reality for many people who have been victims in mass shootings. It also showed us that America’s gun culture is so out of hand and extreme these days, that people see hundreds of people dying each year as a result of gun violence, and still don’t feel compelled to make strides against encouraging gun ownership.

Gun-toting is so glorified in this culture; something you don’t find in other Western societies with lower homicide rates, and it’s quite mystifying. I think most reasonable people know that something has to change, and that America needs to shift the way we think about and glorify guns.

Until then, we’ll constantly lie in wait, afraid to go to large, public places, where at any moment, a crazed gunman can decide to open fire and claim more innocent lives.

My Ode to Raleigh

Before leaving Raleigh in early July, I made sure to have a photoshoot to commemorate leaving the place I called home for the first 18 (19, if you count the one year I spent back in Raleigh after college) years of my life. Raleigh, to me, is still one of the best cities to have grown up in. Forbes lists it as the 3rd best place for business and careers , and US News ranks it 7th best place to live.

Aside from rankings, which there are many, Raleigh has so much more to offer. After attending college in Charlotte, another metropolitan city in North Carolina, I was able to see how good I had it in Raleigh. The public school systems, the infrastructure, the cleanliness; all things I took for granted growing up in the Capitol.

I had the most enriching educational experiences: traveled out of state for field trips, had all of the best state museums a few miles down the road, and had teachers who really cared about my development as a person. My classmates were of every hue; we didn’t have modern-day segregation like many other school districts in metropolitan areas do.

I was close to the beach, yet still driving distance from the mountains. I had the feel of the suburbs, but still the urban appeal of  downtown. There was the state fair every year that was something my family largely looked forward to annually. I just have so many fond memories of this amazing city that attracts so many more transplants every year because of its abundant job market and fair cost of living.

If my future career allows it, I would have no problem raising my family in Raleigh some day. If my kids could get half of the experiences I had growing up, I’d know I made the right decision.


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Why I Hate The Metro



This picture speaks for itself. Yesterday, it was unbearably crowded. As I held my breath for what felt like forever, I thought to myself: something’s got to give.

When I first arrived to LA 37 days ago, I thought the metro was super convenient, quick, easy, and would save me the stress of being stuck in traffic. Which, truthfully, it still is all those things for the most part. However, I also forgot how much of a germophobe I am, which makes touching anything on the underground a huge no-no. Seeing that the metro drivers couldn’t care less about how averse you are to germs, the violent jerking of the train gives you no option but to either get the ultimate workout by clenching every single one of your muscles in order to not topple over, or hold onto the dreaded poles that are there for support.

Also, people have no sense of personal space on the metro. Growing up in North Carolina, I’m not used to people standing in such close proximity. It makes me feel tense, and I automatically feel the need to hold my breath when that happens; almost as if I don’t want our existences to interact any more than they already have.  One time, I felt so claustrophobic that I got off the metro four stops early and walked home (which btw took me 40 minutes).

Another thing that pisses me off about the metro? The fact that there’s zero transfer time. My daily route to USC from Hollywood to downtown requires me to ride the red line, and then transfer to the expo line at 7th Street Metro Station. In the mornings, things usually flow pretty seamlessly. In the evenings, getting through the massive crowd transferring from the expo line to the red line is damn near impossible. I know it’s only a 10-minute wait until the next train, but in the evenings when I’ve had a long day and much to accomplish when I get home, every minute counts.

I know these are such diva complaints since the metro provides me, and millions of others in LA county, with the convenience of cheap travel, but can you really blame me? This NC girl hasn’t quite gotten the hang yet of public transportation.

Until next time,



I have arrived!!!

IMG_2598[1]Well guys, it’s officially been a week–actually, more like 11 days because I’m a procrastinator and am just now sitting down long enough to write–since I left good ol’ North Carolina and moved to LA! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become an LA girl. I kid you not, growing up, I never even considered the possibility of moving to California, or any other picturesque, ideal place that many big dreamers, like myself, dreamed of as a child. Regardless of whether I ever saw myself living here or not, here I am!

In the weeks leading up to my big move, the reality definitely had not settled in yet (I’m still not sure that it has for me!). I was extremely busy preparing for it by finding a place to live, getting documents in order for school, and dealing with last minute affairs at home, like pesky speeding tickets -___-. When I finally did talk to my friends about my move, everyone kept on warning me about what to expect when I got here like: how the people are different, how the streets/driving are different, and how the big city lifestyle in general is different from my calm upbringing in suburbia. My mind was clouded with so much cautionary advice that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect upon arrival.

