I know there are already a lot of blogs on housing, but I also remember that housing was definitely one of my top two or three biggest concerns as an incoming freshman, so I thought I’d write about my experience anyway. Ultimately, in one sentence, I can sum up housing: no matter where you end up living you’ll meet a bunch of really neat people, because those are just the kind of people that go to USC.
However, with that disclaimer, I think it’s still important to find a good fit for you. The biggest decision you really have to make is what type of housing you want: dorm-style, suite-style, or apartment-style. As a freshman, most students live on-campus in dorms or suites. Every type of housing has different benefits. If you don’t know which kind you want, you can read about the pros and cons of each in the myriad of housing brochures available online. Personally, I really enjoyed dorm living. When I applied for housing, I knew I wanted the traditional college dorm experience, and I definitely got that.
For me, living in Birnkrant was one of the best decisions I’ve made since deciding to attend USC. Birnkrant has a total of eight floors. People live on the top seven floors, and the ground floor contains a 24-hour Starbucks at Trojan Grounds (we affectionately call it “TroGro,” and it’s wonderful during midterm season), a conference room, a multi-purpose room, a music performance room, some lounging/seating areas, a foosball table, and a pool table. Currently, all of the floors in Birnkrant are co-ed. The girls live on one half of the hall and the guys live on the other half, separated by a study room.
In my experience, Birnkrant is full of interesting people. My floor has 42 students, and between all of us, we speak 11 different languages – English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Hebrew, and Arabic –in most cases, fluently. We represent about a third of the states, and we even have an international student from Mexico. We’re majoring in all kinds of different areas, from Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering, to Screenwriting, Public Relations, and Journalism, to Business, International Relations, and Economics. However despite all of this diversity, we have a lot in common. Despite our different majors, we have a lot of similar interests, we’re involved in similar organizations, we take many overlapping classes, and most importantly, we enjoy spending time together. I love being able to walk outside my room (the door is usually open) and immediately find people to grab dinner with, get physics help from, or even just chat with. Many of my closest friends here at USC are people from my floor, including my roommate. I was lucky enough to be randomly matched with one of the best friends I’ve made here, and we’re even living together again next year, with two other girls from our floor. If you also do a random roommate assignment, definitely try to fill out the survey they give you as accurately as possible. That thing is magical – somehow, at the end of the year almost everyone I know is at the very least still on good terms with his or her roommate, and six or seven pairs of roommates on my floor are even rooming together again next year!
Although I love Birnkrant, and I’ll never run out of good things to say about it, the truth is, you really will meet great people wherever you live. I have friends in almost every residential community on campus, and every community offers something special, so don’t think that there is only one “right” option for you.
One final (random) piece of advice: if you’re living in one of the dorms that’s not air-conditioned (like Birnkrant for example), which are all listed on the housing website, bring a fan. Coming from a state where the average temperature is much, much colder for most of the year, I brought a fan but didn’t realize how much I would use it until I got here. Turns out, Los Angeles gets hot (shocker, I know) and the fan was a lifesaver. So to summarize: don’t be too nervous about housing because you will almost certainly find people you like wherever you live, and definitely bring a fan.
My freshman year roommate Gwen and myself in our Birnkrant dorm room.
The three girls I’ll be living in an apartment with next year – including my roommate from this year!
A few awesome girls from my hall this year. We’re all wearing our Birnkrant t-shirts!
Living on the second floor of New North definitely made my Freshman year a great experience. I met so many new people and was always in and out of everyone’s room. Our floor was co-ed, so I was always bumping into guys and girls from class. And whenever I needed something, I knew I could just walk down the hall and ask!
Because I didn’t know a single person when I came to USC, I wanted to be in the most social dorms I could find. New North matched this description perfectly! There was always something going on, either in the dining hall conveniently located on the first floor (EVK), in someone’s room on my hall, or off campus at an event organized by our awesome RA, Iris. Iris was like our mom away from home, and always kept her door open in case we needed something or had questions. She was super helpful with getting everyone accustomed to living in LA, and would even offer to drive us to Target if we needed something! We would take floor trips to Dodger’s game or cultural events downtown.
