1. Do The Weekender
We blew out the Bears last fall, but the game isn’t what I’m going to remember from that weekend. There is something really exciting about seeing people you know outside the place you met them, and this weekend you’ll shout friend’s names and get big hugs more than ever by people painted in red and gold, even though you saw all of them just a few days ago. I learned a lot of things this weekend too: USC is a great college campus (Berkeley’s nice, but eh), my friend’s mom makes the best pumpkin pancakes in the world, the sandwich deli in Walnut Creek is worth the 6 hour drive, and always go on a roadtrip with a friend who owns a Prius (uncomfortable, but so cheap!).
The Tip: Explore Los Angeles (and beyond)! Although you might feel that there is no need to leave campus, there is so much to discover outside of it. When you can, get a group of friends and drive somewhere far away for the weekend. Whether it is The Weekender or not, you’ll find that it is the weekends you spent off camping in NorCal (or in Coachella) with a great group of friends that you’ll remember most.
2. Meet Your Dean
I was talking one day with one of my floormates about engineering suff and we started asking questions we did not know the answer to, which somehow led to us sending an email to the Dean of Viterbi, Dr. Yannis Yortsos. Surprisingly, he promptly set up a meeting with us, and in a few weeks we were already in his office getting some answers.
The Tip: Reach out to your professors! You’d be surprised at how few students actually do. Not only will this help differentiate you, you might also build a relationship that will last you more than a semester and help you for your career.
3. Go To The ELP Retreat
It’s impossible to count how many emails you’ll get while you are at USC. You will inevitably ignore most of them and inadvertently miss some of the most important. Don’t. Miss. This One. I don’t really remember what made the Emerging Leaders Program stand out from all the other things happening at USC (probably the fact that it’s in Malibu) but I am very happy I signed up! It might very well be the best thing I did freshman year. Besides going through a great activity-based, team-building program, I had the opportunity to meet the 12 Order of the Torch members – seniors who exemplified the qualities of being a Trojan – and 50 freshmen and sophomores who would become the future leaders of USC. (I thought it was an advertising stunt, but it turned out to be true!) After the retreat, it was the Order of The Torch members who interviewed me for executive boards I wanted to be a part of, and it was the people I met who I would go to if I wanted to collaborate with one of their organizations. If you’re not interested in getting this advantage, you can also go for the fun – morning beach run, midnight bonfire, mountain campout, cabin raids, the most intense balloon tower challenge, the funniest improvised skits, and the best mafia game ever. You can also go to meet me! I will definitely be there as a sophomore for REAL. (Look it up sophomores.)
The Tip: Sign up for every retreat you can! Whether you want to cement your membership in an organization, meet awesome new people, or just take advantage of a free getaway, retreats are the way to go. With retreats alone, I travelled to Catalina Island, San Diego, Malibu, Palm Springs, Angeles National Forest, San Jose, Palo Alto, Disneyland – and basically all of California!
4. Find That Awesome Person Who’s Doing It Right
These student’s aren’t hard to find at USC – they stand out! Whether they are geniuses in disguise who kill it in school or the founder of some amazing philanthropic program, there is always someone on campus who is doing what you like better than you. Don’t take this the wrong way –you can learn from them! Once you’ve met or identified someone who you would like to emulate in some way, let them know how much you respect and value their accomplishments. Make friends with them, invite them to lunch, and they will be more than happy to help you grow.
The Tip: Find older students around campus who you admire. The more time you spend with them, the more you will be able to adopt qualities and habits that you like from them. Juniors and seniors want mentorees as much as freshmen want mentors… but its you who has to reach out to them!
5. Get To Know Everyone
You are at USC. You are surrounded by thousands of people who are smart, talented, passionate and, simply put, great people. Get to know them! You will never again have the opportunity to live alongside this many people your age who are as open and as ambitious as you. Reach out to people in your residence and classroom, get involved in as many organizations and clubs as you can, and take advantage of random situations at parties or events to build a long-lasting friendship out of nothing. Waking up to see more and more familiar faces every day is always a great feeling. When you graduate from this university, the only things you’ll leave with are your degree and your network, and you can only make one of those bigger while you are at USC.
The Tip: Go everywhere, meet everyone, and always smile and greet people like it’s the happiest day of your life. It’s the happy people who make the biggest impression on others, and I assure you that you will be overwhelmed with how happy people will make you just by being nice and giving them a friendly smile. You will be pleasantly surprised when that kid you met once two weeks into your freshman year says hi to you by name when you run into each other one year later.Meet Pablo