I’m not from here.
I’m not from Los Angeles. I’m not from Southern California. I’m not even from the western half of the United States. I’m from a suburb 45 minutes northwest of Chicago called Libertyville. A largely upper-middle class, primarily white, conservative neighborhood. So when I came out to USC, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Sure, I got the “rah-rah” marching band performance, the sweeping speech from President Nikias, and the random Welcome Week encounters like everyone else, but I didn’t know what to expect after that. It wasn’t so much a question of “fitting in” for me as it was a question of finding my place here. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and I couldn’t decide between studying biomedical engineering and computer science. But I let myself go through the year, and what I ended up getting was one of the most incredible times of my life, full of amazing people, crazy late-night adventures, and fantastic food. But while it’s been amazing, it’s not the same as Libertyville. Here’s a quick rundown of the biggest differences I found after a year at ‘SC.
- Weather. This one’s obvious, but true. No fall, no spring, and definitely no winter at USC. It all kind of blurs together into a wavy summer. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing, just different. I sometimes miss the snow though. Oh well, bro tanks and board shorts in December!
- People. USC talks a lot about diversity, but it honestly makes a huge difference on how you perceive things. Th
e people I’ve met this year have challenged how I think about educational backgrounds, social norms, and most other parts of my life. Everyone’s got a story, and the people here have some of the most interesting ones I’ve heard. The Trojan Family is real.
- Vibes. It’s southern California. Frisbee, football, Drake, and amazing Mexican food. Los Angeles is definitely not Chicago. It’s more laid-back, but in the best way possible.
- Food. Did I mention that there’s amazing Mexican food here? How about Asian food? Really the only thing I haven’t been able to find is a solid Indian restaurant, but something tells me I haven’t been looking hard enough.
- Plants. Different weather means different ecologies, and honest
ly I noticed this a lot more than I thought I would. There’s no rolling hills and heavy forests here, and it was a definitely a little bit of a culture shock going from a 10 minute drive to high schools through the trees to succulents and cacti at USC.
- Longboarding. People here longboard, a lot. It’s fast, it’s efficient, and it’s addictive. My friends from home all call me a “Cali bro” now, but I think they’re just sad that they don’t have one.
- Deep-dish pizza. It doesn’t exist here. I cry at least once a month because of it.
At the end of the day, USC is not Libertyville High School, and Los Angeles is not Chicago. But that’s OK. In fact, it’s great! I didn’t come to college to relive the last four years. I chose ‘SC because I wanted to experience something new. And even though it’s only been a year, I know I made the right choice.