My best memories were from Greek rush week, when all the girls helped each other get ready and pick out outfits. This was a great bonding experience for all of us, and we stayed close throughout the year even though we all ended up in different houses. It was nice to have something in common with so many girls on my floor! Later on, it also made finding costumes for mixers super easy—everyone was willing to share.
My roommate and I had similar class schedules, so we were usually always both in the room or both out. We were both pretty studious, but our sleep schedules didn’t always match up. I would definitely recommend getting ear plugs and an eye mask, so you don’t have to worry about waking up when your roommate does! Learning how to live with someone you just met was a great learning experience and I definitely grew from it. My experience living in New North was full of surprises, and I had a great time!
My side of the room (a little messy!)
Me and my good friend from my floor at a football game!
My and a bunch of my floormates!
My friend Colleen and I at the Conquest pep rally on campus!
My freshman year I lived in Marks Hall when it was the honors dorm (you can read more about it here). I loved my small dorm community (it only had two floors), and am still close friends with some of the people from my dorm to this day. A lot happened to be engineers, so I usually run into them around RTH as well. I loved being around McCarthy Quad, right across from Doheny where I would always go study, and next to the Alumni House with its beautiful plaza complete with a little garden and fountain.
I loved spending time on the lawn in front of my dorm, either doing homework or taking advantage of the awesome year round weather. My friends and I would often also take trips exploring LA, mostly food related and centered around each of our birthdays, or beach trips.
Since most of us were engineers, we even took a group to Viterbi Ball (that’s coming up in a couple of weeks – stay tuned for a blog on that ). Last year we took a trip to San Diego for my birthday. And of course, we always tailgate together before USC games!
My freshman roommate!
Your freshman year housing experience ends up being exactly what you make of it. So have fun and make the most of it! While my dorm wasn’t my first choice housing, I ended up loving freshman year and I know I’ll be friends with the people from my dorm for many years to come.
As I wrote about last year, I lived in Pardee Tower as a Freshman. I have so many fond memories of this building and met so many great people during my year living on the eighth floor (AKA the Pardee Penthouse!). Sometimes I wish I could go back! It was so close to everything. Pardee is located right on McCarthy Quad, where so many fun things take place like Conquest and even Ultimate Frisbee pick-up games. Not to mention plenty of space to lie down on the grass to read a book, taking advantage of the impeccable Southern California weather (I did this often!).
A concert on McCarthy Quad during my Freshman year.
Just across the quad is Leavey Library (open 24/7 and still my favorite place to study). One building over is Trojan Grounds (now a Starbucks franchise), and 20 more steps from that is EVK Dining Hall– home of the best breakfast on campus.
McCarthy Quad from behind the Leavey Library fountain (Pardee is to the left).
What else was great about Pardee? There were about 40 freshmen per floor, so it felt like I got to meet so many great people. As a senior I’m still great friends with many of them! I never felt like I was missing out on anything that happened on campus.
Some of the Pardee Penthouse crew!
Pardee was the perfect place for me– I enjoyed living in a traditional dorm room (with a roommate, a shared bathroom, a long hallway, and a Residential Advisor) because I felt like I had a true college experience. Even though I’m a natural introvert, I felt comfortable here. Whenever I was pushed outside my comfort zone, I could always catch up on my peace and quiet.
Pardee Tower!! (The entrance has been renovated slightly since this was taken).
My Freshman year, I lived in Parkside IRC. I lived in a 5 person, 4 room suite. Three of us had our own rooms and two others shared a larger room. There was a desk, bed, dresser, microwave/fridge combo, and closet in my room. I was particularly pleased with the high ceilings since lower ones make me feel sort of claustrophobic. We shared two large restrooms and there was never conflict about restroom use. We did not have much a common area (just a short hallway) but it wasn’t much of an issue.
It was great living in a suite because we each had the comfort of our own rooms but always left our doors open to socialize or share the sounds of our taste in music. It worked out great for me because I could shut my door to get some work done and then open it to have a laugh with my friends. I had always shared a bedroom up until college so having my own room was amazing. I didn’t need to worry about not having time to clean up during midterms and finals week, which was great. Since it was the International housing, I got to many people from overseas. I got to learn about several cultures and become more understanding of distinct points of view.
