I know starting college online brings a wealth of new challenges for first year students at USC and at colleges across the country. While I have never had the experience of unexpectedly starting college online, I can say that, for me, the most important part of my first year was developing my sense of community at USC. I’m here to offer some tips, based on my first-year experience on campus and my previous months learning remotely, on how to develop a vibrant community when you can’t physically meet your classmates.

For me, there are three critical types of community: engineering staff & faculty, engineering peers, and social groups from the wider USC community.  Here’s a breakdown of what these mean & how you can still find these communities ~remotely~.

Engineering Staff & Faculty: This is your professors, advisors, and the larger staff within the Viterbi School of Engineering that is there to support you! It is so critical that you connect with these people because they can become your advocates, mentors, and resources for job and research opportunities.

How to connect with this community in the remote setting? Go to office hours! I have found office hours over Zoom to be an effective way to get to know my professors remotely. Most professors will be excited to connect with you, whether it’s to discuss the homework or your interests more generally. To connect with your advisor, go to their drop-in hours to get to know them!

Engineering Peers: These are your classmates! The friends I made in AME 101 my first semester at USC are still some of my best friends today. It’s important to connect with your peers, as you will spend most of your time with them — you can study together, socialize outside of class, and when your courses get hard, vent about your engineering workload.

How to connect with this community in the remote setting? Start a GroupMe with your classmates so you can get to know each other a bit more casually than on Zoom or via Blackboard tools. Join a design team associated with your major, like Aero Design Team, for example.

Social Groups from the Wider USC Community: These are your friends outside of engineering. Outlets outside of Viterbi are important, as are friends with different interests and skillsets.  Engineering can be overwhelming, so it’s good to have a group of friends that you don’t need to talk about the most recent calculus lecture with.

How to connect with this community in the remote setting? Join clubs outside of Viterbi to meet different people!

Audrey Roberts

Audrey Roberts

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Denver, Colorado PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @audrey.roberts On campus, I lead outreach for the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, do materials research in the M.C. Gill Composites Center, and am the Academic Chair of my sorority.