I have always really loved taking care of plants, so when I moved out to Los Angeles to attend USC, I knew I had to incorporate some more green babies into my life here.

When packing for freshman year move in, I snuck some of my favorite plants from back home into my suitcase. I know what you’re thinking… plants are by definition not really travel safe, but my favorites from back home don’t need soil like a normal plant. Specifically, I brought my 6 air plants and 2 marimo moss balls in my carry on. Air plants are adorable little plants that don’t need soil or a substrate to grow. All you need to do is spritz them with water to keep them moist. My marimo moss balls, on the other hand, are precious little spherical moss balls that are naturally found in cool rivers in Japan. From the changing currents and movement, they naturally form perfect spheres. All these little guys need is a glass of colder water and a bit of salt every once in a while. To keep them nice and round, I’d give them a little squeeze every once in a while too :). 

My parents made fun of me for caring so much about these buddies from back home, but honestly having them join me at this totally new stage of my life was really comforting. College was an entirely new environment both for me and my precious little plants. Immediately, I had to adjust my routine to include more structured study time and training time for sports like rock climbing. Similarly, Los Angeles is a very different environment for my plants than Denver, and I learned to adjust their watering schedules to make sure they could thrive as well in our new home. 

Like me, my grandmother also has loved to take care of plants her whole life. Whenever I called my grandma to check in and update her about my new life at USC, she would always ask me (without fail) how my plants were doing. For a while, I just thought she really cared about them, but one time, she revealed that she asked this question to get an idea about how I was doing at my new home. She told me that “taking care of plants requires time, patience, and love,” and that I would only be able to give them the care they deserved if I was in a good place myself in terms of self care. 

To be honest with you. I’ve really taken this sentiment to heart throughout my years at USC. College is a new and exciting place that (surprise!) changes each and every semester you’re here. Sometimes it would be hard for me to notice that I was becoming overwhelmed or too strung out in my involvements. However, I could always turn to my plants as a sort of indicator of how I was treating them (and by extension myself).

I am proud to say that my original plant family has been thriving and growing at USC and has grown to include many many more (including my lovely orchid, Christmas cactus, succulent bed, fresh herbs, wild strawberries, wildflowers, monstera, and more). I have even started a small hobby out of fostering/adopting plants that I have found abandoned or close to death. I’ve learned a lot about each plant in this way, and it helps me expand my collection without breaking the bank. As a soon-to-be-graduate, I can’t help but think about where my plants will come with me next, and which new buddies will join my herd next year.

Emily Powis

Emily Powis

MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Denver, Colorado PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @emilyspowis Within Viterbi I conduct research in 3D ultrasound development. Outside of engineering, I am co-captain of the SC Climbing Team, guide outdoor trips with SC Outfitters, work as an Emergency Medical Technician, and help provide mentorship for K-12 students as a counselor in Troy Camp.