Like both Steve and Radhika, I also lived on the 4th floor of Birnkrant Residental College my freshman year (new successive VSA tradition?!), and it was definitely the best pre-college decision I made. This was the first year that Birnkrant became a scholars-only dorm, meaning that only Mork, Trustee, and Presidential freshman live in it. Initially, I was worried about living in a dorm filled with scholars, since I was seeking a social dorm experience as a freshman and I assumed it would be antisocial. I was wrong. So very wrong.
As part of the new program that Birnkrant established, its residents moved in two days earlier than all other freshman as part of an on-campus retreat. As a result, we missed the rush that most freshman experience on the general move-in day. The retreat was centered around a cultural immersion into the subject of the Japanese film “Rashomon”. We were sent a copy of the book that the movie was based on a few months before school, and asked to read a few of the short stories in preparation. Our faculty adviser, Dr. Rosen (I just call him “Stan”), is a professor in East Asian Studies and Political Science at USC. Throughout the year, he took us out to Indian food, a performance of Wicked, and sometimes let us use his giant surround-system movie theater in his apartment. But during the retreat, he focused on making sure we were acclimated to our new home, and then teaching us about the Japanese film. We got to split into discussion sections and talk to different professors about the movie and how it related to their area of expertise. I went to a discussion by a Cinematic Arts professor, and then an International Relations professor! As a new student interested in engineering, this was definitely an interesting and different experience.
My experience in Birnkrant was extremely similar to both Steve’s and Radhika’s, so I won’t reiterate the obviously awesome aspects of living in Birnkrant (you can read about their experiences here and here). I will repeat that the best part about Birnkrant is the location: you live within crawling distance of the dining hall (EVK), library (Leavy), 24-hour food (TroGro), quad (McCarthy) and class (VKC and THH). If these acronyms and words are meaningless to you, don’t worry! They will make sense if you choose to become a student at USC (so you should come here to find out what they mean! just kidding).
As for “honors dorm” aspect of Birnkrant: many of the students are hardworking and driven, but equally social and silly. I remember studying for a Calc 3 final on the 7th floor with a group of Birnkrant engineers one day, and then running through the halls covered in body paint shouting “TRIBAL WARFARE!”. I have met more engineers than I can count in Birnkrant, but also a large number of International Relations, Biology, Public Policy, Computer Science (just kidding, that’s also engineering!), English, East Asian Cultures and Business majors. I have gone to football games with my entire floor, and then gone out to Indian food with a mixture of students from different floors. The Birnkrant experience is whatever you choose to make out of it, but it does strike you with many opportunities to pursue what you want.
I am living with four of my BK4 friends in an apartment next year, which just goes to show the loyalty and family of the floors of Birnkrant. You get the ultra-knit community on each floor, but the extra six floors of silly, intelligent, outgoing and hardworking USC students. On top of that, the entire Birnrkant community participates in dorm-wide activities that only make it a cohesive dorm. I could not have asked for a better dorm experience my freshman year, and I have Birnkrant to thank for that.