Everyone at USC will tell you that Los Angeles is a fantastic place to go to college. It’s hard to argue against yearlong, near-perfect weather, beaches and mountains both under an hour away, and one of the most culturally rich cities in the United States. However, Los Angeles also is one of the most spread out cities, and while the metro transit system can get you pretty far, without a car you have to be pretty determined to get somewhere that isn’t just off one of the lines. As someone who prefers walking, I think the places you can get without a car don’t get enough credit. USC’s location between South Central and Downtown is usually counted as a detriment for the school. Personally, I think the location works perfectly for going to college.
Living here offers so many experiences I think most people would generally fail to be exposed to, especially considering the bubble and clientele USC tends to have. It’s important not to sugarcoat the area; there is more crime than most students probably were used to at home, but the school provides more than enough security and protection to ensure the safety of its students. College is a place for growth and experiencing how lower income neighborhoods operate is in my opinion one of the best ways to teach a perspective that can be lacking in college.
Beyond the intangible benefits of learning how to carry yourself in different areas, there are a number of very real ways I love exploring the area around USC. One of my favorites is the food. Just outside of campus there are tons of fantastic restaurants. TacoZone is a pop up taco stand that sets up in the AutoZone parking lot and still makes the best burritos I’ve had in Los Angeles. At Ebaes, you can get fantastic ramen anytime but on the first of the month they’re all $5. My personal favorite is 23rd Street Cafe where they have Indian/Mexican fusion quesadillas and burritos that are impossibly scrumptious. There are so many more options all of which are delicious local places that I’d never have experienced anywhere else.
Another added benefit as a college student is that all of these places are far less expensive than restaurants elsewhere in Los Angeles. Every college student knows the woes of having a light wallet, but most of the businesses in the area won’t break the bank as much as those farther afield. This doesn’t just apply to food but gas, dry cleaning, and other simple things that you usually wouldn’t think about.
There’s also a lot to be said for being so close to downtown. One of my favorite things to do on a nice day (of which there are a lot) is to just walk straight down Figueroa right on the border of campus to the area around the Sprint Center and the mall, Fig at 7th. It may seem like an intimidating walk, but it really only takes half an hour and makes the trip feel earned.
Los Angeles is full of opportunities, and while having a car is fantastic for the freedom it grants you, I still think there’s a lot to be said for what you can do with your feet.