Hanging out in my dorm Freshman Year
A great thing about Parkside was that there was a gym in the building, as well as a larger study lounge. In this study lounge were individual study rooms with white boards. I don’t know how you may feel about this, but doing practice problems on white boards is super clutch.
I also really liked that the dining hall was literally a minute away. Any time I needed a nice meal, Parkside Dining Hall was there for me. Except from 10:30-11:00 am, since they would close to prepare for lunch.
It was a great experience living at Parkside IRC and getting to meet many great people, that I still call friends to this day.
No matter what the college, one of the biggest questions/concerns freshman have are where they are going to live freshman year. Coming from Missouri, I literally had no idea about the dorm scene at USC or which one was “best” or whateva so I spent time googling the different dorms trying to figure out where I wanted to live. Fret no more, though, as the VSA’s are here to give you a raw, uncut look into the dorms that we lived in freshman year.
But first, watch this Harlem Shake video. Just kidding, it’s actually the new James Blake single, which you should bump as you read muh blog.
As I mentioned, I really had no idea what to expect from my freshman dorm. It turned out to be awesome, though, and extremely communal. I lived in the Birnkrant dorms, located on the north side of campus (picture later on). Birnkrant is a dorm with co-ed floors that is now a scholarship dorm, (although it wasn’t while I was there) and it was awesome because everyone left their doors open, making it easy to meet new people or just hang out with someone you might not no very well. Everyone was super friendly and open to meeting new people, which was great since I came from Missouri knowing next to nobody.
Birnkrant Angry Birdsssss
Adjusting to dorm life was definitely an experience since I had never shared a room with my siblings. However, my roommate turned out to be one of my best friends, and I still live with him to this day. Sharing a communal floor bathroom was also an adjustment, but it turned out to not be bad at all. USC housing keeps everything super clean and the bathrooms were big enough that I never had to wait for a shower.
Another great part about the dorms was that my RA was really cool and planned some fun events for our floor. Coming into college I had the perception that RA’s were like mini-police officers placed in the dorm by colleges to prevent fun (a tad extreme I know). However, this was absolutely not the case at all. My RA David was super tight and put on events such as a discounted viewing of the last Harry Potter movie on opening night as well as other various trips throughout LA.
The favorite thing about my dorm was the location and culture. The dorm was perfectly located on campus, right next to Leavey (the 24-hr library), the dining hall EVK, Trojan Grounds (a 24 hr coffee/convenience store), and right next to the awesome Mccarthy Quad.
Red pins are Birnkrant. North side of campus wadduppp.
My other favorite thing (yes I can have two favorite things) was the atmosphere and culture of Birnkrant. The dorm was always somewhere I could do homework and sleep but at the same time I could always find someone to go to the gym with, grab a meal with, or just chill with. There were a lot of different people coming from different backgrounds studying different things and it made my living experience very enjoyable and entertaining.
I’m not sure why we bought these pants or are looking like this…
My freshman dorm definitely shaped the rest of my time in college. The three guys in the picture above are currently my housemates, and I met some of my best friends in Birnkrant. While I’m biased towards Birnkrant, I know that many of other people had similar experiences with their dorm and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I lived in Parkside Arts and Humanities my freshman year! Parkside consists of 3 buildings, 2 of which are primarily freshman housing. The two freshman dorms are Arts & Humanities (A&H), and International Residential College (IRC). IRC’s name is a little misleading; there are domestic AND international students that live there.
These two buildings are suite style; each suite consists of either guys or girls, but there are suites of both guys and girls on the same floor. Each suite has 4 double rooms, with 8 people total, sharing 2 bathrooms and a common area with a table and chairs. Something that I really valued living suite style was having my privacy – rather than shower stalls you had a personal bathroom with a locking door. Parkside also has the HUGE perk of air conditioning so I didn’t have to worry about buying a fan.
my roommate decorated our room for my birthday!
my roommate and I freshman year! we still live together!
