When I first arrived at USC, no one in the world knew that I was gay. It was a really strange period in my life; towards the end of my senior year, I went through a lot of introspection, and gradually worked towards being comfortable with my sexuality. It was a really strange position to be in, coming to realize so late in my development that there was a whole other aspect to me that I’d never fully faced or understood before, an aspect which fundamentally changed the direction I thought my life would go. But I saw college as my opportunity to reinvent myself—or rather, become the person I was always meant to be.

One of the many things that drew me to USC was that I knew it would be a large community full of accepting people, in a place as diverse as Los Angeles. My first semester here was a time of monumental personal development for me. In fact, some of the very first people I came out to were my roommates, with whom I was and still am incredibly close. I never once doubted that they’d be supportive, in particular because one of them is also gay himself. And another of them, who’d hardly even met an openly gay person before, is now my absolute best friend.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that there are few better places to be yourself than at USC, whether that’s related to your sexuality, gender identity, or even just your personality. Not only will you meet incredible people who accept these things, but there’s also a multitude of student organizations to provide additional support from others in similar positions, such as QuEST: Queers in Engineering, Science, and Technology. I entered downtown Los Angeles last fall very unsure of who I was or what would become of me. Now, in the midst of my junior year, I feel that I’ve finally grown comfortable with myself, and ready to face any future uncertainties. This school and community has changed me so much, and all for the better.

Derek Jones

Derek Jones

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Los Gatos, California PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @dmannjones On campus I have conducted environmental engineering research on water distillation methods, and you can currently find me serving as Vice President of my social fraternity and playing on the club volleyball team.

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