It’s crazy to think that after 16 years in school I just had my last first day of school this past week. Since I won’t be going back for any grad school (at least for now), this fall semester is really filled with so many lasts: last football games, last time registering for classes, last holiday breaks with friends. Even though those are kind of sad thoughts, there are some moments and opportunities that really excite me about this year. After a summer internship that allowed me to develop in so many ways both personally and technically, I feel much more confident in demonstrating my abilities not just in the classroom, but in real world settings as well. I’m looking forward to applying these capabilities and strengths in new ways this last year. Getting to go on weekend trips with friends to places I haven’t seen around LA are also adventures that excite me greatly. I’m taking several classes that have me psyched: the famous USC surfing class where we surf in Santa Monica each week, learning practical self-defense maneuvers in my self-defense course, attending screenings for movies not yet released in the film symposium class, reading about linguistics in a GE completely unrelated to my engineering focus, and digging into programming in Unreal Engine which is the main topic that got me interested in studying games in the first place. 

With all these classes in mind as well as the plans I am looking ahead towards over these next couple months, I also want to keep in mind balance and keeping a level head through various club commitments that take up my free time too. Setting out my ideas for this semester and getting my goals in mind has been on my list of to-dos so I thought I’d write out my thoughts here in my blog to show an example of the thoughts and planning that go into a college semester.


Some of my goals are more specific and tangible to certain things I want to do or accomplish while others are more holistic and broad to cover the kind of growth and qualities I am trying to focus on.

  • Go on more hikes around the LA area (get out of South Central a bit more)
  • Surf more!
  • Do homework more during the day and less into the late hours
  • Practice better, positive self-talk concerning my CS skills and future
  • Reduce meaningless distractions and fill my time with more satisfying activities (i.e. fulfillment over screen time)
  • Push myself to keep meeting new people
  • Visit more museums and cultural sites
  • Jump into hobbies that I used to love or new ones that seem fun even though I may not be good at them
  • Support my friends at their events and showcases
  • Focus on quality over quantity and learn to really do the important work rather than just “all the work”

Habit/Routine Planning

One of the toughest yet also best things about college for me has been how unstructured my days are and the unconfined “free time” that exists in my day. Besides classes which occupy a solid portion of most days for engineering students, all the time outside of the classroom is time that is entirely up to you. This is incredibly freeing and exciting as we all kind of test the waters of our independence here at school, but there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with this new lifestyle. It’s up to us individually to each balance taking care of the things we need to (homework, basic personal caretaking, living responsibilities), finding things to cultivate ourselves through (clubs, volunteering, jobs), and enjoying actual free time not concerning work or productivity (spending time with friends, exploring around, eating out). For me, this is my current routine but it’s important to emphasize that I give myself grace with this schedule and though I try to maintain it as close as I can, I allow myself to adjust it accordingly to the fluctuations of the week.

  1. Wake up early (sometime between 6-6:30am)
  2. Exercise and move my body in some way for at least 30ish minutes – gym workout, running, walking, climbing at the rock gym
  3. Clean up and get to campus for early classes or Viterbi Student Ambassador commitments
  4. Eat lunch at home or my sorority house and do small pockets of work or quick tasks in between classes (some days are more open than others)
  5. Fit in meetings for my jobs – Viterbi Student Ambassadors and Freshman Academy Coaching (mentoring for freshmen engineers)
  6. Eat dinner and attend evening club meetings (nothing goes too late luckily)
  7. Do some work, maybe with friends at a nearby apartment or on campus and in the Village OR if not too much work is to be done, just hang out with friends to catch up about their day
  8. Read or do some kind of calming activity before heading to bed between 10-11pm.

Steps to Take Right Now

The hardest part about having all these plans for the semester is actually making them happen and taking those first steps to move towards what I want to see happen. It’s easy to lose momentum after the first week or so, so I tried to take measures so as keep myself on track.

  • Setting up a way envision my everyday tasks for each class in an inviting and non-overwhelming way that works for me. This meant making a Notion planning board that I adapted from last year a bit and fill out any task, big or small, that’s on my plate so I don’t lose track of anything
  • Having snacks and easy food prep/meal plans ready for the days that get hectic.
  • Fitting time with friends into my day in interspersed ways – grabbing lunch with a friend to catch up, meeting them at the gym in the morning for a workout together, zooming to the beach for a quick dip in the ocean before class, grabbing dinner off campus on a weeknight
  • Ensuring I have one fun thing planned or an idea of one for the weekend
  • Little breaks to keep me motivated!

Good luck as you all start your school year! We’ll see how long my plan sticks 🙂

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.