There was a dining hall in Parkside too; it had ‘conventional American’ food like pizza and burgers, but also had a healthier selection like pasta, salad, rice, and cooked veggies. Not going to lie; I oftentimes miss the convenience of the dining hall, but it’s still nice to cook my own food now.
I lived on the Music Floor, which is one of the special interest floors USC offers students. Music majors were abundant (I lived with 2 of them!), and there was just a general appreciation of music on that floor. I made a bunch of diverse friends from Parkside, and it helped enrich my freshman experience.
me and two of my suitemates
some of my suitemates
There were also fun programs that the Residential Advisor (RA) of the building put on. One in particular that stands out the most was the opportunity to take surfing lessons! The RA’s planned the transportation and everything – and it was FREE! I posted it on Facebook and all of my friends back home commented on how jealous they were haha. That was one of the highlights of freshman year.
the surfing program with my friend
I would recommend living suite style if you are someone who really enjoys your privacy and prefers a quieter living environment. Freshman year was super fun and I can’t believe it was already 2 years ago!
So Freshman year, I had a great time living in Birnkrant, as many of my fellow VSAs did. Like Steve and Makana, I lived on BK4, the best place to live on campus (in my humble opinion of course). I haven’t visited Birnkrant since it became the honors dorm last year, but I’m sure it continues to be a fantastic place to live. Check out my blog on it from last year here. I get nostalgic just thinking about it…
However, my sophomore year (last year), I had the pleasure of living in Webb Tower. The good news for all of you is that Webb is now housing for freshmen. Before I get into my experiences there, I will provide some context about the style of living itself. Webb Tower is a 14 story apartment building located on the end of campus nearest to the University Village and directly across from the Lyon Center (the school’s gym). The units consist of 4 person apartments, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. I had the pleasure of living on the 14th (actually 13th floor, but because 13 is unlucky it received a different name) floor. Not only did I receive major swag points for living in the Penthouse (the name for floors 14 and 15), but my apartment faced the beautiful Los Angeles skyline, thus giving me an amazing view. After long nights of studying and completing homework sets, it was always awesome to come home to the breathtaking views and all of the lights. It would have actually made quite the romantic spot, but I never took advantage of that attribute:)
View From our Living Room Window
Setting up for pancake tailgate in the kitchen!
Me and roommate Jessie the night she got her bid to ADPI:)
My roommate Cynthia in our living room, before we went out to dinner for Jessie’s birthday
I have nothing but good memories of that apartment. The kitchen storage was fantastic. The designers of this building did a good job optimizing space by combining the living area and the kitchen. I spent many long nights churning out homework in the living room and cooking dinner/snacks for my friends as we completed assignments. The space was just large enough to always fit us. The couch provided in the living room was also ridiculously comfortable (even though it didn’t look like it). My bedroom also came with a beautiful view of the LA skyline, which i really enjoyed falling asleep to. While at first I thought the two rods provided against a wall (aka a closet )would not provide adequate space, these once again served as spacious and efficient means for storage. I fit all my clothes onto them (with the help of some additional hanging storage), and I had a chest of drawers underneath my high bed. The room was small, but incredibly cozy. Plus, I had an amazing roommate in my friend Jessie. Jessie and I went to high school together, and when me and two of my girls from BK4 wanted a 4th person to fill our Webb apartment, I immediately pulled her in! I was sad when she left me to study in Spain in spring, but before that, we had a great run. She always took me to dinner at her sorority (she rushed that fall), came home with the best stories, acted as my “secretary” by reminding me when I had events to go to/medicine to take, playing dress up for me before events and soliciting my fashion advice, waking me up with Matt Nathanson, Bon Iver, etc. on Sunday mornings, going to the gym with me, sharing shoes, and cooking for me. Yes, I do love her. While we don’t live together anymore, we still have a blast when we hang out.
This apartment was the perfect place for entertaining. All of my friends loved it, inside and out. The location was perfect, and the inside was comfortable. It was always easy to get people to come to me:) Apartment 1403 is a “corner lot”, so noise was never an issue. For the first gameday of the season (which was ridiculously early that year), I hosted a pancake tailgate at the apartment. Jessie (my roommate) taught me how to make funfetti pancakes the night before, and that was the first real cooking I did in the place. The event was a huge hit, and our kitchen handled it well. Throughout the two hours we hosted in the morning, we had 30 or so people show up altogether.
