I just finished my first two college midterms, and it occurred to me that this is the first time that I really feel like I’m in college. I’ve only been to USC once —the Explore USC event in late February— and I’m one of the luckier ones. Many of my classmates have never set foot on campus. This is what it is like for the Class of 2024. 

It’s important to stay safe while California pushes through the pandemic. While I understood the necessity of a virtual setting, I was weary of online learning given the difficulty of my last semester. I thought it would be hard to make good friends through a pixelated screen, and feared I would be a hermit. It turns out, I am NOT a hermit, I’ve made good friends, and I am enjoying my classes. 

I thought it would be nice to focus on some of the good things I’ve experienced starting USC online.

1. There is no transportation time. If I have class at 8am, I could roll out of bed at 7:30 or later and have time for breakfast. It’s not a good habit to develop for living on campus, but I can.

2. We have a horse as an assistant professor! Well, not quite an assistant professor, but Cavalier does like to come to my Intro to Mechanical Engineering (AME 101) lectures. It’s a nice twist in scenery from the typical office/black zoom background, and how can you say no to a horse. Below: Statics with Cavalier and Professor Ronney

3. AME 101 students typically compete in a “King of the Hill” robotics competition, where teams deploy autonomous robots up a hill and fight to stay on top. This year, the competition was brought to us. We built our own robot cars that autonomously avoids obstacles, track lines, and glow with LED lights. They’re not perfect (mine cannot drive straight), but they’re really fun. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit running around the house chasing my car before it crashes. Below: Zoomy the robot car, named after its speed and my most used platform so far.

4. Endless Zoom meetings can feel like a lot, but social activities don’t feel as burdensome. In fact, they’re quite fun. I really enjoyed “speed dating” at the Trojan Scholars Society social. We were randomly paired in a breakout room to discuss controversial topics like how many holes are in a straw (I argue that one is the only right answer). If not there, then playing Cards Against Humanity with my cohort does the trick. When we are scattered all over the country (even the world), it’s nice connecting with others in a relaxed setting, even if it is online and over the silliest of things.

That’s not to say that Zoom learning has no flaws. I’ve already had two Saturday lectures because my teacher was kicked out of his Friday Zoom call. It was unfortunate that the lecture couldn’t happen, but we made the best of the situation and spent fifty minutes talking and playing skribbl.io. It almost felt normal.

Starting college is never easy, and starting online is even more difficult. But there is still so much to look forward to. I appreciate USC’s efforts to support and connect us, and I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made. Although I have much to learn about life at USC, I’m starting to feel like part of the Trojan family. During a time of isolation, what more could I ask for?

Kaitlyn Kumar

Kaitlyn Kumar

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2024 HOMETOWN: San Jose, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @balletandbots I am currently involved with TSS and undergraduate research. Outside of Viterbi I am a dancer, and hope to join the USC Chamber Ballet Company.