One of the biggest perks of going to USC for me is being the perfect distance from home. It’s like Goldilocks—30 minutes away would be too close; out-of-state would be too far; but this is just right. Being from NorCal and going to school in SoCal was great for me because I felt like I could experience something totally different and new while still being in California.


On top of that, it’s still somewhat close enough that my family and I can visit each other fairly easily, which was a super important factor for me when committing to a college, as my family and I are super close and I knew I would get homesick easily. In fact, this weekend, my family came to visit to check out USC since my sister is at the same stage as many of you: she’s trying to decide what college to go to!

We took full advantage of this opportunity to explore the things LA has to offer as a family. Although I haven’t by any means crossed off my LA bucket list, I felt so experienced when I was showing them around and giving them my recommendations for places to eat and things to see (we got food at City Tacos, 23rd St Cafe, and Blaze Pizza).

My sister and me ft. the Blaze Pizza we picked up for the night

It was also amazing for me because we even got to check out some places I had always wanted to see but never had—such as Olvera Street.

Olvera Street is a gorgeous street in the oldest part of Los Angeles (about a 15-minute drive from USC) that houses a Mexican marketplace with amazing restaurants, gorgeous jewelry shops and a bunch of other stunning hand-crafted goods. There was so much history to see—from a piece of the Berlin Wall that stood next to Olvera Street as a political statement protesting border separations, to a stunning mural and the Museum of Social Justice. 

A piece of the Berlin Wall and a beautiful mural (this picture only shows part of it; it was too big to take in one shot)

We were lucky enough to be there the day before Easter Sunday and, though we hadn’t planned it, got to witness the Blessing of the Animals, a longstanding annual tradition where people bring their animals to be blessed by the local Catholic priest. Among the animals brought to this celebration were a cow, a llama, and a few horses, as well as pigs, birds, dogs, and snakes. It was so cool to learn about this tradition and it was such a privilege to be able to witness it in person! We even got to see traditional Mexican and Aztec folkloric dance performances, which were breathtaking.


Some pictures from the Blessing of the Animals

After grabbing lunch at La Luz Del Día (100/10 would recommend; best horchata of my life) we hit the marketplace and bought some cute jewelry before heading to (of course) the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (To be honest though, the general consensus was that Hollywood was far less cool than our experience visiting Olvera Street). 

Honestly, I typically don’t go out into LA past the fryft (free Lyft) zone (mainly because it requires planning in advance, which I’m not the greatest at) but this experience made me realize that I definitely should. Every time I’ve explored off-campus—whether it was hitting up museums like the Broad and the Getty, venturing to Santa Monica for a day spent shopping and on the beach, or visiting Olvera Street—I have had so much fun and learned much more about the city I’ve started to call home.

Neha Yadav

Neha Yadav

MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: Benicia, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @nehaha.838 On campus, I'm a project manager for Engineers Without Borders, on the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering Executive Board, and a researcher at the USC Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory. I have some experience in entrepreneurship—I won the Min Family Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2020 and interned at two startups last summer. In my free time, I love reading, hiking, and road-tripping!