Webb was an amazing experience as a sophomore, and I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t be a blast as a freshman. The RAs put on a lot of great programs, the option of having a kitchen coupled with a meal plan is so convenient (think baking birthday treats for friends), and the extra space in the form of the living room will make all your other friends jealous/will make them visit you often. If you are a socialite, or a super scholar who wants to host study parties, or all of these things, this is the place for you. Plus, the Cafe 84 dining hall is literally right next door. After you fill up at Cafe 84, you can then walk a few steps further to the gym to burn it all off:) And if that isn’t enough incentive to live in Webb, you can have all your cultural desires satisfied as well. The gorgeous cinematic arts buildings are across the sidewalk. This means you can casually leave for any movie screenings etc. you sign up for that are being hosted there a little bit later than others that live further away, or take advantage of the coffee bean and sweet study spots in SCA so easily!
I have nothing but love for Webb. It’s a gorgeous building in a great location, and I’m sure it will be filled with amazing people. Check it out as an option when it comes time to fill out the housing application. I unfortunately do not have too many pictures of it, but check out the housing webisode. The Webb apartment featured in the episode was actually mine:) The girl in the video was one of the sweet girls that moved in after two of my roommates went abroad in spring.
Best of luck in the housing search! If you have any questions, as usual please feel free to ask:)
Oh, freshman year. There’s nothing quite like the sense of wonderment, confusion, and non-stop fun that comes from going to college for the first time. I will always remember that year fondly.
Nothing give you more nostalgia for that time than seeing your freshman dorm rising up above campus (mine, at least did). I can’t fully describe the feelings I get when I pass by Birnkrant, my old haunting grounds, but I certainly do have some memories.
I lived on the 5th floor, affectionately dubbed BK5. Move in day was August 18th (remember that off the top of my head, it’s a big day!). Right off the bat, we 1) had our first meeting with our residential advisor (RA), and 2) got immediately ambushed by the sixth floor for a rousing game of human bowling. Yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.
and the bowling ball.
Birnkrant was amazing for how much of a community it was. Most of the rooms are doubles, and the floors had about 40 people- half guys, half girls. Everyone on my floor kept their door open as much as possible, and spontaneous video game tournaments, Jersey Shore viewing parties, and “family dinner” trips to the dining hall across campus were plentiful.
My floor was so filled with awesome people, we all through in to get BK5 “fraternity” sweatshirts (Beta Kappa Phi-ve, wuddup). There was never a dull moment.
But, maybe a little surprisingly, my floor knew when to hunker down and do work. Midterm weeks would find everyone studying, and the halls relatively quiet. I definitely felt like it was a pretty good balance- my grades and my relationships flourished.
Also, Birnkrant is located on McCarthy quad, which, while being across campus from Viterbi (it’s only like a 10 minute walk, still), is right by the libraries, social science buildings, and more importantly, most campus events. The quad is where the campus has a bunch of foodtrucks, concerts, and cultural events throughout the year. It’s awesome to walk outside and find something awesome just popped up!
I’ve definitely enjoyed living in my fraternity house since freshman year, but it’s hard to not look back and wish you could have that experience back. And, as awesome as I made Birnkrant out to be, don’t forget that the thing that really makes any dorm awesome is the people and friendships that flourish there! The reason why dorms are truly awesome is that every freshman is a little nervous. But going through the experience of adjusting to a new world is what makes that year so awesome.
I thought I’d just add a couple more thoughts in reflection and nostalgia.
While sharing a room does kind of suck, I recommend it for at least your first year in college, especially in a dorm where everyone is out running down hallways, making friends and memories. I was so worried about whether I’d get along with my freshman year roommate, I can’t believe how lucky I was that we turned out to be better friends than I would have ever guessed. I also realized through the 4 years of living with her, that at least half the time it’s something I can compromise on that helps. For example, different cleanliness standards, or noise limits, or temperature preferences are really small things to adjust for a friend and working living relationship.
Anyway, it was a year to remember and a picture’s worth a thousand words