I’m really into self-reflection at the moment, so as my first year has wrapped up, I wanted to look back at all of the cool opportunities I’ve had at USC, especially since I never saw myself doing these things as a computer science major in college. If you want to check out all of my Los Angeles adventures, you can check out my instagram: @mahimavara.

Fair warning, some of this stuff might seem pretty touristy, but I’m from a really small town in Pennsylvania, so I really did not think I would get to experience any like this.

1) Meeting Mark Hamill and seeing a School of Dramatics Art musical

Back home, my high school was big on musicals. Like really big. One year, the musical was Mary Poppins and the student who played her flew across the auditorium on a harness. I’ve always appreciated the theater and coming to USC I knew I wanted to see one for sure. I hadn’t had time to see one yet, until I got an email from my scholarship group offering me the chance to see Sunday in the Park with George, a musical the SDA was hosting. As I read the email closely, I realized that Mark Hamill, yes that one, was sponsoring the event. So the morning of, I went over to the beautiful Bing Theater. I sat with some fellow scholars and listened to the genius of Stephen Sondheim. After the show was over, I headed to Associates Park and there was a luncheon for all of the Associates members and scholars. As I was eating the most amazing food, I heard a gasp and immediately turned around. There he was. Luke Skywalker himself. I was incredibly nervous to even speak to him, but I did anyways. I mentioned how much of a fan I was, and as I turned to leave, he asked me to take a photo. And I did. So here I am, giddy as I can be, taking a photo with one of my heroes.

2) Seeing If Beale Street Could Talk and Barry Jenkins

I should mention that I am a serious lover of movies. Every weekend, I will look at my list of must watch movies and choose one to watch. It’s a great two hours spent focusing on nothing school-related and it keeps me grounded because it’s a nice little thing to do for myself. Anyways, one of the perks of going to USC is that arguably, it’s the best place for lovers of movies to be. One of my friends was taking the Film Symposium class our first semester. This is one of my top classes to take; for four hours on a Thursday night students sit and watch movies and discuss them. A lot of the time they are movies that haven’t been released yet and sometimes directors stop by. One Thursday morning I got a text from my friend asking if I wanted to watch If Beale Street Could Talk. I hopped out of bed, texted her immediately, and went to dust off my copy of the novel from my desk. I was so excited about the film, and now I had the opportunity to see it a month earlier than anyone else. So, I went and see this beautiful movie and just as it finishes, Barry Jenkins walks out and sit downs on the stage. For the next two hours, students asked him questions and he just answered them. It was truly a one of a kind experience.

3) Pod Save America Live Taping

One of my more recent goals in life is to be politically active, engaged and informed. One of the steps to completing that goal included just absorbing as much information about politics and political science as I could. Along with reading dozens of books and articles, I found this amazing, entertaining podcast called Pod Save America. Pod Save America is a podcast hosted by three former Obama administration employees, two being speechwriters and one being a spokesperson. Twice a week they dissect the events of that week and help me put all of the chaos of a weekly news cycle into context. I’ve been listening since the first episode and I had always wanted to go to a live show. Now, because I live in Los Angeles, there was actually a live show near me that I could attend. I won the contest for tickets, with the most canvassing hours, and I headed over to Glendale, to be in their audience for their first live taping of their HBO show. The experience was amazing and it made me even more excited to be politically engaged in California.

Mahima Varanasi

Mahima Varanasi

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @mahima On campus I am part of OWN IT, a women's leadership team who plans an annual summit based on amazing women helping each other out. Outside of Viterbi, I am involved in political campaigns.