The return to campus this semester has brought up a lot of memories from my freshman year of running from one USC sponsored event to another and also zooming all around town to find uniquely LA things to do in my free time. I remember standing outside Bovard Auditorium for an hour to hear members of the Vlog Squad” speak (would definitely not do that again but I was just excited to have semi-celebrities on campus) or running in my new professional-looking heels across campus to go to back to back recruiting events with career talks from huge tech companies or getting off campus a bit to go to a lantern festival with my brother. As a student from out of state, Los Angeles was a great, big, somewhat overwhelming world to discover and I was eager to explore it all, not missing a second of any event that was new to me or that I couldn’t get at home in Arizona. The sheer amount of museums, famous landmarks, celebrity/speaker appearances, pop culture events, and more that occur within LA in a given year is just incredible, not to mention the large increase of these kinds of happenings or re-openings of locations closed during the last year as we exit the COVID quarantine shell from 2020. I know coming back to USC this semester got me psyched to once again jump wholeheartedly into all this excitement, especially with the school sponsored opportunities right here on campus. The transition back to in-person took a little while for many of us though, and despite the thrill of all being here again, adjusting to college life as it was when we left was a bit challenging. Thus, it wasn’t until this latter half of the semester that I really felt up for searching USC and the surrounding areas for those unique and fun activities again. In the last few weeks alone I feel I’ve been up to so much and although I’m a bit exhausted from all that plus schoolwork, these kinds of opportunities are exactly why I came to school out here in the first place. So, here are a few of the little things I’ve been up to lately!

Movie Screenings with Prominent Cast & Crew

At an artsy old-style theater in Santa Monica, I attended two screenings of different Disney movies where some of the writers, directors, and cast have come to discuss the film afterwards. The first one was for the Pixar movie Luca (which I just adore) and after getting to watch it on the big screen for the first time, the director, Enrico Casarosa, as well as the two screenwriters, Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones (who also wrote Soul), sat down for a Q&A session. It was so interesting to hear about the intricate making of a major animation film like this and hear the director’s personal inspiration for creating a film set in Cinque Terre. We even got a chance to go up and chat with them personally after the panel had ended! The second screening was for Raya and the Last Dragon which was followed by a discussion by the director Carlos Lopez-Estrada, screenwriter Adele Lim, and actresses Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina. Right before the panel I actually bumped into Awkwafina as I went to the bathroom which is now the funny celebrity encounter story I will be telling everyone from here on out. We all got to listen in as they discussed the theme of the movie and the importance of such positive representation in films, especially for children.

USC Visions and Voices Events

I attended a speaker event where the two guests were Afghan human rights activist Crystal Bayat and Syrian refugee Olympian Yusra Mardini and listened as they discussed the current humanitarian crisis occurring in Afghanistan as a result of the August Taliban takeover. Crystal, who was studying to obtain her PhD in Kabul, shared her incredible story of protesting for women’s rights to education and how she came face to face with the Taliban but would not back down. She has now received refuge in the United States but continues to fight for human rights in her home country and help her friends and neighbors in danger in Afghanistan escape their situations. Yusra also described her remarkable story of fleeing Syria in her early teens and relying on her love of swimming to remain resilient while at the refugee camp she lived in, eventually earning herself a spot at the 2016 and 2021 summer
Olympics. Both she and Crystal shared how alienating it can feel as refugees in such an unknown place and how many look down refugees, seeing them as less intelligent or simply lesser than. I am really glad I was able to attend this event and hear these women speak. College can be a bit of a bubble sometimes and it is important for me to gain a greater perspective and understand what is happening in the world outside that bubble. 

*** Visions and Voices is a  university-wide arts and humanities initiative that provides a transformative and provocative experience for all USC students- Find more info here: 

UCLA v USC Football Game

We can’t forget about football season! Although USC’s had a not-so-great record this fall, I still love to go watch some live football and cheer on our team (until we start getting too destroyed and then it’s just hard to watch). Each Saturday I head to the Coliseum with my friends to scream my lungs out, typically getting some kind of yummy post-game dinner or treat afterwards. This past weekend with the UCLA game the energy was the highest it has been and everyone was out in full force. It was a fun day of tailgating before our devastating loss (we’ll get them next year!) and after I went with one of my UCLA friends to the famous Mel’s diner in Hollywood to get a burger and try to forget the awful final score. Then it was back to campus to have a baking night with my friends where we made a big batch of Muddy Buddies and after that, pushing on
through my tiredness, I finished the night at a concert put on in the backyard of my friends’ house where a USC student band played for all of us. I called it a night after that! Gamedays are always a blast, you never know what’s going to happen!

There’s always something happening on campus or around the LA area which is something I dearly missed while we were all home last year. I plan to attend a lot more of these fun and interesting events (I’ll be going to the next Visions and Voices jazz concert in December) and keep getting to have these unique experiences while I’m here at SC!

Gianna Beck

Gianna Beck

MAJOR: Computer Science (Games) YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Phoenix, Arizona PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @gianna__b I'm involved with computer science research investigating affective gesturing in robots in the Interaction Lab along with being a Freshman Engineering Academy Coach. Outside of Viterbi, I'm a part of Greek Life, SC Climbing, the Student Alumni Society leadership board, and I am a volunteer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.