After an incredible Winter Break, I’m now entering my second week of classes for the Spring Semester!  Over Winter Break, I had the opportunity to travel to India with the USC Volunteer Center.  The trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

We lived on a farm in a small village near Sikar, and during the days we went into a slum called Banjara Basti to work with children.  The job that I was assigned to was teaching English to Kindergarten.  Although the kids didn’t always know what was going on – they spoke mostly Hindi, the connections we formed with them were very real.  I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Indian culture, not through tourism, but through personal interaction with the local people.  We also got to participate in cultural activities on the farm, such as eating real Indian food, getting Henna tattoos, dressing in traditional Indian clothing, and participating in yoga sessions.  It was truly a meaningful way to spend my Winter Break, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to spend it abroad.

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Getting back into the swing of things at school after spending nearly 3 weeks in India is proving to be easier than I thought.  So far, classes are going really well!  This semester, I’m taking:

1. AME 341b – Mechoptronics Laboratory.

This class is a continuation of my Mechoptronics (Mechanical Optical Electronics) class from last semester.  It is a challenging but rewarding class focusing on hands-on experimentation.

2. AME 302 – Dynamic Systems

This class focuses on the idea of a system, which converts an input into an output.  For example, if a coffee maker is a system, then coffee beans, water, and power would be inputs, and coffee would be an output.

3. AME 308 – Computer Aided Design

This class teaches two computer aided design softwares, Solid Edge and Solidworks.  At the end of the course, we take exams to become certified in both programs.

4. SOCI 100 – Los Angeles and the American Dream

This class focuses on the changing socio-economic state of not only Los Angeles, but the entire United States.  It is my last General Education course.

5. CTAN 452 – Visual Effects

In this class I will be learning two visual effects programs – Maya and Nuke.  This is part of my Cinematic Arts minor.

6. CTAN 330 – Animation Fundamentals

This class focuses on hand-drawn animation techniques.  I just finished my first assignment, which was to draw a ball bouncing (it certainly helped that I had a couple years of physics to help me draw a proper trajectory!).

So 6 classes is definitely a busy semester, but I’m sure it will be a rewarding one.

In addition to my classes, I will be starting a new research project this semester in which I will be designing Virtual Realities and testing human behavioral reactions to them.  I am really looking forward to starting to work on the project, and to learning yet another new software.  I am also continuing my role as a member of the Community Partners Committee with the USC Volunteer Center, in which I help team lead for Friends and Neighbors Service Days, where students from USC go to local organizations to perform service work.  I will be helping Pi Tau Sigma, the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, coordinate with the Volunteer Center because I am the Service Chair.  Additionally, I am still an active member of my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, as well as my Cinematic Arts Fraternity, Delta Kappa Alpha.

Although I definitely miss football season, Spring is usually my favorite time of year here at USC.  I am really looking forward to both my classes and my extracurricular involvement this semester.  I love staying busy, I love staying active, and I can’t wait to get the semester going!

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Samantha Kaplan-2015

Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2015, Learn more on her profile here!