Well, now that it’s been a week **11 days**, here are some of the things I can confidently report back to you about my observations switching coasts:

1) You know the saying, “it never rains in Southern California”? Well, it’s pretty much true (from what I’ve heard), BUT I was totally thrown off on my first morning here when I opened my eyes at 7am and was greeted by gray clouds. The sky was pretty overcast, and I began to wonder if my first day of exploration would be tinted with gray and maybe even a summer storm. Miraculously, as I bustled around my apartment for a couple hours getting ready and sorting things out, I looked out the window again and was greeted by the smiling sun! That same phenomenon repeated itself everyday for the next several days and really had me questioning the science behind it. After asking around, the answer I gathered was “June Gloom”. Essentially, in the late spring, early summer months (May-July), there is a marine layer effect (low hanging stratus clouds) that come off the cool water and carry over onto the coastal regions of Southern California. Like I observed, it usually disappears by mid-morning to early afternoon. Cool science moment, right?!

2) Everyone kept telling me to watch my back in LA because the people wouldn’t be nearly as friendly as the people of North Carolina. Well, I’m here to say: BULLOCKS! The kindness of the people here (so far) supersedes the kindness of anyone I’ve ever met in NC. Despite the expectations of southern hospitality, people are actually quite rude back home, and favor politeness and political correctness over true, genuine acts of kindness. However, as soon as my plane touched down in LAX, there wasn’t a single passerby who didn’t offer my assistance of some sort. Every single person who I cross in the street flashes me genuine smiles, and many whom I pass ask me how I’m doing and wish me a good day. Many people upon hearing I’m a new transplant immediately offer to show me around and offer their assistance in the event that I may need anything. It’s all been extremely humbling and worth noting that the people of LA should definitely get more credit–many of them are nice people!

3) You know how in everyone’s house growing up, there was always that one kitchen drawer filled with plastic grocery bags that we would reuse for school lunches, traveling, trash can liners, and whatever other magical use we could come up with for those things? If you’re thinking of moving to LA (or to be fair, any other big city), say goodbye to the convenience of that drawer of goods. Stores do NOT give out free grocery bags here. You have to buy them for 10 cents each usually, and they’re all brown paper bags because everyone here cares about the environment. ALSO, you’d think they would only be on this environmental kick at grocery stores, right? Wrong. You have to bring your own bags to shop at department stores too!! Nothing blew my mind more than buying all these home goods at Marshalls, and then having the lady slide all my things back over to me across the counter with my receipt and telling me to have a good day. Imagine how weird it was for me walking out of the store carrying open items in my arms…welcome to LA?

4) Ok, so obviously, bigger city=higher crime rate. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming here, but let’s just say that despite hearing sirens whizzing past my window around the clock, I feel almost abnormally safe here. Not only does my building have 24-hour security who take their job very seriously, but as I mentioned in bullet number 2, people are so nice here. I haven’t felt unsafe or more in danger than I would in any other place. In fact, living in LA feels safer in my opinion because people are always out and about at all hours of the night, so it never feels like I’m alone in the streets. Another plus is that people truly mind their business here; even the homeless. Aside the occasional beggar, the homeless are very calm, and often times don’t look up when you pass by. I can only speak for my area because I live in Hollywood. I’ve heard from the locals here that in other areas, mainly downtown, they can get kind of rowdy, but that has not been my personal experience yet.

5) UBER POOL!! This one is awesome, and like bullet number 3, is not exclusive to just LA. Other big cities across the US have this too, but I’m still obsessed with it. Don’t get me wrong, I was always Uber queen from the moment it gained popularity in NC around my junior year of college in 2014, but smaller markets like Charlotte and Raleigh didn’t have the option to “pool” with other Uber riders because people in smaller cities are less likely to feel comfortable riding with strangers than their counterparts in larger ones. Since I’ve arrived in LA, I walk almost EVERYWHERE. But sometimes, after walking 3 miles to get somewhere under the relentless Los Angeles sun, you just want to an easy ride back home. That’s where Uber pool comes into play. For just $3-7, you’re at your next destination! And regardless of whether your driver ends up picking up another passenger, the rate you booked your Uber for is still honored. Sweet!

So in efforts to not make this blog post super long, I’ll close out my list here. These five points are just a few of the observations I’ve made after being a Los Angeleno for the past almost two weeks! It’s been great, and I can’t wait to continue exploring my beautiful new home. I hope you guys enjoyed this blog post! See you next week!





Hey there!

Hello, and welcome to Switching Coasts! My name is Paula Ilonze, and I started this blog because I am an East Coaster, born and raised in North Carolina, and decided on a whim to switch coasts and move to Los Angeles, California. I am beyond excited to obtain my master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California, one of the most renowned journalism programs in the world. Go Trojans!

This blog will chronicle my experiences as a new transplant here. It will serve as an “anything goes” blog, so I plan to take you on my journey of lifestyle, fitness, food, and fashion in LA. Feel free to always comment anything you would like me to talk about or share of my experiences. This is for you and me!

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